Reinventing the Writing Contest

Reinventing the Writing Contest

How one eBook retailer is making literature more social

Millions of people dream of making it big in literature, yet there are very few who actually manage to finish a book, let alone get published. One eBook retailer is taking a page from reality TV competitions by looking for undiscovered writing talent in a new contest format.

Winning a writing contest has always been one way to bypass the publishers’ slush piles of unsolicited manuscripts. But the problem with these contests is that winning is like playing the lottery: for each lucky winner there’s an enormous amount of losers. That makes the experience frustrating for writers and creates yet another way for their work to remain unread.

eBookMall, one of the most experienced independent eBook retailers, wanted to do something different. Inspired by the TV successes of American Idol and The Voice, they came up with an exciting approach to running a writing contest. eBookMall’s “America’s Next Author” contest is engaging, transparent, and entertaining.

eBookMall set about to do something new and asked: What if there’s a transparent alternative? What if each author could read the competition’s entries? How can writers involve their friends and family to help them win, without making it a popularity contest?

Martijn Leenders, eBookMall’s Managing Director explains: “In all these boring contests, you send in a story, wait a couple of months, and probably never hear anything again. That’s not very useful if you want to make it as an author. We also realized there are no writing contests where the most important factor of actually becoming a successful author, namely your mass appeal and marketability, play any significant role. America’s Next Author combines writing quality and popularity, all while offering authors a great platform for getting noticed.”

So how does America’s Next Author work? At first glance, it appears to be a well-designed collection of stories and author profiles, where visitors can vote for stories and post reviews. This is where things become interesting, because this contest combines several online and social voting methods into something eBookMall calls “Author Rank”. Each author’s rank is featured prominently on their profile page and is updated daily.

Leenders explains: “In addition to having the public decide which stories they prefer, we needed an advanced ranking system that would sort out quality and potentially great stories. In other words, what Google does for search, we are doing for authors.”

Human Factor

The ranking takes into account a large number of factors, including votes, Tweets, Facebook likes, reviews, and many more. eBookMall developed its own sophisticated ranking algorithm that is able to determine which reviews are written by more reliable readers, weeding out those that are seeking to unfairly manipulate results.

Bonnie Martin is eBookMall’s publishing manager, and says: “From the start there were authors who tried to outsmart the system. It turned out there was no need for us to worry, because the ranking system is able to cope with any unusual voting patterns. We’ve already had three weekly nominees with excellent stories, showing that the ranking system works well. And what I like most about America’s Next Author is that everybody can follow the progress every single day.”

Those daily updates to the Author Ranking turned out to be very popular amongst participants. “Authors check in daily to see how they’re doing. Some have told us it’s very addictive to see what their promotion efforts bring in terms of ranking and reader feedback. I’m almost worried we’re keeping them away from their writing.”

Leenders smiles, before adding, “For readers it might even be more fun. Since writers can still join while the contest is underway, readers get to discover new stories, see if their favorites are winning, and they even have the chance to win an iPad or eReader for their reviews.”

However smart their ranking algorithm, eBookMall does use a jury as well. Similar to popular TV contests, a jury is looking for hidden gems that didn’t make it to the top of the public vote. The jury will nominate four authors as wildcards, adding them to the eight that are picked by the public. These twelve authors will continue on to a battle round later in the competition.

“We needed a safety valve. This is the first time someone is doing anything like this and our ranking system was never tested in a large contest. With our system performing better than we expected, the jury can completely focus on helping out writers by giving additional feedback,” says Leenders.

Serious Interest

It wasn’t an easy path, Martijn Leenders explains. “We encountered some skepticism, mainly from people who were worried about how this would work and how we would deal with plagiarism and publication rights. That was not unexpected because this contest is something quite different from what they’re used to. Authors are not always accustomed to having their writing open to the public and presenting themselves as a brand. That takes a lot of guts!”

The contest has seen serious interest from the publishing industry. In theory, America’s Next Author and its underlying technology might be useful in engaging readers and discovering new talent.

