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How the Lit Fic Crowd Can Make Digital Publishing Legitimate

3045336573_bd6c093c0dLast September I blogged that Literary Fiction should embrace digital publishing because “the psuedo profit sharing that the new arm of HarperCollins is testing: no advances, higher royalties” made sense for the embattled publishing industry.

E publishing, with its low overhead, provides a safety net for experimental fiction, the bailiwick of literary fiction. E publishing can provide success for more authors with lower numbers of sales. Those who have success in digital format are then pushed into the more expensive, but broader retail base of print publishing.

I argued that “Literary fiction should lead the way in redefining publishing so that those who write feel just as accomplished being published digitally as they do being publishing in print.” My belief that digital publishing could save literary fiction continues unbated.   After reading Liza Daly’s report of Book Camp Toronto, I am even more convinced:

So by the end of the day at BookCamp I felt a little worn down by the amount of fear and negativity that arose in some of the sessions. Particularly dispiriting is that some of the most vocal dissenters were small presses and independent authors, the groups that are most likely to benefit from these transformations in digital publishing.

Let me reassert the argument once again. The lede for the 2006 article in the NY Times entitled “Promotional Intelligence” is this:

The pride and joy of publishing, literary fiction has always been wonderfully ill suited to the very industry that sustains it. Like an elegant but impoverished aristocrat married to a nouveau riche spouse, it has long been subsidized by mass-market fiction and by nonfiction ripped from the headlines. One supplies the cachet, the others the cash.

The Times article identifies how the literary fiction market is failed by the then current book business ecosystem:

  • “The whole system is set up for impatience,” said Drenka Willen, an editor at Harcourt
  • Familiar voices are in greater demand than new writers
  • You have to ship a minimum of 20,000 copies according to Bill Thomas, then editor in chief at Doubleday
  • Only so many titles can be pushed per season per Eric Simonoff, a literary agent at Janklow & Nesbit

To some extent, these issues exist in digital publishing as well.   Name recognition sells books in epublishing as much as it does in print publishing. Witness the success of Ilona Andrews’ Silent Blade published by Samhain and currently  at No. 6 on the Samhain Bestseller list (right hand side).   Only so many titles can be pushed effectively by publishers and editors otherwise it is just white noise even in the digital industry.   There are still editing, cover art, formatting issues that are not removed simply when you move from print to digital.

However, you do not need to ship 20,000 copies of a particular title. There are no returns.   There are no shipping, warehousing, remaindering costs.   In sum, a literary fiction book such as Deidre Knight’s fabulous genre bending Butterfly Tattoo does not need to sell 20,000 copies to be shared with the public.   A digital publishing house can take a risk and put forth this type of book with a print version to follow later.

Yet, the literary fiction crowd remains wedded to form giving cachet rather than the product itself.   At the end of 2007, Pan Macmillan announced that it would be releasing virtually all of its books in trade paperback.   This was like a body blow to the literary fiction crowd.

Kirsty Dunseath, publishing director of Weidenfield & Nicholson, said the move could lessen the prestige of the novels. “Coming out in hardback is a statement of confidence in a novel and gets the reviews,” she said. “It doesn’t say much for your confidence coming out in paperback. Anyway,  £12.99 isn’t such a high price to pay – you’d happily pay that for a CD.”

What a disservice this notion, this ideology, is to the authors and readers of literary fiction!   Does the binding and the paper render the novel prestigious or does the content speak for its quality?   This notion that only literary works that have cardboard covers and animal adhesives are worthy of consideration is nonsensical and terribly harmful.   It’s impossible for me to grasp why being publishing in a nudie magazine is more prestigious than being published in digital format.

Hardcovers exist, in my opinion, for the sole purpose of publishers maximizing price discrimination whereby businesses provide variable pricing to individuals based on the individuals’ willingness and ability to purchase. For example, those who simply cannot wait for the next Nora Roberts title, Black Hills, due out in July will pay the hardcover price.   Those who are unwilling to pay the price will wait.   The publisher is putting out the identical content, with slightly different packaging, but at different time periods and thus maximizing the consumer’s willingness to pay.   Hardcovers should not impart value of the content. I think we can all agree we’ve read shitty books published in hardcover and fabulous books published in paperback and vice versa.

Of all the genres, literary fiction is supposed to be above the concepts of commercialism, the idea of writing for filthy lucre.   Literary fiction writers are compelled to write, not for the money, but because the story inside their being simply cannot be contained in their corporeal self.

