Monday, August 31, 2009

The Great Ebook Experiment

In my previous blog post I talked about the future of ebooks. The current model of overpriced ebooks with exclusive formats isn't going to last, because history shows us it never lasts. Technology, and the media released for technology, follows a pretty predictable pattern.

I believe ebooks are going to lose proprietary formatting and copy protection, and eventually become either cheap or free. People want their media fast, easy, and inexpensive.

Fast and easy will come as a matter of course, as all tech gets better and less expensive as time goes on.

Inexpensive will come one of two ways.

In the best-case scenario, print publishers will realize their strategy of releasing ebooks for the same price as hardcovers is short-sighted and harmful, and they will lower their prices.

But I don't see them doing that. Instead, I see software and tech developers eventually coming up with a system that will allow Joe Average to quickly and easily download all ebooks for free.

Joe Average can already download all ebooks for free, but it isn't quick or easy. There is precedent for this happening, however.

I have an iPhone. The first thing I did when I bought it was jailbreak it.

Jailbreaking involves hacking the operating system of the phone, which allows it to be used for many applications that Apple doesn't condone. One of these applications is Cydia.

Cydia, and Installous, are included with the free programs used to jailbreak iPhones and iPods. These are apps that link directly to websites that let you download apps for free.

In other words, the owner of a jailbroken iPhone doesn't need to go to the iTunes App Store to buy programs and games. They can simply go to Installous and get all of the programs and games for free.

Consider the levels of piracy involved in this endeavor.

Programmers hack the source code. Software developers create the applications. Designers build websites. Then users hack applications and upload them.

This is a streamlined, coordinated effort to steal by thousands of people, used by millions of people. Anyone with a jailbroken iPhone can get any application they want, and it is fast, easy, and free.

This isn't a question of if it will happen with ebooks. It's a question of when. And when it happens, how will authors get paid?

I've said before, you combat piracy with cost and convenience. Selling ebooks (which are essentially a bunch of ones and zeros and cost nothing to copy and distribute) for $9.99 is insane. Especially when you consider that this cost results in the ebook distributors LOSING money, because the print publishers sell them to retailers at 40% the hardcover price. This is hurting the retailers, and the consumers, who are going to go elsewhere to get their ebooks for cheap or free.

But I think there's a way for authors to make money by selling their ebooks cheaply. I think they can even make money by giving their ebooks away.

But first, let's go off on a seemingly unrelated tangent for a moment.

I love going to movies and seeing coming attractions. It gives me a taste of films that I might be interested in seeing. Sometimes a preview announces a film I didn't know about. Sometimes it gives me a glimpse of something I already knew about, and gets me excited about seeing it.

As a form of advertising, previews work. They aren't intrusive, like commercials. You pay to see a movie, and previews are a sort of bonus feature. They offer content.

People like content. They like information and entertainment. They seek it out.

Books have their own kind of preview. At the end of each of my paperbacks, there is a sample chapter of one of my upcoming books. I think this is a no-brainer. The best advertising for your writing is: your writing.

Like a coming attraction, an excerpt informs and entertains. It announces, whets the appetite, and often is a direct call to action. If I read a preview that I like, I buy the book.

For years, I've been wondering why publishers waste money on full page ads in the New York Times, featuring a picture of the book cover and a bunch of blurbs, when a much more effective ad would be a full page excerpt from the novel.

If your writing sells your writing, it makes sense to have your writing in as many places as possible, so it can be seen by as many readers as possible.

Unfortunately, print publishers haven't used this opportunity as much as they could. The end-of-book excerpt is commonplace, but it isn't the equivalent to the coming attractions at a movie theater. Instead of five previews, a book only offers one preview. And the preview is limited, because it is a preview of the same author who wrote the book.

This is understandable. Space is limited, and expensive, in print books. Plus, an author may balk at the idea of having five excerpts from other authors at the end of their novel.

Unless that author is me. :)

Personally, I'd pay a fortune to have ten pages from one of my books appear at the end of a Stephen King or James Patterson novel. It would be a tremendous opportunity.

Which brings us to this experiment.

How would you like to put a ten page excerpt from one of your books in the back of my ebooks?

Not counting SERIAL, which has had over 100,000 downloads as an ebook, my other ebooks have been downloaded roughly 30,000 times on my website and Kindle.

Here are my numbers, as of last Friday:

55 Proof - 3044 free downloads, 468 Kindle downloads
Newbie's Guide to Publishing Ebook - 5761 free downloads
Origin - 3122 free downloads, 2188 Kindle downloads
Disturb - 2724 free downloads, 869 Kindle downloads
The List - 2622 free downloads, 4088 Kindle downloads
Shot of Tequila - 425 paid downloads on my website, 720 Kindle downloads
Truck Stop - 730 Kindle downloads

Now, I'm the first to admit that this isn't enough information to base a reliable advertising scale upon. I've been tracking free books on my website for over 20 months, and have been tracking Kindle books since April 8. It's possible to average day-by-day and month-by-month downloads, but these fluctuate, and differ. For example, Truck Stop is only a month or so old. Shot of Tequila has never been given away for free. The Newbie's Guide has never been for sale. Depending on the month, book downloads go up or down. A lot of it is a crap shoot.

But I'm not out to create an accurate chart for dictating ad rates. For this experiment, I'm going to use a simple model.

I will put your book excerpt in one of my ebooks for $1 a day.

Intrigued? Here are the basic rules.

1. You provide me with an excerpt no longer than 2500 words.

2. You pay me through PayPal for a minimum of 30 days (in other words, $30.)

3. There will be a maximum of five excerpts per ebook title. First come, first serve.

4. In the product description of the ebook I will mention that your excerpt appears, stating your name and the title.

Now lets have some questions.

Q: So my excerpt will appear on both the Kindle and on your website?

A: If my book appears on both, yes. The Newbie's Guide to Publishing Ebook is only on my website. Truck Stop is only on the Kindle, though I will put it on my website soon for $1.59.

Q: Can I put an excerpt in SERIAL?

A: SERIAL, and any of the other ebooks where I have a co-author, are not going to be used for this experiment at this time.

Q: Do you accept all excerpts?

A: No. I reserve the right to not accept an excerpt, and I won't give a reason. But the reason will probably be that I'm already full, or I don't think your excerpt is a good match for my readers, or there are too many typos and errors.

Q: Do you accept short stories or interviews instead of excerpts?

A: No. Book excerpts only.

Q: Can I put an excerpt from an unpublished book in your ebooks?

A: No. Your books must be available for the public to download and/or buy. How else would you be able to track the success of this endeavor?

