Category Archives: People Who Don’t Talk Rubbish

This Week's Fish-Wrap №48: Back Again From the Dead

People initially pooh-​​poohed the electronic book format as being “a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist”. Admittedly, the eBook for the first decade or so basically sucked donkeys, but those days are over. Nearly. Any day now. Trust me.

© Tom Gauld
Cartoon by Tom Gauld for the “Guardian” (Saturday Review letters page)

Okay, they’re not really all that bad, but they could still do with a step-​​up in the break-​​through department. Doing everything exactly as well as a printed book isn’t really enough of a draw to convince the doubters that eBooks are even worth consideration. I’m not sure what ‘the tipping point’ might be – dancing video? free drugs? full sensual experience with 50 Shades of Grey? no idea – but we’re not there yet. There are times that even simply going to the next chapter of the book I’m reading seems a task (I’m looking at you Terry Pratchett YA titles!), but the affordability of hardware and lack of really good colour eInk video rendition seems a bit of a downer. It can’t be the price of the things anymore, as there’s a good number under $100 now, and there’s even one coming for less than €10!

Anyway… where was I…?

Oh yes! eBooks! They’re popular! Really! Look at this:

So the first interesting thing here is that the Kobo is seen as the ‘go-​​to device’ for their eBooks, rating “27% saying they plan to use a Kobo device to buy their next e-​​book followed by Kindle at 19% and the iPad at 14%.” Given the delay on Amazon getting clearance for a Canadian version of AT&T’s ‘WhisperNet’ connection in the USA, it’s not too surprising, but it’s still surprising to me. Possibly heart-​​warming, given how much I’ve been rooting for Kobo since Day One when they were ‘ShortCovers’.  

The second thing here is that the paperback is still holding its own with 57% of sales (hardcovers had 24% of unit sales), which I’ve always seen as the one format that eBooks will supplant for popularity; Mass-​​Market Paperbacks especially (you know, they’re the really crappy ones that last for one or two readings at most and are smaller that most others). 

But wait! There’s more from the mighty offices of K0bo! Big stuff! So big you’ve got four! (4!) links from which to choose! Behold!

The one thing that might get people shifting to eReading – if not for the Madefire application – is the ability to read graphic novels on their devices, especially if they can get hold of content that either does things otherwise impossible (such as the aforementioned Madefire material for iOS devices), and/​or material that hasn’t been available for awhile. I can imagine a complete run of the entire Marvel or DC catalogue would be something incredible (although some of the mid-​​WWII stuff might raise more than an eyebrow or two). 

The expansion of the Kobo catalogue to New Zealand means that the unsuspecting Antipodean readers shall find themselves exposed to the crazy world of Atomic Fez’s genre-​​bustin’ fiction! HUZZAH!!!

Beg pardon. [:: polite cough ::]

Kobo’s acquisition of a ‘digital service company’, as well as its continued geographic expansion, is quite large a development, announced now no doubt in order to be a part of the Frankfurt Book Show on right now. This is the perfect time for anyone to shout about their European Business Developments, what with them being in Europe, obviously. But it’s also a way for the gathered business leaders to take encouragement from each other with new industry ideas, business plans, and general re-​​assessments of goals and methodology.

This is encouraging, as it details the discussion of Big Publishers approaching the format from a business model which isn’t based on the one adopted about a century ago. given the non-​​physical delivery system of the product, as well as a non-​​geographic-​​based market, it’s surprising that it’s only now that the fresh approach is being taken. That said, it’s excellent that it’s being done, never mind the delay involved. Hooray! Perhaps we can start moving forward for the sake of everyone involved?

Please?

“This Week’s Fish Wrap” is an on-​​going series of posts summing up the news of the previous seven days in the publishing industry, and/​or announce the latest news Atomic Fez has about the publishing house, and appears here each Monday. It’s also quite possible that the posts merely serve as a dumping ground of links so that Atomic Fez Proprietor Ian Alexander Martin can find articles later to include in his occasional rants about how ‘EVERYONE ELSE IS ENTIRELY WRONG’ about various things.

Post-Event Summary Stuff

So… that went well… I think.

The actual financials are yet to be examined, especially the ones from the BFS FantsyCon 2012 in Brighton, as Christopher Teague is still probably trying to remember what he did most of the week-​​end. 

All my bags are packed…

It seems, however, that the BFS FantasyCon has once again been rocked – ROCKED! I SAY – with controversy. I’ll say no more, pointing simply to THIS POST over on Joe Abercrombie’s blog. 

Much like Chris Teague does, I approach a convention or similar event an opportunity to remind others that Atomic Fez exists, and to share information with readers, authors, and other publishers; not as an opportunity to make lots of lovely lovely money! I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to money, obviously, it’s just not the principal reason I’m there.

VCon 2012 was the thing for me here in Metro Vancouver: a chance to have a good visit with the brains behind Gaukler Medieval Wares [ :: waves at lone visitors to blog :: ], trade well-​​meaning insults with Brian Hades of EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, and generally wonder when can I run away and get some decent coffee? I did a couple of panels – one about eBooks v paper ones, the other about submitting material to differing markets – but wasn’t able to check-​​out any others, owing to being on my own in the Dealers’ Room. Ah-​​well.

Next year you’ll probably find Atomic Fez at more events, and in more locations than normal! Additionally, it looks likely you’ll see the Publisher /​ Proprietor at all those events too, as the dates don’t over-​​lap for any of them! Look forward to more details about the following events (mark your calendars now):

Now please excuse me as I try to catch-​​up on some orders that have been ignored for the last week or so. Plus some sleep that was over-​​looked. Thanks. 

This Week's Fish-Wrap №47: Is Amazon Run by Coke-Heads?

Let’s try this once more, shall we? Earlier today this appeared, only the text was entirely made-​​up of quotes from roles played by Samuel L. Jackson in various movies, courtesy of the web-​​site SAMUEL L. IPSUM (Mother*cking Placeholder Text, Motherf*cker!), which generates far more interesting text than the classic “Lorem ipsum” material used by most layout people.

