Why are large publishers punishing libraries (and readers)?

By John Yunker,

Douglas County Libraries (in Colorado) periodically releases a document that compares the prices for books sold to the general public versus to libraries. You can read their most recent report here.

And as you’ll see, libraries are paying an insane premium for e-books of certain titles.

In this excerpt below you’ll see that an e-book of Donna Tartt’s novel The Goldfinch is available to individuals for $7.50 but to libraries for $90 — per copy.

Library eBook pricing chart

I get that this title is hugely popular right now and everyone wants to read it.

But this is, plain and simple, price gouging. And it concerns me not just as a publisher but as a reader who supports his local library. In Ashland, our library system is struggling just to stay fully staffed and open. And this level of pricing disparity hurts everyone — libraries and patrons alike. And I would guess that Donna Tartt is no fan of it either.

For the record, Ashland Creek Press does not price its books any different for libraries than for individual readers. We want our books to be read by as many people as possible, and we look at libraries as our partners, not our customers.

 

 

So you need an author website (and blog)? Start here.

By John Yunker,

You’re a writer, not a computer geek.

And now you’re expected to launch an author website and a blog and you get on the Internet and come across a publishing or design expert who will do it all for you for the “bargain” price of $3,500 (or more).

Stop right there.

Too many authors spend way too much money on hiring designers and computer experts to create their websites. That’s not to say these experts aren’t worth every dime (some are and some aren’t) just that many authors don’t realize they can have their own websites for as low as a few dollars per month. But more troubling to me is that authors often end up in the position where they have to rely on these experts to make even the smallest changes to their websites, resulting in ongoing expenses of hundreds of dollars per month.

So my first bit of advice for any author in need of a website is to get past this notion that you need someone else to help you build and manage a website.

True, the Internet and all its buzzwords can be very intimidating — but there are website services out there that are actually pretty easy to use. If you can figure out Facebook or Gmail, you can probably figure out how to use these services. And, best of all, you can try them out for free, which I recommend you do before anything else.

Here are three web services that offer individual website designs for a low fee (or even free):

Wix

Wix offers author templates that you can test out for free. Click here to see what’s available. Here’s one author template:

wix_template

You’ll note that this template also includes a built-in blog, so you not only have an author website but also the means to add regular blog posts, which is very important in terms of getting readers engaged with you and your work.

You first need to create an account to get started, but it’s free. It’s free because they run ads on your website; you eventually may want to pay $12/month to remove the ads and get additional features.

SquareSpace

SquareSpace also offers a range of website templates. Here is one template that I think can work as an author website. You can start a free trial with no credit card.

WordPress.com

WordPress is known for its blog software, and most of its templates look very much like blogs. But if you do some searching through all the templates they offer, you’re likely to find a design that looks more like an author website that happens to have a blog built in.

Begin your test drives!

I recommend trying out all three of these web services to get familiar with how they work and which feel most comfortable. Even if you choose none of them, you’ll start to get familiar with how this type of software works, which is important if you want to maintain your own website and blog yourself, which I think is important to do.

What if you hate all those pre-existing design templates?

Using a design template that other authors are also using can feel a bit like wearing the same outfit as others as the same party. I get that.

But keep in mind that even if two authors use the same design template, they may use different artwork and color schemes so that the two websites do not appear similar at all.

But let’s say you still want to create your own web design. Should you then call up that expert and write a big check? Perhaps. But if you do so, here are some tips.

If you do hire someone to create your website…

Here are some questions to keep in mind before you hire a web designer:

  1. What’s the total fee? Make sure the price includes everything you’ll need to get the website launched.
  2. Who pays for web hosting? Every website needs to be hosted somewhere, and this requires a monthly fee. I’d recommend that the author have the hosting account so the author has full control over the website down the road. I’ve witnessed examples of the designer not giving login info unless certain fees were paid. You always want to have access to your own site.
  3. Who owns your URL? Your domain name, such as “JohnYunker.com” should be owned by you and you alone. Your consultant can help you purchase it, but you should have it in writing that you own the rights to it. Your domain name is your little bit of real estate on the Internet. Like any real estate, you want to have a “deed” in writing.
  4. How will you make changes to the design? What will the designer charge per change?
  5. How will you make text changes to the website? Ideally, the person you hire will train you so you can do this sort of thing yourself. If not, you’ll want to know what you’ll have to pay.
  6. Does the design include a blog? If so, can it be set up so you can have full access to it? I mention this because if you have access to the blog you can then create content anytime without incurring expenses.
  7. Do you have permission to use the art on your website? Make sure the designer you hire has secured legal rights to whatever artwork is being used.
  8. Is the design search-engine friendly? What I mean is: Will someone who enters your name in Google find this website quickly? To ensure this happens, you want your web design to be mostly text based, which means that text isn’t embedded within visual elements. The more text you have on your website, the more “findable” it will be to Google and other search engines.
  9. Is the design “lightweight?” I’ve seen some web design so loaded with big images and videos that the home page takes seemingly forever to load. This is a big mistake. You don’t want readers to give up on your website before they’ve even loaded page one. So keep performance in mind at all times. Use images sparingly, and avoid having any videos on your home page.
  10. If you do use videos, first load them into YouTube or Vimeo and then embed them into your web pages. This ensures that the videos will work well and your web pages will load quickly.

So there you have it. Just a few questions to keep in mind.

If you have further questions, let us know!

The GMO battle comes to Ashland

By John Yunker,

Rogue Valley

Ashland, Oregon, is located at a the southern end of the Rogue Valley, which is a long but narrow stretch of land. As such, small family farms dominate the region, which has resulted in vibrant farmers’ markets and plenty of truly local food (and wine).

Because this valley is so small, genetically modified crops endanger the existing organic crops because wind carries GMO pollen or seed onto neighboring organic farms.

But given that there is such limited supply of land in this region, you’d think the large agri-companies wouldn’t even bother to compete with the organic farms.

You would think.

But that hasn’t stopped the likes of Monsanto, BASF, Dupont, Syngenta, and other multinationals from spending more than $450,000 to defeat a proposal (Measure 15-119) that bans GMO crops in this small slice of the world. Monsanto alone contributed $183,294 to the cause.

OFFCVoteYeslogo(yellow)

Needless to say, I’ll be voting in favor of Measure 15-119 next month.

I have no idea if GMO crops are bad for your health. But I’m quite certain that spraying Roundup on crops is horrible for our entire ecosystem. I don’t think it’s mere coincidence that bee populations are collapsing as GMO crops spread. I also don’t believe that farmers should be required to “license” seeds for one-time use.

Right now, these corporations are running ads to scare people into thinking we’ll be less safe if this measure passes — as if our police departments will somehow be overwhelmed by GMO enforcement to go after burglars. The hysterical tone of the pro-GMO ads leads me to suspect that there is real fear that this measure will pass.

I hope it does. And if you’re in Jackson County, I hope you vote YES next month.

Among Animals featured in Vegetarian Times Magazine

By John Yunker,

Midge was interviewed by Vegetarian Times regarding Among Animals.

Learn more about the anthology, her story “The Ecstatic Cry,” and environmental fiction is all about.

veg_times

We hope you’ll run out and get the March issue of Vegetarian Times to check out the article.