Thoughts on Kindle Unlimited and Scribd

July 3rd, 2015

Some of you may know that Amazon changed the terms of its subscription service, Kindle Unlimited (KU) such that payments due to authors with books in KU are calculated in a different manner than previously. If you’re a reader and you subscribe, you can read all you want for $9.99 a month. With the single limitation, so far, that you can have up to 10 books on your “shelf” at once. To get book number 11, you have to read or release one of those books.

With the Kindle Unlimited subscription you can access hundreds of thousands of Kindle books and thousands of audiobooks with Whispersync for Voice. You can keep up to ten books at a time and there are no due dates. Read your Kindle Unlimited books on any Amazon device, or free Kindle reading app. (Terms)

Scribd reinvented itself from a pirate site reader-centric sharing site (Irony ALERT!) into a subscription service. For $8.99 a month. They paid all authors/publishers the same as a sale.

If you’re a reader, that’s a pretty sweet deal, assuming the books you want to read are in the program.

If you’re an author, deciding whether to have a book in KU is a business decision, and not everyone’s business needs and goals are the same. Everyone’s reasons for being in or out are different. Last year when KU debuted, I blogged about it here. Here’s what I said then about how that would be profitable:

If you are paying authors/publishers a percentage of price, then for your business to be viable, that payout amount per month HAS to be less than 9.99 * (number of users subscribed).

This means a profitable user will read a number of books N per month where the payment due to vendors is less than 9.99. The more books they read, the less the wholesale price has to be (obviously), and, at 9.99 per month, the wholesale price has to be less than 4.99 for 2 books per month, 3.99 for 3 books, etc.

Not long after that post, it turned out the payment terms for traditionally published books in KU were different than for self-published books. Traditionally published books receive the same payment as if the book had been bought — that is 70% of the purchase price. Further, certain self-published authors were given those or similar terms in order to convince them to put their books in the program.

Self-published authors can only participate in KU if they put their books in Kindle Select — that is, have those books exclusively at Amazon. Scribd does not require exclusivity. For some authors, Kindle Select makes sense. But for others, it doesn’t. Doing well at other vendors or wanting to avoid the risk of having a business depend on a single vendor are good reasons not to be in Select and therefore, not in KU.

Traditionally published books need not be exclusive. Because, as Amazon recognized, that would be a non-starter.

Arithmetic

What the Romance community knew, and what I suspect Amazon knew (because DATA!) and what Scribd apparently did not know (Because why would anyone pay attention to what goes on with those books women read?) is that Romance readers are the Great White Sharks of the reading world. They are the 80 in the 80/20 rule. They are the power in a power law.

Solving for X

Remember my ruminations over profit, book prices and that monthly subscription rate? Amazon had the data that would have told them everything they needed to know about those Power Readers (before KU debuted). Amazon solved the math problem with deep pockets but also by offering self-publishers a substantially worse deal. The KU reimbursement rates started decently, then took a swift dive until the reimbursement fell to around $1.34. Why? Well, either you sustain losses because of the Power Readers or you find a way to compensate for that. Falling KU reimbursement rates were exactly that, that is, KU’s “flexible” reimbursement rates to self-published authors was their hedge.

As KU continued, Amazon kept talking about how much money they were putting into the monthly fixed KU pool to be distributed to the self-pubbed authors, but reimbursement rates from that pool continued to fall. Because the hedge was needed. (So I speculate.) Scribd had no such hedge in its business model. (To my knowledge, anyway.)

How did Scribd solve for X? They didn’t. It’s hard to understand why Scribd thought $8.99 for all readers was viable even in the medium term. If they knew about Power Readers then they either didn’t know enough or they thought the same thing most of the traditional world thinks about products for women. How could they possibly matter when they were up against REAL books and REAL readers?

$8.99 is a brilliant strategy for competing for potential KU subscribers. It’s not a brilliant strategy for paying authors/publishers in an environment that includes Power Readers. The rational solution after the short to medium term is to introduce tiered subscription rates. It’s blazingly obvious that in an environment that includes Power Readers you must also have a bazillion 1-2 book a month readers or you have to charge Power Readers more. Or you have to pay authors/publishers less. Scribd did a great job going after traditional publishers, and they probably had a better selection of books than Amazon. And, by the way, the word is lots of Power Readers (those sharks!!) had subscriptions to both services. Because the pool of books was different.