Authors seem to like it so far. Leenders says: “After the first week we started receiving messages from participants who are seeing a sudden rise in interest on their own Facebook pages and blogs. That makes us proud of the work we’re doing. We’ve managed to create a new platform for authors to test the quality of their work and see if they’re up for bigger things in literature.”

Or as one participant posted on Twitter, “Your contest is an emotional roller-coaster!”

  • America’s Next Author has reinvented the writing contest, bringing it into the 21st century with social media and online voting.
  •  America’s Next Author removes the lottery-like effect of old fashioned writing contests by allowing participants to promote their stories.
  •  It’s not just a popularity contest! eBookMall’s “Author Ranking” algorithm uses many factors to determine the quality of the writing, too.
  •  Like American Idol or The Voice, America’s Next Author seeks to find undiscovered talent.
  •  In 2012 authors have to meet their readers where they are, on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other social media platforms. This contest pushes writers to do that.
  •  Honest reviews posted on stories give aspiring authors real feedback that they can use to improve their craft. It takes courage to be open to criticism, but it’s worth it.
  •  Writing is usually a lonely endeavor, but when you enter America’s Next Author you’re immediately involved in a community of writers and readers.
  •  Our jury members provide a safety net. They double-check the results of our ranking system and are looking for hidden gems that might have been missed by the public.
  •  It’s also fun for readers! Everyone can read all the stories for free, and there’s a chance to win an iPad or eReader for writing quality reviews.

Online

America’s Next Author Competition – http://www.ebookmall.com/americasnextauthor

Follow America’s Next Author:

Twitter – https://twitter.com/aNextAuthor #ANA2012
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/AmericasNextAuthor

(This article may be re-posted.)

How To Solve The Error “E_LIC_ALREADY_FULFILLED_BY_ANOTHER_USER”

This post is about how to solve the error: “Error getting license. License server communication problem: E_LIC_ALREADY_FULFILLED_BY_ANOTHER_USER”.

Reason For This Error

This error is related to Adobe’s DRM (digital rights management) for ebooks. If you’re getting this error, it means that your copy of Adobe Digital Editions has not been authorized with the correct Adobe ID.

This can happen a few different ways:

  • You originally downloaded the ebook on a different computer, and the computer you’re using now is authorized with a different Adobe ID or isn’t authorized at all.
  • You got the ebook illegally, either from a friend who emailed it to you, or through an illegal download.
  • You bought the book legally but have screwed up your authorizations through some other manner, like trying to use two different Adobe IDs.

What Is “Authorization” and “Adobe ID”?

Adobe’s DRM works by associating each ebook with your Adobe ID. The “Adobe ID” is simply a free account that you set up with Adobe. If you’ve ever used their forums or downloaded any of their software you probably already have one. You can sign up for an Adobe ID here.

If you’re going to be using ebooks that are protected with this DRM, you should first authorize Adobe Digital Editions with your Adobe ID. That will associate the ebook with your Adobe ID, and allow you to put the ebook on another computer or device later on. If you associate each computer/device with the same Adobe ID, you can then use that ebook on all of those devices.

If Adobe Digital Editions has been authorized with a different Adobe ID than the one which the ebook has been associated, then it won’t open on that computer or device.

How To Fix This Error

If you’re getting an error message that indicates that the licensing for the ebook is causing a problem, that means that you have authorized Adobe Digital Editions (or an app on your device) with the wrong Adobe ID. The only way to solve this is to authorize it with the correct Adobe ID.

How do you know what the correct Adobe ID is? Well, the best way to be certain is to only ever use one Adobe ID. That way, you won’t mix them up. If you’ve forgotten your username or password, use Adobe’s website to find them. If you’ve downloaded the ebook illegally, there is no way to know which Adobe ID is the correct one since the ebook came from some unknown person.

Once you’ve remembered which Adobe ID you’re supposed to be using, you need to de-authorize Adobe Digital Editions and then authorize with the correct Adobe ID.