Literary fiction has the power of perception on its side.   It is the hallowed field of publishing.   If literary fiction would embrace digital publishing as a model and work to find new voices and release them to the reading public, digital publishing would take on the imprimatur of respectability.   What’s stopping you, literary fiction?

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


  1. Heather Massey
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 06:21:47

    Hardcovers should not impart value of the content.

    Hear, hear. Reminds me of the time, long ago, when I had to resort to buying um, bootleg video copies of my favorite anime shows from Japan (unofficially distributed at comic book conventions). It was either that or pay exorbitant prices for the original, packaged product–if I could afford it and if I could even order it at all.

    While I appreciate the beauty of a nicely packaged book, in my experience it’s been more beneficial to value content over aesthetics. Otherwise I’d have gone without a lot of really great entertainment. But as technology keeps advancing, I’d wager there’ll be some cool things publishers can do with the packaging of ebooks. The execution is different, that’s all.

    I’d wager digital publishing will continue to offer a lot of benefits for niche genres as well.

  2. Lucynda Storey
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 07:12:22

    My husband loves my ebook collection. It’s fewer books piling up on the floors at home.

    Personally, if I have to buy a book in print, I go with the paperback. The hardback prices are outrageous.

    As for Literary Fiction…writers have enough to deal with trying to get published. Not any of us can afford to stick our noses up at anyone else.


  3. Moriah Jovan
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 08:08:51

    Two things:

    1. I went to a book signing last week for a lit fic author at an exclusively mystery/thriller bookstore, and the subject of the Kindle came up (note, I said “Kindle,” not “e-books”–and that’s another subject entirely). There were various comments and expressions from “What’s an e-book?” to “I don’t really understand what all that business is about” to “I would NEVER be able to read on a screen like that” and “I’ll give up my paper when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands” to outright hate.

    I’m a child of the 70s and 80s, and I tried to explain that I have waited my ENTIRE LIFE to be able to hold a jukebox in my hand and to be able to hold an entire library in my hand. I knew it was possible; I just didn’t know how. So the day the mp3 player happened and then the e-book reader happened was like . . . nirvana. They still didn’t get it, and when I whipped out my eBookWise to show the curious, the bookstore owner was, um, not happy, let’s say. (Actually, what she said was, “Please don’t! This is a bookstore!”)

    The take-home message for me was: Outside of romance (and some SF/F), there is a large segment of the writing/publishing population that A) doesn’t know e-books exist or why or how, B) aren’t interested in the least and have no reason to be because they don’t see it in their corner of the world, and C) can be downright hateful about it when they do begin to understand.

    I ended up talking with a comics writer for a great length of time about e-publishing in romance/erotic romance/erotica, talked about what a big market it is, talked about the voracious reading appetites of romance readers cross-genre, and wrote down the websites for Samhain, LooseId, Ellora’s Cave, and Liquid Silver Books so he could get a good idea of what’s going on with successful e-publishing. He seemed receptive and intrigued, but until that moment, thoroughly in the dark that it exists–and especially in such great numbers.

    2. When you have an RWA president actively discouraging people from e-publishing in the biggest genre that allows for it and encourages it, it’s kind of hard to see where literary fiction’s going to step up to the plate and say, “Hey, yo, we LIKE it.” If romance is the biggest e-book market and its professional representative is telling people, “Yeah, but it’s not REAL publishing and you’re not a REAL author,” one can’t expect that authors snobbish about romance in general are going to get on the e-bandwagon.

    I’m a downer this morning, I know, but last week’s experience coupled with this week’s issues with the president of the RWA just serve to drive home the point that we (meaning e-book disciples) still have a long, long row to hoe.

  4. Silver James
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 08:56:11

    Okay. I’m going to jump in here slightly OT and put my publisher into the mix because I never see The Wild Rose Press mentioned. And please don’t confuse us with the Red Rose Press which came into existence after Wild Rose’s successful foray into the field. Wild Rose just celebrated its third birthday. With over 500 authors and some of the best cover artists in the business, TWRP puts out a quality product in both ebook (DRM-FREE) and in print from major on-line booksellers. Despite being named Best Publisher by Preditors and Editors and despite having our books reviewed at many of the on-line review sites, we don’t ever get mentioned in the same breath with Samhain and the others.

    Wild Rose runs the gamut from contemporaries, inspirationals, westerns, historicals, two lines of paranormal, suspense, and erotic. Oh, and YA. Free reads and different length books prices based on word count are standard. People should give us a look see.

