Sunday, December 14, 2008

GUEST POST: Taking Ourselves Seriously, or, I Got the EPPIE Blues--Mima


And now there is one more dichotomy of “love my epub world but am actually still trying to be part of the print world too.” Let’s talk about the EPPIES. I looked at the EPPIES last year. I heard from people the winning entries weren’t that great. I heard from various places the EPPIES weren’t that respected. And yet, this is our award. A commonly made analogy is that this is the Oscar of the epub world. This year I entered two books in the EPPIES. With one of those books, In Service, I finaled in the erotic scifi category.

Naturally, I feel my book is excellent and am proud it finaled. Curious to see if the dismissive opinions were warranted, I bought several of my fellow EPPIE finalists books and read them. Most were wonderful. A few were just ok. I am sorry to say this, but when I looked at the Quasar Cover Award nominees to place my vote as an EPIC member, I was ashamed. With a few exceptions, the covers I saw there in NO WAY represented the best of epub’s graphical world. In a few categories, I declined to vote.

Let’s imagine that in Hollywood, directors who thought they made a good movie could nominate their movie for an Oscar, for a fee. Then, when the final nominations were announced, no one cared, because they knew the choices weren’t from the pool of the best reviewed or most popular. And the producers and movie houses who funded them never even advertised them. Sound fun? Sound effective? Sound like an industry that has organization and pride?

But that is what the state of the epub awards is in right now. Self-selecting authors pay to enter their works. The finalists come out, and just one of my publishers bothered to make a congratulations statement (on their yahoo group, mind you, not their webpage). Yippee. Imagine if you will the money making machine that is the Oscars—the advertising, the re-releases, the featured lists, the specials. Imagine what it would mean to authors if they got the same treatment in the publishing world for finaling in the EPPIE. Kinda like what the RITA authors get from their houses when the finalists are announced. Only the epub world could do it better, faster, because we work with web presence, not posters and visual logos that have to be added to the author’s next book. In terms of business, buyers DO pay attention to awards they respect. Why aren’t epubs more interested in developing this sales tool?

What if the EPPIES were the BEST of ALL of the epublishers? I propose a call to action. In the spirit of the self-made e-author, the EPPIES can and should still be self-nominated. But what if each of the epublishers made a promise to enter their top 3/10/20 books. Both the ones who landed several perfect review ratings, and the ones who topped the sales charts for the year. Then, just imagine this, the publishers trumpeted their winning books AND their winning authors who might have won with a book from another house. They would do this on the webpage, with a featured sale slot, and through all their means of communications. The logo would be added to the ebook’s cover, and the author’s tag would forever read “an EPPIE winning/nominated author” just like the print world does.

Would e-authors still be bitching about the RITA’s byzantine rules? No. Because we wouldn’t care. Our epublishing world can go head to head with NY. We keep saying that. Maybe we should believe it. Then maybe we should prove it. All it would take is a little organization and teamwork. The framework is in place. I think we’re up for it.


Mima is an erotic romance author published at multiple houses. She lives in western NY and is a children's librarian by day. Visit her at mimawithin.com

Responses to this post:
My Two Cents....--Linda Mooney
Of Cabbages and Kings--Sela Carson
Popularity vs Lifes Legacies--Pickled Cupied

47 comments:

Jennifer Leeland said...

I have lots of concerns about the way EPIC runs the EPPIES but, since I'm unwilling to get involved, I don't complain. I entered this year and wasn't surprised that I didn't win or even final.
Frankly, I think the publishers should enter the books. And I don't think "anyone" should be able to enter the awards. If a publisher believes in a book, it's good promo for the author AND the publisher.
There are some books out there that are really the best of the best and they don't enter or, if they do, don't final.
I don't really understand the whole judging process at EPIC so I can't speak to how the finalists and winners are chosen, but I do think the EPPIES should better reflect the readers preferences.
But hell, I've said the same thing about the Oscars. LOL.
I think it will take a little time, but soon the EPPIES will means something important to those in epublishing.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the EPPIES could use a boost. I've seen authors complaining that winning an EPPIE award doesn't affect their sales much, which says to me that some publishers may not be advertising their award winning authors as well as they might. I know I'd look more carefully at a book that read "by the award nominated (or winning) author..."

Anonymous said...

I look at the Eppies and wonder where the presence for the top epubs are. If you ask anyone within the epub world what the top five epublishers are in terms of quality, presence, respectability and cover art are...you don't see those pubs represented with the Eppies. It seems to me a small group of authors awarding each other. It is *not* representative at all of the best of the industry itself. It's more like a group of people who got together and decided to award themselves these things.

I'm not saying the books that are there aren't good, I don't know if they are or not because the majority are from pubs I won't buy from by authors I've never heard of. But they really should call the awards what they are: "Best of this group of publishers/authors" not "Best of the epublishing industry."

Ann Somerville said...