But if they charged those readers more, then KU looks more attractive… It’s a tough situation.

Solving for Y by Killing X

Scribd’s solution was to remove 80-90% of Romances from their service.

Sure. Of course. Now they will be paying out less to authors and publishers because the books people women actually want to read are gone. Now that they’ve basically told the Power Readers they are unwelcome with all their womanly reading of THOSE books—who the hell knew they read that much???—what they have left are the 1-2 book a month readers.

This makes a certain sense. Because maybe what will happen is the Power Readers keep their subscriptions to both Scribd and KU, but now only borrow 1-2 books from Scribd and things are sustainable for a bit longer for them. Yes, an FU to romance readers, but Scribd maybe wasn’t in a position to feed the sharks.

If I were a Romance publisher ::cough::Harlequin/Avon::cough:: who just put substantial backlist into Scribd only to have their reader base told to fuck off, I think I’d be pretty pissed off.

The more established self-publishers, the ones who cannot afford Amazon exclusivity financially or at the cost of reader-relations will likely move to Oyster in order to have some presence in a subscription system. I wonder if Oyster knows what’s coming their way?

Cue the theme from Jaws….. LOOK OUT OYSTER!!!

Segue

Early on, long before KU, I put one book into Select into order to have data on the program. I asked my newsletter subscribers to tell me what they thought about my decision. Their answer? The non-Amazon readers were angry. Rightly so. That was enough for me. My experiment was done after the first angry letter. (After 90 days, you can elect not to re-enroll in Select.) If it had been possible, I would have ended it immediately, but I had to wait out the 90 days. I sent a copy of that book to every single reader who let me know how they felt.

Amazon’s Adjustment

The initial structure of KU with its fixed reimbursement pool meant that a longer book that make $2-4.00 for a sale, made $1.34 in KU. Shorter books, on the other hand, that would be sold in the $0.99-1.99 range and thus net the author a dollar or less, made $1.34 in KU. In other words, a book priced at $0.99 made $1.34 in KU. Anyone with half a brain can see that this meant shorter books were way more profitable and that longer books were way less profitable.

The adjustment Amazon made was to address that disparity. Instead of paying the same amount per borrow regardless of length, authors are now paid based on pages read. “Pages” read, actually. Basically, Amazon had to normalize what a page means for a digital book when displays are reflowable and resizable across different sized devices. A “Kindle Page” is the same for all devices regardless of settings. (Presumably, of course.)

To me, that’s fair enough. Authors who write shorter books make up the difference by writing more books. I should think that’s obvious, though apparently not. Category authors tend to write more books than single title authors. Three 30K word books will make you the same as one 90 page book, assuming the books are read all the way through.

I have to shake my head at the suggestions from some that readers should make sure to page through shorter books, because otherwise those authors are screwed.

No they’re not. They’re only screwed if readers never actually finish the books, and if readers aren’t finishing their books, well, maybe those authors should worry about why that is. There absolutely is a market for shorter books and short stories. Just like there’s a market for longer ones. I have short stories, novellas, and novels on sale. They achieve different goals for me. I’m quite sure that readers have different goals and preferences for reading works of varying lengths.

Final Thoughts

I don’t have any books in KU. I did have books in Scribd, but I assume the only thing left is Scandal, which is currently free and so would not have been removed. I’ll probably go pull Scandal because I’m vindictive that way.

But now I’m kind of wishing I did have something in KU because at last at LONG LAST Amazon is giving authors data about how much of their books get read, but the only way to get it is to be in KU. I had this idea that authors could put a book in KU, let it sit for 90 days and watch the data about pages read. You’d rewrite if no one gets past Chapter 10. ::snort:: Mostly I’m kidding.

[Update: MelJean Brook pointed out that Amazon is NOT providing meaningful page read metrics so my plan would not work. There is no way to tell from the data provided if 2000 Kindle pages read is 2000 people reading one page or one person blowing through 2000 pages of an author’s work.]

