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Thursday Midday Links: Is Barnes&Noble Targeted for Takeover

A friend sent me this link to a fanfiction author who completed a 100,000 word novel. She never thought she could accomplish such a task but now that she has, she is energized and is thinking about actual publication of future work. The comment thread is what is so interesting because the participants discuss the pros and cons of different publishing methods.

Sarah Weinman writes about the increasing ownership of Barnes and Noble stock by minority shareholder, Aletheia Research & Management. Aletheia combined with another minority shareholder are closing in on the percentage owned by current Chairman Leonard Riggio:

Together, Yucaipa and Aletheia’s stake in Barnes & Noble is approximately 30%, still smaller than Riggio’s. But since the two companies appear to be forging ties on A&P initiatives, it seems like a good bet they may do the same thing for B&N — and two heads might serve better than one to find a way around the poison pill measure.

Melville House Publishing is holding a roundtable discussion (my characterization) of the future of publishing with authors because authors are the least heard voices in the future of publishing (per Melville House). I would love to hear what authors think should be done to make tomorrow’s publishing industry as vibrant as it was previously. In fact, if there are authors that read this blog that have a guest opinion that they would like to share, I would love to post it, even if I disagree with it (because that’s what the comments are for!).

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez has an interesting post about experimentation on the business end of publishing:

Much of the public debate around e-books hinges on the personal benchmarking of tech fetishists, and sniping pundits with no skin in the game. There are many fundamental business issues that need to be addressed related to e-books -‘ rights, royalties, pricing, distribution, marketing -‘ and it’s up to publishers, agents and authors to figure them out together and not be distracted by every new shiny object the technology companies come up with.

I love reading Guy’s thoughts. He’s not an ebook evangelist but I don’t hold that against him. ;) He’s a thoughtful person who has a long history in publishing.

I don’t disagree with Guy that there are a contractual issues surrounding rights that will need to be addressed in the future (not the least of which is international rights so that our international friends have the same ability to read books as we in the US do) but I do disagree that ebook debate hinges on the “personal benchmarking of tech fetishists.” I see a lot of debate surrounding windowing, enhanced ebooks, pricing, and DRM and all of those things are not the purview of just tech fetishists but those who are passionately in love with reading. I also wonder why Guy thinks that romance is the exception to the market adoption of ebooks.

Two French authors are airing their grievances about plagiarism in the literary press. Camille Laurens accused Marie Darrieussecq of plagiarizing Laurens’ memoir. The authors shared an editor and Laurens was dropped after the plagiarism accusation. Fast forward two years. Darrieussecq published a study of writers accused of plagiarism (no word on whether she interviewed Cassie Edwards or Janet Dailey but I doubt it) and Laurens is releasing a novel “a story about an author who is dropped by her editor after accusing a rival of plagiarism, and then finds it difficult to continue writing.”

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. DS
    Jan 14, 2010 @ 12:30:28

    I read Gonzalez’s article and came away with one thought which is probably OT– I do not dog ear or write in books. That was a serious sin when I was growing up and I cannot bring myself to do it now. So the ability to take notes on my Kindle instead of in a separate note book is incredibly liberating.

  2. RStewie
    Jan 14, 2010 @ 12:40:16

    I agree that part of the reason Romance is so well represented by by publishers and by readers in the “e” market is due to the perception that it’s “smut”, but I think even greater than that is that the vast majority of Romance readers are more voracious readers.

    I don’t know of a single reader of Romance that isn’t constantly buying or renting books to read. This is purely anecdotal evidence, of course, but from what I can see online, it proves true for a wider range of Romance readers than just my friends.

    That means that the ability of the ebook to “hide” a clinch cover is vastly outweighed by the functionality of a portable device that stores multiple books, which, for all the readers I know, is the main (and usually only) reason they would invest in one.

  3. Ros
    Jan 14, 2010 @ 12:45:15

    Here’s a link to someone who started in fanfiction, has moved onto original work and is actually self-publishing (i.e. doing everything – promotion, typesetting etc.) He’s not making a fortune, but he is making something and that’s in large part due to the big online presence he’s built up previously. What’s really interesting to me about his model is that everything he writes is published free online first. He uses the feedback he gets from readers to go into his edited version of the work, which is then formatted and sold in various different forms (ebook and hard copy) through his Lulu page. People pay because they are invested in Sam and in the work, even though they could just click on a button to read it for free.

  4. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez
    Jan 14, 2010 @ 13:04:23

    Thanks for the shout-out, Jane! And for not holding my skepticism about eBooks against me. :-)

    I totally agree with RStewie that another major factor in romance’s favor is its voracious readers, an appetite “e” can definitely better serve than print, and has been for years. As such, do you think new eReaders are going to make a big impact in romance? Incremental growth, maybe, but it seems like that audience is already well served by existing options.

  5. Jane
    Jan 14, 2010 @ 13:09:03

    @Guy LeCharles Gonzalez Not RStewie, obviously, but I do think that the hype over dedicated devices is wrongheaded (as you pointed out in the comments). There are quite a few metrics that show laptop/desktop as being the primary device used to read ebooks. I think these multifunction, low priced tablets will make a much bigger impact or, possibly, when the eink device goes to the $100 price point.

    As much success as Kindle has had (and I believe that it has had some measurable impact), I don’t think it will be devices that grow the market as much as it is consumer behavior changing. The more that consumers get on demand entertainment, the more that they will want it and books will need to be in that “on demand” space just to compete. I guess I would argue that Napster started the movement of consumer behavior away from the physical for entertainment toward the digital.

