Category Archives: authors

Like Fire is a Medium Novel: Where I’ve Been

Asta_Kirbi_Fagan

It’s not like I quit writing or anything. I have spent the past two years, and most intensively, the last year, learning how to most-effectively use Medium. You can find me on Medium here. I am using it because of its ease of access to any and all readers on any device.

Why am I publishing the work I most believe in for free on Medium first?

Many reasons.

First, because everything published on Medium can be read on any device at any time. It also looks great on any device.

Second, because the recently-completed U.S. election has made it crystal clear that money is not the answer to anything.

And third, because we already know that many people are shut out of the careers, education or jobs they would like to do because of racism, gender bias and class bias. This book is what I most want to do, have most wanted to do, and believe in with 100% of my mind, body and soul.

It’s who I am, and it’s what I did. As I recently commented on Medium regarding a person’s unwarranted criticism of writing by a diverse author, “I don’t care if only one person reads my work here on Medium. It is what I believe in, it is what I want to do, and I know it is the right path for me.”

As recently as early 2015, I believed that if I just worked hard enough, I would have sufficient opportunity to pay my basic bills and earn a basic living as a writer. In the past, I have absolutely paid my basic bills and provided many things for my daughter through my writing. I believed that the self-publishing revolution was a good thing, and that it enabled people to reach an audience. I knew there were some problems; for example — I could see that self-publishing worked best for people who were writing a type of already-recognized or popular fiction. I saw that the “successes” were those associated with established fan or other types of internet communities.

If you think “Mainstream Media” is messed up and not working, reporting only what corporations or the wealthy .00001% want the rest of us to see and hear, the same is true of popular “Entertainment” from books to television to movies. And then some.

Up until this past year, I spent my entire life thinking if I just worked harder and “got good enough” I could be “successful” like other writers I knew who had $20,000 book contracts, or who had large empires “selling” instructional material, newsletters, e-book omnibus editions, and so-on. I had stopped believing the common wisdom that “getting good enough” was a matter of copying other writers’ work or known formulas years ago.

Is She Available HardcoverI built a whole publishing company and motivated others. Years ago, I agitated with my writing friends that we could combat the collapse of the midlist writer and other egregious problems in the publishing industry that seem quaint in hindsight, and was a co-founder of Book View Cafe (I am still the treasurer). I convinced Igor Goldkind that his poems were good and motivated him to get all of his friends, the best comic artists of their generation, and unbelievably gifted fine artists like Mario Torero together to make the beautiful, groundbreaking e-book Is She AvailableIgor and his friend Addie printed a fantastic hardcover version and had two big presentations at the San Diego ComicCon.

I did everything humanly possible to send Igor’s legitimately spectacular, groundbreaking book out to reviewers. Two major publications reviewed the e-book, both in Chicago. Igor got mentions from various others in the comic industry. Nobody reviewed the hardcover. The Washington Post was among many publications to sell the hardcover to used book dealers. Igor is a new poet, but the art is by Eisner-winning artists, one of the founding members of the Chicano movement in America, and the e-book had music by a British album of the year Jazz artist. It wasn’t an unprofessional “self published” book.

It was new, different, unusual, represented a man’s voice and journey that didn’t include war, death and destruction but love for family, heritage and history (and there is an anti-war, gorgeous comic panel in it).

So it was sold to used book dealers and not even looked at. I have two downloads of the e-book by reviewers and I know who each of them are. Joe Wikert featured us on his industry blog. Other than that? Jack Diddley. If you are reading this as a second-language speaker, this means “nothing” happened.

We do learn more from our failures because instead of my best work and Igor’s best work, and the best work of award-winning, influential artists who have made millions for their corporate masters, but whose own work of their heart is hidden in back of their studios or must be given away free –

We have this.

Kindle Worlds

The whole system is broken. Book sales were down by 4% during the recent U.S. election not because of the election directly, but because of this picture I show above. This type of repetitive, derivative, unoriginal material that purposely encourages UNORIGINALITY for a quick buck isn’t going to bring new customers through the door.

As I pointed out previously in articles read by no more than 1,000 people, and to audiences at writing events numbering no more than 500 people total, 20% of North Americans regularly buy and read books. 80% do not, yet 100% of people are literate, and can read, and DO consume written content on their mobile devices. Before you Corporate Media Troll me, everything I learned about that I did through independent market research, relying primarily on the Pew Center. People also discuss and interact with each other through, primarily the written word, on social media. There are more texts sent than voice or video calls.

It is about the content. It’s about what is provided.  Sales are down because the content doesn’t meet the needs of the people who currently buy and read books who are good with the corporate media slant: violence, certain types of sex, certain types of “addictive” content, and simply reinforcing the current status quo in any imaginable way.

The current publishing system cannot create books to meet the interests and needs of the 80% of people who don’t regularly buy and read books; it is increasingly failing the 20% who do.

I’m not telling you “I am the content provider.” As I said; I am happy if only one person reads what I have written for free on Medium and enjoys it.

I’m telling you that I, who have written under the “old system” for a lifetime, who believed in it, who did everything “right” –

  • I have a BA in Literature from Scripps College, where I won the Claremont College writing prize not once, but twice, a blind-judged contest.
  • I was admitted to, but chose not to attend, the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and the UC Irvine MFA program.
  • For reasons of time, cost, and wanting to be a sci-fi writer, I applied to, was admitted to, and successfully completed the Clarion Sci Fi Writers Workshop in 1984.
  • I gave up writing as “impractical” about two years after that. I did not write for another eight years.
  • I returned to writing in 1996, and applied to and attended the nearest MFA program to my home (Chapman University in Orange, CA). I completed this program in 1999.
  • I published my first sci fi story professionally in 1996 (“Jonny Punkinhead, F & SF).
  • I did the usual drill with short science fiction and published my first novel in 2001.
  • I was also nominated for a Nebula Award that year.
  • Now – where I am today is related to my not going the route of $5,000 novel “advances” and selling 4,000 to 6,000 books and so-on.
  • I worked with Alan Rodgers as he established Alan Rodgers Books (and there wouldn’t be Chameleon Publishing if Alan hadn’t spent the last 10 years of his life doing that).
  • I worked with the others to set up Book View Cafe, the largest author publishing cooperative.
  • In between all the rest of that I am sure I’ve published well over 2 million words, about 75% of it nonfiction.

A troll on Twitter said, “anybody can publish a book these days.”