Q: Does that mean I have to have books in print or on Kindle?

A: Not necessarily. Personally, I think you'd get the most for your money if indeed you had an excerpt from one of your current in-print or Kindle books. But if you want to promote a free ebook you're giving away on your website, just to increase your site traffic, that's fine.

Q: Will you trade excerpt space, one of yours for one of mine?

A: Maybe, if you can prove you have more downloads than me.

Q: Can I pick the ebook I want the excerpt to appear in?

A: As long as there is still room. But keep in mind that my most-downloaded ebook might not be the best one for your excerpt. I encourage you to read the ebook, or at least the description. Different books have different demographics.

Q: Can I advertise in more than one of your ebooks?

A: Yes. Each one is $30 a month.

Q: What document format will you accept?

A: MS Word or rtf.

Q: Can I also include a book cover, or art?

A: No. That's a pain to format, and often comes out looking crummy. But you should include a section that lists your website, and where the book is available.

Q: You posted my excerpt, but now I want to make some changes. Can I send you an updated version?

A: Only if the month ends and you want to buy another month. Either send me something in publishable shape, or don't send anything at all.

Q: What if I want to cancel this in the middle of the month?

A: I'll remove it as soon as I have the time, once you ask. But you won't get your money back. I'll have already spent that on beer.

Q: I don't believe you've had that many downloads. Prove it.

A: Pay for a month, and you'll have access to my download data. I'll give your weekly updates via screenshots, so you'll know how many downloads your excerpt has had.

Q: Is $1 a day fair?

A: I have no idea. Maybe that's too much. Maybe that's not enough. Personally, I would pay a lot more than that to have my excerpts in a well-known author's books, because I believe people will buy my books based on the strength of my writing. But I may be a deluded egomaniac.

Q: Why are you doing this?

A: Besides the money? I believe that ebooks are the future. But I worry how authors will survive in a digital world where everything is free. This experiment is a chance to see if ebooks are a viable medium for advertising. Personally, I think an excerpt is much better than an ad, because it offers content and is viewed as a bonus rather than an intrusion. This makes it more effective, which indeed may help authors sell their books.

Q: Do you think this will work?

A: I dunno. I didn't think putting my books on Kindle would work, and I've made about eight grand so far. I know the hardest thing about being a writer is finding readers. I don't believe print ads works. I don't believe bookmarks and postcards work. I don't believe book trailers work. But I know this costs a lot less than all of those. In fact, I can't think of a cheaper way to promote your book.

Q: Okay, I want to try it. Now what?

A: Email me. But before you do, make sure you have realistic goals, and a way to track those goals. Unless you have some idea what it is you're expecting from this, you'll have no idea if it's working or not.

Q: When does this start?

A: I'm not sure yet. First I need to see what sort of response I get.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Stanza and the Future of Ebooks

As of this writing, Stanza has been downloaded over two million times.

What's Stanza?

Stanza is an electronic reading application for the iPhone and iPod Touch. It's free. And unlike the Kindle app, which is also available for iPhones, Stanza isn't dedicated to a single format.

Let's talk about formats for a moment, because they're one of the reasons ebooks haven't gone mainstream yet.

The history of media technology is all about formats. A format is the means in which a piece of media (books, movies, music) can be distributed, and, possibly, purchased.

The first form of media was writing. For a long time, the first format for this media was stone.

If you wanted to share your writing, you wrote it on a cave wall, or chiseled it into an obelisk or pyramid. This format had the advantage of being long-lasting, but lacked in portability, and ownership was unheard of. If you wanted to read something, you went to the writing.

Then came paper, and scrolls. Scrolls made it easier to write, and they were portable. But scrolls were labor-intensive, because each scroll had to be hand-written. This precluded ownership, except in the case of libraries, scholars, rulers, and the very rich.

Scrolls were the preferred format for writing for millennia. Then a guy named Gutenberg came along and invented the printing press, and the preferred format became printed books. These were cheap, reproducible, and have been the de facto format for sharing writing media.

Until now.

Now, writing, and publishing, has gone digital. Offset printing, with its costs, labor-intensive set-up, and distribution and shipping limitations (which requires time and travel) is no longer the best format.

The advent of the computer, and the Internet, has made writing easier than ever, and distribution free and unlimited. One monk could labor for years on one scroll, which might be seen by only a few dozen people. With books, a writer could reach millions, but was still limited by gatekeepers (publishers and agents) and distribution. It involved money, and a lot of people. Now a writer can save their words for eternity using an electronic format, for free, and reach unlimited numbers of readers.

But there's a problem. Which format should writers use?

Let's look back to Edison and the invention of the phonograph. Edison's invention used a tube. A competitor used a disk. For whatever reason, consumers bought more disks than tubes, and the record became the preferred format for music.

Other formats showed up. Reel to reel tape. Eight track tape. Cassettes. Digital tape. And CDs.

Of these formats, DT (digital tape) made the most sense. It allowed the consumer to record music digitally, which allowed for much faster and better recordings than analog. The first CDs didn't allow recording.

But eventually, CD burners came into vogue, and CDs became the preferred format for music. Up until mp3s came along.

Let's look back on the history of photography. Actually, let's skip to the part where no one buys film anymore, and everyone has a digital camera.

When movies first became popular, over a hundred years ago, ownership was unheard of. Films were seen, and only the rich could own them. Less-expensive 8mm films weren't a big hit with consumers. Video tape, when it first arrived, caused big controversy and a few lawsuits between the movie and TV producers and videotape manufacturers.

For those who remember, the very first movie ever released to the general public was Star Trek II, on VHS and Beta, for the own-it price of $59.99. This was revolutionary. If you had a $600 VCR or Betamax, you could actually own a movie.

VHS wound up winning the videotape war, even though Beta tapes were smaller and had a superior picture quality. But VHS was eventually usurped by DVD.

You can now buy new DVD players for $30, and new DVDs for $5.

BluRay has tried to replace DVDs as the preferred format (after winning the war against HD-DVD), but it hasn't happened yet. Downloading may be the culprit. Why go out and spend $40 on a BluRay disc when you can download a high def movie on cable, satellite, or on your computer? You can also download digital movies to your iPhone, iPod, PSP, PS3, XBOX 360, and many other gadgets.

Why have a physical copy, that requires manufacturing, travel, shipping, and distribution, and shelf space, when you can fit 300 movies on your hard drive and get them by pressing a button?

But even with downloading movies, there are different formats to deal with. Avi, m4v, mp4, rm, iso, img, and a dozen more.

Which brings us back to formats.

