Emily Demonstrates that she has No Sense of Humor

Saturday, June 30, 2007

So I was shopping today and came across this book: Porn for Women. Described pretty accurately online as -- Pictures of men in compromising positions - wielding vacuum cleaners, spatulas and flower bouquets - complete with accompanying quotes such as "I love a clean house" and "I love what you've done with your hair" (A rather slim volume with a comparatively large price tag).

I didn't really find it all that funny, largely because I just don't fit the stereotype of a women who want to eat cake, have a spotless house and blather on to a man about topics he clearly isn't interested in.

Besides, porn for women is, um, porn. All humor aside isn't this saying that women by definition have no salacious interest in sexy pictures and prose? I do realise it's meant to be post-modern wry stereotyping but honestly, why do we need to invent 'acceptable' stereotyping? If I pick up a book called 'Porn for Women' I want there to be some cock in it...




BTW check out Part Three of December's discussion about choosing a Publisher.




May habeus greenus

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News

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Amber Quill has always sold a good amount of MM material but now it will be under a specific imprint: Amber Allure.



I have strangely mixed feelings. Yes, it makes the MM stuff easier for customers to find and buy, but in a way to is good to have romance be something of a mixed bag rather than always keeping the gay in a separate (although very pretty) box? Maybe that's just me.




The revolving door:

Publisher Twisted Shift is closing.

Publisher Come Hither Press is on hiatus.

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Find the right Publisher

(Note: This is part two of a series on my own blog. Part One, which I posted on Monday, dealt mostly with print publishers, but this segment and the next are more ebook-erotic-romance oriented. Reading Part One may be helpful first but isn't necessary.)

Okay, so on Monday we looked at print publisher websites and learned a bit (hopefully) about what to look for. But epubs are different, so we’re going to look at an epub site today and see what we see.

For the legitimate epub site, I’ve chosen Liquid Silver Books. I chose them because I’m not published with them (so this doesn’t look like a plug) and because they’re not currently RWA-approved, and because I know for a fact they’re legit and have a stellar reputation. I have a lot of friends published at LSB.

Epubs almost always have a submissions link on the first page. (See it? Bottom left.) However, notice it’s still not a huge link right under their logo & slogan. It looks professional; they’re not trying to grab anything or make you submit before you’ve looked at the site. What matters most still matters here: this site is clearly aimed at selling books to the public. See, the “Cart” is right at the top, as is the list of genres.

What else do we notice?
*No typos
*Professional-looking covers (I’ll get to those in a minute)
*List of genzres is clear; there’s no twee little categories or euphemisms to make it hard to find what you want (with the exception of “molten silver”, but I think that’s easy to figure out, don’t you?)
*There’s a link for their newsletter and Yahoo Group; this is also a good indication that they try to grow customer loyalty (I’ll discuss customer loyalty probably on Friday.) They have a forum, which I love, and a blog.
*I particularly like that their series have separate websites. The Terran Realm and their Zodiac series both have them, which is cool.

So everything looks nice. This is more important than you’d think when it comes to epublishing. LSB has either paid someone to do their site or somebody really knows how to work the html here.

Check out the About page. Lookie there! There’s the names of the publisher, acquisitions editor, and editorial director, as well as the art director. (You also see they’re listed with Fictionwise. This is a good sign but not as important as some people think, IMO, because some perfectly legit companies choose not to distro through Fictionwise, and we’ll look at that more on Friday.) There are “Contact Us” and “Customer Service” links too, and while I prefer to have the name and email link on a page, rather than just being sent straight to email, again that’s personal taste and doesn’t mean anything as far as legitimacy or professionalism goes.

Let’s look at the covers. Now, I know there’s one legitimate press out there famous for their awful covers. But in general, covers are an important indicator of how professional a site is and how well they’re doing. LSB has perhaps an unfair advantage here, because their cover artist April Martinez is famous for her design skill. But you know what? That’s what you want. Covers are a big part of what makes a book look enticing and appealing. It’s one of the things that makes a difference between a site you want to shop at and a site you want to laugh at.

The occasional Poser cover (those artifical people with the bendy bodies and glassy eyes) isn’t a crime; some authors request those covers and some people like them. (And for people who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like, as Miss Brodie would say.) But look at the covers in general; do they look professional, or do they look like bad fonts stuck of top of clipart photos? Are the images oddly stretched? Are the colors shreiky and painful to look at? Really, is that the kind of cover you want for your book?

