Wednesday, April 30, 2008
A new romance imprint of Mary K. Wilson's Jupiter Gardens (opened 2007). Take a look. Opening in October 2008 and seeking submissions in most romance genres: "Our books focus primarily on the relationship between the characters (regardless of gender or number) and each story is unique to the characters and the journey they make to finding love and happiness." Based on first impression, for a new press I think they look promising.
Go and vote on the 2007 cover awards. Frankly some of the nominees scare me a bit--does that dude have pants on?
And I have pretty much nothing for the 1st of the month PLIST update. What am I missing?
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
I really think it's getting to me, all this erotic romance. On Ebay I saw a book THE SINKING OF THE TITANIC and I read it as THE SIN KING OF THE TITANIC. Then I was confused because that didn't really make much sense. Anyway. It's busy at work, I have been given an office (no more cubicles for me!) to move into, I have edits everywhere and this blog is suffering from the comment equivalent of bed death ;). So you are stuck with some random links that amused me today. Please say hello. I get lonely [sob].
1) Victoria Strauss -- Precautions for Small Press Authors
2) State moves to ban fake testicles on vehicles (Truck nutz)
3) Borg My Little Pony
4) And oldy but a goody. Whatever Happened To... -- finds out what happened to those authors who haven't published anything new for a while.
5) Naked Hippie On A White Horse
6) Colossal Squid
7) Antique HAMILTON BEACH VIBRATOR 1902 ~Rare & Complete
8) The UK Year of Reading Youtube video. I see some romance in there, didn't spot any erotica.
9) Best beer for your book?
10) A book entirely written by cutting words and phrases out of magazines.
Bonus Round) Cute animals, always good.
"...the new act is designed to reflect the realities of the internet age, when pornographic images may be hosted on websites outside the UK. Under the new rules, criminal responsibility shifts from the producer ... to the consumer" -- BBC
As an example of someone drawing a line when it comes to kink, including simulated acts these are the specific acts outlawed:
An “extreme image” is an image of any of the following—
(a) an act which threatens or appears to threaten a person’s life,
(b) an act which results in or appears to result (or be likely to result) in
serious injury to a person’s anus, breasts or genitals,
(c) an act which involves or appears to involve sexual interference with a human corpse,
(d) a person performing or appearing to perform an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal, where (in each case) any such act, person or animal depicted in the image is or
appears to be real.
Now I wouldn't stand up and defend the great virtue of any of the these acts. However I am nervous about who decides what an image is (book cover?) and who decides the intent of that image, what the depicted persons 'appear' to be doing and the degree to which that activity depicted might represent a risk of injury to their orifices and mammaries. It is interesting to note that some of the acts now illegal to simulate in an image are not illegal to do in real life. It is also interesting to note that the law is limited to pornography , so people who like to portray and view torture simply because they are sadists are also explicitly protected. Note the definition: An image is “pornographic” if it appears to have been produced solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal.
Anyway. Caveat Emptor. I will give the last word to the good bloggers at Feminist Philosophers:
"Notice that it is ok for one to get off on such images so long as this is not the purpose for which they were produced. The implication, of course, is that there is something wrong with producing material designed purely for sexual arousal. One might wonder why this is so."
Monday, April 28, 2008
Now, due to some unexpected bills my plan to combine online and paid methods had to be changed. Instead I will be using entirely free online methods, but trying to do something promotional every single day in May. Obviously these won't be 31 completely different promotional methods but I thought I could try several different types of a range of methods such as link exchanges, sig lines, press releases etc. In fact if you know any kinds of online promo to try, please comment here with your ideas. Because this approach will phase in the methods over the month I will probably bring in the methods in May, and leave them in place for three months to see if any effects build up over time.
If you are interested in trying your own promo experiment please let me know. My day by day discussion of this whole month of promo will be reported on my personal blog. If you pop over there you can see which book I am going to be promoting and some advance signs of the methods I am trying--although nothing will really be going until May 1st. I will point all the promo back to my blog so I can track traffic throughout May as well as look at sales at then end of the month.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Karen Scott has been discussing the latest kerfuffle at Ellora's Cave. In a nutshell JC Wilder (who writes for Ellora's Cave and also works for Samhain) mentioned some questionable behavior by the Cavemen at the RT convention (as did Smart Bitches and others). Fellow Ellora's Cave author Anne Jacobs has a go at her for telling tales out of class. This might simply be an effect I describe as 'defenders of the faith' whose first law seems to be 'thou shalt never say anything negative about thine publisher or person associated with thine publisher'. Personally I don't pay too much attention to that unless the author is somehow claiming to speak for the publisher as their representative. Most epresses have a hundred or more authors so at least one of them is likely to have this kind of attitude.
However it seems JC was also removed without any explanation from the Ellora's Cave authors list. Now this is an action by the publisher. On this post Ann puts the boot in with "My guess is, no other EC author who writes for more than one publisher has gone out of her way to diss the rest of us, our mutual publisher and the cover models who grace the covers of our EC books." I don't have to agree with everything my publishers choose to do, but if you are an author with a press having access to the author list seems like a reasonable expectation and any eviction should be explained. And as for the men who 'grace' covers, I would not want them gracing my cleavage without permission and neither should Ellora's Cave.
My bottom line is, if it's true you can say it. Every single industry out there has to keep improving just to hold their own--so if it's true they should want you to say it even if they aren't going to enjoy it (just as authors should appreciate thoughful but negative reviews). They have to own the good and the bad that happens under their brand. JC also addressed this issue directly with her publisher which I think was 'going out of her way' to be considerate to them and the right thing to do. And if Ellora's Cave actually did deliberately de-list an author because of an accurate and, by my judgement unmalcious, blog comment that is a big, fluttering incarnadine flag. If a publisher is okay with sexual harassment either by or of their models that is not good--and for the record the two do not cancel each other out. My 'love of the genre' or so-called romance community of any kind does not extend to even the mildest form of the omerta. What makes us better is not loyal and unquestioning silence, it is transparency and improvement.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Total sales pictures are particularly variable as they are based on a sample of books that have been out for widely varying lengths of time. Also note the numbers related to how many books currently contribute to that publisher's figure. Click on the figure to enlarge.
