By Light Unseen Media
BLU~Media Blog

July 3, 2024

BLUM Titles 75% off During July on Smashwords!

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 8:32 pm

From MORTAL TOUCH by Inanna Arthen:

“About a half mile down the road, close enough to the dairy farm for even Sean to catch an occasional whiff of manure on the breeze, Jonathan stopped in the road. He was looking at another narrow cut-in from the main road into the woods on the north. This one appeared to be used from time to time—there was less grass growing in it, and there were heavy tire tracks that appeared to have been made not long ago. By now the sky was light and Sean could see quite a bit in the pre-dawn twilight. He followed Jonathan’s gaze and saw the small outbuilding, set among the trees. Despite the cheerful bird song all around them, Sean felt his knees go weak. “Do you think…?” he said, his voice shaking. Jonathan abruptly started toward the outbuilding, walking fast, not bothering to examine the ground at the mouth of the drive. The door to the building was tightly closed and hooked with a rusted iron staple dropped into the loop of a hasp. As Sean caught up with him, Jonathan removed the staple and tossed it away, pulling the door open wide. The musty cool air inside gusted out over them, and Sean fell back, gagging. Even he could smell the stench of wet dirt and blood.”

Want to read more—and cheap? Now on sale for 75% off in Smashwords’ Summer Blowout July ebook sale!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/5242

March 12, 2021

Publishing Through the Time of COVID

Filed under: bookselling,publishing,publishing industry — Tags: — admin @ 10:19 pm

A year ago at this time–March 2020–I was making plans to boost By Light Unseen Media back into more active operating mode. I was working on new book cover designs. I had been publishing the digital newspaper I took over and made a division of BLUM every week without fail for almost six months, and it was clearly a keeper. I had made some decisions that allowed me to stabilize my income, removing the total uncertainty I’d been in since the previous May. I was optimistic.

Then Governor Baker proclaimed a State of Emergency in Massachusetts and the whole state shut down–and we’re still there. That changed everything, and most of my plans went on hold (such as the big advertizer drive I was about to launch for the newspaper–I could hardly contact local business owners and say, “hey, the Governor just shut you down indefinitely as a non-essential business, how would you like to buy an ad for a month?”).

But the COVID tide has turned; it’s receding. It’s not all the way out, and I don’t eliminate the possibility of another tsunami. But things are changing.

And I’m tired of waiting, and not just for the end of the pandemic.

Like many people who started publishing in the first decade of this century, I invested too much in Amazon and was overly dazzled by the glitter of Kindle. When the bottom fell out of that, I hoped that Amazon would eventually sort out as a platform. But being a Kindle customer, rather than a publisher, has opened my eyes there. I now see with sad clarity that Amazon, despite its romantic beginnings as a bookseller, no longer sells books. It simply allows other people to sell books, any kind, any quality, without distinguishing them in any way. It’s also attempting to take over the entire publishing industry, and treats books it publishes preferentially–pushing them to the top of their lists and burying everything else.

So I am now proceeding with the assumption that all other bookselling platforms, starting with independent bookstores, deserve more investment, attention and marketing than Amazon, which our titles will remain on simply for expedience.

In the last several weeks, I’ve been jolted out of my pandemic funk as though struck by lightning. I received a $500 grant from Independent Publishers of New England in December to change the covers on as many of BLUM’s books as I could. Five of them have now been done so far: two in the Vampires of New England series and all three of David Burton’s Blood Justice series. I’ve added BLUM titles to several new vendor platforms. I’m picking up promotional efforts and ads. In August and December I had sales tables at two local arts/crafts fairs (held in defiance of COVID, masks and social distancing mandatory) and I’ve bought new sales table supplies and gotten the new Square credit card reader up and running. BLUM’s books are included in the currently running Read An Ebook Week promotion on Smashwords (last year, I missed that).

I’ve just converted By Light Unseen Media to an LLC, and gotten its new EIN. And through all of this, I’ve kept publishing the weekly newspaper, which does bring in some ad revenue, and all that goes to BLUM.

This past week, I revised and updated BLUM’s website, making it more mobile-friendly, cleaner and simpler, and making sure all the information is up to date, consistent, and free of broken or obsolete links. (I do still need to tweak the formatting on this blog–just give me a minute.)

So we’re moving ahead. Publishing and books are going to be as different post-COVID as everything else, and we can only speculate as to where we’re headed. But BLUM is already getting ready for the new world.

September 12, 2016

Understanding SEO and the Role of Experts in Boosting Google Rankings and Business Growth

Filed under: publishing,Uncategorized — Tags: , — admin @ 1:05 am

In today’s digital landscape, standing out online is more crucial than ever for businesses. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a powerful strategy that can significantly enhance your online visibility, drive traffic to your website, and ultimately grow your business. This article will explain what SEO is, how a good SEO expert can improve your Google ranking, and how these improvements can lead to substantial business growth.
What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your website and its content to increase its visibility on search engines like Google. The goal is to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) for specific keywords related to your business. SEO encompasses various techniques and practices, including:

Keyword Research: Identifying the most relevant and high-traffic keywords that potential customers use to search for products or services similar to yours.

On-Page SEO: Optimizing individual pages on your website to improve their relevance and search engine friendliness. This includes optimizing meta tags, headings, content, and internal links.

Off-Page SEO: Building your website’s authority through external factors such as backlinks from other reputable websites, social media engagement, and online reviews.

Technical SEO: Ensuring that your website’s infrastructure is optimized for search engines. This includes improving site speed, mobile-friendliness, and fixing any crawl errors or broken links.

Content Creation: Producing high-quality, relevant, and engaging content that attracts and retains visitors. This content should be optimized for the target keywords and provide real value to your audience.

