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Can the Digital Market Expand Reader Choice?

Star formation from Chandra X-ray Observatory

Star formation from Chandra X-ray Observatory

Short answer is yes, but…

In wake of the recent controversy regarding Harlequin and it’s partnership with Author Solutions, it was clear to me that the advance paying model of traditional publishing is viewed as the only path for serioius authors. Look at the language, for example, of the SFWA “advance paying” or the guidelines of the RWA which does not recognize publishers who do not pay a $1,000 advance or greater. To a large extent, those that are in power at these writing organizations are published through the traditional way – advance and royalties.

The advance/royalties is the least risky path for an author. The author puts out nothing but her own hard work. Her expenses can include improving her craft through lessons and research. Post publication, the author can (and should) put forth her own marketing efforts which can be as cheap as a few bookmarks or as expensive as funding her own author tour, purchasing a book trailer, running contests. The traditional path to publication, however, is available only to a small few.

In order to sell, you must comply with the guidelines that the advance paying arms of publishing have demeed to be the parameters for a saleable book. In romance, that generally is hetereosexual love relationships between Anglo Saxon individuals with a word count of under 100,000. (with a few exceptions).

So while the traditional advance/royalty model is the least risky for authors, its open to only a limited few within a limited framework.   Publishers are buying books that they can sell to bookstore buyers and distribution partners.

The benefit of digital reseller market is that the filter is not the bookstore buyer or the distribution buyer because there is no artificial limitation set physical boundaries.   The digital bookshelf is infinite and endless.

This is both a boon and a curse.   It’s a boon because it means that more books of a greater variety will be available to the reader. It’s a curse because that means more books a reader must filter through to find new reads.   Quality will vary wildly.   But the fact is that there is a number of books out in the marketplace that are of low quality, poorly edited, with horrible covers, that aren’t worth your time or your money.   When I looked at the free list of books that All Romance eBooks were promoting during the holidays (probably because those publishers participated), it confirmed what I thought already: the dross is already here and in large number.

What does that mean? It means that despite the terrible books published out there, we are still finding good digital books to read.   This is one reason that in digital publishing, the publisher brand name is so important.   We’ve come to trust that certain digital publishers have standards even if we don’t agree with the publisher tastes.

The fact is that if the digital marketplace does indeed pull in $500 million in 2010 as Forrester Research predicts, then individuals who want to make money will come to the market and those people will realize that making money off digital publishing means providing a decent product.

A large and vibrant digital market does not mean the elimination of publishers. It merely changes the   model.   In the future, we may have a consortium of authors selling their books similar to what CJ Cherryh, Jane Fancher, and Lynn Abbey are doing with Closed Circle.   It might be an editor based brand that we follow.   For example, Anne Sowards edits Patricia Briggs and Ilona Andrews, among others. Or Cindy Hwang edits Meljean Brook, Nalini Singh, and Christine Feehan.   It might be something that we haven’t even envisioned yet.

There will be filters because filters will be a way to make money and only good filtering systems will make money.   Metadata will become far more important.   Resellers like Amazon, Fictionwise, Barnes and Noble will have to increase the way a consumer interacts with the metadata by more powerful searching functions (i.e., the consumer will want to find all 4-5 star rated books with keywords “alpha male” “paranormal” “strong hero” “unusual settings” released in the last two months).

I think that this year is the start of a new wave of publishing that will bring readers more variety and more choice.   I’m certainly excited.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She 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

85 Comments

  1. Linda Acaster
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 06:53:45

    This is a timely and thought provoking post,and thanks for airing it.

    Across in the UK traditional markets have shrunk beyond belief, subsidy or even free p/back publishing is blossoming, and e-reading is just taking off. Authors are watching the USA models closely, not just for current work they can no longer find a traditional publisher for, but for their reverted-rights back catalogue. It’s difficult to know which new publishers will offer the best deals, not just financially and now, but within the length of leased rights. One badly put together book/e-book tars all around it, and readers have neither the time nor inclination to manually sort the wheat from the chaff sitting under a single publisher’s banner. They’ll go elsewhere and take their friends with them. It’s the main reason I haven’t made the jump yet.

    Linda Acaster
    http://www.lindaacaster.com

  2. RachelT
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 08:36:27

    Jane, as a reader I recognise so much of what you say. I have been enjoying digital books outside the guidelines that you mention; during the past year I have read more and more m/m books, and in the past month have discovered Moriah Jovan who is writing really hefty tomes. I also recognise the issue of how do I distinguish among the many books available, distinguishing quality from the dross.

    I have given this considerable thought over the past few days – I spent a lot in the ‘January Sales’ but my income is about to reduce drastically so I have to change my relaxed attitude to spending. However, this isn’t the only incentive to be more selective – even as I downloaded free books over the holiday period, I was asking myself whether I was really going to read this particular example, when I had so many good books still in my tbr pile.

    I think my best strategy is to pay even more attention to reviewers whom I trust, concentrate on 4.5 and 5 star, a/b+ reviews. I also need to sharpen my own judgement, taking the opportunity to read more excerpts from books and not just rely on the back cover synopsis. I think I will also have fewer auto buy authors, to avoid the drop in quality that comes, even from the best authors (my own particular disappointments this year have come from one of my favourite authors, Kathleen Eagle).

    However, just as I would like publishers to be more aware of my reading wants, I think I need to adapt too. Jane, your discussion of a changing model leads me to think that I probably need to think more about the editorial/publishing stables that the books I like come from as this is how. This has been very thought provoking – thank you.

    Love the new look, by the way.

    Rachel

  3. Jane O
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 09:25:07

    Your point about the importance of the editor is a good one. I can remember a time when I would pick up any book that had “Joan Kahn” as the imprint. Readers need a clue like that when faced with an infinite number of choices, many of which are dreck.

    However, I have some doubts. I have a sneaky suspicion that the bulk of that projected $500 million is going to come from books that are also available in print and therefore have that imprimatur. To say nothing of the fact that at this point, print books are more likely to be reviewed.

    For that matter, how are reviewers going to pick and choose which books to review when there are thousands of them floating out there?

    I can see a wonderful future for epublishing, but at this point it seems to have the same problems for authors as self-publishing and vanity press. Most readers aren’t going to blindly buy a hundred books in hopes that one will be readable.

  4. Sandy James
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 09:25:32

    It’s nice to know that my books are part of “a new wave of publishing.” :-)

    That being said, I strongly agree with you that resellers will have to strive to help readers find the books they’re looking for. There are simply too many books to choose from, and readers would be better served by Amazon, Fictionwise, etc… if they had the ability to specifically search for exactly what they want to read. My books are fairly new at Fictionwise, having been released one title at a time over the last few months. The last one should appear any week now. Unless a reader already knows my name or my books and is looking for me, the only way I’m going to be found is by being on their new release page for the first week. Unfortunately, they release so many titles, they can only feature a few on their homepage. Luckily, I had some very high reader ratings in the first days of release, so all of my books were also on their highest rated recent release list for most of their first month of release. But after that, the titles all but disappeared. I’d like readers to be able to, for example, search for horseracing and see my titles as choices. As it stands, my books have been very well reviewed, but I’m just another name in a very big crowd.

  5. Sandy James
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 09:57:42

    @JaneO

    For that matter, how are reviewers going to pick and choose which books to review when there are thousands of them floating out there?

    I wish I knew the formula to figure out what can get an author reviewed. I’ve been blessed with great reviews from several review sites, but I’m simply too “small” an author to attract the bigger reviewers like Mrs. Giggles or Smart Bitches who might bring me national attention. As I said earlier, I’m merely a tiny name in a very big crowd.

    I can’t even imagine how difficult it is for well-known reviewers like the Dear Author ladies to pick and choose among the thousands and thousands of requests they receive! I do enjoy how you sometimes give us a reason you chose a certain story, such as it was recommended or that you enjoy that author.

  6. AQ
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 09:58:06

    The benefit of digital reseller market is that the filter is not the bookstore buyer or the distribution buyer because there is no artificial limitation set physical boundaries. The digital bookshelf is infinite and endless.

    In theory this is true but in practice digital resellers also filter their bookshelves. Angela James talked about this (specifically Amazon & the Kindle format) when she was with Samhain.

    Jane, what is your stake in the advance paying model? You speak of it often so who are speaking for and to?

    You also speak of digital choice a lot. How does Dear Authors review stats for 2009 conform to your opinion pieces? What are the statistical review breakdowns for traditional publishers? non-advance paying publishers? self-published authors? subsidy publishers? non-Anglo Saxon hetrosexual coupling?

    In 2010 will Dear Author be making a more concerted effort to showcase the additional choices that the digital marketplace opens up to the reader?

    Finally, I love the title of your article, I just wish the details of the article had been focus on the reader and their choices rather than the professional aspects of the publishing world.

  7. Jennifer Leeland
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 11:31:37

    More and more I’ve become convinced that epublishing is the smart way to go. A genre like Science Fiction Romance (Erotic or not) may find increasing popularity as the epublished SFR is picking up speed. Certainly paranormals gained MORE popularity when ebooks began to shine in that category.
    I find it interesting that Vampires and Werewolves–a ebook staple for many years (and VERY difficult to get published now) is the “big thing” in NY (what with Stephanie Myers and others). I’m convinced ebooks are experimental proving ground for subgenres.

  8. JulieB
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 11:53:54

    @AQ, reader choices and professional aspects of the publishing world are difficult to separate. It’s not just about the advance model; it’s about getting books (e or physical) to the reader.

    Getting the books to the reader is, ultimately, how both the publisher and author make money. The business of commercial publishing is not just about producing a book. There’s a network of marketing and distribution. When you see a book on the shelf at a bookstore, you can be assured that, with few exceptions (some of those AS and other POD books make it on the shelves through sheer tenacity on the part of authors), the book has been vetted and properly edited and the author was paid.

    Too many of the new e-publishers and small publishers that rely on technology don’t seem to grasp that this is still a reader-driven market. To buy everything (or have very broad acceptance criteria) throw it all against the virtual wall and see what sticks is a disservice to readers and writers.

    Don’t get me wrong: There are some e-publishers and some small publishers using POD technology who are trying very hard to get it right. I don’t mean to paint those with the same broad brush.

    The advance represents a commitment from the publisher that they’re going to get out and sell your book, and they expect to sell a certain number of copies. They’re taking a risk, but they’re also going to work hard to make that risk pay off.

