Saturday, May 25, 2013

Amazon to launch fanfiction platform

Fan fic on the kindle? Critics of the idea of "pulled to publish" fanfiction will probably have a lot to say about this.

Recently Amazon announced that they're opening up a new publishing platform Kindle Worlds. The platform would enable fanfiction authors to publish their works for a profit without having to actually change anything in the works themselves, supposedly. All with the approval of the publisher/company that owns the rights to the books or shows in question. Of course the author won't get the lion's share of the money charged per book. Authors of longer works (10,000+ words) will receive 35% of the price for their books while ones who have written less than 10,000 words will only get 20%. According to Entertainment Weekly, the pricing will be between 99 cents and $3.99.

So far only one company has decided to play ball with this new format, Warner Bros, and only for three very  specific book turned television show series: Gossip Girls, The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars. This limits the amount of fanfiction that can be published, as not everyone wants to write fanfiction for these shows, but it'd be interesting to see if any other companies would come aboard if this does well.

There isn't a set time as to when this will drop, but I'm of mixed emotions about this. There's no doubt that some fanfiction authors work very, very hard at what they do and put a lot of time and effort into ensuring that their specific works stick to canon or if not, would read as believable to their audience. Part of me thinks that there's nothing wrong with rewarding them by giving them money in a format that has the approval of the official copyright holders.

Then again, part of me is a little antsy about this because for some reason this just seems a little well, wrong. One of the core things about fanfiction is that it's written by fans, for fans for free. Technically there's nothing against the law about charging for fanfiction if the publisher has signed up for fanfics to specifically be published for profit. I can't even say anything about the very real inevitability about someone putting out a work that's not even worth ten cents, because we already get this with both self-publishing and the mainstream publishing world.

So I can't quite put my finger on why this bothers me so much. Maybe there's just a worry about this going from someone exploring their love for a show/book/movie to where it turns solely into something they're doing for profit. Or maybe I'm just afraid that people will only publish fanfiction and not create their own worlds. Both are possibilities, but the second has always been a fear for fanfiction and the first is something that goes on in the publishing world already. How many times have we seen authors pump out garbage because they know it'd be a guaranteed sell because of name recognition? Neither are really feasible reasons to not publish fanfiction for profit because that'd be punishing a lot of authors who either aren't interested in putting out non-fanfiction work and/or have no interest in actually getting rich-rich off their work. (But don't mind getting a little money.)

Or perhaps I'm afraid that this might be a way for publishers and companies to start actively cracking down on fanfiction authors. I haven't heard of any whisper of censorship for the works, but it's a possibility. It's well within a publisher's right to request that certain things not be published under their banner, although I will admit that I doubt that they'd refuse to publish things such as slash fanfiction. I can't even say that the publishers can now go after people who aren't publishing under their banner, because that would probably take more money and time than it'd be worth- although it'd be interesting to see if Warner Bros would seek for to remove fanfiction for the three shows mentioned above.

I guess all we can do is just wait and see.

Further Reading:
*Amazon to launch fanfiction platform (Entertainment Weekly)
*Amazon to allow e-book fan fiction sales in US (BBC)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

10 Biggest Book Adaptation Flops

I can't help but repost this. Publishers Weekly recently did a list of the biggest flops out there when it came to film adaptations of books. And yes, Battlefield Earth was on there. That was actually my litmus test. Travolta took what was a classic of science-fiction dystopian novels (at least in my opinion), took it home, got it drunk, filmed himself pulling a Deliverance on the book, and then left its beaten and half-dead body in a back alley. Then he subjected the movie-going public to whatever was left of the book and the film he got the night before. Yeah. Not a fan of the movie. I might have liked it more if I hadn't read the book almost religiously as a teen, I might have been a little more forgiving.

In any case, here are the ten biggest book adaptation flops per Publishers Weekly:

10. John Carter
9. Atlas Shrugged I, II, (and probably III)
8. Bonfire of the Vanities
7. Around the World in 80 Days
6. The Scarlet Letter (Demi Moore's version)
5. All the King's Men
4. Sphere
3. Gods and Generals
2. Pinnochio
1. Battlefield Earth

Further reading:

*10 Biggest Book Adaptation Flops

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Book review: The Shift by Fiona Dodwell

Title: The Shift
Author: Fiona Dodwell
Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing
Release Date: 05/10/2013
ISBN: 1771150955

I've been a fan of Dodwell's for a while now, ever since I was able to read a copy of her first book The Banishing. Which, I might add, is a creepy little read that I wholly recommend. There's this wonderful creepiness about her work that reminds me of some of the better pulp horror novels I'd read as a teen. You know the type, the ones that tried to play more heavily on the most basic fears and leave you feeling fairly uneasy- the ones that aren't always guaranteed to end with the main character standing triumphantly over the bodies of their enemies while puppies, babies, and kittens scamper around happily. The Shift continues in that vein and while a little on the short side, Dodwell makes the most of her novella and gives a fast moving book that's sure to please.