    Okay. End of commercial. (And my book doesn’t even come out until next year…)

    The point i was originally going to make until I went of on my mini-rant tangent, is that digital publishing is here to stay. New, fresh voices can be heard in the wilderness because epublishers are more willing to take a chance than the big guys. It’s just a matter of time. I mean, heck, any industry that can make this old dog sit up and hunt for either an ereader or an iPhone so she can read ebooks on it has to be doing something right!

  5. likari (LindaR)
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 09:09:24

    For some reason, this post made me think of the current craze in some quarters to talk about “going Galt.” It’s a take on Ayn Rand. The Important People threaten to just quit society if they can’t keep it the way they want it.

    There! That will show “them” (the little, unimportant people)! Everybody will be sorry when they don’t have us to lead them!

    (my response to the go-Galters is: meh, your admin will just continue doing all your work and sign your name where necessary)

    Anyway. Are literary types involved in their own version of going Galt when they refuse to see the future, i.e. the E?

    The first wave of literary writers (who can get out of their contracts) that goes E will do very well and start a new craze and bring the critical mass of readers/buyers to ebooks. After that, it’s every writer for herself.

    The key, then, is going to be sorting what’s out there. How will a reader know what’s good? That’s where sites like DA and SBTB and even Twitter come into play. (I bought Moriah Jovan’s self-published ebook last night because I’ve been following her on Twitter. No publisher or distributor or book store necessary. The writer and the reader — the essence of the experience.)

    Is MoJo less of a writer because she doesn’t give 92 percent of her proceeds to a publisher? She wrote a book, and I bought it. And after a month or two or three, someone else isn’t going to pull her work off the shelves and out of existence. She has all the time in the world for her readers to find her.

    Now, what’s the dif between Moriah Jovan and a literary writer? The prejudices in me say that a literary writer is too much of a speshul snowflake to do all the work that writers like Moriah Jovan do to bring the book to the point that a person can click a link and get the damn book.

    I get your point that literary will bring respectability. It’s like that new show on TeeVee, Glee. The head of the glee choir frames a “cool” boy to get him into the glee club to save the glee club from terminal uncoolness. The trope works, because it’s true.

    But it isn’t literary writers who will bring cool to epub. Haven’t you heard? Romance is the new Next Big Thing. From True Blood on HBO to Beyond Heaving Bosoms, romance is where it’s at.

    It isn’t lit-fic that makes epublishing legitimate. It’s you, Jane.

  6. Mike Cane
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 09:35:39

    Your persistence is something to witness.

    You know you’ve said this over and over again. So have I. So have many many many others.

    And yet there are still crybabies like this:

    If he and writers like him would enter this century, they’d understand that not only could they push the future forward for everyone, they’d get mad publicity, mad sales, and a new legitimacy they’re not finding with paper.

    And then they could stop frikkin crying too.

  7. Leah Braemel
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 09:42:44

    I was at the Book Expo in Toronto last weekend and heard some of the complaints. Someone asked why would an author would submit to an epublisher over a Canadian, NY or mainstream publisher – I pointed specifically to Deidre’s Butterfly Tattoo and how NY wouldn’t publish it. What bugged me was that even though some of the smaller main stream publishers admitted they had to wear a lot of hats to run their business – editor, marketer, etc.– and even though some admitted they worked for free, several people commented about how “little epublishers pay their editors” and dismissed Samhain and other epubs out of hand. Literary elitism, it is alive and well in TO.

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  9. carolyn crane
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 10:37:34

    Great post! I’d echo some of Moriah’s observations on the emotional nature of the bias against ebooks, esp in lit fic circles. It fascinates me how you can take people who are environmentally aware, into arcane artistic experimentation, against things like ‘pandering to the lowest common denominator,’ into small guy over big conglomerates, but ebooks are the devil.

    I think there are huge emotions for readers, and esp readers of lit fic, wrapped up in holding the book in your hand, childhood reading memories, smelling the book smell, marking in the margins, the glass of tea, the comfortable old chair, etc. and that these emotions can be really powerful.

    As you point out, there’s such an emphasis on packaging with lit fic. Ebooks really do put content over packaging, so you lose that emotional connection. (Though personally, I think it’s cool that content is elevated over packaging.)

    But I think the lit fic experience goes beyond content and tactile experience to self image, public image (e.g. what you read on the train) too. This culture holds such a negative image of romance readers, but validates and respects the readers of literary fiction.

