• 100 Influential Idahoans 2015
You can find it all here in the Pacific Northwest - much of the nation's most beautiful places, some appallingly trashed-out areas; politics running from just about as far left to just about as far right as anywhere in the country; economies of all sorts from the highly prosperous to the dying. It's all here.
 

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Idaho Republicans just can’t get comfortable with their primary situation.

And probably never will unless the national primary picture changes.

This month, the Idaho Republican Party said it will change once again its method of participating in the presidential nomination contest by holding a primary election on March 8. Last time, in 2012, the party held caucuses, which is what the Democrats have done for many years. While the Democrats have stuck with the caucuses for a while, largely because that’s a method for safely ensuring the state’s delegates will be accepted at the national convention, Republicans have wrestled with their system like Houdini trying to escape a straitjacket.

But there is no perfect escape available.

A caucus would get the job done, but Dave Johnston, the GOP executive director, reasonably noted that many people cannot participate because of the very specific time and place, and cited his own 2012 example, when he was unable to join in because he was on active duty in the Marine Corps. And he said three to five percent of voters may go to caucuses, but about a quarter will vote in primary elections (the percentages sound generally correct), which unlike caucuses are secret-ballot processes.

Okay, so what’s the problem with a March primary?

Mainly, the cost of holding more than one of them. Idaho traditionally has held its party primaries for state, congressional and local offices (covering both parties, and many other candidates) somewhere around summer, to keep the general election campaign season running into fall down to a reasonable length. For a while some decades ago they were held in August, but mostly in May, which seems to be a satisfactory time for most Idahoans.

The problem is, the presidential nomination contests are effectively all over by then. In 2012, Mitt Romney had become a prohibitive favorite for the nomination by the end of March, and in 2008 John McCain was widely called the “presumptive nominee” by the end of February. And the Republican Party has been trying to “front load” the system to compress the period of serious contests, to give the nominee more time to settle into general election mode. If Idaho Republicans vote for a nominee in the May primary, they’re playing in a game that’s long since over.

Hence the idea of a March primary, which might put the Gem State into the action. But who will pay for it? That’s been a sticking point at the Idaho Legislature for years, especially when the Democrats say they’re not interested. A taxpayer-funded election for the benefit of one party, for presidential but no other candidates, would have an uncomfortable tinge to it.

Last week I was discussing some of this endless circle on a radio program, and the host mentioned a former neighbor of his who had the proposal of setting up several regional primaries around the country. It might rotate from one presidential cycle to the next, and maybe get started later in the year so that all of the presidential year isn’t hard-core campaign season. I’ve heard the idea for years (with ideas of anywhere from four to eight regional primaries in the proposal), and I like it – it would give people outside of Iowa and New Hampshire a shot at playing that crucial early role in the selection. It might solve Idaho’s problem too, by moving the presidential contests to a later point so they could be combined with the regular state primaries.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem likely for the near future. So Idaho Republicans are probably going to be stuck with their discomfort for a while yet.

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When people read your book, they read you.

When I read a book, I seek out the “about the author” page. Many one-paragraph author bios are not especially enlightening or entertaining, and I don’t expect a full scale memoir, but even the briefest can tell me something about the author’s relationship to the book, and sometimes give me a reason to search out their other titles.

Consider offering the reader more than just the usual name, city of residence, occupation and when you started writing.

In one blog post, writer TA Sullivan recounted waffling about whether to write a bio for her own book, then reflected how she scanned the bios of other writers as she chose books at a store or library. “Nowadays, I still check out the author’s bio when looking for a book to read. Clever bios, witty bios, or even sincere bios can help me connect with the author, which then makes taking a chance on their book seem not quite so chancy. An author’s bio can help remind the readers that you (the author) are a person, too,” she said.