Friday, April 25, 2008
You may notice the EREC website is looking a bit pared back right now. I am simplifying the design in advance of some reorganising and a new look. The new look with have sales and other publisher reports on separate pages. The color scheme will stay mainly black and white but with a new logo and pictures (my ugly sketches are just place keepers) using vivid blue and magenta. You should be seeing some early drafts of the new logo in due course. For a while the article and cover spots will be down but they will be replaced as I go over to the new design.
If you have been an ongoing participant in EREC and consider yourself part of the team please drop me a line. What I mean by that is that you have done something for use (5 or more blog posts, an article series, coordinating an activity) and intend to remain involved in the future. I just need to hear from you, get a new cover and link and make a few plans for the future. revamping the website is a good opportunity to update the team list and job descriptions. And by 'remain involved' I don't necessarily mean more than one or two activities a year. If you haven't been involved, but might like to, please get in touch also. I am always looking for bloggers but could also use a secret shopper wrangler, anyone with good css/xhtml skills, someone to transfer our articles to pdf (they will be made available in this form from now on) and just general volunteers.
If you have volunteered to be a secret shopper please just hang in for a while. I will be getting back to you. I normally float an idea, see if there is interest, and then sit down and sort out the details. This is what I am doing right now. I should be in touch some time next week. I also still haven't made the promo postdards. I will probably hold off until I have the new logo to put on the reverse side. So, generally speaking of you have suggestions, criticisms, request ideas or anything--now is probably a good time to mention it. The changes will be phased in gradually as I get time.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
In breaking news almost none of you will care about, it looks like the little known but often slashed late-70s-early-80s TV sci fi series Blake's 7 may be remade. Ah, Blake's 7, where the Federation is an evil empire, the hero's only team up out of enlightened self interest and a lack of better options, and they all die at the end. Gotta love the British and their perky optimism.
In the opening episode our hero Blake is prosecuted as a child molester on trumped up charges that they brainwash him into almost believing. But things only really get interested for me when he teams up with sarcastic computer-geek-with-a-sexy-sneer-and-a-bad-haircut Avon. Avon was my first little girl crush. He had sarcasm to die for and his costumes weren't quite as awful as the rest. Really, I want some of whatever the designers of those outfits was taking. Blake's 7 also had one of the most deliciously evil, campy, sexy female villains ever in the form of crop-topped Servalan who manage to wear female drag while actually being a female, and make it look good. Not to mention that Servalan and Avon had a very strange pseudo-romantic relationship that certainly gave me something to ponder in terms of just what fictional romance was, or could be.
Do I have a point? I guess it is just SQUEEEE! And feel free to share your own early girl crush characters and what you liked about them. I will leave you with a few of Avon's better lines.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
"Harlequin, the leading publisher of romance and women’s fiction, announced today that LibreDigital will now handle all of its digital book projects, including its e-books, as well as online browsing capabilities via widgets and its Browse the Book tool ... LibreDigital is the division of NewsStand that handles digital books for publishers such as HarperCollins, Bloomsbury and Hachette." -- Publishers Weekly
"Rumours of penis theft began circulating last week in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo's sprawling capital of some 8 million inhabitants. They quickly dominated radio call-in shows, with listeners advised to beware of fellow passengers in communal taxis wearing gold rings ... Purported victims, 14 of whom were also detained by police, claimed that sorcerers simply touched them to make their genitals shrink or disappear, in what some residents said was an attempt to extort cash with the promise of a cure." Beleive it or not this is a common panic in several cultures, called "koro" and defined as a "culture bound syndrome involving perceived genitalia shrinkage". I can see the ER paranormal now, 'The Tale of the Penis Theif' -- Reuters UK
So, is this fish-on-fish bestiality?: "A fish species, which is all female, has survived for 70,000 years without reproducing sexually, experts believe ... The species, found in Texas and Mexico, interacts with males of other species to trigger its reproduction process ... 'Maybe there is still occasional sex with strangers that keeps the species alive. Future research may give us some answers.'" -- BBC Scotland
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
I'd been meaning to do an "unsolicited advice" post on the subject of how to cope with bad reviews, but hadn't got to it in the aftermath of Eastercon. And then a week or so ago an enormous blogstorm erupted over one author taking bad reviews far too seriously, giving an example of authors behaving very badly indeed. It's a *very* touchy subject at the moment, so I'm simply going to pull up a comment that I posted at Dear Author back in January, in a completely different discussion.
On the topic of less-than-rave reviews, I don’t like getting them any more than the next author does. But one of the useful bits of advice I’ve had out of hanging around more experienced writers is this:And I said something along the same lines a year ago in a comment on an EREC thread. I can't even remember now what outbreak of angst we were referring to, because authors regularly get in a public snit about less than glowing reviews.
There is no book written that is going to appeal to everyone who reads it, because people have different tastes. So if your book reaches a wide audience, sooner or later it’s going to get a bad review, no matter how good a book it is. If it reaches a really wide audience, it’s going to get the sort of review that strips paint from walls. The thing to worry about is when you *don’t* get any bad reviews — because it means that not many people have read the book.
The duelling reviews on Dear Author and other sites occasionally demonstrate the truth of that. What one reviewer adores, another loathes, and sometimes for exactly the same reason. Bad reviews are part of the job description. You don’t have to learn to like them, but you do have to learn to live with them. And an honest review of the book isn’t an attack on the author, even if the reviewer didn’t like the book. A thumbs-down review may help sell the book to someone with different tastes, if the reviewer sets out clearly why the book didn’t work for her.
Bad reviews hurt. But they're part of the job. And yes, I put my money, or at least my review copies, where my mouth is. I don't send out many review copies, because my publisher handles the routine review copies, including all the ones sent to the fluff review sites. But the few that *I* send out go to reviewers who are willing to say that they didn't like a book and why they didn't like it. Reviewers like Mrs Giggles, or Jan (the manga reviewer) at Dear Author. I know what sort of reviews I take seriously when I'm looking at reviews with my reader hat on, and that's the sort of review I want for one of my books, even if it means taking the risk that they'll shred it.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Back to my series on e-publishing and, more specifically, how to figure out whick e-publishers you want to target for your submission.....
