Virtual Overlords: A (Mostly) Comedic Take On The Future of Digital Publishing

e-book

By Liberty & Steven Montano

Here’s a glimpse at what the world will look like in 20 years thanks to e-publishing.  Please be warned that while a lot of these ideas are possible (perhaps even probable), we do end up going off the deep end…

Google_Glass_with_frame-1940x1056

1. Because of Google Glass, people will literally read all of the time, because they’ll have the power to load books directly in front of their eyeballs 24/7. Unfortunately, due to the rewiring of our brains thanks to excessive internet usage, we’ll retain only a fraction of what we actually read.

2. Self-driving cars will allow us to read while commuting. Ironically, texting while driving will still be banned in most states.

pill

3. Building on the success of the Alzheimer mouse trials, scientists will produce books in pill or gum form for easy consumption.

4. In defiance of e-publishing, the world will see the rise of dangerous paperback gangs who smuggle rare printed books.

5. 3D printed custom book covers will go viral. The book gangs will not be happy.

6. Virtual reality (oculus rift) will lead to holographic novels and new heights of book addiction.

eye tribe

7. For a short time, all E-Readers will utilize Eye Tribe, and the resulting eye fatigue will increase sales of Google glass.

8. Creating an e-book will become part of school curriculum, and will become an expected skill in the job market.

9. Publishing houses will give way to marketplaces, resulting in the death of bookstores.

10. Overhead displays + “erotic material” will become a problem for law enforcement.  Porn book cafes will replace head shops.

11. Legislation to end book printing will be introduced by environmentalists. The legislature will fail, but the decline in printing continues.

12. The price of e-books will level out. People will reminisce to when a book only cost $.99 $4.99 $7.99.

13. The sale of bookshelves will plummet.  IKEA stock prices will take a hit.

14. The internet will tell you what to read based on a complicated algorithm that determines the “right” book for you. More often than not, the internet will be right.

15. The rise of holographic novels will render book-to-movie adaptations redundant.

cat vs. dog

16. Books/media created for pets will hit the virtual shelves. The war over whether dogs or cats are better rages on.

17. Implants will allow a person to completely write a book in their head. Intellectual copyright lawyers find themselves in huge demand.

18. Classic e-books will be upgraded to integrate with Google maps to provide a visual experience, while music appropriate to the setting will be embedded in the e-book data files.

19. Olfactory capability in e-books will lead to disgustingly cliche books being created for tween boys.

robo-writer

20. Big media houses will perfect bot-written books, which quickly become the junk food of the literary world.

21. Obesity rates will fall as ingesting media becomes more interactive.

22. Elementary schools see a major makeover. Desks become less common, but the dependence on VR decreases interpersonal contact.

23. The human population growth rate slows, maybe even goes negative due to our escaping into VR media.

24. Radio stations broadcast book files instead of music.

25. The weekly release of serial novels becomes incredibly popular. NBC takes command of the book industry.

26. Access to the internet via implants allows for an unprecedented consumption rate of e-books. This also renders notions of traditional learning moot.

27. Implants remove the need for keyboard, televisions, and interpersonal communication.

young-frankenstein

28. The increased consumption rate of hard scientific data will increase interest in theoretical knowledge, resulting in a dark era of mad scientists.

29. The third world will have an explosion of tech advances. The so-called first world will go out of fashion and “poor” living will become chic.

30. New mental illnesses tied to digital consumption will run rampant.

31. Implants will allow us to communicate with our pets, and later all forms of animal life. The number of vegetarians will increase exponentially.

32. The internet will become our collective subconsciousness.

33. Computer viruses will become a battlefield weapon, as all soldiers will have tactical implants.

34. Malls will disappear, replaced by virtual shopping. Demolition jobs will be in high demand, until robots take over that field.

decepticons___megatron_by_jasta_ru-d31jngx

35. Once they take over the construction and demolition fields (and, thanks to big publisher “ingenuity”, writing the books that humans learn from), robots eventually take over the world.

36. A few stalwart humans refuse to accept implants and are driven into hiding. Every young man’s dreams of living in a Terminator-like future become a reality.

