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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

UK digital copyright law changes

I’m not sure how much people are aware of it but the rather antiquated UK copyright laws are set to be updated to take account of digital-media.

The findings of a six month independent review led by Professor Ian Hargreaves, published on 19/05/10, now seem set to become law. The recommendations of this report embraced changes to the existing UK’s intellectual property and copyright laws to include the digital marketplace.

It looks like we will be getting laws passed that makes it legal for us to copy music from one format to another for personal private use. So we may now finally be able to copy those old CD’s to our laptop, iPod, or other mp3 player without breaking the law! Ok, in general these laws were never enforced, and we did have a sort of unofficial ‘fair use’ system, although not in-law. But these changes will have more serious long-term effects.
Professor Hargreaves said the current laws are “obstructing innovation and economic growth in the UK”, a comment that was directed towards digital companies in particular. He also called for the government polices to “be more closely based on economic evidence”. He went on to say that the recommendations “are designed to enhance the economic potential of the UK's creative industries and to ensure that the emergence of high technology businesses, especially smaller businesses, in other sectors is not impeded by our IP laws."

So how will this affect e-book sales and usage?
Well, under the new laws it will be legal to copy copyrighted files legally downloaded to your computer to another compatible device for private purposes. So you can copy music or video from a PC or Laptop to a suitable player and, presumably, do the same thing with e-book files. I take this to mean that you can legally convert that EPUB file to any other format for use on, say a Kindle for example. I’m not a lawyer but I can’t see what the difference would be.
The recommendations go on to say that, digital copying of medical and other journals for computerised analysis in research, is also allowed. So what are the implications for this? What information would be covered and what type of access will be granted?

From first impressions this seems set to go much further than the American ‘fair use’ policy, and hopefully it will close some of the loop-holes present in that system.

Maybe our American friends will be downloading material form over here in future, instead of the other way around ;)

Are you afraid of the internet stalkers?

Should you be?

I recently come across a rather interesting thread on a reading forum about the perception of people through their avatars and screen names. I’ve never been a huge fane of made-up screen-names. I want to talk to Gerry, to Suzan , or Paul, not ‘MegaRoboDeathPanda2500.’ A personal choice maybe, but the thread quickly grew a bit darker with many people sighting instances of on-line stalkers where people used their real names.
Now it’s just as easy to follow ‘MegaRoboDeathPanda2500’ from forum to forum that it is ‘Paul Smith.’ Although I suppose it is more difficult to know that ‘MegaRoboDeathPanda2500’ on one forum is ‘FluffyBunnyLove1900’ on another, where ‘Paul Smith.’ is still ‘Paul Smith.’
This does raise some questions when trying to promote through blogs, posts, and social-networking sites etc though. There are some people who paint the internet as a very dark place, full of shadowy figures just waiting to stumble upon their next victim. I can only say I have been using the internet since its text-only days… see I told you I was old… and have been fortune enough to never come across any of these virtual stalkers. My name has been out-there for a very long time, a lot of it in what is now, rather dramatically, called the dark-net. Sounds scary and a bit cloak-and-dagger, doesn’t it! Until you find out that this just refers to the sites that a normal surface-web crawler, like Google, doesn’t pick up. And contrary to popular belief there are a lot of very innocuous things Google doesn’t pick up!

So why mention this? Well, is it just me or has the internet gone all paranoid lately? After years of more-or-less happy use people seem to be getting frightened by the net. It will steal their identity, corrupt their children, and generally allow the crazies into their life and get stalked. Well… that’s what the voices told me anyway.

Seriously though as budding/beginning, or even mid-list, authors we are putting ourselves out-there, not only that but we are screaming ‘look at me, look at me, and see what I can do.’ So do we really need a crazy-filter? I, like many others, have been busy joining various sites and groups, posting of forums, putting myself out-there on blogs and social-networking sites, with the sole aim of getting my name recognises as easily as possible. Are the Nay-Sayers right in their paranoia? Is there really the danger that they perceive there to be? Personally I don’t think the danger is as prevalent or damaging as some make it out to be. Sure if someone takes it into their head to dislike you they can put up some nasty posts, so what? They can give some bad reviews, but chances are they won’t be recognised reviewers in whatever venue they are posting, and if it is defamatory you can always have it removed. Worse things happen with bogus-reviews and forum posting etc, both pro and anti the author, all the time. People generally trust who and what they trust, and are naturally sceptical of anything too glowing or too derogatory. So is it really a big-deal?

I think we, as writers, are scraping along the edge of the virtual-web-world and the real-world, so yes maybe these hypothetical net-stalkers could find it easier to follow us than the average forum-poster, but again if it stays on the web, so what. If it doesn’t that’s a whole new and very different thing. I don’t think I’ll ever be famous enough to have my own actual stalker!