Read part one here.
Read part two here.
Read part three here.
Read part four here.
E-Publisher Product Quality
More information can be surmised by looking at the e-publisher’s current offerings and seeing just what they have out right now. Some of these are a little more fuzzy than others and a lot hinges on your own comfort level with the way the e-publisher handles them.
I mentioned this in passing before but covers can vary widely by publisher and they are important for several reasons:
• Cover appearance has an effect on readers and, thus, on sales.
• Cover appearance has an effect on the author and the author’s desire to promote that book.
• Cover appearance has an effect on some reviewers.
Do be aware that you should look at the average cover art. Better selling authors or bigger name authors tend to get better covers and more consideration. Don’t hang any hopes that your first book with any house will have that house’s gold standard of cover art.
What types of books does the e-publisher specialize in? The submissions may say one thing but what do you see in the books being sold, especially those in the last couple of months? Is there a heavy weighting toward a particular subject or type of book?
Be sure to also pay attention to the length of the stories. It’s not unusual for an e-publisher to say they accept long stories but have a definite preference for shorter ones.
What do you think of the story you bought a story? Was it something you liked? Do you think the e-publisher looks for new and interesting takes on things or do all the blurbs sound familiar?
What do you think of the quality of the editing in the story you bought? Do you consider it to be a well-edited story? Did you find issues that continually drew you out of the story? Did the story line work well or did it lag and sag in places? The most important thing is whether you feel you would be happy if your story went out in the same shape as the one you are reading.
What is the e-publisher’s pricing structure? Pricing is always a tricky subject because authors and houses need to make money but readers also need to both be able to afford the stories and they need to perceive it as a good value. Do you feel the price charged is a fair price for the book you received.
Part Six on Thursday!
* Plagiarism of anything by anyone
* Things that happened at RT
* Bloggers being mean
* Authors being thin-skinned
* Amazon being mean
* Epublishers being mean
* Epublishers being stupid
* Epublishers being mean and stupid
* How epublishers being mean and/or stupid makes the whole industry look bad
* Erotic romance being/not being pornography--or what is/is not pornography
* RWA being... oh, who cares.
* EPIC should... blah, blah, blah.
* Some cover art sucks
* Fee charging publishers being/not being vanity--or what is/is not vanity and whether it is a bad thing.
* What erotica is "doing to" epublishing and/or romance [see: being/not being pornography, above]
* Tiny little presses owned by people with no industry experience who can't spell but can curse are high risk propositions. No, really.
* Should you write for money or just for love/art/muse/to express welling of genius/because the troll in the toilet tells you to
* How accurate is the information at P&E, Piers, EREC, my Ouija board etc?
* How people should/should not dress at conventions
* Youtube clips.
* What kinks go too far [see: what is erotica "doing to" epublishing and/or romance, above]
...feel free to add your own.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
It took me a long time to finally stop supporting Amazon as a customer and it is still a tentative process. I fully support that everyone makes their own choices and I certainly don't object to some my publishers making my books available through Amazon, although I would equally support them if the chose not to. But the pattern of behavior at this retailer seems to me to be increasingly grandiose and objectionable.
* The suppression of reviewer Reba Belle. Reviews critical of a new age healer who makes false claims to be a "Quero Apache ceremonial elder" have also reportedly been suppressed. Their review system in general is manipulated to allow authors to review their own books anonymously and suppress review they don't like through a 'clickies' campaign voting them unhelpful until and automatic system deletes them.
* The attempt to make POD publishers use their in house printer, Booksurge.
* Their ridiculous attempt to patent one click purchasing.
* Their lawsuit against the feminist "Amazon Bookstore" despite the fact they had been using that name since 1970.
* The fact they do not list their toll free customer service number on their site, and do not even have a toll free number of their associates program but require you to make a toll call.
* Their sale of arguably illegal animal fighting videos. Note, the amazon system is so automated they don't seem to notice the use if the tag 'boycott amazon' to identify these materials. Personally I think speech should be protected even in this area, but video material and pictorial magazines directly depict contemporary criminal acts and seem to allow people carrying them out to profit from them.
A recent example of blurring boundaries was Peters Fraser & Dunlop (a literary agency) choosing to make clients out of print backlist available to readers using Lightning Source and Amazon.co.uk -- but not, one assumes, Amazon.com.
One area where I think some presses still stumble is cover art. One of the main ways I try and estimate a press's ability to select good prose (other than excerpts and author names) is their ability to choose good cover art. I like to see good art and I will admit that I am most reassured to see the work of people who are solely or at least primarily artists. I am constantly surprised that magazine with great stories (Third Alernative springs to mind) often have art more suggestive of a precocious high school student that an artist of the same grade as the featured writers.
There are certainly people out there who are real Renaissance women and can pretty much anything, but often some skills are stronger or receiving more effort and emphasis than others. And I will admit that when working with a professional of any kind, publisher, artist, agent, I want to know that a lot (even most) of their effort is going into that service or profession.
I wonder how hypocritical I am to think this way given that I have a day job which receives the greatest part of my energy and concentration--more so now than ever. But I am thinking here about where to place my work and I have the option to choose someone who is more dedicated as an artist, editor or publisher than I am, why wouldn't I? By the time they enter the picture the book is done and they know exactly what they are getting. I, on the other hand, am having to try and predict what they will do with the manuscript once it is out of my hands.
p.s. I have a total of 13 entries for the first line contest and could use a few more. Please spread the word. All you need to do is send your first line, pen name and manuscript title, and let me know if it is a published book or unpublished manuscript. Two $20 prizes are up for grabs once I have at least 10 entries in the published and unpublished categories. Email entries to erecmail at gmail.com
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Friday, April 18, 2008
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Most annoying quote of the week. A man who used 13 minutes of computer time and 12 cent's of electricity to create computer compiled books from internet sources says he might do computer-constructed romance next, because "There are only so many body parts." I hope some of the medical writers scavenged by his algorithms get their teeth into some of his more tender body parts.
Thanks to new archive you can now see Darwin's handwriting here. Do any of you have hand written outlines, manuscripts or character pictures to share? I would love to see them.