Until we can somehow reinvent the system of publishing as it stands, an unhealthy, struggling system, the books will be selected and published for that ever-dwindling 20% of readers and never, never will get beyond that. And above all, they won’t be written by people who are generally willing to say and do what I have:

I do not care if only one person ever reads what I’ve written. That is enough for me because I have done what I believed was right, what was right for me, and what is the best path for me and best work I can do.

That person has read what I have written. Others I am close to also have read it. I am okay. I know I have done my best.

It shouldn’t have to be that hard. People shouldn’t have to work for free for a lifetime just to express a story with emotional truth, of meaning and worth to at least one other person.

Storytelling is important to people at a level beyond money and more than momentary “entertainment.” It helps us imagine our world and future. It helps us to make choices about ourselves, and it helps us to understand people who are different from us.

Our society and economy has now made it so it is the province of a very limited group of people.

And — it’s creating things like this:

Kindle Worlds

I’m not saying there is not a place for commercial genre fiction, fan fiction or related work. Of course there is. Just not to the exclusion of there being something new, different, and individual or expressive of individual human creation and nature. The majority of what is out there right now is similar to these “Kindle Worlds,” not to things like Alice in WonderlandDavid Copperfield, or War & Peace. Of these three books, each author was male, each author was white — in Dickens’ case, he was a poor boy and self-made man. The other two: they had some money. Leo Tolstoy was Russian nobility.

Imagine what stories the young woman who did his laundry may have told.

This is what I’m saying and as I have in the past few months told others “I was at some time, the one who did the laundry.” And as she told her friends, so now I tell others.

You can start reading Like Fire for free here. (Medium Publication with additional information and links to all chapters – I will also be putting some short fiction suitable for kids and young adults by request).

Direct link to Chapter One is here.

If you like it you can join Medium and follow the publication. Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, got me on that damn thing in the first place.

Will Authors Hang Separately?

At the signing of the American Declaration of Independence, Ben Franklin famously said, “We must all hang together, or we most assuredly will all hang separately.”

benfranklinjohnadamsgifIt’s like that for writers these days.

In nearly every area, people have figured out how to make money off the creativity of others. I just reviewed the education app Nearpod this morning. It is primarily aimed at K-12 teachers and classrooms. While very interesting in terms of providing a tool for interactive classroom content (especially for tablet-enabled classrooms – it is mobile oriented), I was little surprised to learn that the “App” requests teachers who have made their own Common Core-friendly lessons to apply to be “authors” who will be able to sell their lessons to other teachers at prices ranging from $2.99 for a single lesson to $40 and $50 for “bundled lessons.”

The time and effort to make a decent Nearpad interactive lesson (the app’s beauty is it allows teachers to pace the lesson and break it up with assessments – quizzes, questions, etc.) is far in excess of being paid a few dollars here and there, most certainly what the Nearpad people would offer for the “lucky” teachers “selected” to be “Nearpad Authors.” There are a few such authors featured on the service. There are many more professional “educational content” companies listed. These in turn pay the people who make their lessons as little as possible, usually piece rates for “work for hire,” while making huge amounts of money from it.

We turn to “self-publishing” where authors are encouraged to make their own money and told it’s the “new frontier” enabling them to have creative and financial freedom.

The reality is, there is less freedom than ever. As to financial freedom, the small numbers who are making good money right now … or at least purported “experts” like Jane Friedman (who make money from aspiring writers and conferences and fees) … appear blissfully unaware of the writing on the wall.

writing on the wall

Search engines are going local. Mobile advertising and customer contact is going local and device-specific. Because retail stores aren’t going away. People will probably *never* buy everything online and after more than a decade of every algorithm known to man developed in the absence of direct human contact …

What any real salesperson will tell you is: you can guess about the customer but you won’t know until you talk to them in person.

Which authors other than James Patterson and J.K. Rowling are going to be able to afford targeted mobile ads? Everyone who was previously successful in self-publishing has gone for a traditional publishing contract if possible.

Why would that be so?

Because if we do not hang together, we will most assuredly, hang separately. They have some type of partnership with their publishers.

Yes, that is the future. It was the past – it was exploitive. It broke down. Now authors are being exploited individually.

Of course there’s a better way. But it sure as he** is not going to come from “subject matter experts,” “book formatting experts” or “author assistants.”

I have been a professional writer since 1996. I have worked in nearly every aspect of the publishing industry, from educational to trade fiction to magazines, and every conceivable type of online “content.” I’ve also worked as an executive in the nonprofit world, with government, foundation and private funders and a huge range of projects, and as a business development professional, with over 160 businesses. And, I’m a college teacher.

Writers, by far, have the least ability to work together to benefit each other of any group I have ever worked with. They are at present, hanging on every word of gurus that promise riches and hanging separately.

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Uparshin.

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How Will The World End? Is There a Clue From The Easter Island Heads? They Also Have Bodies!

Did you know? The Easter Island heads have giant bodies that are buried below the surface!

AH2B07The end of the world came sooner for the Rapa Nui (Easter Island) people than for the rest of us.

While people remain on the island today, all the trees of this once-tropical paradise are gone, and the secrets of making the giant statues are forgotten. This rare picture shows the size of the head compared to the buried body.

easter island head bodyThere are more mysteries on earth than we can possibly imagine!

I am often inspired by one of my favorite media personalities, Giorgio Tsoukalos. Giorgio’s open mind helps us to see many possibilities that we otherwise would not consider.

Aliens may very well have started the human race down the path of civilization. They may also have been a source of much ancient knowledge that has been forgotten today. From the ancient Mayans to the Easter Island Rapa Nui people to the ancient Greeks and Romans, many have predicted the end of the world or apocalypse.

Hundreds of predictions have not come to pass, but here are some of the threats coming up soon:

“There is an asteroid with our name on it,” British television astrophysicist Brian Cox told the Daily Mail. tv astrophysicist brian coxAn asteroid nearly impacted the earth in 2014. We almost died in a cataclysm similar to the one that destroyed the dinosaurs.

But, we didn’t.

Now, as many as six world-shattering asteroids could be headed our way, with reported impacts predicted for the days between coming between September 21 and 28 … less than a month from now!

The “Blood Moon Prophecy” originated with Rev. Efrain Rodriguez. Additional pastors, including the Revs. Mark Blitz and John Hagee, have told their followings of tens of thousands that the fourth “Blood Moon” this year will herald the arrival of a giant asteroid. This monster-sized rock the size of a city block, is supposed to hit the earth near Puerto Rico, causing a 300-foot tsunami, vaporization of Puerto Rico and surrounding areas, and a magnitude-12 earthquake.

jumbo jet sized asteroid

Asteroids “bigger than a jumbo jet” come close to earth on a monthly basis, according to NASA, which regularly updates the public on near-misses.