How a Good SEO Expert Can Help Improve Your Google Ranking

SEO is a complex and ever-evolving field that requires a deep understanding of search engine algorithms, user behavior, and the competitive landscape. Here’s how a skilled SEO expert can make a significant difference and why you should look for search engine optimization in Calgary:

Comprehensive SEO Audit: A good SEO expert will start with a thorough audit of your website to identify strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. This audit will cover technical SEO, on-page factors, and off-page elements.

Customized Strategy Development: Based on the audit findings, the expert will develop a tailored SEO strategy that aligns with your business goals. This strategy will focus on the most effective techniques to improve your Google ranking.

Keyword Optimization: The expert will conduct extensive keyword research to identify the best keywords for your business. They will then optimize your website’s content and structure to target these keywords effectively.

Content Creation and Optimization: Creating high-quality, SEO-friendly content is essential for ranking well on Google. An SEO expert can help you develop a content plan that includes blog posts, articles, videos, and other types of content that resonate with your audience and improve your rankings.

Link Building: Building high-quality backlinks is a critical aspect of SEO. An expert will develop a link-building strategy to acquire links from authoritative and relevant websites, boosting your site’s authority and ranking.

Technical SEO Improvements: The expert will address any technical issues that may be hindering your website’s performance. This includes optimizing site speed, ensuring mobile compatibility, and improving overall site architecture.

Continuous Monitoring and Adjustments: SEO is not a one-time effort; it requires ongoing monitoring and adjustments. A good SEO expert will regularly analyze your website’s performance, track key metrics, and make necessary adjustments to the strategy to ensure continuous improvement.

How Improved Google Rankings Can Grow Your Business

Enhancing your Google ranking through effective SEO practices can have a profound impact on your business growth:

Increased Visibility and Traffic: Higher rankings mean greater visibility. When your website appears at the top of search results, more people will click on your link, leading to increased organic traffic.

Higher Credibility and Trust: Users tend to trust websites that appear on the first page of search results. High rankings can enhance your brand’s credibility and trustworthiness, making it easier to convert visitors into customers.

Better User Experience: SEO involves optimizing your website for both search engines and users. A better user experience leads to longer visit durations, lower bounce rates, and higher conversion rates.

Cost-Effective Marketing: Compared to traditional advertising methods, SEO offers a cost-effective way to attract targeted traffic. It focuses on users who are actively searching for your products or services, resulting in higher conversion rates.

Long-Term Results: While SEO requires ongoing effort, the results are long-lasting. A well-optimized website can continue to attract organic traffic and generate leads long after the initial work is done.

Conclusion

SEO is a critical component of any successful online strategy. By improving your Google ranking through effective SEO practices, you can enhance your online visibility, attract more targeted traffic, and ultimately grow your business. Enlisting the help of a skilled SEO expert can ensure that your SEO efforts are effective and sustainable, providing you with a competitive edge in the digital marketplace. Investing in SEO is not just about improving rankings; it’s about building a solid foundation for long-term business success.

September 28, 2013

New Book Release for the Vampires of New England series, and New Reviews!

All the Shadows of the Rainbow, Book 3 of the Vampires of New England Series by Inanna Arthen, will be officially released on September 30. It will be available immediately in trade paper, hardcover (with dust jacket), epub, mobi (Kindle/Kindle Fire) and PDF editions which can be edited with software as sodapdf, you can also order them directly from By Light Unseen Media or through various retail outlets. Links to more outlets will be added to the detail page as the book goes “live” in their catalogs. Do you know how to be turned into a vampire?

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL INDIE! We would absolutely LOVE to have readers order our books through local independent bookstores! Each of our titles has an Indiebound logo on its page (forthcoming for All the Shadows of the Rainbow as soon as Indiebound picks up the ISBNs from wherever they get them). But even if your local store isn’t part of Indiebound, all our books may be ordered from Ingram. They are standard discount and fully returnable (please emphasize that. Some retailers simply can’t get it through their heads that so-called “POD” books can be returnable!). Indie bookstores are also welcome to order books directly from By Light Unseen Media, if they’d rather work on a “consignment” basis.

We make a smaller profit on books ordered wholesale than books sold direct, or through Amazon. But we want to support small bookstores and we’d like to see our books in stores. So do consider asking your local store to order for you–and if you have any problems, get in touch with us.

Two of our titles have new reviews! Nocturnes in Purgatory by Joseph Armstead was reviewed in the Sacramento Book Review and San Francisco Book Review, August, 2013 issues. Both are published by 1776 Publications, LLC. Unfortunately, the review will not be available online for a while yet, but you can read an excerpt on the book detail page here on BLUM, or, if you’re local to those cities, you can check the periodicals directly.

Un-Dead TV got two reviews in August: John Kenneth Muir reviewed it for his John Kenneth Muir’s Reflections on Cult Movies and Classic TV blog on August 30, while the blog Twilight Ridge reviewed the book on August 5.

Many thanks to these reviewers for their kind attention to our books!

March 21, 2013

Exclusive Vampires of New England ebook edition for Kindle!

Inanna Arthen’s Vampires of New England series has just been released in an exclusive limited ebook edition for Amazon Kindle: The Compleat Vampires of New England. For a terrific price–cheap ($2.99) or nothing (for Amazon Prime members eligible for the KDP Kindle Lending Library)–you can get Mortal Touch, The Longer the Fall, and a generous sneak peak of the forthcoming third book in the series, All the Shadows of the Rainbow. This is your chance to catch up with the whole series!