    I mean, for sure, in certain public situations, I’m a lot more comfortable reading certain books on my ereader (that is, my fabulous and beautiful new Sony ereader! xxoo) than if they were paper books. Isn’t the converse true of lit-fic? Maybe lit fic would lend cache to digital publishing, but would it lose certain amount of cache and emotional/self image benefit? I’m not saying lit-fic readers, a group I sometimes belong to, are all show offs, I’m just thinking about it, because it really is interesting!

  10. Moriah Jovan
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 10:48:28

    But I think the lit fic experience goes beyond content and tactile experience to self image, public image (e.g. what you read on the train) too. This culture holds such a negative image of romance readers, but validates and respects the readers of literary fiction.


    This reminds me of a scene in Born Yesterday when the uneducated heroine was shamed at a society cocktail party for not knowing what Democracy in America was or what it said. So she set about to read it. It took her a long time and she struggled with it, but she got it and she spent a great deal of time thinking about what it said. Later, she asked a relatively kindly society matron some questions about it, and the matron didn’t know. When the heroine was shocked, the lady said (paraphrasing): “Oh, honey. Nobody’s actually READ it. They just act like they have.”

    There was an article a little while back somewhere (sorry, can’t remember where now) positing that the reason the Kindle is so popular is so that nobody can tell you’re reading pr0n on the train. *sigh*

    The sad thing is that if you leave most of these people alone with an e-book reader for 15 minutes or so, maybe an hour or a day, they’d become converts. They just don’t know that.

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  12. Zoe Winters
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 11:32:44

    OMG MoJo, about the kindle is so popular because no one can tell you’re reading pr0n on the train!

    If there was ever a reason for me to get a Kindle, that’s it!!! Holy god, you just sold me on e-books. I could read erotica ANYWHERE. Holy crap on a cracker….

    Okay, well that just screws my comment right to hell. But was going to say… I’m one of those “rip it from my cold dead fingers” paper types. BUT, at the same time that doesn’t mean that’s the only format I’m publishing in. That would be insane.

    I’m beyond grateful that so many romance readers are open to reading ebooks because it expands my reach and enables me to reach far far more readers than I could just publishing my work in trade paperback. Am I gonna be thrilled beyond thrilled to hold my paperback book in my hands even though I published it myself? Oh holy crap, yes.

    But… the words are what’s important and the readers. Being able to spread the words and gain the readers in multiple formats is just good sense and very exciting.

    And I think that’s all I got… but MoJo has unsettled my world a little bit because right now I’m considering the possibilities of the Kindle with regards to the freedom to read erotica anywhere I want. *sigh*

    Oh, actually had one more thing… JA Konrath (If you don’t know who he is, google, he’s a pretty well-established trad published novelist), has self published some work on the Kindle and has, at last count been making about $90 a day off his efforts. Not exactly chump change. I think it’s exciting to watch someone like Konrath explore both sides of the publishing coin, both independent release and trad. Kind of a fitting example of why it isn’t “us vs them” since some people are now happily doing both.

    And I think that’s the attitude we need with e-pub. It’s not “us vs them” Some are doing just print, some are doing just E, but some *shock gasp* are doing both. It’s “and” not “or.”

  13. Moriah Jovan
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 11:43:17

    Lest Zoe saddle me with her therapy bill for the next 16 years, here’s the article in question:

    With Kindle, Can You Tell It's Proust? from the NYT, April 24, 2009.

    And the Kindle, which looks kind of like a giant white calculator, is the technology equivalent of a plain brown wrapper.

  14. Zoe Winters
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 11:47:08

    awww MoJo, you really think it’ll take 16 years of therapy to work through this?

    And you are totally still responsible, you brought it to my attention. I could have remained happily ignorant of this idea. (Though if I did it’s a bad reflection on me, lol. I mean how could I *not* hit upon that idea at some point. der de der.)

    And LMAO @ that title: “With Kindle, Can You Tell It’s Proust?” hahahahahhaha

  15. carolyn crane
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 11:52:33

    Hey Moriah, interesting article! Well, Zoe, I hope you enjoy your new wanton freedom. And you can always get a Proust ebook, and then when somebody asks to see your ereader, you can switch the screen.

    I lent my sister, who has pre teen kids, a my trade copy of Dirty, and I was thinking, she’ll never be able to read this with her kids around…if only she had an ereader. (but then I would feel weird about lending it, like, if it was an ebook. Is it ever okay to lend ebooks? What is the thinking on that?)

  16. Zoe Winters
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 11:58:35

    Ooooh Carolyn, that’s a good idea about switching the screen. It’s all covert and stuff. Me like!