In general, I would say at least 50% of the covers should appeal to you. (Unless you have rather unique tastes.) And that’s a minimum.

Let’s pick a book to use as an example of what a listing should have. Once again, I’ve chosen (at random) an author I don’t know and am not to my knowledge associated with at any of my other publishers (I’m pretty sure I would remember “D.J. Manly.”)

Here’s D.J. Manly’s “Suffering Jordan”. (Personally, I’d prefer it if you could click the book’s cover for more info, rather than a link below it, but that’s personal taste.)

Okay. Title, author and ISBN right at the top. Check. Blurb makes sense, is spelled properly, and is grammatically correct. Check. There’s a nice big buy link at the bottom, and the price clearly listed (again, I prefer the price be a little bigger or in bold, but it’s certainly not hidden. It’s a reasonable price, too.) The genre is clearly shown. Even if the cover hadn’t given us a clue, we are told this is a ménage book, with m/m interaction as well as m/f/m, and some light bondage too. There’s also a link to buy more of that author’s titles, which is pretty standard and always nice to have.

We’ll look at the excerpt now. I’ll be honest and say the voice here isn’t really to my taste; but again, there’s no spelling or grammatical errors. The excerpt is long enough for us to get a feel for the book, to see if it’s something we want to buy or not.

All of which lends legitimacy, but we’re not done. You can’t possibly know if your book will fit in at a publisher after looking at one listing and excerpt. This is a process that takes time. It’s just as important as the actual writing, so please don’t skimp. Look at a lot of listings. Read a lot of excerpts. Look at genres other than yours. What kinds of stories do they sell? What kinds of heat listings do you see? Do these look like books you would read? Do they look like the kinds of books you write and the heat level at which you’re comfortable?

If not, move on. Why would you send your book to a publisher whose editing looks sloppy, whose books look dull, whose tastes don’t appear to mesh with yours? Readers tend to stick with specific epublishers. They might have several they buy from, and they might be willing to branch out, but they usually have a favorite, and that’s where they’ll buy new authors too—because they trust that publisher. So look carefully. Spend some time, I can’t emphasize this enough.

As you flit about reading excerpts and ogling cover art, pay attention to how easy the site is to navigate. Is it constantly making you pop up and exit new windows? Are any of the links broken? Are all of the pages finished—it’s easy to have a nice-looking Home page, but that care should extend throughout the site. An “Under Construction” notice is okay, but beware too many of those too.

Also look at their list of authors. Have you heard of any of them? Do you know any of them? Have you seen good reviews for them? Make note of some of their names and websites, you’ll need them later.

Now buy a book. After looking at all of those excerpts, you should have found at least one book you’d like to own (in fact, you should have found quite a few.) Buy it. You need to make sure the buying process is smooth and easy to understand. It’s better not to have to get codes and stuff in your email hours later; ebooks should be pretty much immediate (at least that’s what I think). You want to be able to choose a book, click a link, fill in some info, and get your book within minutes. Put a bunch of books in your cart and see how long the cart holds them, and if it’s easy to remove some later and add more. You should be able to keep stuff in your cart for a while; I know one non-ebook site I shopped on once deleted my cart after like twenty minutes, which annoyed me so much I gave up. You don’t want readers to give up. You don’t want them to get annoyed by having to hit extra buttons and wander through different windows. They will go somewhere else.

And if they’re going elsewhere, you might as well have left your book in your hard drive, right?

So does anyone else have anything to add?

We’ll get to the nitty-gritty research on Friday.

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Book Cover of the Year

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Over at the Epilogue.net forum SI raised an interesting point about Erin Aislinn's cover of the year for 2006. The winning cover, by Paul Ellis is to the left, another by promonant fantasy artist Ciruelo Cabral is below. Possibly there is a innocent explanation but I am having trouble imagining what it could be; more details as they come to hand.





Edited to Add: Wild Child Publishing have been in touch to say they had not been aware of the issue and they are clearly taking swift steps to address it.