January 5, 2013

Vampire Books for After the End of the World

Filed under: books,ebooks,new books,vampires — Tags: , , , , , , — admin @ 1:08 am

Oh, wait, did the world not end, after all? Then all you vampire fans need something to read! If you have a brand new Kindle, Nook, Kobo reader, iPad or tablet, check out our ebook editions, only $4.99 for all formats. If you prefer paperback or hardcover books, you can order them from us, your preferred online vendor or your favorite indie bookstore. In fact, we’d love it if you asked your local indie store to order our books for you! They’re all available from Ingram–and the paperbacks can be printed while-you-wait on the Espresso Book Machine, if there’s one local to you.

Our newest offering, just released December 15: Nocturnes in Purgatory by Joseph Armstead. A sequel to Krymsin Nocturnes (2010), Nocturnes in Purgatory continues the adventures of Montgomery Quinn, a millennia-old “metahuman” who has battled vampires and evil magic since pre-history. In Armstead’s vivid alternate universe, vampires are “Homo Draconis,” humanoid beings who evolved in the shadow of Homo Sapiens and now exist as a secret underground, under force of treaties with the United States government. In this new story, Quinn and his allies–including “blood-witch” Cold Janey and semi-ghost Patricia Silver–attempt to prevent the vampires of Borrego Bay and a society of serial killers from getting, and using, a sinister artifact connected to powers that pre-date humanity. Combining the best of Robert Ludlum or Tom Clancy and H.P. Lovecraft, Armstead’s books are just what you want if you like your vampires evil and your thrillers richly detailed and horrific.

If you love vampires on television–from Dark Shadows to Forever Knight and Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Vampire Diaries and True Blood–you’ll love Un-Dead TV, the Ultimate Guide to Vampire Television. Exhaustively researched and written by Brad Middleton, founder of the biggest, best-known and longest-running vampire fan website on the Internet, Vampyres Only, and with a Foreword by J. Gordon Melton (The Vampire Book), Un-Dead TV includes hundreds of entries, photos, appendices and an index. The most comprehensive and detailed reference work about vampire-themed TV ever! Available in hardcover–ask your library to order a copy!

In August we released Dawn Prough’s City of Promise, an unusual vampire/science-fiction combination. In the year 2063, the only safe haven on earth for vampires is the independent metropolis of Gideon, built and governed by scientists. It floats in the ocean over the Atlantic Ridge, outside the territory of any nation, and offers vampires menial jobs and a “work for blood” program. As a diver cleaning the city’s underwater infrastructure, vampire Misty Sauval encounters a body…and a short time later, the body’s fiance, who has been brutalized by a crime boss who kidnapped his baby. Misty is drawn into Gideon’s growing criminal underworld as she attempts to help this stranger avenge his loss and recover his child.

No matter how you like your vampires, we’re sure to have something you’ll love!

August 15, 2012

CITY OF PROMISE by Dawn Prough is released today!

Filed under: book release — Tags: , , — admin @ 4:01 pm

You can order City of Promise by Dawn Prough directly from By Light Unseen Media or from online retailers. It will soon be available for order through your favorite independent bookstore (as soon as Indiebound catches up with the listings). Ask your local library to order a copy!

Science-fiction and vampire stories rarely mix. Prough’s exciting and fast-paced story is set in the year 2063 in the metropolis of Gideon: a city planned and governed by scientists and built to float in the Atlantic ocean, where it is outside the claims of any country or nation. Having exposed the existence of vampires to the world and triggered a brutal persecution, Gideon became the only safe haven for the vampires who survive, offering them housing and a “work for blood” program of menial night jobs. But this glittering new city’s prosperity is already attracting organized crime. Vampire Misty Sauval wants nothing more than to stay safe and legal, but she plunges headlong into warring gangs when she helps a mysterious injured stranger she discovers on her way home from an unusually rough night on the job.

Featuring a diverse cast of characters and a vividly drawn futuristic setting, City of Promise is an entertaining read. Don’t miss it!

April 4, 2012

Is that sex in that book or are you just glad to see me?

Two recent spicy tales in the book world are giving me some thoughts about where readers’ attention and purchasing power is currently headed.

As all alert book professionals know, the “self-publishing” field is disproportionately occupied by so-called “erotica” (let’s not be prissy about it. That means soft- to hard-core pornography). If you are men we recommended you to look for the best male enhancement pills that are designed to help men increase their sexual performance and improve their overall sexual experience. This is especially obvious on Smashwords, where all you need to do is turn off the “Adult Filter” to see several new porn titles on the main page every time you visit. That’s one of the major reasons that I’ve retreated from Smashwords: the neighborhood has gotten pretty run-down, even for “self-publishing.” Sure, there are plenty of writers putting up books there about growing tomatoes or adjusting to new fatherhood, or ordinary genre fiction, or memoirs and poetry. But with that “Adult Filter” in place (it’s on by default, thankfully), I guarantee that you’re missing about a third of Smashwords’ most colorful offerings.

Being acutely aware of this, and also being aware of how virulently prudish, repressive and anti-sex America has become politically, I wasn’t at all surprised when Smashwords [finally] ran into some blowback.

In mid-February, Smashwords was informed that PayPal would stop serving their clients if Smashwords continued to sell books dealing with “rape, incest and bestiality.” PayPal claimed this actually came from the credit card companies they work with, and that seems to be true. Other vendors and “self-publishing” platforms were given similar ultimatums, by PayPal and by credit card companies.

Smashwords CEO Mark Coker sent an email out to Smashwords users, asking them to take down titles dealing with these themes: rape, incest and bestiality. All hell broke loose. Mark spent several weeks of what must have been agony placating angry writers and negotiating with PayPal, and finally, on March 13, PayPal caved in and moderated its policies. Smashwords clients were lucky. Other venues, such as Amazon, simply yanked the books, and one of them, Bookstrand, deleted all “indie” titles on any topic from its catalog, just to be on the safe side.