    E-publishing is a different model, and I predict it’s going to take some time for the industry to find footing. But as Jane suggests, they need to make some changes. Reader, if you’re on a budget, you want the most bang for you buck. Are you willing to pay a buck or two more for a book that’s been properly edited, the purchase made at an online store where you could easily find the books that interest you?

    When that happens, we ALL win. The readers have fewer crap books sitting around on their hard drives and readers, the publishers make money, and in turn, we writers make money.

    The publishers who figure this out are going to come up on top.

  9. Joanne
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 12:23:58

    I think that this year is the start of a new wave of publishing that will bring readers more variety and more choice.

    Maybe, but maybe it will be more of the same, just with more epubs added into the mix for authors and readers. For myself, as things stand now, I trust Harlequin, Ellora’s Cave and Samhain for editing and new authors but not necessarily for the major number of books I purchase.

    It's a curse because that means more books a reader must filter through to find new reads. Quality will vary wildly.

    There are always (in our time) too many books for readers to filter through and we all miss some great reads while buying the not-so-great ones. Also the quality has and will always vary wildly because individual tastes and preferences vary so wildly. New publishers may open doors for some authors who can’t find a comfortable fit right now and that may open some choices for some buyers but it’s the buyer who will ultimately (as always) have to decide for him or herself what they want to read.

    It might be an editor based brand that we follow.

    Again, maybe for some, but not me. I’m not searching through listings to see who the editor is and though I appreciate that some on this site, and others like it, recognize editor names I wouldn’t know one from the other. An example of why I wouldn’t educate myself is the one you state. I read the Patricia Briggs books but not Ilona Andrews. Same editor? Doesn’t matter because it’s the trope and the writing that mean something to me, not the editor.

    As long as I’m being a PIA I’ll mention that I miss the LOL cats.

  10. Ros
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 12:28:46

    @Sandy James: Horseracing? Do you write the romance equivalent of Dick Francis? And if so, where can I find them?!

  11. joanne
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 12:30:20

    I can’t make the board quotes work, I can’t edit the comment.

    I AM a PIA. Sorry

  12. Jane
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 13:04:07

    @joanne our blockquote formatting isn’t working right now. Am looking into it.

    Edited: Comment blockquote is fixed.

  13. AQ
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 13:39:43

    @JulieB:

    JulieB, I basically agree with your comments but that doesn’t change my opinion that this article doesn’t speak to or for the reader.

    My question to Jane was/is why not write an article addressed to the reader that actually addresses reader choice and how to increase the odds of what the reader wants to read? Spotlight this variety and choice to help the reader find what traditional publishing isn’t providing. If that’s actually what she’s saying. Or at least spend more of the word count on the reader rather than the industry?

    And I think I should rephrase. Jane, in my opinion, has been advocating for the no-advance paying digital model. I want to know what her stake is. I think that’s a fair question to ask since Jane has indicated that she is not seeking publication and as far as I know she’s not a publisher, an agent or an editor.

    This is important when the article spends almost 50% of its word count discussing the advance model which most readers don’t care about.

    The terminology is also muddled. The digital marketplace is mentioned but there is no clear cut separation between the traditional publishing machine and its entry into the digital marketplace vs. the digital publishers. What percentage of that quoted $500 million do the “digital” publishers represent?

    I can’t tell because the linked article primarily addresses the traditional publisher in the digital marketplace. Which would lead me to believe that the potential $500 million digital marketplace is primarily the traditional publishers offering digital products.

    Certainly that gives readers more options on the format choices but does that really mean that readers get access to more variety and choice?

    Don’t know because this article doesn’t convince me that this is a new wave of publishing or that I’ll have more choices.

  14. Linda Rader
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 13:40:41

    Writer’s have always been their own brand. Reader’s buy based on word of mouth and buy backlists of their favorite authors. E-publishing may be no different in that respect from traditional publishing which can’t make an author successful by just spending money on promotion. Word of mouth is what sells and makes an author.

  15. Maria
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 14:09:41

    From a reader standpoint, the thing I love about ebooks is: SAMPLES. That tells me, while I’m sitting at home, comfy, whether something is worth reading! And secondly: Instant Gratification. Download in SECONDS.

    I admit that I download a few of those freebies that I probably won’t read, but once there is a price tag on it, I spend a few minutes (or more) reading the sample. If I make it to the end of the sample, there’s a good chance I’ll buy it.

    I do tend to notice who edits particular books (or check after reading one when I’m suspicious it might be the same editor as X). It has proven to be a good way to find books if I find an editor whose taste is similar to mine.

    Maria

  16. JulieB
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 14:37:25

    @AQ:

    I think the money quote here is in the same paragraph with the linked article: “…then individuals who want to make money will come to the market and those people will realize that making money off digital publishing means providing a decent product.”

    As readers we want decent product. As a writer, I want to be associated with a publisher that puts out a decent product, no matter what their payment model. A company that puts out a decent product will have better sales numbers, and that’s a win for everyone.

    @Linda Rader:

    I don’t consider myself a brand, but if I’m not connected with a publisher that puts out good books, my reputation suffers even if I put out a fantastic book. My income will certainly suffer.

    One problem I’m seeing with many (not all) e-publishers is that they aren’t spending a lot of money on marketing, advertising, or promotion, but instead leaving it up to the writer. And the writers aren’t getting paid enough to do that. This has to change, and it all goes back to the quote from Jane at the top of my post.

  17. Jane
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 15:26:01

    @AQ There’s no mystery here. I think that digital publishing and the digital retail market can increase user choice. I think advance model publishing reduces the risk publishers are willing to take; thereby reducing variety for the reader.

  18. Sandy James
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 15:41:00

    @Ros:

    Not sure I could ever rank up there with the great Dick Francis, but yes, I write romances about horseracing. My husband and I own a small stable of Standardbreds that we race. I believe you can click on my name to hit my website. Thanks for your interest!!

  19. Sandy James
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 16:23:25

    @Jane:

    I think advance model publishing reduces the risk publishers are willing to take; thereby reducing variety for the reader.

    I have to agree with this. My publisher is electronic and pays only royalties. She is much better known for erotica, but she has taken a risk and branched out to include mainstream romance even though it might take some time to attract a new type of reader. She has given a lot of new authors a chance they might never have had in the traditional publishing model.

    I have an fantastic agent now, and we are definitely shooting for the New York dream. But in the meantime, I have established a reputation, received some fantastic reviews, and learned SO MUCH about this business. I will always be grateful to my publisher for taking a chance on me — a gamble a larger house might not have taken.

  20. JulieB
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 16:50:41

    @Jane:

    I’m all for more user choice. E-publishing provides great opportunities for niche markets. Two things have to happen, though. Number one is quality. Second, readers need to be able to find works of interest with ease. This is where filtering, metadata, and so on come in. I can’t tell you how many publisher sites I’ve visited (e and paper) that just toss their books out there. They might be able to search by broad category or author, but that’s not enough.

    Previews are a must. I still don’t see enough of those at publisher web sites. One reason I go to a bookstore (or Amazon) is to glance through a book. Publishers, if you’re proud of your product, show it!

  21. Estara
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 17:15:51

    It merely changes the model. In the future, we may have a consortium of authors selling their books similar to what CJ Cherryh, Jane Fancher, and Lynn Abbey are doing with Closed Circle.

    Can I just give another shout-out to a co-op of well-known authors publishing out of print and new books (scifi and fantasy) at Book View Café(P.R. Frost, Vonda McIntyre, Judith Tarr, Katherine Kimbriel, Steven Harper, Laura Anne Gilman, Madeleine Robins, etc., etc.)? Growing ever more – for example they’ll be adding Sherwood Smith to their stable this month.

    And then there’s the truly self-published author (which I actually came across in comments on DA), like Moriah Jovan, who has excerpts of 200 pages on her site for her books, so you really can’t say you couldn’t judge if you want to read them (they’re about 2000 pages on my Sony Reader in .lrf at 12 points font size). Who paid for professional editing, learned how to format beautifully, doesn’t use DRM and paid for beautiful and fitting stock photography: Stay is very much in the romance mode, The Proviso is a bit of family saga with suspense and loads (3!) of romance – all set within Mormon society on the Conservative political spectrum (with a sidedish of Libertarian philosophy) => stuff I am mostly opposed to politically and theologically, but which didn’t much disturb my enjoyment (except for some eye rolling at some political views), because she makes you care for these strong personages and their problems. Good stuff!

  22. Likari
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 17:18:08

    @AQ:

    AQ, I am starting to think of you as a demand troll.

    In 2010, will AQ start a blog and put the time and effort into posting the ideas and issues he/she demands of Jane (and in the form and manner AQ approves)? Or will AQ continue to show up in the comments of Dear Author, demanding that Jane do all that?

  23. Moriah Jovan
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 17:33:31

    Rachel and Estara, thank you. And you, Likari, along with my other readers. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you, your willingness to try my work, willingness to read something so different, willingness to accept these characters for who they are.

    Without readers, there’s no reason to write.

  24. Jenny Schwartz
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 18:04:47

    I agree with the notion of filters for choices, and I’m interested how they’ll develop for eBooks, but I can’t help wondering if we need the opposite, too. A “feeling lucky” button on eBookseller sites that lets customers choose a genre (and maybe a heat level) and then spits up a random book. Would we buy random books? I ask because I’ve noticed my online buying is far more focussed than my bricks and mortar bookstore browsing and buying.

    And now someone can tell me I navigate blind and a lottery button already exists on eBookstore sites. :)

  25. Jenny Schwartz
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 18:09:54

    So weird. I clicked to edit my comment, and the edit box popped up, but everything went dark, and when I clicked the edit box, it vanished. Do I need to change my Internet Explorer settings?

    The edit was an added sentence to the effect that a random button would offset my tunnel vision when it came to book buying online.

  26. Ridley
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 18:32:11

    @Likari:

    A good blog needs commenters, and no one wants to read 50 comments that essentially boil down to “What she said.”

  27. AQ
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 19:31:06

    @Likari:

    I’m sorry you don’t feel the questions I’ve raised are relevant but I’m hardly a troll. I’ve been a pain in the ass here for quite a while. Most times I tend to side with Jane. I find that the level of analysis this site gives as well as the community’s commentary to be very demanding. This is not a “yea” persons site. It never has been. We’re quite the opinionated bunch.