Hmmm. "Twenty books later, Holt cracked the New York Times Best Seller list in March and has earned herself the title “Queen of Erotic Romance,”... I have a question, who decided she had that title? Because if I was going to crown anyone the name would probably start with ... well, who would you pick? I mean at least Tina Turner had Beyonce call her the "Queen of Soul" rather than self-coronating (although I'm with Aretha on that one). Am I wrong on the crown being self-bestowed? Please let me know.
At Piers, and by direct report, it seems that Dark Castle Lords don't require artists to buy the Lordy art. But is seems they do sometimes require (rather than permit, or allow) payment for advertising. I remain interested in sales figures for this press as so far it looks like it would take... well, let's just say a long time, to earn a $100 share in a print ad. Meaning that authors might effectively not be paid in terms of net profit?
Finally I must say that after years of skepticism I am starting to be more convinced about the bad ides for Ellora's Cave. I do not think they are in serious trouble as a business. But with 8 releases a week and sales that really do seem to be slipping they look to be in danger of losing their front runner status. Add to that their print books are fast vanishing from stores--go check your local store and count EC books versus say Samhain, you may see what I mean. In fact if you get a chance to do this please let me know the figures.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
The focus is on GLBT erotic romance: "We are at the forefront of the Black Coffee Movement. We, the Black Coffee Klatsch, believe that a good romance should have a driving plot and thriving story."
The forefront of the what? Oh well. I think we could certainly use a GBLT press, especially one that will get behind the whole sandwich (the BLT), not just the G. However any submission guidelines using multiples punctuation marks worry me a little: "VI. LEAVE YOUR EGO AT THE DOOR !!!! I do not babysit, my editors do not babysit and the remaining staff will not babysit."
Maria: To be a part of a co-op you have to be on board with the idea that it’s there for everyone’s benefit. It does require a shift in attitude. My own personal challenge with Alinar was the cost involved in setting it up and the time involved in running the business side of the site. That obviously takes away from my writing time and any royalties I might make, so I had to be sure I was okay with that. To start a set-up like Alinar, decide exactly how you want it to work and how you want the business to develop. The best analogy I can give is that Alinar is like a car share. I paid for the parts, Felicity built it, and all the Alinar authors got to ride in it free for a set period. Now we’re up and motoring, it’s time to start sharing costs.
A co-op author needs to think in terms of shared ownership and be prepared to accept the responsibility and the costs that come with that.
Eve Asbury/Gayle Eden: Time. Time and balance. Between writing the stories your muse craves to bring to life, running websites, groups, working with the editors, and overseeing the business side for each book, you can find yourself adjusting and prioritizing. I've worked since I was 13, am a workaholic in some ways, and still time is precious. I have written scores of books over many years; some thankfully will never see daylight, lol. But I could do that and be completely happy. However, writing as a career requires dedication. The biggest challenge is not to get distracted, to stay focused. Everything comes down to the readers’ satisfaction with the stories, but many hours and details go into producing a story and presenting it through a co-op. I'm thinking the first year, this past year, was a lot of those start-up, learning by doing business things that happen with any new venture. We're all learning to balance everything out, because we love writing first.
Jude: Be open-minded and ready to learn. There are format criteria for different vendor sites and you will have to learn how to present your work in each. It’s not really difficult, just time-consuming and different, so you need to be willing to make a lot of mistakes. Suck up your pride and ask questions—I’ve learned that feeling like an idiot isn’t nearly as bad as actually acting like one!
Do you have other works that are published using other models and, if so, why did you take a different approach with that work?
Eve Asbury/Gayle Eden: I have books with other e-publishers. But I also put out paperbacks of my books via Lulu. And I've some in Kindle format. Though e-books are my focus, having any and all available formats is just a way to give readers more choices. I see the main focus on e-books. I've self-published a couple of e-books that couldn't be squeezed in our release schedule on time. My thought is always simply to have them available, reissues or new works. We all offer free books, too. Back when I first started I used to offer CDs and other formats in contests. I would box and mail them out. I don't think that works in a publishing market because it requires storage, and people would rather have the file, either on a cyber bookshelf or on their hand-helds. Some of my first publishers offered print formats to authors via vanity-type ventures. I declined. I am still on the fence about audio-book ventures and the like. I think, in the romance market, it's just not in demand yet. I'm not opposed to e-publishing or e-publishers; I know there are good ones out there. Most, however, didn't exist, or publish my type of romance, when I started contracting works.
Jude: Two of my historical novels—Dragon & Hawk and Celtic Fire, Desert Rain—are independently-published in trade paperback by my own press, Scorched Hawk Press. I actually did that first, then decided to try e-publishing with Alinar. I decided to branch into another genre, to be available solely as e-books under a pen-name through Alinar, to work on my craft, see if I could write something totally different from my press novels. I like books in hand, but I realize that the technology has already evolved into electronic formats like Kindle and cell-phone books; in order to get my work out there as a writer and publisher, I can evolve too. But I still intend to write for print as well.
Is there anything else you would like to say to authors about co-operative publishing?
Maria: It helps a lot if one of the members has experience of running a small business, even better if they have experience of running an e-publisher. Don’t skimp on the legals. Any publishing venture needs an industry-standard, negotiable contract. At Alinar our authors retain the copyright to their work. Keep the number of authors in the group manageable. Buy ISBN numbers in bulk from somewhere like the ISBN agency. I bought 100 for Alinar, and the authors get them at the price I paid for them (two pounds, or four dollars) when they need one. Free reads are the best promo tool.
Be a group, but don’t forget to set individual goals too. If you manage to achieve some level of success with self-publishing, then use the confidence that will give you to move onwards and upwards.
And don’t forget to make your readers and customers feel a part of the co-op idea. We do that with friendly customer service, and we also run a competition on our forums once a month that focuses on the readers rather than the authors. For example one month to enter into the prize draw readers posted to tell us where they lived in the world. April is post a recipe month. It’s a good way to get readers talking to each other as well as keeping the forums alive.
I’ll leave you with a few stats to show what a small self-publishing co-op can achieve if you get the right group of authors on board. If anyone wants advice on any aspect of self-publishing/co-operative publishing, I’m always happy to chat.
