Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Unpublishing? Don't do it!

I went to my local Barnes and Noble yesterday and soon I found myself in the magazine section.  After looking though the plethora of periodicals I finally found the magazines about writing (and why where they located on the bottom shelf of the Men's Interest section just below Playboy, Motor World, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, and other such content is beyond me).

Now I when looked though them, I found some with very interesting content and tips.  But other articles were so inaccurate that I just had to wonder about the whole publication itself (and why I didn't purchase them).

One of the articles was about a hobby author that upon being laid off from her usual job, she took some of her retirement fund with the intent of becoming a full time writer.  The attempt was successful apparently, and she is happy she took the plunge. However, she had several inaccurate items in her "publishing insights" article. 

One that really stood out: She said make sure your book is helping you not hindering.  If not then you need to change your strategy, while the theory is sound her reason for this was not.  She had her book on both Nook and Kobo, when the sales were low she unpublished the books from both services.  And said "I felt bad about the readers there but it was costing me."  Or something to that effect.

Wait a minute here, it never costs you to list a book on a retailers system.  At least not Nook or Kobo (and I have yet to see a legitimate ebook system that does charge up front).  I deal with both and the only cost is commission upon sale.  It costs you nothing to leave your book listed.  They are not like ebay where you have to pay to have your book up for sale.  And this person was a expert?

Also it is always a bad idea to unpublish a book.  You loose your sales rank there and all reviews.  This also cuts you off from a possible revenue stream that costs you nothing to leave in place.  Sometimes books will have a "break out" or in other words become very popular at one retailer before others.  I know of a few that started becoming popular at Kobo then later on it spread to Kindle and Nook.  If that author never was at Kobo, he may have never become popular in the first place.  Or perhaps he would have, but at a much later date. 

Another aspect: Readers tend to stick with the platform they have.  While most e-readers allow the reading of standard epub content via side loading (copying to the device over USB from your computer), many people won't bother hooking up the cable to do it.  They would rather just get it directly though the WiFi and its designed store.  Therefore, these customers only shop at Nook Store if they own a Nook, or Kobo Store if they own a Kobo device.  Not to publish (or remove your work from) there is really foolish.  Most independent authors should "flog the water" and have it everywhere because you never know where the seed you planed will take root.

In summary there is never a good reason to unpublish or remove your book from a retailer.  If it was costing you to have your book for sale, I could understand, but it does not.  This also goes to show you can't believe everything you read, even a article in a professional magazine from a "so called" expert.  Always do your own research and double check, it will serve you well.

Don DeBon is the author of Italian Fever.  Currently available in Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBook, and Kobo.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

TO DRM or not...I say NOT!

DRM, what is it?  DRM or Digital Rights Management is at its core, copy protection or the prevention of copying by the user though some electronic method.  This method can vary.  Some are more annoying to the user than others.

How did DRM come about?  Well that is a good question and the answer varies depending on who you ask.  In my experience it goes back to the days of the Commodore 64 computer in the late 1980's.  In the early 80's all programs and data were easily copyable, although not many did so since it took a copy program, and lots of time due to the issue of swapping 5.25 floppy disks.  And if you had a dattaset (a type of cassette tape storage device) it would take far longer.

Later on people got into the habit of making backup copies of their programs and sometimes would share them with with a good friend.  When electronic Bulletin Board Systems (early form of forums and file storage one could access though the phone lines) started posting downloadable game or program files, companies started to get worried that no one would pay for their software.  And hence copy protection was born.

At first it was simple and a little bit better copying program could bypass the protection (called a nibbler), and sometimes 'fix' it (this was often done just so that the drive heads wouldn't 'bang' possibly causing damage to the drive this type of protection was one of the most hated by users).  Then later it became more and more sophisticated.  The copy programs increased in abilities as well and a sort of cat and mouse game continued for a few years.  Then the copy protection industry reached a point that the protection could not be dulicated without special "parameters" or patches that would be applied to the duplicate copy to make it work otherwise it would fail.

This new form of cat and mouse continued for a few years until the copy protection industry came up with one of its most insidious version of protection yet: Rapidlok.  This time even the most advanced software copy programs and patches could not make a working copy and you needed special hardware inside your drive along with speed control to make a working copy.  And even then it may take several attempts before you had a working copy.  The worst part of this method: because it was so specific it was extremely easy for a legitimate original copy not to work on a particular drive.  Or the original copy suddenly stop working for no real reason.  This is when users cried out in outrage.  Software they purchased stopped working, and they were unable to make legitimate backups of what they purchased.

I believe this was part of the downfall of the Commodore 64.  Yes the company made bad business decisions near the end, but also people started moving over to other platforms long before.  These platforms did not have any copy protection at all, such as MS-DOS.  And later on Windows.

How does this apply to books?  Well, copy protection is what held back the ebook industry for years.  By the time ebooks were starting to come out, instead of learning from the past several book platforms created methods of protection that were so good that they didn't work for legitimate users.  Many people lost entire libraries when for some reason the books they purchased could no longer be read with the particular software they purchased them on.  Sometimes it was due to a update, other times just due to a glitch and nothing could be done.  As you can imagine this slowed down adoption as there was many cases of bad "nightmare" stories floating around.  And this was the late 1990's, therefore sharing such bad results online reached a far wider audience than in the past.