    That said, Dear Author needs to be held to high level of scrutiny. This isn’t a reader centric site despite Dear Authors claims. They report on publishing news, post articles advocating certain viewpoints outside of the normal reader perspective, hold publisher giveaways, receive free review materials, etc., etc. And now Dear Author has added an ad revenue stream which is available by invitation only. I’d say they have a fairly large audience made up of authors, agents, editors, publishing executives and readers. They have contacts with individuals within publishing that readers will never have or seek.

    So when Jane advocates for the no-advance model and says that she does so as a reader because it offers her more variety, I have to question that. That statement doesn’t reflect my impression of the percentage breakdown of reviews on Dear Author**. It doesn’t reflect my understanding of Jane’s position on the digital pricing models. Not when readers pay a word-count premium to acquire books published via non-traditional publishing methods. It also doesn’t track with her statements regarding RWA’s publisher eligibility list or membership criteria.


    Jane, if the author situation and the reader’s role in that isn’t relevant to the reader (you’ve shutdown more than one conversation because of that), then that same reader–assuming you’re just a reader–shouldn’t offer any viewpoint as to the professional criteria used by a writers organization for membership requirements or publisher eligibility. You can’t have it both ways.

    If Dear Author is only a reader site then concentrate on the reader angle. If it’s more than that—I most definitely think it is and mostly I think it’s a really good thing—then please provide more disclosure. And consider providing opposing viewpoints to your op-ed pieces. Perhaps consider the manner in which this site covers “publishing news” moving forward.

    I enjoy Dear Author. I appreciate the community you and your contributors have built. But I will keep asking questions like I’ve done today until I get answers. It’s important to me to understand the positions being advocated and why, possibly even how those positions came together. It’s important because I gave my trust to this community and lately I’ve been questioning the wisdom of that decision. Not because I disagree with the positions but because I feel there are biases I can’t account for and that the advocation within the official posts is too skewed to one position.

    **As it stands my impression is that most of the books reviewed at Dear Author come from traditional publishers and that most of them feature Anglo-Saxon heterosexual couples. Of course, I don’t have data to back up my impression. But for variety’s sake, I’d be more than willing to gather the data and see what the percentages tell us.

  28. A.
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 19:36:33

    Since I’ve been the lucky recipient of a Sony Reader and have spent my winter break doing quite a bit of recreational reading, my “reader hat” is firmly in place.

    In my search to answer the question “How do so many bad books get published?” I’ve been thinking a lot about what constitutes the reading experience, great, good, nice, mediocre, poor, and abyssmal.

    I’ve concluded that it boils down to the idea that, as with any form of entertainment, everyone has different criteria and assigns value of “good book” and “bad book” accordingly.

    Numerous variables impact an individual’s like/dislike of a book depending upon how the individual assigns values. Some of those variables are beyond the author’s control, and even beyond the publisher’s control. For example, a book describing a character’s traumatic childhood due to an alcoholic parent may disturb or distress sensitive readers to the point they choose not to finish reading. A reader may have received recommendations or read crituque inflating their expectations, only to discover the book doesn’t fit his/her value judgment/s of what makes a “good book.” Conversely, a reader might hear lukewarm or bad critique of a book, take a chance on it, and find, happily, the book surpasses his/her lower expectations.

    The variables in question are too numerous to count. That said, some factors directly within author and/or publisher control that impact MY assessment of book “goodness” or “badness” are the following:

    1) Characterization (High importance): This is probably the most important factor for me. If I love, hate, or love to hate a story’s characters, I want to know their story.

    2) Plot/Structure (High importance): story has a beginning, a middle, and an ending. All important plot threads are resolved. (I give more leeway to series books, but still want resolution to the main plotlines in the book.) Transition is smooth. Plot is believable and makes sense.

    3) Technical Writing (Moderate importance): Good use of language and grammar. Less word clutter, substance over style. Good style and voice aren’t a substitute for quality storytelling. Ultraviolet prose and allusion in fiction annoy me.

    4) Cover Art (Moderate importance): Attractive and conveys a book’s tone and mood. (NOTE: I didn’t recognize cover art’s impact on my enjoyment until I started purchasing ebooks. Some electronic versions of traditional books are released without cover art. Just a title page or a generic type cover. Some epublishers release cover art that has little, if anything, to clue the reader into the book. This impacts my first impression and, while it doesn’t “ruin” a good book, it affects my reading experience, especially if I’m unfamiliar with the book or the author. It’s also inconvenient when trying to locate the book in one’s library.)

    5. Genre (somewhat important): I have my favorites, like everyone. Personal taste. I might recognize a contemporary police thriller is superior in terms of writing quality, but chances are I’ll pass in favor of a paranormal romance or a 19th C. historical. As a rule I prefer “spicy”/soft-core erotic romance to “inferno”/hard-core erotic romance. In fact there’s a lot of pornographic fiction marketed as erotic romance and, yes, there’s a difference.

    I read a lot, and I can’t say I’ve noted huge disparity between electronic publishing and traditional publishing in terms of quality. I’ve read good ebooks and good traditionals. I’ve read lousy books — poor editing, bad technical writing, no character depth, etc. — from traditional publishers and epublishers.

    In my opinion, all publishing would benefit from maintaining higher standards in terms of quality. It’s just hard to define “quality” since everyone has a different view of what “quality” is. The book I love and remember forever may be anathema to someone else and their top pick might be a DNF for me.

  29. Jane
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 20:32:46

    @AQ I’m not sure how my position that digital publishing model offers readers more choice and variety is inconsistent with things I’ve said in the past. Pricing is a very different issue than the publishing model itself so I am confused how one is conflated with the other.

    You are certainly welcome to doubt my positions or question my integrity but as I’ve said before, I advocate for positions that I believe are good for the reader. If you disagree, you disagree. I’m not sure what kind of disclosure you are looking for. I blog about topics that interest me and I blog from my reader’s point of view.

  30. Jane
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 20:33:49

    @Jenny Schwartz An “I feel lucky” button is certainly a fun idea.

  31. A
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 21:11:18

    @Jane:

    I'm not sure how my position that digital publishing model offers readers more choice and variety is inconsistent with things I've said in the past. Pricing is a very different issue that the publishing model itself so I am confused how one is conflated with the other.

    You are certainly welcome to doubt my positions or question my integrity but as I've said before, I advocate for positions that I believe are good for the reader. If you disagree, you disagree. I'm not sure what kind of disclosure you are looking for. I blog about topics that interest me and I blog from my reader's point of view.

    It is impossible to advocate for readers without advocating for the establishments involved in the creation and production of books.

    Writers are pro-reader. As are publishers, booksellers, and other entities involved in the creation, production, sales, and distribution of books. All of the above entities aspire to market a product. Their goal is to produce products their customers enjoy so their customers will purchase them.

  32. Ridley
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 21:57:21

    @A:

    The publishing industry, at least in the US, is not pro-reader, it is pro-profit.

    That’s not to say they’re anti-reader, but their priority is not reader satisfaction, it’s profitable operation. They please readers only as much as they need to to keep selling.

    Authors are in a grey area, as they’re both producer and consumer (since all authors I know are still devoted readers), but their first priority is their career, not my reading enjoyment.

    I think it’s reasonable to establish that the three – publishers, authors and readers – are discrete entities with different priorities. There’s overlap, for sure, but publishers and authors are not strictly pro-reader. They wouldn’t make much money if they were.

  33. JulieB
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 22:04:25

    The publishing industry, at least in the US, is not pro-reader, it is pro-profit.

    They make their money by selling books. To readers.

  34. A
    Jan 03, 2010 @ 22:47:30

    @Ridley:

    Hi, Ridley.

    The publishing industry, at least in the US, is not pro-reader, it is pro-profit.

    That's not to say they're anti-reader, but their priority is not reader satisfaction, it's profitable operation. They please readers only as much as they need to to keep selling.

    A false dilemma frequently fostered at DA is the false dilemma you’ve declared.

    Publishers seek profit, yes. Without profit, they cannot remain in business. If they cannot remain in business, they cannot continue to produce and market books for their customers (readers.) Without profit/funds, publishers are unable to serve readers.

    Therefore, by seeking profit, publishers are indeed advocating readers’ preferences (indicated via sales.)

    Authors are in a grey area, as they're both producer and consumer (since all authors I know are still devoted readers), but their first priority is their career, not my reading enjoyment.

    If authors don’t manage their careers responsibly, they cannot continue to produce books for publishers to publish for reader enjoyment (expressed through sales/profit.)

    There's overlap, for sure, but publishers and authors are not strictly pro-reader. They wouldn't make much money if they were.

    And then there would be no books for the readers, would there?

  35. AQ
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 00:48:51

    @Jane:

    That’s just it, Jane. This post, The Publishing Models, Why Ebooks Delays Won’t Save Trade Publishing, etc. They aren’t reader perspectives written to other readers.

    If the opinion piece stayed within the reader realm, I’d have no problem with accepting the post as it is. But that’s not what’s happening. The presentation style is much more journalistic in nature. We’re given facts and an analytical presentation but those facts and the argument don’t necessarily support the topic.

    Why Ebooks Delays Won’t Save Trade Publishing is case in point. That article cherry picked its facts from the linked articles and didn’t verify their sources. If you want to play journalist then do it right. Do the research yourself and present a cohesive argument with your findings.

    —-
    I’m only doubting your integrity now because you’re not providing answers.

    If the no-advance model is one that offers the reader superior variety and choice because it allows publishers to take risks they ordinarily couldn’t, will Dear Author be offering more reviews that spotlight these products? How has Dear Authors’ review statistics lined up with your belief that digital publishers offer more variety? What are the findings as far as quality? What about pricing?

    All of these questions are valid to the reader and I’m sure many readers would be interested in Dear Authors’ findings.

    As a reader judging a product, I don’t care whether or not the author received an advance. I only care about the final product: the pricing, the quality, my enjoyment, and finding what I want when I want it and in the format I prefer. Pricing isn’t a separate issue when doing a model analysis from a reader perspective.

    So if variety is your primary criteria in advocating a no-advance model then most of last years personal purchases and reads should support that position, right? If most of your purchases and reads came from traditional publishers then either that publishing model provided enough variety to meet your reads or variety is not the primary consideration when you’re making your purchasing choices.