  6. RStewie
    Jan 14, 2010 @ 14:08:02

    What Jane said, and I want to note that I am one of the laptop readers vs owning a dedicated device. I don’t have money to waste on a device that only lets me do one thing.

    Multi-functional devices that have dedicated e-reader software with some sort of e-ink are what will eventually turn the tide toward e-books for more than the Romance community (although there, as well, I believe).

    And while some might point to the iUnicorn or something else along the lines of a tablet laptop, I think with the advent of the netbook, we consumers have a real chance to get something that’s both small enough to tote in your bag or briefcase (or cargo pants pocket) and large enough that you aren’t squinting at a screen the size of a business card.

  7. Tonya
    Jan 14, 2010 @ 15:16:19

    Hm, some of those comments about publishing the fanfiction left a sour taste in my mouth, especially the ones that cut out all mention to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter for publishing. That makes it either an very OOC/AU fic or something bordering on plagiarism, to borrow someone else world wholesale and put your names on it.

    The other thing I found strange were people who said they couldn’t do a large project without their readers. I always thought that any project (even fanfiction), large or small, should be either going, thought out, or finished before you let other people truly critique it, or how else are they going to understand why you made a certain decision in your writing, or how X fits into the scope of the novel, or that this isn’t a slow chapter, it contains a Chekhov’s Gun Warehouse? Only you know how the story will end, midway.

  8. Gwynnyd
    Jan 14, 2010 @ 18:53:22

    The other thing I found strange were people who said they couldn't do a large project without their readers. I always thought that any project (even fanfiction), large or small, should be either going, thought out, or finished before you let other people truly critique it,

    No, no… mostly what the chapter-a-day fanfic writers want is positive feedback, not story ideas or actual critique. They need a reason- such as 50 comments saying “Gr8! Write more!” – to sit down and type out the next 1500 words. I suppose that is the divide between the amateur and the pro. A pro just writes.

  9. E
    Jan 14, 2010 @ 21:07:27

    The thing that gets me from the fanfiction comment thread is that it’s chock full of bad advice. Or rather, advice from people who really have no idea what the publishing industry is like and have bought into the self-publishing rhetoric without any understanding of the facts involved.

    *sits on hands to avoid commenting*

  10. Jane
    Jan 14, 2010 @ 21:28:11

    @E Really? The person who sent it to me is very knowledgeable about publishing and commented how she thought the comments were generally speaking pretty thoughtful.

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  12. Ros
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 02:52:50

    @Jane: It’s this sort of thing that raises my eyebrows:

    Will publishers not touch you if you’ve put your work online first?

    I’ve heard that they won’t touch you if you don’t have an agent. Many claim to not pay attention to online work; thus, you might not be penalized for this. Maybe you should published in a lock-community to be safe.

    Perhaps you could consider self-publishing. If you do well, a big house will most likely seek you out.

    Or this person, who clearly fails to understand how copyright works in the world of fiction:

    Hmm…I advocate for self-publishing as well. As a person who writes for a living (I am a reporter) and have had several psychology articles published in various trade journals, etc. I can strongly say that I think self-publication is the best.

    Because unfortunately, I no longer own any of my work- although it has my name on it. It is now property of someone else. I can make no money from it, the only thing I have to call my own is a tag. And if someone needs it…they pay my company and not me.

    I don’t see anyone in that thread giving useful, knowledgeable advice to a wannabe author, I’m afraid.

  13. Jane
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 09:26:02

    @Ros I didn’t see anything wrong with the first comment and the second one told me that the guy was probably a work for hire which is why he doesn’t get ongoing royalties from his work. But I suppose the advice could be taken wrong.

  14. ChristineP
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 11:35:40

    I think I need to get out more. I read the comments here about the fanfic thread and immediately recognized where it was from.

    That said, I agree that most of the advice given there wasn’t very useful. The interested parties would have done better to seek out some industry blogs to see what agents and editors are saying.

  15. DianeN
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 11:53:08


    While it’s true of some (and probably a majority of) fanfic writers that they’re only interested in positive feedback, I have to point out as a former fic writer myself that some of us do look for actual critical analysis from our peers. I didn’t often show my unfinished work to others, but I spent a lot of time critiquing for writers who were most definitely not just looking for pats on the back.

  16. ardeatine
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 12:26:52

    I just mentally went through as many fanfic writers as I could think of who are now writing ebooks, some of which are quite big names and some of which have print books out. I stopped at ten. Writing fanfic doesn’t stop you becoming a popular author of original fiction. It doesn’t stop you getting regular book contracts. It doesn’t stop you doing anything. I think readers would be surprised at the number of authors they’re reading who started in fanfiction.

  17. Ros
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 12:51:34

    @Jane, you didn’t see anything wrong with, ‘a big publishing house will most likely seek you out.’ Yeah, right. That happens all the time to self-published authors.

    And yes, the second person is clearly publishing in a whole different arena. And then giving advice to fiction writers that is wholly inapplicable. I’d say that’s misleading at best.

  18. Jane
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 12:59:21

    @Ros: I don’t think it’s all the way accurate no, but there are a few cases in recent memory in which a successful self published title did cause publishers to seek them out. The most recent being a non fiction story about the death of a mother and the way she said goodbye to her family. (I think that is the right one). So, the statement by itself might need a qualifier.

    There are work for hire situations within fiction publishing like the Star Trek series that is/was published by Pocket and other similar projects.

    What I liked about the comment thread was that it laid out different avenues for publishing and the justifications that each person had for the direction that they went. Every person will have a different idea of what is the best path for them. I don’t see anything wrong with that. I certainly don’t agree with everything that was written but I didn’t see it as a thread full of bad advice, just differing points of view on different modes of publishing.

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