And guess what?

By anywhere from 1 to 2 billion years from now, the earth will for certain be burned to a cinder due to the inevitable expansion of our Sun. Some experts now predict that the end may come even sooner than that — as soon as 100 years from now. According to Reuters, children born today may live to see humanity’s end as a result of global warming above 2C.

Just in case …

You can read up on all of these doomsday scenarios and more!

For $15, you can get a bunch of classic disaster novels from StoryBundle, and donate to the Challenger Center for Science Education! Featuring FIRE by Alan Rodgers (there are some nuclear challenges in the book, but mostly a horrible virus that brings the dead back to life — including meat in freezers! — is on the rampage) and great books by Kevin J. Anderson, David Sakmyster, Laura Anne Gilman and more! If you have never heard of StoryBundle, check it out! You can get top-quality, best-selling books for a single low price, you can name your own price as well, and let them know how much of the proceeds you would like to go to the author, to StoryBundle, and to a designated charity!

 

 

Let’s Do This Different

The Hitler Channel (AHC) has been showing documentaries about “The Evolution of Evil.” These cover such perennial favorites as Hitler and Stalin. Both gentlemen rose to power following the breakdown of monarchies in Europe/Russia and the first World War.

evolution of evil nazi brandBoth, interestingly, were young men from relatively impoverished backgrounds — “outsiders” who rose to power in the chaos following the fall of prior Imperial structures. Hitler was a German-speaking Austrian; Stalin a Russian-speaking Georgian. Both were educated in traditional religious schools prior to becoming involved in revolutionary movements.

Russia’s “Man of Steel,” Stalin, had a lot longer run than Germany’s Fuhrer, Hitler.

So in recent months I’ve had a bit of contact with younger people who desire change. Some reminds me of my great time working with Policymic. Others — maybe not so much.

I put my experience working with Policymic in the 100% positive column. I think many of the Policymic former and current writers are doing incredible things and that they want nothing but good for other people. They want, and are working, for positive change. I was really glad to see Laura Donovan writing for Attn:, for example.

I find a number of younger people who seem to be locked into a cycle of complaints, the same type of aggressive online attention-getting we see from many male media personalities, and the same lack of respect for older generations or diverse cultures and values that is typical of the Tsars, Kaisers or “American Titans” of the past.

Like Stalin became Tsar-Plus, worse than any Russian Tsar of prior generations, once his opportunity came. Like Hitler became Kaiser-Plus, worse than Kaiser Wilhelm ever thought of being.

Stalin has been commonly called a brute and a pig. What he was, was murderer to millions. He alone took the former Soviet Union back decades. People wanted freedom and opportunity after Imperial Russia and its abuses. They got the “Man of Steel.”

I now understand in all regards how and why my grandmother was one of the six founding members of the American Communist Party. It was at this time that women had barely achieved the right to vote in America. She was a first-time woman pharmacist in New York (Hell’s Kitchen) and California. She certainly would not have been welcomed by either U.S. established political party at that time; the Communists were the only ones who would have either welcomed, or listened to her.

My Grandma Mary was probably the most humane person I have ever met, and insightful enough about human nature to have easily repelled a serial rapist who broke into her small Fairfax District apartment when she was up in her 80s by saying, “Young man, if you touch me, you’ll get the worst disease you ever heard of!”

Like Stalin, some of these young militants today respect power — what they perceive of it. After watching the AHC documentary, which detailed some of Stalin’s consolidation of power — perhaps they are like Trotsky, who little understood the consequences of his snubbing Stalin. Average people “get” that you get back what you put into something, and the way you treat others is generally how you are yourself, treated in return (i.e. “The Golden Rule”).

These days, most people’s basic needs are met. They also get basic entertainment, comfort, and sexual needs met fairly easily.

Our intellectual and spiritual needs: not so much.

So, it is my hope that as we pass from one era to the next, we do not have the same circumstances as occurred with Hitler and Stalin, where higher-class hereditary monarchs and dictators were replaced by lower-class, non-hereditary, power-mongering ones who made their predecessors look like amateurs in oppression.

If you think you’re “left out” today and want to be the dominant voice of tomorrow, having no respect for those who came before you is hardly the way to make a change and make a difference.

Alan Moore: Neither Racist Nor Misogynist

Alan Moore retired from his public life almost two years ago now – but it was reported on Superversive SF that he’d made this decision — it turns out that he did so after writing thousands of words in response to accusations he was a racist and misogynist.Alan Moore
I loved the work of his that I’d read, from Watchmen to League of Extraordinary Gentlemen to V for Vendetta. When I read V, I was not happy that Evey was a) a prostitute; and b) almost-raped. I thought there was something kind of sick going on with Allan Quatermain’s relationship with Mina in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I had a little better understanding of Silk Spectre’s relationship with Eddie Blake (“The Comedian”) in Watchmen. Because I related to Silk Spectre … for a superheroine, she’s a pretty realistic character. And like or dislike, the “relationship” these two have is the way it is a lot of the time.

Since I’m not like the people in their 30s, 40s and 50s Moore refers to as being obsessed with entertainment created for 12 year old boys 50 years ago (comic superheroes), I had no idea that over the past 10-15 years, Alan Moore’s work has gone far beyond his 80s work that I was familiar with.

People seriously accused him of misogyny and racism because of his recent film projects which – after watching a few seconds of available film, plus reviews – obviously are dealing with ideas of life, death and the afterlife.

Here’s one project: Tom Strong (which seems to have run from 1999-2005).

tesla strong

Tesla is Tom Strong’s daughter. Her mother is depicted on the lower left of this cover. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

It’s horrible that Alan Moore would have done this series, which to my knowledge is *exactly* as he states, the only American commercial comic book series depicting an interracial marriage, much less a biracial teen superheroine, and have people accusing him of racism and gender bias.

See, I know something that smart people like “Dr. Batman” and the others who criticized Moore probably also know – but because they are suck-ups who desire the least bit of money that might possibly come their way or so desperately desire a brush with fame, and their evil calculus is such that they think throwing Moore under the bus will help them do that …

Alan Moore didn’t just “include” characters of varied ethnicities in his work. He also included characters with varied gender orientation. Here is another Alan Moore project, dating from 2012. Fashion Beast, about a transgender model and a fashion designer who is beautiful, but believes himself to be a hideous “beast” — and cannot make clothes unless he thinks he’s hideous (reportedly inspired by Christian Dior). This is a project based on an 80s film script Moore wrote, done along with Sex Pistols’ Malcolm McLaren.

fashion beastThe “reporter” who Moore says misrepresented his work and released “spoiler” information in an interview with him in the Independent is affiliated with Publishers Weekly. She just wrote a negative review of another comic that portrays transgender people in a stereotyped way. She wrote it as if Fashion Beast never existed. All of those involved that Moore responds to with thousands of words of sometimes witty, sometimes complex, sometimes biting commentary, themselves wrote and acted as if Tom Strong, Dhalua Strong, Tesla Strong, and Doll Seguin never existed.