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Content, Contracts & Choosing Titles

Currently featured at ERWA is an article called Can I Write That? Should I Sign That?: Some Legal Issues and Erotica that may be of interest. In "Can I Write That?" author Amie M. Evans talks about erotica content no-nos and those that can be problematic for a publisher. In "Should I Sign That?" Ms. Evans states front and center that she's not a lawyer and, although the article doesn't touch on bankruptcy, she does explain the basics in clear language. She also lists resources at the end of her article.

Also up for May-June is an article on choosing titles.

If you've never browsed through the ERWA archives, a wealth of information can be found there.

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[REVIEW] Dark Thirst, anthology

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I have read a hell of a lot of vampire books and a lot of them, to be perfectly honest, are terrible. But I am always interested in seeing if someone can breathe new death into the old vampire cliches. 'Dark Thirst' is a collection of stories by African American writers, some of them established romance writers although this is not a romance anthology it certain does have more than a pinch of romance and a large dollop of erotica.

My favorite story was 'The Family Business' by Kevin S. Brockenbrough. This story basically drags the vampires and werewolves up to date and writing a rapid fire, action-filled story. The author also slides in a point about the true nature of monsters.

A close second would be 'The Ultimate Diet' by Monica Jackson which riffs on the Buffyesque vampire cliches. Jackson's story has a couple or truly delicious characters who drift palpably apart with the arrival of a vampire in the neighbour. The plot line is telegraphed way in advance but the execution is pitch perfect and highly entertaining.

These two stories bookend four other stories that were fun enough at the time but difficult to remember in retrospect. 'Vamp Noir' by Angela C. Allen throws together a gorgeous vampire vixen and the mafia but an idea that seemed promising but doesn't quite gel. 'Human Heat' by the Urban Griot is about a gorgeous man who becomes a vampire has some sex and kills some people (I found italicised sound effects like Uurrgghh!, Eeeaarrrkkkk! and Blooommm! impossible to take seriously). 'Whispers During Still Moments' by Linda Addison is about a gorgeous vampire who is hunted by a half-vampire. 'The Touch' by Donna Hill is a nice enough but unsubtle story about a gorgeous vampires quest for redeeming love.

Overall I think this book is certainly worth the cover price as an addition to my extensive collection--but if all the stories had been as deft and diverse as my favorite two 'Dark Thirst' could have been astounding.

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RWA legal advice re Triskelion

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Dear Author has put up a copy of RWA's legal advice to the authors caught up in the Triskelion bankruptcy.

http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2007/06/23/triskelion-update-rwa-responds-to-triskelion-closing/

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Kudos to Affaire de Coeur

Affaire de Coeur magazine was advised by their printer that may refuse to print future issues, based on advertisements for MM/gay epublisher Torquere Press. The advertisement in question shows nothing more lascivious than two sets of naked (male) feet.In an industry not always known for treating love as love, regardless or creed, colour or queerness Affaire de Couer seems once again to stand out from the crowd.

Their response was to find another printer. I make no secret of being (in a bleeding heart liberal sort of way) extremely pro-diversity when it comes to romance, and I am an MM writer myself. So, now that I have completed my move and will have regular pay checks coming in I think its time to get that subscription.

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Pet Meme winners....

Friday, June 22, 2007


Winners:--
Cat: Princess
Dogs: Scotty.


Could you please send a mailing address for your prize? It's packed full of stuff for pet and person alike :)

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[NEW MARKET] Intrepid E-Press

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Submission Guidelines
Intrepid E-Press is currently acquiring manuscripts for e-publication.

Categories:
Cotton Panties - The bedroom door is open and the room is warm. But no graphic language and euphemisms instead of graphic names for body parts are encouraged.
Silk Panties - Add a little heat to cotton panties and you have the silk panties line.
Thongs - Erotica but keep in mind that the underlying theme must be the relationship between your main characters.
Glow in the Dark Panties - Romantic Science Fiction
Fringed Panties: Western Romance
Leather Panties - Dominant/submissive, handcuffs, whips, etc.

Acceptable lengths are from 2,000 words (shorts) to 100,000 words (novel length).

For submissions greater than 20,000 words, please query with a synopsis. For shorts, feel free to send the submission in the body of an email.

Please don't send stories depicting rape as titillation, bestiality, bodily functions, incest, underage participants or illegal activity.