Pre História-gathers

37. E-books ascend to Godhood. Our collective digital consciousness is sucked into data clouds, leaving our bodies free to roam and wander like the primitive nomads we were always meant to be.

 

About the Authors

My wife Lib is pretty awesome. She’s also psychic. And she has pyrokinesis. So you probably don’t want to piss her off.

When she isn’t busy designing book covers, editing my crappy work or maintaining my website and social media presence, Lib ponders the future of E-Publishing, dog training, self-sustained living, and life as we know it.  She’s also the author of Novel Blogging: A Writer’s Guide to Blogging.

As for me, I do accounting and write books.  Learn more at my site, if you dare!

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How to format your book for print

Gutenberg Bible

Are you ready to go to print?

By Scott Bury

I just finished setting up my second book for print output through Createspace, and it struck me how different, and more complex, it is than publishing an e-book.

(No, it’s not a fantasy — well, not in the sense we define “fantasy” in the Guild of Dreams — so I won’t go into the book; if you’re curious, check my website or blog.)

In today’s publishing environment, writers — particularly independent authors — are responsible for formatting as well as writing.

Several decades ago, my first job post-university was with one of the big publishers (it was so long ago, there were more big publishers — they hadn’t all merged, yet). I learned a few things about these aspects that readers take for granted in print books. In the 21st-century publishing environment, I though I’d pass on a few tips to my fellow independent fantasy writers who want to make their books available in print.

The easy errors

Some of the early e-books that I read made some pretty amateurish mistakes.

  • straight quotes/inch marks instead of opposite open and closing quotation marks
  • inch marks instead of apostrophes
  • open quote ‘ instead of apostrophe ’
  • double-spacing between paragraphs, instead of indents
  • self-made, amateurish covers
  • hyphens instead of dashes, or only slightly better, two or three hyphens instead of a long dash.

Thankfully, Microsoft Word, Pages and other modern word processors automatically correct much of this. Just make sure that, in your Preferences or Options, you have turned on “curly quotes.” Use the Ruler to set up an automatic indent for the first line of a new paragraph, and also that you do NOT indent the first paragraph of a new chapter or section.

Rule of thumb: after any heading or subheading, the first paragraph is NOT indented.

Learn the difference between a hyphen, an en-dash, and an em-dash.

  • The hyphen is the shortest. Use it to join words, like north-west.
  • The en-dash is twice as long as the hyphen. Use it in numbers, like “June 3–4.” It’s usually selected with Alt-Hyphen or Option-Hyphen (on a Mac).
  • The em-dash is twice as long as the en-dash. Use it to indicate a break in your text. Select it with Shift-Alt-Hyphen, or on a Mac, Shift-Option-Hyphen.

Think about print

When I was working for one of the Big 6 publishers I learned to think about the “page spread” as opposed to just the page. When someone reads a print book, they see two pages side by side, even though they focus on a line at a time.

A page spread consists of two pages: a left, or verso page, and a right, or recto. In the West, where we read left to right, we tend to start with a right-hand page, so the left is the back, or verso, of the right-hand page.

Left hand pages have even numbers, right pages have odd numbers, because we start page 1 on the right-hand side, then turn it over.

Format your book for print

Word allows “mirroring margins,” so that you have opposite left and right margins, and a different setting for the “gutter.”

Depending on whom you talk to, the outside margin — left on the verso (left) page, right on the recto — should be either wider or narrower than when laying out pages that are to be printed on one side only (the recto — think about your high-school reports).

Createspace asks for a wider gutter — right margin on the left page, opposite on the other side — because of the perfect binding — the flat, glued spine of the book. With a thick, perfect-bound book, text too close to the spine is harder to read. Createspace offers a Word template that has a suggested width for left, right and gutter margins.

Headers and footers

With opposite pages, you can have opposite formats for headers and footers.

The first thing to realize here is that the first page of every document and every chapter has a different format. In Word, choose “Different first page” from the Layout menu. In Apple’s Pages, select Setup–Section–“Hide (Headers and footers) on first page of section.”

The second thing to remember is that left and right pages necessarily have opposite treatments of page numbering.