Again, with much of what I say, many people do not have the context to understand. Moore’s accusers and critics have one professional among them, Grant Morrison. Igor tells me that Grant Morrison is a good guy and a good writer (a “seminal” comic writer – gotta love that word). Grant has to have known what the odds were and what Alan Moore had to do to publish either of these series, Tom Strong or Fashion Beast.

You can go look for a damn long time to find another character like Tesla Strong. You will not, in a mainstream or even high profile independent comic publication. You will absolutely not find another character like Doll Seguin in Fashion Beast.

So like or dislike these characters, Alan Moore put all of his professional and creative credit out there to do these projects and that is something that none of his critics, including Grant (whom I was making fun of due to his Lex Luthor-appearing persona – well Alan Moore has the other Alastair Crowley-type thing going on. I guess Merlin). Only someone with Alan Moore’s lifetime track record and earned respect could get these projects produced. It’s not something a racist or misogynist would do. And it’s something only a generous man with an expansive worldview and talent to burn would even think to do.

I doubt either of these projects was very commercially successful though it looks like Tom Strong ran a long time. Certainly they are not as commercially successful as the still-in-print work for hire Batman: The Killing Joke, which is all many people know Alan Moore for, because of … well, see his comments about the cultural malaise related to people going over and over the same crap that was originally produced for 12 year-old boys 50 years ago. When I read Moore’s comments about that book, I realized I was reading the words of an honest man.

Yes, I had trouble with Evey being a prostitute in V for Vendetta, and almost being raped. I didn’t like Eddie Blake raping Sally Jupiter. But I saw it was realistic, and that was kind of the point of Watchmen. That they were “superheroes” with the same attitudes and flaws as “real people.” Even Dr. Manhattan – even that giant blue bastard with his “todger” out in everyone’s face.

Now I understand that Alan Moore isn’t just creamed all over because of the way they treat comic writers like him. It’s because he really deserves it. And his work grew and grew over the years, like somebody’s is supposed to. He had the balls to do that. And years from now it’s his work that will still be read. And he is not a misogynist or a racist.

 

Why Don’t More People Read?: Part 3 of The Business of Books

Right now, approximately 70 million people in North America (US, Canada, Mexico) regularly buy and read books. “Regularly” is defined as buying and reading at least one book a month.

This is frequently described in popular media as “nobody reads any longer.” In terms of media attention, books are considered a poor relation compared to high-interest sectors like film, TV, games and online/mobile “content.” If you count “seeing stuff” on your smartphone like news, weather reports or e-mail, nearly 100 percent of North Americans do see popular media; only 20 percent regularly buy and read books. TRUE.

Authors are on the front lines, and their responses to our writer market survey (yes, it’s still open) matched the popular media message. Writers overwhelmingly responded that the two main reasons more people did not buy and read books were 1) a general dislike of reading (lack of interest); and 2) competition from other media: film, TV, games, and social media.

Reasons Why More People Don't Buy Books

But here’s the thing: more than three-quarters (76 percent) of American adults read at least one book last year (according to the Pew Research Center). Now, this isn’t the same group as the 20 percent, or 70 million, who are known to be regular book-buyers and readers. We may count nearly all of our young residents ages 5-18 as readers as well, since kids still read books in school.

That’s an awful lot of people, some 184 million. It’s more people than go to the movies at least once a year. It’s more people than watched the Seahawks vs. the Patriots in the Super Bowl this year (168 million). An industry-specific, pro-film survey conducted by GFK found that 62 percent of American adults go to the movies . . . at least once a year. The movie-going experience is instructive: higher prices for tickets are leading to fewer tickets sold and lower rates of movie-going, according to the Wall Street Journal. A total of 1.34 billion movie tickets were sold in 2014, according to the MPAA. For books, the nearest one can find in equivalent numbers is that 1.58 billion books were sold during the same year (using U.S. Census Bureau reporting for book retailers, which does not include many e-books and also does not include educational publishers). So, these types of surveys are instructive. About 50% of American adults own one of these three devices (hint: the Amazon Kindle share of the tablet market is much smaller than the other devices).Tablet Owner Use Survey

Because tablets are big-ticket, big tech items that drive advertising and customer relations for just about every industry, there’s a lot more information easily accessible about them than there is about books (or other products delivered via the devices).

Tablet shipments 4th quarter 2015

To put this into perspective, according to librarian and researcher Nancy Herther, “In 2014, two library systems—Toronto Public Library and King County Library System in Washington—experienced more than 2 million checkouts from OverDrive. Additionally, eight library systems had circulations of more than 1 million.” These e-books and audiobooks aren’t being delivered just via Amazon Kindles … they are delivered through any/all tablets, phones and desktop computers.

This is just a personal survey, but I’ve been asking students for years whether or not they own an e-reader. About a third to half of every class owns an Apple iPad or Microsoft Surface, and 100 percent have smartphones, either Apple or Android. To this date, over the past five years, exactly ZERO students have had an Amazon Kindle, much less another type of dedicated e-reader. At the same time, 100 percent of students read: they’re in college. They buy many books, the majority of which are assigned, of course. They are also eager to get textbooks (or others) in e-book editions. When they read a book they enjoy, they ask for more . . . sometimes that’s a difficult proposition.

The number of regular, ongoing book buyers and readers is probably greater than the official 20 percent — this number could be fairly said to represent people covered in some way by Nielsen BookScan and regular online book purchases through major retailers. A 2013 Huffington Post/YouGov survey of 1,000 U.S. adults found that 35 percent read between 6 and 50 books during 2012 (this does not equate to “buy and read” — some respondents doubtless read library books or assigned textbooks). However, 50 percent of those responding to the survey said they’d spent some time during the prior week reading a physical book. Only 19 percent of those who responded said they’d read an e-book during the prior week. This survey is over a year old, yet its results broadly fit other market statistics: people still read, and they haven’t quit reading physical books in favor of e-books.

Ebooks2015Figure2

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) predicts steady, slow growth in book publishing worldwide over the next three years, and a maturing e-book market.

People don’t read any more: not like they used to!