Monday, 23 May 2011

One from the vaults…

One of my older experimental stories has just been put up for review over on the blog by Alain Gomez. Thanks Alain!

This was a bit of an experiment with me trying to get familiar with using future-tense, hey don’t laugh. I think I’ve almost pulled it of in parts!

It will be interesting to see what reviews it gets… if any.

You can have a look at it here if you like.
Or just check out the ‘Book Brouhaha’ site.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Are Alice and the Hobbit high?

I was having a look around over on Good Reads .com recently, and was surprised to find the top fore volumes in their ‘Highbrow Fantasy Books’ section listed in descending order as: ‘Lord of the rings,’ ‘Wattership down,’ ‘The Hobbit,’ and finally
‘Alice in wonderland and Through the looking-glass.’
So that makes two of my all-time favourite books and two others that I would consider to have mass-market appeal listed as ‘Highbrow.’ ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Alice,’ highbrow, seriously?

I’m not sure what this says for the general readership nowadays if people generally see these books as highbrow. Is it just that they are seen to be older now? Does old equal stuffy, equals highbrow?

I still have my ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’ album by the ‘Sex Pistols,’ that’s old. Does that make it highbrow also… is it now the preserve of the intellectual, educated, scholarly, and cultured classes? I think not. Classic maybe, I could live with classic.

So conversely what is considered lowbrow, and who would happily admit to being a ‘lowbrow’ reader?
Seriously though am I the only one that finds this a rather sad state of affairs? Or am I just getting the wording of this wrong somehow? It seems pretty clear in meaning to me, but I’ve been wrong before. Am I missing something? Are these books considered to be of that strange and misunderstood ilk called ‘literature’ and is all literature considered to be highbrow?

The Vagrant’s Tail: now on Smashwords

Just another quick note to say this has just passed the auto-vetting on feedbooks now, so it may take a while to get into the premier catalogue.

I’m planning on doing the whole shebang with this short-story, and giving it an ISBN so it can filter through to all the stores.

It’s the first time I’ve done this with something les than 10K, and I’m still not sure of the reception for shorts out there… It is free though.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

On the ball: A review of Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

I must admit, my heart sank a little when I first saw the cover of Unseen Academicals by Sir Terry Pratchett. The Diskworld series of books is without doubt my favourite fantasy series ever. But this book, the 37th novel in the series, was about football, and I have little interest in football. Of course the book wasn’t really about ‘football’ any more than ‘Pyramids’ was about Pyramids, or ‘Small Gods’ was about umm, well… Small Gods!

The back-story in ‘Unseen Academicals’ revolves around the possible withdrawal of a rather large endowment to Unseen University, a cut in funds that would mean the Wizards could only afford three meals a day. In order to avert this clearly unacceptable stare of play the wizards have to form a football team, and complete a game in order to fulfil the terms of the bequest, but the local game is rather violent for the Wizards, to say the least.

After my initial misgivings I have to say that this turned out to be a worthy addition to the Diskworld family. In Unseen Academicals Sir Pratchett continued his recent trend of introducing new, and interesting, main characters. The newly introduced characters of Mr. Nutt, a candle dribbler to trade, and his co-worker Trev Likely, a lad with a foot for kicking a can, and the son of a famous, but deceased, footballer. Both of whom manage to be enigmatic and funny in equal measures. The other two new main characters are the unflappable Glenda, who runs the University Night Kitchens and bakes the best pies on the disc. And last but by no-means least the beautiful Juliet, who has only a passing familiarity with reality, and dreams about fashion. Together with the budding football team they all conspire to run with the ball as Sir Pratchett takes us on a game of two halves at his trademark whistle-stop pace...

Monday, 16 May 2011

Sight seeing.

I’ve been looking at ways to publicise my writings lately, but don’t fret, that isn’t what this post is about…
My research got me thinking about the wider question of who looks at what web-sites, and why. What types of people look at what type of sites, and how much overlap is there? I was primarily looking at social networking sites, which more-or-sell included blogging sites, and various sites associated with writing. Although I suspect my findings could equally well be applied to any group of specialised web sites. I definitely think the same things hold true for the technical and programming sites that I also frequent (I’m a computer programmer to trade).

Anyway, it’s fair to say that a good percentage of people present on one writing-related forum will also appear on other similar forums and many of those people have writing-related blog pages. Obviously this type of behaviour isn’t just limited to writing related sites, but I’ll use writing as the example here. What doesn’t necessarily follow is that those people are involved in any of the more specific social-networking sites, like Facebook or Twitter. A fair percentage is, but the assumption seems to be made that the majority of people are. The results I’d got by trying to follow people through, and in some cases simply by asking don’t necessarily follow this assumption.
I think the Facebook user can be of a very different breed to the forum/blog user.

Hello, another quick note...