In your email, please list your publishing history, if any. However, we do accept new authors. Also, please list ways that you plan to help market your stories.

Formatting Guidelines:
12 pt font
1 inch margins
Author Name/Title/Page number in the header

If you have questions, feel free to ask before submitting your query.
submissions@intrepidepress.com

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Triskelion Closing

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Apparently another epublisher is going under. I've seen several emails today stating that Triskelion is going out of business. The website is supposed to stay up until July 2nd, and then it will be gone.

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Yet another new romance e-publisher

Friday, June 15, 2007


I debated about putting the 'yet' in the title. I don't want to imply that there is anything wrong with Red Rose Publishing. Red Rose was founded by Wendi Felter who apparently has a previous connection with Mardi Gras, and who gets some degree of respect from her peers at the Romance Divas forum. They already have staff and authors on board although the website is incomplete and has some bad links it promises to be business-like and functional (devoid of the usual deformed poser vixens). The books are reasonably priced (60k+ novels at $5.99) and the royalties high (40-50%), assuming they are based on retail. All in all, a promising start assuming there is a good marketing plan behind the curtain just waiting to roll out and take the readers by storm.

Nevertheless I think the sheer number of new epublishers is something of an issue these days. I have heard ralan.com won't list new erotic romance epublishers until they have been in business a year. To my mind choosing to go with a start up is something of a separate issue to approaching one of the more established companies. For this reason I will now be listing markets less than one year old separately further down our publisher list.

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Affaire de Coeur

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Affaire de Coeur magazine had started a forum, as of now you could still get in quick enough to be one of the first 10 members ;)

So tell me, do we need a new genre-romance forum--perhaps one with a somewhat different approach to the ones already out there? Or are you getting your romance forum goodness somewhere else, already?

p.s. What is it with publications and publishers with hard-to-correctly-spell names? I swear if I ever go crazy and start a publisher it will be called Bob.

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[MARKET] Samhain special call

I am happy to announce Samhain Publishing is seeking submissions for their Valentine’s 2008 anthology titled Strangers in the Night.

Stories must be RED HOT (erotic) and must be a romance. Submissions should be about 25,000 words in length.

Submissions are open to all Samhain authors and authors aspiring to publish with Samhain. Submissions must be new material, previously published material will not be considered.

Chosen manuscripts will be published as separate ebooks in January 2008 and combined as a print title, which will release in January as well.

The theme is "Strangers in the Night". I am considering all genres. So use your imagination, play a little Frank Sinatra for inspiration, and get those stories written.

To submit a manuscript for consideration in Strangers in the Night, please include:
The full manuscript of 25,000 words with a detailed 2-3 page synopsis. Please include a letter of introduction/query letter. Full manuscripts are required.

Submissions are open until June 1 and final decisions will be made by June 10.

Send your submission to jessica@samhainpublishing.com. Please put Valentine Anthology Submission in the subject line.

If you have any questions about the project, please feel free to email me at the above address or ask here.


*** Permission to forward***




Oops. I just packed the pet meme prizes. The move is coming up and without a car (mine had to be scrapped recently) I can't get to the post office. But I will be unpacking again in a week or so and moving to an apartment right next to a post office ;) So go to the Pet Meme post and vote!

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[MARKET] Draumr

Monday, June 11, 2007

The romance world throngs with slang and acronyms. Here is one I had to look up: BBW is 'big beautiful woman'. Draumr is one publisher with a focus on romance with BBW and men of any size, they also consider many other genres--"We are currently seeking submissions for Draumr Publishing fiction genres such as science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, adventure, suspense/thriller, non-bbw romances (including all the subgenres listed above), and gay/lesbian stories. DP has a minimum word count requirement of 50,000 words and there is currently no maximum."




I will be a bit preoccupied for the next couple of weeks moving and starting a new job, so if the other EREC blog members have some news or views to post, now would be a good time. To become a member just email ERECmail at gmail.com.

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Vote on the Pet Meme

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The gift packages ready and need to get posted soon as I am moving--so one week to vote by comment or email at ERECmail at gmail.com:

Entries:--
Cat: Ripley, Princess, Molly
Dogs: Scotty, Sydney, Frinkle King and honorary dog Briana.


Did I miss anyone?