Formats can only be read using certain media or programs. Just like you couldn't play your Edison tube on your RCA 78 player, or your Beta tape on a VHS machine, you can't play your avi movie on your home DVD player (for those who aren't into the downloading scene, avi is about as universal a format as you can get for movies, and there are well over a million avi movies and shows available for free if you know where to look.)

Looking back on history, the best format didn't always win the media wars. VHS beat Beta (and laserdisks). CD beat DT. BluRay beat HD-DVD.

I have a theory about why.

When a company invents a media format, they want control over it. They license the format to others who want to release media on that technology.

This usually backfires, because someone comes along with a competing format that doesn't require a license (or has a cheaper license). No license means its easier for others to release media. The more media a format has available, the more likely it is to succeed.

In some cases, licenses don't matter. The ability for consumers to copy the media in a specific format (like the case of avi--no one has ever released consumer avi files for purchase) will make it the format of choice.

Which brings us back to writing, and to ebooks.

For all intents and purposes, ebooks are superior to print. If you grew up reading ebooks, would there be any advantage at all to inventing offset printing? No.

Ebooks, whether or not anyone wants to believe it, are the future. Because they're cheaper, easier, faster, more versatile, and can be copied.

So why haven't they taken off in a big way yet?


There are well over two dozen different ebook formats.

For consumers, this is a nightmare. It's not a question of choosing between VHS or Beta, or HD-DVD and BluRay. It's a question of choosing among a dozen different ebook readers, with more coming out every month. And each of these readers has a licensed format specific and exclusive to their device or program.

Remember when you dumped your VHS and had to buy all of your movies again on DVD? Think about buying the same book ten times, as ereaders come and go and none of their formats are compatible.

Right now, Kindle is the leader in ereader sales. Sony is very much in the game. Barnes & Noble is releasing an ereader too.

Let's set aside the functions, bells and whistles of these machines for a moment. Let's also set aside price. These gadgets will continue to become better, and cheaper, like all technology does.

What it will come down to, like it always does, is who has the biggest library of media available. That will be the format that wins.

Which means these companies have a choice. They can either try to license as many books as possible on their devices in order to get the largest library, or they can create readers that read many different formats, and let consumers decide (as in the case of avi and mp3) which format they prefer.

Now along comes Stanza. It isn't a $400 unitasking ereader that is bound to a single format. It's a free application that reads all of the major formats.

I've been playing around with Stanza for the past week, and I'm impressed. It has the biggest library of any ebook reader, both legally (buying ebooks in various formats) and illegally (downloading ebooks on file sharing sites.)

Don't think people are stealing ebooks? In a one hour stretch yesterday, I downloaded 700 books, all by popular and bestselling authors (including all of my own titles) for free. There are hundreds of thousands of free ebooks available on the Internet, many of them illegal.

Stanza can read all of these books, even though they're in different formats. This is revolutionary. It's also a big step closer to having a universal ereader.

"Universal" is the key here. In the past, Joe Consumer waited for the one format that was available everywhere--the one with staying power--before he committed to buying some new camera or video player or personal stereo.

But now, he doesn't have to wait. He can let the companies duke it out, get a Stanza for free, and read whatever he wants to, in whatever format he wants to. And with a bit of know-how, he'll never have to pay for a book again.

Stanza isn't without its flaws. Some formats don't read as smoothly as others. And getting books from your computer onto Stanza isn't as quick, easy, or elegant as it is with the Amazon Kindle.

But give it time.

Maybe it will be Stanza. Maybe it will be another ereader. But soon, you'll be able to get an app that allows you to instantly download any book you want, for free, on your gadget du jour.

Now, if the big boys want to compete with this, here are my suggestions.

1. Lose proprietary formats, and stop linking your devices to only one distribution network. A universal ebook reader will be able to read many formats, and get them easily from many sources.

2. You don't fight piracy with copy protection and licensing. You fight it with cost and convenience. That means NY print publishers need to wake the hell up and stop selling ebooks for full price. For those who don't know, Kindle and Sony lose money on ebook versions of hardcovers. Publishers insist on selling ebooks to them for 40% of the hardcover price. So when Kindle or Sony sell an ebook for $9.99 (which is still waaaaay too high) they are actually LOSING five bucks per book. How do any of the parties involved in this ridiculous model think it can be sustainable?

3. Become your own publisher. Then you control the content, and the price, and you don't have to share profits (or lose profits.) Kindle has allowed for authors to publish on their device (and Sony is doing the same) and since April I've made over eight thousand dollars selling my books there. But allowing authors to publish, and actively soliciting name authors, are two different things. They need to start soliciting.

4. Once you have the universal technology nailed down, share it. It's smart for Amazon to have a Kindle for iPhone. But if it really wants to be the universal reader, it should have Kindle apps freely available for all smart phones, computers, video game systems, cable and satellite TV, and pretty much everything consumers use or can use to read on. Then it should allow that reader to access books not only on Amazon, but on all places ebooks are available.

So how will they make money, if they give away the app for free, and link to sources that have free ebooks?

Stay tuned...

Coming This Monday: I'll share the answer. I'm also going to back up my words with actions, and begin a new, revolutionary ebook experiment that you can participate in. It's going to turn some heads, that's for sure.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Keeping Up

Planting the seed isn't enough to ensure it grows.

Plants need attention. Water. Sunlight. Pruning. Fertilizer. Insecticide.

Planting is tough. But the work doesn't end there.

Maintenance and upkeep is a never-ending process.

Which brings us to one of my Achilles heels. And perhaps one of yours as well.

I'm great at planting. Maintaining, not so much.

For those who haven't caught the obvious analogy to marketing yet, let me drive the point home.

If you want to sell books by using the Internet, maintenance is essential.

When was the last time you updated your website?

When was the last time you blogged?

Traded links?

Friended people on MySpace, Facebook, Shelfari, or Goodreads?

Participated in a forum?

Having an online presence doesn't mean building it and the forgetting it. It means constant upkeep, diligent attention to what visitors want, and an ongoing addition of quality content.

You can't ever rest on your laurels.

I've been buried in writing for the past few weeks. Which is great--I'm lucky to have contracts and deadlines. But this isn't an excuse for lapsing on my net maintenance.

A good website or blog will keep attracting new visitors.

But new content is what keeps visitors coming back.

Don't forget your site maintenance. You worked too hard planting the seed to let it die.

Now stop screwing around on my blog and go tend to your garden.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hint Fiction Anthology Open Submissions

Robert Swartwood asked me to pass this along, which i'm doing because I like the guy, like the concept, and like my blog readers, many of whom need to submit to this collection.

