Amazon vs. Hachette

As anyone who follows the business news probably knows, Amazon is in the middle of a major contract dispute with Hachette, one of the big five traditional publishers.

I’ve been watching this battle with great interest. I’m no disinterested observer, but firmly in the Amazon camp, not because I’ve been drinking the Bezos kool-aid, but because I can clearly see where my interests as an author lie.

Like the fox, the traditional publishers know many things, many of which are turning out to be wrong, but hey, it used to work, so we’ll just keep doing it, and whine like little children about how the world owes us a living, and don’t worry about screwing the consumer and authors along the way.

Amazon, like the hedgehog, knows one big thing, which is that long-term success comes from delivering maximum value to customers. To do that, they need to offer a better product (or range of products) at a more competitive price, and offering authors a much better deal is part of that strategy.

As an unknown author I get about as much marketing support from Amazon as I would from a traditional publisher, which is to say none. But every other aspect of the deal offered by Amazon is superior:

  • I didn’t have to ask permission to publish my book, endure endless rounds of rejection (except from readers if it’s no good), or wait years
  • I’m not locked into a long term contract (I’m committed to Amazon for only 90 days at a time, assuming I choose to participate in KDP select, which I do)
  • I have full editorial control and can update my books any time I like
  • I own all the rights to my work in perpetuity, including the rights to any future, not yet conceived format
  • I get to set the price for my books.

For all these benefits you’d think I’d pay some price, but my royalties are many times what they would be with a traditional publisher. It truly is a no-brainer.

Meanwhile, the scions of the publishing establishment, at places like the New York Times, and a favored few fabulously successfully authors are rushing to defend the status quo. Hachette has not shared one cent of the greatly increased profits it makes on ebooks with its authors, yet somehow these people want us to believe it has the high ground in this dispute. If their world was any more incestuous and self-serving, I think I’d throw up!

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Fusion Reactors

As I have mentioned previously I was very conscious in writing Newton’s Ark to keep the science as real as possible. The most speculative technology I included was probably the micro fusion reactor – a small, highly portable fusion reactor that could power a satellite for decades.

This technology requires us to find a way to build a self-sustaining fusion reaction that produces positive net energy. And then you have to miniaturize it – I’m going to ignore that challenge assuming we can solve the main problem.

This technology has been a decade away for the past sixty years. Will we ever solve this problem? Who knows. It may really be a only decade away, it may be another sixty years away or it may never happen. It’s hard to extrapolate from the experience to date. There has been some progress but not enough to be completely confident that the fundamental challenge can be overcome.

It is still an active area of research though. In fact I recently received an assignment to design a biometric security system (iris recognition) for an experimental fusion reactor facility!

This post brought to you by author of Newton’s Ark, D.A. Hill.

More Sci Fi Keeping it Real

I posted recently on keeping the sci fi real in my first novel Newton’s Ark.

I just ran across this article about stopping an asteriod specifically debunking the scenario presented in the movie Armageddon of using a nuke to split it in half.

Here’s a relevant passage from my book:

“Despite all the holo-movies you might have seen where they destroy the asteroid before it hits the Earth and everyone lives happily ever after, it isn’t possible with the technology and time we have available. To nudge the asteroid off course we have to hit it far enough out that we would need to launch now. Problem is we don’t have anything with the range and payload required….”

“Can’t we just nuke the damn thing when it gets closer to Earth?”

“Yes sir we can, but we risk turning a single very large asteroid into multiple asteroids, each still plenty big enough to wipe out a large city. Better to have only one object to track and to limit the impact to a single location.”

I think this quote from the article nicely captures my philosophy:

…fiction is all about the make-believe. But good science can make for a more plausible narrative, making it easier to suspend disbelief.

This post brought to you by author D.A. Hill.

Keeping Sci Fi Real

One of the things I set out to do when writing Newton’s Ark, was to keep the science part of the science fiction plausible, by basing the technology of the future either on already emerging technologies or at least on plausible projections of current technology trends.