    And yeah no, you’ll call down the wrath of God if you talk about lending an ebook, cause it’s never really”lent” it’s always a copy. You could lend your e-reader but A. that stops you from reading, and B. You gotta REALLY love someone to part with equipment that expensive. lol.

    On a side note, this is one reason why I think it’s important that covers aren’t “too embarrassing” on a paper book, otherwise it limits where many feel comfortable reading it, and also may limit bookstore sales. Maybe I’m a prude, but I just could never bring myself to take an erotic novel up to the counter of Barnes and Noble. It’s too personal.

  17. Sunita
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 12:42:44

    I think for authors there’s a real collective action problem even if they want to switch to digital publishing for the reasons you enumerate. Until there is a critical mass of well established and highly regarded authors publishing digitally, the early adopters will be penalized, and if they’re currently midlist authors, they could really take a hit.

    I’m no expert on publishing, but it strikes me that the issue is not so much to get authors to switch as to get respected editors to create digital imprints. Even though readers identify with authors more than editors, it’s the editors who build lists and find authors and decide for whom they are going to set up the marketing juggernauts. If, the next time a respected editor left a publishing house, they established a digital operation rather than going to another publisher, that could make a difference.

    ETA: I agree that there is a status element to reading lit fic and having other people see it, but that’s really a function of the trade paper format. Back in the day when you either had hardback or MMP, people left the dust jacket at home and you couldn’t tell what the book was unless you could see the spine.

  18. Lee B.
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 12:42:52

    It may not be strictly relevant, but academic publishing, the nerdy cousin of lit fic, moved to trade paperbacks as the norm ages ago. Now, in the social sciences at least, the cachet comes with a paperback release rather than a hardback (cloth covers now denote handbooks and the very esoteric offerings that are expected to be bought by academic libraries and no one else). Perceptions can change, and rather quickly, when the audience and/or the market dictate those changes.

    I’m not a lit fic type, but there’s been a shift in literary fiction to MFA programs as proving grounds. According to colleagues who move in those worlds, it’s the more hidebound faculty in these credentialing/networking programs that promote the traditional hardback as the gold standard (except in poetry, where the sink or swim crisis hit earlier), and also remain committed — against all evidence to the contrary — to the declining business model that’s sinking traditional publishing. As long as the professional socialization of literary fiction writers is so retrograde, so will be the atitudes of many new writers, no matter how that attitude underprivileges them in their field.

  19. Sunita
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 13:02:14

    It may not be strictly relevant, but academic publishing, the nerdy cousin of lit fic, moved to trade paperbacks as the norm ages ago. Now, in the social sciences at least, the cachet comes with a paperback release rather than a hardback (cloth covers now denote handbooks and the very esoteric offerings that are expected to be bought by academic libraries and no one else).

    In my social science field, cachet definitely comes with paperback, but it’s for simultaneous HB/PB. Cambridge, for example, offers either simultaneous, HB and then PB in 2 years, or HB only with PB possible if there are enough sales (ha ha). The HB run is for the standing library list, which gets smaller and smaller every year.

    Perceptions can change, and rather quickly, when the audience and/or the market dictate those changes.

    Definitely. Behavior can change surprisingly quickly when the incentives line up.

  20. Moriah Jovan
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 13:03:14

    If, the next time a respected editor left a publishing house, they established a digital operation rather than going to another publisher, that could make a difference.

    Mike Cane put this notion forward back in December: You’re Fired! Now STFU and Deliver!

    I thought it was an awesome idea then and I think it’s an even better idea now.

  21. Suze
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 15:30:45

    But… the words are what's important and the readers. Being able to spread the words and gain the readers in multiple formats is just good sense and very exciting.

    I bought a Sony ereader two weeks ago, purely because I ran out of room for physical books, and unless I get rid of keepers, I have to stop buying books.

    I thought I knew what I was getting into, but holy moly! Because it’s a Sony, I have to download my purchases to a computer (also because I live in Canada, so no whispernet Kindle for me). Because my computer is a Mac, I’m restricted as to what formats I can download in.

    I’m befuddled and bemused. I want to browse through an e-bookstore, and click on the books I want. I want them to be available to me to buy. I like books. I buy a lot of books. And last night, I was PREVENTED FROM SPENDING at least $100 on books purely because they didn’t come in my format.

    The publishing industry as a whole needs to get their act together and re-think their business model. I can’t believe they’re willing to lose business from the largest book-buying demographic there is (Romance readers) because they’re worried about their academic street-cred.

    And about the Proust thing, I think it’s telling that a major concern of people reading in public is that they want people to know they’re reading Proust, and not some trashy pulp novel. I admit to having a “be seen reading in public” book that I didn’t touch when nobody was looking — when I was about 15. Seriously. Grow up.