I am not the editor, so don't direct any questions to me. Visit Rob.

hint fiction (n) : a story of 25 words or less that suggests a larger, more complex story


Anthology Guidelines

Tentatively scheduled for the fall of 2010, W.W. Norton will publish an anthology of Hint Fiction. What is Hint Fiction? It’s a story of 25 words or less that suggests a larger, more complex story. The thesis of the anthology is to prove that a story 25 words or less can have as much impact as a story 2,500 words or longer. The anthology will include between 100 and 150 stories. We want your best work.

It’s possible to write a complete story in 25 words or less — a beginning, middle, end — but that’s not Hint Fiction.

The very best Hint Fiction stories can be read many different ways.

We want stories we can read again and again and never tire of. Stories that don’t pull any punches. Stories that make us think, that evoke some kind of emotional response.

Take a look at the winners and honorable mentions of the Hint Fiction Contest for examples.

Payment is $25 per story for World and Audio rights.

Reprints? Sure, but unless you’re one hundred percent confident in the reprint, why not try to write an original piece?

For formatting purposes, you must include a title (which actually works in your benefit, as the title helps give a better “hint” of the overall story).

Writers can only submit up to two stories, both embedded in the same e-mail. Don’t worry about a cover letter. We don’t care where you’ve been published or what graduate program you’ve attended — all author identification will be stripped by a third party so we will only see the stories and nothing but the stories.

To make everyone’s lives easier, embed the stories like this:





Your name.

Submissions will open August 1 and close at midnight Eastern time August 31. Submit only to this address:

(An auto responder has been set up so you can get immediate confirmation that your submission has been received. On the off-chance you do not receive an automated response within an hour, submit again. If on the off-off-chance you still receive nothing, e-mail me at my personal address and we’ll get it figured out.)

Please note that due to the expected volume of submissions, we will be forced to respond with form letters.

Thank you, and good luck.

***For a limited time, if you link to these guidelines on your blog or Twitter, you can submit a third story. These must be posted between July 1 and August 15. Include the link at the end of your e-mail. If you don’t include a link, the third story will be deleted unread.***


So what are you waiting for? Write some hint fiction and send it to Rob. And to makes sure you get preferential treatment, tell him JA sent you. :)

Here are two hints that I've written, to give you kids an example of the form:

Is my hair okay? I can never tell. Is that why you won't invite me in for a bite?

The adrenaline really kicked in when Parker realized he'd forgotten to pack his parachute.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

JA Konrath Tweets

Every funny one I've done so far...

I go to a discount topless bar. Everything is 50% off.

I annoy strippers because I'm notoriously cheap, and they hate where I stuff the nickels.

Glaceau has a product called Smart Water, but only an idiot would pay $2.59 for a bottle of water.

I adopted a highway. It cost me $32000 for its first year of college.

I hid some cash in an old sofa that burned in a fire, so I don't have cash to buy a new sofa. It's a real Couch-22.

To all you married guys: Remember when you thought saying "I do" meant never having to jerk off again? We were so naive, weren't we?

I'm starting a website for people who like to take home movies of their potatoes. It's called YouTuber.

The hardest thing about killing zombies is convincing the cops they were already dead when you shot them.

IMO, the only people allowed to protest abortion are those who have adopted 25 children or more.

Am I the only one who thinks scat music is crap?

"Diversity" is just another way of saying "put your wallet in your front pocket."

My buddy told me that cows have four stomachs, but I told him that was a lot of tripe.

I've got an adverb fetish. It makes me really really really really really really really really really really really hot.

My recent doctor visit confirms that you shouldn't use Chapstick you found without a cap on the men's room floor at the bus station.

How do amoebas communicate? Cell phones.

I was all set to go to Scarborough Fair, but I ran out of thyme.

Don't you hate waking up and stepping barefoot on a big pile of dog shit after a night of drinking, then remembering you don't own a dog?

Mr. Milk got picked last for kickball. Because he always got creamed.

Not only was Hitler a maniac who killed millions of people, but he also ruined the "mini-mustache" look for the rest of us.

The votes have finally been correctly recounted in the Iran election, and it is no surprise at all that the winner is... Al Gore.

Did I remember to take my memory medication?

There is nothing at all funny about cancer. Except dick cancer. Dick cancer is pretty funny.

Happy Late Father's Day. (That's for all of you with dead dads.)

I practice safe sex. But my wife accidentally got locked in the safe, and I can't remember the combination.

It's easy to always focus on the negative. That's why I do it, because it's easy.

I was going through my closet and found a "We Shall Never Forget" tee shirt, but I forgot why I bought it.

At the eulogy, the priest said the deceased was now in a much better place. Where? That dark and cramped coffin? How is that better?

Making "best of" lists is silly and stupid, and I've come up with the top twenty-five reasons why.

My best friend died injecting drugs. The coroner removed two joints and a one-hitter from his right ventricle.

When Barbie gets older, will she need plastic surgery?

The secret to partying all night long: adult-sized diapers. Tug one on and party till nap time, baby.

These are trying times. Today, I'm trying some crystal meth.

I went out to eat and tried a Rocky Mountain Oyster. I had a ball.

When our little League Team went to the World Series in Iowa, we had to ride coach. We hated it, but coach gave us each $5 not to tell.

It's not the size of your boat, it's the size of your penis.

I lost my left eye in a terrible texting accident! .>(

Critics who say Twitter is the end result of the ever-shortening attention span of Western Civiliz... BRB - gotta check my email.

Grilled some brats. They were the wurst.

We have a crack whore problem in Chicago. There aren't enough to go around.

Q: What medieval fortune had a large proboscis? A: Nostrildamus! He nose all! -- I think I need to get some sleep...

I'm vehemently opposed to self-defense.

I sved bigg mnoney on my eeyes aat D.r. Bobbs dicountt Lasiks!!1!

I never pulled the wings off flies or stuck firecrackers in frogs when I was a child. That didn't happen until I was in my twenties.

The universe is expanding, which is incredible, especially in this economy.

Being Goth isn't just about dressing in black, getting a nose ring, and listening to The Cure. It's also about eye make-up, and lots of it.

They should have an award for being modest. I'd win, for sure.

My get rich quick scheme, Gently Used Toilet Paper, isn't doing as well as I'd hoped. Perhaps my Second Hand Floss idea will make up for it.

Erosion, though an essential component to understanding earth's geography, isn't very interesting to watch.1

A new drink for the hearing impaired: Liparitas

Instead of "Mothers Day" how about "Sexy Virgins Day?" It can be nine months earlier.

I put a toilet in my Jeep. So, technically, I can now call it a dump truck. Now I never have accidents.