I Lied. This is the Final Thought

I was talking to a friend the other night about why Amazon didn’t fix their issue sooner since they surely had the data about the problem of shorter works no later than 6 months in. Assuming that’s true, that gives them 6 months to develop, test, and QA and then prepare the PR for the Kindle Normalized Pages scheme. This is aggressive but doable. You’d have to test a lot of scenarios and then make absolutely sure all the calculations are correct and reach consistency.

Maybe the schema changes weren’t as big a deal as they would be in a traditional SQL Server or Oracle environment, but NoSQL solutions have different challenges, and one of them is hidden errors because of eventual consistency or problems with “schemaless” documents. (It’s only schemaless if you never hired a data architect, and if you didn’t sooner or later you’re fucked. *)

I’m thinking of Wattpad and its problem with user comments attributed to the wrong account. That’s a total NoSQL error that a good OLTP-trained data architect could have said, hold on a sec here… What happens if…. And then all the developers stick their fingers in their ears and sing LahLahLahLahLah because the architect just added 3 months to the delivery date. And nine months later your data is untrustable. There are scores of developers out there who got burned by thinking schemaless means never having to think about data consistency across transactions.

Eventually, your financial data has to be in a transactionally consistent state and stay that way and it can never ever revert to a previously inconsistent state. Or you can’t pay people correctly. So, you know, 6 months seems like a decent guess for how long it would take to roll it out and be certain it works for paying people reliably. The concept isn’t hard. The execution is.

Interesting.

* OMG. I actually made a database joke in a writing blog! More than one, actually. This is very strange.

Note: Regarding NoSQL, it’s a very very fast way of scaling data. Although UC Berkeley had one of the early such databases, Amazon more or less put the concept into widespread use, followed by the original developers at You Tube who had to massively scale MySQL. Those guys needed to ramp up fast and on a scale that traditional transactional database could not then achieve. When I say “documents” in the sense of a NoSQL database, I don’t mean a Word document. I mean a collection of information of related items where Item 1 may not have the same information as Item 2 in the same set of related information. In that sense, there is no “schema” (that is a definition of what information is contained in related data. In a transactional database, all objects of a defined type have the same structure, even where elements of the structure are NULL.)

The NSA, by the way, collects your information in Hadoop, a NoSQL database backed up with some Postgres SQL functionality for the sorts of transactions that MUST be consistent.

This is a laughably high level explanation. It’s way more complicated. I’m a SQL Server DBA and Data Architect, but I’ve done some Mongo DB where we needed to address some shortcomings with our SQL Server applications without spending a fortune. For anyone who cares, Microsoft’s SQL Server 2014 changed the query optimization engine in significant ways — and I suspect it’s a direct response to NoSQL. For example my current employer had ugly queries that were taking 2 minutes (on completely under resourced SQL 2008 servers and for data that SHOULD have been in a datawarehouse but wasn’t, so I’m sorry, but the situation is long and convoluted and no one here cares, just know that 2 minutes for a query result is beyond embarrassing) that went down to 45 seconds when run on a SQL 2014 install.

Basically, the point is that the situation is considerably more complicated than, hey, let’s do it THIS way instead. Amazon is not just a company that sells stuff. They INVENTED the technology they needed to massively scale because no one else was doing that, and then they open sourced it. So when we talk about Amazon having advantages, the advantages are even bigger than most realize. Amazon IS data. I don’t think they do anything without knowing what the data says, and they have more data than anyone.

It’s why we’re seeing such an upheaval in publishing. It’s why Romance matters more and it’s why companies and analysts who dismiss Romance are in big trouble. Amazon knew about Power Readers. The usual gendered biases very likely got exploded by the facts. Traditional publishers need to lose the bias. Companies who want to compete in this space need to fire anyone who talks about REAL books and REAL readers.

The Romance Sharks will eat their lunch.

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Dancing Dukes! Get Yer Dancing Dukes! Also 3 prizes

June 27th, 2015
Cover of Dancing in the Duke's Arms, anthology. Cover is a dude in a brown coat and a pretty lady in a burgundy gown which is really pretty. They are dancing and falling in love. You want this book.