This article on taking control of drones by spoofing GPS signals is a good example.

Here’s the relevant section in the book:

 “The early drones worked exactly that way, Major. They were vulnerable; if communication is disrupted the drone is pilot-less. Worse still, if the signal is intercepted it is possible for a hostile force to take control of the drone. Back as far as 2012 the Iranians captured what was then one of our most advanced drones by spoofing a GPS signal. They convinced the drone that it was landing back at its base in Turkey when it was really landing in Teheran. Incidents like that were the impetus for the EM program.”

This post brought to you by author D.A. Hill

Book Availability Update

Newton’s Ark is now available via Smashwords in EPUB format suitable for iBooks, the Nook and the Sony eReader.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/179199

It is now available via iTunes, Barnes and Noble and the Sony Store.

This post brought to you by author  D.A. Hill, author of Newton’s Ark.

Paper Back Now Available in Europe

The paperback version of Newton’s Ark should be available via Amazon in Europe from tomorrow for £5.99 or €6.99.

US pricing for the paperback is $7.99.

If you’re really worried about price though, the Kindle edition is a bargain at $2.99 (or the equivalent in pounds or euros). Interestingly, I make a bigger royalty on a $2.99 kindle edition than I do on a $7.99 paperback.

That makes it hard to see how traditional publishers can justify asking almost as much for the Kindle version (and sometimes more!) than for the hard copy. e-books should be considerably cheaper, not only because they are much cheaper to produce and distribute, but also because they are more restrictive (you can only lend them once ever, if at all, and you can’t resell them) which ought to mean more sales. The disruption of the publishing market has really only just begun.

Plant our Brains in Robots

If you find the ideas in this article from Wired Magazine titled Russian Mogul’s Plan: Plant our Brains in Robots interesting, then you should read my book Newton’s Ark (and the forthcoming sequels).

I’m attempting to explore similar concepts through fiction, with the goal of trying to understand how these sorts of technological developments might affect the human experience. My view is that when confronted with ideas this radical, stories are the best way to explore the possible implications. Otherwise it’s all too abstract, all to clinical, all too remote, and therefore all too easy to ignore, at least until it actually begins to happen and we’re totally unprepared.

This post brought to you by author D.A. Hill

Newton’s Ark is Now Available

I recently independently published my first novel, Newton’s Ark,  as an e-book in Kindle format via Kindle Direct Publishing Program I thought it would be worth making some observations for the benefit of other inspiring authors who might be considering this path.

The big change that independent publishing makes is that it removes the traditional publisher as gatekeeper. There’s plenty of stories out there of books that were rejected by multiple publishers only to go on to critical or commercial success or both.

What independent publishing does do though is push back on the author an awful lot of responsibility for the process of producing the book; stuff like editing and proof reading and formatting and design. You can do it yourself but it is not for the faint of heart. You need a combination of skills to get it right. Traditional publishing skills like attention to detail, editing and graphic design, mixed with the technical skills necessary to translate a manuscript in Microsoft Word into a properly formatted Kindle book within the constraints of the Kindle format (e.g. the fact that is has no such concept as ‘keep with next’) and the quirks of the Kindle publishing platform. The good news is that there are plenty of people out there who will take care of this stuff for a modest fee. I didn’t try any of them – I was determined to do this myself – but if you don’t like banging your head against a wall as much as I do, perhaps it is worth trying.

It is way too early to tell whether independently publishing via Amazon will be a commercial success. That seems to me to be dependent on a mix of the quality of the book, the marketing effort and sheer luck. I can control the first factor, am working on the second one but it’s not my strength, and can only cross my fingers in terms of the third factor.

I will also be releasing a paperback version soon, also independently published, this time via a company called CreateSpace (which happens to be an Amazon subsidiary). I’ll report on that process once it is complete.

This post brought to you by D.A.Hill, author of Newton’s Ark.