    Wow, this whole post came out pretty short-tempered. Apparently I’m more irked than I realized.

  22. Zoe Winters
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 15:43:42

    Hey Suze,

    I’m not ashamed to read romance, I write it.

    But.. I’m sure not going to sit and read erotica in public. Sex is very personal. I don’t need some random boob to know what turns me on. It’s TMI.

    Your mileage may vary, but my desire not to be seen reading erotica in public and all the strangers around me knowing it’s erotica, is an indication that it’s personal, not that I need to grow up.

  23. Estara
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 15:52:17

    @Suze: Re Sony Reader formats. You do know that you don’t have to wait for .lrf books to come out, do you? The Sony Reader does .epub and Adobe Digital Edition pdfs quite nicely, most of the time (unless the publisher screws up formatting which some do, but I believe that’s a general ebook problem). The bigger problem is getting non-DRM books or getting rid of the DRM so you aren’t bound to your current pc or devices. I find Calibre and the MobileRead Forums and even Google quite helpful with these aspects.

  24. Moriah Jovan
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 15:53:58

    Zoe, I took Suze to mean that those who read (or don’t) books in public for literary status should grow up and not be so concerned with what people think about what they’re reading.

  25. Zoe Winters
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 15:54:53

    Fair enough, Mojo. That wasn’t how I read it. But that doesn’t mean how I read it was how she meant it.

  26. Suze
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 16:24:41

    Zoe, Moriah interpreted me correctly. I don’t read erotica in public either.

    Thanks, Estara, I’m using Calibre, and fumbling my way through e-books, I just really wish shopping was easier. With paper books, I can see, want, evaluate the price, and buy. With e-books, it’s now a little trickier, and I’m grouchy about having to work harder to buy books that I want to read. I can see that it’s going to really cut down on my impulse buys. Which may not be a bad thing.

  27. likari (LindaR)
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 16:37:34

    Suze, I downloaded Sony’s ereader software (free) and mostly buy through their store here:

    the reader software makes it way too easy to buy — one click and it’s downloaded and paid through PayPal and placed in the library.

    I’ve also found it pretty easy to download epub files — which I believe Calibre also reads — from My Bookstore and More and from independent writers who sell epub files from their websites.

    So maybe the trick is to look for the epub version of the book. Hope that helps.

  28. Zoe Winters
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 16:43:53

    Hey Suze, lol, I stand corrected. Sorry, I’m way too prickly sometimes. I don’t need to defend myself against everything, especially crap that wasn’t even aimed at me. Even if it was aimed at me, I need to learn to let go and not respond to everything.

    I apologize for being insane.

  29. Moriah Jovan
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 16:49:29


    I believe part of Suze’s problem may be that the Sony e-book reader apparently doesn’t play well with Mac. I have neither, but that’s what I keep hearing.

  30. Suze
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 17:38:13

    Holy, Moriah, it’s like you’re reading my mind! Stop it, before you find out something you’ll wish you hadn’t!

    Yep, Sony doesn’t like Mac. I guess they want people to buy Sony computers, or something. Crazy.

    Apparently there’s some software I can download that’ll make my Mac behave like Windows, but that would kind of defeat the purpose of having a Mac. I love my Mac. I want Apple to create an e-book reader, because I know it’ll be just what I want, and will come down to a price I can stomach after a year or two. Unfortunately, I ran out of room, and couldn’t wait for them.

    No worries, Zoe, I could have been clearer. Or less insane myself…

  31. Bonnie
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 17:59:19

    Zoe, Moriah interpreted me correctly. I don't read erotica in public either.

    Who’d want to do that? Wouldn’t you want to have some privacy and be close to your…. er equipment? Or whatever or whoever? Heh…

    I love my Kindle for several reasons: I live in work in Chicago and the convenience of it is beyond words; carting it around for my commute. I don’t have the room to keep the two or three books a week I typically read. The wireless is fabulous. Changing the font size is a blessing for my challenged eyes. It’s much easier on my hands, too.

    If I can’t buy books on my Kindle, then I don’t buy them. Author and publisher loses. Not good.

  32. Moriah Jovan
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 18:14:16

    If I can't buy books on my Kindle, then I don't buy them.

    Bingo. The author (insofar as s/he can control these things) and the publisher need to make it as simple as possible for the customer to buy. Since I–as a nanopress–have limited distribution possibilities to B&M stores, I need to make my catalog (a total of 2 books, one mine, one not) available in as many online venues as possible and make it EASY TO PURCHASE.