    And on a final note because I won’t be back to this thread, let me say it again: Dear Author isn’t a reader only community. It’s not even reader centric. If a position is going to be advocated for which reaches beyond the reader sphere with such limited criteria then that criteria should be disclosed.

  36. Likari
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 00:54:34

    I think demand troll is a useful and satisfying term.

  37. Writer Eighty-one
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 01:19:28

    @A:
    @JulieB:

    Profit is the primary motivation for all corporations. Money can and does frequently come between companies and consumer interests to the detriment of the consumers they purport to serve. See: Enron.

    Sure, reader enjoyment is a big secondary motivation. ‘Secondary’ is the key word here.

    This is not a condemnation of businesses but a statment of simple fact: corporations are beholden, first and foremeost, to their shareholders, not to Martha Smith at Borders shopping for the latest John Grisham. That customer and company are reliant upon each other for satisfaction does not contradict this.

    Furthermore, if authors made readers their primary and not secondary priority, they would not be so concerned with money and would publish under GPL, CopyLeft, or Creative Commons licenses a lot more. Many authors do do this, but it costs them money and probably time away from their writing in order to pay the bills. There’s no “right” or “wrong” choice here. All I’m saying is that fulfilling the consumer’s wants and needs as a primary concern would make the current market change entirely. If everyone made art without ulterior motives beyond the audience, art would be a lot cheaper and a lot rarer.

    I’m not going to lie — I want to make a living off my writing because I love doing it. I love it when an audience enjoys it as well, but that doesn’t change my goals. I pursue this career for me. I could just make it a hobby and post stories for free for the rest of my life, because God knows there are few enough people publishing polished, complete works of modern, original fiction for the public to consume freely. However, I want to do what I love all of the time, and in order to do so, I will have to sacrifice little bits of my artistic integrity in order to make a living through commercial products. It’s called capitalism.

  38. A
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 01:19:56

    @AQ:

    As a reader judging a product, I don't care whether or not the author received an advance. I only care about the final product: the pricing, the quality, my enjoyment, and finding what I want when I want it and in the format I prefer.

    This should be a no-brainer. As a reader, I don’t think about how much in advances and royalties an author earns. If I enjoy the book, I reccomend it to friends and I hope it sells well, because high sales assure additional opportunity for the author. Which means I get to enjoy more of the author’s work. I (the reader) am the ultimate beneficiary of the arrangement.

  39. MaryK
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 01:26:50

    @AQ: I’ve been reading DA for years, and I must say, I find your characterization of it . . . curious. It’s obvious to anyone that the DA reviewers have developed friendships with authors and within publishing. Only a determinedly antisocial person could manage not to do so while providing the depth of content DA provides.

    This isn't a reader centric site despite Dear Authors claims. They report on publishing news, post articles advocating certain viewpoints outside of the normal reader perspective, hold publisher giveaways, receive free review materials, etc., etc. And now Dear Author has added an ad revenue stream which is available by invitation only. I'd say they have a fairly large audience made up of authors, agents, editors, publishing executives and readers. They have contacts with individuals within publishing that readers will never have or seek.

    As a reader myself, with zero contact with authors or publishers, I don’t see how any of this makes DA not a reader centric site. Are readers not allowed to be interested in the business of publishing? Are bloggers not allowed to use advertising to offset website costs? If they are allowed ad revenue, are they required to accept all submissions? Does having professionals in the audience automatically negate amateur status?

    As for statistics on the books reviewed at DA, I couldn’t care less. The reviewers have many times bemoaned a lack of quality books in their favorite niches. Given that, I would certainly expect the review statistics to be very traditional.

    [Perhaps DA should do a reading log project, recording every book the reviewers touch with a reason for reading or not reading. I imagine it would be eye-opening with regard to dross.]

    I’d be interested to know what disclosure you think needs to be made. I don’t consider the DA reviewers to be “normal readers,” more like “hyper-readers.” I am a “normal reader.” One of the reasons I read DA is to find out about things “outside of the normal reader perspective.”

  40. MaryK
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 01:33:51

    @Likari: It certainly is.

    @AQ: “And on a final note because I won't be back to this thread, let me say it again”

  41. A
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 01:52:35

    @Writer Eighty-one:

    Furthermore, if authors made readers their primary and not secondary priority, they would not be so concerned with money

    This is not true. Money is required to write. Writing costs money. Writing also incurs a substantial time investment. On average, authors work for starvation wages.

    I could turn your statement around and say that, if the best quality books were a priority to readers, readers would want writers to have all the advantages requisite towards construction of those books. They would cease complaints related to cost and/or dificulty in purchasing it, or the time it takes for a new book’s release, because the main priority is the best read possible.

    Once again, it looks to me like writers and publishers are indeed attempting to accomodate what readers establish as priorities.

  42. A
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 02:00:29

    @MaryK:

    Only a determinedly antisocial person could manage not to do so while providing the depth of content DA provides.

    Not true. Most APD’s are very good at establishing shallow friendships for the sake of maintaining an appearance of normalcy. Antisocial personalities dehumanize other people and view them in terms of usefulness. If they deem “friendship” with particular people as beneficial to them, they will persue friendships with those people.

  43. Candynicks
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 05:34:30

    Speaking as a self publisher (I co-own Alinar Publishing, a small romance epublishing co-op) I do feel that one of our aims is to increase reader choice by bringing them the author-cut of books rather than the publisher-cut. While the books are still edited, the covers, the webstore etc. still up to industry standard, our books aren’t being made to conform to a publisher bottom line for content and genre and so may be offering something that little bit different in vision, or style. For example, UK authors can keep their UK spellings and because we all use different editors, we’re all conforming to a certain extent to different grammar house styles rather than being shoe-horned into one. I’m a UK author using an Australian born Canadian resident editor and I leave punctuation to her, but we do have interesting discussions about various expressions I might use that she’s never heard of and I’ve asked her to turn on the UK spellcheck so I don’t get US spellings by default. It’s possibly only a subtle shift between author and publisher cuts, but I do think it helps to increase choice by taking away some of the standardisation that creeps in when books go through the publisher mill. (I used to be a partner at Linden Bay Romance and Chief Publishing Editor there so I’ve been on that side of the fence.)

    Ironically, if you looked at the Fictionwise listings, you probably wouldn’t be able to distinguish our books from other epublisher offerings. For example one of our books currently holds (and has over Christmas) the overall number one best seller slot. I’ve had a number one best seller there with a self published fantasy romance. The cover of that book came second in the cover art slot on P and E. I think most of our books would be picked up by epublishers if we were submitting, but the authors like going direct to the readers and they definitely like the hundred percent royalty part of things.

    We can get books out quicker than a typical epublisher and because we’re a small group we can give older books regular prominence on our home page. We also host reader forums where we chat directly to readers and we ask them on a regular basis what they want to see on the site in the way of genres (it’s always more vamps and weres, LOL). From the outset, I wanted the readers fully involved in the way the site evolved.

    I’m very keen on free samples as a marketing tool so we offer over twenty full free reads. I offer six free reads (one of which is a 145 thousand word blockbuster historical). I’ve included three of my most popular titles in that free mix. We also have a policy of providing longer excerpts on our yahoo groups – I give away between four and nine chapters of my for sale books so readers can fully make up their minds whether they want to purchase on the basis of content, style and quality. I’m very concerned that our readers have a great experience all round when they buy our books. Offering rubbish as a free read is counterproductive and insulting to the reader.

    One thing I love about our set up is that if an author or a reader has a great idea for the site we can give implenting that serious thought. That helps to cut out some of the frustrations often felt on both sides of the fence. For example, all of our books are regularly recycled to the home page in the form of a monthly featured genre so no books die in the back catalogue ghetto. Readers do respond to that feature because sales of that genre always spike.

    All in all, I think a well set up self publishing group has a lot to offer the reader in terms of choice. We have over ten thousand members of our Yahoo groups so when we ask them questions about Alinar’s future direction, we get a pretty good sample response. I like the balance we can achieve in our set up. Part writing from our hearts (although most of our work is pretty commercial) and part writing to the demands of the reader.

    Just to finish, I love the idea someone put forward above of a pot luck title. I think I’m going to steal that for our next Alinar contest.

  44. Jane
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 08:06:14

    @AQ We have a different viewpoint of a reader’s perspective, perhaps. I think those articles are very focused on what product the reader sees on the shelf, be it physical or virtual. eBook delays is an issue that directly impacts the reader in a negative fashion. The differing publishing models helps readers to understand the funnel through which books come.

    All the questions you have, though, can’t be addressed in one comment or one article. I think pricing is a big issue in digital publishing and I have plans to write about it but that doesn’t negate the concept that the reduction of barriers to entry of the marketplace can increase reader choice. Further, I never said that digital publishing offers more variety now (although I believe that digital publishing is more progressive than traditional publishing), but I do believe that it this is the opportunity that digital publishing holds. I could be wrong, but I think we readers are on the cusp of something great.

  45. Jane
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 08:11:30

    @Ridley I completely agree with you. Traditional publishing is not designed to keep the reader happy. Their objective is to sell to resellers. Readers are a happy byproduct but the publishers’ lack of knowledge regarding readers and readers’ choices is really low. The resellers have all that information. I think one of Amazon’s real advantages is it’s information about its customers’ buying habits. Publishers might guess that readers who like Author A buy Author B, but Amazon knows exactly. That information is simply not one that most traditional publishers have cared to find out because their customer is not the reader.

    The ebook delay is a perfect example about how reader satisfaction is not the publishing industry’s primary priority.

    Another example of how readers and authors interest are in direct conflict is copyright and fair use. Look at the JK Rowling case involving the Encyclopedia developed by that librarian. (I think he was a librarian). We readers weren’t allowed the opportunity to purchase this non Rowling approved compendium even if it would have been a great source for Harry Potter fans. The limitations on fair use prevent a lot of derivative work from which readers could benefit.

    There is definitely overlap, but you are right in that the three groups have extremely different priorities.

  46. Maili
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 08:43:36

    @AQ:

    If Dear Author is only a reader site then concentrate on the reader angle.

    Whoa. How do you explain a long history of discussing all things industry at other romance-oriented magazines, blogs, message boards and web sites, then?

    Romantic Times has published a huge number of “non-reader” articles for years and as far as I know, still does. AAR‘s published quite a few industry-oriented articles and opinion pieces as well. Some individual bloggers do it, too. It’s been like this since the days of RRA-L, I think.