Dancing in The Duke’s Arms

Dancing in The Duke’s Arms is on sale now!

Amazon | Barnes&Noble | iBooks | Google Play | Kobo | All Romance | Print

Click here for more information about the stories and for links to excerpts etc. Order now while it’s $3.99. The price goes up July 7.

The Prizes

I have three unclaimed prizes from a previous giveaway:

For each prize(s), I will spend at least $15.00 US. If you hang out here, you probably know that I have impeccable taste except when I am odd or just plain weird. There’s just no telling.

The Rules and How to Enter

To enter, check out the rules below and follow the instructions. Three prizes. Three winners.
Void where prohibited. Must be 18 to enter. No purchase necessary. All prizes will be awarded. If a winner does not contact me within 10 days of notification, an alternate winner will be selected. Relatives or employees of Carolyn Jewel are ineligible. Winner chosen at random using the contest plugin “And The Winner Is.” International OK! Multiple comments disallowed. Contest closes at 11:59:59 PM Pacific on Tuesday June 30, 2015. Make sure you leave a valid email in the email box for your comment.

To enter: Leave a comment to this post in which you tell me the best book you’ve read recently. (I’m looking for recommendations!)

Go!

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What a Week!

June 26th, 2015

First SCOTUS was 6-3 in upholding Federal subsidies for health insurance. Then they were 5-4 in overturning bans on same-sex marriage.

The US changed today, for the better. There’s a long way to go yet but I’m enjoying these historic decisions.

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In Defense of Pantsing

June 17th, 2015

Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about methods of getting a book written. This is expected writerly talk. Put writers together and eventually we’re talking craft. At the RWA National conference there’s loads of great workshops about these subjects. Quite sometime ago I had to stop listening to presentations about craft. That’s because they freak me out. Ack!!! I’m doing it wrong!!!! And then I dissolve into this gelatinous mass of self-doubt. Earlier in my career, I needed those workshops. I needed to learn about what other writers did and how they approached problems of story and craft.

I need less of that now because I’ve been at it a while.  I’ve spent hours and hours and hours and hours learning myself as a writer.

Some writers are “seat of the pants” writers and some are “plotters.” (Pantser vs. Plotter) This tends to be a polarizing issue and one that, for some reason, often sounds like ‘pantsing is wrong/immature/inefficient.’

No. It’s not.

I think it’s more accurate to talk about writers and their requirements for structure in their process. Some require a lot and some require less. It’s not a This or That situation. It’s a continuum, and what matters, ultimately, is whether your process results in a finished book where “finished” means it’s great story and you’ve fixed all your bonehead errors and typos.

Did you FINISH that puppy?

I love podcasts. I listen to lots of writing podcasts– most about the business because craft discussions — see above. Just about all my favorites have recently featured guests who said, in some form or another, some obliquely and some overtly, that pantsers are doing it wrong.

No. They are not. I have been writing long enough that actually, I know I’m not doing it wrong. I am coming up on 30 published novels, novellas, and short stories. Most of those 30 are 100,000 word novels. I have been traditionally published and now I self publish. There was a period, during which, by the way, I did not sell a single novel, in which I tried structured approaches.

I once wrote a 70 page outline. I’ve done character bios, charts, you name it, if it involved pre-planning so you know what you’re going to write, I tried it and I failed miserably. I FAILED MISERABLY AT PLOTTING. I lost an embarrassing number of years out of my writing career because all the writing books insisted on structure and pre-planning, and that had to mean I was doing it wrong. Right?

Charts, Bios, GMC, Outlines: GO AWAY!

I’m one of the few authors around who sold her first book. Two weeks after I queried it. By pantsing it, by the way. I had no idea what I was doing so I did what I felt like doing and it turned out I’d managed to hit on the process that worked for me pretty much right off the bat.

When I hear a new author talk about how they they were a pantser but boy, that first book was such a mess, it’s still under the bed, so OBVIOUSLY pantsing is wrong — Folks, no, Just NO. What it means is that author had not yet discovered her writing process. Few people writing their first novel know what process works for them. But it doesn’t mean that messy process is wrong for everyone. It’s a newbie effort, so all you new writers, your job is to find out what works for you. You have to keep writing to find out. You do have to pay attention to craft discussions and try out techniques so you know if it works for you.