So… erm… Basically I created the post, put some text in to hold some space where the actual content would go, put a in image in, then some relevant links at the bottom, and then… walked away and forgot about it. More fool me. :: ahem ::

Amazon [he says, rapidly changing the subject from the previous one of “just how daft is Ian getting in his middle-​​age?” to a more news-​​worthy one] has recently been getting a fair bit of flack from all sides for their decision to become ‘a real publisher, just like Atomic Fez’, although the last part of the phrase isn’t one that’s commonly a point made by anyone. Not only are they to be the original publisher of works, they will be publishing these works in electronic and printed formats, as well as selling the books through a distributor so that the books will be on shelves of bookshops the world over. In theory, anyway.

WWI War Financing Poster (by Haskell Coffin, 1918)
WWI War Financing Poster (by Haskell Coffin, 1918)

The problem with the plan is quite simple: the same businesses that Amazon is in direct competition with are now to be their retail partners. One minute they’re crushing Barnes & Noble, Borders, or everyone’s favourite local independent book shop; the next minute they’re saying ‘look, just before you go completely bankrupt, could you do a big display in the window with our new titles?’, and wondering why they’re getting the stink-​​eye from everyone in the place including the university kids on holiday fill-​​in duty.

If you’re thinking “no no, Jeff Bezos and his crew surely wouldn’t be that insane, would they?” let me assure you they are either filled with so much chutzpah they don’t think they can lose, or they’re really oblivious to anything other than that which is the nano-​​second of existence of “now”.

Or, possibly, they’re on so much cocaine their irises are white as snow. After all, they do seem to be far more focused, energetic, and enthusiastic about everything than just about anyone else in the entire world, short of seven-​​year-​​old boys on a sugar high let loose in a LEGO Warehouse.

The enabler in this little affair is Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s “New Harvest” imprint, which will be exclusively dedicated to the release of Amazon.com’s titles, including upcoming titles by James Franco and Deepak Chopra. Clearly these are not merely Poems About My Cat (A Collection) we’re talking about here, but potential ‘hot titles’ by people the common reader will be interested in, or at least be aware of (which is far more than could be said of about 98% of any books released in a given period of time).

Amazon are the same people who released a smartphone ‘app’ prior to Christmas which permitted the user to scan the barcodes of up to three books in a store, thus providing the user with a guaranteed discount on the price of that book (up to a maximum of $5 per item, I think) as long as that same book was ordered through Amazon instead of buying the ‘over-​​priced’ book in the store they had in their hands at that very second. ALL HAIL duplication of effort! Not only do you choose a book by going to the bookshop and are reminded they still exist, you then guarantee you contribute nothing to its existence by literally going out of your way not to give it your custom! Hurrah! Let us all go to Cloud Cuckoo Land where books are cheap and plentiful, and no one needs to look further afield than Amazon for all ones worldly needs!

Now, given the above, you would think that Amazon would pooh-​​pooh the notion that getting copies of their own publishing house onto shelves in real bricks-​​and-​​mortar shops, wouldn’t you? “Stores?” you might be forgiven to presume they would respond, “do they still exist? Why would you want to go to one of those? Just sit in your chair, move the mouse around a bit, click a few times, and we’ll bring the world to you!” Oddly, this is not what they’re doing. No no.

Through Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s distribution network, they are attempting to get their books into the very same shops they recently sent people into with their smartphone apps, possibly in an effort to get every single dime available in the book industry chain. The only thing they haven’t got – in addition to the eBook hardware, eBook software, print-​​on-​​demand via Lightning Source and Create-​​Space, plus now the actual publishing house, and a host of other ventures under their vast umbrella – is actual retail outlets. According to the New York Times, that’s possibly next. If true, perhaps this is a test of how much they can use books to lure people in as a loss-​​leader for their other products like shoes (Amazon now own on-​​line shoe-​​retailer Zappos.com, by the way), BLU-​​RAYs, and iPad accessories. Who knows?

Personally, the thing I find most surprising is the sheer unmitigated gall and blatant effrontery of them expecting to get a piece of the action they’re attempting to reduce to rapidly diminishing returns. It’s a bit like acting as a real estate agent in the area in which you’re also enacting a policy of lebensraum, and you’re actually re-​​selling the land to the people who are already living there. Plus, you still get a commission on the sale, any the tax on the transaction itself, plus future property taxes for maintaining your now possessed territories. Win!

Honestly, what part of this whole thing made someone think “yeah, that’s a great idea; let’s do that!”…? 

The cocaine suggestion doesn’t seem so ludicrous now, does it?

  • MediaBistro.com’s eBookNewser, “Author’s Guild Argues That Amazon’s Dominance Comes From Antitrust Laws”; Wednesday, February 1st ~ READ THIS POST
  • MobyLives, which is the blog of Melville House, “Amazon finds a beard to sell books from its publishing unit”; January 25thREAD THIS POST
  • Publishers Weekly, “Books-​​A-​​Million Won’t Carry Amazon Titles”; Friday, February 3rd ~ READ THIS POST
  • Globe & Mail, “Indigo joins growing boycott of books published by Amazon.com”; Friday, February 3rd (and correction on the following Monday) ~READ THIS POST
  • Publishers Weekly, “End of the Line for Dorchester?”; Friday, February 3rd ~ READ THIS POST
  • The New York Times, ‘Bits’, “Amazon Has Tried Everything to Make Shopping Easier. Except This.”; Friday, February 3rd ~ READ THIS ARTICLE
  • Publishers Weekly, ‘PW Tip Sheet’, “This Has All Happened Before”; Friday, February 3rd ~ READ THIS POST

“This Week’s Fish Wrap” is an on-​​​​​​going series of posts summing up the news of the previous seven days in the publishing industry, and/​or announce the latest news Atomic Fez has about the publishing house, and appears here each Monday. It’s also quite possible that the posts merely serve as a dumping ground of links so that Atomic Fez Proprietor Ian Alexander Martin can find articles later to include in his occasional rants about how ‘EVERYONE ELSE IS ENTIRELY WRONG’ about various things.