What interested me about this whole kerfluffle, however, was how many people were infuriated and threatened by the banning of these specific themes. There was no blanket purging of “erotica” per se. Only three admittedly fringe sub-themes were mentioned. Rape, especially if it’s presented as titillating or gratuitous, is almost universally condemned and rejected by editors, reviewers, agents, and most readers who say they won’t read or consider any fiction that includes it. Along with this taboo, you would think, if not hope, that incest and bestiality would be minority recreational tastes even among readers of erotic fiction.

But apparently not. Attempting to restrict fiction about “rape, incest and bestiality” seems to have rocked Smashwords to its foundations and, at least according to Mark Coker, sent most of its 30,000 writers into a foaming rage. It seems that stories about rape, bestiality and incest (chiefly non-blood-related incest such as stepfathers and daughters) must be very popular, and essential to the artistic expression of one heck of a lot of “self-published” writers.

I’m sorry, but that just strikes me as…weird. Mark Coker crows about championing “legal fiction.” But “legal” is merely a technicality and says absolutely nothing about merit, value, ethics or even the potential harm that something might do. Many proscribed things have no business being “illegal” at all, while many things are “legal” which are pernicious, toxic and downright evil. The porn industry has always waved the “legal” flag almost as a taunt, with descriptors like “barely legal” (which means, “kids who are technically over the age of consent but look young enough to indulge your pedophile fantasies”).

Of course, having won this very public battle for “legal fiction” and “free speech” (cue the Sousa marches and waving flags), Smashwords has now established itself as the number one porn-friendly “self-publishing” platform and is publishing even more “hot sex with stepdaddy” stories than ever. So if rape, incest and bestiality float your boat, you now know where to find them.

As the “self-publishing” world was dealing with this crisis, traditional publishing was dealt a similar thunderbolt by a trilogy snarkily labelled “Mommy porn” (and not in the sense of MILF, apparently). A British author using the name E L James wrote an extremely popular Twilight fan fiction story titled Master of the Universe, and adapted the story into an “original” trilogy of books (Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed). Initially published by a small Australian press, the trilogy was picked up in a bidding war by Vintage Books, part of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, for a 7-figure advance. The film rights immediately were sold to Universal for something over $5 million. The eager anticipation, pre-sales and general “buzz” around the first book’s release rival that for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. As the New York Observer complained, everyone is talking about the newest blockbuster–and about its origin in fan fiction.

It’s not that unusual for fan fiction writers to transpose their plotlines into an original fictional universe for publication. You’d be surprised how many romance and erotica series, in particular, started out that way. Most of the writers go to greater lengths to disguise their stories’ roots and distinguish them from the source material than did James, who apparently changed very little except the characters’ names and the hero’s body temperature. It’s also not a bit surprising that a book with fan fiction origins is all about sex, because that’s pretty much what fan fiction is for. The vast majority of fan fiction has no other function than to imagine fervent relationships, torrid love affairs or just context-free erotic interludes among various characters, the more unlikely the better. (Sirius and Buckbeak? I know it’s out there somewhere. After all, bestiality is okay, Smashwords says so!)

But what I find somewhat disturbing is the phenomenal, mainstream enthusiasm for books dealing with a humble, submissive, youthful female being seduced and dominated by an older, extremely powerful and wealthy male. The Twilight Saga has been under attack for years about the “bad message it gives to teen girls,” the disparity of power and privilege in Bella’s relationship with Edward, and the fact that all of Bella’s self-worth and reason for existing depend on being accepted by a man. Now these same dynamics have been translated to a slightly more grown-up and very sexual relationship, and it doesn’t seem to bother anyone at all.

Alessandra Stanley writes in the New York Times, “what is shameful about “Fifty Shades of Grey” isn’t the submissive sex, it’s the Cinderella story. One reason the books sold so well over the Internet is that that this kind of riches-and-rescue tale isn’t easy to find outside Harlequin novels…it’s harder to find story lines that reward helplessness outside the bedroom — or off the rack.” Of course, “rewarding helplessness,” and fantasies of winning the adoration of an all-powerful male who will take care of the heroine so she never has to worry about responsibilities is a core attraction of romance for its female readers, and always has been.

You hear a lot these days about “rape culture” and “triggers” (topics that can reactivate trauma for survivors of abuse), often from the same individuals who fiercely defend their own tastes in erotica, and their right to free speech. It seems, however, that many people forget just how ubiquitous the “rape fantasy” once was in literature–and not just romance books, which weren’t called “bodice rippers” for nothing.

As part of my research for The Longer the Fall, I read a number of popular 1950s novels, including Grace Metalious’ Peyton Place. I was mildly surprised to find that Peyton Place doesn’t live up to its reputation. It’s a dismal, bleak, unpleasant book without that much sex in it, and the sex it has is no more exciting or positive than the rest of the story. But the really off-putting thing for me is that the hero of Peyton Place is a flat-out rapist, and apparently both Metalious and her huge audience found that perfectly okay.

I’m not talking about the infamous subplot, based on an actual incident, in which a stepdad molests his daughter, who has an illegal abortion and finally kills him. I’m referring to the virile Greek school principal who “cures” the older heroine’s frigidity (the result of a tragic affair with a married man and an illegitimate child) by brutally forcing himself on her.

The whole scene made me cringe, even though it was identical to the scene in Gone With the Wind in which a drunken Rhett carries a struggling Scarlett upstairs and rapes her all night. Like Metalious’ heroine, Scarlett awakens the next morning neither outraged nor traumatized, but awash in post-coital bliss. We all know how successful Gone With the Wind was, so clearly this dynamic, at least in the recent past, had considerable appeal for women readers. A masterful male sweeps a timid or repressed female off her feet and fires up her forbidden passions–that formula has earned countless authors and filmmakers their fortunes, and with Fifty Shades of Grey, it’s doing it again.