    IMO, the Rom community tends to have an interest in all aspects of the Romance genre including publishing industry and sales.

    Of course, some focus on certain aspects more than the others, and vice versa but on different aspects. TRJ revolved itself around reviews romance novels and all things book covers, such as articles about different processes of cover design, interviews with cover designers and models, articles on the costs and technical and principles of design, and so on. Is this wrong of TRJ because it isn’t a reader-only issue? Of course not.

    So, imo, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see industry-oriented articles at a reader-oriented site, such as here or elsewhere.

  47. XandraG
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 12:59:01

    As a reader, I’m interested in the publishing back-end stuff that goes on. As a consumer in other areas, I also make an effort to understand where my products come from, and what effect my buying choices have on the industry itself. As an author, I appreciate the unique position DA has in that it deals with issues directly related to publishing within a venue that is reader-centric.

    One thing I didn’t see addressed in Jane’s article is the idea that how we choose and read books will have to change systemically along with the way we are served our content.

    As readers, we bring an increasing amount of expectation with us to the reading chair. We sit down to read an historical romance and have a much longer list of expectations the author must fulfill than we did 20 years ago. Part of that is publisher-driven–they want to sell books, so they seek out “more of the same, but different” in their acquisitions. Part of that is reader-driven–if a reader enters the reading experience with a large amount of expectations, and those expectations aren’t met, and aren’t met in a timely manner according to her perceptions, her opinion of the book goes down. Reading becomes then a game of meeting expectations instead of surprising or manipulating them (and I’m not excluding myself from these habits, either–if I buy a Jayne Ann Krentz for 9 bucks, my enjoyment of the book rests a lot on the idea that I’m getting a “JAK experience” and not a Nora Roberts or Julie Garwood experience, even though I like those other authors as much as I like the Arcane Society)

    And it’s certainly a function of the economy as well. We aren’t as willing to take a risk on a book that costs us most of a ten-spot when that same bill could go towards gas, or lunch, or we remember that same bill used to get us two books instead of just the one.

    Expanding reader choice is one thing–there can be all the choices out there a reader could ask for, but if the reader’s been trained to avoid risk, that greater choice isn’t going to matter unless and until the price point finds that sweet spot that says, “Hey, I can afford to spend X bucks on a lark.” And unless and until the length (read: time spent reading) finds that sweet spot of “Hey, I can afford to spend X minutes/hours on a lark.”

    The choice will have to be there and present long enough for the reader to come around to giving it a go.

  48. A.
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 13:05:00

    @Jane:

    eBook delays is an issue that directly impacts the reader in a negative fashion.

    How? What negative impact are we talking about?

    As a recent “convert” to e-reading, yes, it irks me that some titles I want are unavailable in ebook format, particularly if I’m buying a series. It’s absurd half a series might be available in ebook and the other half not.

    Then I get over it, and I either buy the books or not. If I decide not to buy the “real” book, that harms no one except the publisher and the author. It does not harm me.

    NOTE: this inconvenience isn’t exclusive to ebooks and print books. Sometimes, a book or books are available in one e-format, but not another.

    If I really want the book and don’t want the “real” book, I wait for the release of the ebook. Again, this does not harm me.

    In some cases, the “real” books are actually more affordable than ebooks. After spending over $35 on a popular YA series in ebook format (4 books,) I discovered the same 4 print books sold as a box set for less than $15.

    At the end of the day, however, none of the issues above affected my ability to acquire and enjoy the books I want. If a specific format is more important to me than reading the book, I’ll wait for that format (which is nothing new; I rarely buy hardcover releases, which means a full year delay on a book.)

    The ebook delay is a perfect example about how reader satisfaction is not the publishing industry's primary priority.

    Solution: readers feeling their satisfaction is not “primary priority” with the publishing industry should stop patronizing that industry. Don’t buy books. Don’t borrow or lend books.

    Take the money you would have spent on an industry you feel doesn’t prioritize your satisfaction and establish your own “reader-priority” publishing operations. You will have complete autonomy in every aspect.

    You will be able to employ your ideas to your company instead of posting blogs stating what the owners of other companies should be doing to meet your needs.

    If your company is successful, you will have the ultimate evidence that your stances are the correct ones. Even if your company fails miserably you’d STILL come out a winner, because your learning experiences would endow you with better perspective on the industries you criticize.

    I’ve always been a great believer in “If you want things done a certain way, do it yourself.”

  49. DS
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 13:55:32

    I like reading about the industry of publishing– not just romance. Before the internet I read nonfiction books as well as magazines such as PW and Kirkus. Now I tend to read blogs.

    I do read the reviews but there are lots of places to find reviews. Whether I agree with the opinions expressed by the owners of the blog or not I like the clear, concise commentary.

  50. Ridley
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 14:18:40

    @A.:

    You and AQ have clearly never worked for a large company.

    As I have been working in customer service for years – don’t sneer, I’m good at it, and someone has to do it – I can confidently say that, even in a service-oriented company, the customer’s satisfaction is not the primary concern. Profits are. Always, always, always.

    Our goal on call center floors everywhere is to make the customer as happy as possible while making the most amount of money possible. Sometimes the more profitable choice is to cut a customer loose, and we’ll do that. “The customer is always right” is a myth, and one well out of favor with any good customer service department.

    If you cut out every company that didn’t hold your pleasure and happiness above their ability to earn profits, you’re going to have to go back to homesteading and making everything by hand.

  51. A
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 15:15:58

    @Ridley:

    @A.:

    You and AQ have clearly never worked for a large company.

    I’ve worked for several large companies, Ridley, primarily in the hospitality/tourism industry.

    As I have been working in customer service for years – don't sneer, I'm good at it, and someone has to do it –

    My favorite job: I worked eight years as a reservations sales agent for a luxury hotel. I LOVED the work and was very good at it. Life circumstances forced me to move on — I literally couldn’t afford to work there anymore — but I remember those years as some of the happiest of my professional experiences. You wont catch me sneering at you. : )

    even in a service-oriented company, the customer's satisfaction is not the primary concern. Profits are. Always, always, always.

    Companies cannot stay in business and provide services for its clientele without profits. Profits permit the company to provide goods and services for the clientele.
    By the same token, customers cannot hope to acquire the levels of service and quality of goods they desire without sufficiently compensating the entities producing those services.

    Customers must also entertain reasonable expectations concerning the goods/services they desire. If a company cannot meet their expectations, they should seek alternatives.

    However, if no companies meet their expectations, a prudent customer might reevaluate his expectations. If the customer sill considers his expectations reasonable and feasible, maybe it’s time for that customer to incorporate those ideas into business so s/he can “show the others how it’s done.”

    Our goal on call center floors everywhere is to make the customer as happy as possible while making the most amount of money possible. Sometimes the more profitable choice is to cut a customer loose, and we'll do that. “The customer is always right” is a myth, and one well out of favor with any good customer service department.

    Again, if a company evaluatas the customer’s expectations as unreasonable or impossible to meet, it is in the customer’s best interest as well as the company’s to part ways. The customer is then free to do business with companies better matching his expectations.

    More often than not, customers “fire” companies than the other way around.

    If you cut out every company that didn't hold your pleasure and happiness above their ability to earn profits, you're going to have to go back to homesteading and making everything by hand.

    And if that meets your needs better than companies you feel don’t prioritize you sufficiently, that option is available to you. Locate a writer or writers who provide quality product and patronize them. Provide them with lodging and expenses necessary for them to write the books you want to read. It’s a higher risk and a heavier investment on your part, but the results may be worth it since your pleasure/enjoyment will be the writer’s sole priority.

  52. Ridley
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 15:40:14

    @A:

    Ok, then your issue with Jane’s criticisms of the publishing industry boils down to “Love it, or leave it?”

    Saying publishers, authors and readers have their own sets of priorities is not the same thing as saying the three are natural enemies. My customers are not my enemies, but neither are they my friends.

    You wanted to know Jane’s bias, and she’s said it’s on the side of readers. That doesn’t make her anti-author or publisher, it just defines whose priorities she means when she says something is “good.”

  53. Patricia Rice
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 15:51:28

    Just a reminder that self-published books and vanity-published books are two distinctly different creatures. Authors are up in arms against VANITY presses, which force writers to pay for the privilege of being published.

    We have nothing against self-published books and many of us are already indulging in the new digital age. The difference here is that the author gets paid for self-published books and e-published books. We don’t pay the publisher.

    While I’m interested to see what kind of filters will operate in the digital world, the very first filter ought to be that someone other than the writer believe the work is worth publishing before it goes out to the reader. That’s not the case in vanity publishing, where all that is needed is a lot of money.

  54. Moriah Jovan
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 16:05:49

    @Patricia Rice:

    By your definition, vanity publishing and self-publishing are the same.

    The only difference is if the author is the contractor of the project (self) or hires a contractor (vanity), which may or may not be overpriced and/or unethical.

  55. A.
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 16:43:23

    @Ridley:

    Ok, then your issue with Jane's criticisms of the publishing industry boils down to “Love it, or leave it?”

    The bottom line: talk is cheap. The internet’s made talk cheaper than ever. Maybe it’s time to stop talking about what other people and entities should do (or not do,) risk (or not risk,) invest (or not,) and provide (or not.) Maybe it’s time to prove the “reader-centric business model” is in fact a superior option, benefits readers, etc….by risking, investing, and doing…something else besides talking.

  56. Estara
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 17:17:47

    @A.:

    Solution: readers feeling their satisfaction is not “primary priority” with the publishing industry should stop patronizing that industry. Don't buy books. Don't borrow or lend books.

    Take the money you would have spent on an industry you feel doesn't prioritize your satisfaction and establish your own “reader-priority” publishing operations. You will have complete autonomy in every aspect.

    You will be able to employ your ideas to your company instead of posting blogs stating what the owners of other companies should be doing to meet your needs.

    =which I translate as “If you don’t like how the game is played, take your toys and go home.”

    You know, how about using your own advice.

    If you are so upset at the priorities of Jane’s articles, don’t read them. No one forces you to. No one handed the current readership numbers to her or the other contributors of DA, so someone must find some of her views valid.

    In fact make your own blog and elucidate on it, I’m sure your opinions will also find readers. I think it’s incredibly rude to try to dictate what the owner of a blog should write and not write about.

