Marchbooks' Blog

February 6, 2010

The Problem With Government Spending by Janus Kane

Filed under: Comments from our Authors — marchbooks @ 11:01 pm
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I try not to wax political too often, but that is easier said these days. The current economic climate makes it difficult not to ponder how we got here and what the ramifications will be for ourselves and our children. When one starts talking about American debt in numbers that are more suited to science fiction than real life, one can’t help but wonder what went wrong.

The U.S. government, on its face, has gone to great efforts to try to avoid the pitfalls of our predecessors. But, I don’t think you have to be a great economist to see that something is not working. I believe in Obama, I believe in his vision of change, but I don’t envy the job he has before him.

I make no claims to being a great economist or mathematician but, early in my life, I learned some basic, fundamental concepts that the bureaucrats in the White House should be reminded of. ‘Don’t spend money you don’t have’. It’s a simple concept. I’m not talking about the fiscally responsible use of credit. Banks capitalize on the velocity of money. They take your money and charge you interest for the luxury of borrowing it back. It’s a profitable business. Money sitting in a bank is stagnant money. This philosophy does not work for the consumer, even if that consumer is the American government. When you write a check, you need to deduct that amount from your check register. The fact that the recipient of that check takes a month to cash it does not entitle you to go out and spend that money again. That is economics 101.

Budgetary planning is essential for individuals, businesses and governments alike. It is not sufficient to just come up with a budget and then ignore it. Let me say it again. Budgets are only effective if you follow them. Admittedly, you cannot plan for every eventuality. No one could have foreseen 9/11 or Katrina, but you do your best to plan for the unexpected (a smart homeowner tries to anticipate the need for a new roof or furnace). When you are off the mark, you regroup, adjust your budget and move on. Unfortunately, the government does not have to worry about how they will make up a budgetary shortfall – they have us.

According to David Walker, the former Comptroller General of the United States, balancing the budget by the year 2040 could require cutting federal spending by 60% or raising federal taxes to nearly two times today’s level. How could the American government, arguably the single largest consumer in the world have gotten so far behind the eight ball?

I am not suggesting that our government should be run like a large corporation, but some basic business principles should be recognized. When WalMart buys product, do you think they pay a premium for it? They are a huge corporation with a tremendous amount of clout. They, for all intents and purposes, dictate terms to their sellers. Those terms are (surprise, surprise) to their advantage. And yet, this large corporation amounts to only a drop in the bucket of this country’s budget. So why is it that the American government is paying $300 for $15 dollar hammers, $75 for a screw and $3.4M for a turtle walkway? Why are contractors falling over themselves to scoop up lucrative government contracts?

It’s clear that a serious budget analysis is necessary. Politicians have to start acting for the benefit of their constituents rather than culling the favor and financial support of big business by selling the American taxpayer down the river.

If you would like to look at American debt in all its glory, go here. It’s a real eye-opener.

February 2, 2010

Google Book Settlement

Filed under: On Writing and Publishing — marchbooks @ 7:09 pm
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I have been trying to track this issue in several publishing forums that I follow. There has been some heated discussion and passions are running high on both sides of the fence. I came late to the party, perhaps I was two busy publishing our first two books to see what was going on.

I don’t pretend to be completely educated on the matter. Perhaps I am missing some essential facts, but, for the life of me, I don’t see what there is to debate. Apparently there is a great deal of legalese and subterfuge involved in this settlement, but as in most such cases, it can be boiled down to one basic principle. In this case, that principle is whether or not Google has the right to infringe on the rights of numerous copyright holders; authors, publishers and their family members by trying to bind them to what is essentially a publishing contract that they did not agree to and for which they would get little if any compensation for.

As I understand it, Google has taken it upon itself, over the last several months, through their library affiliates, to scan countless books into their system with little or no regard for copyright. Their claim, again – as I understand it, is that their interest is in preserving older titles and protecting them from disappearing from the grid.

I am all for protecting the great legacy of the written word, however, it seems that Google’s motives might not be so altruistic. First, and probably most importantly, it seems that they made only a token effort to confirm that copyright had actually expired on these texts. Furthermore, it seems that, in their fervor, they blatantly stepped on the toes of numerous existing copyright holders. So now, there is this settlement in the offing which basically groups all authors and copyright holders together (regardless of the status of their copyright). Rather than allowing authors to opt-in to this book scanning program, it places the onus on the author/publisher to opt-out of it, promising little or no compensation for staying in and not even guaranteeing that an author’s books will not be scanned if they opt-out. Huh???????? It begs the question – why strongarm people into this agreement? If this settlement option was such an attractive deal, wouldn’t authors and publishers flock to get on board, without the need for coercion or underhanded tactics?