I don't take the EPPIES seriously, and I think any author who does is a bit of an idiot. Any award that's self-nominated and not judged anonymously by known criteria, with the scores announced, is bullshit. EPIC's a joke, the woman who runs it is a joke, and an EPPIE means zero. I refuse to participate in them or any similiar popularity contest. Publishers should only take them seriously when the award means something.

Erastes said...

To compare them to the Oscars is rather laughable. The Oscars nominations and winners are chosen by a committee of industry professionals.

Like Ann, I agree with the sentiments about the EPPIES. I qualified for the first time this year but I wouldn't enter partly because of how they quantified "romance" as being between a man and a woman.

The money that EPIC makes from membership and from nominations is staggering. thousands and thousands of dollars. I'd like to see some publicly available reports of what is done with this money.

The awards should be about the writing-not a popularity contest, and until they are judged blind purely on their merit they will mean nothing.

As to their prestige? Also Nothing.

Angie said...

Question -- how many other lit awards are judged blind, and how do they do it? I can't quite see how one would manage it, with published works. Sure, you could ask for a plain file and strip out the author's name, but this is still a fairly small community; if a judge recognizes a submission she/he is reading and knows who the author is, should they be disqualified from judging that manuscript? That could ge awkward, and I can easily imagine a case where a particularly popular book was known to all the judges for its category. What then? Is it any more fair for the judges to know who wrote only one or some of the entries, than it is to have them know them all?

And is it really that big a deal? No one sneers at the Nebulas (that I've ever heard) because the judges know ahead of time who's written what. It's a fairly prestigious award even without blind judging, so obviously it can work. I think the question should be how to make it work here, rather than how we can guarantee that none of the judges have ever read or even heard of any of the books they're judging.

About it being only a popularity contest (among the authors I'm assuming, rather than the books themselves) I had to laugh. :) I'm nobody in this community. I'm not a big name writer, nor a big name blogger, nor any kind of mover or shaker or organizer. Very few people know me, very few people read my journal or my blog; I'm about as obscure as it's possible for a published writer to get, and yet my novelette made the finals. Unless all the judges who were given my story just happen to be among the smallish handful of people in this industry who know me (let's not even get into the much smaller group of people who know me well enough to be willing to skew a contest in my favor) there must've been something else involved here.

Heck, maybe my story was just a filler for biased judges who were making sure an enemy's book didn't make the finals...? (I'm getting plot bunnies now, actually.... [bemused smile])

I certainly agree that there are major issues with how "romance" is defined by EPIC, and how the categories are set up. And I also agree that it'd be much more helpful to the writers if they were given the judges' comment sheets after the contest is over. Maybe these things can be fixed over time, and maybe not. But for the major complaint -- the lack of blind judging -- I don't see a real solution.

Angie

Erastes said...

There are very very many literary awards that are judged blind - I don't see how that would be difficult to do.

I think that someone's suggestion to have the publishers enter the best 3 of their titles would be a good idea too, but that would probably just entail EPIC having yet another category!

I only suggested blind judging as a solution to the criticism that many people aim at the EPPIES that it's the same people who get on the list each year. It would be fairer to judge the writing rather than the name. I volunteered to judge this year - although dropped out after the romance criteria - and I certainly wouldn't recognize anyone. Perhaps I would in historical fiction, but then I wouldn't be a judge of that category.

What I do see is that it's an award that's not getting attention other than from a certain pool of epubs and authors that people outside a small corner of the literary world have heard of. Perhaps questions should be asked why - when most books these days are produced in a eversion, mainstream authors don't enter.

Teddy Pig said...

when I looked at the Quasar Cover Award nominees to place my vote as an EPIC member, I was ashamed. With a few exceptions, the covers I saw there in NO WAY represented the best of epub’s graphical world.


THIS!

Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

Excellent post. I've heard numerous complaints this year about the entries in various contests being sub-par and it's taking the shine off of winning any industry sponsored contest - even print based ones. It would be great to see a contest designed to really highlight the best of the best where a win is truly a badge of honor for an author and their publisher. While I still offer congratulations to the EPPIE winners, I'm beginning to feel less bad about not entering myself.

Ann Somerville said...

"yet my novelette made the finals."

This is why such discussions are landmines. There's no way it can come off as not being slightly or very insulting to the winners, and yet if the contest hasn't any credibility, the winning has no value to the winner in terms of extra sales or recognition.

The problem with ebooks is that it's a small world full of cliques, and those cliques tend to vote stuff, no matter what contest it is. Unless the judges were as detached from the entrants and publishers as possible - as many literary contests are run - favouritism, cliqueness and backscratching will all be presumed to be part of the process. And such a process is thus deeply repellent to me.

Unless ebooks can compete in quality with print books, then such a contest is a wank. I believe some ebooks *can* so compete - but with EPIC not being truly representative of the ebook community, I doubt it's the organisation which can organise a meaningful contest.

I stand by my statement that blind judging is crucial to a perception of integrity, but it's not the only measure of it.