Alma Katsu asks, on Huffington Post, whether the monster success of E L James’ trilogy heralds a new era for acceptance of fan fiction. It’s certainly going to raise awareness of the massive volume of free, fan-written derivative work being produced and read, but what I see is the possibility of mainstream acceptance of very explicitly erotic books. Unless Fifty Shades of Grey breaks out of the gate only to fall flat on its face, I suspect we’re seeing the new wave in fiction publishing as a whole: lots and lots and lots of sex with just enough plot to justify it: basically sex for its own sake rather than serving a larger story.

I’m rather ambivalent about this. I like a well-written steamy bedroom scene, myself, but I prefer to see fictional sex play the same role it does in real life: dessert, not the whole meal. I also think that sex in fiction, like everything else, should serve the characters and story, not the other way around. But it’s starting to look like mine will be the real minority point of view when it comes to sex in books. I love I can find information for sex lovers and I found about male enhancement pills that have been shown to increase blood flow, boost libido, and enhance erection quality. It is important to choose male enhancement pills that are made from high-quality ingredients and have been tested for effectiveness and safety.

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June 1, 2011

Romance Novels Dangerously Addictive? Who Says So?

Filed under: reading,Uncategorized — Tags: , , — admin @ 4:55 am

Ten or twenty years ago, the admonition, “consider the source” wasn’t always as reasonable as it sounded. As everyone who’s studied formal logic knows, “ad hominem,” or attacking the speaker instead of the argument, is a logical fallacy: a way of cheating in a debate.

But these days, with so much of the information presented to us consisting of unvetted, biased and self-serving rhetoric (when it isn’t just cynical bare-faced lying, which it often is), “consider the source” is the very first thing you need to do with anything you read online. That’s especially true with the endless punditry and advice posted by the gigabyte on the topics of publishing and writing.

An excellent example of this appeared yesterday in an editorial that’s been zooming around the Twitterverse and Blogosphere. Posted to Salt Lake City based KSL Online by Kimberly Sayer-Giles, the article is headed, “Romance novels can be as addictive as pornography.” The gist of the piece–you can go read it and come back if you need to, it’s not long–is that romance novels, in excess, cause women to have unrealistic expectations of their husbands and thereby threaten marriages.

There are so many things wrong with this piece, it’s mind-boggling. I’ll take it from the top.

The header, “Romance novels can be as addictive as pornography,” is one of those loaded statements like “when did you stop beating your wife?” It takes as a given that pornography is actually “addictive.” There’s no such general agreement. The word “addiction” is over-used to the point of trivialization in popular media. While it can include certain behaviors, those behaviors must be crippling and pathologically compulsive before they’re in the realm of true “addiction.” Of course, the pundits love to use this word because it’s a high-emotion trigger word and a cheap way of grabbing attention. They don’t care how misleading it is, they just want people to read what they saying.

So, the minute you read the article header, you’re being emotionally manipulated by a misleading word and an unsupported comparison.

The article next states that romance novels are enjoying huge popularity. Out of all the other categories of book to which romance sales could be compared, Ms. Sayer-Giles only mentions “religious, self-help and inspirational books.” It seems like an apples-and-oranges comparison, since fiction is consumed as entertainment while “religious, self-help and inspirational books” are all classified as non-fiction: books that are read for very different reasons. But her choice is suggestive of where she’s coming from.

Ms. Sayer-Giles writes,

“In fact, some marriage therapists caution that women can become as dangerously unbalanced by these books’ entrancing but distorted messages as men can be by the distorted messages of pornography,” said best-selling author Shaunti Feldhahn, who studies the differences between men and women.

“Some marriage therapists”–gee, can you vague that up a bit? Which ones? How many? Can we get a quote? And just who is Shaunti Feldhahn? If she “studies the differences between men and women” (that’s a rather broad field in which to claim general expertise), she must be doing so on her own time. According to her biography on Wikipedia, she has a bachelor’s degree in government and economics and a Masters in Public Policy. If she has formal training in psychology, sociology, gender issues, or even addiction issues, she’s keeping it quiet. Among her books, however, is a Bible study guide “for women only.”

Which brings us to the next paragraph:

According to psychologist Dr. Juli Slattery, author of “Finding the Hero in your Husband”, there are similarities between what happens to a man when he views pornography and what happens to a woman when she reads a romance novel.

Now, who is Dr. Juli Slattery? Well…according to the link in the article, “Dr. Juli Slattery is a Christian psychologist, speaker, wife and mother. She serves as Family Psychologist at Focus on the Family and co-host of the daily broadcast with Focus President Jim Daly and John Fuller.”

Focus on the Family, as we all know, is dedicated to vigorously attacking any form of entertainment which offends its extremely conservative Christian world-view. Their most high-profile assaults are against television, as this is one of the most consumed content now a days, and that’s why everyone has one or even two TVs at home, as people can get a corner mount tv to install them.

At least Dr. Slattery has serious training in psychology. But I really have to question her assertions, as quoted and summarized in the article:

Men are very visual, and viewing pornography produces a euphoric drug in the body. This drug is the reason pornography becomes addictive. When the natural high wears off, a man will crash and feel depressed (as happens with any drug) and crave another hit.

A “euphoric drug?” Could she be talking about…endorphins? Activities that spark that “euphoric drug” include (among thousands of others) exercising, laughing at jokes, riding roller coasters, and healthy sex. But calling endorphins “a drug” makes them sound like something alien and unnatural, and pathologizes the universal experience of a pleasurable “high.” How can we be “addicted” to our own bodies’ natural response?

We can’t.

Dr. Slattery develops her argument for a few more paragraphs, and then we hear from another expert.