Confused – yes, incredulous – yes, pissed off – yes, yes, yes. I think the idea of a world library database of out-of-print, orphaned (expired copyright) books is a wonderful idea. I DO NOT THINK THAT PROVIDES AN EXCUSE TO INFRINGE ON THE COPYRIGHT OF COUNTLESS HARDWORKING AUTHORS!!!! These are two completely separate issues. Preserving a heritage of printed material which is no longer covered by copyright law is a terrific goal. Usurping the rights of legitimate copyright holders is unconscionable.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I know from first hand experience how much time and effort goes into writing, editing, formatting, publishing and marketing a book. Because of archaic discounts and return policies, it is hard enough to break even in this business. Now, we are supposed to accept that a company like Google can come in and scan the fruits of our labor (based on their unilateral decision and with no compensation) to use it as they like?

It’s not okay for someone to steal a book out of my hands, it is not okay for someone to print my books and sell them without my knowledge or consent and it is not okay for someone to copy my book and use it for their own benefit. That is the essence of copyright law. So, again I say, what is the debate over? Unless I am missing an important part of this equation, Google is attempting to do a major end run around well established copyright law.

If any of you feel that I am missing some facts and would like to enlighten me, I welcome it. If you are an author/publisher who also feels that your rights may be at risk, let me hear that as well. I welcome any and all feedback on this issue.

January 13, 2010

Pricing eBooks

Filed under: On Writing and Publishing — marchbooks @ 11:37 pm
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Recently, the question of eBook pricing came up in a forum that I follow. It was suggested that the publisher should set one price for all ebook formats. I disagree. This is my response.

I have not done it yet, but my understanding is that a Kindle conversion entails more than just throwing my PDF up on Amazon. Such a file, although it could be read on a Kindle would not allow text flow or change of font sizes, etc.

For me, it is very simple – a new file requires a conversion and that requires effort – some conversions require more effort, some require less. I am currently converting my novels to flipbooks. They are not suited to the ereaders. There is no text flow as with the ereaders. Surely I could, and some publishers do, just import their text and throw their books out there. I’m not willing to do that. Whatever format I choose for my books, I want the end products to look as clean and aesthetically pleasing as I can make them. That takes time and effort.

If I chose to make my PDF book files available on Smarshwords, I would not charge the same as I would for a flipbook that required hours of formatting and design, nor would I charge the same as for a proper Kindle or Nook version that I paid a service to convert for me.

Likewise, I think that the venue’s percentage should be a consideration. It is one of the many things about the publishing industry that I think is outdated. Why should the intellectual property holder be the last one to have a say about the end cost to the consumer? Big companies like Amazon and Wal Mart want to have it all. They want to tell you what % they will take up front (LSI exceptions noted), they want to decide how much of that percentage they pass on to the consumer – something that can change on a monthly basis, and they want to dictate what you sell to other vendors for.

The thingamajig maker who needs widgets does not go to the widget maker and tell them what they will pay for their widgets, nor do they dictate who and what price that company can sell widgets to other companies for. As authors, we are the supplier (the widget makers). As publishers, we are the manufacturers (the thingamajig makers), so why are we at the sales venue’s mercy? I am just saying that the author/publisher should not be at the bottom of the food chain.

In the end, it becomes a question of ‘buyer beware’. At any one time, you will find most books available for a wide range of prices on the internet – most often, none of that is the function of what price the author/publisher has set for their book.

I’ll end this little tirade with a personal example of how business is being done these days. I recently bought carpeting for one of my properties. I requested quotes from two nationally recognized chains. Both reps came out to the condo, took their measurements and gave me their quote. Quality of the carpet was comparable for both companies. The first company quoted me a price of almost $7500 – a price that I knew was grossly inflated, but I did not know how much as it had been over 10 years since I had carpeted this property. A week later, a member of their capture team, supposedly a supervisor, called and we talked at length. At the end of the call, this man offered to do the job for $2600. I declined. (I, personally, will not deal with a company that does business this way). The second company’s rep came out and went through the same machinations before tending his quote of $2945. We talked for a while about installation, padding, furniture moving, etc and ultimately settled on a price of $2600 for the job.

The first company is a thriving, although unethical, business so there is no question in my mind that there are customers falling prey to their blatantly userous tactics. The seller does not always do their due diligence, if they don’t they have no one to blame…Had I ignorantly accepted the $7500 quote I would be outraged, but I would have no recourse and no one to blame but myself.

I am not offering this to suggest that two wrongs make a right. What I am saying is that I am not going to undercut my contributions, significant as they are, to my end product when there is so much blantant gluttony both in and out of the industry. I believe that I can comfortably defend any price discrepancy that I might choose to impose.