All those plotter sort of things that are supposed to be a better, faster way to write are likely to completely fail some authors. All those pantser “just let it flow” things are going to fail some authors.

Carolyn the pantser (with a full time job) has written novels in 90 days while in graduate school, with a young son. I have written 30K word novellas in 30 days. Without a single outline. With very little planning.

The kind of significant planning that so many plotters do is a waste of time for me. Not for them. For me. I know this because my traditional publishers used to make me write synopses and it was awful horrible, dreadful and not one single synopsis I ever wrote (unless it was after the book was done) had the slightest resemblance to the book I turned in. None. Zero.

LESS THAN ZERO!!!!!

In the time it would take me to write a synopsis that didn’t make my agent cry— actually, I never wrote a synopsis that didn’t make my agent cry (Sorry, Kristin!)— I could have been 20 pages into the actual book.

Here is how it works for me: I spend 3-4 days bouncing around ideas in a notebook for an hour or so a day. Handwritten. I now have fountain pens so this is fairly awesome. I describe various things the book might be about, things that might happen etc. And from that comes this sense of the emotional heft of the characters who will be on the page. And then, I start writing. I pick a scene that represents that emotional heft and I start writing at what I figure is the middle of their story. My notebooking focuses me and gives me a place to start. I think about those characters and their story and I KNOW FOR SURE my story will be about some series of events.

{Folks, Ima setting you up. About now, you’re saying “BUT THAT’S PLOTTING!!!!}

I sit down to write and

Not one single thing I notebooked happens. The characters say and do stuff I didn’t expect and in response to that more stuff happens that I didn’t expect. But it’s magic. If I pay attention to what’s happening on the page my characters show me the interesting complicated fascinating relationship they will have. My job is to let that happen no matter what I wrote in my notebook.

My writing is constant focusing, brainstorming, following the threads that appear, deciding that X will happen and being totally prepared and willing to go with Y if that’s what’s happening. I brainstorm in my notebooks as needed — because I do need that. But I’m never more than a few scenes ahead. There’s no point.

Nobody Knows You’re a Pantser

After nearly 30 novels, I know that’s what it will be like. Not one single outline, no charts, no beats. No nothing. Sometimes I’ll go in and chop things up or out or rejigger. Every story is a little different, a different shape and heft on the page. I’ve had books that I rewrote in 3 weeks because I knew the traditional editorial process had failed me. I’ve had books where editors said “Don’t change a word.” I’ve had books I heavily revised because my editor was right about a weakness.

Some people write faster than I do. But loads of people write slower. And nobody can tell I’m a pantser from the finished product. Just like readers can’t tell if a book was plotted in advance.

I have one doorstop/under the bed book. It’s the one I tried to plot. Every other book I’ve written has been published. So, you know, pantsing works. If you’re a pantser.

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Dancing in The Duke’s Arms

June 5th, 2015

Sorry for the long silence. I’ve been working hard on two projects with colliding deadlines.

Cover of Dancing in the Duke's Arms, anthology. Cover is a dude in a brown coat and a pretty lady in a burgundy gown which is really pretty. They are dancing and falling in love. You want this book.

Dancing in The Duke’s Arms

My novella for the historical romance anthology, Dancing in the Duke’s Arms, is edited, revised, copy-edited, proofread three times, and all the files sent to our formatter. My story is titled An Unsuitable Duchess.

Pre-Orders are live here:

Amazon | Barnes&Noble | iBooks | Google Play | Kobo

Click here for more information about the stories and for links to excerpts etc. Print will be available so no worries. Pre-order now while it’s $3.99. The price goes up afterward!

I’m also working on My Demon Warlord, and it’s just about ready to send to beta. So……. close.

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Why Social Media is Failing Creative Women

May 16th, 2015

Today someone on one of the author loops complained about a Facebook page that was serving up pirated books. The FB site links were all bit.ly links so I went to a tool that tells you where the link will land you, so I wouldn’t have to actually click and land somewhere bad, and the site, Hot ebook download DOT com, was registered to a gentleman in Kiev with nameservers that ended in .RU. (A nameserver is responsible for resolving your domain name to the correct IP address as assigned through your webhost.) Two things are generally true, not every site that ends in .ru (Russia) is automatically bad, and an awful lot of malware comes from servers in the .ru domain.