I shoplift at Goodwill stores, but I never steal anything good and always end up giving it to charity.

Some things really shouldn't be artificially flavored. Like guns, or toilet seats.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the morning.

The Oreo juggler was unemployed, because no one wanted to see him toss his cookies.

We used to call him "Fireworks Freddie", which was much cooler than his new nickname, "Stumpy Fred."

I invented an invisible car, but I forgot where I parked it.

I dated a photographer, but she dwelled on the negative.

And on the seventh day, the Lord rested. So how long must we wait for Him to stop resting and get back to work?

I sold my screenplay "Butt Aliens." I got a piece of the back end.

Librarians have big hearts. Probably because they have good circulation.

I wrote a book on snakes, and was bitten eight times. Next time, I'll write the book on paper instead.10:53 AM Apr 29th from web

Had phone sex with my wife. She charged five dollars a minute.

Using Twitter while driving is dangerous. It's too easy to mispell something.

I wrote a book about my car. It's an autobiography.

I just read a book called The Very Small Box, but I couldn't get into it.

I didn't pay back my student loan, so they just repossessed my education. Now I'm not allowed to use anything I learned from '88-'92.

I returned my buffalo cell phone. Too many roaming charges.

I just changed my name to "Car Repairs" so I could get more hits on Google.

We need to focus our efforts and pass laws to legalize marijua... dude, you got any chips?

I wrote a book called The 144 Murders. It's gross.

I wrote another book called The Paraplegic Murders. It'll keep you glued to the chair. You'll read it in one sitting. But the ending is lame.

Years ago, I wrote a book called The Elephant Murders. It's a trunk novel.

I wrote another book called The Chickadee Murders. Buy it. It's cheep.

I wrote another book called The Elevator Murders. It has its ups and downs.

I wrote another book called The Viagra Murders, which will also keep you up all night.

I wrote a book called The Caffeine Murders. It's guaranteed to keep you up all night.

I copyrighted the word "copyright." Now a lot of people owe me some serious money.

I'm writing a book about a man who buys a cemetery, but it isn't a good plot.

My doctor asked if I was sexually active. I said no, I just lie there and my wife does all the work.

I stayed in the homes of some very nice people on this book tour, so I kind of regret peeing in all their shampoo bottles. Kind of.

Research confirmed my cereal suspicions: "Crunch Berries" aren't real fruit. Shame on you, Cap'n.

I need a wireless headset or a third hand, because this "phone sex while driving" business has almost gotten me killed, many times.

If you sunbathe on a nude beach, you can get coconuts.

"Get the lead out," said Mr. Pencil. I admit, he had a good point.

My neighbor, Mr. Circle, always seems to be a round.

It's hard to cosplay Transformers, because fanboys keep trying to bend your legs the wrong way and shove your head down into your neck.

I'm going to open a chili shop and call it The Gas Station.

Bought an electric socket, at an outlet store.

After years of struggle, I've finally overcome my chronic narcolepssszzzzzzzzzzkkkzzzzzzzzzzzzzzkkkkkkk...

If you took all the snakes in the world, and laid them end to end, it would probably take a lot of time.

Hip new name for male on male: pole vaulting.

I joined a bulimia support group. We all have a light snack, then talk about whatever comes up.

Chunky style peanut butter is great. I wish they made other things chunky style. Like hot dogs.

Just saw The Wiz. Disappointed. I thought there would be golden showers.

Every loves the traditional Haknort Family Easter Egg Hunt, except my wife. I think it's because the speculum is cold.

Christ has died. Christ has risen. Zombie! Shoot the head!

I just wrote a bittersweet coming of age romantic comedy screenplay. It's called: Pull Out For The Money Shot. Auditions soon.

I keep having this dream where I'm trying to hunt a pink elephant with big, floppy ears, but my spear is too small and keeps bending.

I'd eat more vegetables if, instead of vitamins and minerals, they were filled with more essential compounds. Like caffeine and alcohol.

Proposed T-shirt slogan for Twitter fans: "I'd tell you how much I love Twitter, but I only have 140 characters"

Proposed T-shirt slogan for the FaceBook aficionado: "I Don't Want To Join Your Damn Mafia"

Proposed T-shirt slogan for the unhappy motorist: "MapQuest Fucked Me"

Proposed T-shirt slogan for the busy parent: "I Am Not Google"

If you're reincarnated in Norway, are you bjorn again?

I'm on the treadmill six hours a day, and I haven't lost a pound. Maybe I need to try it without the roller blades...

That wasn't a flying squirrel! I saw you throw it!

The nurse dove into the pool and saved my life. She's a wet nurse. But what I really want, is a head nurse.

I like to take amphetamines and tranquilizers at the same time, so I can feel normal.

I eat a lot of Mexican food, so as a precaution I installed a seat belt & an airbag in my bathroom. You can't be too careful with burritos.

I didn't know you had to mail back Netflix DVDs. So far "Showgirls" has cost me $687.99.

I'm appalled by all of the pornography on the Internet. In fact, I'm appalled by it roughly seven and a half hours a day.
The answer isn't sex, or drugs, or money. The answer is taking drugs while having sex on a big pile of money.

Just got the Director's Cut of Mary Poppins. Looking forward to the deleted "bad touch" scene & the alternate ending with the waterboarding.

You shouldn't throw out the baby with the bathwater. Unless you really don't like being a parent that much. Or your baby is butt ugly.

I would like sushi more if it were breaded and fried in a square shape, then put on a bun with some American cheese. And served by a clown.

I hate wearing watches, so I trained my dog to tell time and cling to my wrist and bark every sixty seconds. It's so much easier this way.

Birthday wishes are nice. But nobody gave me what I really wanted; a robot stripper filled with gummy bears and cocaine. Maybe next year...

I've spent a lot of time sowing wild oats. I've ruined six Singer machines so far.

I've found the quickest and cheapest way to deal with a runny nose without medication, is the multi-purpose bendy straw.

Never let them see you sweat. If you start to sweat, poke them right in the eyes, Moe style.

I was stuck in the middle of a riot the other day, and the looting was positively horrible. I only got two flatscreen TVs and a Zune.

I just watched a video about trout fishing. It was a streaming video.

Comedians never die. Their jokes live on posthumorously.

I don't see how DNA can catch criminals. It's too small to drive a car, let alone slap on some handcuffs.

I haven't learned a thing in hypnotism class, and it costs $300 an hour. But for some reason I just signed up for six more sessions.

I've planted over three hundred eggs, but haven't grown a single chicken.