Mima said...

ok, which organization do you want representing the ebook community? rwa? or epic? someone new step on forward? i think not. i've been in this industry only a year. maybe there's some other org i haven't heard about. epic is our best bet. they have this award in place and are running the process of it relatively smoothly.

i have no idea what some of the personal attacks are in here, so i'll leave that aside. (they shouldn't make money? what?) i wanted to focus on how to make the eppies matter.

the comment about the same pool of authors voting themselves in is not fair. the authors do not judge themselves. but the same authors are entering themselves year after year. so yeah, if they're the best of the pool, they'll keep winning. if name recognition makes them get noticed more, well, that's politics.

the comment about it not being run by industry professionals was odd. yes, it is. anyone who is in epic is someone who cares about and is attached to the industry.

getting feedback would raise the contest from an award to an industry critiquing service. i'd love that.

Blind judging would be nice. I disagree that the contest can't be taken seriously without it. These are published works. They're out. There is no anonymity with that.

An LGBT inclusion in the genres is essential. I wasn't aware they were blackballed. My book has m/m and finaled, so it must not be a contest-wide prejudice.

As for the profusion of categories, I like it. It lets more people have access to the award and prevents bias against certain genres like scifi and erotica (hello, me!) that would never win an award up against more universally accessible books like contemp sensual. If they wanted to have one more category that took the winners from all the others and compared them to each other, they could.

i think of what publishers spend on advertising. i think of the cost of entering the eppies. heck, if my pub told me they thought my book was one of the 10 they were submitting to the eppies this year, and would i pay the fee, i'd say "heck yeah!" in return for being publicized and re-released. i think the cost factor could be worked out.

An award is only as good as the pool it is from. I'm one of the best of my pool, and I'm proud. I wasn't one of the best in another pool (the most crowded pool) and I'm still proud of that book that didn't final. And I'm still proud that In Service finaled when I know it was in a smaller pool. What I'm trying to say is that in this field, any recognition an author gets is important.

But we have no really big, comparing apples to apples (best of EC against the best of Samhain, Liquid Silver, and Loose Id. Oh: how about the best of the real epubs up against e-Avon or e-harlequin. bring it!) award. That's what I'd love to see.

For people who don't try newer or smaller epubs, wouldn't it be an awesome entre if one of the smaller/newer epub books finaled/won when it was an equal contestant field? then people couldn't dismiss their books as they do now.

Ann Somerville said...

"anyone who is in epic is someone who cares about and is attached to the industry. "

Yes, but not everyone who cares about and is attached to the industry, is in EPIC. In fact, I would say it has very little importance or impact. It's like Romantic Times for m/m writers - utterly irrelevant.

EPIC is never there to talk about failed epubs, to guide new authors, to speak in defence of epubbed authors, or to promote them. I don't know what it does except collect fees and run a contest that means about as much as your average fanfiction competition to me.

EPIC doesn't work. Not to say it can't - it simply doesn't. And until it has some industry clout, and is seen to have some importance outside its own organisational structure, then it and its awards will continue to be ignored.

Anne D said...

Crap on it, my comment disappeared.

Feck.

Teddy Pig said...

ok, which organization do you want representing the ebook community? rwa? or epic?

Can I vote for neither?

First about the whole "community" thing.

First RWA is a writers organization. But, it is also obviously geared to traditional publishing and concerns in that area, not ePubs. So not the best resource in that respect.

EPIC is... whatever EPIC is. It is not, in my opinion, writer oriented so I guess it is ePub oriented. I don't know what benefits it gives ePubs other than listing them but anyway.

Would EPIC not be the go to group for online information on what ePubs a writer should avoid if they were a writers organization?

Unfortunately the only writers organization I am aware of that seems active in providing real current online public information for writers is SFWA with it's Writers Beware website. Closely followed by Piers Anthony's website and right here on EREC.

Now SFWA despite all the fighting and goings on I have heard about is still the type of organization I would join because it provides some apparent benefits.

Anonymous said...

Fine, I'm just gonna go ahead and say it...the Eppies are a Torquere clusterfuck. Absolutely no offense meant to Angie but when I read her comment my *first* thought was, "I bet you a hundred bucks she's a Torquere author." Went to check and what do you know, she is.

*THAT* is why I will not join EPIC and certainly won't have anything to do with the Eppies. Torquere owns that award for whatever reason. Maybe it's just that they all enter and flood the entry pool. Maybe it's that the judges are other TQ authors (I have no idea who judges these things. I don't think anyone does. Who judges them?) But whatever the reason the Eppies have year after year been a Torquere circle jerk and I'm not interested in bothering with that sort of crowd.

Until the big epubs, the best of the best epubs, are represented (which won't happen until the Eppies and EPIC actually matter to anyone) the Eppies will continue to be viewed as a vanity award. It's not an industry award, it has nothing to do with how good a book is or how well the book sells, it has to do with who you're published with, only in this case it's slanted away from the big epubs and towards one of the smarmiest small epubs out there.