This Week's Fish-Wrap №45: This Daft Publishing Life (A Primer)

Early last week, the Canadian Distributor of Atomic Fez titles – Author’s Choice – received an order from Chapters /​ Indigo /​ Coles for a substantial number of copies of Terribilis and Dirk Danger Loves Life. Huzzah! Exposure in shops at last!

Metrotown location of Chapters/Indigo
Metrotown location of Chapters/​Indigo

Well, actually, possibly not; plus it might not be the best time to break out the champagne and caviar and dispense with the beer and hot dog budget either. You see, this isn’t anything quite like a “guaranteed river of money” situation. In years past I’ve sometimes been surprised at the seniority and years of experience which authors and readers alike might possess, yet they’ve not much idea of the business specifics of the retail selling of books. So as to further the understanding of all, here’s how things come top play in this daft publishing life thing. Besides, it’s something that I have to remind myself of in order to keep in mind how insane this whole notion is to begin with.

Also, please note that all Atomic Fez books have been in the Chapters/Indigo/Cole’s catalogue since the agreement with Author’s Choice about a year ago (click here to see the titles). Due to the same agreement, you can also locate Atomic Fez books in the Amazon.ca (click here to see the titles) and Amazon.com catalogues (click here to see the titles). So, this isn’t a change, except for the actual quantity of copies ordered.

Here’s how these things work: Chapters calls the distributor in Ontario with orders for books they’d like in the warehouse, and then either the distributor tells me to ship them a big shed-​​load of boxes like last week, or – more frequently – the distributor parcels-​​up the four copies of some title and those get sent to Chapters’ warehouse. Typically Author’s Choice has no more than one box of anyone’s book in stock, as they are only a small distributor, and not a warehousing or storage firm. Once the books head to the warehouse of Chapters/Indigo/Cole’s for their inventory, anything can happen and I’ll not know a thing about it. Yes, copies could be sent to some of the 247 Indigo, Chapters and Cole’s stores across Canada, or they could merely hang-​​on to them in the warehouse to supply their on-​​line orders through Chapters.Indigo.com (the same as I do through this site’s ordering), or they could do a little of both. Again, I have no idea what they’re doing, and I won’t ever know until either someone stumbles across copies on a shelf and tells someone, or I stumble across an inventory entry on their web-​​site (and that would take a concerted effort of experimentation with searching through the item’s status using major population centres). So, basically, if someone sees some copies, they really ought to take a picture of them, then send me a copy.

This is the first time – as far as I know – that a shop has ordered copies ‘on spec’ of an Atomic Fez title. I’ve sent occasional copies to wholesalers and shops both in the UK and in North America, but as they’ve been very small amounts, they’ve probably been ordered by customers. I’ve never, never seen any book I’ve published on a store shelf, either in person or even in a photo, with both outfits I’ve worked with. So this is an excellent thing.

WH Smith Train Station shop (c. 1933)
WH Smith Train Station shop (c. 1933)

But.

Here’s where things get stupid with this publishing industry thing.

All 268 books that were just sent to Ontario could very well be returned to me come April. Because all Atomic Fez books are “returnable” by retailers (as most publishers do), shops are more interested in carrying them, because their risk having them is eliminated. Likewise, their costs are further reduced by the fact that I pay for the shipping there and back, plus they get charged 40% or so less than the RRP so that they can sell at a profit (which is a business-​​like idea, obviously). Likewise, shops pay when they’ve actually sold the books; although not by design, but due to the delay in paying happening to fall outside the point at which they’ve returned the un-​​sold ones.

now keep in mind that I’ve not only paid for those books to be printed months ago, plus get them shipped from the printers to the house here, I’ve also just paid about $300 to ship a bunch of them to Ontario to the distributor. the distributor will now get those boxes to Chapters/Indigo’s Distribution Centre, at a cost which will be deducted from any sales earnings. Once the books are decided to be “too old” and the remaining amount is sent back, once again the cost of transport is borne by the Distributor and Publisher. Yes, I get to pay for shipping in both directions, and that’s an industry standard arrangement for a large chain. You should hear the sorts of things that Amazon.com fully expect to be done at a minimum for them by the bog houses like Random House, Simon & Shuster, and so on. It’s a wonder there’s not sacrificing of pets and virgins involved sometimes, given the lengths of demands.

It used to be that books could prove themselves on the shelvesas being “something that sells” through a three-​​month period or longer, which would permit reviews as well as ‘word-​​of-​​mouth’ to drive sales, plus the staff would get to know the book at least by reputation. Early this year Chapters/​Indigo changed their period to only 46 days, which doesn’t even give books a chance to actually gather dust. Honestly, the notion that this is enough time for someone to read a review, decide they want a copy for their birthday/​Christmas, tell a relative, the relative then gets time to go to the store, then remembers the name of the book… it can easily be out of stock in the store. This is another reason why the on-​​line reviews excellent people do works wonders, as the text on various web-​​sites – Amazon, Goodreads, LibraryThing, and many of the new Canadian public library sites – acts as further advertising and proof that ‘someone actually read this book’, thus encouraging others to try them out.

Bottomless pit of books
Bottomless pit of books

The reason Chapters/​Indigo changed the length of the shelf-​​life for titles, in my opinion anyway, was due to reduced floor space for books when they switched to being a Home Design Shop as well as a book store. Thus, inventory they haven’t invested money in building themselves (as all the rugs, clocks, pillows, candles, etc. are designed and created by Indigo) needs to work harder to keep their space, or ‘earn their space’, if you will.