Michael White is a man desperate to escape his past. After tragedy costs him his job and marriage, he finds himself abandoned in a world of depression, loneliness and unemployment – until a new start working at a luxurious care home is offered. 

But Hill Wood House isn’t like any other care home. What are the shadowy figures that follow Michael? What do they want? And beyond the paranormal, who is stalking Michael? Who is entering his home at night and leaving disturbing messages across his walls? 

Can anyone ever really escape their past? Michael is about to go on a dark journey to uncover the truth behind what is haunting him – a truth that will wreak death and destruction to those Michael cares about.

As you can tell from the opening paragraph, I really enjoyed this novella. A good portion of the book is set within the posh care home and I'll admit that I have a soft spot for any place that involves creepy and remote settings. It has this instant atmosphere and helps enhance any spook activity- and there is spook activity in this book. I'll warn readers that there might not be as much description of the care home as a whole. It's a place where people with various disabilities are dumped by their wealthy families, but we're not entirely given a huge amount of detail except for what's immediately needed for the plot. This doesn't handicap the book (no pun intended), but I'll admit that occasionally I wanted a bit more detail here and there. More information on the type of residents allowed there, as well as some back story on some of their families, would have made them seem a little more fleshed out and fully realized.

What also intrigued me is that so far I've noticed that there's this theme in Dodwell's books that surrounds an unhealthy/obsessive love of some sort. That is present in this book, although I can't entirely elaborate on it because it's ultimately the whole gist of the book. I was actually a little hesitant to reveal even that much, as it gives away quite a bit, but then again if you've read any of her other works then you'll probably have expected this from Shift like I did. This is ultimately what made the ending that much cooler, as love is a theme that almost all of us can identify with in some form or fashion. We might not all be the type that creates hair dolls or carves someone's name into our chest (neither of which happens in this book, just listing those as examples), but the concept of someone doing something out of a twisted sense of affection is one that can unsettle just about any reader.

I didn't really have that many quibbles about this as a whole, other than wishing that occasionally there was a little more fleshing out. This works well with its page length and to be honest, this is better served as a novella than a 300+ page tome. It won't take the place of The Banishing as her most uncomfortable/interesting work to date, though. That's a pretty hard story to top, but The Shift will definitely please Dodwell's fanbase.

4 out of 5 stars

(Reader copy provided by author)

Book Review: Inferno by Dan Brown

Title: Inferno (Robert Langdon #4)
Author: Dan Brown
Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: 0385537859
Release date: 05/14/2013

I'm a little torn over exactly how to review this, as some of what I might say might not sound fair to some. Essentially what my review boils down to in a nutshell is that while this book is readable, Brown's biggest failing is that he takes 10 pages to say something that could have been better imparted in about 5 or 6. It also doesn't help that the wide cast of characters distracts rather than intrigues. I really think Brown should have looked to his prior works, Angels & Demons and The DaVinci Code, because what made those two books work is that they were more to the point. That brevity and sense of pacing was more present here than in the last book, but it was still sorely missing.

Part of the biggest issue about the overly verbose prose here is that while this works very, very well whenever Brown is trying to inform us about some interesting factoid about human nature or history. When it comes to the action scenes? That's when the pages and pages of prose fail. Scenes that were supposed to be pulse pounding come across as less than urgent, at least to me. In many cases I was more frustrated that it took Brown so long to get to whatever point he was trying to make in any given scene than mesmerized.

There are, of course, characters that aren't what they seem. Many readers will be able to sniff out who they are a mile away, which lends even more to the sense of frustration over the book's pacing. I just wanted to scream at Brown "Come on, I know who FS-2080 is! Just get on with it!" This wouldn't have been so bad and could have brought about a nice sense of anticipation, except that again- this just took too long to get where it was going. In trying to be awfully clever, Brown just makes things far more complicated than they really needed to be. By the time he finally decides to reveal something, you'd already pretty much predicted this about 20-30 pages back, if not even sooner than that.