The popular media narrative goes like this: “people used to read all the time — now they don’t any longer.” So let’s look at 100 years ago vs. today. There are a lot of superficial overviews and comparisons of 1915 and 2015 out there. An overview of the American Library Annual for 1915 and 1916 points out some of the bestsellers of the day. Bestsellers were identified by “points” (mentions in review publications or magazine/newspaper lists). The top seller was Michael O’Halloran by Gene Stratton-Porter (a woman), followed by K, by Mary Roberts Rinehart. Winston Churchill’s A Far Country was also in the top-selling list. All three are available in Project Gutenberg and other free e-book editions today, by the way.

Reading in some ways still suffers from the poor social reputation a lot of us remember from our school days.

We really didn’t get a lot of optimism in the writer survey about people’s desire or interest in reading books. Only 13 percent said they thought every person who could read was willing to buy and read books.

Everyone Who Can Read Y N

“Back in the Day . . . “

Author responses reflect historical thought. A hundred years ago, no less a leader than President Woodrow Wilson noted in the Harper Encyclopedia of U.S. History that few people read books and “unhappily, literature is whatever large bodies of people read.” Newspapers, the “internet” of the day, had been according to Wilson, “for the last half-century, exerting more influence on the popular mind and popular morals than either the pulpit or the book has exerted in 500 years.” It’s difficult to believe that Pres. Wilson wrote that, but apparently — he did.

Here is the difference between 1915 and 2015: in 1915, only about half of American school-aged students (5-17) were enrolled in school, according to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy. Approximate 8 percent of American adults were illiterate in 1915, with up to 30 percent of African-American adults being unable to read, according to the NAAL statistics. These adults not only lacked free time to read, they couldn’t read even if they had the time and money. Flash forward 100 years: nearly 100 percent of American adults can read (this is true throughout the developed world, according to UNESCO).

Eloquent responses from writers

Why don’t more people buy and read books? Why do we seem stuck at the 20 percent mark for the percentage of regular book buyers and readers? Here is what our respondents thought, in writing.

“Laziness. Reading requires effort. You can’t just stare at the page like you can a TV or computer screen or phone.”

“Our culture does not admire people who read for pleasure. We are not sexy. We are pegged as poorly socialized, which has some truth to it. American culture makes stupid people famous. The average IQ really is 100.”

“Most people read something, i.e. trade journals, newspapers, magazines, and some read just one author, James Paterson, Clive Cussler, Marry Higgins Clark, etc. and that newspaper, magazine, journal, etc. but the voracious reader who inhales all SF/F, all mysteries, all romance, etc. has always been a minority.”

“They were scared off it in school by being forced to read things they didn’t like. If they’d been encouraged to read what appealed to THEM–even if it was comic books & cereal boxes–they would be reading books. BUYING is a whole different question. Some people are cheap.”

“There are some people who do not like to read. Period.”

“I have an extremely literate niece I have never been able to interest in books — she likes movies, and sports. But she has a doctorate, so I suspect she just hasn’t found what she likes to read.”

“Reading was once the only real pastime. It has since been replaced by radio, and then movies, games, etc. Everyone has different interests, not everyone enjoys reading as a hobby/pastime.”

I KNOW — and so do you

Here is the answer. I know, because I’ve been fortunate enough to be a classroom teacher since 1998. I know what happened when I assigned students to read Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” based on another teacher’s syllabus: classroom disaster. I know what happens when I ask students to read An Anthropologist on Mars by Dr. Oliver Sacks: classroom success. I have had the personal privilege of writing to Sylvan Barnet to let him know that students said just one of his many textbooks, Current Issues & Enduring Questions, was a book that, at the end of the semester, was one that they had not only read thoroughly — was also one they would keep and not sell back for a few dollars’ credit.

Other texts I have used, with success, but not as notable as these two, include Freakonomics by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt, and Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser.

I’ve had students who have both written and published books. A significant number more than own an Amazon Kindle, it now occurs to me. I have had the privilege of teaching both the newsmagazine and literary magazine classes at Saddleback College. In every single regular English class I teach, at least one, but usually two or three, students tells me that they want to “be writers.” There are many others who are gifted writers, too … they’re more shy about their interests, but they, also care. As many as a third fit in this category: they enjoy writing and also enjoy reading. Another third, when engaged, discovers an interest and facility in reading and writing.

So, really, all we need to do is move the dial a little bit forward to open up the current, under-served market for books. Currently, about 70 million North American adults regularly buy and read books. A 1 percent increase in readership would be 700,000 new regular bookbuyers and readers.

There’s clear evidence that younger readers prefer paper books and when they use e-books, they prefer the tablet-type of e-book (with pages that turn and an attractive appearance) to the “flowable” format common on the single-purpose e-readers. They do appreciate the functions of e-books such as the ability to look up unfamiliar words as they are reading: an automatic boon to literacy, but most aren’t aware of them until or unless they are shown them.

So, at the same time as many self-published authors are seeking to serve a pretty small market (dedicated e-reader owners and frequent users), and at the same time as large publishers are taking their cues for what to publish, how to publish, and how to sell their offerings out of the self-published pool …

This guy has this hugely successful Udemy course and half a dozen imitators on his heels.

read 300 books a year

There’s not an entrepreneur website or publication out there that doesn’t have at least a dozen articles which mention “highly-successful people read.” Reading books is up there on just about every advice list from business gurus. The only person in that category who went against this advice is Steve Jobs, who famously announced, “People don’t read any longer.” He added that “40 percent of American adults didn’t read a book at all last year.” (2007 … false – and even if true, 40 percent isn’t “everybody”). Yes, Jobs was speaking against the Amazon Kindle, stating that the product would fail.

So we have a new motto: “All people will be readers . . . and sometimes writers.” And not for free. Our goal is to develop economically feasable models which will enable books to be written and published reaching all potential audiences, not just a selected few that have been served in the past.

What Do Writers Think it Takes to Make a Great Book: Part 2 of the Business of Books

This is about what goes after the cover of an e-book or between the covers of a print book, from the author’s perspective.

The only objective criterion for “is it a good book?” that has any type of measurement so far is “does it sell well or not?” And, no one seems to agree on what “sell well” is. Would this be like forever selling well as in Don Quixote? Or, selling well during its first 6 weeks of release. Or … ? For the purposes of what we’re doing, we’re just talking about “beating the average” per-title copies sold. In 2011, this was about 12,500 for the average frontlist title (from “traditional” publishers). By now in 2015, it’s difficult to get accurate figures, but analyzing reports from major publishers for 2014, it’s anywhere from 10,000 to 11,500 per-title average for books published during the current 12-month period (including “backlist” will bring it down exponentially, just as including all self-published titles will bring per-title sales averages to a very low level).