And therein lies the under-​​pinning problem of the whole thing that really needs a re-​​think in not just publishing, but just about any manufacturing industry. Publishers pay authors, artists, printers, distributors, shippers, eBook formatting people, and everyone else in advance of even taking a single order, never mind making a sale. The best comparison here is the lottery: you buy some quantity of tickets and hope that one will return more than the amount you spent, but there is no guarantee of any return. I publish books with the hope they will sell, but I front the cost of printing as many copies as I can spend money to get, and then do what I can to ensure people will part with their cash so that I can then publish some new titles, with exactly the same principle guiding the manifestation. That’s fine, really, and it’s the same as if you were paying the ante for a poker game, and that is another good comparison to this. 

But, when the big retail stores get involved, it’s even more serious an ante, as the combination of shipping charges and wholesale discounts on large orders (which may not ever sell a single copy) mean that I not only pay for the production of the books that never sell, I get to pay for moving them all over the place because they didn’t sell, thus losing even more money than just the cost of manufacturing. Remember, once a massive order is placed by Bob’s Big Book Box, say 1,000 copies (which is insane compared to my situation), then those thousand are tied-​​up in the warehouse of the store, leaving me with whatever I got printed over and above the thousand I just sent to Bob’s. So, do I run another 250 or 500 copies of the books, and gamble the thousand at Bob’s won’t all return to me in a few months’ time so I then have 1,500 books filling the basement, or do I run the risk that a bunch of people will order copies from me direct and I’ll not have any more left because I didn’t order a new run of copies? Besides, those thousand copies  Bob’s won’t pay me for any sooner than about four months from the day they take delivery, and even if they did pay me for the whole lot immediately, if they all get returned un-​​sold, then I have to return those funds as they were for “books sold” which didn’t happen in the end. See?

Books heading for the trimmer at MPG Biddles
Books heading for the trimmer at MPG Biddles

The entire thing is a daft notion. Lord knows why anyone would want to even try this, never mind keep at it, which is obviously why I need to get a day-​​job. The ‘cost of doing business’ is always something that makes or breaks a business, but it really feels like the book trade has it staked against itself even more than others do.

This is another reason that the entire supply-​​chain of books needs a complete re-​​think, as well as who knows how many other manufacturing cycles for goods. As far as I’m concerned, the eBook is perfect to replace the obscenely wasteful production standards of the Mass-​​Market Paperback, for which many publishers pre-​​determine the amount of copies in a run which will be pulped at numbers typically around 33% and 45%. Yes, they actually budget throwing away nearly half the run, knowing that they’ll be damaged on shelves, and then not be bought, or they’ll get dinged in transport to and from various distribution centres and warehouses. the additional reason is that the price for running ten-​​thousand copies of a title can actually sometimes be less than printing 7,500 copies (or at least it’s often a good third or more per unit to run the larger figure), thus making the throwing away of part of the run actually cheaper than printing less of them in the first place.

There’s so much in this industry which works on the basis of the economics of supply and demand of the late-​​1800s, as well as the levels of available resources of that period, it’s a wonder that books are even still available in the same form as that time.

But, we continue. Onwards!

“This Week’s Fish Wrap” is an on-​​​​​​going series of posts summing up the news of the previous seven days in the publishing industry, and/​or announce the latest news Atomic Fez has about the publishing house, and appears here each Monday. It’s also quite possible that the posts merely serve as a dumping ground of links so that Atomic Fez Proprietor Ian Alexander Martin can find articles later to include in his occasional rants about how ‘EVERYONE ELSE IS ENTIRELY WRONG’ about various things.

A Warm Fuzzy Feeling

Twitter Page showing Ellis' RT
Twitter Page showing Ellis’ RT

The combined excitement of The September Sell-​​A-​​Bration and the two contests for signed copies of Terribilis and Dirk Danger Loves Life among those ordered all comes to an end on Sunday.

Now, now, stop sobbing like that… you still have a little time.

In the meantime, let’s all give Uncle Warren a big hug for the encouragement he extended to Atomic Fez. Have a look on either side of the screen for two versions of the same thing: him tweeting a copy of the original one – the kids call it “Re-​​Tweeting” or “RT-​​ing” I’m told – to his crowd of followers numbering 418,978 souls.

Twitter Page showing Ellis' RT
Twitter Page showing Ellis’ RT

Sometimes it’s the littlest thing which can too easily be over-​​looked that can be so very affecting.

I recommend highly his slim novel Crooked Little Vein: A Novel (also available in Kindle Edition) as being quite mad and highly entertaining, but you can pretty much find just about anything he’s written is damned good (even if he’s not published by Atomic Fez… yet).

Enjoy your week-​​end.

Hooray for JLP! (or "Promo Proberto: Sound Use of Your Time")

This Saturday John Llewellyn Probert can be seen at The Dracula Society’s autumn meeting in London, who are hosting “An Evening with JLP (and puppets!)”, where he shall read, be interviewed, and then the Lord & Lady Probert shall perform their little stage show again (which explains how the puppets got involved).

For those of you not in London (aka: “the Centre of All Known Culture”) that particular evening, herewith is a videographic record – complete! with colour! and sound! – of the Brighton performance of Blood on Satan’s Claw (The Pantomime), presented for your entertainment by Theatro Proberto! Thanks to Martin Roberts for his mad skillz with video production (not the least of which is his ability to shoot live on-​​stage insanity with nary a clue what’s about to happen).

Those ‘in the know’ regarding Mr. Probert’s writing will recognise this is not the first time he has attended an event of the Dracula Society’s creation. No no! He won the “Children of the Night Award” in 2006 for his collection The Faculty of Terror, which is a dashed good read (even if it was published by some other house [judgemental sniff])

But wait! There’s more JLP fun! You can also revel in his genius by reading THIS INTERVIEW over on the web-​​site Read Horror. It’s a bit of a shock, one realises. “JLP reads… [gasp!] horror?!? It’s too much to take in at once!” Yet, he does. He obviously also writes horror, watches horror, and even performs horror. Rumours of him eating and sleeping with horror have been found to be just that: baseless rumours.

JLP reads Horror!
JLP reads Horror!