How To De-Authorize Adobe Digital Editions

1. Open Adobe Digital Editions

2. On your keyboard, simultaneously press the Ctrl, Shift, and D buttons (if on Windows) or the Cmd, Shift, and D buttons (if on a Mac)

3. Click the “Deauthorize” button

How to Authorize Adobe Digital Editions

1. Open Adobe Digital Editions

2. Adobe Digital Editions will behave as if you’ve just installed it, and will prompt you to enter your login information for your Adobe ID. Use the Adobe ID account information that you want to use to authorize Adobe Digital Editions.

Self Publishing and Traditional Publishing – Which Is Better?

I’m kind of fascinated by the debate over traditional publishing vs self publishing. Some authors are saying that traditional publishers aren’t offering enough marketing help anymore, and that they end up having to do a lot of marketing themselves. If they were to self publish, they’d have to do all of the marketing but they’d make much more money on each sale. But I have to wonder if this is just coming from authors who haven’t been able to get a book accepted by one of the big publishers.

I also keep reading about authors who self-published and became extremely popular and made a ton of money. But real examples of this seem hard to find. It’s usually just “I heard about …” rather than actual examples. When Fifty Shades of Grey first became popular, I thought that it was book only available on Kindle, but it turns out that author was published by an imprint of Random House, one of the “big six”.

For example, in this recent article on the Huffington Post:

It used to be enough to be published by one of the big six publishers to sell your book. Now, a published author has to be an online marketing machine, just like self-published authors. And traditionally published authors are turning to self-published authors for tips to reach readers.

As Pittis wound down with her workshop, a woman turned to me. “I just met two women who self-published, and they are each making $40,000 a month,” she told me in a whisper. “Debut authors,” she added.

This is a good moment to explain that most romance authors — traditionally published or not — don’t make a lot of money. Many multi-published romance authors have day jobs and hope for the moment they can make a living with their books.

The same article then continues:

As we shuttled out of the luncheon on our way to more workshops, a woman got my attention. “Screw the Big Six!” she said to me.

“I’m published by the Big Six,” I said, sheepishly. … What was wrong with me, I worried. Was I stupid not to self-publish?

The woman’s mouth dropped open, and her eyes grew large. “Really?” she asked. “That’s fantastic. How did you do that? I’ve been trying for ages.”

I think this is probably a pretty universal thing. The feeling of acceptance an author gets from being traditionally published is a pretty large pull, whether or not that author still has to do some marketing on her own.

But what is an author to do? The standard advice has been to have a website, a blog, and be really active on social media. But now there are articles coming out saying that this might not be the answer. I found this article at The Guardian interesting. It’s kind of long, but this is the part that really stood out for me:

Self-styled eSpecialists such as Penn often invoke the 80/20 rule which advises that, as a sales person (in this case an author), you should spend 20% of your time writing and 80% of your time networking through social media. In tune with this, self-epublishing author Louise Voss recently informed me that the success of her ebooks came about as a result of spending about 80% of her time marketing.

And if that seems like a limitation on your creative time, consider the case of San Diego-based “book publicity and promotions expert” Paula Margulies, who is taking the 80/20 rule even further. She claims that when tweeting and Facebooking you should spend “80% of your time posting about things other than your book, and 20% selling. That’s right – 80% of what you post should not be a sales pitch.” Why does she recommend this? “Because readers are human beings, who long to make connections with others … They join social networking sites not to receive non-stop reminders to buy, but to develop relationships.” Margulies advocates that authors blog and tweet about hobbies and personal activities: things you like, and which you think will draw other people to you. Essentially, 80% of your tweeting should be about cats, food, sport, what’s happening outside your window – all the things that millions of non-writers tweet about. This theory is backed up by many other self-appointed social media specialists.

Let’s look at the stats. If we take Margulies and Penn seriously, how much time does this leave for actually writing? Most self-epublished authors hold down a day job, so let’s give them three hours a day, after work, for author activities. That’s 1,095 hours a year. Reduce this to 20% (since you have to spend 80% of your time covertly self-promoting online), and you get 219 writing hours a year, which works out as 18 12-hour days to write a book.