Her point has statistical backup at Smashwords. The giant ebook distributor said on its website, “In 2011 when we surveyed ebook buyers and asked them their most common decision factor that guided how they discover and purchase books, the #2 answer, accounting for 18% of respondents, was that they first look for books from their favorite authors. This speaks to the importance of author as brand. Your “brand” is what you represent to your readers, and how your readers perceive you and your ability to write great stories.”

In typical Smashwords fashion, it used that information to make available to authors an “interview” page containing sample questions you can use or discard, with the option of adding your own. (It’s a self-interview.) It’s an easy-reading and low-stress way of connecting better with readers.

“The secret to creating a great Smashwords Interview is to ask yourself questions that prompt honest answers that address what readers would want to know about you (even if they don’t yet know they want to know it), and what you want readers to know about you. You want to find that common intersection where what you want to share matches what your target readers might enjoy knowing about you,” it said.

That’s good advice. The idea of searching out points of common interest with readers is much like what skilled politicians do on the handshake circuit: “Oh, you like boiled cucumbers? What a coincidence – so do I.”

The many places on the web where authors can and should list their books, from Amazon to Goodreads to Bowker (home of the ISBN numbers) and many more, almost all have free space for authors to enter biographical information. I’ll admit to sometimes rushing through and leaving some of these blank when I’m in a hurry. Now I try to keep a standard bio handy for cut and paste, so the work of posting your name and story around the web only need last a few seconds.

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You can do more than this on your author website. Most websites of traditionally published authors do carry longer bio material on their “about the author” page – more at least than usually appears in a print book. Does your author page have maybe one or two paragraphs of background information about you? The author site bio for Gillian Flynn, who wrote Gone Girl, runs nine paragraphs. That is not overlong but enough to provide some color to her story and add links to her previous books.

I’m experimenting on my site with something longer still, a “mini-memoir” more than twice as long as this post. It’s not that my life has been so engrossing to the average stranger, but that added insight into me may give some readers a better idea of who I am and what we might have in common, and something in it may trigger the memory of my name more easily when the next time comes to pick up a book. A video may be coming next.

Sullivan explained when writing about her own author bio, “I admit to finding it hard to ‘brag’ about myself. I don’t consider myself all that interesting . . .” I get it. Most of us can sympathize.

But we’re writers: Making it interesting is what we do.
– See more at: https://www.bookworks.com/2015/08/indie-authors-need-to-highlight-themselves/#sthash.49Eaq13N.dpuf

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Of course, someone had to come up with “666.”

But there’s more than this to recent decisions that, at long last, Idaho will move out of its long-standing single area code and into the world of two of them.

The Public Utilities Commission, which oversees area codes, has faced the issue before and managed to kick it down the road. The need has been mentioned as far back as the 80s, but not really confronted head-on until 2001, when the national private company administering area codes figured that Idaho would run out of 208 numbers by the end of 2003. The PUC, putting off that day, cut the numbers assigned to phone companies in single blocks (from 10,000 to 1,000) for the Boise area, which bought some time. It used the same tactic a few years later, on a statewide basis, to buy more time. Now, at last, the game will be up in another three years.

After that, the state could go two ways: Either divide geographically (like it has with congressional districts), which would mean half of the state getting a new area code number. This would allow everyone to still make seven-digit local phone calls. But it would amount to a lot of hassle and changed phone numbers for a lot of people, so the likelihood is an “overlay” – starting a new area code right on top of 208, statewide. That would mean you have to dial an area code even if you’re calling two houses down. But it would also probably mean you can keep your existing phone numbers.

Much of Oregon uses an overlay system that works this way. On one hand, dialing the extra three numbers is a small annoyance. On the other hand, many numbers most of us call these days are programmed into smart phones and the like, so the practical difference is apt to be a lot smaller than in the days when people actually dialed their phone numbers. (Assuming here you’re among the shrinking group who used to use rotary phones? Never mind.) The overlay is a little complicated for callers, but keeping your accustomed number is probably a much bigger tradeoff, especially for businesses and other organizations but for many residents too. A lot of people still do, after all, have local phone tethers, even if they use wireless signals for their local numbers instead of wires (as our house does).