Traditionally, when it comes to fiction, publishers have not done much about this. Looking at some old books I have, I notice that typically, the verso page has the author’s name, while the recto bears the title of the book. Page numbers are centred on the bottom, or the footer.

Personally, I think it’s much better to have the page number (folio, in publishing jargon) on the outside corner — that is, on the far left of the header or footer of the left-hand/verso page, and on the far right of the recto.

Sometimes for very long books or anthologies, the header has the page number on the outside corner (left side for left page, right side for right page — this makes it easier to find the page you want); one header may have the name of the author of that chapter, while the other page has the title of the whole anthology, or sometimes the theme of the current section.

For example, my 1999 edition of The Lord of the Rings, three-volume set has the book title (eg. The Fellowship of the Ring) on the left/verso, and the chapter title, eg. “A Short Cut to Mushrooms,” on the right/recto. The page numbers are on the outside corners of the header, and the footers are blank.

The textbooks that I worked on had a much more complex treatment. Headers or footers would show the part and chapter titles, along with the page number, in the outside corner.

It’s important to put the folio in the outside corner. Think about how you use a book. Pick up a print book, the one closest to you right now. Turn to page 96. How do you do that? You hold the book’s spine in one hand, and use the opposite thumb to flip through the pages. How much more difficult it will be to find page 96 if the folio were in the gutter, instead of on the outside?

How to accomplish this

In Word or Pages, you can put a different header/footer by:

selecting “different first page” from the Header and Footer or Page Layout menu

inserting a Section Break for each chapter and deselecting the “Continue from previous” button in the Header/Footer menu.

This gives you four areas to put four different kinds of information:

  • book title
  • part title
  • chapter title
  • author.

When I was writing my first novel, I sent a preliminary draft to a beta reader who had pretensions to being a publisher. I thought I would send something that would imitate a professionally printed book, as far as possible with the technology and my experience at the time, so I did those very things:

  • set up facing pages
  • put the folios (page numbers) on the outside corners
  • put the name of the series of the book (The Dark Age) on the left (verso) footer
  • put the name of the book (The Bones of the Earth) on the recto footer
  • put the part title (Part 1, Initiation Rites; Part 2: Tests; Part 3: The Mission) on the left header
  • put the chapter title in the right header.

The beta reader went ballistic on this. “What are you doing! A publisher just wants to see the page numbers in the header or the footer. This is way too fancy.” But why? It’s information that adds to the experience for the reader. If you don’t want to see it, don’t look — in fact, when we read a book, this fades into the background.

While Word makes this pretty straightforward, Apple’s Pages word processing program has no facing pages option, so this is very frustrating.

In the interest of professionalism…

… think about these things. You don’t have to have such complex layout, but if you start to take advantage of the options that today’s word processing programs give you, you can add value for your readers. And all this helps to bolster the professional image of you, the independent author, and all us independent authors in general.

Scott Bury is a journalist, editor and writer living in Ottawa. His articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

Picture of Scott Bury
Read more of Scott’s writing at Written Wordsand Scott’s Travel Blog, and on his website, The Written Word. Follow him on Twitter @ScottTheWriter.

Independent authors are making progress

By Scott Bury

‘The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore’, Moonbot Studios, William Joyce, Brandon Oldenburg, made available to Europeana through Ars Electronica and Kulturpool, CC BY-NC-ND

I don’t know what, specifically, is going on, but my admittedly very slow sales have picked up since mid-January.

My sales numbers are still far from huge, but I’m not complaining. I’m seeing daily sales numbers for The Bones of the Earth, Initiation Rites (which is Part 1 of The Bones of the Earth), and even my short story, Dark Clouds, rise almost each day. Most of this is happening in the UK, but sales are up strongly in the US, too.

Naturally, I’m happy. I might attribute it to the general improvement in the economy, six long years after the “financial crisis.” Maybe it’s Obama’s doing. Or maybe a post-Olympic high.

Seriously, though, I am sensing a surge in mainstream acceptance of the independent author and e-books.

Yes, e-books are mainstream. And independent, self-publishing authors are mainstream, too. The commercial publishing industry just hasn’t figured it out, yet.