I realized I'm not fat; just too short for my body weight. So instead of going on a diet, I'm committing myself to growing 17 inches taller.

I've talked to dozens of people, but nobody wants to invest in my all natural "green" toilet paper substitute; the washable pooper cactus.

I bet if time stopped, there would be very few people who would spend three grand on a Rolex. Especially since we'd probably all be dead.

I don't fear that aliens are reading my mind. The tin foil hat is just a precaution.

It's been 25 years. Did Frankie ever make it to Hollywood?

My beeper plays Led Zeppelin riffs when I get a call. It's my Jimmy Pager.

I'm now on a vegan diet. So far this month I've eaten two vegans.

I want to be a poseur, but I'm really not sincere or authentic, so I just act like one and hope I'm accepted by other poseurs.

My wife is demanding a romantic getaway this Valentine Day, but she refuses to tell me whom she's going with.

I've been hoping for a comeback, but I think I'm about ready to sell my stocks in VHS, Polaroid, and floppy disks.

Just got ten mil in bailout money. Oh, wait, I forgot...I'm not a greedy, overpaid Wall Street banker. Well, maybe it will trickle down.

If someone cut off my leg, I'd be mad. Hopping mad.

Cherish is the word I use to describe. No, wait... I meant "extort."

I don't see why ketchup is considered a condiment--I think it's a perfectly good meal all on its own. Especially if you let it get gummy.

I never let sleeping dogs lie. Dogs should have to tell the truth.

WWJAHD? Drink a lot, then give unsolicited publishing advice.

A nice thing about winter is no mosquitos. That is, until they learn to start wearing parkas. Then winter will reeeeally suck.

It's tough being perfect. You have to be careful you don't make even the tiniest little mistaek.

They should make a video game that's a video game simulator, for when you don't want to play a real video game.

I'm all for equality, as long as I'm making more money than everyone else.

Life isn't about what you can take. It's about what you can take and get away with.

It's important not to respond to your critics. They're far too stupid, ugly, lazy, and smelly to understand anyway.

You have to watch out for bad cholesterol. The other day, I was eating a pizza, and some bad cholesterol stole my car.

I'd enjoy rewriting more if I'd put all the "re" in there the first time.

I don't know everything. I just happen to have vocal opinions about everything.

I went bowling with my son. A ball rolls better.

The waiter thought I was nuts when I asked for A1 sauce. I hate snobs like that. I should be able to pour whatever I want on my apple pie.

I tried to become a male prostitute, but couldn't find any willing partners when I told them I charged by the second.

I found the needle in the haystack. Now what?

Life sucks, but doesn't swallow.

Spanking can cause deep psychological scars in children. So you should wait until they're asleep, then blame it on bad dreams.

I pinch pennies so tight Lincoln's face is on my thumb.

If I had a brand new blank CD for each one I've wasted, I wouldn't be writing this.

It came straight from the horse's mouth. I think it's a tooth.

If you have a gambling problem, please visit and win big! All major credit cards accepted.

You shouldn't eat yellow snow, but what if someone spilled Mountain Dew? Wouldn't that be worth the risk? Hmm... it was urine after all.

I'm appalled by how many men objectify a woman's breasts. Maybe you should realize, Mr. One-Track-Mind, she's also got a great butt.

She told me the necklace was too tight and when she finally got it on it made her eyes bug out. I decided not to tell her it was a bracelet.

Someone once touched me in a bad place. Gary, Indiana.

A word to the wise: insisting your profession is "a human sundial" when you get arrested for indecent exposure does not amuse the judge.

It took me three hours to catch that chicken. Talk about fast food.

I finally bought an iPet, but it costs too much to download the pet food.

The Internet has many wonders, but for some reason Amish porn isn't one of them.

She called them "butter cookies" but they were really just whole sticks of butter with sugar sprinkled on top. I ate three.

I saw a cow in a leather jacket and cowboy boots, eating hamburgers, and I asked her why. She had no excuse, maybe because cows can't talk.

She called herself Deja Vu, and I had a really weird feeling I'd seen her before.

Should old acquaintance be... uh... I can't remember.

I can tolerate veins in a hotdog. But I draw the limit at foreskins. Though, I did give the chef a tip.

He was a snappy dresser, until the day he lost both thumbs.

Q What do you call it when a truck runs over your butt? A ;

I hate Quitters Anonymous meetings, but I just keep going for some reason.

For all the chefs: seasonings greetings and happy hollandaise.

I missed mime class, because I was practicing at home and got stuck in an imaginary box.

Some hair should never be tweezed. It takes forever for the swelling to go down so you can put your underwear back on.

When there's something really chewy in the apple pie, but you can't really identify it, I really hope it isn't cartilage.

All men are created equal. But then some open their mouths and really test that notion.

Some of my best friends are books, except for The Grapes of Wrath, which slept with my wife and beat me up and stole my car.

If you had a pocket full of pennies and one quarter, and a coin fell out and rolled into the sewer, it would be the quarter.

Beer--it's good for what ales you.

Indeed, the pen is mightier than the sword. But only the rocket pen, which fires a surface to air missile filled with tiny swords.

I'm going to get a full body tattoo. It will be a picture of someone thinner and more attractive.

I don't think my psychiatrist understands me. Maybe I should have chosen one that speaks English.

I just bought one of those new morse code cell phones. It's totally .- .-- . ... --- -- . ..--.

My publisher is having a holiday special on all of my Jack Daniels thrillers. Buy two books at full price, get the third at full price.

I wrote a book about menopause, but it is hard to understand because it doesn't have any periods.

When the old gypsy cursed me, I laughed in her face. I'm not laughing now, because when she saw me laugh she beat the hell out of me.

I'm fearless, except when it comes to things that really scare me.

Hemorrhoids are awful. I don't know what is worse, the itching, the pain, or the taste.

I don't care if it is another dare, I'll never shave with a rusty bottle cap and witch hazel ever again.

FYI, a screwdriver isn't the proper tool to remove earwax. What was that? You say something?

I like to jog backwards so I can see what I missed.

The doctor said I'd feel a little prick. Then he dropped his pants.

I'm bi-curious, but I feel I'd only be hurt in the end.

I've got a closed-captioned TV on a ten foot stand. It's the ultimate in hi-def.

I invented the world's smallest cell phone. But I can't seem to find it.

Are hearing aids becoming more expensive? I haven't heard anything about it.

Have you ever had an affair with a woman married to someone else? I have. I hope Grandpa never finds out.

Making fun of the elderly is wrong. Unless they're really really old. Then it's OK, because, hey, what are they going to do about it?

Catching a tiger by the toe gets easier with practice, my friend Stumpy told me.