The PUC is taking comments on all this through October 6.

Comes next, of course, the question of what new three-number area code Idaho should get.

It can’t be one already in use elsewhere, which limits the possibilities. The “666” suggestion noted above actually would work, since for some reason no one has gotten it assigned to their local area. But it doesn’t seem very likely for Idaho.

The lively crowd at the Spokane Spokesman-Review’s Huckleberries blog has come up with some additional suggestions too, based on the letters attached to the numbers. You could get GEM (436), which isn’t in use elsewhere. Someone suggested GOP (467), also not in use.

Others suggested that apparently would qualify include LDS (537), LOL (565), or 384 (DUH).

What’s your preference?

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E-books are all well and good, some new authors say, but what about piracy? Wouldn’t it be too easy for someone to steal my book if it’s out there in electronic form?

After all, you can look at the music and video industries and see the important commercial damage done by people illicitly copying and spreading songs and videos. The music industry is making a lot less money now than it was 20 years ago, partly because of copyright infringement. Why couldn’t the same happen to books?

It’s a fair question, and it has concerned even large book companies. In 2012 a group of large publishers and other related companies went to court to stop what they said was illegal sharing of book files (mainly PDF files) online by two websites, Library.nu and iFile.it. That effort reportedly shut down those sites.

There haven’t been many other reports of large-scale book piracy cases since. Piracy doesn’t seem to have become nearly so big a problem for book authors and publishers as it has been in other industries.

When a podcast on book marketing recently opened the topic to discussion, one commenter suggested, “I think the market for pirated books is pretty small compared to music. People listen to dozens of songs (or albums) per day, and collect them just to collect them and have them at their disposal. I don’t see that with books.”

Another pointed out that many e-books are already available either free or at a low cost. And, “Who would use a Napster for books?”

A study released last month by the United Kingdom’s Intellectual Property Office found the numbers of book pirates are indeed small. While the numbers of music and video infringers remain significant, it said, “The e-book category has the lowest level of infringement with only 6% of category users accessing illegal content.” That’s about a quarter to a third the rate of music piracy.

Pirated books may increase sales more than dampen them. In 2009 publishing consultant Brian O’Leary looked at sales figures for several books (for the technical books publisher O’Reilly Media) after they had appeared on pirate websites, and found that legal sales actually increased. The economic theory behind free copies driving sales is what has encouraged, in more recent years, the rush of many indie publishers to offer their e-books for free, on dozens of websites devoted to the practice, in hopes of generating larger sales down the road.

Indie writers probably have less to worry about in this area anyway than, say, authors of bestsellers whose legal prices for e-book and print versions remain considerably higher.

Still, if you see your book’s electronic file being offered for free by someone who has no right to do that, you probably should take action. One of the benefits of free offerings by indie publishers, for example, is being able to control and analyze the results, which pirates wouldn’t let you do.

If you spot one case of copyright infringement, run a search through Google or other search engines to see if you can find others – either of the same book or a different one you wrote. Record where they’re located.

Check on the web page for a link to either the webmaster or copyright policy, or reports of abuse. Contact through that link and report the abuse, and save your email in a record. Often the “take down” request is enough to kill the link from the site. If you see a link to the specific person who has posted the pirated material, send a “take down” notice, warning that they have no right to disseminate the book, to them too. That warning may be enough to get them to quit. Then, check a few days or a week later to see if the link is gone.

You have the option, as the book companies did, of taking the matter to a lawyer and heading to court. But as in so many other kinds of disputes, everyone (the lawyers excepted) probably will be happier if it doesn’t come to that.

Readers & Writers: I look forward to your feedback, comments and critiques, and please use BookWorks as your resource to learn more about preparing, publishing and promoting self-published books. My blogs appear every other week.
– See more at: https://www.bookworks.com/

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