netkingcol

thinking outside the tank

Posts Tagged ‘business

Smashwords doesn’t suck after all – it is I

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I asked the question recently: Will Smashwords suck? I thought they were slow to respond to my request for support.

It had been a week since my email to them and I hadn’t heard anything. I was about to post a new blog entry to the effect that they certainly would suck if they didn’t reply soon. Before hitting SEND, I thought I’d better check my remote mail server that acts as my first line of defence against spam. Sure enough – oops – there were two very timely responses to my emails in the mailbox; they simply hadn’t been forwarded to the mailbox I normally use.

Conclusion: Smashwords are fine and I receive my doctorate in sucking (summa cum laude) next week.

It looks as though Smashwords are uploading books at a great rate. This has the effect that one’s own work is very soon difficult to notice as it slips down the initial date-related presentation.

The online book industry badly needs trusted reviewers to help people find their way among the rapidly growing quantity and highly variable quality of ebooks.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2009

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Written by netkingcol

December 12, 2009 at 10:51 am

First impressions of Smashwords

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Yesterday I went through the process of publishing my story Mus musicus as an ebook on Smashwords. I’d read about them from my LinkedIn group ‘Tools of Change for Publishing’, which drew attention to their recent acquisition of the New Zealand-based digital book publisher BookHabit.

Smashwords Registration
The registration process was straightforward, requiring minimal initial details. This is followed by the arrival of an activation email to prove ownership of the email address.

Once logged in I was able to change a wide range of information about me and my account: personal profile, how I want to be contacted, how I want to be paid (most interesting), how much of my royalty do I want to share with affiliate members etc.  Most of these I’ve only just started to explore.

Read the Style Guide
The first thing you need to do is to read the Smashwords Style Guide which tells you how to prepare your ebook for submission. Essentially, you need to simplify your text in terms of its formatting and layout. The point is that ebooks don’t have page layout; the devices on which they are read need to be able to flow the text smoothly, screen by screen, and since these devices have screens that range in size from the largest computer monitor down to the smallest mobile phone, you can’t impose a page size on your book. It’s the same separation of content from presentation that makes CSS and XML so valuable.

The benefit you get from this is that Smashwords can deliver your text in the widest range of formats, making it available to the largest number of potential readers. The downside is that it’s advisable to keep a separate copy of the work if you want to preserve formatting for distribution through other channels. Editing multiple source documents is a nightmare. If I felt that Smashwords were the place to be then I would write new stories with the Style Guide in mind in order to minimise the rework. Mus musicus is about 25,000 words; I wouldn’t want to start from scratch preparing The Lord of the Rings. Read the rest of this entry »

Authonomy – valuable feedback or a distraction from writing?

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After only five days using HarperCollins’ Authonomy website I’m reviewing whether or not I should continue. The site allows authors, editors, publishers, and people who simply like to read, to view and comment on the books that have been uploaded. There is a system of ranking both the books and the commentators. Books that are backed by others move up the rankings; books that climb the rankings improve the Talent Spotter ranking of those who backed them.

There are many games to play on Authonomy to get your book backed. The first task is to get people even to look at it – as with everything online getting eyes looking at your stuff is vital. 

  • You can send messages to other members inviting them to read your book, often with the promise of reading their book, the so-called ‘swap read’.
  • You can find books, read all or part of them, and then write comments to the author, hopefully constructive ones, in the hope you will prick their conscience into looking at your work.
  • You can be an active forum participant. Eventually people will click on  your profile to find out more about you and from there they will see your book.
  • You can write the most brilliant, beautifully crafted story and rely on its intrinsic quality to get unequivocal support from the Authonomy community (I haven’t tried this one yet).
  • You can blatantly offer to swap ‘backings’ without even reading the other person’s book.

And all for what? At the end of each month, the top five books go before a HarperCollins editorial review board. Beyond that is the hope that after much rework your book might actually be published. Read the rest of this entry »

Quantitative Easing and Not For Profit – The Perfect Match

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So, throwing taxpayers’ money at the banks didn’t work. We saved them, admittedly out of necessity, but they still don’t feel like reciprocating by releasing some of those billions to the real economy in the form of loans, overdrafts, and mortgages. You can’t really blame them; they share the same fears as everyone else – while the economy is in recession houses, jobs, and savings are at risk. But, if they don’t want to be part of the solution, I suggest that we ignore them – and don’t give them any more money.

The main problem in the economy is the supply of money. In normal times making money cheaper by lowering the interest rate is the tool of choice to stimulate the economy, and by and large is the only tool you need. But these are not normal times. The cost of money is lower than ever, but you can’t wheedle any out of the banks. The next tactic that might be tried is called ‘quantitative easing’. We musn’t call it ‘printing money’ in case people go to their garden sheds to service the wheelbarrows they would need to carry the money about. It won’t be real money; it will be money given, again, to the banks to pad their balance sheets in the hope that this time they’ll do the decent thing. Fat chance.

We need more money circulating in the economy and the confidence to spend it. Here’s my suggestion:

target the quantitative easing on the not-for-profit sector

This would have several beneficial effects. The beauty of charities is that they are very keen to spend the money they receive; it would go straight into the economy. Charities buy goods and services and they provide employment; they pay for research, direct aid, helplines, field-workers, and much more. Even better, rather than creating wealth they create well-being. They spend their cash working hard to solve fundamental social and medical problems, and they are very effective drivers of social change. So, instead of priming the banking pump, again, why not open the flood-gates of not-for-profit spending? A mere £10 billion, a trifling sum compared to the trillions glibly quoted in the media, would be a good start.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst 2009

Written by netkingcol

February 5, 2009 at 11:33 am

How’s your strategy? Does your business have VIM?

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The Value Influence Model (VIM) is a tool to help your business understand its current strategic position. If you want to survive and grow you have to know what kind of shape you’re in, what’s going on around you, and know whether you have the right resources – skills, machines, information – for future operations.

There’s a whole raft (no, a Titanic) of strategic analysis tools out there, so one should hesitate before burdening the hard-pressed manager with another. The Value Influence Model is slightly different in that it encourages, even requires, you to perform those other analyses and then offers a different, more powerful way to view the results. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by netkingcol

January 17, 2009 at 7:59 pm

Short selling is back – some say it never went away

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Short-sellers in the stock market are back in business and Barclays was the first target. I think I understand how short-selling works and how it is supposed to enhance market efficiency by driving assets to their true value.

It wouldn’t work quite so well if the other short-sellers, those who were not prevented from trading, had not been so very active over the last five months. I refer to the media whose peddling of gloom is unrelenting.

To some extent the short-sellers will thrive on the self-fulfilling forecasts of rising unemployment, falling house prices, and business failures. I don’t even want to repeat the numbers. I strongly believe that at this point of the economic cycle the media should restrict themselves to delivering news i.e. things that have actually happened, and to keep to themselves the unreliable, uncertain forecasts that look good as headlines but do no service to the economy.

Copyright © C.Hazlehurst 2009

Written by netkingcol

January 17, 2009 at 11:21 am

Exciting times ahead – defining the new economy

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Do you remember how Sarah in the film Labyrinth has to cross the Bog of Eternal Stench by leaping from one stepping stone to the next, and each stone starts to sink as she lands on it? 

It’s the same with the UK economy. Industrialised Britain petered out during previous recessions and the noises from Jaguar and Land Rover are the last few sucking sounds as manufacturing sinks, almost, without trace. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by netkingcol

January 15, 2009 at 8:39 pm

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