I sincerely hope that some day we can see all authors elevated above their current position at the bottom of the food chain. Then, perhaps, more than just the top 5% could actually make a living in this business.

Let me know what you think.

elizabeth
www.marchbooks.com
http://tinyurl.com/yk3zaqo

January 11, 2010

Life Interrupted by M.J. Claire

Filed under: Comments from our Authors — marchbooks @ 4:13 pm
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Writing, at least for me, requires a tremendous amount of focus. I envy those people who can put a hold on their lives for a few minutes – just enough time to jot down a few lines of their current work in progress. I am not one of those folk. That is not to say that I need a quiet, sterile environment in which to work. In fact, the saying ‘ a cluttered desk is the sign of an organized mind’ could have been written for me. Well, I’m not sure about the organized mind part but I do seem to work best when surrounded by a certain amount of disarray. What I cannot do is spend several hours working in the office (on insurance matters), balance my finances, deal with the occasional personal drama and then sit down to write. At least not on anything of length.

I have those occasional inspirations; driving down the road, eating my lunch or riding my exercise bike when a thought encroaches which keeps banging against my head until I put it on paper. Those light bulbs are almost exclusively limited to poems, titles or ideas for new projects. Rarely, if ever, do they pertain to an ongoing project.

Once I have set the first few chapters of a novel down, the die is cast, that world has been created and my job as a writer becomes tuning into that world and those characters so that I can find out what is going on. I feel like less of a creator than a voyeur. In a way, for me, writing is like being a transciptionist with a radio. I play with the dial until I hit the right frequency, then I just write what I hear – ‘just the facts Ma’ am’ as they say.

If there is too much of my own life going on, there is interference and I won’t get clear reception. If that happens, I may get it wrong. Sometimes, even when my life is calm and I can devote all of my attention to radio surfing, the station in question isn’t broadcasting. That is why I always keep multiple projects going. If I am having difficulty falling into one story, rather than forcing it and putting words into my characters’ mouths, I will move on to another story.

So far, it works. Please feel free to share your own writing process. I am always interested to hear how a writer gets from a blank page to a finished manuscript.

www.marchbooks.com

December 28, 2009

Striving For Balance

Wow, I just realized that the last post may have sounded a tad bit negative – just a tad bit. Let’s add a little balance. This year has been very exciting and we have accomplished a lot. I’ll recap – two books (one adult fiction, one YA fiction) were written, edited, designed, formatted, proofed and published. The groundwork has been established and we will never have to be called ‘novice’ publishers again. The flipbook for both titles will be fully edited and laid out (if not ready for sale) by the end of the month. Editing has begun on our next titles ‘Rain’ and ‘Bigelow Hollow Revisited’ – both are YA titles. Our books have broad online distribution channels, including the two biggies – Amazon and B&N. We have had some talks and some books signings resulting in enough sales for us to give back to some favorite causes.

So far, in our holiday book promotion http://marchbooks.ning.com/profiles/blogs/holiday-book-promotion, we have been able to donate copies of ‘The Little Insanity’ to our soldiers overseas and copies of ‘Nightsweats in Bigelow Hollow’ to the WE ARE THE CHILDREN Christmas party in Hartford, CT. We have also had book signings for animal advocacy groups that have allowed us to contribute a portion of our sales back to the groups.

Whew, and we’re not done yet. With at least two more titles slotted for publication in 2010, we still have much on our plate. Marketing will be ongoing but as one author said (I wish I could remember the source) ‘marketing is front-loaded. It is like pushing a snow ball up a mountainside. It is tough going in the beginning. But, eventually, if you are persistent, you will reach the peak and the snowball will have a momentum all its own.’ Understand, this was not verbatim. I paraphrase, because, heck I can’t even remember who said it. Perhaps when our marketing takes on its own momentum I can go back and reread all of the great resources I have used and credit the authors properly.

I hope everyone’s holidays were safe and happy,

elizabeth

www.marchbooks.com

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Little-Insanity/Janus-Kane/e/9781935367291/?itm=1&USRI=the+little+insanity
http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/results.asp?WRD=nightsweats+in+bigelow+hollow&box=nightsweat&pos=0 

December 22, 2009

I Have Been Remiss

Filed under: On Writing and Publishing — marchbooks @ 5:08 pm
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Sorry for the long absence. Things have been absolutely INSANE here and the month has flown by on the wings of a hummingbird. Three days from Christmas and I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that it is no longer September. Have you seen that commercial, you know the one, the BING commercial that shows different people in the grip of information overload? Well, that is my life these days.

