Thursday, February 25, 2016

Trends in Publishing for 2016

More changes have occurred in the publishing industry in the last ten years than in the previous hundred. Keeping up with current trends is critical for all writers whether pursuing a large press, a small press, or a service like CreateSpace.

What are the trends for 2016?

On January 25th, the Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC) presented a panel discussion on this topic. You may not like the shocking answers. Moderated by Telly Davidson, a TV and film consultant and author of Culture War (due out in 2017), the panel consisted of David Gonzalez, events manager at Skylight Books and author of several short stories; Gerald Everett Jones, author of Bonfire of the Vanderbilts, his sixth novel; Monica Faulkner, editing and publishing consultant; Tom Benton, sales representative for Penguin/ Random House; and Megan Close, associate agent for Keller Media.

Most writers are aware that, these days, to sell a book through an agent, they must have a platform: expertise, a website, social media connections, and a blog, newsletter, or video channel. What they may not know is that the number of followers is also critical. Authors must demonstrate, said Megan Close, how they will make money for the publisher. In addition, they must be among the “beautiful people” (look like movie stars), a bias most attendees found disconcerting.

When pressed, Close admitted that the major publishers won’t consider taking on authors who aren’t famous outside their own circles. A preference for non-fiction authors is for them to have TV shows on news channels like FOX, CNN, MSNBC, etc., so that they can bring in large audiences. The large audience issue applies to fiction writers, also, however. This factor, in essence, eliminates most unknown or new writers from ever getting published by a major house. Davidson stated that the rejection rate of new authors is ninety percent. For this reason, he advised unknown writers to seek out a smaller or small press.

Regardless of the mode of publishing or whether the book is fiction or non-fiction, Monica Faulkner stressed the need for writers to act like “CEOs” of their own “companies” when it comes to marketing. All writers must have a marketing plan, she said. Gerald Everett Jones stressed the need for a self-published author to be cross-platform: audio, print, and e-book.

Jones also discussed a new free service: Pronoun. This company publishes video e-books, and he predicted that it will either compete with Smashwords or buy it out. It offers an author dashboard that will show sales on all e-book platforms. A requirement is that the author must use Pronoun’s ISBN.

The trends are definitely not encouraging. While new authors can have expertise and a platform, their audiences may not be large, and having a TV news show or movie star looks isn’t possible for most.

What can they do? Considering everything that these professionals discussed, one can conclude that perhaps the best approach is to build a platform and publish through a smaller or small press, or self-publish the book then approach a major publisher or agent once a sales track record has been established. The marketing plan must play a central role, however, no matter which route the author follows.

So, writers, what are your plans?


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Protecting Your Home Computer System From Hackers and Identity Thieves

Anyone who has had his or her email address hijacked or has received a scam message via email knows how easily someone can hack into a home computer system. At the January IEEE CyberSecurity SIG general meeting in Tustin, California, Mark Wich, a senior-level systems/software engineer with more than 30 years of experience in systems and network engineering and member of the SIG, presented “Protecting Your Home Environment from Hackers and Identity Thieves.” His talk covered several areas: wi-fi, anti-viruses, operating system security, email, web surfing, cookies, and password security. Here are the highlights.

Wich advised changing the default wi-fi router SSID and passwords and adding MAC filtering, which lets specific devices only talk to your home network. Since the latter is difficult to set up, contact your provider for instructions.

Anti-virus Protection
Wich emphasized installing only one virus protection program. He suggested Avast, which is free, and that you scan weekly.

Operating System Security
Every computer should ask for a password when powered up. Change passwords every so often.

Email Do’s and Don’ts

1.   Inform your email provider of any phishing scams you receive. Keep your anti-virus program running.

2.   Don’t open attachments from people you don’t know.

3.   Don’t click on links inside emails even if you think you know where you’re going. If it appears like a legitimate link from your bank, for instance, hover your mouse over it to see who the sender is. Banks (and government institutions) do not ask for personal information via email, so if you have any doubt that it could be the bank, click out and go to the bank website via your browser or call their customer service.