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Rabbits, rats and romance--are you following the r-strategy?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Those of you who studied biology probably know about r and K strategies, specifically:

"In order to maximize fitness in a predictable environment, it pays to invest resources in long-term development and long life (K selection); in a risky environment, it is better to produce as much offspring as quickly as possible (r selection)."

For most authors, epublishing is in many ways a risky publication strategy. Books may be very low yielding in terms of sales--and most epublishers are new small companies with shaky long term prospects. In response it seems many ebook writers become r-strategy. Let's consider, ebooks tend to be shorter, ebook writers more prolific and they "mate" with more than one publisher. The publishers themselves obviously release more books with less heavy investment in each one and that being the case the writer is often wise to match that strategy as best they can.

What is the other option. If you put K investment into a book when the publisher is putting in r investment is that wise? If you stick with only one publisher while they release almost a book a day by anyone whose feathers are shiny enough what is the benefit? As usual I am better with questions and glib metaphors than I am with answers. I think that it pays to match strategies with the publisher though, if it is an r-strategy world then choose the publisher with the biggest... sales figures. If you detect the publisher, or your editor, is investing in you--then maybe you should match that effort as best you can. I am encouraged by signs of some limitations such as publishers with fewer authors and releases, and yes--being closed to submissions can be a good sign.

And surely there should be some kind of middle ground out there, e-publishers who choose to make more from each book rather than make more books? Or is that just my own little knight-on-a-white-horse fantasy with no reality in the real biological world...? Perhaps the best I can hope for is not to become a K-horse, but the best r-rabbit I can? I mean some parts of the r-job description suck, like "short-lived, small, weak, waste a lot of energy, less intelligent/experienced, care little for offspring, small birth weight" etc etc etc. But at least there are two things the r-types do have that the K-biddies don't -- they grow up fast and have a hell of a lot more sex ;)

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Is Any Publicity Good Publicity?

Friday, June 08, 2007

It would be hard to give anyone the crown of 'best erotic romance writer', but if the blogverse has anything to do with it Carol Lynne may become known as the worst. I haven't read her work myself but I suspect with all that publicity about her being "bad" may be selling more books than being in the "blah" to "meh" mid-quality range would?

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The Dangers of Net

Thursday, June 07, 2007


It seems that a few erotic romance epublisher have quietly swapped over to calculating royalties on a net basis. I am by no means a lawyer but thought I would raise a few issues to keep in mind as an author, and I would be interested in hearing your opinions.

1) Unless otherwise stated royalties should be able to be assumed to be based on cover price. So 40% means that you get 40c of every dollar a customer pays for your books. In some cases it might be considered easier to calculate sales through a distributor based on wholesale, so 40% means you get 40c for every dollar the distributor pays the publisher. As the percentage taken by distributor is public information in most cases this is still pretty clear. 40% of wholesale through fictionwise is 20% of retail as they take 50% of retail for themselves.

2) "Net" has no uniformly agreed meaning in general, in publishing or in epublishing. So when choosing a publisher that calculates royalties on net you do not really know exactly how much you will end up getting paid unless they specify net costs and you have a way of estimating how high these will be over the life of the contract. Your 50% on net may in fact be less than someone else's 40% on retail. When you receive the contract net should absolutely be defined in black and white--specifying what costs the publisher is effectively asking you to pay. Some of these might be borderline reasonable, such as some set up fees. But all the same, use of net calculations may suggest a publisher that sells in low volumes and is therefore wouldbe in danger of not recouping these costs through profits.

The question that occurs to me is this: should authors pay these costs at all? If you would not pay up front cash money for them, why would you pay for them through royalties? Some authors do not have a problem with paying some set-up fees (e.g Whiskey Creek Press's set up fee for a print option) others hold a firm line of keeping the money flowing towards the author. Ultmately I see the author as providing the prose, and the publisher as setting royalties where they need to be so that all costs are covered by the publisher's share--anything else begins to enter the realm subsidy or co-operative publishing.

As such, moving without a clear announcement and explanation from retail to net calculations of royalties might be seen as a less than transperant way of dealing with a short fall in profitability. Backlist royalties should still be paid according to a retail percentage unless the author signs a new contract or addendum.