I was addicted to nicotine gum, chewing three packs a day. So in order to ween myself off, I started smoking.

Grandma said the secret ingredient in her cookies was love. But I spied on her while she was baking. It was really boogers.

I'm hoping for the day humans learn to breathe underwater, but I'm not holding my breath.

I have two left feet. They're in the freezer. I also have a can full of knuckles.

My foot was injured at the mattress factory, and now I've got a spring in my step.

The crytographer called in sick, because caught a code. Yeah, I groaned too when I thought of it.

Twenty-five percent of people surveyed claim to understand percentages. The other eighty percent do not.

I asked my wife why she hated sex, but she said she didn't hate sex, just sex with me. I understand. I wouldn't want sex with me either.

I think the candy companies should make a candy that can be not only be eaten, but also snorted. Also, it should have cocaine in it.

Vomiting through your nose is awful, but someone else vomiting through your nose is even worse.

One of the "things" that "writers" like to "do" most of "all" is to "abuse" quotation "marks."

Few things are as crucial, decisive, exigent, foremost, imperative, meaningful, necessary, relevant, salient, and vital, as the synonym.

Sex is great exercise, but I probably need more exercise than just four minutes a month.

Next time you're in an 'everything is a dollar' store, ask the cashier how much each item is. They'll think it's funny, so ask often.

It is finally time for change! Here's a dollar, go get me some change.

Pets enrich our lives, with many essential vitamins and minerals.

People who rate things are overrated.

I'm writing a book about elderly dinosaurs. It's called Geriassic Park. The T-Rex hero breaks a hip, and his children never call.

I wish I could put batteries in my batteries, so my batteries didn't keep running out.

People do the funniest things when they're on fire.

I had a pair of Velcro underwear, but they got ripped off.

I bet when Hormel Foods sends out emails they get blocked a lot.

It took me 25 years to realize it, but yes, Boy George, I really want to hurt you.

I caught a virus surfing erotica online. Syphilis. Next time I'll wear latex gloves.

I was supposed to go to my Stop Swearing class, but they canceled it, those fucking asshole bastard shits.

I wish I had two heads so talking to myself wouldn't look so awkward.

I just found out I'm allergic to myself. Now I can't take me anywhere.

My librarian has circulation problems. And my pilot caught a terminal disease. So my astrologist must have... cancer.

When you're going through ice-cream cone withdrawal, do you get the shakes?

If you take your bike to a smelting plant, is that recycling?

I rewrite all of my stories until I get to the fourth draft. After that, I switch to bottles.

Sure, you can have a sip. My sore is almost gone.

When I saw her, my breath caught and my heart skipped a beat. But I realized later it was really a myocardial infarction.

The best revenge is living a long, fulfilling life. That and burning down their house while they're trapped inside.

I've taken several pilates classes, but they still won't let me fly any airplanes. Look, they can't all be good.

I just saw my first Bollywood movie. It had a caste of thousands.

I hate it when I get a hair on my tongue. Especially when the hair is attached to an angry weasel.

Yellow is my favorite yellowish color, though orange is a close second.

Whenever I go fishing, I'm reminded of an old girlfriend. Her name was Annette. She also had a sister, named Smallmouth Bass.

Ah, October. Time to finally throw out that Christmas tree.

It's better to have loved and lost, than to have bet on the ponies and lost.

Some say you should love your enemy. I say, love his wife. That'll really piss him off.

The things that come out of the mouths of babes. Like this toaster. How'd he fit that whole thing in there?

I don't understand nuclear fission. First, how do you get the poles and hooks that small? Second, why is my hair falling out?

Roget had waaaay too much free time.

Sometimes the truth hurts. Especially when it's followed by a severe beating.

If I had a ten dollars for every car accident I've ever been in, I still couldn't pay my insurance.

I hated him, but he said I couldn't judge him unless I walked a mile in his shoes. So I beat him up and took his shoes.

Senility isn't all bad. Buy one magazine, and it entertains you for the rest of your life because you keep forgetting you read it.

One thing that has never caught on as a form of group celebration and entertainment, is the enema.

I've written a book about Viagra. It's a pop-up book. It was a hard book to write.

I named my daughter "Virus." Isn't that catchy?

I think the best headache medicine would be when you open the bottle, a monster jumps out and chases you all around the house, trying to kill you. I bet thjat would really take your mind off of your headache. it would probably work as a laxative, too.

I like to go hunting for deer with one of those toy guns that has a little "BANG" flag pop out when you pull the trigger. Then, when all the deer are laughing at my joke, I shoot them with my 12 guage.

Sex is best with someone you love. That's why I love everyone.

My whole family loves "Pirate Day", especially my ten year old son. We make paper pirate hats and swords out of cardboard, and draw pictures of pirate ships, and then break into people's houses and rape and pillage them.

If you fart while breaking the sound barrier, does it catch up with you later?

Fingernail biting is a bad habit, but it's even worse when the fingers aren't your own.

I'm not afraid of genetically altered or irradiated fruit, except for that giant pear who followed me home and beat me up and stole my TV.

It's not really "stealing" if you plan to return everything you stole some day, perhaps after you die.

He said it was CPR, but I was only sleeping. Also, I don't think CPR uses tongue.

I've discovered -PEPSI™- an easy way -HONDA™- to make extra money -IBM™- with Twitter -ZIMA™-.

This writing business isn't about "publicity." Or "fame." It has nothing to do with the amount of "money" we "earn." As "writers" this "business" is about "one thing" and "one thing only"---our "ability" to abuse "quotation marks."

It was exactly like the blind leading the blind. Except no one was blind. Or leading anyone anywhere. Also, we were all asleep.

It would be cool to be a shark, but not without its specific challenges, like driving to work and breathing air.

When I'm fishing I don't use hooks because I don't want to hurt any fish. Also I stay away from water and boats and the outdoors. So basically I just sit on the sofa and watch TV.

Making "buttered popcorn" using styrofoam packing pellets and motor oil isn't as tasty as it sounds.

I wish I had an angel & devil appear on my shoulders every time I had to make a moral decision, because I could eat those guys when I was hungry.

When you're a professional eater, a lunch break is just more work.

It's always darkest just before the vampires attack.

As I turned my head and coughed I thought, "How lucky I am to have found a doctor who gives free exams in back alleys."

I bought some Dutch cheese, and it was really Gouda.

Just wrote my first romance, "Nibble The Taint: A Geriatric Love Odyssey". Now looking for a cover artist. And a publisher. And readers.

Today I have spontaneity practice, followed by my Procrastinator's Anonymous meeting, which I'm going to blow off.