So … if you have to promote your book yourself it will be a HUGE job that won’t leave you enough time to actually write a book in the first place. If this is true, then my feeling is that being traditionally published is a better bet, in terms of marketing, at least, because your book will be on your publisher’s website, maybe even in some bookstores, and they will do some marketing for it.

On the other hand, if you just can’t get a publisher to buy your book, ebooks are now popular enough that self publishing isn’t a totally terrible idea. If you do sell any copies you will make more money because you don’t have to give a cut to a publisher, and maybe if you gain even a small amount of popularity a big publisher will take notice.

Burning eBooks

Fahrenheit 451 ebook downloadRay Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 has recently been released as an ebook by Simon & Schuster (available online Fahrenheit 451 ebook). The novel is about a future in which most books have been burned in order to keep the public “happy”. A world without books and the resulting lack of readily available knowledge and history is bleak indeed.

Ray Bradbury himself was against ebooks at first, saying that they were too distracting. From this article at The Guardian:

“In the past Bradbury has said that ebooks ‘smell like burned fuel’, telling the New York Times in 2009 that ‘the internet is a big distraction’. In an interview … he told the paper that he had been contacted by Yahoo eight weeks earlier. ‘They wanted to put a book of mine on Yahoo! You know what I told them? To hell with you. To hell with you and to hell with the internet. It’s distracting. It’s meaningless; it’s not real. It’s in the air somewhere.’

But the author has now been convinced otherwise, with his American publisher Simon & Schuster announcing that it was releasing the first ever ebook of Fahrenheit 451, a novel which has sold more than 10m copies since it was first published in 1953 and in which Bradbury predicts a dystopian future where books are burned and reading banned.”

I’m glad that we don’t live in a future like that described in Fahrenheit 451 and I think that digital books and the internet in general will make it very hard, if not impossible, for the government to ever truly ban books or other reading material. When I read this book back in middle school, I visualized police overseeing large piles of burning books in the middle of town squares, while people looked on with blank expressions. I wonder what would happen if anyone ever tried to burn a pile of e-readers. The resulting melted pile of plastic would surely be enough of a mess that the government would have to find some other way to destroy books. Maybe that’s why Bradbury imagined that ebooks smelled like burned fuel?

Thinking about getting into eBooks? Start here.

If you’re completely new to the world of ebooks, this post is for you. There are so many options available now that it can be confusing for newbies. Kindle, Nook, iPad! Which is the best for you? If you’re not at least basically aware of the consequences of your choices, you can end up with a bad experience. But not to worry! This post will give you enough background on ebooks to get started. I’ve broken it into two sections, for those who already own a device that they want to read ebooks on, and for those who want to get a new device for ebook reading.

A. WHEN YOU ALREADY OWN A DEVICE

This is the process I recommend for you if you want to read ebooks on a device that you already own. This might be your smartphone, iPad or other tablet, or an eReader that you acquired in the past.

1. Do Not Buy or Download Any eBooks Yet

eBooks come in different formats, and not every format can be read on every device. Before you spend any money buying eBooks, follow the next few steps. This will save you money, time, and confusion.

2. Learn Which Types of eBooks You Can Use

If you have an eReader (like a BeBook, Cybook, Sony Reader) that’s not tied to a specific bookseller, the best thing to do is to go to the website that sells that device and look in the specifications to find out which ebook formats it supports. Also look for support for “DRM” (digital rights management) because without it, the types of ebooks you can use will be further restricted. Most eReaders can read PDF and ePub files and some can read additional file types like Mobi, txt, and others.

If you have an eReader (like a Kindle, Nook, or Kobo) that is associated with a specific bookseller you won’t have to worry about file types if you only purchase ebooks from that specific store. However, the Nook and Kobo eReaders can also read PDF or ePub files from other sources.

If you want to read ebooks on your iPhone or iPad, you can use iBooks, which is built into Apple’s system. By doing so you can easily get ebooks in the same manner that you download apps. You can also read PDF or ePub if you get an app that can handle those file types. In addition to that, big booksellers like Amazon and B&N have iOS apps that will let you read their ebooks without having to own a Kindle or Nook device.