    Disagreeing is one thing, but trying to dictate is rude.

  57. A
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 17:51:25

    @Estara:

    @A.:

    Solution: readers feeling their satisfaction is not “primary priority” with the publishing industry should stop patronizing that industry. Don't buy books. Don't borrow or lend books.

    Take the money you would have spent on an industry you feel doesn't prioritize your satisfaction and establish your own “reader-priority” publishing operations. You will have complete autonomy in every aspect.

    You will be able to employ your ideas to your company instead of posting blogs stating what the owners of other companies should be doing to meet your needs.
    =which I translate as “If you don't like how the game is played, take your toys and go home.”

    You know, how about using your own advice.

    If you are so upset at the priorities of Jane's articles, don't read them. No one forces you to. No one handed the current readership numbers to her or the other contributors of DA, so someone must find some of her views valid.

    In fact make your own blog and elucidate on it, I'm sure your opinions will also find readers. I think it's incredibly rude to try to dictate what the owner of a blog should write and not write about.

    Disagreeing is one thing, but trying to dictate is rude.

    Hello, Estara.

    Given the countless instances where I’ve read opinions about “what publishers should do” and “what writers should do” on this blog, I’ve no qualms whatsoever offering a suggestion or two as to “what readers should do.”

    I’m a great reader. I’ve certainly read more books than I’ve written. Purchased books, not books given to me so I’ll review them. I’ve read more good, enjoyable books than I’ve read lousy books. I can’t say Jane speaks for me (a reader.) Nor do I feel my interests are advocated by her when it comes to many issues, such as neutral stances toward copyright infringement, for example. I am a morally conscious person, and I don’t believe that my “reader’s rights” are above the law and simple ethics.

    I am not dictating to a soul on this blog. Offering a solution to a purported “problem” (that writers and publishers do not prioritize readers) and specifying the potential benefits of that solution is not dictation.

    It is entirely the bloggers’ own business if they prefer to deal with companies, services, and merchandise the bloggers don’t believe prioritizes them sufficiently and post their experiences on their blogs.

  58. Estara
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 17:58:54

    @A: The point I was trying to make is that what you want to do

    I am not dictating to a soul on this blog. Offering a solution to a purported “problem” (that writers and publishers do not prioritize readers) and specifying the potential benefits of that solution is not dictation.

    does not come across this way to me, when reading your rhetoric. I still think the solution would be your own blog, linking to it in your comments, and maybe even not hiding behind anonymity.

    My two cents,
    Estara Swanberg aka
    Katja Kasri, 42, teacher at a secondary school for boys in Germany

  59. A
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 18:28:21

    Thank you for your opinion, Estara. : )

  60. DS
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 19:41:55

    Jane, forgot to say thanks for the reminder on Closed Circle. Last time I looked it wasn’t up for business yet. I just downloaded the free volume of C. J. Cherryh’s A Writer’s Life- it is a digital version of her online journal, not fiction, and the download contained eleven different file types.

    A lot to look forward to there. Next stop the Book View Cafe. I wasn’t aware of that site.

  61. Moriah Jovan
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 20:03:04

    Speaking of Closed Circle, I have a growing list of writer collectives on my blog’s sidebar.

  62. MaryK
    Jan 04, 2010 @ 22:31:52

    @A:

    Given the countless instances where I've read opinions about “what publishers should do” and “what writers should do” on this blog, I've no qualms whatsoever offering a suggestion or two as to “what readers should do.”

    Publishers have been declaring imminent doom, and writers have been coming to this blog to complain about working conditions. Readers respond with opinions about what publishers and writers should do. Maybe they’re not viable options, maybe they’re just not popular options; but they’re certainly well meant.

    Your suggestions are that if readers don’t like it, they should do it themselves and that readers should become patrons of writers.

    I don’t see how you reconcile the attitude this displays with your claim that writers are pro-reader. I am certainly not convinced.

  63. Estara
    Jan 05, 2010 @ 05:26:21

    @DS:

    Next stop the Book View Cafe. I wasn't aware of that site.

    Yay! Lots of good short stories and novels-in-chapters to read for free (as long as you register) and out-of-print books of well-known authors and new books as ebooks, too!

    A reprint anthology and a steampunk anthology with completely new stories set in a shared universe.

    And of course in January Lori Devoti and Sherwood Smith to look forward to – from what I gather Sherwood will be releasing an ebook of Crown Duel INCLUDING several outtakes she wrote later and only posted on her LJ community at Athanarel before.
    So there’s material included that isn’t in the current Firebirds paperback. And she tentatively talked about her collaboration scifi series with Dave Trowbridge – Exordium.

    @A: You’re welcome, heh.

  64. A.
    Jan 05, 2010 @ 16:27:56

    @MaryK:

    Publishers have been declaring imminent doom, and writers have been coming to this blog to complain about working conditions. Readers respond with opinions about what publishers and writers should do. Maybe they're not viable options, maybe they're just not popular options; but they're certainly well meant.

    Your suggestions are that if readers don't like it, they should do it themselves and that readers should become patrons of writers.

    I don't see how you reconcile the attitude this displays with your claim that writers are pro-reader. I am certainly not convinced.

    I’m a do-it-yourselfer and I believe if off-the-rack doesn’t work for you, look into custom work.

    This is advice I follow myself, in my own life. If a merchant does not provide me with a desired product. I look into other means to procure that product.

    A perfect example is soap. I buy handmade milk-based soap from a hobby farmer. I love this soap, there is no comparable product available in the retail market. I pay much more for my “special” soap, but in my judgment the higher cost and inconvenience of ordering and shipping this soap is worth it.

    I’m not recommending you do anything I don’t do. : )

    That said…Just because I prefer my farmer’s handmade milk-based soap doesn’t mean the manufacturers and merchants of more traditional/commercial soap don’t produce their products with the intent of benefitting and satisfying the consumer.

    Or does it?

  65. AQ
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 02:07:14

    Jane, to be clear I said either Dear Author should concentrate on the reader perspective or it should hold itself to a higher standard.

    Further, I never said that digital publishing offers more variety now (although I believe that digital publishing is more progressive than traditional publishing), but I do believe that it this is the opportunity that digital publishing holds.

    Digital publishing or rather the no-advance model is more than 10 years old. We should be able to analyze the offerings and make some determination as to how it compares to the books released via the traditional advance publishing model. Dear Author itself has over 1,700 reviews so it would be wonderful to see how your premise stands up to the data you’ve already gathered.

    I think pricing is a big issue in digital publishing and I have plans to write about it but that doesn’t negate the concept that the reduction of barriers to entry of the marketplace can increase reader choice.

    You have written about digital product pricing in general as opposed to pricing specifically from non-traditional publishers like Samhain, Loose-ID, etc. I’ll agree that the reduction of barriers to entry may increase reader choice but there are many more factors involved so I won’t agree to the simplistic boil down of the issue. I believe my point here originally was that pricing was part of the final product evaluation when evaluating based on model offerings from a reader perspective whereas you claimed that it wasn’t.

    Why Ebook Delays Won’t Save Trade Publishing
    If I take away the title there’s no underlying premise of this opinion piece, I can’t tell what you’re arguing for because you never really tell us anywhere within the post. I can infer since I read the publisher announcements and SBSarah opinion piece on the topic.

    Ebook delays may have negative impact the reader, but you don’t connect all the dots and make the case, and you don’t prove that a reader’s inconvenience and the potential short-term gains are greater than the potential long-term effects to the publishers, retailers and authors.

    The conclusion you do make: It's the publishers who start to recognize that in this new market, the customer is the reader and not the trade.

    There’s nothing within your article to support that statement and if I take your title as your underlying premise, it’s a mismatch.

    An individual section example:
    Hardcovers sell the best and at the highest prices in a physical retail market. Ebooks push down the price of hardcovers.
    In the article you link to Amazon only overtook Barnes & Noble if the BN.com numbers are excluded and the Amazon third party transaction fees are included. That may seem to be a minor fact checking point but it’s one I remember off the top of my head without combing through the article again.

    If you read the author’s linked documentation and comment section, you see that the author has grave concerns about publishing if ebooks are the primary source of revenue stream. This concern should’ve been address in one of the sections you included since publishers would see that as long-term business consideration. Yet you never address it.

    Further you don’t prove your premise in this section and it’s not the only section where that happens.

    The whole piece is sloppy work. I don’t have a problem with you covering an issue like this but if you’re going to write it then the content and the argument presented should be held to a much higher standard than this article is held to.

    Publishing Business Models:
    Was this article edited? I was trying to confirm with the cache file but there isn’t one for this post and for some reason I remember this post being slightly different originally. I’ll assume it’s my bad memory.

    I advocate for alternative models of publishing because democratization of access to distribution can create profitable business models for authors of all positions on the list.

    Since you claim the role of reader, I’d like to see layout the case including your criteria.

    Subsidy publishing and self-publishing should not be listed as Publishing Business models, they’re Print Business models. Laura Resnick does a very good job of explaining the differences. http://www.ninc.com/blog/index.php/archives/publishing-printing-or-scam

    There are some digital publishers which offer advances and traditional publishers who engage in digital publishing so calling the second model the digital publishing model will only lead to confusion in the long term.

    At some point, authors who want to make a living from writing should ask themselves whether it makes sense to continue relinquishing up to 96% of the revenue generated by their intellectual property. How many existing authors would forego a) an advance and b) actual pay money up front from a publisher to gain 40% more of the revenue generated from each book. It is true, that there is no publishing services company in existence that has that value but it's not impossible to think that there will be someday. Maybe it will be someone like OR Press or Open Road Media. I don't think we've seen it yet.

    I think that self publishing, true do it yourself publishing, will exist but that there will be more authors that move to digital publishing or publishing services model than we can envision today. Digital publishing which provides no cost of entry by the author may replace the traditional advance model once the digital market hits 35% or greater. It makes sense for publishers to experiment now with differing models so that the business can be ready to adapt with the changing market. Publishing is not likely to go away, but it will be different in five years than it is today.

    The benefit of the lack of reliance on physical brick and mortar stores is that there is a greater panopoly of options for authors to make a living writing. Individual authors should be able to avail themselves of a number of different publishing opportunities that suit their risk level, their need for control over the final product, and other factors.