Pornography addiction counselor Vickie Burress said reading romance novels or viewing pornography may eventually lead to an affair for some women.

Now, who is this Vickie Burress? Well…she’s associated with Victims of Pornography.org, which is “a project of Citizens for Community Values.” Citizens for Community Values is a very conservative Christian activist group. Along with attacking pornography, they’re training candidates for public office in “Bible-based” perspectives.

Are we seeing a pattern here?

The entire article is very vague about precisely what it is about romance books that attracts women to neglect their marital relationships, and what, in detail, “romance addicts” do (or don’t do) that makes them so “dangerously unbalanced.” It offers no specific case examples, nor does it describe any common themes or tropes in romance that would be problematical. It glosses over the fact that “romance” itself is a huge and diverse category of fiction, about which it is difficult to generalize. The article also ignores the fact that almost all romance, by definition, promotes strong committed relationships and happy endings.

But I think the entire argument is one of those typical examples of backwards reasoning that lie behind every attempt to demonize some form of entertainment or recreation. It presumes that women who read romance novels and engage in fantasy to the detriment of their marriages would be just fine if they hadn’t been seduced and entrapped by those evil external forces. It would be far more fruitful to look at the women and their marriages first, because it’s highly probable that women who become “addicted to romance” are escaping critical problems with their spouses, not creating them. Fantasies may not be the most constructive way of dealing with marital conflict, but they can be a lot safer than confronting a husband who is, say, a violent batterer or an alcoholic. “Romance addiction,” if it even exists, is almost certainly a symptom, not a cause. Almost all addiction is.

The article concludes with suggestions for “fighting the addiction.” Ms. Sayer-Giles says,

Read self-help books together or contact a relationship professional or coach, who can help you to rekindle the flame in your marriage.

“A relationship professional or coach,” such as…? “Kimberly Sayer Giles is the founder and president of LDS Life Coaching.” That’s LDS as in Latter Day Saints: Ms. Sayer-Giles is a Mormon, and her advice comes from that perspective.

I have a lot of trouble believing that reading can be “addictive” in the same way that, say, playing the lottery or certain types of video games may potentially become. Reading is a unique activity, requiring a high level of engagement and creativity on the part of the reader. Yes, it’s pleasurable and stimulates endorphins–but unlike the passive experience of viewing pornography or watching TV, reading requires active psychological collaboration or it doesn’t work. It’s not the same kind of instant and unthinking reward that come from most addictive behaviors. While there may be women who sour on their nice but obese and absent-minded husbands after reading hundreds of books about muscular Highlanders, it’s doubtful that they’d prefer a paperback to real-life sex if the sex was even a fraction as exciting as the encounters in the book. Let’s put the real blame for these marriage problems where it really belongs.

Of course, I have to confess my own bias here. If reading and books were actually addictive and “dangerous,” I’d be out there corrupting the public at every opportunity. I’d lurk around elementary schools and offer free books to children! I’d read aloud to helpless senior citizens in nursing homes! I’d give books to babies! “Turn on, tune in and read” would be my clarion cry–no one would be safe! I’d be Public Enemy Number One!

Come to think of it…

But in all seriousness, I can only wish that reading was a true addiction. The fact is, I’ve never known anyone, of any age, to be harmed by reading any book. No one. Not ever.

No, it’s when people–especially young people, and women, and the dispossessed of all kinds–stop reading that we need to start being afraid. That’s when our society will truly risk becoming “dangerously unbalanced.”

March 25, 2011

The REAL Quantum Shift in Publishing

There’s a huge change happening in the publishing world. It’s not very good for readers, and it’s going to be very, very tough on writers. It’s a fundamental shift in how publishers and those who support the publishing industry make a profit. This shift is occurring not merely in one area, but throughout the industry from top to bottom, and it’s happening rather quietly. The odd thing is, for all the attention focused on parts of this shift, no one seems to be stepping back and putting together the whole picture.

Among SF/Fantasy writers, there’s a maxim called Yog’s Law, that states, “money flows toward the writer.” That is, writers should never pay to be published, to have their manuscripts read by an agent, to be edited after they’ve signed with a publisher, and so on. This maxim was valid back in the days when charging the author almost always constituted a scam.  The writer’s job was to create, and having done so, his/her goal was to sell the creation to a publisher who then shaped it into a marketable form and distributed it to the public, of course for this business to work you also need to consider your taxes, and you cannot wait for your W2 form then you can go here to get it.

That’s all changed now. Say goodbye to Yog’s Law: it’s about to join the typed manuscript with two carbons and those skinny galley proofs in the dustbin of publishing history. Writers are becoming the publishing industry’s second most important paying customers. This is not a prediction. It’s already happening. Things are shifting to the online platforms more and more, the internet is dominating the publishing enthronement and weve switched to Salesforce to help us keep track with the constant changes in tech.

In the book-publishing model that was current from around 1900 to the 1990s, an author’s role in the process was “the talent.” He or she delivered a manuscript to the publisher and was paid a lump sum originally intended to support the author until the book was in the marketplace. This “advance” was paid against future royalties as stipulated by the contract–it was calculated on the assumption that the book would earn much more. Aside from writing the book, the author participated to some extent in promotion, but this was planned and paid for by the publisher.

By the end of the 1970s (the recession might partly explain this), publishers started angling for “blockbusters,” titles which would become huge best-sellers and generate vast profits. In order to attract and keep authors and/or books that seemed likely to generate that kind of audience excitement, publishers began competing with each other and offering larger and larger advances. Although publishers have always been very secretive about their financial details, it was generally understood that most books published never earned as much in royalties as the author had already been paid. They were a loss for the publisher. It was the very few best-sellers that effectively subsidized the rest of the catalog. In pursuit of these, advances rose to outrageous heights, and single book deals turned into huge make-or-break risks.