I may feel chuffed by a relative, if absolutely tiny, increase in sales over the past six weeks. But then I see something like independent publishing machine, Russell Blake’s

Writing machine Russell Blake

post on Facebook, and I get depressed.

Wow. Just doing the accounting for January and February. Looks like a milestone. 500K books sold! Woohoo! How the hell did that happen?

How indeed?

Russell’s not the only one. Toby Neal, independent author of thrillers, published candid numbers on her blog. She invested $12,000 in the editing, design, production and marketing of her first book, Blood Orchids, and netted over $100,000 over the last three or four years.

Now, thrillers are the second-biggest selling genre, after romance, and far ahead of fantasy in the overall book sales picture. But paranormal author Jami Gold pulled together some analysis by other authors and found that writers who treat publishing as a business and keep putting out good product are more likely to make a living at it. More than half of authors who have written more than 12 books are making over $50,000 a year or more, she found.

Probably the best-selling self-published novelist of all, Hugh Howey, author of Wool, has stirred up a lot of dust by publishing an analysis of sales numbers posted by Amazon and major publishers. When it comes to genre fiction, e-books account for 86 percent of books sold, and independent authors outsell the Big 5 commercial publishers combined.

Writing is an art, but publishing is a business

As I mentioned in my December post on this blog, we independent authors of genre fiction need to approach publishing as a business. And since we individually don’t have the depth of pocket to compete with the Big 5 in marketing, we need to find other ways to reach audiences.

We need to work together in a coordinated way to raise our profiles and promote books. Together, we can provide all the functions and intelligence that a commercial enterprise can bring to bear.

I recommend to anyone who wants to know how to reach a wider audience to read Martin Crosbie’s excellent book, How I Sold 30,000 EBooks on Amazon’s Kindle — An Easy-to-follow self-publishing guidebook. It’s exactly what it promises: a step-by-step guide on establishing relationships with authors and audiences, building goodwill and promoting your book. He also spells out in detail how to use Kindle Select, free promotions and discounts to boost sales, and on what techniques work and what don’t.

Maybe we should prevail on Russell Blake to detail “How I sold half a million books in two months.”

How do we reach wider audiences? The answer is obvious: treat selling your books like a business. Have a strategy that involves cooperating with other independent writers. Cross-promotion, group sales events, using social media effectively.

So what do you say, fellow authors? Who is ready to spend their promotional time more effectively by coming together and working strategically

Based in Ottawa, Canada, Scott Bury is author of Initiation Rites, The Bones of the Earth, Dark Clouds and One Shade of Red.

Am I A Writer?

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed” – Ernest Hemingway

“A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people” – Thomas Mann

definition-writerIf you spend time hanging out around writing groups or forums, you will invariably come across the question–in some form or other–what makes someone a writer? The question is usually posed by a person who has just started writing, or has recently published for the first time. They want to know what parameter or milestone they have to meet so they can be allowed access to the ancient brother/sisterhood and finally announce to the world with confidence: I am a writer!

Let me answer the question from the point of view of someone who has had some small amount of success with this silly writing thing. First, here are my credentials (or lack thereof): I had one short story published in a magazine and one made into a podcast; my 5th novel will be published on Feb. 1; all of my work is self-published, so no agent or publisher has decided I’m worthy of their time and effort (though I had a prominent agent take a long time to reject me because he was very tempted, and a publisher who was very interested, but I rejected them after the process dragged out for two years); despite these nose up-turnings, I am closing in on 4000 books sold since I began publishing in Dec., 2011 (the majority of those in the last 3 months); in addition, I have given away somewhere in the neighbourhood of 60000 copies of my works; I have received glowing 5 star reviews that have heralded me as slightly more important than the invention of sliced bread, and 1 star reviews that suggest my only good quality as a writer is my ability to use spellcheck with precision.

So where in these modest milestones of both good and not-so-good, did Bruce Blake–father of 2, trophy husband of a burlesque Diva, and clandestine defender of the down-trodden–realize he was a writer? When the first short story was published? Was it when he finished his first novel? Published it? First 5 star review? How about when the first cheque for selling books came in?