That isn't to say that this is awful, though. This is yards better than The Lost Symbol, although that might not be saying much to some readers. There are some interesting plot ideas submerged under pages and pages of Langdon musing over himself, his wardrobe, and running from one enemy or another. The idea of human population growth and the threat it brings on a global scale is a very, very intriguing and very current issue that I wish could've been explored more in this book.

Oh, and that's the other thing I should mention. This isn't really a "history's mysteries" type of book like the other Langdon books were. Langdon does spend quite a bit of time mucking about in dusty rooms, but the main threat here is something far more modern. I like the historical aspects and mysteries here, but occasionally I wished that there was less of that and more of the more modern elements, because that's where the real meat of this story was. While Brown does do a decent job of informing us about the various historical mysteries that serve as stepping stones to the eventual conclusion, these detract more than add to the overall pacing of the book. It just seemed a little too drawn out and I wish that some of these had been saved for perhaps a small novella or a future work. (I'd heard rumor that this was supposed to be the last Langdon book, but I'll believe that when I fail to see any further books.)

In the end, you're wondering: should I read it? Sure, why not? This is a decent enough library read, although I would like to stress that you'll probably want to get this from the library. It's interesting enough, but I think that for many this will be something they'll only read once or twice. Better to give your local library some much needed love on this one and then purchase it from Amazon or your local bookstore if you find that you really want to own Inferno. I just hope that many won't immediately discard this because of the more modern dangers, as I think that this element was one of the strongest pieces of the book. But yeah, this really could have been about 100 pages shorter and been all the more enticing for it.

3 out of 5 stars

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Authors Don't Do This: Geoffrey Girard

Hoo boy. I take a sabbatical and I come back to more nonsense. Today I'm bringing you a new author to not emulate: Geoffrey Girard.

What did Girard do? He's committed a major faux paux by singling out a negative review (this one by Blythe) and trying to bash it down with his reasons why his book is the antithesis to all of the typical novels in the YA genre. While his blog isn't the worst thing I've ever seen (he's not asking people to downvote it while explicitly calling her an unpublished author, like Kiera Cass's agent did or threatening to call the FBI like Candace Sams did), it's pretty arrogant.

He basically talks about how all of the YA books are cookie cutters of one another, why he wrote everything to be different, how his students liked specific things and he tailored the book to fit those specific things, and how he got an agent and a deal based on his first 40 pages. His blog post doesn't specifically call out Blythe by name, but it's so specifically geared towards her review and comments that there's no mistaking that he doesn't like that someone negatively reviewed his book.

What made this so bad is that he's so arrogant in how he dismisses almost all of the other current YA literature out there. He does say that some of them are good, but in that same sentence he dismisses much of them as inferior clones of one another. Girard's post comes across less as him trying to rationalize why he wrote the way he did as much as he's trying to tell Blythe why her review is wrong and why his book is going to be the next great YA novel because he knows what teenagers want and that practically nobody else is giving it to them except for him. At least, that's how it comes across. He does try to give some lip service to the idea of "everyone will have differing opinions and that's ok", but that's pretty solidly negated by him trying to reinforce why his book is so awesome and indirectly trying to say why the reviewer just doesn't get why this book is so trendsetting.

The book might be good, but it's never a good idea to single out a negative review, especially in a blog post that comes across as fairly condescending in nature. Even if his book comes out and instantly wins a Newbery Medal despite being written for a slightly different age group, it's still never a good idea to call out negative reviewers in this fashion. Rather than come across as the wise sensei that totally knows what everyone wants and is one of the few people who actually "get it", you come across as an arrogant and pompous twit. It's pretty offputting, to say the least. This isn't even mentioning how bad this might appear to your students. You get a bad review and the first thing you do is take to the internet to discredit it rather than just shrugging it off as one of the inevitable negative reviews that every author is going to get, regardless of how well written their books are? What makes all of this worse is that this could have been an interesting blog post about his writing and research process, but he ruins it by using it as an opportunity to slag a negative reviewer.

I'd almost prefer someone along the lines of Sams or Cass's agent. At least they had the balls to come out and say "my book is awesome and your review is totally off course". It doesn't mean that they're right, but it does mean that rather than try to hide it under layers of indirect attack, they at least are up front about their accusations.