We opened our doors in October 2006, and we now have seven authors writing under 12 pen-names.
Our Alinar Yahoo forum has 3,779 members and our Alinaradult Yahoo forum has 4,085 members.
We’ve achieved number one slots at Fictionwise, including two number one slots on the overall bestseller list, two on the erotica list, and various on the books-under-a-dollar list. Alinar Publishing took the number one bestseller slot on Fictionwise this Christmas, and at the time of writing, an Alinar book is also number one in multiformat romance.
Sales - Dec. 07 we sold 377 books from the Alinar Publishing Website and 1,826 on Fictionwise. Feb. 08 saw sales of 351 from Alinar and 791 at Fictionwise.
Eve Asbury/Gayle Eden: It can work; a co-op can be ideal so long as you're willing to put in the hours, be flexible, and see your fellow-authors as equals. I think you have to love writing first, then be willing to educate yourself about the industry. You must want the best for your fellow-authors because there is no room for negative attitudes in a joint venture. Personalities can be diverse, but the common goal must be understood from the get-go. Everything is give-and-take, and everything should be out on the table beforehand, your expectations verbalized. You have to pick up the slack sometimes and be willing to discuss issues and present ideas with an open mind and awareness of what is best for the overall group. You can have control while still deferring to those who may be more experienced and knowledgeable on what works. You can do everything for your own work, be a maverick in a sense, and still participate in things that will benefit the name you represent, and the authors you work with. Groups and promo and changes in structure or adjustments made when something doesn't work as planned—that's all a part of a co-op. It takes a certain maturity and overall respect for readers, peers, and belief in what you're doing and why.
Jude: It’s not for everyone. I am extremely fortunate to have become involved with such people of integrity as the folks who run Alinar, and the other authors are incredible writers. I would warn new authors in a co-op to be wary, check the reputations of the people involved, check the contract, and trust your gut. If it feels right and you’re willing to work, go for it. Otherwise, go the traditional route with an agent and be prepared to wait a few years to see your work published.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
How, exactly, would you define co-operative publishing and its difference from third-party ("traditional") and self-publishing?
Maria: Co-op publishing is a more democratic form of self-publishing where, as well as managing the production of their own books, participating authors have a say in, and contribute towards, the running of the site. This requires sensitivity and trust from all the authors. Co-ops are also about authors being willing to roll up their sleeves and pitch in with whatever skills they can bring to the pot.
Eve Asbury/Gayle Eden: It's a gathering of authors who are willing to go that extra mile. Though it requires more work and time making the book. We all feel the effort is worth it, for our stories and for the other authors. We view Alinar, and what it represents, as our personal responsibility. The ladies who do the tech and business side make everything as simplified and self-administrating as possible, and in the first year we've been guided through it with only a few hitches. The contract is simple; the author understands the control you have in a co-op comes with responsibility and the mutual goal of the overall co-op. Maria is always available for questions, and the authors themselves exchange ideas or discuss ways to present and meet the expectations of the reader/consumer. We all agree the story comes first, and the more effort we put into delivering that to the reader, the better the quality. That in turn translates into a name (Alinar) the readers can depend on.
Jude: Author input and control of your product. You choose the cover, the release date, the price—all the things that are stripped out of your hands with a traditional publisher. I’m a control freak, I guess. I wanted to choose as much as I could. Self-publishing is a completely solo effort to get your work out into the market; a co-op allows you to market with a group. Safety in numbers and all that.
What attracted you, as an author, to co-operative publishing in general and Alinar in particular?
Maria: Felicity and I wanted Alinar to be a place where authors would benefit totally from their hard work. Personally, I like the support you get from other authors in a co-op. I like that we’re all on the same page as far as our aims for the company go. I love that at Alinar I work beside such a great group of talented authors.
Eve Asbury/Gayle Eden: I was attracted first by the dedication of the authors already talking about it. Their love of writing. Secondly it was the freedom and the control, because I had so many negative experiences from all sides of e-publishing. I was completely frustrated with editors who didn't know POV, or ones who had no knowledge of the craft or skills. Having studied NY print and been on writing boards for years, I expected (editor and publisher) to mean an informed and skilled professional. I didn't encounter much of that. I've had it all: bad covers, bad contracts, terrible edits, and dealing with that publisher/writer ego that ran amok to the point you're pimping the publisher who doesn't meet their end of the contract, or one who puts out books to serve their own ends. Lol, I've seen the dark side, and, after years of that, I jumped at the chance to pick my editor, my covers, and put any investment, money or otherwise, where it would do the most good. I love the writing, the stories, but if you see it all undone by the publisher, for whatever reason, you learn eventually that, no matter how dedicated you are, how many hours you put in pimping it and the publisher, it's doomed on many fronts. I'm not competitive at all; I'd rather write good stories and give them a fair chance to rise or fall with the readers, on the merits of the story, not the lack of professional skills at the e-house. With Alinar, I can at least lessen the negative input. It has the same chance among readers as any other book out there, and that's all I strive for.
Jude: I was introduced to Alinar just as they were starting up. It was my first foray into the e-book world and I was impressed with their organization and openness. I had no clue what I was doing (and still don’t!) but they are very patient with me and have walked me through a number of challenges. I’ve learned quite a bit, and plan to keep going.
What type of author would be best suited to publishing with a co-operative?
Maria: You need to be a people person, as you’ll find yourself working closely with other authors. Be willing to give back and contribute time and effort to the project. And be good at negotiating and willing to compromise. You need to enjoy being an active member of a group and not afraid of responsibility. It helps to have been previously published so you have knowledge of how the industry works.
Eve Asbury/Gayle Eden: Dedicated. I say that a lot. But you have to respect and trust your fellow-authors, be willing to meet your responsibility in delivering the books… and in the format required. You have to be somewhat of a risk-taker, because we have no real model for a writing co-op. You have to have vision that includes the whole group as well as yourself. I think it takes a serious writer, as some of us are working 16 hrs straight on that, others juggle it and jobs, life. Expect the unexpected, too, when you're trying something new like this. See the standard as very high and be continually working toward that. Utilize your skills for the overall co-op and never, ever, forget that building reader and consumer faith and trust, delivering your best efforts, comes first. Also being open to adjusting what you're doing to meet either market or industry changes. It's evolving and, like any new venture, it has its growing pains. An author who is willing to see the big picture, be a part of shaping it, that's an ideal member of a co-op. Oh, and no egos, lol. There's no room in an equal partnership, no matter how big, for prima donnas, dictators, or grandstanders. All writers are equal; their strengths or weaknesses in writing or business are their personal challenges. Everyone benefits from strengths, every writer understands weaknesses. In a co-op you work together and still have the advantage of seeing your efforts rewarded; your work get that fair shot.