    The point of ebooks is impulse. Period. You put it in front of the customer, price it attractively, don’t saddle it with encryption code, and make it one, two, three click easy. Boom, sale.

    So yeah, while I’m on my own site selling (8 DRM-free formats in a zip file, including EPUB), and my publishing company’s site selling, I’m also on SmashWords (to be able to get listed in the Stanza catalog for wireless download into the iPhone) and Scribd and Amazon in the Kindle store. (I recently lowered my Kindle price as another way to be attractive to potential buyers.)

    I’m always trying to figure out a way to streamline my own process even more, but since Paypal is involved, I think I’ve hit the brick wall on that.

    Publishers, repeat after me:

    Make it easy for the customers to give you their money.
    Make it easy for the customers to give you their money.
    Make it easy for the customers to give you their money.
    Make it easy for the customers to give you their money.
    Make it easy for the customers to give you their money.
    Make it easy for the customers to give you their money.

    Go to the blackboard and write that 500 times. In Sharpie.

  33. Shay
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 19:16:48

    Suze –

    Another Mac user clamoring for an AppleReader.

    I love e-books. I am exclusively reading them on my laptop, which works for me at this point, but eventually would also love a reader that is hassle free for working with ibook’s format. Even better, if they designed removable waterproof cases for bathtub readers, oh heck… while I’m reaching for the stars, might as well add an affordable price for the fiscally challenged readers, and a durable design (see construction of black boxes in airplanes) for the younger/and or clutzy readers.

    In the meantime, I’m storing my library on flash drives and hoping Mac will develop something in the near future.

  34. Zoe Winters
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 19:17:25


    I think they should write it in magic marker on all the books they’re pulping.

  35. jim duncan
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 19:36:42

    Also heard today that no Pubs have any iphone apps in the works (or haven’t announced that they have) to seel their books via ipod. There’s various apps to read on the iphone and Pubs apparently are looking happy to let others be the middleman. /smack publishers. Can’t say I’d be one to take advantage, since I own no device capable of reading ebooks other than my puter and laptop, but that’s another story. I’m still a plain old book sort of guy.

  36. Moriah Jovan
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 20:13:46

    Also heard today that no Pubs have any iphone apps in the works (or haven't announced that they have) to seel their books via ipod.

    Not true.

    Scrollmotion has partnered with a few publishers to provide ebook apps for the iTunes store.

    However, there are plenty of books-as-applications that are being rejected (mine is one of them) for obscenity or taking Apple’s name in vain or for . . . no reason at all. I won’t call it censorship because Apple’s a private company and can do what they want, but it does make me scratch my head as to what the heck they’re thinking.

    I would love to know that Apple was stepping up to the plate with regard to ebooks (I crave an iBook store, CRAVE, I tell you!), but I’m not holding my breath.

  37. Zoe Winters
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 20:16:22

    Mojo, I still can’t figure out how you got banned. How is your book any more obscene than ANY mainstream book on the market?

  38. Moriah Jovan
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 20:30:24

    Got banned for the F-bomb.

    Something about the wireless agreement with the carrier. Buncha mumbo jumbo I don’t buy.

  39. Zoe Winters
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 20:32:20

    Well, they’ll have to change that policy. Because I can’t remember the last time I read a mainstream book that didn’t have the F word.

  40. SonomaLass
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 21:01:35

    Re Mac use: From what I’ve read on the subject, and I’m no expert, Steve Jobs doesn’t believe in e-books. Not that he’s in the RWA president’s camp, where e-books are less legitimate than dead tree books, but that he doesn’t think books in any form are the entertainment of the future.

    “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”

    Now some people think that’s a sure sign Apple IS working on an e-reader, because Jobs has something of a track record of disparaging ideas to cover up where Apple plans to go next. I would love to think that’s true, because I’m another devoted Mac user who can get a little cranky about e-book interfaces for OS X.

    I’ve had good luck with the eReader app and not too much trouble with Adobe Digital Editions on my laptop, but both are DRMed to a fare-thee-well. If I can’t share a book I enjoy with one of my daughters when I’m done with it, I think twice about buying it.

    But I firmly believe that e-books are a big part of the future of publishing, and I’m especially excited about the avenue it opens for books that may not have mass-market appeal. I would think it’s a no-brainer for publishers to at least experiment with e-pub for literary fiction.