I admit to finding the title of the blog Read Horror a tad counter to its aim, frankly. There not being a conjugated verb there, one takes the initial word to be presented in the imperitive, thus we are ordered to rush from the screen and locate something by Poe, Wilkie Collins, or Bram Stoker. If we are to to infer that the site itself presents horror, then we are destined to run from our computers screaming in terror. Adding the pronoun “we” at the front of the title would go a long way to explaining the people responsible for the content are afficianadoes and enthusiasts of the genre.

But, I digress…

In the future, we can look forward to more about Mr. Probert, as the chap at Professor Gruntsplatter’s Spookatorium wants Mr. Probert to read a story and provide a few comments on it. Specifically the good Professor – whose real name is Scott E. Candey, apparently – wants to hear the author “The Iconostasis of Imperfections”, which you can read along with by ordering a copy of Wicked Delights.

Meanwhile, he continues to work on his first novel (which Atomic Fez will publish), and write horror-​​film reviews which you can read on THIS BLOG (see, I told you he watches horror!).

To keep up to date with all things JLP, head to his official site RIGHT HERE.

Spot for Gillette Razors (“Vancouver Sun”, 1932, March 9)

This Week's Fish Wrap (№30): Win Books & “The Media” [UPDATED]

“This Week’s Fish Wrap” is an on-​​​​going series of posts summing up the news of the previous seven days in the publishing industry, and appears here each Monday. It’s also quite possible that the posts merely serve as a dumping ground of links so that Atomic Fez Proprietor Ian Alexander Martin can find articles later to include in his occasional rants about how ‘EVERYONE ELSE IS ENTIRELY WRONG’ about various things.

In my continuing effort to understand story editing, have a broader awareness of popular culture, and possess a greater recognition of story tropes, the viewing of films continues. Head to THIS LINK, head to the very end of the images, then click the first of the three relevant posters to discover how yesterday’s marathon viewing of the Star Wars ‘prequel’ of Episodes I – III were greeted. “Phah!” is the best summation, really.

Meanwhile, “News of Atomic Fez Authors and Their Works” again starts us off this week, as it did last time! Both of their books are available in eBook format right now, with North American editions arriving in paperback edition come November or so. You can get details of all that by clicking the covers of the books below.

Chris Rothe's “Dirk Danger Loves Life”Carol Weekes’ novel “Terribilis”Chris Rothe, the author of Dirk Danger Loves Life [cover, left] is on Goodreads now! You can link-​​up with him using THIS LINK if you so wish.

Should you have a desperate desire (or even merely an idle curiosity) to know more about the man, then HEAD HERE to read the short interview /​ Q&A with him.

If this has sufficiently piqued your interest, HEAD HERE to win an “Advance Reading Copy” of Dirk Danger Loves Life by Chris Rothe.

If you would rather win an Advance Reading Copy of Terribilis by Carol Weekes [cover, right], then you should immediately HEAD HERE to do that. You could even do that if you wanted to win a copy of that in addition to the book by Mr. Rothe! Isn’t ‘freedom’ a wonderful thing, citizen?

If you’d rather show your support of their efforts in a financial fashion, you can buy the eBook version of their titles right now: click the covers on either side of this section, then click the little orange button on the top right. Just as soon as the ePUB file is ready for release to the world, you’ll be e-​​mailed a link to a ZIP file containing that, plus two more DRM–free eBook files (which ought to happen in about two weeks or so, hopefully sooner).

 

Thoughts on the Growing Media Frenzy; Both Social and Journalistic

The past week has been filled with a number of things that have either driven you mad with anxiety or made you want to punch someone for mentioning something you’re already tired of hearing about. Let’s have a look at some topics, shall we (and I’ll try not to trigger any punching instincts in anyone)?

  • Google seems bent on dominating the entire world through two things announced this week
    • Google Plus (or, if you prefer: Google+)
    • a Google-​​branded eReader
  • Rupert Murdoch’s Nerws of the World folded yesterday after being accused of hacking mobile phone accounts of various people
  • Kai Nagata quit his job as a journalist with Global Media in their Québec bureau

Google’s ‘branded’ e-​​book reader (learn about that here) will, no doubt, also interact with Google+ (which, if you’re wondering what the fuss is about and should you care, then here’s a quick look, or you can head here, or possibly here instead).This is intriguing for a couple of reasons, the first being that now people will actually start using the on-​​line Google Reader material; secondly because they’ve never put their name on a piece of equipment before (other than server racks for people who wanted to do in-​​house heavy-​​duty searching, which I’ve never understood the need for).  The unit is made by iRiver, but they’re putting a little logo on the unit (which resembles a Kindle) so that you get reminded to use the services of the company so ubiquitous their name is now a verb.

Spot for Gillette Razors (“Vancouver Sun”, 1932, March 9)
Spot for Gillette Razors (“Vancouver Sun”, 1932, March 9)

Meanwhile, they’re getting into the ‘business’ of social media with what some call a “Facebook killer”, or a “Twitter killer”, or a “Facebook and Twitter killer”; but the best description is probably “a work-​​day killer” because after setting up my personal account I’ve never had so many browser tabs open at once, or got so far into the day without actually accomplishing anything of substance. So, basically, it’s like both Facebook and Twitter, but with more words and pictures than the latter and more ease of use than the former. At some point later this year there will be an Atomic Fez presence on Google+, but here’s the reason why there’s not one right now. Also, if you’re a writer, this might be a better thing for you than you’ve found either Facebook or Twitter to be thus far; read this for some thoughts (WARNING: even the name of the blog is sweary).