Jude: You have to have a good sense of organization, determination, and self-reliance. Taking charge of your creation isn’t always easy, and a number of writers just want to throw it into someone else’s lap once it’s written and say, “Here, now go sell it for me.” That doesn’t fly with independent publishing.
See part 2 tomorrow!
Monday, April 14, 2008
Looking at the last 300 keywords used to find this blog I see that 80% used the key word 'erotic', 25% used the key word romance, and 24% used both words. That suggests to me that Most of the people searching for romance were also looking for erotic forms. But most of the people searching for erotic stories were not specifically looking for romance.
It seems to me that erotic romance need not be marketed solely as a subset of romance, it could also be marketed as a subset of erotica, and this might be were the largest untapped market still resides? Is the issue that erotica readers are perceived as being averse to love--or is it erotic romance writers are averse to being seen as pornographers?
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Edited to add: I have a couple of volunteers. But if you are really keen and in a different time zone I can make a note of more volunteers for later. Now I really need some suggestions about which presses to try, perhaps focusing on some of the new publishers on the scene?
Friday, April 11, 2008
I know how I feel about reviews as a writer, but reviews are theoretically supposed to be for the readers, yes? I can't remember the last time I even looked at reviews when considering a book purchase--mainly because I've only been reading/buying assigned books for the past two years. But all these review sites must exist for a reason. I don't even read reviews for movies or music.
As readers, when was the last time you bought anything based on a review? And what sort of review sites or articles do you read?
If you missed the whole Highland/DeborahAnne MacGillivray saga, you can catch up here (in chronological order). But then, you might have something to better to do with your time....
* Playing the Amazon Game, or Gaming the System?
* Highland Press Warnings (Dear Author)
* Highland Press Warnings (UFL)
* Heiliger Mist!
* And The Fucktard of The Week Goes To…Deborah MacGillivray!
* Drama, drama, drama
* Author, Deborah MacGillivray Seems To Have Lied About Her True Position At Highland Press…
* Another kick in the guts from e-publishers
* Of Pineapples and Bananas
* People Who Need Boundaries
The sales figure chart has been pretty stable for a while now. Currently it is:
First month: 181 copies
First year: 335 copies
Total to date: 415 copies
Total to date (after at least one year): 531 copies.
The leveling out is partly because the data set is getting larger and so new additions have less of an effect on the average. But I also think that increased demand is being matched by increased supply, so the performance of the "average" book has been fairly stable over the last six months or so. The major differences are seen in the relative performance of different presses.
While I am always interested in receiving anonymous sales data from authors (veinglory at gmail.com) I am going to start identifying a 'publisher of interest' that I am particularly interested in adding to the data set. My current publisher of interest, although I hesitate to lift the Tupperware lid on that particular can of worms, is Dark Castle Lords.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Send me a first line from your published book or manuscript. Send an email (to ERECMAIL AT GMAIL.COM ) with the subject line: FIRST LINE ENTRY. In the body of the email list the first sentence only of your book (if published) or manuscript (if unpublished) along with your manuscript title and pen name. I will accept up to 50 entries in each category. Entries will remain open for at least a week and until at least 10 entries have been received in each category (edited to add: by which I mean published and unpublished sections).
The line will be posted anonymously (without the manuscript title or pen name) for visitors to the blog to vote on which line most intrigues them to read further. The winner in each category will a $20 Barnes & Noble gift certificate.
[entries so far: published: 2, unpublished: 2]
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
It seems to me that it often takes a certain kind of person to run a small business, seize a potion in an influential association or otherwise become influential in publishing. It is by no means a universal thing, but a certain bullish approach can be useful in getting any enterprise off the ground. Anyone who is easily dissuaded would ... well, not start a small business in the first place. Given the chances of the average e-publisher to succeed you might even need to be a little unrealistic and maybe a bit over-confident too. But even with e-publishing starting to feel like a pot of pop-corn of a low fire I don't think that you need to be crazy to run an epublisher, or even that it helps.
Because at the end of the day the ones that are running all over the internet attacking authors, reviewers and bloggers are not the ones that are doing a terribly good job as publishers. A focused ambitious publisher need not be too unrealistic or over-confident because they will have qualifications, start up capital and a market plan. You don't succeed as an epublisher through pure chance anymore than a manuscript comes out of the slush pile on the basis of a lottery drawing. And if you have a dispute, as some of the principles at Samhain and Ellora's Cave apparently do--you have the dispute with each others and if necessary through legal channels.
And when the whole thing hits the blogs they don't comment, they don't attack bystanders, throw insults around the blogverse and generally act like wet cats on crack as certain others are inclined too. And that is why the recent litigation does not in fact make me worry about the future of either publisher. This issue has brought back those persistent rumors (see comments) that things are going a bit downhill at Ellora's Cave, sales-wise, but given how much further up hill they currently are I don't doubt they are still very much leading the field.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Sorry for the delay.
Monday, April 07, 2008
Dear Author has a smoke alert for Highland Press (see also: SBTB).
Oh, and have any of you even heard of Club Lighthouse Publishing? Flying under the radar much?
Also from SBTB: Christine Brashear Files Civil Suit Against Ellora’s Cave, Tina Engler, et al.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
Read part one here.
Read part two here.
Read part three here.
E-Publisher Website Usability
TeddyPig did a feature on his blog talking about publisher website designs and how easy or hard they are to use for readers. I highly recommoend reading his thoughts in addition to my own.
The reason you look at this is that it has a direct impact on your sales. Websites that are difficult to use or problematic can frustrate readers and make it difficult to find or buy your stories.
Can you find new releases?