Angie said...

Anon@8:21 -- well, gee. [blinkblink] I have no idea what your issue is with Torquere, but I have to point out that there are two (2) of us with that publisher who made the finals this year. Out of, what, a couple of hundred finalists (I don't feel like counting, but thirty categories with however many finalists in each) I don't think two is "flooding" the award by any stretch of the imagination. Nor have Torquere writers formed any sort of barricade to prevent writers from other publishers from submitting -- obviously, since writers from other publishers grossly outnumber us in the finals.

I'll certainly grant that there are issues with EPIC and the EPPIES, but I don't think anyone can reasonably pin the problem on Torquere.

Angie

Erastes said...

I haven't given any personal attack, nor did I say that anything was blackballed. What I did say that the definitions of "romance" made GLBT romance difficult to place in any other category other than "GLBT" which meant it had to battle against all other sub-genres, whereas Het romance had a slew of subgenres all categorised by "male and female"

It's hardly fair to have sci-fi compete against age of sail unless it's the writing that is being judged.

As to the money issue - why shouldn't I-and others-wish to have a public accounting? Is it a company, a charity, or an organisation of volunteers? I think these are valid questions and if I were an EPIC member I would like to know these things. There's no "About Us" section on the website.

And what does the organisation do, exactly OTHER than to hold an award and a conference in which to hold those awards?there's nothing on the site to say what the advantage of joining is. As far as I can see it's just "Networking"

I agree with Teddypig. SFWA is one of the best there is, and if I were to join an ebook organisation, I would expect at the very least to have author avocation, grievance help, free critiques. Compare the SFWA site with EPIC and contrast the things that are missing from EPIC. Such as "Who we are" "Benefits" "Benevolent Fund" and many more.

there's also a tough-to-make requirement of sales to join SFWA.

I'm sorry if anyone thinks these are personal attacks. They aren't. You asked what EPIC could do to help matters improve, I'm suggesting ways that it could.

Emily Veinglory said...

I think the EPPIES and EPIC have the potnetial to be more effective--but I have not opted to join in and try and become an influential member and run for office. So I guess I am not willing to but my efforts where my mouth is.

I would not that if you do a Google news serach for the EPPIES there are zero results. So, not even a press release is issued about the winners?

I have judged the EPPIES in the past although my email this year bounced for some reason. I think that as non-members can judged part of the answer would be for a broader, newer range of people to volunteer as judges. I know EPIC would be thrilled if that happened.

treva said...

Unless we are going to nominate all our authors and artists, we are not going to selectively nominate and pay for a small group of authors or artists for any contest. I can't imagine a better way to get about 200 other authors and artists within our own organization angry at us. When we pick a ms. from an author or a cover from an artist, we have already decided they are worth publishing.

BTW, the last I heard SFWA is almost impossible to join unless your publisher fits their criteria. It's as stringent or more so than RWA.

Angie said...

SFWA is considerably more stringent than RWA, or was last time I checked. There's a strict payment requirement -- cents-per-word for shorts and advance for novels. And no accommodation at all for smaller presses which don't pay for shorts in a lump sum or give advances for novels. I think there's also a minimum distribution requirement too.

About contest submissions, would there be that much upset if it were strictly the top three sellers? My other suggestion was essentially tongue-in-cheek. I certainly wouldn't mind if my publisher paid to submit their top three sellers, and I wouldn't be anywhere near that group.

If it is an issue, though, then what else might work? Maybe the entrance fee is the problem; I can't think of any other major award besides RWA's which charges to enter their contest. Might that be the issue, that people who are iffy might be nudged over to the "Nah" side by having to pull out a credit card? Other contests run without charging submissions, and do a decent job of it.

When we pick a ms. from an author or a cover from an artist, we have already decided they are worth publishing.

Well, of course. [nod] That's not really the issue, though. I'm just trying to throw out some ideas and see if anything sticks, because clearly there are enough problems here that a large chunk of the industry is staying away. There has to be some way of making an e-book award work -- it can't be that hard if every other chunk of publishing can manage it. [wry smile]

Angie

Nina Pierce said...

I entered the Eppies for the first time this year. I did believe a final would be good publicity. And kudos to those that did final.

Mima's point is valid. It would be nice to have a writing contest where the author didn't pay to enter and where books were chosen by a panel of the e-industry by whatever criteria. It would be nice for winners to know they were truly "the best of the best" and not the "best of those that entered".

Unfortunately, writing contests, including RWA's Golden Heart (unpubbed) and the RITA's require an entry fee. And I'm not sure winning either gives the author more sales. I've heard several multi-winner Golden Heart winners who still have not sold the manuscript that won the award. Which then makes you wonder as well.

This is obviously a problem that exists in all aspects of writing contests from print to epub.

Angela James said...

I agree with Treva. I cannot imagine the fallout from authors if we had to choose. Someone would always be unhappy with our criteria and about not being chosen. Given that I recently got taken to task for a perceived slight in a recent interview I did, simply because I had to choose several authors to name, I can't imagine how much worse it would be were we to choose who to enter into awards.

