Sunday, November 29, 2009

Being a NYT bestseller isn't all it's cracked up to be

In her latest blog posting, author Lynn Viehl graciously shares some more details about how much money she earns from one of her novels. This type of information is typically unavailable, and I applaud Lynn for sharing her personal data with us. This is a follow-up to her first reality-check posting. Please, go read both of these and then come back - they are well worth your time. Don't worry, I'll wait for you.

Here are some things that I took away from the both postings:

With traditional publishing houses, it's a constant waiting game. You wait to hear if you can submit your manuscript, then you wait to hear if it's accepted. But at that point, the waiting has only begun - you wait anxiously for publication, and once published, you wait for sales reports and royalty payments.

Based on the dates that Lynn gives, the author is paid out about 6 months after the data is actually accumulated. On Lynn's statement, we can see that the accounting period ended May 31, but the statement wasn't generated until August 18. And then, to top things off, the publisher sat on the statement until November, when they finally sent it to Lynn.

In her first posting, she states that the book was published in July of 2008, but didn't receive her first royalty statement until April of 2009! That's an incredibly long time to be kept in the dark, especially in this day and age of computerized inventories and tracking.

Lynn received no marketing support from the publisher. "I was never informed of what the publisher was going to do for it (as a high midlist author I probably don’t rate a marketing campaign yet.)" The entire task of marketing was left to her, and she had to promote her book on her own dime.

From the statements, we can see that Lynn earns very little money for her success. After selling 80K copies of her book, she's still trying to pay off her initial advance of 50K. This is because the royalty percentage she receives is small. While Lynn grossed 50K (she still has to pay taxes on that money), her publisher grossed $450K - nine times as much.

In this day and age in which authors have the ability to self-publish and reach a global audience, I fail to see the compelling argument for publishing through a traditional publisher. If you're going to put all the time and effort into creating and marketing a novel, shouldn't you reap a large portion of the financial rewards?

By going the traditional route, authors give over creative control and the lion-share of the profits to the publisher, in return for zero marketing support and extremely slow service. That just doesn't sound like a good deal to me.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Chrome vapor vs. Jolicloud reality

There was quite a lot of buzz this week about Google's new Chrome OS. The operating system was announced several months ago, but Google released more information about it at a small press event on Thursday.

Basically, ChromeOS looks to be an operating system based entirely around the Chrome web browser. It requires very little else, because the intent is that your apps and the vast bulk of your data will live in the Internet cloud.

ChromeOS has certainly made the spotlight currently shining on cloud computing even brighter, but it's not the first OS with such a vision. And right now, it's just that - a vision. The OS isn't expected to be ready until at the end of 2010. In Internet time, that's an eternity.

There is an alternative though, and it's available today (currently in alpha testing). The OS is called Jolicloud, and it's an operating system project with an interesting goal - to "combine the two driving forces of the modern computing industry: open source and the open web". You can read more about their idea here.

I downloaded and installed Jolicloud a few weeks ago on my 1st generation EeePC 701. The Linux-based OS that came pre-installed on the machine was pretty rough around the edges, and kind of a pain to use. Jolicloud is also a Linux-based OS (based on the Ubuntu netbook remix, I believe) but is much more polished, even in its current alpha release.

The interface is slick, and responsive. They've also managed to make the trackpad recognize multi-touch gestures for scrolling, which is really handy. And the WiFi works exceptionally well, right out of the box. Before Jolicloud, I needed to manually turn on the WiFi and wait a few seconds for it to connect. Now it's automatic, and ready for me when the OS boots up.

Perhaps the biggest plus is how easy it is to find and install new applications. Jolicloud provides categorized groups of apps, and installing an app is as simple as clicking the green "Install" button. Uninstalling is just as easy - just click "Remove" and the app is gone.
System updates are equally easy, and can happen automatically if you wish, so you always have the latest and greatest system.

Jolicloud also has some social networking features built right into the OS. When you log into Jolicloud, you can add buddies that are also Jolicloud users. I haven't played with the social features too much, but I'm interested to see where they take them.

I'm pleased to announce that My Writing Nook was accepted into the Jolicloud catalog, in the Office category. I installed it last night, was impressed with the results. I'm really pleased to see how well it integrates. When an app runs, Jolicloud gives it the entire screen, except for a thin menubar at the top. MWN looks really slick within this environment. It's truly uncluttered and distraction-free. Check it out:

The alpha release is currently invite-only. I have a few invite codes, so if you are interested in one, send me an email and I will be happy to send one your way. If you've got a netbook and you're unhappy with the OS it runs, I urge you to check out Jolicloud. If you're not brave enough to just blow away your current OS, you can run just boot and run Jolicloud right off a USB thumb drive.

Jolicloud has gotten me excited about using my netbook again.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bring it on, GQ!

I cannot put into words how satisfying it is to see something that I have built being used and enjoyed by so many people. The My Writing Nook iPhone app has been steadily rising in the rankings of the App Store, which has been amazing to watch.

It's already passed by the app made by the people of The Secret®, and now it's broken into the top 10 (in the Lifestyle paid category) and has got its sights set squarely on GQ. Look out GQ! We're coming for you!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Small update to My Writing Nook web app tonight

I deployed an update to the MWN web app this evening. If you look closely, you'll see that there is now a logout button in the toolbar.

I've also removed the Google AdSense ads and replaced them with ads from Project Wonderful. For some reason, AdSense couldn't seem to figure out what the site was about and displayed ads that were of no interest to the people visiting the site. The folks at Project Wonderful have come up with an interesting alternative, so I thought I'd give it a try. We'll see how it goes. I've left the AdSense ads on the blog because they seem to be fairly relevant to the content.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Writing Nook is "What's Hot"!

Just wanted to share some exciting news: yesterday, the My Writing Nook iPhone app was featured in the "What's Hot" section of the US App Store, putting it right there on the front page!

It's still there today, and MWN has climbed to the #22 spot in the top 100 paid apps in the Lifestyle category.

I shall now do a happy dance. :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

This is what the App Store feels like these days

Perhaps I am being a tad facetious, but this is what the App Store feels like these days. I think it's high time Apple added a new "Adult" category and forced all the 17+ rated apps into it.

But hey - as you can see, the My Writing Nook iPhone app managed to break into the top 100 paid apps in the Lifestyle category. I'm enjoying a nice boost from all the happy NaNoWriMo participants.