Are new releases displayed prominently so readers always know what’s new? Many readers look at the front page of the publisher’s website to find brand new releases. New releases should be listed in date order because it’s frustrating to have to check every book released in “this month” to see which ones are new this week.
Can you find other books in a series?
If a book is part of a series (single author or multi-author), can you find the other books in the series easily and can you tell the order of the books in the series? This can make it far easier for readers to buy an entire series if they like one book in it or to keep track of a series at any time.
Can you find other books by a particular author?
Can you easily find other books by any particular author? If you open any book’s page, can you click on the author name to go to a bio or a page that contains links to other books by that author? This makes it easier for readers to discover your backlist and buy it when they like the book they’ve purchased.
Can you find a list of coming releases?
Is there a Coming Soon page that shows you the cover, blurb and author information for books that are coming soon? You want to be able to start promoting a book heavily once it shows up on the Coming Soon page and readers go through that page a lot more than some authors think, often announcing they’ve found new books by their favorite authors on it and asking for details.
Can you understand the Categories?
Are the e-publisher’s categories fairly standard or are they being customized to the point they are no longer recognizable. If your readers can’t understand the categories because they’re specific only to that author, they may not bother to browse them and you may lose a reader that may have otherwise stumbled across your book.
Can you easily purchase a book and download it?
How difficult is it to purchase a book and get it downloaded to your system? Do you have to go back and forth to a 3rd party fulfillment site? Do you get a download link immediately or do you have to wait to get an email? What formats are offered?
If you buy a book, do you pay per format or can you download any format at the end?
This can be a bit of a minefield and not many, if any, e-publishers do everything in the way I’d prefer but mainly you’re judging the pain factor of trying to be one of your potential readers by buying one or two books that interest you. If it’s too difficult, readers won’t bother to keep coming back and may not even complete their first transaction. That’s a sale lost.
Part Five tomorrow.
Sapphire Blue Publishing is an all genre "submit by invitation only" publisher owned by Lori Combs-Graves, Tina Gerow and Maria Clayton, opening this August. They state "Our royalty rates vary from book to book...." They have the now rather common contest where you "win" a contract, which even for a by-invitation press doesn't sound like a prize to me. At least one of the owners plan to publish as an author with this press.
Sometimes I feel tempted to open a betting pool and track odds on new presses. But that would be a bit 'much', I think. I wish them good fortune, and suggest clearing up just what those royalties will be and the exact basis on which they vary.
Saturday, April 05, 2008
So anyway today I decided to get Bust (a feminist magazine) and Out (the transgender issue). And damned if erotic romance publishing isn't everywhere I turn. Ellora's Cave in Bust and Loose Id in Out. Way to go guys! New markets to conquer, new readers to hook. :)
Read Part 2 of the series here.
E-Publisher Website Data
You can learn a surprising amount by looking around each e-publisher’s website. This is what customers will see and use and you should put yourself in the mindset of a customer when you explore it. If you find something confusing, so will other people. If you find something a pleasure to use, so will others. Customers are very easy to influence with website usability and design, so it pays to take it into account.
Things you see on the website can also be extrapolated to give you clues to certain behaviors or data that can make a difference on how you rank that e-publisher on your list.
How Long Has This E-Publisher Been In Business
Length of time in business is not the whole story. E-publishers have failed after months in business and years in business. What this information does do is give you a data point to look at when you also look at the number of releases or authors.
But a new e-publisher will most likely not have the customer base of an e-publisher that has been in business longer. New stories may not have the sales figures with a smaller or newer e-publisher that they would have with an older or larger one.
What Do Current Covers Look Like?
Covers can take many forms and many “looks.” Not everyone’s taste in covers is the same and it can make a significant difference for some readers and authors. You should wander through each e-publisher’s catalog of books and get a feel for what that e-publisher’s normal cover look is. Then decide whether you are comfortable having that cover on your book or not. You really are the only one who can make that call. If you don’t like or at least accept your cover, you’re less likely to be happy and less likely to promote your work.
How Many Releases Per Week?
The number of releases per week will give you a rough look at the volume of the e-publisher. Because e-publishers do not generally provide sales numbers, you have to make some rough guesses of what that might be. Typically, the number of releases per week corresponds to the e-publisher’s sales volumes. An e-publisher that has one release a week almost certainly has lower overall sales than an e-publisher that has four new releases per week.
How Many Authors in the Stable?
Take a look at the stable of authors the e-publisher has. If most of the stories published are from a small subset of the stable or the stable is very small in relation to the number of stories released per week, that may be a sign of either a publisher that is mostly focused on its owners.
Don’t mistake this for a publisher who is merely new and has a small stable because of that. In that case the e-publisher may only release one book a week and have a small stable of core authors.
What File Formats are Offered?
This is another factor that can have an impact on the customer base. People quickly develop favored formats based on how they read ebooks and are less likely to buy a format they cannot easily use unless they are already hooked on the author’s work.
Part 4 will be posted Sunday :)
Thursday, April 03, 2008
You can read part 1 of this series here.
Narrowing the Field
There are a lot of factors to take into account when you look at e-publishers. As is the case with a lot of things, there’s no absolutely perfect solution for everyone. You will need to make choices and consider tradeoffs. Only you can tell what is truly important to you for any particular story and any time in your writing career.
When you look at the list below, I encourage you to make a list of pros and cons for each e-publisher you’re considering. If you are not eligible for that e-publisher for some reason, just remove them from the list. This will leave you with a much clearer idea of what places may suit your work and you can then rank the remaining e-publishers in order of how desirable you find them.
E-Publisher Submissions Page Information
One of the best places to start is the e-publisher’s own submissions page. A lot of the most basic information you need should be located there. If the e-publisher you are considering does not have a submissions page, that may be a red flag right there.
Are Submissions Open or Closed?
Closed submissions means, if you are determined to write for this e-publisher, you’ll have to wait to submit until the submissions open again (or a contest is being held). If submissions are closed, make a note of the date they will reopen to submissions, if it’s mentioned.
Does Your Story Fit the Guidelines?
If your story doesn’t match the list of what that e-publisher is buying or, worse yet, violates one of their explicit rules, don’t bother to submit it.