Once again, all just my semi-informed opinion. If you know more or better, please comment. :)

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Ask not what your publisher can do for you...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Having written at some length about what we want, expect, demand and appreciate in publisher I thought it would be worth revisiting the writer's part of the deal. Publishing is a partnership for the writers, but for the publisher it is a very poly-partnership situation especially with epresses which sometimes have over a hundred authors. Things can get very confusing very quickly at their end if you aren't staying in touch and sending them the right things at the right time.

Obviously the writer's main obligation is to produce a good book, be reasonable in communications and make some effort in promotion and marketing. I will take that as read. But from what I overhear from editors there are two main areas that are a constant frustration for them.

1) When approaching a press for the first time follow the submission guidelines. Send only the genre and length they want, take some time to be familiar with their product. No, you don't necessarily have to buy their books, but browsing the catalogue and reading some online reviews is a good start. Read the guidelines, format the work, and then read the guidelines again, pen in hand, and tick off everything specified therein. It will be appreciated.

2) When working on a regular basis with a publisher, meet your deadlines. When disaster strikes and a deadline starts to look unrealistic the earlier you let them know, the better. This allows them to reschedule releases and find someone else to fill the gap. When setting deadlines it is better to be realistic and meet them than hope for the best and let your editor down. Bear in mind that turn-around times for edits are often very tight and ask in advance when they might be sent to avoid problems.

Finally, I mess up, we all (I presume) mess up from time to time. So long as it is only an occasional event that is all part of being human--and this is as true for editors and management as it is for us. So, if your editor and your publisher are doing a good job most of the time, be sure to let them know you appreciate it. :)

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Updates

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

[AVOID]

You may, like me, have received an email that begins: "Dear Writer, Canadian Aid Charity invites you to participate in the 2007 ANNUAL CANADIAN AID LITERARY AWARD CONTEST."

Here is some commentary from some respectable sources:

"Is something fishy going on? I have no idea. But the raffle information is worded to encourage people to assume that Canadian Aid Charity and BookLand Press have no connection other than their cooperation in this fundraising venture--and to my mind, that's deceptive." Victoria Strauss

"Charges fee. Conflict of interest. Not recommended." Preditors and Editors




[GRAND OPENING]

Total-e-bound: July 2nd.




[LIVEJOURNAL]

The great 'strikethrough' event is still not properly resolved.




[S&S]

Simon & Schuster have backed down on their rights grab and agreed a sales threshold below which a book would be considered out of print. They blame the kerfuffle on a "miscommunication"--yeah, right.




[MARDI GRAS]

Mardi Gras have recently amended their terms to allow unspecified publisher costs to be deducted from the author's royalties [bold added]: "We pay quarterly royalties of 40% on ebooks on retail sales from those sales originating from our web site, minus costs. We pay 15% royalties on retail sales minus distribution costs for those sales which originate from various distribution channels we utilize."

I continue to be interested in hearing author's experiences with this house. I have received reports from three authors of negative experiences of various kinds.

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Samhain Publishing Best First Line Contest

Monday, June 04, 2007

Thanks to inspiration from the Romance Divas and author Karin Tabke, Samhain Publishing is going to be holding a Best First Line contest on our blog (http://www.samhainpublishing.com/blog).

Starting Monday, June 4th at 8am Eastern, authors are invited to leave the first line of a previously unpublished work (of 12,000 words or more) in the comments of the Best First Line blog post. The contest is open to published and unpublished authors not currently contracted with Samhain Publishing.

On Friday, June 8th at noon Eastern, we will close the comments and no more entrants will be admitted into the contest. Only those who enter by posting on our first line contest blog post between 8:00 a.m. EST, June 4th 2007 and 12:00 Noon EST, June 8th will be eligible to participate in the first line contest.

Samhain editors will choose a group of entrants for the next round and the "winning" first lines will be posted on Monday, June 11th. Winners of the first round will have until early noon Eastern on Friday to post their first and second lines (both must be posted together) in the comments of that blog post—we will not email those who move on to the next round, you must check back at the blog. The contest will run in a subsequent manner(with previous lines plus the new line, being posted), with editors paring down the entries and asking for the next line in the entry, for a total of 5 lines. The contest will end on July 6th and a minimum of three ntrants will be invited to submit their manuscript (first three chapters and complete synopsis, minimum) to Samhain Publishing for consideration for publication on our 2008 schedule.