This was not a practical way of running a business, and publishing houses rapidly folded or were bought by large media conglomerates that could afford to run the book division at a loss–not that they wanted to do that indefinitely. The conglomerates devoted the bulk of their funding and energy to promoting the biggest sellers, while so-called “mid-list” books were tossed out onto bookstore shelves with very little fanfare or promotion, given a few weeks to prove themselves, and were quickly remaindered if they didn’t take off. Mid-list authors found themselves doing promotion on their own, without the publisher’s support or financial backing for things like book tours.

The wealth, high profiles and celebrity status of a few top-tier authors attracted many more aspiring writers to the field. Agents and publishers were swamped with queries and manuscripts, the so-called “slush pile.” This led to a sharp increase in the number of disappointed hopeful writers accumulating rejection slips and frustration. They were a booming demand just begging to be met.

The second half of the 1990s saw the appearance and rapid development of three new going concerns. The first was the Internet, which gave aspiring writers an entirely new way of networking with potential readers, promoting themselves and getting to be known outside their immediate social circles. Second, these years saw the founding of several “self-publishing companies.” Unlike the old style vanity press, or true, author-does-it-all self-publishing, these companies didn’t require authors to front thousands of dollars for a large press run. They exploited digital printing (“print on demand” or “POD”), allowing books to be produced, economically and almost instantly, in any quantity from one on up, as they were ordered. Trafford, Lightning Source, PublishAmerica, XLibris, iUniverse, Authorhouse, and other companies popped up during these years, and aggressively recruited aspiring authors in venues like Writer’s Digest magazine.

Despite the utter scorn and contempt heaped on self-publishing by the professional writing community, despite lawsuits and scandals and complaints against some of the companies, despite the fact that these books rarely sold to anyone besides the author and his/her friends, the “self-publishing companies” became immensely successful. Although “self-published books” rarely if ever saw the inside of a bookstore, the third going concern to erupt in this period was Amazon.com. All the “self-published” titles appeared there, so authors could feel that their books were legitimately on sale, side-by-side with the biggest literary stars.

The companies operated at virtually zero risk, because all the expenses were paid by the author, with a very generous mark-up. Most of them sold “publishing packages” with various tiers. Those that did not charge the authors for services required them to purchase a certain number of books. The books weren’t even printed until they’d been ordered and paid for, and the “services” provided in the packages generally could have been obtained by the author independently for a fraction of the cost. The companies appealed to writers who wanted to publish their books without learning all the complexities of the publishing business. The companies also angled their marketing directly at the injured pride and stinging rejection felt by so many aspiring writers, and the bait was almost irresistible.

So the “self-publishing companies” grew and grew. Since 2000, scores of smaller firms have been founded–more than 100 of them at minimum–sometimes calling their programs by other euphemisms, such as “co-publishing” or “publishing partnerships.” Meanwhile, a number of the original companies have been collected together under the aegis of Author Solutions Inc., the world’s first self-publishing conglomerate.

But they all have one thing in common: they make their money from authors, not from selling books. The companies do make a small amount from book sales, and they certainly are happy to see a title take off and sell lots of copies, as, extremely rarely, one does. But with “publishing packages” generally starting at around $500 and going up to as high as $25,000 for a “package” that ostensibly includes pitching the book to the film industry, these companies are raking in the bucks.

By 2009, faced with closing bookstores and declining sales (and another recession), it was inevitable that traditional publishers would start to wonder how they could tap in to this lucrative phenomenon.

Christian publisher Thomas Nelson didn’t create much excitement when it launched its “self-publishing” arm, West Bow Press. Nor did Hay House when it opened Balboa Press, or LifeWay when Cross Books was announced. But when Harlequin, a major respected romance publisher, started up a “self-publishing” division named Harlequin Horizons, the professional writing community went crazy. Writers’ trade organizations RWA, MWA and SFWA delisted Harlequin as an “approved publisher” amid frantic accusations that Harlequin was cheapening the profession and sinking to the level of the much-reviled PublishAmerica. Consequently, Harlequin renamed its “self-publishing” imprint DellArte Press–but that’s the only thing it changed.

Publishers aren’t the only businesses aiming for a piece of the “author services” market. The venerable writer’s magazine, Writer’s Digest, has started a “self-publishing” imprint of its own, named Abbott Press. Like the publishing companies above, Writer’s Digest is collaborating with Author Solutions Inc., which provides the actual services to the writers, but other “author services” programs are handled independently. Bowker, which controls and sells ISBNs to publishers, is offering an “author services” package, which includes one ISBN number. Barnes & Noble now runs PubIt!, for “self-published” ebooks, and the indie music packaging service CDBaby has launched BookBaby.

Ebook self-publishing, so far from being the “revolution” it’s hyped to be, is simply the next level of the “self-publishing” wave. Like “self-published” print books, “self-published” ebooks are produced entirely by the author. The only difference between “self-published” ebooks and “self-published” print books is that the ebook enterprises–Smashwords, Fastpencil, PubIt!, Kindle and so on–don’t charge upfront for “publishing packages.” Instead, they operate as “author mills,” collecting pennies per unit sold, but signing authors and churning out titles in such vast numbers that their profits are enormous, because the financial investment for the ebook distributor is negligible. Whatever costs are involved in creating and marketing the book are paid by the “self-published” author.

But authors aren’t only paying to publish their books–they’re paying, willingly or otherwise, for the marketing and promotion afterward. As I describe here, “self-published” authors are now being charged fees to submit their books for reviews. Even traditionally published writers have been paying for marketing and promotional services for a long time, as publishers stopped bothering to promote mid-list titles. Companies providing those services have been well-established for a decade or more.