With a to-do list that seems to grow exponentially every time I cross something off of it, the holidays bearing down on me like an uncaged panther and another ‘real-world’ job that is making greater demands on me by the day (the bills have to be paid until this publishing gig takes off, after all), I find myself frantically wondering if I have made a mistake. Something (or a couple of somethings) had to give. One of them was the blog – I hope you understand.

It seems that I am losing the ability to prioritize. There are so many things vying for my attention these days. There is networking to be done; writers’ groups, publisher’s groups and the occasional talk to groups of those aspiring to be one or the other. The next two titles on the March Books list are banging louder and louder for attention – ‘edit us’, ‘format us’, ‘proofread us’, ‘get us some covers’ and ‘GET US PUBLISHED’. Meanwhile, I work on one of the half-dozen eFormats for our first two releases. Gone are the days when we could just hand over the PDF file and be done with it. Now Kindle needs a version, the Nook needs a separate version and I (insane as I am) stay married to the idea of offering a flipbook version from our website. But, this is all the fun stuff.

Then, there is the marketing. God save me from the marketing. But, if he did, what would be the point of publishing? If no one knows about the books, why even bother? And so, I continue to look for new ways to market our books to bookstores and libraries, to wrap my head around SEO and the power of the internet (Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Blog Spot, Book Blogger, WritersCafe, Writing.com and about two dozen others – heck, who am I kidding, I can’t even remember all of the writing, reading and blogging sites that I have joined) and keep putting our name out there until the magic number has been reached when our audience will take the step of buying our books. Then, of course, there is the grass-roots movement – actually getting into local businesses and hawking the books, talking to local groups and scheduling book signings – Yikes! Let us not forget the reams of ongoing research on how to design, how to format, how to edit, how to market, publicize and sell your book. The intricacies of dealing with Amazon alone would keep me busy for a month.

Is it any wonder that I have found myself paralyzed by indecision? What to do next? I don’t know the answer to that question. For now, it is enough to be blogging. Then the holidays and the hope that 2010 will bring a new calm and sanity to an otherwise insane endeavor.

Wish me luck,
elizabeth

www.marchbooks.com

The Little Insanity
Nightsweats in Bigelow Hollow

November 30, 2009

Putting A Price On Your Masterpiece

Filed under: On Writing and Publishing — marchbooks @ 5:19 pm
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I have participated in many discussions about how to set pricing for your book. There is much talk about ‘crunching the numbers’. Certainly that is an important part of setting a price for a new title. Any publisher (unless they are publishing out of purely philanthropic motives) must look at the cost of the book, discounts being offered and expenditures to date, to know what they should charge for their book. At the end of the day, the numbers must work so that there is adequate compensation for your efforts. If not, you have basically embarked on a fool’s errand. I don’t know of many people who can afford to be upside down on their figures, to the point where they are losing money on each sale. However, if you don’t look at the numbers, that is exactly what might happen.

If that were the only factor, pricing calculations would be easy enough. Unfortunately, that is only part of the equation. Once we have an idea what we WANT to get for our book, we need to look at what the market will bear. This is not an easy task. With prices running the gamut from Wal-Mart discounts to small indie stores that can only survive by charging full retail, it is not always easy to get a grip on the quickly changing market.

But, that isn’t even the end of it. Add the unpredictable nature of discounting (will Amazon discount my book or not?), a buyer’s perceived value of what you are offering and economic fluctuations, you have got yourself a herculean task. After all, short of a crystal ball, some of these variables are beyond our grasp. For instance, is the current economic situation helping or hurting the book trade? Will a person think twice, or more, before laying down a twenty dollar bill for a book or will they consider it a sound alternative to a much pricier video game or iPod? How much of a price incentive does a publisher have to offer to get a consumer to take a chance on an unknown author? Not to mention the obvious difficulty a small publisher will encounter while promoting a new author. It is not easy to be price competitive with big names which warrant huge print runs by large publishing houses.

Discounts pose another inscrutable mystery. With similar discounts, we see these differences in pricing between Amazon and Barnes and Noble on our first two titles; The Little Insanity – B & N  —  The Little Insanity – Amazon  and Nightsweats in Bigelow Hollow – B & N  —  Nightsweats in Bigelow Hollow – Amazon  Go figure. As you can see, Barnes and Noble offered significant discounts where Amazon offers none. There is no way of predicting how a vendor will, or if they will apply discounts to your title.