A few rules:
1) One line only (a dialogue tag is allowed, but make sure you're punctuating things correctly. We're editors. We'll know if you cheat and use an action tag making it a second line, instead of one whole line)

2) If you move on to the second round, you cannot change that first line in any way. Each line posted must remain as written as you move through the rounds.

3) If we close the comments before you've had a chance to post your next line, we're very sorry, but you will be eliminated from the competition. We must make this fair for everyone and still make it workable for us, and the only way to do that is to post a deadline.

4) This contest is for new material only. No previously published material

5) Samhain is a general publisher, you may enter material of any genre!

This is an opportunity for everyone who's been waiting for submissions to open. Submissions are due to remain closed until later in the summer, so we're giving at least three people the chance to get their work in front of a Samhain editor before submissions re-open. If interest in the contest is high, we will give this opportunity to five authors.

*permission to forward granted*

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Samhain and Kensington Announce New Imprint

Samhain and Kensington announced a new partnership at BEA. The new line (much like their Aphrodisia) line will cement Kensington's foray into erotic romance and provide more exposure for Samhain as a whole.

From what I understand, they'll release one book a month starting in the fall of 08.

You can read more here, at Dear Author

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The Love that Dare Not Bark its Name

Sunday, June 03, 2007


Most dictionaries define bestiality simply as "sexual relations between a human and an animal".

Erotic Romance Publisher tend to incorporate a more speculative element by specifying that bestiality in fiction relates to sexual relations between a human and a non-sentient animal. This is yet another example of how words mean different things to different people. Within modern science most mammals and birds are considered to be sentient to the extent that they are aware and capable of emotions and thoughts. It must be assumed that what the publishers mean is that if a being is intelligent and self aware to the same degree as a competent autonomous human adult, they are counted as being able to consent to sex. In many genres this seems totally accepted such as science fiction where Bujold gives us the genetically modified canine women 'Taura' who has sexual relations and full romance (in 'Labyrinth' and 'Irresistible Forces').

However there seems to be a difference in genre-romance between what is bestiality in terms of an offense against a vulnerable being, and what is bestiality as a squick to the reader. As far as I can tell there is a general difference between readers of erotic and readers of mainstream romance on this issue, with erotic romance readers somewhat between the two. But generally speaking in romance if it looks like an animal, it is an animals, and so bestiality. Thus in mainstream romance both parties must be in fully human form during sexual intercourse to be fully acceptable.

Take for example amazon reviews for works with human females and monster males who bring a little of the beast to the bedchamber--accusations of bestiality are thrown around in the reader comments. In the case of Cast's 'Divine by Mistake' sexual intercourse occurs with both as humans but some fondling and masturbation of the human female partner occurs in centaur form. While in the Ravencliff Bride by Dawn Thompson a shapeshifter beast form is intangibly present during sex. All of these things only slightly blur the beast-human physical line and there is no question that all parties are sentient, but still make at least some romance readers uncomfortable because their emotional/disgust response it to animal shape alone.

Some authors choose the lightly-lightly approach in strongly implying things such as the werewolf being unable to pull out immediately after sex (one I used myself in 'Blue Murder' without an negative reader reaction so far). This sort of allusion is easily picked up by the reader 'in the know' but likely to be missed by those who would rather not know. This allows a little form blurring while still staying the 'monster lite' category with broadest reader acceptance. However, I would also expect that reader's who didn't read the blurb, don't have much basis for complaint (if the heroine is described as marrying a centaur, you think she'll never so much as touch any 'hairy parts'? I was disappointed that she didn't go far enough!)

Personally I feel that the appeal of the beast-monster is his or her 'otherness' and all this romance shapeshifting to allow sex in human form is coy and even dishonest. If you love the monster, you love him or her as a monster rather than trying to make him or her into a human. That doesn't mean you need rampant puppy love scenes in every werewolf romance but a few non-human features shouldn't come as to much of a surprise. I suppose the message to paranormal writers is, the ethical basis for bestiality rests on consent--but the squick factor will fall all over the place depending on the reader. There may need to be a new 'furry warning' on some of the paranormals coming out now.