Erastes, you made some excellent points.

Teddy Pig said...

And what does the organization do, exactly OTHER than to hold an award and a conference in which to hold those awards?there's nothing on the site to say what the advantage of joining is. As far as I can see it's just "Networking"

That's hitting the nail on the head. As far as I can see everything about EPIC is a DIY "pay to play" advertisement.

The award is paid for by the contestants, the memberships are paid for by the members, the conference is paid for by the those attending.

And what do the members get from EPIC besides all that? Since I mean we only talk about EPIC during the whole EPPIES awards discussion and they barely do much else of note.

if you do a Google news search for the EPPIES there are zero results. So, not even a press release is issued about the winners?

Exactly nothing!

You, the paying member, who paid to get into the contest, also have to pay all promotions in regards to winning said "prestigious award".

Why promote EPIC on your own dime?

Mima said...

wow, thanks everyone for commenting. treva, and angela, esp thanks for coming over and representing. i really don't see any right of an author to get angry that they weren't selected. heck, if they believe in their book, they could enter it themselves. in this online world when authors are so invested in their epub, i think people might feel more entitled than they should. in terms of not having an industry award because the authors might get mad, i'm surprised. in terms of just listening to the heat in comments, i can understand why a publisher would want to avoid an excuse for people to whip up a tempest. i guess it's a matter of managing the epub's reputation. if the award isn't going to be advertised in such a way that it generates its own importance, then no, it wouldn't be worth it to create the award.

much to think of. i'll continue to be pleased with all of my epublishers, all of my books, and my eppie final.

treva said...

And congrats on your final, Mima. I hope you go and win with it as well, of course. It's a good story!

For those that are wondering--
EPIC has on-line workshops and insider information you can learn from as well as the EPICon convention. While networking may not seem important to a reader, networking on something specific to your industry does have value to an author. There are down sides to EPIC as well, of course. I haven't been part of any organization that doesn't have things you'd like changed.
It's up to the author to decide if the price is worth it to you.

Anonymous said...

I am a member of EPIC and I think it is a total waste. I will not be joining again. Whenever the topic of EPIC having a warning about epubs for authors people get all jazzed up about getting sued. Well Piers has a site, and blogs like EREC and Smart Bitches, Dear Author, Pickled Cupid will come out and say when they hear of trouble... when they really don't have to be giving a heads up. EPIC should be talking about publishers and not keeping quiet out of fear. And their Yahoo groups are tedious. I didn't join to hear authors promoting their own work (which is ALOT) or talking about what rave reviews they received. There are a million Yahoo groups where I can see that FOR FREE. In my opinion (which I am entitled to) EPIC is a waste.

Mima said...

once again, not interested in bashing epic here. i think the conversation has wound down, but here are the pertinent points not quite addressed that people could mull over if they wanted.

1. awards are a sales tool that i feel epubs don't take advantage of. getting the award respected has to do with how other people regard it. it's kinda cyclical, a self-fulfilling prophecy. someday, there will be no prejudice between sfwa, the rwa, the national book award, etc. and ebooks. until then, we're fighting for a place at THEIR table instead of being supportive of our own table. there is a framework in place for an ebook industry award. issue: an award by its very nature can lead to grumblings. my response: but it's one more option in a business' toolbox for hype and promotion.

2. the industry's number one problem, IMO, is the perceived lack of quality to the writing. the lack of respect that ebook authors get is something the industry should attempt to dismantle. this currently is being done by continuing to put out good books, consistently, and getting them reviewed. it can also be done by trumpeting an award where all epubs are put on the same playing field. but the framework in place doesn't have buy in, so it's an unused avenue, which creates less buy in. again, cyclical.

anyone's thoughts on how to organize an ebook award, and who would run it, could be the focus of this conversation if it continues. yes, i'm still stuck on the fact i like the idea of an industry award (see point one). brainstorm it as if epic doesn't exist. currently i'm hearing the epubs aren't interested in fronting the titles because it would create a backlash.

OK, here: what if a group of editors/authors who were all present at multiple houses (to prevent perceptions like the Torquere comment) would run an independent contest. Those daring, organized few could be the recipients of all proceeds at contest's end. because you ain't gonna get authors/editors to do this free. maybe they could post their budget and earnings for transparency. A volunteer/editor/staff at each epub would compile a list of all books who recieved at least 3/5/7 top rated reviews in that year. (yes howls of outrage over who managed to get reviewed and who didn't, the subjective nature of reviews, the need for an "approved" list of review sites would follow. meh. that brouhaha to be dealt with later). those are the books that would be entered into the award, for a nominal fee. volunteers from around the industry would grade the books, at least 3 judges per book. then the epubs would be invited to make a Hullabaloo about the award, feature it, re-release the book. sound fair? i think it sounds awesome. it also sounds like a crikey lot of work, with several obvious pitfalls.