Even so, Amazon, which is the business involved in publishing with the most data about its customers, is endeavoring to identify some criteria that are more universal or valid to use in presenting books to customers than “You bought Author X’s book before; here is their new one” or “You’ve been looking at books about baseball, here are some more books about baseball.”

Amazon Reader Criteria

These similar reader response categories are also sometimes, not always, found on non-fiction books on Amazon. I got a “How would you describe the plot of this book?” for a non-fiction book by Stephen Jay Gould, for example, but these categories aren’t showing up for other non-fiction titles I have purchased.

Chameleon has developed a set of criteria that we think work well for trade fiction and non-fiction alike. They were based on criteria used successfully in the food industry called “mouthfeel” criteria. Food manufacturers have over 20 such criteria that are used to assess and evaluate products. Ours are more simple and we call them the “bookfeel” elements in honor of our food industry colleagues.

They are: Plot, pacing, characterization, intellectual content or subject matter, voice or writing style, scope, and theme.

Some popular books and authors excel in one or more categories. Every single lasting bestseller (i.e. generation-crossing bestseller) we looked at excelled or delivered value in all of the categories. Books like Gone With the Wind, Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter series, Huckleberry Finn, In Cold Blood, Catch-22Sounder, and Pride and Prejudice. In other words, there’s no such thing as a genuine, long-term, lasting and enduring bestseller that isn’t delivering on every single one of the “bookfeel” criteria. One might say “A nonfiction book doesn’t have a plot.” Yes, it does. In fact, the “plot” of genuine non-fiction bestsellers is so compelling that it can even transcend readers knowing “what happens next.” Not every book is going to make this standard. But having a standard will help to strengthen products.

So, our first market survey asked questions of writers about basics: how many books had they written, how many published, how much money had they earned in a 12 month period, and how much money would they like to make – or thought they should be able to make.

Then we asked some questions about the “bookfeel” criteria. Not using this name. Just listing the categories.

Strong Points as a Writer

So, when asked to self-assess writers said their strongest points were “characterization” (68%) “voice or writing style” (64%) and “plot” (54%). Trailing the group was “scope” (26%).

Then, we asked, “What do you see as your weak points as a writer?” First, evident from the beginning of the survey, a significant number of respondents skipped this question. Some even wrote, “I don’t have weak points.” The more independently-published authors we recruited for the survey, the more we got answers in this area. It isn’t able to be identified in the survey results but over time, we observed that the more independently-published or self-published authors who responded, the more varied answers became in a number of categories, including their written responses and feedback. It’s “empirical” and based on a small number, but there did seem to be a trend for independently-published authors to be more open to admitting “weaknesses” and to working in different ways (beta readers, etc) to improve their work.

weak points as a writerSo, here’s a chart illustrating human nature. This chart is missing 18 writers who did identify one or more “strong points” (a few ultra-confident writers did select “all” as their strong points). Of those who did go ahead and do both, it’s pretty obvious there are fewer “weak points” that the respondents felt they had. Just about everybody believes that their “intellectual content,” aka subject matter or ideas, is good – at least good enough to not be a “weakness” they’d identify. Pacing (45%) was the single area identified as a weakness.

We’re going to talk about compensation and earnings in the next post, but this is a good time to address the work process. We asked a few questions pertaining to work process and experience in the survey, but the most direct one was this:

timely work good qualityFor the first 50 responses of the survey, no writer selected “agents” as helpful in “producing timely work with good quality.”

The “timely” part of the question could be the reason for this. But this question really points to the whole system of how books are written and developed.

Consistently, the top categories selected were beta readers (56%) and working with an editor (54%). Academic writing programs were also, similar to “agents,” very low-response until we started reaching out to more independently-published writers. An editor can help writers shape their work using, one would hope, some objective criteria for the type of book and goals for the work. Beta readers give feedback on what is working for them, or what is not-working. This is probably the single greatest change in the writing process in recent years. In the past, some professional writers were fortunate in that they had family members, friends or writing colleagues who helped by reading their work and giving feedback. Now, it’s possible to have hundreds of beta readers, all helping to strengthen and improve the work.

Writers may be viewing beta readers as somehow “different from” regular readers, because some 60 respondents selected beta readers as a big benefit to producing timely work of good quality, yet when we asked the question about readers in general, only 22 responded that they’d like to know who their readers were as they were writing and would work in response to this knowledge.

ideal world knowing about readers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almost 30 percent said they would “write what I want how I want.” There were also some pretty testy responses to this question, as well as to an earlier, exploratory question about potential benefits of (non-existent, imaginary) software that could provide support for the writer’s performance in the “bookfeel” criteria area (plot, pacing, characterization, intellectual content or subject matter, voice or writing style, scope, and theme).

Even so, most of the writers who responded were positive and confident about their work.

The overwhelming majority said they had already written a book they thought many people would enjoy buying and reading.

Chart_Q21_150613

Then, we asked – did this become a reality? We defined “many people” taking all types of books and authors into consideration, as more than 50,000 copies sold.

Chart_Q22_150613So, no dollars and cents attached, these are responses about work process, experience, results and aspirations, from a pretty good range of writers with different backgrounds and experience levels. Our next article will be about the money – what earnings did people report, what type of work they had done, how many books they’d written and published, and had they done work for hire, rejection experience, etc.

Three Reasons Women’s Writing and Expression is Less Visible Than Men’s

The three reasons are: bodies, relationships/family (includes food and entertaining) and complaints. This article fits under the “complaint” category, by the way, with a bit of the only possible solution.

I just read a good article promoted on Medium this morning by Amanda Ann Klein. It was a touching story about Amanda’s skinny, confident 9-year old daughter who, worried about a tiny tummy, asked her mother if she looked fat. There’s nothing wrong with this writing, and certainly not with Amanda and her daughter. It was part of one of their curated publications called “Human Parts.”

After I read it, I “shared” it like a good girl and thought . . . .

FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU.

Like I have not read something like this at least 5,000 times. Is there anyone on the planet who does not know that women and girls suffer due to body image? I could see this being adopted into entry-level English classes. I know nothing about Amanda beyond the article, but she fits in the “I write about women’s stuff” columnist category based on this one article alone. Women’s stuff writers like Anna Quindlen, who parlayed her career as a rhetorically-unsound NY Times and Newsweek columnist who nevertheless, said exactly what her readers wanted to hear (probably the top rhetorical technique to date) into a career as a high-end chick lit novelist. To Anna’s credit, her 2013 novel Still Life With Breadcrumbs features a 60-year old female protagonist who falls in love. That puts it in a category of, oh, about ONE such bestselling books (it’s got good reviews but there is no way such a character, of an age with the author herself, wouldn’t get a little backlash).