Another problem was some book platforms just disappeared, almost over night.  And with that all support evaporated.  For many readers it was not a problem right away, but when they had to reinstall their reading software it failed to install properly.  This was either due to the encryption key was on the older computer or somehow was deleted.  With the company gone, their library for all intents and purposes met the same fate as Alexandria.

Thankfully, these days many the DRM methods are far less draconian (in general).  However, I for one, even as a author will never use it on my books.  I say avoid it all costs for several reasons:

First it assumes your customers are thieves, instead of decent paying customers.  How would you like it if you say to your friend, here you go but oh you can't do this this and this because I don't trust you.  I bet you wouldn't talk with that friend for a while, if ever.

Secondly, if they 'pirate' your book, well they wouldn't have bought a copy anyway.  It is not a lost sale.  But, they may decide to buy it or tell someone else about it that does buy it.  Think of it as free advertising.  Of course I don't advocate piracy, but there isn't a way you are going to stop it.  And even if you try you will only alienate your legitmate customers in the long run.

Thirdly, a non-encrypted (DRM Free) books are 'future proofed'.  Software and computers change very quickly.  What is the greatest best system today is old and obsolete in a few months time.  Programs created in the late 1990's generally do not run well on today's versions of windows without tweeks or emulation.  Most book readers like to reread their books they purchased at times, and if the book is open or DRM free they can convert it to whatever format they require.  It is also an advantage to the disabled since they can convert it to a format that works best for them if needed.

And lastly, DRM will be cracked given time.  There is no known way to protect a book (or other content) that can be read by the user that can't be cracked given time.  You see for the user and legitimate purchaser to be able to read your book, they need the decryption key.  This means the key is on their computer or reading device.  Sooner or later someone will figure out this is done, crack it, and make it available to others.  So what does this mean?  You slowed down the pirates perhaps a little bit, but annoyed your legitimate customers as they are not likely to try and figure out how to crack their books.  Most of them just want to READ or perhaps convert your book when they need, not spend long hours jumping though hoops to be able to read or convert it.

In summary DRM is inconvenience at best, and very problematic at worst.  It is just not worth the trouble for authors or their customers.  It creates a rift or wall between you and your readers, and that is the last thing in the universe you want to do.

Don DeBon is the author of Italian Fever.  Currently available in Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Kobo.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hello There, Dear Reader

Who am I?  Well I have been writing on and off for years.  Back in the early 90's I had encouragement from friends and relatives (and a few minor/unmentionable awards) to try having my work published.  But after numerous rejections I just went back to writing for my own pleasure.  I had thought about self-publishing (at the time more often known as vanity press) but it was far too expensive.  Not to mention I lacked faith in my work to try it due to all the rejection notices.  Sadly much of my early work does not survive today.

Then the one special lady in my life convinced me to take up my pen again and try self-publishing.  Ebook's have changed he industry radically from the days when I was looking at publishing.  There is even Print On Demand for those that want a DTB (Dead Tree Book) version where the only time the book is printed is when someone actually purchases it.  Hence no risk to the author/publisher.  Oh how I wish this was available back then.

But I degrees, due to my special lady's support (and convincing) my first book has been published!  Italian Fever was started it last November and it was completed by the end of April.  Then after editing and polishing I published it in August.  I had hoped to have it out sooner than that, but you know how life can be.  Regardless it is out now and here is a little excerpt:

"Alright you to know what to do," Riccardo said as he gave his guards the suite key.

"Yes Sir. We will catch up with you later. Good luck." The one guard said as he shook Riccardo's hand.

Riccardo nodded grabbing Crystals hand as they bolted for the deck above. It wasn't even a deck, but rather a small maintenance platform above the suite and the highest point on the ship. By this time the helicopter was close enough for them to feel the strong wind of the beating blades, smell the exhaust raining down on them, and it was starting to get difficult to talk over the roar of the engine.

"Are you ready?" Riccardo shouted.

"No!" Crystal shouted back. "But I will do it anyway."

"Ok they will be lowering the cable in a second. I will hook it to your harness and they will activate the winch pulling you up. Then they will lower it back down for me. You don't have a thing to worry about." Riccardo shouted as the cable lowered. He was just about to connect it to the large reinforced ring on Crystals back when a spark flew off of a rail very close to them. Riccardo turned to see a man holding a gun straight at him. He knew they were sitting ducks in this position. There was no cover and if they ran there would be no second chance at this. He couldn't imagine how the man missed unless the strong wind threw off the bullet's trajectory just enough. Benton only hired the best and there was no way a second shot would miss.

Just then the man was tossed over the side and fell hundreds of feet to the water below. Crystal saw one of Riccardo's guards waving.

"Just GO! We will take care of this!" He shouted still waving, then turned to see another man running up the stairs, obviously a backup for the first. The guard then flung himself at him in a tackle maneuver taking them both out of Riccardo's view.

"Ok!" Riccardo shouted. "Change of Plan!" He said grabbing her from behind and hooking the large clasps of his harness with her own.

"What?" Crystal shouted back but he didn't have time to respond as they were both lifted off the platform at once as the helicopter rose in the sky.

If you like what you see, then by all means check it out at the following retailers:

Barnes and Noble (Nookbook)


Amazon (Kindle)


Currently only available in Ebook format, it will soon be out in Print On Demand as well.