Ah well. I think it's an industry opportunity we're missing. I'm naive and idealistic and believe in this industry passionately. Maybe someone else has better ideas.

Teddy Pig said...

Mima,

You are only thinking along the same lines I have and I am sure many many other people who do enjoy the independent ePubs. Who also want to promote all the good eBooks out there.

Look at how much work Emily does to try and just get factual sales data from the eBook authors.

The problem comes down to the fact I still have never once seen any ePub provide an unbiased sales data list of their top bestsellers for the year. It does not have to be extensive or give numbers even just the top ten or so.

You would think that would be a simple sales draw for any ePub in itself.

How many customers would make purchases based on that years list alone feeling that they may have missed a good read?

Hell, I would gladly publish these type of lists from each ePub and the covers and sales links to each book just to be able to show in as unbiased a way as possible how well the ePubs are doing and who the top sellers of the year were.

So I just think you are dealing with several issues at once here.

EPIC and by association the EPPIES are not seen as representative or well respected or even relevant to most of the eBook writers I have talked to, even those who are members.

The ePubs individually tend to be pretty hush hush about what their top selling eBooks are and who their top authors are.

Maybe it's to avert drama even though I think stating simple facts about sales data is about as unbiased as you can get.

Anyway, good luck and keep trying. It can't hurt.

Emily Veinglory said...

Before EREC there was ERWF. We had a go at running an ebook contest. The main thing I learned is that it is harder than it looks.

Angie said...

because you ain't gonna get authors/editors to do this free

Just as a data point, is is possible to get people to organize an award for free. The Hugos (the most prominent award in SF/Fantasy) is organized by all volunteers. The bylaws of the World Science Fiction Society prohibit any of the organizers of WorldCon (the convention where the Hugos are awarded; each con committee has a sub-committee which organizes the nomination and voting on the awards for their year) being paid. In fact, the people working the convention pay for their memberships to the convention, and are only reimbursed if the con makes enough money to do so comfortably. WorldCons in the US tend to run between 4500 and 8500 members, and and are incredibly broad in what they offer, both in standing features and exhibits and parallel tracks of programming. Hundreds of people work on each WorldCon, and it probably passes a thousand if you include gofers, and all are volunteers.

It is doable. But the organization and conference and award have to have enough standing in the community that people believe in it and are willing to give it their time and effort. And I think the organization/group/award would have a lot more credibility if it wasn't run as a profit center.

Angie

Mima said...

that's a good point Teddy Pig, about the sales. I agree. The reason I wouldn't want an award to be done strictly on sales (not that you suggested it, just pointing this out) is that popularity isn't an indication of quality. case in point: my own book, beast within, that has sold the most, is not my best. that's why i'd like to do something to get lesser known but well reviewed books into an award. angie's point is good too, that matches my prior point: it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. if the epubs announced this as a joint venture (try hard not to laugh--it's possible), then people would go WOW and be excited.

emily... yeah, it's massive. this is pretty much pie in the sky dreaming.

Ann Somerville said...

I think EPIC simply cannot be the organisation to run such a thing. It's tainted by its own limited ambition. The Science Fiction Writers of America association offer a better paradigm for how it would work - members pay fees and receive a substantial benefit in terms of health insurance and legal assistance. It actively and constantly works for its members, and is highly visible. I believe their officers are all unpaid. It certain squabbles and wanks away, but its participation in awards and so on isn't questioned. It earns its place.

I think if you have an organisation which has writers and publishers in it, attempting to promote both, neither side could possibly benefit. Apart from all wanting to sell books, the needs of authors and those of publishers are pretty much polar opposites. So if the epresses want to form a trade organisation, let them do so, and let them reward excellence just as many other professional organisations do. The writers can have their own group, though I doubt how successful that would be. It would be like herding cats, and as I've witnessed in the last day, dominated by cliques, vendettas and self-interest.

But would really mean something is recognition from the readers. An organisation which was only for readers - no authors or companies pushing their agenda - could nominate and vote for fiction that worked best for them. I've run fiction competitions and you can have a judged section and a popularity section running in parallel, to avoid authors who encourage vote stuffing walking off with all the prizes.

Teddy Pig said...

The reason I wouldn't want an award to be done strictly on sales (not that you suggested it, just pointing this out) is that popularity isn't an indication of quality. case in point: my own book, beast within, that has sold the most, is not my best.

Oh, I am not talking about awards. Just that getting facts about who are the top sellers for the year (Typical information for the major publishing houses.)is hard enough with ePubs.

You are right, popularity is not an indication of quality. I contend that sales is at least an indication of what actually sells and who is selling it which I think is the type of hard information writers would find interesting.

You can always argue opinions on who is best but you can't argue facts on what is selling.

Angela James said...

The problem comes down to the fact I still have never once seen any ePub provide an unbiased sales data list of their top bestsellers for the year. It does not have to be extensive or give numbers even just the top ten or so.