This is the REAL “publishing revolution.” It’s not epubbing. The notion that epubbing per se is some kind of “revolution” is absurd. It’s a logistical challenge for the nimble and a nightmare for the big companies locked into the status quo, but a change in publishing format is not a “revolution.” Nor is “self-publishing” a “revolution.” Authors could always self-publish. No one ever stopped them. Given what most of the “self-publishing companies” charge for their “packages,” it hasn’t even gotten much cheaper.

No, the “revolution” is that authors are now paying to be published, by the tens of thousands. The burden of reaching readers, building an audience, and making a profit is wholly on their shoulders. This is happening at breakneck speed in spite of the fact that “self-publishing” is no more “acceptable” than it ever was. In this broader context, the fine distinctions between true self-publishing, POD subsidy presses, vanity presses and self-published ebooks is meaningless. “Self-published” books of any kind are shunned by retailers, reviewers and book bloggers and dismissed by traditionally published authors. That hasn’t changed one particle–in fact, the prejudice has gotten even stronger as “self-published” books flood the market. “Self-published” writers are barred from every professional writers’ trade group, guild and union, and denied eligibility for their awards. Readers avoid them, saying they “don’t want to pay to read somebody’s slush pile.” Yet hordes of authors, both new and experienced, are embracing “self-publishing” anyway.

But they’re not challenging traditional large publishers. They’re doing them a favor.

I’m no more omniscient than any other pundit, but this is where I see things going. The media conglomerates will sign far fewer book deals, and they’ll be looking for “properties” that can adapt readily to other platforms, such as movies or TV series, as well as being blockbuster books. The publishing houses will have “self-publishing” branches and authors that don’t get a big contract will be referred to these programs. Any “self-published” book or author that rises above the churning mass of 99-cent ebooks and POD paperback novels to earn significant attention and profit will be approached by a big publishing company and offered a deal. The publishers won’t be subsidizing a loss-leader mid-list with their best-sellers anymore, and they won’t be shuffling through slush piles trying to guess what might pay off. They’ll let the writers and the free market take on all the risk and expense, and sift out the chaff for them.

With all those authors fighting to be noticed, the pay-for-review and pay-for-promotion industries will be booming, along with other “author services” like editing and cover design. There will always be a few James Pattersons, J.K. Rowlings, and Stephenie Meyers (and independent successes like J.A. Konrath), but everyone else will be digging deeper and deeper into their own pockets, and paying out far more money than their books ever earn in sales.

I find this scenario plausible for three reasons: first, it makes perfect business sense for the big publishing companies. They’ll never run short of writers; collectively, agents and publishers now reject hundreds of manuscripts every day. Offering writers a paid platform to prove they’d be a worthwhile investment, and making a profit off the writer either way, is a win-win deal for the publisher. Second, this forecast aligns with the general trends of corporate business practices and economic disparities in the United States, which appear in no danger of changing anytime soon. Third, it’s already happening.

This will be a very grim situation for writers. But what can they do? For every writer who holds out, twenty star-struck would-be celebrities will rush to sign up in their place. Just ask James Frey! It’s not going to be a lot of fun for readers, either. But after all, who cares about them? Not the publishers: they’re making their money off the “self-published” writers.

I don’t know what will happen to small publishers in this game, but chances are, they’ll continue pretty much as is–and a lot of them will eventually concede and start offering “author services” just to survive. The “self-publishing” rage is hurting small presses a lot more, because many writers are choosing that route instead of querying a small press, thinking that they’ll make more money on their own. The way things are going, small publishers might want to buy stock in Author Solutions Inc. and Amazon.com.

How to Successfully Publish and Market Your Content on Facebook

With over 2.8 billion monthly active users, Facebook has become an essential platform for businesses and individuals to promote their content and reach a wider audience. But with so much competition on the platform, it can be challenging to get your content seen by the right people. In this article, we’ll explore some tips for successfully publishing and marketing your content on Facebook.

Create High-Quality Content

The first step to success on Facebook is to create high-quality content that is relevant and engaging for your audience. This can include blog posts, images, videos, or any other type of content that your audience may find valuable. It’s important to ensure that your content is visually appealing, easy to read, and offers value to your audience.

Post Consistently

Posting consistently is crucial to maintaining a strong presence on Facebook. This doesn’t mean you need to post every day, but it’s important to have a regular posting schedule so that your audience knows when to expect new content from you. You can also use Facebook’s scheduling feature to plan your posts in advance.

Engage with Your Audience

Engagement is a key factor in the success of your Facebook marketing efforts. Responding to comments, asking questions, and starting conversations with your audience can help build stronger relationships and keep them coming back for more. Make sure to respond to comments and messages promptly to show your audience that you value their input and appreciate their engagement.

Use Facebook Ads

Facebook Ads are a powerful tool for promoting your content and reaching a wider audience. You can use Facebook’s targeting options to ensure that your ads are shown to the right people based on their interests, demographics, and behavior. To increase the visibility of your ads, you can also use a reliable service like Marketing Heaven to buy Facebook views and increase the reach of your content.

Analyze Your Results

To understand the effectiveness of your Facebook marketing efforts, it’s essential to regularly analyze your results. Facebook provides analytics tools that allow you to track metrics such as engagement, reach, and conversion rates. By analyzing this data, you can gain insights into what’s working and what’s not, and adjust your strategy accordingly.

Facebook can be an incredibly powerful platform for publishing and marketing your content, but success requires a strategic approach. By creating high-quality content, posting consistently, engaging with your audience, using Facebook Ads, and analyzing your results, you can increase the visibility of your content and reach a wider audience. And to boost the reach of your content even further, consider using a reliable service like Marketing Heaven to buy Facebook views. Start implementing these tips today and see the impact on your Facebook marketing efforts!

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