Is it an impossible task? Difficult, but not impossible. As with most things, you have to do your homework. Crunch your numbers, check your competition and get as much feedback as you can from your intended readership. If you can overcome a reader’s reluctance to open their wallet for a new author, I personally do not believe that a dollar or two difference will make or break the deal.

www.marchbooks.com

November 26, 2009

Truth Is Not Always Stranger Than Fiction – Janus Kane

Filed under: Comments from our Authors — marchbooks @ 10:35 pm
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You may have heard the story of the Man trapped in a coma for 23 years. Apparently it was not a coma, it just appeared to be one. As science progresses, it occasionally catches up with fiction. Case in point;

Excerpt from ‘The Little Insanity’

KYLE

‘Where the hell was he?’ He tried to look around, but he couldn’t move his head. ‘Oh Boy, he’d really done it this time.’

Kyle remembered feeling like this once before – when he’d first hurt his back. He’d been lifting a slab of granite, when, ‘Bam!’ It hit like a Mack truck. And that’s exactly how he’d felt; like he’d been hit by a truck. The pain was blinding, debilitating, heart stopping. Then, there was nothing.

It was as if every nerve in his body went to sleep. If someone had told him he had suddenly gone incorporeal, Kyle would have believed them. He had absolutely no sensation anywhere in his body, which seemed like a fair trade at the time. Anything that would stop the raging pain would be worth it.

This was different though. Kyle could still feel things now. Maybe he felt too much.

When he first became conscious, he tried to open his eyes but couldn’t. It was as if they were taped shut. All Kyle could see was a peach colored light filtering through his eyelids.

There was a lot of commotion. He heard it and felt it. People were bustling around him in a flurry of activity. Kyle tried to raise an arm to let someone know he was awake. Nothing happened. He heard someone yell, “BP 80/60, respiration weak, pulse thready.”

Suddenly, he felt his jaw being pried open. They were shoving something down his throat. Kyle panicked: trying to turn his head, move his hand to push them away, close his mouth. He couldn’t do anything but feel. His body had stopped listening to him…

www.marchbooks.com

The Little Insanity

Do We Need Our Own French Revolution? – Janus Kane

Filed under: In the News — marchbooks @ 12:23 am
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There has been a lot of debate over the state of the economy, high unemployment levels and what the source of the decline is. I think we all know that politicians are not helping the situation, but are they the only problem?
 
 I think that what we need is something akin to the French Revolution. As things stand right now, the big corporate CEOs are sitting in their ivory towers, thumbing their noses at us while spouting Marie Antoinette’s words – ‘let them eat cake’. Their greed is the thing that is undermining our economy. It is rampant in all areas; from bank executives stomping on struggling families and kicking them out onto the street as they write themselves another bonus check, large farming industries that torture and mutilate animals, in ungodly conditions, for profit and car makers who are so busy taking profits when times were good that they had nothing left for the leaner days.

If these big corporate gluttons would take their hands out of the till for one minute, maybe they could afford to make American products that could compete with what Asian markets are sending over. How any of these CEOs could consider (and could be allowed by their current banker – US) writing themselves another bonus check in these times is beyond comprehension.Shame on our politicians for handing over America’s hard-earned money to large corporations with no conditions or interest obligation – basically with no accountability at all. It is a case of the ‘haves’ giving to the ‘haves’ and leaving the ‘have nots’ to pick up the tab.

www.marchbooks.com 

Check out ‘The Little Insanity’ at Barnes & Noble
with discounts and free shipping through the holidays.

 

November 23, 2009

Books for Xmas

Filed under: About March Books — marchbooks @ 6:22 pm
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It’s that time of year again. Where did the year go? We at March Books feel very blessed at what we have been able to accomplish this year. After launching our new publishing company, we released our first two fiction titles with wide distribution. We are busily working on the release of eVersions for both the Kindle and Nook readers. In addition, we are forging ahead to prepare the sequel to ‘Nightsweats in Bigelow Hollow’ and another YA release – ‘The Invisibles’.

 In this most difficult of holiday seasons, we would like to give something back to the community. From now until Christmas (11/20/09 to 12/25/09), for every ten books sold, March Books will donate one book back to the community. One charity that we have already earmarked for donations is this year’s annual ‘We Are The Children’ Christmas party in Hartford, CT. We hope to put many new books into the hands of eager children and the libraries and schools that serve them.

For book clubs and schools, quantity orders of ten or more will be eligible for the eleven-for-ten promotion upon request (with proof of purchase) to bookstore@marchbooks.com. All other sales will be tabulated at the end of the cycle and donated books will be distributed to area libraries, schools, veteran’s organizations and children’s charities.

The Little Insanity

Nightsweats in Bigelow Hollow

Wishing You All A Happy Holiday Season

www.marchbooks.com
www.marchbooks.ning.com

 

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