... just to say I’ve put up a version of my ‘The Vagrant’s Tail’ short-story over on the feedbooks site:

This is a short spin-off story from 'The Crazies' the first in my OtherWhare series of Novelette/Novellas. I’m hopefully going to use this over on smashwords as an additional free tease

r-story for the first Novelette in the series, which has already been put up over on smashwords.

Anyway, I’d be interested in any thought you may have on this story.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Just a quick update on what I’ve been up to over on facebook.

In addition to setting up an OtherWhere Page I’ve also setup an OtherWhere group for my writings. So why not join the page, and or the group as well?
The group is going to be a bit more informal than the ‘official’ page, and it’s your chance to say what you think about my writing. I’ve set this up as a closed group, but only because it will really just be relevant to people who are interested in discussing my OtherWhare stories; or are interested in my wider writing, or any of the other associated things that go along with it; in general.
I’m always open to constructive criticism, good ideas, and readers’ views on any subject relating to my work.

If you want to be friends or join my OtherWhere writing group you can find me under Garry Grierson

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Wheels within wheels: linking your way through the internet.

 Following on from my adventures in statistical discoveries I have be getting more and more intertwined in the wonderful world of RSS feeds, automatic inter-site posting  and links. I’m sending my blogs to Facebook and Twitter, showing my tweets on Smashwords, and putting up links all over the place. Now I can spend ages running in circles around all my various sites. It’s not very productive, but is strangely compelling, hypnotic even…

 Where was I? Oh yes, links. I was looking at linking my various sites together through standard web-links when I started paying more attention to the automatic-posting type. I discovered that RSS is your friend, and it’s well worth getting acquainted with this if you haven’t already.
I stumbled across a useful site called recently. This lets you setup RSS feeds to, amongst others, Twitter and Facebook, useful for automatically generating traffic that will potentially reach a larger audience than is available by blogging and forum-posting alone.

Blogging my facebook off:
I’d been told about posting blogs to Facebook a while ago, but didn’t want to clog up my personal-space with posts about my writing. I have some non-writing friends, work colleges, and various family members on Facebook. They collectively have little to no interest in my writing, so I’m also in the process of setting up a Facebook group, to put all my writing related stuff in. I intend to post my Blog-stuff to here, as well as any book and short-story releases or anything else writing-related that I can think of. The group seems to be a good way to keep this separate from my personal account, so expect to see links to that soon!

To Tweet, tweet, tweet
I’ve had a Twitter account for some time, but have to confess that I haven’t really had much use, or time, for it. Like Facebook, I found Twitter to be good in principle but in practice… well I didn’t get much practice with ether of them to say much about it. That all changed when I found out that circular-data-distribution (pointing stuff at other stuff, that you point at other stuff…) really does work; at least in the short-term.
I’ve got this very Writing Blog twittering away, via twitfeeder. And the tweets point back here. From here there are a variety of normal links that can take people to various web-places all about me! Er, I mean about my writing.

I’ve also found out that I can allow visitors to setup RSS feeds to my Blog via the ‘Subscription Links’ widget; another easy way for people who are not on Blogger to keep up to date with my ramblings.

I’m not sure if you can overdo all this linkage, but right now I’m finding out more useful ways of utilising things I’d heard of, but had little use for, on a daily basis.
So what do you think, is it all good, or can you overdo it?

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Planning my Path to the Punters

I’ll tell you what; this marketing lark isn’t for the faint-hearted is it!
Ok, so my first Novelette (assuming 11K is too short for a novella) has passed its Smashwords checks and has now moved from ‘Pending approval’ to ‘Approved.’
Hooray for notepad!
So I sat staring at my one sale. Well it’s a start, but now what; I thought. I had already done some posting to a couple of readers forum sites (nothing too hard-sell) and I had already set up this blog. But I’m going to have to do a lot more than that to let my potential punters know about my writings.

To this end I’ve come up with a basic plan for getting my name out there. The following graphics shows what I’ve ether done or am in the process of doing just now:

So what do you think? Have I covered the basics or is there some gleaming omission? Are all of these things productive? I’ve heard it said that you have to have a twitter and Face-book presence nowadays, but it doesn’t really generate sales.
I’m hoping to attract people to the web-site through posting and with free teaser stories based on the OtherWhere series, as well as some free unrelated short-fiction work.
The general aim is to get as muck links to my stories out there as possible in suitable places. So, hopefully some potential readers will stumble across something and be intrigued enough to pay a nominal fee to read more. The amount of the fee isn’t important to me just now. My main interest is to see if I can entice people into paying for my work, hopefully for each of the six Novella-length releases that are planned over the next couple of years.

I’m currently thinking up some other, non-internet, ways of promotion as well. But I want to setup some sort of internet presence first. If nothing else it’s something to point people at.