And then there’s this whole journalism question being bandied about. Many started thinking about it due to the News of the World finally getting dragged up on the carpet about mobile phones (but they’ve been unscrupulios for years, so one should hardly be surprised at this), and then it was the turn of the guy covering the Québec legislature for Global News who has said what everyone has been avoiding admitting publicly for years: that news media is doing it all wrong and the tail is now leading the dog about by the nose. He explained it all in words of one syllable on his blog Friday, and apparently everyone in the world has now read it twice.Mostly he quit his job because he realized he wasn’t able to feel comfortable with not saying what he felt ought to be said, but the underlying cause of that was the inherent, non-​​functioning nature of the news media today. As far as I’m concerned the start to fixing things is getting Rick Mercer to do a week night show in the same format as either the Colbert Report or The Daily Show, and start taking shots at the politicians and news personalities when they screw up. It’s not the solution, but it’s a part of one.

If the topic of “do we really need news as ‘entertainment’, or should it principally inform and initiate thought” interests you at all, however, here’s Spin Cycles, which has got to be some of the most intelligent and worth-​​while information on the media today. It’s not the be-​​all-​​and-​​end-​​all in the topic, but it’s good enough to start you thinking about things clearly enough as a jumping-​​off point. Go there. Download the files using the link on each episodes’ description page, and become a better informed person. Critical thinking is an important tool to reading both fiction and non-​​fiction, and knowing the difference betwixt them.

UPDATED: here’s a response to Kai Nagata, titled “Why I Didn’t Quit My Job” by a Vancouver print journalist CLICK HERE

 

'Lorem Ipsum Dolor' Just Got a Tad Yummier

Who needs boring old ‘placeholder text’ that’s doggerel Latin based on an 18th century manuscript when you can have ‘placeholder text’ that includes bacon? No really: HEAD HERE and you’ll get 5 paragraphs of “all-​​meat” text to paste into your layout for whatever design purpose you have. Here’s a sample of what that means:

Magna eiusmod ex, bresaola ad brisket meatloaf pancetta cillum. Jowl beef ribs swine jerky t-​​bone. Esse sirloin excepteur pork chop id in, bacon short ribs pig rump strip steak. Laboris shoulder reprehenderit excepteur, t-​​bone meatball est sed pork belly beef ribs ullamco turkey sirloin boudin. Jowl strip steak cow, ground round ball tip pork chop ea beef. Andouille pork pastrami, voluptate meatloaf sirloin jowl ground round id pancetta pork chop ullamco. Short loin consequat aliquip, sirloin consectetur quis officia pariatur salami cow flank commodo adipisicing do.

Head to the bottom of that page and you can specify a different number of paragraphs, as well as whether you want some filler included with your yummy meat, or if you want to start with  the words ‘Bacon ipsum dolor sit amet…’ and then carry on with meat or a meat mixture. Yes, anything goes better with Bacon!!™

This Week's Fish Wrap (№28)

This evening’s Shebeen Club event in Vancouver with Stephen Quinn causes me to think about a book read some time ago Flat Earth News, by Nick Davies. The things that become this week’s fish-​​wrap may have been last week’s news, but they seem to acquire the the first mentioned state far more quickly these days, and one has to wonder why that is.

While Mr. Quinn is not a newspaper man, he is – first and foremost – a journalist. The book by Mr. Davies is about journalism, and the dearth of it in the papers found principally in London, but not exclusively so. Being a regular writer for The Guardian, his expertise lies in the output of Fleet Street rather than elsewhere, and thus he devotes much of his book to the state of British journalism in its newspapers as well as the BBC News web-​​site. It’s a fascinating read and highly recommended for people who think.

First, however, let’s have one thing clear from the outset: this is not about how some minority group or secret committee is controlling the world and /​ or the media. While there may be decisions made about things by groups we know nothing about (that’s why they’re ‘secret groups’ after all), it’s all too easy to shuffle off one’s responsibility for not doing anything to change things by blaming an anonymous ‘powerful individuals’. Here’s an H.L. Menken quote included in the book (p. 395) which goes some way to explain how this sort of thinking can be rubbish:

…the central belief of every moron is that he is the victim of a mysterious conspiracy against his rights and true deserts … [He] ascribes all his failures to get on in the world, all of his congenital incapacity damfoolishness, to the machinations of werewolves assembled in Wall Street or some other such den of infamy.

This book is specifically about how there are few, if any, people in control of the media. While many reporters and editors find all too frequently that they aren’t able to do the fact-​​checking they wish to — and are frustrated at the situation’s stasis — they aren’t the cause of it through lack of initiative; they simply haven’t the time. According to the staggeringly persuasive argument of author Nick Davies, the newspapers of the UK are essentially now all owned by people who have little interest in publishing newspapers containing journalism. What these individuals are principally concerned with is simply ‘selling copies of the paper each and every day, and the more the better.’ This quantity over quality approach is why they are termed “the Grocers” by Mr. Davies.

Cover art of “Flat Earth News” by Nick Davies
Cover art of “Flat Earth News” by Nick Davies

Certainly, any business must be operated with an eye to profit v. loss. However, there is so much an avoidance of idealism towards the media’s content, that the readers are being under-​​served to the point of unconscionable delivery of falsity on the part of the various persons responsible for the media outlets’ content.

While the book focuses much of its time upon the newspapers of London – including entire chapters each devoted to the Sunday Times, the Observer, and both the Daily and Sunday Mail newspapers – the problems and trends can all be recognized as being world-​​wide in scope. The newspapers of North America are, thankfully, prevented from out-​​right lying about individuals in print, owing to a reversal of the onus of proof in legal arguments here, when compared to the UK. That said, the habit of reporting quickly and loudly, then correcting slowly and quietly, is one which no legal or regulatory procedure can effectively prevent.

The other worrisome trend is the one first identified in the book: things being simply repeated from the texts of Media Releases without any effort to confirm that there is any validity within them, or even if they contain amplified – or ‘sexed up’, to use the UK Government’s term about the Iraqi WMD reports – versions of the truth which is then responsible for a snowball effect of panic about the subject in question; which then is fed-​​back into (EG: Iranian Elections get dropped to cover Michael Jackson’s death) or someone is able to stop the thing by explaining that it’s simply not true in the slightest and we can all relax now (EG: the nullification of the principle of habeas corpus in the USA is only applied to the cases of those naughty terrorists).