I'm stating a new club called "Everyone Is Excluded." I'd invite you, but I'm not invited either.

A child's laughter is more precious than gold. I keep telling the pawn shop guy that, but he still won't buy my son.

I'm reducing my beer consumption to one glass a day. Anyone know where I can find a 200 ounce glass?

I don't feel bad about stealing music online, because I only steal songs that I really hate and will never listen to.

People spend a lot of money to get rid of wrinkles, but you can attach a bike pump to a needle for around ten bucks.

Snacks are like sex, and I'm looking to get Frito-laid.

Facebook? How about "Buttbook." I'd join, just for the profile pics.

I wrote a book about potty training. It was a number two bestseller.

Time is relative. That's why I call him "Uncle Time."

I'm writing a novel about a dwarf. Does that make it a short story?

With some lube I can fit my whole hand up my nose.

I'm starting to think that Beatles' song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds may be about some sort of drug use.

I can make blue cheese, with the right color marker.

A bagel is like a donut without the fun.

I wonder if my toes are happy.

That Jughead sure can eat! Silly Jughead!

Maybe there wouldn't be so many poor people in the world if they all had a bunch of money.

Black is the new black. Except it isn't so dark, and has a hipness it lacked before.

This year I'm voting...for flavor.

I can taste my own tongue. Could be the vodka.

I don't think caffeine is a drug, but coffee is a lot easier to ingest by mainlining.

Are scabs low-carb?

Having twelve fingers would be awesome. Except when it came time to buy gloves...

Sleep is overrated. So is Casablanca. They need to remake it with Will Ferrell. That would be funny. Also, add some kung fu.

Ben & Jerry are trying to kill me. They need to have stents in their pints.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

If It Gets Made, Someone Will Like It

I just spent a few days sitting at a table at Wizard World, a comicbook convention. Small compared to ComiCon, it still dwarfed the biggest mystery convention, Bouchercon, the biggest thriller convention, Thrillerfest, the biggest horror convention, World Horror Con, and it even beat Romantic Times in terms of crowd attendance.

Two semi-profound things struck me at this convention, as I watched thousands of people browse hundreds of booths.

1. There are a lot of talented people in the world. The pros, as seen walking through Artists Row and gawking at theiir incredible works on display. And the layman, sporting elaborate costumes that took more time to create than it takes me to write a novel.

2. After someone creates art, someone else, somewhere, somehow, will find it and embrace it.

Fandom is an interesting aspect of human experience. I believe there is a storytelling gene which we're wired into. I also believe that once we identify with something--it could be a mate, our kids, our friends, or something like a TV show, book, or movie--we take ownership of it.

At Wizard World, you could identify fans by sight. These folks dressed to express their love of genre, character, actor, writer, artist, or performer, either by advertising or imitating.

Yes, there were folks dressed as Jedi. And superheroes. But I'd say at least 90% of the attendees also sported tee shirts or outfits that loudly shouted what they liked.

How strange. And how obvious.

Identifying and aligning ourselves with some sort of artistic expression is part of what makes us human. We try something. We accept it. We embrace it. We defend it.

Could be sports. Could be religion. Could be Battlestar Galactica. It's what makes us, us.

Which brings me to creative endeavors.

If Wizard World taught me anything, it's that an audience--and corresponding marketing potential--exists for anything we as humans can dream up.

This is a Good Thing.

It's also a Hard Thing.

As an artist, the desire to express yourself is strong, but the desire to have the masses embrace your expression (and for you to benefit from it) is just as strong.

So how do we decide what to Do? How do we know if what we're Doing will find some sort of universal embrace?

We don't.

Star Wars, Harry Potter, Twilight--these things happened to strike universal chords.

Many artists disregard popular art. They belittle and berate the huge successes.

That's crazy. It's like disregarding your potential audience.

No artist deserves success, and no art is worthy of universal acceptance. But when it happens, it should bear closer examination.

On one hand, if you want to create something truly unique, chances are you'll find some people who will like what you've created.

On the other hand, if you want to reach a large audience, pay attention to the things that reach a large audience.

The point of writing is to be read. It can't hurt to pay attention to what people are reading. And I'm sure it is possible to do this while still being you.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The End of The Critic

GI Joe is opening this week, and like Transformers 2--which has been the biggest hit of the summer--it isn't being screened for critics.

In the past, when a movie wasn't screened for critics, it was usually because the producers knew it would get terrible reviews.

But we're moving toward a world where producers don't seem to care about that once-valued stamp of approval. And there's a reason for this.

You, the consumer, don't care about critics.

In years past, the critic had a role to play. They informed and opined about upcoming releases--releases you may not had heard of, or that you had heard of but wanted to know more about.

But now, anything you want to know more about is just one click away. And if you're looking for opinions and reviews, you can get them from your peers. and are where people look for movie reviews. And unlike critics, many who are notoriously tough, biased, or eccentric, these sites provide an average rating.

The masses have spoken.

Books are similarly covered (pardon the pun--actually, embrace the pun.)

With the meteoric decline in newspapers, the rise in Internet reviews has more than compensated. Besides personal blogs and websites, booksellers like Amazon, BN, and Borders all allow users to rate books. Goodreads, Librarything, and Shelfari are dedicated specifically to book reviews and recommendations.

Bye bye, Mr. Critic. You had a good run.

Personally, I find it both liberating and disconcerting. It's great that someone like Roger Ebert no longer has the power to kill a movie with a downturned thumb. No matter the media, chances are the artist worked like a dog and poured their heart and soul into the project. It isn't fair for one person to destroy potential profits.

But at least that one person was somewhat informed. While the masses seem to agree on their overall ratings, and the average is a better indicator of worth than the words of one man, there are still thousands of barely literate chuckleheads who have no clue how to review, yet continue to do so.

So we've traded snooty for ignorant.

I'm okay with that. I've spent my writing years hoping for the big newspaper and magazine reviews, and haven't gotten many. But search the net, and you'll find plenty of people willing to review my books. It levels the playing field.

It also makes me wonder when awards will follow suit.

I'm not a big fan of awards. Nepotism rules. Judges' opinions carry too much weight. Often they don't even need to read the nominated work. The self-congratulatory nature of most awards is a turn-off, and I rarely agree that the winners were indeed the best.

But what if the masses actually could pick?

I'm curious why doesn't give awards. Couldn't they sell a few more books by giving the top 5 Best Reviewed Books of the Year an award?

Why don't Goodreads and Librarything give awards? This seems like a more honest, and realistic, way to judge merit than just about any award I can think of.

What do you think?