You would think that would be a simple sales draw for any ePub in itself.

How many customers would make purchases based on that years list alone feeling that they may have missed a good read?

Hell, I would gladly publish these type of lists from each ePub and the covers and sales links to each book just to be able to show in as unbiased a way as possible how well the ePubs are doing and who the top sellers of the year were.


Challenge accepted. At the end of the year, Samhain will release the top ten list of sellers at My Bookstore and More, and maybe a few other top ten lists if we can pull them together in the time list.

Angela James said...

I think if you have an organisation which has writers and publishers in it, attempting to promote both, neither side could possibly benefit. Apart from all wanting to sell books, the needs of authors and those of publishers are pretty much polar opposites.

I think this is key, and is much of what makes EPIC ineffective. It's an "author" organization run by people who also hold positions within publishers. That creates a set of conflicts of interests which make it difficult for the organization to implement any type of "author beware" lists or advice.

Teddy Pig said...

Challenge accepted. At the end of the year, Samhain will release the top ten list of sellers at My Bookstore and More, and maybe a few other top ten lists if we can pull them together in the time list.

Now see this is destroying your hardened editor image. I contend that there is absolutely nothing "evil" about you Angela.

Samhain is trying to make me love them even more. DAMN! IT IS WORKING!

Ann Somerville said...

I contend that sales is at least an indication of what actually sells and who is selling it which I think is the type of hard information writers would find interesting.

A lot is to do with how much promotion is done. [how can I say this without sounding like I'm whinging? Oh fuck it, I can't] For example, one of J.L. Langley's novels was selected for the read half for free promotion. That will have impacted on her sales, above and beyond pure quality, far more than say mine or Emily's. Similarly, Angela's editees (is there such a word?) participated in a huge giveaway which was widely advertised. That kind of promo, while having a slight flow on for all Samhain authors, will have the biggest impact on those in the giveaway competition. Would their increased sales mean they were better authors than the rest of us? There's literally no way to tell without surveying readers.

So sales aren't a metric I consider valuable, but then I've always preferred to be told I'm good rather than popular. What would knowing who the best sellers are, tell us? Nothing. The publishers want to know this information, but there is no direct correlation between excellence in writing and excellence in promotion (which brings me neatly back to the Oscars, which are a triumph of advertising, but rarely recognise the very best work in the industry.)

Teddy Pig said...

Would their increased sales mean they were better authors than the rest of us?

I am in no way implying that I think a better author is purely based on sales.

BUT... I am saying that if you are involved in your writing career and in promoting yourself and keeping track of such things as Samhain promotions... Then would the year end sales information even in the most general format of a top ten list not help provide a clue as to what promotions may have actually worked?

Maybe give you some idea where to put promotional effort and money since you might be aware of what some of the authors are doing differently. Give you some warning if there are trends of selling certain types of stories that might help you choose a new project etc etc etc.

Just as an observer it would be of interest to me for several reasons.

Ann Somerville said...

Then would the year end sales information even in the most general format of a top ten list not help provide a clue as to what promotions may have actually worked?

Well no. Too many variables. The only way to know the effect of promotions is to start with authors in the same position, selling roughly equivalent products (same genre, same length.) And then apply only *one* form of promotion to all of them. That's how a proper experiment would work.

But take J L Langley - how would you work out from her sales how much was Samhain promotion, the promotion by people as your goodself, her own promotion, her participation or otherwise in the cliques which dominate the m/m genre, and finally, the quality of her writing. Even the timing of say a space regency might easily affect the sales - this year they're the rage, last year they were 'bwuh?' etc.

So, sales data interesting, but not useful per se. Authors can looks at things like website hits and so on, as can the publisher. Those are more accurate in showing the impact of a promotion at least as far as actual *promotion* is concerned.

[Please note, I mention Langley only because she *was* part of an important Samhain promotion - the only m/m author, I think.]

Mima said...

i think top selling lists are a business tool. that's why the nytimes publishes them.

as an author, i love the fact that liquid silver shares it's sales data monthly, quarterly and annually with authors. it creates community (you may think it would work contrary to this, but it truly doesn't work that way), and also gives authors a strong sense of what's popular, who's popular over time, who's landing big out of nowhere, and who's a major player. none of these things would be obvious to me without this data, and as a new author, i love having it. am i going to start writing humorous contemp because i see it sells? no (not witty enough). but some might, and more power to them if they can do it well. the numbers let me know how i'm doing comparatively, and far from depressing me, they inspire me to what i can potentially achieve. the threads on how the top authors do their promo are also valuable, and the collaborations between topselling authors and lesser known/newer ones in anthologies warm my heart.

so in both the reader and the writer arena, i love hearing about top sellers.

Teddy Pig said...

The only way to know the effect of promotions is to start with authors in the same position, selling roughly equivalent products (same genre, same length.) And then apply only *one* form of promotion to all of them. That's how a proper experiment would work.

I am no expert but I do know that I don't buy eBooks based on length of book or even genre typically.