What Needs to be Submitted and How?
Some e-publishers want information in addition to the more standard query letter and partial. If you do not already have this information available, it may cost you some time to produce it.
The type of material requested may also give you clues to the e-publisher’s concerns – for example, a request for a marketing plan may give you an indication that the e-publisher may be concerned that their authors make a significant contribution and investment in self-marketing and promo. These may also be positives or negatives, depending on your own comfort levels or resources.
What is the Stated Response Time?
This can be significantly different between different e-publishers. Most e-publishers request that you at least indicate if you are doing simultaneous submissions (submitting to more than a single publisher and/or e-publisher at any one time) and some request that you do not do it. What that means is that your submission may be tied up waiting for a response for an e-publisher for up to a year or maybe even more and you need to factor this into your submission decision and order.
What are the Standard Contract Terms?
Many e-publishers list at least their author royalty percentage and a few post sample contracts on their websites. You should try to get an idea of both royalty percentage and just what rights are requested and note those details down.
Is Print Possible? On What Terms?
This is only listed on e-publisher submissions pages occasionally but if going into print at some point is important to you, be sure to look around and see what you can discover about the chances of going into print and what is required. Sometimes it’s a certain minimum of sales, sometimes the author has to pay into production or buy a certain number of books to qualify.
I'll post more on Saturday, as long as Emily doesn't kill me first because I'm rather long-winded.
Note: If you want a PDF version of my first post in this series, Formatting a Manuscript for E-Publishing, you can download the PDF from my Scribd folder.
Once you have a manuscript written and it’s been proofed and test read and is ready to go, you have to try to sell it. For many people, this is the most harrowing part of the entire process and, unfortunately, this often leads to even more frustration because they will end up submitting manuscripts and collecting rejections from houses they shouldn’t have targeted at all. This is needless work and needless pain.
I really advocate being smart and educated when deciding which e-publishers to submit your hard work to. This includes doing some research and due diligence on the various e-publishers and making sure any compromises or tradeoffs are made knowingly. Educated decisions and even compromises are a key part of success in this industry.
I’m not attempting to tell you which e-publisher to choose. Instead I’m just trying to give you ideas of what to consider when selecting which e-publishers you want to submit your hard work to.
Know Exactly What You’re Selling
The first part of the formula is to know exactly what you are selling. This sounds like a really obvious and redundant thing to point out but I’ll do it anyway. I have actually met people who do not know what genre their story is and some aren’t sure how long it is!
If you followed the instructions in the first article in this series (Formatting for E-Publishing), you will already have a cover page that tells you exactly what genre you believe your story to be and how long it is. If you didn’t follow those instructions, write those two key pieces of information down and keep it handy.
There are a number of places to look for simple lists of e-publishers that publish the type of work you want to sell.
Some suggestions are:
• EREC (Erotic Romance E-Publisher Comparison Site): http://www.erecsite.com/index.html
• Preditors & Editors: http://anotherealm.com/prededitors/
• EPIC (Electronically Published Internet Connection): http://www.epicauthors.com/
• Piers Anthony: http://www.hipiers.com/
• Publishers you own books from.
• Recommendations from friends, loops, etc.
Note that some of these sites give information and offer recommendations. I always think these should be noted but no one recommendation or warning should constitute your entire decision on an e-publisher.
Part 2 will be put up tomorrow and will start talking about the various pieces of information you can use to narrow down and rank your list of e-publishers with.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
In the erotic fiction world, are the erotic motivations still real? It seems like they are often treated that way. Violence my be condemned is all the visual media but books are only very rarely criticised on this basis. Issues of characters being 'immoral' in other ways are very rarely raised at all and a serial killer or torturer can even be a sympathetic protagonist in a mainstream novel. But the reaction to erotic stories with transgressive themes is often not just 'I don't like it' but 'it shouldn't exist'.
Now the first thing I would say is that I fully believe that many readers can and do enjoying reading about sexual behavior that they have no desire whatsoever to even see in real life. I have a whole book of horse bestiality stories but I assure you I am not lurking around the local stables with a supersized condom and a stepladder (I mean, ew.) I have read all sorts of things just to see what they are like: under age, non-consensual, forced feminisation, consensual snuff (non-consensual snuff is still a step too far for me).
That said if I found out the guy I was dating had dozens of rape fantasy books under his mattress, it probably would change my opinion of him. But just one, in the middle of a bunch of other books with various erotic and non-erotic themes? probably not. Judgements are funny things, aren't they? More often emotional rather than purely rational, I think.
It's a fuzzy thing. But ultimately I don't think any written (that is to say: victimless) material should be forbidden. And I don't think sexual material is fundamentally more 'real' than violence/torture fantasies or other arguably gratuitous motivations (get thee behind me chocolate cake recipe).
I mean, the existence of alcoholism does not, to my mind, make alcohol innately evil. But I do recognise that its availability for my pleasure extracts a terrible cost from other people. If I had lost a close friend or family member to a drunk driver I would probably feel differently. Ditto gambling, drugs and other more-or-less regulate materials and opportunities that are dangerous, or at least not helpful, to certain people.
So, circling in as I am to the issue of underage character in erotica and of sexualised rape, here is what I think. I have no problem with anyone who reads, writes or publishes underage prose material like Lolita stories, yaoi-style schoolkid plots, role-playing or even contemporary literal erotica--occasionally or habitually. It's not my thing but it can be a purely fictional fantasy, not associated with any real world motivations.
However it is an area that calls for unusually high levels of sensitivity and caution because yes, there are people for whom these motivations are real, and there are victims of abuse who don't need to have that kind of scenario unexpectedly or unpredictably presented to them. We already take care to distribute explicit erotica to adults so having filters and veils around certain types of material is something we are already set up to do, after all.
When the arguments start up, as they always do, there is a middle ground between 'SQUEE' and 'You're going to hell!!' And that is to realise one person's martini is another person's poison--and marketing transgressive material as fiction to those who will treat it as fiction. Erotica, please consume in moderation.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
But first I would like to throw it open. Leaving aside the issue of the actual presses in question... what type of press should be recommended, and on what basis? Keep in mind the only actual data I have is what is on other websites, sales figures and the happy-ometer.