I hope for his sake that when the book comes out, it lives up to its claims. There's nothing worse than trying to claim that you're writing something that isn't par for the course, yet is what every YA reader craves, only to find that it doesn't live up to your own hype.

Further reading:

*1 Smart Thing I Did to Sell My Manuscript: NO Clones Allowed
*The review in question

Get it for free! Dollhouse by Anya Allyn

Hi everyone! I found this via Goodreads, but I discovered that indie author Anya Allyn is offering the first book in her Dollhouse trilogy for free on the Kindle! It sounds pretty interesting, so I thought I'd spread the news around so she can get a few more downloads. Click on the pretty amazing cover to be taken to the Amazon listing or click here!

DOLLHOUSE is a dark, Gothic, Young Adult Horror.
Four teenagers chance across a mysterious, crumbling mansion in the depths of the mountains....
  • One of them is about to vanish.
  • One of them is lying about what he or she knows.
  • None of them will escape the fate awaiting them in the terrifying Dollhouse beneath the old mansion--a place of nightmarish horrors and insanity.

A slow-burn nightmare, a world of supernatural darkness and strange secrets.

Six months ago, fifteen-year-old Cassie Claiborne reluctantly moved from her home in Florida with her social worker mom. In her new home--a remote, mountainous Australian town, Cassie meets new friends--Aisha Dumaj, Ethan McAllister and Lacey Dougherty.

For the first time, Cassie falls in love. The only problem is that the boy she falls for is her friend, Ethan--and he and Aisha are already an item. When Cassie goes on a school hike to Devils Hole with her new friends, she tries desperately to keep her feelings for Ethan secret.

Aisha disappears on the hike without a trace--with the police believing she was murdered.

When Cassie, Ethan and Lacey return to the mountains to search for Aisha--Cassie begins to realize she never really knew any of her friends. Everyone has their own secrets. She discovers the stranger lurking inside everyone she thought she knew.

The darkest secret of all waits beneath the old mansion in the mountains--a secret from which there is no escape....

Friday, May 3, 2013

Review: How To Get Good Reviews on Amazon by Theo Rogers

Title: How To Get Good Reviews on Amazon
Author: Theo Rogers

I was approached recently to review a book, a booklet really, about the practice of getting good reviews on Amazon. I'm disclosing this up front, as one of the practices mentioned in the book is that reviewers on Amazon are obligated to disclose if they'd been given the book for reviewing purposes.  (And even off Amazon, any good reviewer worth their salt should be mentioning this!)

The book is only about 40 pages long, but then I've always felt that when you're discussing a specific topic such as this you really don't need 200+ pages when a smaller amount will suffice. The chapters in the book are as follows:

  1. Inside the Head of the Amazon Reviewer (This chapter talks about what the reviewer wants, what they're looking for, and things to avoid when interacting with them. It's fairly general in tone.)
  2. Selecting Reviewers (This chapter talks about what authors/publicists should do when deciding which reviewer to select for your work.)
  3. Contacting Reviewers (As it suggests, this chapter gives recommendations on how to approach reviewers and how to phrase your query letters.)
  4. After the Review (This chapter talks about what you should- and shouldn't- do after receiving a review and how to talk to people if/when you get a negative review.)

My big take on the piece? Much of this is material that seasoned and experienced authors should already know about seeking reviews on Amazon and approaching reviewers. I say should, because I've seen several authors make some serious mistakes, such as leaving snide comments on a negative review or canvassing people off Amazon to leave reviews to make up for a negative one. (The implication here is that the author says something and people leave reviews for a product they haven't read, which only lowers people's estimation of both the product and the author.)

That's probably why booklets like these are fairly necessary, especially if you're a fledgling author that just uploaded your brand spanking new book into the CreateSpace system. If you're someone that has been around the block a few times, there are some interesting things in the book that you might not otherwise be aware of. The uber veterans? These are usually the ones who already know the lessons in this booklet and will already be (or should be) following these practices.

In short, this is a decent booklet and something I'd recommend for newbies or those who aren't fully familiar with how to approach reviewers. I especially recommend the "Contacting Reviewers" chapter because as someone who reviews and has several friends who review, many of them are easily turned off by poorly phrased query letters.

I'd give this a star rating on my blog, but this will be something that will be pretty subjective for the reader. For newbies it'll probably be a 5 since the basics are fairly clearly phrased and to the point. For those who are more experienced, that rating might go down depending on what expectations they had going into this.

(Copy provided by author)