Surfing 101
Don’t click on ads or any pop-ups. Just displaying them can infect your computer, so Wich advises installing ad-blocking software and webmail ad-blocking software. Make sure your browser’s pop-up blocker is enabled.

Beware of any pop-up that says your computer is infected. Don’t click on it to make it go away as that will launch the virus. Instead, unplug the computer from the wall right away.

Ransomeware is a specific type of virus. When you click on the popup to get rid of it, it immediately hijacks your computer and encrypts your data. You will have to pay a ransom to get your data back. Again, don’t click on the popup. Unplug your computer instead.

"Don’t let websites, even ones such as Paypal and Amazon, store your personal information, as you are dependent upon their level of security," says Wich.. “If you don’t give it to them, they can’t lose it. And never use your phone for online banking, as it, too, is easily hacked.”

He also warned against using cloud services because of the hacking danger.

Cookies are bits of data that websites store on your computer. Turn off cookies in your browser.

Password Security

Wich’s most detailed suggestions concern instant password security. Here are the steps:

1.  Get a notebook.

2.  Pick a phrase to use as your password (e.g., tomato4soup).

3.  In your notebook, write three things:

a.  Site name

b.  Username

c.  Password nickname (e.g., tword)

4.   Repeat Step 3 for all your sites/
usernames/passwords, but use different versions for each one.  

 .   Here’s an example:

Citibank   - milominderbender, tword4

Yahoo – milominder2, Tword7

Gmail – milo123, Tword35

5.  Take a picture of your notebook on your phone.

These may seem like many tasks to perform, but take Wich’s suggestions one-by-one to reduce overwhelm and keep your computer safe from hackers.


Monday, February 15, 2016

Our Urgent Need for Cybersecurity

As Andy Greenberg drove his Jeep Cherokee down the highway, he watched in surprise as his air conditioning, radio, and windshield wipers went on and off by themselves. Then his transmission shut down. Greenberg panicked as he rolled to a stop on an upslope, with a 16-wheeler bearing down on him. Relief swept over him as he noticed an off-ramp just ahead, and he managed to roll the Jeep down it, then stop and restart the engine. The car was once again under his control.
This wasn’t what I expected when I agreed to volunteer for this experiment, Greenberg thought. My life wasn’t supposed to be threatened.

Yes, this was an experiment, set up by two researchers, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, From 10 miles away, they hacked into the Jeep’s entertainment system as Greenberg drove and manipulated the vehicle’s electronic systems. Luckily, Greenberg wasn’t injured, but if this situation had been under the command of a nefarious killer, that killer could have ensured the truck hit him. In a second experiment with Greenberg, Miller and Valasek killed the engine, disabled the brakes, then sent.the Jeep crashing into a ditch.

These experiments show that our technology makes us vulnerable to attack. The need for cybersecurity is real.

But what is cybersecurity?

While countries and organizations have different definitions for this new field, cybersecurity can generally be defined as the technology and methodology designed to protect computers, programs, and data from attack, damage, or unauthorized access. The field is growing, and more and more companies are specializing in providing these services. Robert Herjavec of Shark Tank fame owns such a company.

Most people will remember the well-publicized cyber attacks on Target Stores and Sony Pictures, but these major corporations are not the only victims. Criminals are going after medical as well as financial data, costing the healthcare industry $6 billion annually.

Furthermore, what most people don’t know is that networks, computers, and data aren’t the only areas subject to cyber attack. A new term is “The Internet of Things,” which is the network of computer chips embedded in all electronic devices. Everything these days has a chip in it, from your car to the coffeemaker sitting on your kitchen counter. Tech thieves don’t have to kill people with hit men or guns. Instead, they can hack into a car as it is driven and cause it to crash or access a house’s electrical system and electrocute people as, for example, they use their appliances or toggle a light switch.

To be sure, these are frightening thoughts, but legitimate ones nonetheless. The most vulnerable items are newer cars and appliances with Internet connections, such as refrigerators that allow you to browse the web or with a camera that allows you remote access from your cell phone. After Miller’s and Valasek’s experiment, Chrysler took steps to block digital attacks in their vehicles and recalled 1.4 million of them.