If you have an Android phone or tablet, you can read Kindle and Nook ebooks with their respective Android apps. You can also read PDF or ePub if you get an app that can handle those file types.

3. Install Software/Apps If Necessary

E-Ink eReaders like the basic Kindle and Nook eReaders don’t need apps. But if you want to read on your iPhone, iPad, or Android device, you’ll need an app for reading ebooks. The best one to use depends on where you’ll buy your ebooks. I have explained this in more detail in previous posts: Best eBook Apps for iPad and iPhone, Best eBook Apps for Android

4. Find Out Where Your Type of eBooks Are Sold

Here are the basics:

If you have a Kindle then you must buy ebooks from Amazon.
If you have a Nook you can buy eBooks from Barnes & Noble or any ebook store that sells PDF or ePub ebooks.
If you have a Kobo you can buy eBooks from Kobo or any ebook store that sells PDF or ePub ebooks.
If you have an iPad or iPhone you can buy eBooks from iBooks, use the iOS app from Amazon/B&N/Kobo, or any ebook store that sells PDF or ePub ebooks (check DRM requirements – you might need a specific app).
If you have an Android phone or tablet you can use the Android app from Amazon/B&N/Kobo, or buy from any ebook store that sells PDF or ePub ebooks (check DRM requirements – you might need a specific app).
If you have another eReader (like a BeBook, Sony Reader, etc) you can buy eBooks from any ebook store that sells PDF or ePub ebooks (check DRM requirements – you might need a specific app).
If you have an off-brand cheaper eReader, you can probably use PDF and ePub ebooks, but you might not be able to use DRM-protected files. It’s vital that you check the specifications for your particular eReader.

5. Get eBooks!

Once you’ve done all of the research and learning above, go forth and buy ebooks from your chosen book store.

B. WHEN YOU DO NOT YET OWN A DEVICE

This is the process that I recommend if you don’t yet own a device for ebook reading, or if you’re not yet sure which device you want to use.

1. Do Not Buy an eReader or Tablet First

Don’t buy anything until you have a basic grasp on the options available.

2. Consider eBook Stores

My recommendation is to first figure out where you want to buy ebooks. This will narrow down your device choices. For example, if you really want to buy most of your ebooks from Amazon, you should get a Kindle. (You can also read Kindle ebooks on an iPad, iPhone, or Android device with the Kindle app). Likewise, if you really want to buy your ebooks from Barnes & Noble, you should get a Nook. (You can also use an iPad, iPhone, or Android device with the Nook app). The same goes for Kobo. If you like buying things from Apple and would like to buy your ebooks through iBooks, you should get an iPad. If you’re the type of person who wants to buy from smaller ebook websites, you can pick and choose from a few different sites like ebooks.com, ebookmall.com, or diesel-ebooks.com, as well as others. They will be able to support a lot of devices with the main exception being the Kindle. However, the process isn’t as streamlined as when you buy a specific type of ebook for a specific type of device, like a Kindle ebook for a Kindle eReader.

3. Based on Your Store Choice, Consider eBook Readers

Let’s say you decided that you’d really like to buy all of your ebooks from Amazon. That makes it pretty easy because you can get any Kindle model that you want. (Note that Kindle is not synonymous with eReader. A Kindle is the type of eReader sold at Amazon.com.) The same goes for Barnes & Noble — just get one of the Nook models. If you would like more variety, you could consider getting and iPad or Android tablet. That’s a great choice because you can use ebooks from a variety of sources, and you’ll also have a fully functional tablet computer that you can use for web browsing, movies, or whatever else.

4. Buy Your Chosen eReader

Once you know where you want to buy your ebooks and what kind of device you want to use for reading, go get your eReader!