The fact that this book doesn’t cover is the recent development of newspapers closing due to financial decisions by their owners, despite any budget restraints they may have imposed prior to the shut-​​down. It would be fascinating to know what Mr. Davies’ views of the ‘new media platform’ might do to return journalists to the forefront of the delivery of facts. He suggests late in the book that an over-​​haul of newspapers is required, with the probable method of delivery being some sort of display screen.

Read this book, not to begin seeing some Secret Star-​​Chamber Cabal controlling the World’s fate, but in order to see that there is an ordinary group of men frantically pulling levers behind the curtain so as to continue making the Great Oz of the Media just as impressive and seemingly required as ever before.

Flat Earth News: An Award-​​Winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media by Nick Davies; PP 420 (including index), ISBN: 9780099512684; 2nd Edition published in 2009 by Vintage, an imprint of Random House, London, SW1V

Seagrams Advert (“Life”, September 9th 1945)

People to Give Your Attention To (№8)

The very end of the December is a funny thing, isn’t it? Everyone seems to have this inclination, during this rolling time of the year, to review that which has occurred as well as that which has yet so to do. Heck, even Atomic Fez has succumbed, and in three parts!

Seagrams Advert (“Life”, September 9th 1945)
Seagrams Advert (“Life”, September 9th 1945)

However, this is not going to happen during this week’s edition of “People Who Don’t Talk Rubbish”. Nope, all new content, yessiree! Granted, it’s not tough to do, what will all the great people out there using Social Media effectively, as more and more people seem to be able to do. Granted, the more people who use it, the tougher it is to sort out who is worth following; which is where I come in. Allow me to provide the cream of the cream, to badly idiomatically translate a well-​​worn phrase.

This week: Dealers! No, not those people who push drugs! These are people who push equally addictive things: books! Be they ‘virtual stores’, ‘bricks and mortar’, or both, what follows is a list of people who will help you lift the cruel weight of money from your pocket in exchange for stories of all sizes and varieties! Again, this list is hardly complete or thorough, just the people who I’ve noticed during the past week or more.

Lock-​​down your VISA card and let’s begin!


Consortium Books

Twitter: @ConsortiumBooks | Web: CBsd.com

Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, they handle book sales and distribution. “Where Independent Publishers Live”


The Island BOOKstore

Twitter: @IslandBOOKstore | Web: IslandBOOKstore.com

Based in both Mackinac Island and Mackinaw City, Michigan. “North Michigan Nexus for Books, Ideas & Connections • THINKING MATTERS HERE”, and we can all use a little thinking these days, can’t we?


Northshire Bookstore

Twitter: @NorthshireBooks | Web: Northshire.com

This Manchester, Vermont based bookseller has been in business since 1976.


Titles MAC Bookstore

Twitter: @MACBookstore | Web: Bookstore.McMaster.ca

Located in Hamilton Ontario, “Titles” is McMaster University’s student bookstore and “MacMicro Computer Center”. They also have an in-​​store Espresso Book Machine, and manager Mark Leslie Lefebvre is one seriously excellent person.


Sitka Books and Art

Twitter: @SitkaBooks | Web: SitkaBooksAndArt.com

Located in Vancouver, BC; Sitka Books and Art is run by ex-​​Duthie Books employees. When Duthie’s closed its final location on 4th Avenue, a few people were bemoaning the fact that they weren’t closing due to lack of books being sold, but due to the extortionist rent being charged for the space they were being sold in. “Logically”, they thought to themselves, “if we can locate somewhere with a really low monthly overhead, we can afford to run a bookshop!” So they did.

They also have art on the walls, as it’s a form of ‘storytelling’ just like the books on the shelves.


City Lights Books

Twitter: @CityLightsBooks | Web: CityLights.com

This San Francisco independent is “a landmark bookstore and publisher that specializes in world literature, the arts, and progressive politics”. So progressive, in fact, that they were the people who first published the legendary poem “Howl”. Chances are that any right-​​wing conservative or Tea Party Member breaks into hives just from entering the store.


Powell's Books

Twitter: @Powells | Web: Powells.com

If you’ve ever been to the main location of this legendary independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, you’ll remember: it’s an entire city block of several buildings all now inter-​​connected into one massive, orgiastic temple of bibliophile Heaven. There’s parking on the roof (I seem to recall), and they typically have used and new copies of the same book sitting next to each other on the shelves. In theory, you are looking for a particular book you can decide at that point if you want an already-​​loved copy or a fresh one of your own. Sensible stuff.

Their biggest market – at one point, anyway – was prisoners. Apparently they shipped more books to prison libraries than any other market. Gotta love people who are steadfastly interested in getting books to people, no matter who they are now (or were before).


This is the eighth in the on-​​​​​​​going weekly series about “people who don’t talk rubbish”. It’s just like “Follow Friday”, only using more than 140 characters.

Do you have people to recommend to me? Are you named here and want to express your appreciation /​​​​ intent to file a court-​​​​​​​​ordered restraint application? Type words in the comments section! Make your words last forever on the Internet®!

Motorola Rectangular TV, NatGeo, Nov65 (click to enlarge/close)

People to Give Your Attention To (№7)

The last two instalments of “People to Give Your Attention To” provided publishers of various sizes who are on Twitter and other social media. This week, in an effort to provide you with people you need to aid you in next year’s resolution of “Total Supremacy of the Book World”, here are reviewers of a variety of sizes: weekly magazines, all the way to people who like to write a post on their blog about the last book they read.


Motorola Rectangular TV, NatGeo, Nov65 (click to enlarge/close)
Motorola Rectangular TV, NatGeo, Nov65 (click to enlarge/​close)


As far as I’m concerned, both have their place. Some people read the newspaper to find out what movie they should see, other people talk to someone over a beer after work. “Hand-​​selling” a book and “blogging” aren’t that different from each other.