    I see the text above and below as an attempt to advocate your platform for the no-advance model without actually presenting an argument in favor of your platform. It’s true that you couch it well but I’ve noticed that it’s a consistent part of your posts as well as your commentary beyond the three I listed and that when asked to elaborate or present evidence the questions remain unanswered.

    Oh, and by the way, the no-advance model you advocate for has many of the same limitations you list below for the traditional publishers albeit the details may be slightly different. The biggest issue is that with the no-advance requirement, digital publishers have the ability to glut the market with releases without expanding their customer base and that may increase reader choice, it also has the potential to decrease author revenue. Some claim that has already happened.

    Can the Digital Market Expand Reader Choice
    In wake of the recent controversy regarding Harlequin and it's partnership with Author Solutions, it was clear to me that the advance paying model of traditional publishing is viewed as the only path for serioius authors. Look at the language, for example, of the SFWA “advance paying” or the guidelines of the RWA which does not recognize publishers who do not pay a $1,000 advance or greater. To a large extent, those that are in power at these writing organizations are published through the traditional way – advance and royalties.

    The advance/royalties is the least risky path for an author. The author puts out nothing but her own hard work. Her expenses can include improving her craft through lessons and research. Post publication, the author can (and should) put forth her own marketing efforts which can be as cheap as a few bookmarks or as expensive as funding her own author tour, purchasing a book trailer, running contests. The traditional path to publication, however, is available only to a small few.

    In order to sell, you must comply with the guidelines that the advance paying arms of publishing have demeed to be the parameters for a saleable book. In romance, that generally is hetereosexual love relationships between Anglo Saxon individuals with a word count of under 100,000. (with a few exceptions).

    So while the traditional advance/royalty model is the least risky for authors, its open to only a limited few within a limited framework. Publishers are buying books that they can sell to bookstore buyers and distribution partners.

  66. AQ
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 02:20:18

    @Maili:

    I’ve said that Dear Author isn’t a reader centric site because it’s moved far beyond readers and as such Dear Author should be held to a higher more professional standard. If that isn’t a possibility then Dear Author should tailor its discussions to the reader angle.

    Jane’s post of Publishing Business Model is an example of a post which I feel should’ve been tailored to the reader perspective rather than attempting to promote the no-advance model platform.

  67. AQ
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 02:36:04

    @MaryK:

    As a reader myself, with zero contact with authors or publishers, I don’t see how any of this makes DA not a reader centric site.

    Well, I say that DA is not a reader centric site as it claims to be, I mean that it has moved beyond the reader. I believe that I stated in one of my original comments that the Dear Author community included authors, agents, editors, publishing executive, etc. PLUS the reader.

    As for statistics on the books reviewed at DA, I couldn't care less. The reviewers have many times bemoaned a lack of quality books in their favorite niches. Given that, I would certainly expect the review statistics to be very traditional.

    I asked for the statistics because Jane claimed that her stake in the no-advance model issue was that of a reader and that is was based on the premise of variety and choice. If that were the premise and Jane had a personal commitment to the platform, then I’d expect this site to make an attempt to help reader find that variety and choice. In fact, I’d expect that Dear Author is in the perfect position to ask publishers, agents and authors to submit works that fall outside of the typical romance novel published by traditional publishers.

    I'd be interested to know what disclosure you think needs to be made.

    For starters, I want Jane to lay out her cost benefit analysis for the no-advance model.

    @Ridley: I’ve worked at Fortune 100 corporations.

  68. AQ
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 04:05:22

    On further thought, I have to change my opinion about The Publishing Business Model. When I combine Jane’s position on Harlequin Horizon with the content of the post and it’s concentration on author royalty rates plus the no-advance platform. ETA** compared to Laura Resnick’s detailed article on publishing business models vs. print business models.***

    I see this piece as pure propaganda.

  69. JulieB
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 08:27:40

    @AQ:

    As both an author and a reader, I can tell you why this matters. Publishing models and pricing have a direct relation to availability and pricing of books.

    Harlequin Horizon is not a good deal for readers because books are generally overpriced compared to their commercially published (i.e., produced and distributed directly by Harlequin) counterparts. They’re a bad deal for readers because they don’t get the same level of editing. You won’t find them in bookstores and you can’t download them directly from Harlequin. As a reader, that’s just another place you have to go to look for books.

    As a writer, I have to pay to get my book produced by HH. Then I get a piddling royalty per book. Most writers will never see their money back. On the Harlequin side, they get paid an advance with the possibility of higher royalties on top of that. (Most books don’t earn royalties for the authors, but they’re still on top by virtue of having been paid.)

    A lot of POD and e-book presses don’t pay the type of royalties or advances the commercial houses do. A lot don’t pay an advance. But they pay a royalty, which still makes the author come out ahead. The problem – for both the author and reader – is again readers sometimes have to dig to find these books. They may be excellent books, but how do you find them? Most of those publishers don’t have squat for a marketing or publicity budget.

    Regular DA readers are a savvy bunch, but most readers don’t understand how all this ties together. Many aspiring authors don’t, and end up spending a truckload of money to get a book printed that might sell 75-150 copies. A certain percentage of those books are good enough to be picked up by a commercial publisher. Again, the reader loses right along with the author.

    In order for everyone to benefit, the digital publishing industry needs to mature. I don’t mean as in “childish,” I mean the industry is still young and trying to find its way. It’ll happen eventually, I’m convinced.

  70. Robin
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 11:51:39

    @AQ: What readers, though, has DA moved beyond?

    I’m not a Romance author (and have no aspirations to be), nor an industry professional, nor a professional reviewer. I consider myself a marginally informed reader, and obviously I blog and review, but I do so *as a reader* — or sometimes as a literature scholar, but still, that’s hardly an industry role, lol. And yet I read quite a bit about the industry and the genre, which I have found very helpful *as a reader,* for reasons Jane and others have articulated.

    It has helped me immensely to know that most NY publishers consider resellers their customers, because I now understand why so many publishers seem out of touch with what I identify as reader interests. I’ve come to understand *as a reader* that there are many different business models in publishing that ultimately shape the books I get access to or not, *as a reader.* Which, in turn, has led to my forming many different opinions on how I might be better serves *as a reader* from different publishing models. And being online, amongst authors, had made it impossible for me to ignore their perspectives or the underlying issues on which their perspectives have developed. Which, in turn, has led to me forming my own opinions about many of those issues, from piracy to digital rights to pricing, all of which implicate me, as a reader, either directly or indirectly.

    Maybe it’s because I’m a researcher by training, trade, and by nature, but I don’t believe that anything written here or elsewhere about the publishing industry has made me any less a reader, just as I don’t believe that anything I’ve learned about the genre as a scholar has made me less a reader. Quite the opposite, in fact, on both counts.

    So while DA may not speak *for you* as a reader, I think it’s unfair to insist that it is NOT a reader-centered venue, since not all readers feel that way. I accept that as your opinion, but certainly not as universal or empirical fact.

  71. Likari
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 12:28:41

    Apropos the title of this post, I’d say the answer is of course!

    There is the obvious example of Moriah Jovan’s professionally self-published work, and the Closed Circle project as well as other author collectives.

    Another example is the return of the short story and novella. When I’m in a bookstore, I’m looking for novel-length stuff; I don’t even consider shorts. But online, for some reason, these shorter takes are easy to buy and easy to read. For instance, here are three stories that I doubt would have been available to me without the digital market:

    Anne Frasier’s new short story at Smashwords about a writer who can’t not write is wonderful. It’s professionally put together, with great cover art and editing.

    Ciar Cullen’s The Egyptian Demon’s Keeper is funny, sexy — and short. Would it have been published in print? I doubt it. Yet it’s so good! And this story introduced me to a new writer I never would have found without the digital market.

    A last example, the story I read just last night: Keeper of the Way by Shirin Dubbin. This is a fun story, packed with interesting characters. Again, I highly doubt this story would have found its way to me in print.

    So: Can the digital market expand reader choice? Yes, and there are three examples.

  72. Mireya
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 13:56:10

    I have been reading the posts about DA not being a reader centered blog and the more I have been reading the arguments, the more I convinced that only one person knows what I want and seek, as a reader, from this blog… and that person is ME. Furthermore, no one is holding a gun to my head to keep reading here. There are posts that cater to my own interests, there are posts that don’t. One word comes to mind when there is a post that I don’t care about: skipping.

    AQ, you may not have intended to tell DA how to handle their blog, but as it was already stated, you have not been succesful at all in conveying that intent.

  73. A
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 17:46:05

    @Robin:

    So while DA may not speak *for you* as a reader, I think it's unfair to insist that it is NOT a reader-centered venue, since not all readers feel that way. I accept that as your opinion, but certainly not as universal or empirical fact.

    As are DA’s stances on reader advocacy.

  74. Robin
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 19:30:55

    @A: Neither Jane nor I nor any other reviewer at DA has ever proposed to speak for all readers. Presenting a reader-centric view is not synonymous with representing every single reader. In the same way that I would hope you, in the numerous instances you use the term “authors,” do not presume to represent all authors, despite the overgeneralized language.

  75. A
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 23:26:45

    @Robin:

    I would hope you, in the numerous instances you use the term “authors,” do not presume to represent all authors, despite the overgeneralized language.

    Hello, Robin.

    I do not presume to represent anybody besides A. Nor do I purport to advocate any specific cause or group.

    A raving bookworm and bibliophile, I agree with Jane’s suggestion:

    I think that this year is the start of a new wave of publishing that will bring readers more variety and more choice.

    However, I own some curiosity as to the answer to this question: what difference does it make? AND…Is it a given any resultant changes related to this “digital publishing revolution” will qualify as benevolent and beneficial to all — or even most — readers?”

    I believe, at some point, traditional print publishing and digital publishing will end up fusing their goals and values. The end product probably will not be as “liberal” as digitial publishing is presently, but still less “conservative” than print publishing. The goal, as always, will be profit because companies require profit in order to function.

    Will this benefit readers? Probably. Will some readers bitterly insist it does not? Probably.

  76. anony
    Jan 08, 2010 @ 10:35:00

    For publisher models & reader choice

    Jane says:
    Target Audience: readers
    Purpose: to inform readers

    AQ says:
    Target Audience: authors
    Purpose: to influence authors to embrace a specific publishing model

    Deconstructing the articles, I’d say there’s some validity to AQ’s claims.

