Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Regional restrictions of digital content - or - "that's a really dumb idea"

Credit: US Geological Survey
If you live outside of the US, you'll probably be familiar with this scenario.

Your favourite artist or author releases something new. They dutifully link you to the Kindle edition or iTunes  store. You happily log on, your credit card twitching in your eager paw and...
This item is not available in your county.
Curses! Foiled again.

You now have to order the physical item, pay an additional delivery and customs fee, and risk losing said item in the post (and let's not mention all the times it has taken months to receive an item that should have taken two weeks). Of course, my guess is that most people these days are now resorting to piracy or circumventing the restrictions through shadier means (spoofing IP addresses, faking physical addresses, paypal is probably involved at some point too).

My response to that... is pooh!

It's a digital age. There's no logical reason for digital content suppliers to use geography as an excuse to deny sales.

Oh, I'm sure the big publishers and suppliers have reasons. Contracts -  no doubt written sometime during the Seventies - sitting in their drawers, highlighting the whys and what-the-hecks of denying half the globe the same instant, affordable content that the big countries are allowed. But, gosh darn it, I have a Kindle and I have an iPod and I want to fill it with my favourite things.

Indie authors get it. I have yet to find an indie book that wasn't available in my region, or one that is as highly priced as some of the big authors ($16 for the Kindle format of a backlisted book - I think not publishers!). For this reason, my mainstream author purchases are now primarily at second hand stores (which probably doesn't profit the publisher or author) and indie books are getting a permanent chunk of my monthly budget.

Why don't the big publishers cotton on to this fact? Why can't music executives? Television and movie distributors?

You see the pattern?

The very people who would profit the most from global content distribution are the ones building digital borders. These same people are also spending millions on combating piracy, when they already have the means to reduce it.

People aren't generally nefarious pirates by nature. Our natures are to want things quickly, easily and within the confines of our stretched bank balances.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

GUEST POST: How to Help Your Favorite Authors - by Lindsay Buroker

Originally by Lindsay Buroker, author of Flash Gold, The Emperor's Edge, and Encrypted. Finally giving me an answer to one of the questions I've been dying to ask an Indie author.
As authors, we spend a lot of time trying to promote our books. Our biggest obstacle is obscurity because there are a lot of books out there. No, really. A lot.
We like to think that good stories are all it takes to make it (in author terms “make it” usually means “become well known enough and sell enough books that I can quit my day job and write for a living”), but you can doubtlessly think of mediocre books that are selling bazillions of copies and authors you love who never make it out of the “mid-list” category.
Sometimes it’s just the author (or publishing house) with the biggest marketing budget who wins, but you, as a reader, have amazing power. Don’t believe for a second that you don’t have anything to do with whether an author makes it, because you do. A lot. No, really. A lot.
Why does this matter to you? Well, authors who get to quit their day jobs can write faster and put more books out for you!
The following are some little things you can do that can make a big difference. Some of them only take a few seconds. Your favorite authors will appreciate the effort. Trust me. 
Helping out on Amazon
Amazon is the big kahuna of book sellers, especially when it comes to ebooks, so helping an author “get found” on there can give them a big boost. You can certainly do these things on other bookstore sites as well (nothing against copying and pasting a review, for example), but Amazon tends to have more cool features to help an author get found.
Here’s the list (any one of these things can help):
  • If you do nothing else, consider writing a review on Amazon, even if the book already has quite a few and/or you’ve reviewed it elsewhere. There’s evidence that ratings and reviews factor into the Amazon algorithms that decide which books are promoted on the site (i.e. certain books are recommended to customers who bought books in similar genres). If reviewing isn’t your bag, don’t worry about writing paragraphs-long in-depth studies of the book; maybe you could just pen a few sentences with a couple of specifics about why you liked the book.
  • “Tag” the book with genre-appropriate labels (i.e. thriller, steampunk, paranormal romance). You don’t have to leave a review to do this; you just need an account at Amazon. A combination of the right tags and a good sales ranking can make a book come up when customers search for that type of story on Amazon.
  • Give the book a thumb’s up. This takes less than a second and probably doesn’t do much, but it may play into Amazon’s algorithms to a lesser extent than reviews/ratings.
  • Make a “Listmania” List and add your favorite authors’ books to it. This creates another avenue for new readers to find books. It’s better to create lists around similar types of books (i.e. genres or sub-genres) than to do a smorgasbord, and consider titling it something description so folks will be more inclined to check it out, ie. “Fun heroic fantasy ebooks for $5 or less”
  • If you have a Kindle, highlight some wise or fun quotations from the book and share them publicly (if enough people share their highlights, they’ll show up at the bottom of a book’s page):
Popular Highlights on a Book's Sales Page
Helping out with Social Media
If you’re involved with Twitter, Facebook, Digg, StumbleUpon, etc., you can give your favorite authors a shout-out when they release new books. If they blog, you can follow their site (through Google Reader or other RSS readers) and share the link when they post something that may be interesting to your friends. If they’re on Twitter, you can follow them and retweet their links now and then.
Authors don’t expect you to follow them 24/7 and repeat everything they say (that might actually alarm some folks…), but a little promotional help now and then is greatly appreciated.
If you like to be social about books, you can join sites such as Goodreads, Shelfari, or LibraryThing. You can help your favorite authors by posting reviews and talking about their books on those sites, or you can just use those places to find online reading buddies with common interests.
Helping out with Your Blog
Do you ever talk about books or what you’re reading on your blog? You might consider reviewing your favorite authors on your site (you could even make a few dollars if you signed up as an Amazon affiliate).
Also, if most of your favorites maintain websites, you could add an “author blogroll” list in your menu with links to those sites.
And Lastly…
These days, most authors have websites and contact forms so you can get in touch. If you enjoyed their work, consider sending them a short note to let them know. While it won’t help them sell more books, it’ll make their day.
Thanks for reading (this post and books in general!).