I read M/M and M/F equally. I am picky but that goes equally for contemporaries or historicals. I tend towards paranormal more often than not.

Although I stay away from publishers like Changeling Press because not only do the Poser covers bother me but the overall effect of reading short after short after short story in a series just turns me off. Way too claustrophobic reading wise and episodic when trying to follow a series and if they have enough ideas for a whole series of short stories why not a whole book? Come on!

You would be amazed at what little things can and do attract my attention though and I have to admit half the time it is simple stuff like the cover. Which is why I make them so prominent on my own website because I know how easy I am as a eBook buyer.

Give me a book with an interesting cover like the one Anne Cain did for My Fair Captain and even though Jenn's writing is great (That first chapter really lures you in.) you have to admit the story description itself is hard to sell.

I mean come on Regency/Sci-fi Gay Romance is not something I thought was gonna work in a Gay Bookstore even in San Francisco!

It was the cover itself that attracted the bookstore people I gave the paperback too and it turns out it attracted a lot of people who made it a top seller at A Different Light in SF.

I still think I am rotten at promotion so don't go thinking I am some "great salesman".

One thing I have learned from attempting to promote books face to face.

Never underestimate the simple power of a great cover because that first impression from the cover is the easy lure (I watched the managers face when he was looking at the whole stack of books I initially brought with me.) and then add in a good story to back it up and I did not really have to do anything but give the contact information to the manager on where he could order the books from, he even took it home and read it.

So honestly in my opinion I think that promotions like the one Samhain did are great with the whole "try before you buy" first chapter. They should be a standard.

People with Amazon Kindle's get that whole first chapter "try before you buy" thing as an added benefit and I hope that the ePubs follow through and make that standard across the board for everyone to be able to sell their eBooks.

I totally agree with you Mima. I think at least a yearly bestseller list would be helpful not just for writers but for the customers and can provide some interesting information.

Emily Veinglory said...

My experience and observation of the data set is rather to the contrary. Promotions of any kind (with the exception with a few outliers) seems to have nil to negligible effect on sales. Books from the same publisher, in the same genre, during the same yeat seem to sell pretty much the same once you factor in some random variation and the effect of month. I know for sure some authors matched in those qualities where on does a lot fo promo and one does none--their sales seem abotu the same.

I think sales figure data is highly relevant to the extent that I think a best selling author is a a successful author--and there is a role for awards to reflect reader endorsement rather than expert opinion (whether at the point of sale of some kind of post-reading rating like at fictionwise). The question with an award is, is it a peer endorsement, a metric of commercial success or a pat on the back from a certain group of your peers? The MTV award, the Hugos and the Oscars are all rather different things.

Angela James said...

My experience and observation of the data set is rather to the contrary. Promotions of any kind (with the exception with a few outliers) seems to have nil to negligible effect on sales. Books from the same publisher, in the same genre, during the same yeat seem to sell pretty much the same once you factor in some random variation and the effect of month. I know for sure some authors matched in those qualities where on does a

My experience is very different from yours. I often see a large difference in sales numbers between authors of the same genre who do/don't promote. I have a newer author who came out of the gate with non-erotic sales, far surpassing those of her counterparts who write in the same genre, and all things equal, I don't think that can be attributed to much other than some seriously kick-ass devotion to promotion. One day I noted that she'd had a big spike in sales and mentioned it to her. She'd spent a good portion of her day on various yahoo groups promoting her book. I saw the effects of that in one day. Promotion works.

I've also seen the effects of sales spikes from mentions or reviews on certain blogs.

Emily Veinglory said...

And I am sure you have access to a far more comprehensive data set and so a better notion of what is going on. However I must say that getting guidance on what kinds of promotion tend to be succesful is difficult. For example, I tend to send promo straight to point of sale to minimise time between interest and ourchase opportunity--but then have no way of knowing how much is generated by different efforts which would allow me to refine my approach (let alone which has best conversion).

Instead the general message I often recieve is just to promo all ways, all the time and have faith it will work (sales, I am told are not the goal of promo. But um, for me they sure are). Time is very much a limiting factor so I only want to invest it in methods that are likely to generate sales, preferably more than 1 or 2 a t a time--a.k.a. not the type of chat where everyone there is an author, or making lots of expensive swag you find in the dumpster out back of the convention center later :(

Teddy Pig said...

Emily you should be promoting the hell out of that Wolfkin book.

Now that is a pretty cover.

Ann Somerville said...

Now that is a pretty cover.

Not too shabby a book either

Anonymous said...

Some authors appear to be spending a fortune all but buying themselves an award. Same names over and over. One finalist category I've been told has the same author competing against his/herself.
Where are the best books in this award as opposed to the authors prepared to spend the most money?
Why are the same publisher names present year on year for the winners?
Take out the payment element and limit the number of entries a single author can make. When good books start winning this contest, I'll start taking it seriously. Last year the first finalist I clicked on to read had a typo and a grammar error in the first line.