I remember receiving a copy of Cemetery Moon in the mail after they published my story “Another Man’s Shoes,” and waving it at my wife (who was in disguise as a mother at the time rather than a burlesque star). “See? I’m a writer now,” I said. I think she rolled her eyes at me, maybe scoffed.

The reason she rolled her eyes at me wasn’t because she didn’t think I was a writer, but rather because she already knew something I hadn’t yet discovered: the waving of the magazine waswriter_definition_mousemat_mousepad-p144994379371116494envq7_400 just for show. I can’t speak for everyone, but sometimes I feel the need to do the cliché thing to make myself feel good. Like when I ran red lights taking my wife to the hospital for the birth of our daughter. There was no real need to…it just seemed like the right thing to do. Melodrama is my middle name.

No, the moment I knew I was a writer was when realization dawned that I couldn’t not write (apologies for the double negative). If I went more than a couple of days without taking the words from my head and putting them down on paper (at the start) or the computer, I’d get grumpy (thanks for pointing that out, honey). When I was doing other things–my day job, for instance–stories, scenes and characters would bounce around my head to the point of distraction. Some nights, I’d lay awake waiting for Mr. Sandman to come, but sleep would elude me as I tossed and turned, imagining what the Sandman would do if he was part of whatever story I happened to be working on.

Sadly, this makes me sound a little bit like an addict, but I guess that isn’t far from the mark. I knew I was a writer when I realized I didn’t want to write…I needed to. On the bright side, my addiction can be frustrating and painful, harrowing, nerve-wracking and disappointing, but it won’t hurt me. Few people die from writing (though Salman Rushdie’s life has been in jeopardy for a number of years), so I shouldn’t complain.

And what about you, dear blog reader? If you are a writer, at what point did you think to yourself “That’s it! I’m a writer!”?

—–

Bruce Blake is the author of the Icarus Fell urban fantasy novels and the Khirro’s Journey epic fantasy trilogy, part three of which will be out Feb. 1. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook, read his blog, or sign up for his newsletter to keep updated on what comes next.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

I wish I could tell you that I spent my summer breezing around Europe, or at least making a short journey to France (like I did a few years ago – see the lovely pictures) but the fact is my life is a little complicated at the moment, and time and money wouldn’t allow for it. My writing and publishing efforts are only a small part of it. Family obligations are another, but the big thing this summer was having to pay for a new heating system. We chose to invest in a cost efficient combo oil and wood burning furnace, but it came with a higher upfront price and it required some renovations.

Now, I like to say that I can write anytime/anywhere, but that only holds true when I’m away from home with my music cranked so I can ignore the people around me, or when I’m home with my usual chaos. It turns out, when I have friendly invaders working on my home, getting in the “zone” is nigh impossible. I tinkered with a couple of short stories, mainly experiments outside of my regular genre and comfort zone, but made very little progress on my current novel. I’m hoping it’s just a temporary thing and that I’ll get back on track once the wonderful workmen are gone. If not, I’ll be struggling to get this one, Providence, in the bag before I embark on my latest NaNoWriMo attempt, and I’m still undecided as to which of my projects I’ll tackle for that. Right now it’s a toss-up between Wearers of Skin, another myth-based dark fantasy/horror, or a myth-based straight fantasy called Akin to the Wind. I just can’t decide.

With my writing suffering, I’ve been focussed a little more on family activities, like going to the beach, and mundane things like cleaning the basement and walking the dog. Maybe this is a sign that I need a vacation from writing as much as I need one from my accounting work. When you find yourself working the equivalent of two full-time jobs, no matter how much you love them, eventually you’re going to need to recharge.

So that’s where I am right now, refuelling before NaNo and not one but four books scheduled for release over the next few months (three novels. and one story collection). I’ve been submitting like a mad woman, and I’ve gotten a few acceptances and a few rejections back so far. But I’m losing steam on that too, and I think I should spend the next week of my vacation just not even thinking about stories or books. Maybe I can “cleanse” my system and start fresh at the end of the month.

And as far as my lack of travelling this vacation?…Well, there’s always reading stories written by somebody else or just daydreaming of France on the beach —maybe in five year’s time I’ll get back there when the debt for the furnace is paid off.