Now, I highly doubt there are any actual books being served at the end of those links. I happen to strongly believe that anyone who clicks on those links gets malware, their credit card information collected, or a file with malware in it. Or all three. So this probably isn’t really piracy. But I’m not going to check and besides, I have an entirely different issue to talk about.

It bugs the heck out of me that FB seems to have nothing in place to prevent a page that is almost certainly serving up malware, or, possibly less dire in fact, but completely dire to lots of authors, pirating books and other copyrighted content. And the author was having a hard time figuring out how to report this to FB. Many of you are probably familiar with my position on piracy, which is mostly I don’t care too much, or, perhaps more accurately, I feel it’s not worth my time, and might actually be against my interests, to go around DMCA-ing every suspected site that has pirated my work. But sites serving up malware I do have a problem with.

The fact that the source is FB? Oh, the bitter taste of irony. At the same time, FB makes it harder and harder for authors to pay them money. (Boosting a post with a book cover in it? HAH! That’s three days of trying to make FB understand their own policy about book covers being exempt from the “text to picture” ratio. Want to advertise your book? Another circle of hell for the same reason.)

And now I get to the meat of this post.

Social Media has a hugely flawed view of the world. They’re so male-oriented that they have absolutely no ability to grok that women have a fundamentally different experience of social media, and the world, than men. And yes, the same is true for many many other classifications (Color, ethnicity, non-cis, not heterosexual and so on.) It’s why we see policies that actively endanger women and a big old “Huh?”  when women complain. Real Name policies endanger women. Until these companies understand WHY that is, it’s not possible for the policy to be crafted in a way that reduces the danger. There’s a flip side to everything. Not having Real Names can also endanger women. Understand what’s going on, and there’s a chance you might have a more effective policy instead of one that serves the few with real harm to many.

Instead of these companies thinking about what it means for them to offer a service to everyone when their model of the world is so deeply inaccurate, we keep hearing the equivalent of “It doesn’t happen to men, so it’s not real.” There are a lot of white people who think there’s not a problem with racism and policing, and they think that because they do not inhabit the world where dark skin gets you different treatment. At least recognize that blindness like this exists and that right now this minute, you, all of us, have these blind spots. All of us. No exceptions.

FB requires that a Fan Page be linked to a personal profile.

Per the FB TOS, people are supposed to have one and only one personal profile.

If you happen to be an artist or other creative, you live a life with (at least) two facets. A public one and one that is private. That private facet is associated with things like employers, potential employers, significant others, ex-significant others, and minor children. The public one is associated with people who like your work and are or want to be fans of your work. Social Media sites that insist on public links between a public life and a private one put women at risk. I’m quite sure there are people at risk in different ways.  I have direct experience with how women are at risk, so that is what I focus on here. It doesn’t mean no one else has a similar problem. Exactly the opposite, in fact.

Note that I am saying PUBLIC links.

As an author, I need to have a firewall between me and Carolyn Jewel, Author. I need to protect private aspects, including minor children, from the public me. And I must do this for my safety and theirs. No social media sites accommodate this need. I really don’t want to rehash all the ways in which women are punished or endangered for things that have no similar effect on men. Here’s a few, though: Having strong opinions, liking and wanting to have sex, being smart, being right, being a parent, the ability to get pregnant, the potential need not to be pregnant, being attractive, being pregnant, not being attractive enough, talking….

On my personal FB page, I get bombarded by friend requests from male profiles who immediately text me things like “You have a beautiful smile” blah blah blah. In fact, you cannot see my smile since the picture is my cat. And he cannot smile. Besides, that’s a totally creepy thing to say right off the bat between real people, but I believe just about all of those requests are fake profiles trying to get actual profiles to like them so they can be used to engage in click-fraud. I sometimes have three or four a day.

