Blurb In The Publishing Arena

December 2, 2010

For an author who wishes to see his or her books in print, the typical methods in the past have been traditional publishing, or subsidy publishing.

In the traditional publishing model, an author contracts with a publisher to write a book (or deliver a book as written), and then receives an advance against royalties. The publisher prints and sells the books and receives the lion’s share of the profits, and the author gets a cut (less the advance). Usually the publisher is responsible for editing and proofreading the book before it’s printed.

In subsidy publishing, the companies involved generally turn this process around, and get the author to pay for the print run of the book. Any editing involved is usually at the cost of the writer, if it’s done at all. As the subsidy publisher is in business to make money, the usual controls as to what’s an acceptable manuscript are often missing or diminished.

A traditional publisher may tell your science fiction novel draft or picture book prototype needs to redone / revised and / or reject it, whereas a subsidy publisher may tell you the same manuscript / book is just fine – and then ask you for $5,000 to publish it.

Generally the subsidy publishing method hurts you as an author in a couple of ways:

1. A poor first draft is accepted, and not rejected / asked to be revised. The revision process that a traditional publisher will make you go through strengthens your written material.

2. The publishing costs are put on the author, and they’re usually for an entire print run, which can be expensive.

3. Editing, proofing, and design services are usually either nonexistent or costly, and can be slipshod.

Blurb represents a new paradigm in publishing – a print-on-demand service that allows the author to be the publisher in a novel way.

Blurb is a middle ground between traditional publishing and subsidy publishing. By allowing authors to make their own books, and freeing them from the usual pitfalls of subsidy publishing, it makes the process of getting books in print a lot more realistic.

How does Blurb differ from a subsidy publisher?

In the first place, there’s no incentive for Blurb to take in a bad manuscript. The onus is on the author to make their book the best it can be, and there’s no subsidy company to give them incorrect feedback because it makes them a buck. Through Blurb Nation, independent editing services can be found, where users can get impartial feedback.

In the second place, Blurb’s unique print service, where the entire print run can be controlled, means the barrier of entry is pushed way down. There’s no scheme to get you to pay for an entire print run. As little as 1 copy can be ordered and printed, and volume discounts start at 400 copies.

In the third place, since the editing and design of the book is up to the user, the path to a better book is clear. There’s no subsidy publisher to gum up the works. BookSmart software makes it easy to create a great book by yourself, and editing / design services can be found through Blurb Nation (as noted).

Blurb. It’s way better than subsidy publishing.


TV Links, Good TV Done Right

April 28, 2009

TV Links is a site in the UK that has a nice look and feel to it.  It’s basically an alphabetical list of TV shows that link directly to a viewer for the shows themselves from various sites.  Because it’s in the UK, the site has links for shows that have seldom, or never shown over here.

For example there are links to the Chris Barrie show The Brittas Empire, where he plays Gordon Brittas, the stuffy manager of a British community leisure center.  I haven’t seen that show in years.  I especially remember an episode where Brittas is on trial for murder; it seems that Bolivian and British criminals are using the center to run drug deals “because no one ever goes there”.  Oblivious to what’s going on, he manages to stumble through the carnage, ultimately cutting a man’s head off while trying to reach him to administer first aid.

It’s there, as the first episode of Season Three.  Good stuff.

Other British shows there that play sporadically in America are Mr. Bean, Fawlty Towers, and Father Ted.  Shows that never play here, or may rarely show up on BBC America, include Alan Partridge, The Mighty Boosh, and Bottom.

The site also features cartoons, movies, anime, music videos, and sports shows.  Compared to the fairly chaotic interface of a site like YouTube, this site does it right.

Guba Vs. YouTube

March 15, 2009

I like to watch older TV and films, the more obscure, the better. The advent of user-enabled content on the Internet makes it easier to find these types of shows, but there are still some bugs to be worked out.

YouTube is a great site for finding videos and film, but the system for downloading them is missing, and you have to use a clumsy workaround to transform the Shockwave – Flash files you get into whatever format you need. YouTube is also almost entirely user-generated content, files uploaded into YouTube by users directly. That means that the video service on YouTube depends on the interaction of users with YouTube, since they’re the ones who have to dig out old videotapes and obscure DVDs, find a way to get them into the computer, then send them to YouTube.