It also seems to me that if that warning loses a few trad. romance readers it might well gain readers from the enthusiastic and largely untapped furry and taur subcultures out there on the Internet who are just waiting for a little action with the ears and tails left on....

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Supporting Your Publisher vs. Cheerleading

Saturday, June 02, 2007

I have been noticing recently that some of the most widely praised and recommended epublishers are those whose sales performance is relatively poor and whose conduct is at times questionable. A new author will be online saying they were thinking of submitting to Harlequin, 'no,' a more experienced author will say, 'go with tiny-little-epress-that-opened-last-week they are much better!'

And yet again I find myself playing the part of the Internet grinch by raising the average sales figures for ebooks and the average life span of a new start-up epublisher. It is suggested by the occassional observer that I am anti-ebook, anti-small press and an all round mean girl.

My name is Emily, and I am not a cheerleader.

The role of an author is to write the best work they can, publish with the best press they can and support that press to the extent it holds up its part of the deal by selling a respectable number of copies for that genre and format and behaving in a reasonable and fair manner. When a publisher is honest and competent, or supportive and superbly competent -- yes you should mention it to other writers. If they put out books that you have read and honestly admire, you should mention that to readers. But writers should have standards. Just accepting your manuscript does not, per. se., make a publisher good. Recommending a publisher before you have seen the sales figures, or after they prove to be poor, is a disservice to fellow authors unless you specify what they have done so far that you considered praiseworthy.

Yes, we have a duty to behave professionally in our author-publisher relationship. There is no good reason to run around dissing a publisher you have books with. However if a publisher requires active, absolutely positive press from you at all times, this is a warning signal. This is not a publisher, it is a cult, this publisher may expect your loyalty and support regardless of their own efforts to deserve it.

Personally I appreciate publishers who:
* Are objectively excellent in at least some measurable aspects of their craft.
* Recognise and acknowledge when you do support and recommend them but don't require it.
* Support authors who mention out-of-house books occasionally when it is relevant, even in their own loops. And yes, some presses even encourage this. You support their brand (all their books) they support your brand (all your books).
* Acknowledge writers sometimes have their own agenda and do not attempt to stifle those activities so long as they are constructive, honest and tactful.

I have learned some lessons along the way, and I have made mistakes. Minor annoyances are not a good reason to snark your publisher in public. However serious, chronic and unresolved short-comings make some degree of comment justifiable to raise the issue either with other authors at that press or in extreme cases other writers in general. Or at least there can be good reasons for an author to remain silent rather than say something postive but insincere.

If I recommend a publisher I give reasons, I am trying to send the writer to the right press for them, and to send the press a good writer for them. When I praise an epublisher, either as a writer or as a reader, I mean it. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for my publishers and they have earned it. In the end erotic romance epublishing needs more publishers who find a need and fill it, more writers who research the market and find the best press for their work, more readers willing to take a chance on books from small presses, more transparency, more honesty, more courtesy, more excellence...

...and fewer pom-poms.

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Interesting Characters are Interesting People

Friday, June 01, 2007

At lunch I was being one of those cafe nerds with a latte, a girly salad and a laptop. I have never beofre had a salad for lunch but it had strawberries on it, and it was new. I am a sucker for anything new. And it should be good for me.

One one side of we sat a group of three ordinary looking people. One woman was telling some great stories about her child whose first sentence was a line from a Led Zeppelin song. They shared some other stories about the kid with a casual mention that she had autism. She then went on to discuss a dog attack she experienced working as a police officer and this progressed to other stories (the other two were in uniform) about dealing with difficult animals and people on the job and a guy who had recently quit the force.

One the other side was a group of women. One of them, a particularly attractive (even stunning) blonde, had her lunch in a bag and was not eating. She said, a good many times, that people nobody really understood her. She said that really quite a few times in various forms without ever actually saying who didn't understand her or just what it was they were meant to understand. Her friends ate, and little comment and didn't seem very interested. Frankly, neither was I.

I felt like leaning over to her to give the old standby advice of any writer: "show, don't tell". That and "try eating something". Next time I write a utterly gorgeous but passive and whiny character, do remind me of this. Interesting people are interesting characters. If you sat next to your hero or heroine at Panera Bread would they be worth eavesdropping? Maybe I'll see them there, I'll be the one with the triple cheese panini....

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