    This reminds me of the fuss over screw caps on wine bottles — even though it is cheaper than cork, more environmentally friendly and better for the consumer in several ways, wineries were hesitant to change their packaging because consumers associated screw caps with cheap wine. Some wineries have helped dispel that notion by putting some of their higher end wines in screw-capped bottles, and slowly the market is changing. Wineries that believed screw-cap packaging was good for the industry pioneered its use, and we will see it more and more. Of course some wine drinkers feel about cork like some readers feel about paper, the look and the feel and the associated tradition, but there’s room in the market for both kinds of packaging.

    Reading an e-book is a much bigger change, IMO, than opening a screw cap on wine, but I think younger readers are going to create a huge market for e-reading.

  41. Estara
    Jun 15, 2009 @ 06:01:15

    @Suze: Well, I’m German so the Sony bookstore doesn’t want to sell to my German credit card at all. However, when I use PayPal checkout at Books on Board or Fictionwise (and tell them I live in the US) I have no problems getting restricted books (most of the newer ones at Books on Board aren’t restricted anyway).

    Actually my impulse buying has gone up since I got the Sony Reader, heh. What does seem to be problem with Calibre is using it AND the Sony ebook software, it seems to screw up the Calibre database.

    For getting rid of DRM this article was quite helpful to me.

  42. XandraG
    Jun 15, 2009 @ 08:07:27

    See…people want apple to come in and save the day…I’m bucking for open source. No limits, no random rejections for obscure and arcane non-reasons, and no, “oops, it’s no longer profitable, so we’re heaving it over the side of the ship in favor of New Shiny Thing Over Here.”

    Part of litfic reading is the cachet you get from reading it where other people can see it, or discussing it with Important People Who Discuss Meaningful Things. It is, in essence, a social as well as a solitary activity.

    So…….make it social again. Places like create social spaces where people can “be seen” reading
    Very Important Books. I thought trad pubs were getting it when they started including book discussion group guides in the backs of some of their litfic. Why not have that on a site, or via social networking? Boom, there’s your cachet again.

  43. Richard Askenase
    Jun 15, 2009 @ 09:04:15

    E publishing is an easy and inexpensive way to market books to readers. It is especially useful for self-publishers, where the cost of printing a minimum run (say 5000 copies) is too expensive. And for new authors, pricing the books low makes it risk free for a reader to try your book. (If it’s good, they’ll buy the next one at a higher price. If it isn’t good, then …)

    One thing about self-publishing (or small publisjhers) and e-books, is that there is an unusually strong connection between reader and author. If you are selling ebooks, on your own site, then there is easy dialogue with the customer (they will email back their opinions). If you go through Amazon (via the Kindle), there are several Kindle forums where there is active exchange between writers and readers. Often an author will post a message on a forum- for one- telling people about the book, and establishing a low Kindle price, say for 60 days, and encourage feedback and reviews. That posting will get many responses, buyers, and reviews on Amazon.

    The point is that the connection between authors and readers is more direct and close with ebooks and the internet. So make use of it!

  44. Zoe Winters
    Jun 15, 2009 @ 09:39:48

    Hey Richard,

    Most people who self publish a print version no longer use offset printing or do a print run. It’s almost unheard of now. Even with many smaller presses that aren’t author owned. It’s far more common to release in trade paperback using POD technology. It’s not all Lulu and Authorhouse. There are print-on-demand companies that major NY publishers use for parts of their backlist, University presses use, and small presses use. Lightning Source is the primary company for this. They have great distribution partnerships and their prices allow most people to be able to compete price-wise with other trade paperbacks. (which is what you’d be printing with a 5,000 print run anyway, since mass market paperback requires too large of a print run to make a profit. And hardback is highly risky.)

    I’ll have a self-released trade paperback out late this fall (hopefully if the stars line up right. I’d rather have it “right” than “rushed.”) Of course I’m also selling in as many e-formats in as many places as possible. But the barriers to producing a quality paperback book are no longer what they were. And print runs just don’t make any fiscal sense unless you know for sure you’ll be moving a lot of books.

    Even then though, you’ve got shipping and warehousing to worry about and LSI can handle an awful lot of volume before you “need” a print run. There are no shipping or warehousing concerns with POD.

    Just my 2 cents.

  45. finnegan flawnt
    Jun 21, 2009 @ 11:16:16

    great debate everyone i really have nothing to add other than a request for a center seat when watching the publishing industry as we know it go down. the dawn of a new day is near when the readers will go straight to the author for more, and the authors will have their ear on the ground next to where their readers walk, iPod on head or in jeans pocket. make it easy for the readers to give you their money.

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