Still Life With Breadcrumbs

“Doesn’t the market dictate what sells?” (i.e. what is read by many?).

This was a valid question posed by one of Orange County’s wisest business coaches, Michael Sawitz.

People buy (or consume) what is offered to them.

If someone, man or woman, wishes to write for a living, they understandably, justifiably, give the buyer (or these days online – promoter) what they want.

And the purveyors, the publishers, have pre-conceived notions regarding what readers want.

From women: bodies, relationships, complaints.

From men: everything else.

I got into following Medium because of Craig Newmark. He wrote a short article about supporting military families and veterans and I thought “This is cool!” I am always interested in everything Craig has to say.

That’s the way the cool stuff at Medium is supposed to work. An “influencer” like Craig interests others and they go to consume the awesome stuff that’s provided on the service. Medium generally curates and sends crap out to bait you back to read more. They (and a s***-ton of others) are heavy into curating and pushing James Altucher. James, today, is writing about “The Six Things the Most Productive People Do Every Day.” James spices this type of content up with articles about his son, family, puckish humor, and party games like how to bait others into talking all about themselves while you, personally, disclose nothing. James is funny, smart, interesting, charming. What a hilarious game! I’ve played it on purpose too … but mostly, it’s easier for me and other women because most people assume there’s nothing to know about you beyond what they see up front (body), marriage and/or children (relationship) and they don’t care about any complaint you might have — much less an idea about something else.

Bodies, relationships, complaints.

Even a brilliant, accomplished, successful woman like Sheryl Sandberg offering solutions for women to escape this three-tiered cage faces big opposition.

Sheryl Sandberg Talk

Dozens of people in addition to me have shared with these persistent YouTube troglodytes that Sheryl does, in fact, have something to offer and does do something every day. (I follow this YouTube “discussion” and this dumb c*** was today’s addition). The prior classic was “Women are like an egg salad sandwich at a Texas picnic: appealing for only a short time and full of eggs that spoil fast.” The idiot who wrote that was inspired by the untimely death of Sheryl’s husband Dave Goldberg.

I don’t generally try to make a consistent race/ethnicity bias comparison and I “get” that people of color are uncomfortable with connecting race and gender. However, these days, I don’t see this type of commentary coming wholesale to male people of color. If someone made that type of comment on an African-American business leader’s TED Talk (not that there’s many of those, either …) there’d be no question what type of person would make such a comment and there wouldn’t be many such comments offered. The person would be called out for racism (justifiably). Decent men roll their eyes, but few of them call these people out as misogynists. If they do, they’re usually hit with a gay slur. “Misogynist” itself still has a type of charm and humor — i.e. crusty old guy with a secret “heart of gold” who once upon a time, may have been played by Walter Matthau.

I was supposed to moderate a panel about helping young girls overcome the “Gender Confidence Gap” at BayCon. On this panel with me were a top scientist and professor, Heidi Stauffer, one of the most-successful African-American female TV/film producers, Deborah Pratt, Kyle Aisteach, who coordinated education programs for NASA, and Emily Jiang, who is writing books for diverse young people.

We got to sit on the dance stage from the night before and had room for maybe 25 seats, half-filled. The theme of this convention was “Women of Wonder.” There were amazing displays throughout the hotel of women who’d excelled in various fields. I spotted Maria Goeppert-Mayer, who is to this day, the second of only two women who’ve won the Nobel Prize in Physics. Maria worked on most of the critical atomic research projects of the 20th Century, mostly as a volunteer. She taught for a stipend or for free for most of her career and when she won the prize, the San Diego newspaper headline was “San Diego Mom Wins Nobel Prize.” Her husband Joe, a chemist, was fired from the University of Chicago because he supported his wife’s scientific work. I was required to pull down a 1987 article by a grad student from Physics to verify this information. The article I’ve written that includes Maria and her husband Joe, among others, will appear in an upcoming issue of Analog Magazine.

That was then – Maria’s prize came in 1963.

This is now. If I want to be super-famous and successful, published by Random House with NY Times Bestsellers like Anna Quindlen, or be featured in Medium like Amanda Ann Klein, I need to stop my persistent bad activities and write about . . .

Bodies, relationships, complaints.

As I think I mentioned at this crazy panel about “Overcoming the Gender Confidence Gap” – to the one gorgeous young woman in the small audience: be who you are. Believe in yourself. Do what gives you joy. Just do it.

I did not say: stop worrying about your body, build honest, good relationships with your family and friends, stop complaining and start doing. But I will say that now. It’s the only way. Just ask Sheryl Sandberg or if we could, ask San Diego mom Maria Goeppert Mayer.

Does E-Book Quality Matter?

We shopped at Barnes & Noble and discovered that it’s a lonely, forbidding place for a young book.

Shopping via the Amazon Kindle: a whole other experience.

Mismeasure of Man Stephen Jay GouldThis is about the basics. Bruce isn’t sure that these details matter to readers. But this book, a revised, updated version of Gould’s classic text refuting biological determinism costs $9.99. A cool $10.00. This isn’t one of the .99 cent or free Kindle promotions. It’s an e-book version of a major publisher’s release of a classic title, one which was revised and updated by the celebrated natural historian Stephen Jay Gould prior to his death.

And this thing is a mess. Here is the dedication:

Mismeasure of Man dedicationYes, it’s really like that – a thin strip extending over 3 pages. Obviously it would be smaller or larger were I to change the font size – but no amount of Kindle fiddling will fix the problem — the underlying code is bad.

One might also think that the book has missing pages. I don’t think it actually HAS missing pages, but there are so many formatting problems that quotes, in particular, go awry, or cause later formatting problems in Gould’s text. In particular, it’s almost impossible to tell when a quote ends, and Gould’s own writing begins. Or sometimes, Gould’s writing is formatted similarly to a quote, while a quote is formatted similarly to his writing, and let’s not talk about the subheads.

The introduction begins with a quote from Socrates – first it is introduced by Gould, but again, it’s tough to tell who is saying what. This full-justification style is, for the most part (yet not exclusively) used for quotes, and Gould always quotes his sources extensively. So this sucker goes on for a couple of pages before what is being said becomes apparent.