    I am left wondering how a site which has “by readers for readers” in its subtitle has the expertise necessary to lobby authors, especially when I read pieces like this one from an agent:

    http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2010/01/questions-on-mysteries.html

    It would appear that the issue is much more complex than the Dear Author articles would have us believe.

  77. Robin
    Jan 08, 2010 @ 14:15:40

    @A: You’ve clearly answered your own questions — for yourself, at least.

    But for a reader who a) doesn’t believe that current gatekeeping at trad NY publishers yields adequate diversity, quality, etc., or b) doesn’t like digital books priced higher and published subsequent to paper books, or c) simply believes that competition is preferable to consolidation in a free market, the answers would likely be different.

  78. A
    Jan 08, 2010 @ 15:35:44

    for a reader who a) doesn't believe that current gatekeeping at trad NY publishers yields adequate diversity, quality, etc., or b) doesn't like digital books priced higher and published subsequent to paper books, or c) simply believes that competition is preferable to consolidation in a free market, the answers would likely be different.

    And to those individuals, I say what I said previously. Create one’s own publishing company based upon the values in question which resolve the alleged “problems” of present publishing trends.

    Epublishers do not accept every manuscript they receive. As business evolves and markets are analyzed, epublishers are establishing more guidelines and exclusivity regarding genre, “heat level” (in erotica and erotic romance markets) and other criteria.

    It’s fair to say that, for now, at least, epublishing has expanded opportunities for particular genres, but suggesting epublishing is an unlimited open market where any well-written book — or even any decently written book — will be scooped up, contracted, and made available to a pro-diversity public demonstrates ignorance of the industry.

    Example: one of the most popular genres impacted by epublishing is M/M romance. Epublishers are literally flooding the market with this genre because readers buy it. Not because epublishers are uber-liberal, avant-garde, and pro-diversity, but because readers buy the genre.

    If pro-diversity interests and not profit were the aim of epublishers wouldn’t we be seeing comparable availability of F/F romance? Epublishing has not been nearly so kind to F/F as it has to M/M. To my understanding, some epublishers won’t accept F/F manuscripts at all. Epublishers who publish theme-based anthologies carefully exclude F/F from the romantic pairings accepted in their submission calls.

    Is this “adequate diversity?”

    I recall reading Jane express distaste on the blog for what she calls “daddy-daughter incest.” You can believe that if a large proportion of the reading public developed a taste for “daddy-daughter incest” storylines — try not to hurl, Jane — and purchased such stories in sufficient quantities it established a trend favoring that genre, epublishers would modify their “no incest” restrictions on their submission guidelines and publish more stories to satisfy consumer demand and to sell books.

    Is this good or bad? Neither. It is simply business. Talented writers enjoying the incest genre would get their moment in the sun and fifteen minutes of fame just as M/M romance writers have. Not good, not bad. Just business.

  79. A
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 03:45:00

    @Jane:

    Another example of how readers and authors interest are in direct conflict is copyright and fair use. Look at the JK Rowling case involving the Encyclopedia developed by that librarian. (I think he was a librarian). We readers weren't allowed the opportunity to purchase this non Rowling approved compendium even if it would have been a great source for Harry Potter fans. The limitations on fair use prevent a lot of derivative work from which readers could benefit.

    I read and enjoy Rowling’s HP series and I don’t feel the least bit conflicted about the above situation. What is there to be conflicted about? The author’s rights should be respected. Period. It is the law.

    Perhaps a more correct assertion would be that the above mentionned matter demonstrates conflict between authors and readers lacking moral consciousness and respect for the law and the rights of others.

    My “rights” as a reader are not above the law.

  80. JulieB
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 11:00:17

    @A:

    My “rights” as a reader are not above the law.

    I’m in agreement with you.

    As the author of an authorized concordance-type book* I’d like to add my perspective. Put money aside for just a moment. Rowling, her publishers – and the people who held the rights to the work on which my derivative work was based – have an interest in ensuring these type of works are accurate and don’t do harm to the original.

    If that Harry Potter book had been published, and if it had been riddled with errors, would the reader have benefited? (No, I’m not accusing the concordance editors of sloppy work. Just positing a “what if.”)

    Now, my rights as a reader ARE hurt (IMO) by crappy DRM. But that’s another topic.

    (*I don’t want to be accused of pimping. Is it okay to mention the title, especially since it’s long out of print?)

  81. AQ
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 13:09:05

    @JulieB: We basically agree. I’ll leave it there because it wasn’t the point of my post.

    @Mireya: It matters to me personally because I held Dear Author as a site of authority. I can no longer do so in good conscious.

    @all: Here’s my last post on this topic. Specifically targeting authority and reader perspective. I think we can all agree that I’ve broken up with Dear Author and since mine appears to be the minority opinion, I promise to no longer bore you with my personal concerns.

    *****
    Definitions of “Authority and perspective” at the end of this post.
    *****

    1.Dear Author presents itself and is accepted as a site of “authority” within the online romance community. It’s influence extends from readers to authors to agents to editors to publishing executives. It’s influence also extends beyond the “romance” community as shown by the role it played during Amazonfail.

    How much influence or how far it extends is a matter of perspective since no data is currently available. Regardless Dear Author does wield influence and that is part of its mandate as indicated by its coverage of publishing news, opinion pieces and interviews, etc.

    Authority plus influence makes it greater than reader centric site.

    2.Reader perspective has to do with the quality of the reading material, variety, pricing, retail outlets, available formats, DRM, coverart, etc., etc. as it pertains to the reader’s personal experience and expertise. There aren’t really a lot of limits to what reader perspective couldn’t cover. However, once a reader moves beyond their personal experience and level of expertise, they are moving outside of the reader perspective. Additional knowledge and insight are required if the coverage of an issue is to be given weight or “authority.”

    Higher reporting standards required
    If a site like Dear Author move beyond the reader perspective and outside of the reporter’s (or contributor’s) personal expertise while still claiming a position of “authority” then any commentary given on a specific subject matter should be backed up with data gathering, solid analytical skills and a demonstrated understanding of the topic they are covering.

    Informing readers about Publishing Business Models is an acceptable topic IF the reporter (contributor) can prove they have acquired the appropriate knowledge base and demonstrated expertise to instruct others on its nuances.

    If a site like Dear Author goes beyond commentary to actual advocation of issues that reach outside of the reader realm while still maintaining “authority” then even higher standards should be met:

    1.Considers the point of views of those who have the most at stake.
    2.Proves that the criteria used, the data gather and analysis done account for the point of views of the parties involved to back up their claims.
    3.Proves that long-term implications have been considered for the parties with the most at stake.
    4.Proves that they aren’t just seeking to influence others but also believe and live the platform they are espousing if the claim relies on a reader perspective as its cornerstone.

    The no-advance model advocation fails this test. It’s not a reader issue because readers have no stake in this issue. Multiple contributors of the Dear Author site has stated that the authorial situation is not important to readers. The owner of this site has stated that authors should take that discussion elsewhere.

    But let’s say for argument sakes that the no-advance model is a reader issue because of a hypothetical belief that the reader will get additional variety and choice through its adoption by authors and traditional publishers. Dear Author fails the test again because there is nothing on the site that sets out to prove the hypothetical belief is more than a “pie in the sky dream.”

    Samhain Publishing is often mentioned as the epitome of digital publishing by Dear Author. Elloras Cave is celebrating its 10 year anniversary. Loose-ID, Liquid Silver Press, Changeling Press, Noble Romance, they also seem to have solid, reliable reputations.

    Dear Author has the ability to compare the hypothetical to reality. But there is nothing on the site—No statistics. No research. No analysis.—which would lead one to believe that Dear Author is committed to anything beyond mouthing the words. Therefore I’m forced to conclude that Dear Author has nothing at stake in the no-advance model.

    So why is Dear Author using its platform of authority to advocate for it?
    *****
    Definitions from The New Oxford American Dictionary

    Authority
    3 the power to influence others, esp. because of one’s commanding manner or one’s recognized knowledge about something: he has the natural authority of one who is used to being obeyed he
    spoke with authority on the subject
    .

    * the confidence resulting from personal expertise: he hit the ball with authority.

    * a person with extensive or specialized knowledge about a subject; an expert: she was an authority on the stockmarket.

    * a book or other source able to supply reliable information or evidence, typically to settle a dispute: the court cited a series of authorities supporting their decision.

    perspective
    2 a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view: most guidebook history is written from the editor’s perspective.

    * true understanding of the relative importance of things; a sense of proportion: we must keep a sense of perspective about what he’s done.

    ****
    Thank you for your time and consideration.

  82. fedup
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 16:41:47

    @AQ: Fuck your models!

    The savvy, smart woman who run this site are gonna stop wasting their time with you. IN 2010 (la dee da), they’ll start kicking butt and taking names. They’ll create a brand new customer model which harnesses the solid community they’ve built into a force the gatekeepers will pay attention to instead of giving voice to nimrods.

    Oprah proved she could sell books. Well, DA is gonna prove that variety, diversity and quality matter. Readers are the customers. Somehow publishers need to be reminded of that.

    Jane will show us the way!

  83. Also A Minority
    Jan 09, 2010 @ 17:50:32

    I think AQ has made some valid points.
    As much as this blog claims to be a site (only) BY readers and FOR readers, saying the words doesn’t make it true–not when Jane’s topics suggest otherwise.

  84. A
    Jan 10, 2010 @ 03:02:53

    @fedup:

    @AQ: (Profanity) your models!

    The savvy, smart woman who run this site are gonna stop wasting their time with you. IN 2010 (la dee da), they'll start kicking butt and taking names. They'll create a brand new customer model which harnesses the solid community they've built into a force the gatekeepers will pay attention to instead of giving voice to nimrods.

    Oprah proved she could sell books. Well, DA is gonna prove that variety, diversity and quality matter. Readers are the customers. Somehow publishers need to be reminded of that.

    Jane will show us the way!

    This post reads like its author lacks sufficient capacity to make simple satisfactory reading selections. Here’s to you, DA, valiant rescuer of the RVI.

  85. Authors, Readers and Discoverability in the new age of publishing | Dear Author
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 08:56:50

    [...] that 30% wouldn’t be achieved for five years.*As I said in the beginning of 2010, this is both a great and terrible thing:This is both a boon and a curse.  It's a boon because it means that more books of a greater [...]

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