5. Install Software/Apps If Necessary

Depending on what kind of device you’ve chosen, you might need to install an app or other software. E-Ink eReaders like the basic Kindle and Nook eReaders don’t need apps. But if you want to read on your iPhone, iPad, or Android device, you’ll need an app for reading ebooks. The best one to use depends on where you’ll buy your ebooks. I have explained this in more detail in previous posts: Best eBook Apps for iPad and iPhone, Best eBook Apps for Android

6. Get eBooks!

Go forth and buy ebooks.

I hope this guide is helpful for ebook newbies. If you have any more tips for someone who is completely new to ebooks, leave them in the comments.

Best eBook Apps for Android

The best Android ebook app for you mostly depends on where you want to buy your ebooks. Each ebook app works for a specific type of ebooks, so you need to match up the type of ebooks you own to the type of app you need. The apps below are the most popular for Android users and cover most main ebook sources that people use today.

Aldiko

The Aldiko Android App is the best alternative to apps from big ebook sources (like Kindle or Nook) because it allows you to read PDF and ePub ebooks from independent ebook sources. It supports Adobe DRM and non-DRM ebooks, so you can read ebooks that you purchased at places like ebookmall.com, ebooks.com, or diesel-ebooks.com. You can also import your own content and create your own ebook catalogs.

Download: You can get a direct download from Aldiko.com or find Aldiko in the Google Play Market.

Android OS Version Supported: Android OS 2.1 or higher

eBooks Supported: The Aldiko Book Reader supports Adobe-DRMed ePub and PDF as well as non-encrypted ePub and PDF formats. Get eBooks anywhere ePub and PDF eBooks are sold or available for free. You can also get ebooks from your public library (where supported).

Amazon Kindle Android App

The Kindle App for Android lets you read all of your Kindle ebooks on an Android device, even if you don’t own a Kindle eBook Reader. If you do have a Kindle, you can read your ebooks on both the Kindle and Android device. Your reading progress will be synced between the devices with Amazon’s “Whispersinc”. You can use the Kindle Android app to borrow ebooks and view free samples.

Download: Go to the Kindle for Android page on Amazon. Or, while on your phone you can search for “Kindle” in the Google Play market.

Android OS Version Supported: Android OS 2.2 or higher

eBooks Supported: Amazon Kindle ebooks in the AZW format that are only sold at Amazon.com/Kindle

Barnes & Noble Nook Android App

The Android Nook App from Barnes & Noble lets you read all of the Nook ebooks on your Android device without having to own a Nook eBook Reader. Nook for Android gives you access to over 2 million books, magazines, and newspapers. You can try newspapers and magazines for free for 14 days and sample lots of Nook ebooks for free. You can also start reading an ebook on one device and continue at the same place on another device.

Download: Get the Android app at B&N’s Nook for Android page by scanning  the barcode shown with your phone. Or search for “NOOK” in the Google Play market.

Android OS Version Supported: Android OS 2.1 or higher

eBooks Supported: If you want to read ebooks using the Nook App, then you should get ebooks from Barnes & Noble’s Nook store.

Kobo Android App

With the Kobo Android app, you can buy ebooks from inside the app and download them directly to your phone. Take your entire library with you on the go. You can find all of your favorite titles and authors in Kobo’s large ebook selection of over 2.5 million books. You can also get personalized recommendations.

Download: Go to the Kobo Android App webpage to scan the QR code. Or search Google Play for Kobo.

Android OS Version Supported: Android OS 1.6 or higher

eBooks Supported: If you want to use the Kobo Android app, you should download eBooks from the Kobo eReader store.

Sony Reader Android App

The Sony Reader Android app comes pre-loaded with three classic titles and three excerpts from bestselling ebooks. You can sync your reading position, bookmarks, and highlights to Reader Daily Edition (PRS-950SC with firmware 2.0). Like the other apps, you can also read Sony Reader ebooks even if you don’t have a Sony Reader.

Download: Go to the Sony Reader for Android webpage and scan the QR code. Or, search for the app in the Google Play market.

Android OS Version Supported: Android OS 2.2 or higher

eBooks Supported: If you want to read Sony Reader ebooks on your Android device, get them from Sony’s Reader Store.

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