Mismeasure of Man 1Later, I was looking forward to seeing what Abraham Lincoln so strongly expressed in the Lincoln-Douglas debates:

Mismeasure of Man 3I didn’t know these debates were illustrated! Here’s what Lincoln seems to have said:

Mismeasure of Man 4I spent some time examining this illustration before continuing on.

Ah! Here is what he said. “lower relatives according to Nott and Gliddon …” Wait! Lincoln said, “There is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. . . .” Yes, apparently Abraham Lincoln did say that while running for President against Stephen Douglas. Those famous Lincoln-Douglas debates.

Mismeasure of Man 5Following the Lincoln quote, one can see how, for the most part, the book attempts to differentiate Gould’s commentary from the extensive quoted material. One signal is the Gould’s own parenthetical citation system (Author, date, page#). The other is the text indent for paragraphs. Most of the time.

This book is nearly impossible to read and understand due to egregious formatting problems and W.W. Norton snagged me for a full $9.99 for a book which I am having great difficulty reading. This is cutting down on the enjoyment and enlightenment factor as well.

So.

Because we have completed this and this and have other books in production, I know the exact cause of many of the underlying problems which have resulted in the substandard edition of The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould, which should probably not be on sale in its present form, much less on sale for $9.99. Many of Gould’s other titles are priced above Amazon’s desired ceiling of $9.99 for e-books, by the way.

First, it’s obvious no one proofread this book on any e-reader, nor did they validate it with any e-book validation program such as Sigil. In addition to the egregious formatting problems, I’ve found grammar and spelling errors. If this book, as I suspect, was converted from an original print InDesign file, and the publication date is 2006 (though I do not think this e-book was put on sale in 2006 – that’s the revised print hardcover edition), that process is quite challenging. An example of a format mistake in conversion would be Gould’s skinny, narrow dedication. It took a wee bit of time to get the dedication to Bone Music to look like this:

Bone Music DedicationAt present, InDesign will absolutely make gorgeous e-books (fixed format and flowable EPUB), but it takes plenty of work. This is not a process that will be solved by any template that’s for sale out there, nor is it something that I would imagine a person in India or Pakistan could solve. In the process, one has the opportunity to ensure that every page is proofread as closely as possible, eliminating embarrassing errors such as are found in Gould’s e-book.

One of the later steps is sideloading the book on actual devices and testing its performance thoroughly. Again, it’s impossible for W.W. Norton to have done this — or they’ve got a really horrible employee who did it, saw this stuff, and didn’t care.

I will not, like one person who bought my work, buy this thing and then demand my money be refunded just so they could write a slam review. I bought it, I paid for it, I’m going to try to read it.

This book is not alone. I have many books on my Kindle Fire, and have tested many others on the iPad and iPhone and via Calibre and Sigil. This is one of the worst I’ve seen; that’s why I’m writing about it.

“Nobody would accept something like that in a hardcover,” Bruce said. Of course not! This is today’s note on where we need to go in the future.

How can good books compete with .99 cent and free junkers when the good books themselves, are formatted so poorly they can’t be read?

Bone Music, by the way, is as close to perfect as we can get it.

 

Baycon 2015 “Women of Wonder” Schedule

Bruce and I will be at Baycon this coming weekend in Santa Clara. The theme of this year’s con is “Women of Wonder” and there are some fantastic guests, including the amazing Winner Twins, whom we met at the Writers of the Future event in April.

I want to say “thank you” in advance to the amazing con committee, and programming led by co-chairs SallyRose Robinson and Kathleen McDowell. I’m blown away – because SallyRose and Kathleen assigned me to moderate two panels where I actually have some expertise and ability to contribute to the event! Also will be reading with my awesome friends Marie Brennan and Maya Bohnhoff and a new friend I will be very glad to meet at Baycon, Laurel Anne Hill. This’ll be my story about the lady scientist and the howler monkeys. Oh My! Baycon 2015

 1. DIY Biohacking: The Next Maker Movement? on Friday at 1:30 PM in Cypress
    (with Edward Kukla) – have to bone up on this one … been a bit since I was writing about it. But those Russians! Dang!

    40 years ago, hobbyists kicked off the personal computer revolution with low-cost kits they could order by mail. In the past few years a similar shift has started in biology, where hobbyists have figured out how to build biotech equipment at 1/10th to 1/1000th of the previous cost. Why is biohacking so interesting, and what are these DIYers creating in their garages, hackerspaces, and startups?

 2. Themed Reading: Women’s Work on Friday at 3:00 PM in Stevens Creek
    (with Laurel Anne Hill , Marie Brennan, Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff)

    In honor of the Bicentennial of Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, hear authors read from stories about women that have jobs in a STEM (science, technical, engineering, and math) field. 

I’ll be reading from “The Gods Men Don’t See” from Mad Science Cafe.

 3. Closing the Gender Confidence Gap on Saturday at 10:00 AM in Lawrence
    [You are moderating.]
    (with Emily Jiang, Kyle Aisteach, Deborah M. Pratt, Heidi L Stauffer)

    Why are women less likely than men to tout themselves when a promotion opens up? Is it due to facts like parents and teachers interrupt or talk over girls twice as often as they do with boys? What can we do to reinforce confidence in young girls and help them overcome the “imposter syndrome” as an adult? Our panelists discuss how parents and people who work with kids can monitor and alter their own behavior so that they aren’t blocking the development of self-confidence in girls.

 4. The Hugo tug-of-war: Diversity of opinion among Worldcon voters on Saturday at 11:30 AM in Camino Real
    (with Deirdre Saoirse Moen, Kate Secor, Randy Smith (M), James Stanley Daugherty)

    This year’s Hugo nominations certainly have fandom talking. Is this just another periodic “all fandom is plunged into war” outbreak, or are there serious systemic issues to address?

 5. When Is a Book Not a Book? Alternative Storytelling Media on Sunday at 11:30 AM in Lafayette
    [You are moderating.]
    (with M.Christian, Margaret Dunlap, Beth Barany)

    Advancements in technology and digital publishing are expanding the boundaries of what we consider a “book”. Our panelists discuss some alternative formats, including audiobooks, podcasts, enhanced apps, and motion books.

 6. Marketing & Branding for the Author on Sunday at 4:00 PM in Bayshore
    (with Emily Jiang (M), Emerian Rich, Beth Barany, Sinead Toolis)

    Authors wanting to give up their day job and write full-time need to grapple with the challenge of cutting through the clutter of competing book titles. Hear the panelists dicuss tips and strategies on promoting your writing to your potential audience, and on how building the right identity can attract readers to your work.*

*Just because – now I’m a publisher and don’t have to worry about this any more.