A threat of even more concern, cyber espionage, was recently featured on a recent segment of 60 Minutes. It discussed, in this case, the Chinese government’s spies no longer stealing just classified information from our military but trade secrets and intellectual property from American companies. Said John Carlin, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, “Instead of doing their own research and development, the Chinese are stealing the information they need…. A private company can’t compete against the resources of the second-largest economy in the world.” This theft has cost U.S. companies hundreds of billions of dollars and more than two million jobs and is considered a major threat to national security.

Many universities now offer classes in cybersecurity and most medium-to-large companies have departments set up to keep their data safe.

So, what can the average citizen do?

You can join the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers’ (IEEE’s) new CyberSecurity Special Interest Group (CyberSecurity SIG). Go to CyberSecuritySIG. Made up of experts and novices alike, its purpose is to educate the members on all aspects of cybersecurity and how to deal with them. Go to the group’s website at to download information on this topic and copies of the newsletter.

The group holds a general meeting on the fourth Wednesday of the month, excluding November and December, so if you are in Southern California, plan to attend. The address is ATEP, 15445 Lansdowne Road, Room D106, Tustin, California. Networking is at 6:30 PM and the meeting is at 7 PM. Admission is free. Dinner is available for $5.

Watch for follow-up articles on this blog.

Also check out the list of links below, which will take you to posts about this topic.!Overview medium=cpc&utm_term=keyword&utm_campaign=SWCCS

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

New Harry Potter Story!

Harry Potter fans will be thrilled to hear that a new story is set for publication on July 31, 2016. Titled Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts I and II, the story is actually a play written by John Thorne and based on a J. K. Rowling short story. It takes place 19 years after the end of Book 7’s epilogue.

Now a father of three and an unhappy employee of the Ministry of Magic, Harry discovers that his youngest son, Albus, is having a hard time dealing with his family legacy.

The play version will begin a run in London this summer, so if you’re in England during that time, stop in to see Harry and his family in person!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Great Bookstore!

When you think of Las Vegas, images of glitz, glam, neon lights, fabulous hotels, and smoke-filled casinos usually come to mind. That was certainly my image—of the Strip, at any rate.  That is, until I discovered the hidden gem in between the Palazzo and Venetian hotels that I would never have expected to find.

That hidden gem is Bauman Rare Books, a book lovers’ dream! Inside this manor house library-style store is  a feast for any writer’s  or reader’s eyes—original  works by people whose names jump from the pages of history: Shakespeare, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, Zebulon Pike, and Edward Curtis—the list goes on.  

I stood before the glass-fronted, dark wood cabinets, drooling over the ancient leather-bound texts, wishing I could reach through the glass and take that book by George Washington carefully from the shelf. I pictured myself sitting in one of the comfortable couches and reading for the afternoon, lovingly turning each fragile page. Alas, I had to be satisfied staring through the glass doors.

Owners David and Natalie Bauman began their company in 1973 with a box of 18th-century imprints. They loved literature and history and believed that starting a rare bookstore would be an interesting way to earn a living.

Nearly thirty-five years later, Bauman Rare Books has evolved into one of the finest and most respected antiquarian book firms. It has two other locations: New York City on Madison Avenue, between 54th and 55th Streets, and Philadelphia at the historic Sun-Oil Building on Walnut Street  (the main hub).  

“When we try to pinpoint what really distinguishes our company, we come up with one factor over and over again: dedication to our clients,” says David Bauman.” Our relationships don’t last for a month or two; many of our clients are with us for years, as we build their collections book by book together.”

He adds, “Whatever your interests—literary classics, landmarks in the history of ideas, monumental accounts of travel and exploration, revolutionary scientific and medical works, exquisite decorative bindings and sets, beloved children’s books, inscribed and association copies—we have much to offer from our extensive and constantly changing inventory.”

I agree with him wholeheartedly. On your next trip to Las Vegas, Philadelphia, or New York, treat yourself to this must-see store. You’ll be glad you did!

Click here to see a video of the store.