Monday, 31 March 2008

Amazon acts like a corporation

As a follow-up to my Print On Demand Publishers Compared post, there are three things that are starting to make me rethink my conclusion of "Next time, I'd forget about Lulu and just go with CreateSpace".

First is further unresponsiveness from CreateSpace's support. They put my book into Amazon's Search Inside the Book program, eventually. I had submitted it myself in the meantime because I wasn't sure if they were going to do it or if I had to, but it got knocked back because something was illegible (I don't know what, Amazon didn't tell me).

The version they submitted, and the version currently on Amazon at time of posting, has the same error that I had to get them to correct twice on the printed proof - all the ligatures and apostrophes have dropped out. (Click the Excerpt link on the left to see the issue.) I logged it with their support, they took what was apparently a cursory look and told me that it looked to them like the issue was fixed. I clicked the "No, this didn't resolve my problem" link and gave fuller instructions. The last I heard from them was over a week ago saying they'd sent the issue to a support specialist.

The second thing is that I have sold no copies from CreateSpace or Amazon, but I have sold some from Lulu.

And the third thing, the most disturbing, is that Amazon appears to be using its market dominance as a retailer to strongarm small publishers and self-publishers into using its print-on-demand service BookSurge, and no other print-on-demand (POD) publisher. I'm pretty unhappy about that; I'll be watching the situation and if they continue to do this (and especially if they continue not to be upfront about discussing it), I will be joining the growing boycott and pulling my listings, plus removing my Amazon Associates links here and on my other blog. Not that my tiny action will hurt Amazon, especially since they're not getting any sales of my book, but it's the principle of the thing.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Free press releases

I spent quite a bit of Friday submitting press releases to a number of sites, a process which is often more fiddly than it needs to be. A couple of the sites I simply couldn't get to work at all; their CAPTCHA tech was faulty or the forms wouldn't post.

The easiest to submit to is NZ's own Scoop; you just email the editor, rather than having to register and fill out an online form which asks for the same information as all the other websites, but in a different order.

Here's Scoop's version of my press release about City of Masks. They changed the headline from "Book Promotion, New Style: Novelist Makes Maximum Use of Internet Technology" to the more clickbaiting, if slightly deceptive, "Renaissance Hits the Internet".

Anyway, for your reference and mine here is my collection of sites tagged "freepressreleases" at

Incidentally, I also found a nice site which you can use to submit a web page to multiple social bookmarking sites: Haliboo.

You can put a button like this on your site:

(That's functional, by the way - when you click it it will submit this site. It'll submit whatever the URL showing in the browser is, so if you want to bookmark this particular post rather than my whole blog, click the post's permalink first. That's the title of the post, for those unfamiliar with how Blogger does things.)

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Print-on-demand suppliers compared: Lulu, CreateSpace, Zenith

I've just written my promised article comparing and contrasting print-on-demand suppliers (pdf). I included the local printer I used, Zenith, for a third point of comparison with Lulu and CreateSpace. Quick summary:
  • CreateSpace is overall the best for my purposes: simple but functional website, free access to Amazon, price per unit comparable to Lulu. However, the only printing fault I had was from them, and their customer service isn't as good as the other two, mainly because it's so indirect.
  • Zenith gave excellent customer service and were cost-effective for bulk orders for me, because they're local. Their website needs serious work, though.
  • Lulu, for my purposes, weren't worthwhile because the high cost of shipping to New Zealand negated the advantage of their excellent bulk discounts. If they print locally to you, though, it would be worth using them as well as CreateSpace.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Rachel Caine: Another good author for Jim Butcher fans

I've been reading the Weather Warden series by Rachel Caine recently, having discovered her through the short story collection My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding (which is worth reading, and not only for the Jim Butcher story).

They're good. They're the kind of story I like. They have an endorsement from Jim Butcher on the cover. The protagonist is the kind of person (like Harry Dresden) who will die doing the right thing, and in her case actually does, several times. I thought for a little while it was going to happen in every book, actually, but the author may have decided that was too South Park.

The first book is Ill Wind (I had trouble remembering that; the titles are all unmemorable cliches which, unlike Jim Butcher's titles, don't bear any particularly clear relationship to the specific book).

They are, apparently, chick lit, though I wouldn't know, having come in through the door marked "urban fantasy". This is an original take on urban fantasy, too, with no vampires or werewolves this time; the mysterious shadowy organization is the Wardens, who battle natural disasters supernaturally, with the help of the Djinn (yes, the slave-in-the-bottle kind, which is a major plot point). Joanne Baldwin, the protagonist, is one of the strongest Wardens and also has a conscience; despite her obsessions with shoes, clothes and fast cars, she's not bribable, especially when the safety of other people (or the world in general) is at stake. Which it generally is; they're fast-paced, high-octane thrillrides with lots of damage to scenery, vehicles, buildings, bystanders, Jo, and - eventually - anyone who pisses Jo off.

Are they as good as Jim Butcher? I would say not quite, but if I identified more with someone who's into fast cars and designer clothes and shoes and less with someone who lives in a basement with a collection of comic books* my answer might change. They're well-written, pacy, funny and have a strong moral thread and a tough-but-vulnerable protagonist. I recommend them.

* I don't live in a basement or have a collection of comic books. But I am a geek, and so is Harry Dresden.

Phone Spam

I got phone spammed for the first time this morning.

Some guy claiming to be a stockbroker rang from New York chasing business. Things on Wall Street are clearly worse than I thought if they're resorting to randomly calling people halfway round the world. Of course, it could just have been a scam, which is only one of the reasons I wouldn't have even considered doing business with him.

As soon as I'd figured out what he was about (after his cheesy attempts at geniality had fizzled), I told him that if I wanted goods or services I went looking for them and that I didn't appreciate being called. The smart thing for him to do would have been to apologise, get of the phone and leave me merely irritated rather than actually angry, but he started arguing back, wasting more of my time. Eventually I had to talk over him, saying "Thank you, sorry, goodbye" (the first two of which I didn't mean) and hang up.

Stupid, stupid rat creatures!