So, an author must link her Fan Page to her IRL personal page, where there may be links to employers, minor family members, and others with no way to protect themselves from weirdos. And fans, I will represent to you, often friend a personal profile rather than the Fan Page. Because Fan Pages are limited in the way they can interact with profiles, and fans know that and seek out the personal profile instead. In a perfect world, that would be totally awesome. But it’s not a perfect world, so it’s not awesome at all.

Think about that. These fake profiles are targeting female profiles but women live in what amounts to a trinary social world. The question isn’t just “Is this friend request real (YN)” but “Is this friend request real and if I accept it, will it be dangerous to me (YND).” Authors and other creatives, decline such requests at the risk of declining actual or potential fans. This is not a calculus male creatives (in the main) have to solve.  They can just accept all such friend requests because they do not, in the main, live in a world where a fake friend request represents potential harm.

I’m willing to bet that men get fake friend requests from women whose pictures feature large boobs, who would just love to date them. These profiles might be after their money, and also similarly fake, but they’re almost certainly not potential stalkers.

As an author, my choice is a personal profile that has NO links to family or my real life friends, or I accept the risk of having strangers conflate Carolyn Jewel with Carolyn Jewel, Author. When, actually, they’re not the same thing. That risk is, in our current culture, one that comes with dangers that are not present, in the main, for male authors.

And here is where the reality of being a woman creative really, really matters and why social media companies are failing us so deeply.

Every women author I know knows of another woman who has had a stranger send them an unwanted picture of his penis. I was at a signing once when a man physically gave the author next to me a picture of his penis. Trust me, men, this is scary and creepy. Who wants to walk back to their car, alone, after an encounter like that?

I’ve gotten emails to my writing email address from unhinged men who tell me they want to know me (and/or love me) and will I date them, and by the way, they know the name of my son. One of them also tried several times to get my agent to give up my personal contact information. I get emails from men in prison and have had at least two from men on death row. They know about me because Romance novels end up in prisons. I don’t mind that. I really don’t. I want more people to read Romance! But I have to worry about men with issues who get out of prison and start contacting my agent. There is always, always, an unsettling and creepy undertone to these communications.

This is the world women live in. It’s real. It happens. And almost none of it happens to men.

What women have seen over the last year and more is companies like FB and Twitter—anywhere, really, where woman are supposed to have an equal chance to participate in conversations— aid and abet harassers by doing… nothing. They have built their vision of “Social” on a world that does not exist for more than half the people they want participating in their environment.

For them, the world is fair (Land of Opportunity) and a meritocracy (tech companies) when really it’s not fair, equal, or a meritocracy unless you’re a straight white male. Asking for recognition of that fact and for policies that do not harm people who cannot operate  in the Opportunity Meritocracy should not be met with the equivalent of ‘I don’t see it, therefore it never happens.’

It means think about the world for people who do not look like you. Devise policies that protect and that allow all of us to separate public from private. If Twitter, Google, Facebook and more want Real Names, then they must accept that this comes with the duty not to endanger people. Their software and algorithms make them money. I would prefer that I not pay a disproportionate price for that.

Update

I didn’t think I’d have to explain this in more detail, but it seems I do. The solution is not my ability to block requests. That’s not relevant to the problem I’m pointing out. The problem is that in the real world, fans want to interact with an author’s personal profile and, frequently, they prefer the personal profile over the Fan Page. But the FB tos says a person gets one and only one personal profile.  This means the author’s personal profile ALSO acts as a means to interact with fans. And that personal profile has, well, personal, non-author related stuff on it. (Assuming the author is also using FB in a personal capacity.)

My point is that male authors can accept fake clicks without worrying much about being harassed or stalked or getting pestered with chat requests about whether you’re interested in a date etc, or sent pictures of penises you’re not interested in seeing. The threats that women endure in social spaces DO NOT HAPPEN to male authors. Please don’t make me talk about Gamergate.

Social Media has utterly failed to understand this. Society in general does not recognize this as a problem. But it is.

Also, as to my calling out the tech industry, my regular readers know I work in tech. I’m a SQL Server DBA. For non-tech people, this is a highly specialized, technical job that is, by definition, in tech. I understand quite well, because I have direct and relevant  experience with it, what happens to women in tech — because I am a woman in tech.

 

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Sale at Kobo: Lord Ruin 35% off (Other books too!)