Fortunately, YouTube does have a large user base, and interesting videos crop up all the time. But one area that YouTube completely misses is the Usenet archives, a long-running file sharing system that isn’t dependent on websites. Usenet groups are more like user groups, in that they are broken up by interest. Inside these interest groups, people have been sharing files for decades. The video and film files that show up there can be even more interesting than those on YouTube, since they come from a collective interest group.

That’s where Guba comes in. It used to be a difficult process to grab Usenet posts and assemble them back into video files, but Guba already does that for you, and puts the file up with a thumbnail view, like YouTube. Guba also supports user uploads and paid videos, and puts them up the same way.

Guba’s best feature is it’s download service – you just pull down the menu, select the file type you want, and let go. This is a nice feature, as video files tend to jam up as you stream them. Watching them offline saves bandwith and avoids bandwidth-related issues like dropouts.

Both YouTube and Guba have a serious problem with nomenclature, however. Files routinely show up on their sites with auto-generated or truncated names, or bad or inaccurate user labels. This makes it hard to figure out which episode is which, for example, when you find a set of shows you want to watch. This affects the search function as well, as an inaccurate name won’t be as useful to a search engine, and your results will suffer.

But enough of the downsides. My interest last week was the 1960’s British spy show “Callan”, starring Edward Woodward. It was never shown in the US, and I haven’t been able to track it down from the obscure video dealers I checked with at conventions.

The last time I looked, YouTube had a 1971 movie, “Callan”, a feature made from the pilot, in a great print. Nice.

And Guba had six episodes of the last season, in degraded prints from the 1980s. The print quality was fair, but watchable.

The movie file on YouTube came for a user who uploaded it, the videos on Guba came from Usenet.

NetFlix Instant Watching

June 29, 2008

In my search for interesting TV on the web, a new service from NetFlix caught my eye recently. As a part of their regular service, they’ve opened up a part of their video library as viewable in a web browser. The current policy allows for an hour of video watching per dollar of NetFlix account per month. This translates to 14 hours a month for a $13.99 two-DVD-at-a-time account. The service comes with the account, and doesn’t cost extra.

The service only works on PCs under XP or Vista with Internet Explorer as the browser. The video viewer is relatively good, estimating your bandwidth and managing the viewing experience accordingly. The video window is fairly large and print quality is good. Compression artifacts were noticeable when the video was set to full screen, and they would have probably seemed worse if the video was piped out to a large TV, but for computer-viewing at the standard size, they were acceptable.

The video library is a good selection of the NetFlix pool. Shows ranging from the fairly common (The Office, Law and Order) to the relatively obscure (Red Dwarf, the New Outer Limits, older Dr. Who episodes). There are also a large variety of feature films available to watch in the main Watch Now section, as well as documentaries.

It’s not everything NetFlix has, but it’s a good selection. At certain points you’ll be prompted that not all of the material is available online, but it’s linked to the standard NetFlix system, so you can easily add the missing episodes to your queue.

14 hours translates to around 3 hours week per month, a good chunk of viewing.

NetFlix Instant Watching is a nice service. I like it so far.

ScriptFrenzy, Part III

June 7, 2008

Well, I’ve managed to jump into ScriptFrenzy with both feet. My script is moving along well, and my community of San Franciscans seem to be getting along with the writing bit, no major complaints so far. There are still 21 days to go, so the major stress of the deadline isn’t here yet, but I think it will be OK.

I’m 51 pages into my script, @ 7600 words. The goal is to have a 20,000 word script finished by the end of the month. That’s about 120 pages or more, so I have around 70 pages to go, but I should be able to get that done before 6/30/07.

ScriptFrenzy, Part II

May 30, 2008

ScriptFrenzy 2007 starts Friday, June 1. I’m now the Municipal Liaison for San Francisco, which means I manage the user forums for San Francisco, and run the local Write-Ins.

I’m pretty well set to go on the Frenzy; I have a treatment/outline to work from for a space epic, and I can’t wait to get started.

Sometimes it’s hard to wait – I want to jump in today, but the rules state that the 120-page script has to be written from June 1 to June 30, so I’ll have to wait…


May 23, 2008

ScriptFrenzy is a challenge contest from the fine folks at the National Novel Writing Month.

Basically you have to write a 20,000 word screenplay during the month of June to meet the challenge. That’s around 120 pages.

I’m going to do it; I have a science fiction script on the boards right now, and I’m going to spend the last week in May getting the treatment fixed up, then jump right in. I’m meeting with the producer on Thursday to go over some details.

I went to the launch party last Saturday, and met a nice group of people. So far, so good.