PLEASE NOTE: this is in no way a definitive or complete list. These are only people who’ve come to my attention recently. Without even trying hard, I can think of at least three major newspapers and two radio resources that aren’t listed, but the list is long enough as it is. Head over to this Twitter List as an ever-​​growing number of people and media outlets get added to it (as and when people tweet, I notice them, remember to check they’re part of the list, not get distracted by a cat, etc.).


Devourer of Books

Twitter: @DevourerofBooks | Web: DevourerofBooks.com

“Jen” is a book blogger, new mommy to a sweet toddler, and – according to a badge on a side-​​bar – is “Literate Housewife Approved” She also provides on-​​line book publicity at @booklicity (booklicity.com), and is active on LibraryThing.com.


Quill & Quire

Twitter: @QuillAndQuire | Web: QuillAndQuire.com

Quill & Quire is the must-​​read for the Canadian book industry. For those of you south of the 49th Parallel, imagine Publishers Weekly or Kirkus for Canada. For those of you in the UK, imagine a version of the Times’ “Literary Supplement” that’s more trade-​​oriented (plus Mounties and Beaver).


Corinna Carlson

Twitter: @GusGreeper | Web: GusGreeper.com

Left-​​Handed book blogger, and maker of Sock Monkeys. She and her partner recently lost their cat from extreme old age. “Gus” was approximately 1,200 years old (give or take a few years) and had been in Corinna’s life since she was very young. Their family won’t be the same.


Horror World

Twitter: @Horror_World | Web: HorrorWorld.org

They review books, support horror/​fantasy from any size of publisher, promote authors, and celebrate anything to do with people enjoying the reading of books. Through the sire you can communicate with dark fiction’s best known authors and read reviews of the latest horror book releases, as well as original fiction by some of the genre’s biggest names. They’re good people there.


ALA Booklist Publications

Twitter: @ALA_Booklist | Web: BooklistOnLine.org

The output of regular magazines by the American Library Association Booklist Publications include Booklist, and their web-​​site provides you with book links, Booklist Online, blogs and newsletters for librarians and book lovers. When it comes to getting the word out about a good story that has a wide audience, nothing beats a praise-​​filled review in this journal.


Janet Somerville

Twitter: @JanetSomerville | Web: JSomerville.blogspot.com

Janet is a self-​​described “teacher, poet, book blogger, Broadway junkie, amateur photographer, fan of puppy breath and rowing wannabe”. So, yeah, typical every-​​day reader-​​person.


The Vancouver Sun's Arts Section

Twitter: @VanSunArts | Web: VancouverSun.com/Entertainment

Not too surprising, this is a daily paper in Vancouver. This particular information stream is maintained by @bradfrenette and @maggielangrick, with contributions from the rest of the able-​​bodied “Sun’s Arts team”. Occasionally they’re not tweeting about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, too! How about that, eh?


The National Post's Books Section

Twitter: @NPBooks | Web: NationalPost.com/theAfterword

Literary musings by the editors of “The Afterword”, the National Post’s books blog: @BoyReporter and @itsMarkMedley

Oddly, last week saw them engaged in a flame war with The Vancouver Sun’s Arts Section. I tried digging through their streams to find out what was going on, but nothing seems to match-​​up. One hopes it was entirely good-​​natured, and not something akin to Ezra Levant’s hacking on Margaret Atwood a month or so ago.


TTA Press

Twitter: @TTApress | Web: TTApress.com

They’re the publisher of the magazines Interzone and Black Static, both of which include intelligent reviews of books in the SF and Horror/​Dark Fantasy categories respectively. If you’ve been subscribing over the past year or more, you’ll have seen the Atomic Fez full-​​page adverts in them. They also publish the mystery/​crime anthology Crimewave and other things as well. Well worth the price of subscription, no matter which one you select, and what area of the world you live in.


Kirkus Reviews

Twitter: @KirkusReviews | Web: KirkusReviews.com

Kirkus Reviews has been reviewing books since 1933. Over that lengthy period, they’ve gained a reputation for “telling it like it is”, especially when other media outlets get criticized for being too quick to praise. When a book you’re feeling a bit ambivalent towards is being lauded by all and sundry, reportedly a check of the title in Kirkus Review will provide an alternate reaction.

They claim to cover “approx 5000 books, 2 – 3 months prior to publication per year.” So far, none of Atomic Fez books sent to their offices have gained so much as a passing mention. This is odd, since Publishers Weekly reviewed all four of the first titles sent to them.

Not that I’m bitter. No, no!


Publishers Weekly

Twitter: @PublishersWkly | Web: PublishersWeekly.com

Twitter: @PWxyz | Web: Blogs.PublishersWeekly.com/blogs/PWxyz/

Publishers Weekly is a weekly magazine for and about publishers (see how their title works? genius, isn’t it?), and the industry as a whole. Think of them as an American version of Quill & Quire or an industry-​​based version of the Times’ “Literary Supplement”. In print, and on the web, plus downloadable versions as well. In-​​depth analysis of market trends, technology, marketing, and authors of note. Reviews a-​​plenty, divided by genre into mostly helpful categories.

What is “PWxyz”? Well, let’s hear what that part of the PW office describes itself as. “It’s a place to find late-​​breaking news on the book business, as well as other stuff that falls between the cracks of our other print and online coverage. You’ll be hearing from staffers from all of PW’s departments: news, reviews, and children’s books.” I think the last part of the division’s name is supposed to suggest that they’re ‘the last word in publishing’, but I only have my gut instinct to base that interpretation on.

Both are good to follow, as they’re often the first to get media releases from major publishers and retailers. Sometimes, they even break stories, as has been the case with a couple of developments with the Dorchester Publishing scandal over the last-​​half of this year.


This is the seventh in the on-​​​​​​​going weekly series about “people who don’t talk rubbish”. It’s just like “Follow Friday”, only using more than 140 characters.

Do you have people to recommend to me? Are you named here and want to express your appreciation /​​​​ intent to file a court-​​​​​​​​ordered restraint application? Type words in the comments section! Make your words last forever on the Internet®!