May 15th, 2015

Are you in the US or UK? Kobo has a sale!! 35% off select books, including my historical, Lord Ruin.

Cover of Lord Ruin, super sexy Regnency dude looking at you like, yeah, I'm hot.

Lord Ruin.

Here’s the directions for this unlimited use coupon, good from May 15-18!

Kobo Buy page for Lord Ruin

To look for other titles that are 35%:

Promo Code: MAY35

Detailed Instructions:

If you already have a Kobo account
–    Follow the instructions outlined here: http://www.kobo.com/help/en-US/article/715/using-a-promo-code-in-the-kobo-store

If you do not have a Kobo account
–          Create a Kobo account.
–          Go into the My Account section and click on Payment Information.
–          Input your billing address and credit card info.
–          Save.
–          Return to the homepage.
–          Follow the directions in the “If you already have a Kobo account” section above.

If you don’t want to input your credit card info
–    Create a Kobo account.
–    Search for the title in question.
–    Click on “Buy Now.” You will be asked to fill in your billing address.
–    Instead of choosing credit card, choose “paypal” and hit “continue.”
–    Input your promo code in the box below the phrase “Have a Promo Code?”.
–    Hit Apply. The discount will be subtracted from the total on the right-hand side.
–    Complete your purchase by hitting “Buy Now.”
–    Proceed to paypal to complete your transaction.

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What I’ve Been Reading

May 2nd, 2015

Two books I’ve read recently had quite an impact on me, and so I am sharing them with you.

The Remains of War, Surviving the Other Concentration Camps of World War II
by Pauline Kok-Schurgers
Self-published (iUniverse)

I forget where I read about this book. Someone, somewhere had read it and another iUniverse book and remarked that The Remains of War was well worth reading. The comments were intriguing enough that I bought it and read it. It’s one of the most affecting books I’ve read in a while, and more about that later. I’m sorry indeed that the publisher is iUniverse. It means the author has not made the money she could have or deserves. That said, I’m glad the book is out there to be read.

The story is about a young Dutch girl who, with her family, was interned in a series of Japanese concentration camps in Indonesia. It’s as harrowing and heartbreaking as you’d expect. The family survives, by the way which is what got me through the book, though the power of the words and language would probably have kept me reading. Kok-Schurgers was nine when she and her family were interned and twelve by the time they were liberated. The men, her father included, were sent to a different camp, so she was with her mother, two sisters and a brother.

It’s a powerful story, powerfully told.

At first, the language was just ever so slightly loose, but by the second chapter, Ms. Kok-Schurgers’s story utterly drew me in. Everything was immediate and visceral. It’s not told from a distance, instead we get an astonishing, living, breathing girl on these pages who is both aware of her flaws and learning who she is. The quote below is something said to her by an adult in the camp about a young boy also interned.

“He liked the shadows, which gave him comfort and shelter, because light asked from him more than he was willing to give.”

Voices like that should not be forgotten. I’m glad I read this book. Other reviewers are right. This is an important text.

Kok-Schurgers has a blog here and an uninformative website here. Amazon link (Kindle Version). This is worth the price.

From Dust to Digital: Ten Years of the Endangered Archives Programme
Maja Kominko, Editor

Open Book Publishers

This work is from the British Library and describes several preservation programs dedicated to, as the title says, endangered archives. The forward is oh so slightly boring until it begins a discussion of the ways in which Western cultures have removed knowledge from indigenous populations, denied them access to their own heritage, and removed the artifacts from the very surroundings and people who gave the information meaning. The descriptions of the collections described in this volume are fascinating. This is wonderful, amazing material. Mind-blown. Myths exploded. Read it. Amazon Link

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The Fork is Out!

May 1st, 2015
Fork against a blue sky with white clouds

The Fork

The draft for my story in the June anthology Dancing in The Duke’s Arms is DONE! And boy, I wasn’t sure I’d hit the deadline. There was a point, on Wednesday, when I realized I was missing 5 chapters of edits [long explanation omitted] and I had to redo them all. ALL. OF. THEM.

My story is tentatively titled, “An Suitable Woman.”

And now, back to My Immortals 7.

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