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I’m Done with New E-Presses

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I’m going to make people angry with this post, of that I have no doubt. But frankly, this post falls under “my blog. . . do what I want.” With that proviso in mind, read on.

Jayne and I have been avid e-readers for many years now and when we first started eBook Sunday, one of our features was reviewing epublishing house bookstores. I haven’t done that in a long while because, frankly, I was tired of buying books from houses that sold crappy books just for the purpose of reviewing the ebookstore on the site. More and more the epublishing houses that die off due to mismanagement and poor funding is accompanied by two other epublishers rising from the ashes (sometimes by the same individuals who were involved in previous epress debacles).

To say that some of these epublishers are fly-by-night operations is to insult fly-by-night operations everywhere. I’ve completely lost the desire to experiment when new e-publishers hit the market. So many of the new epublishers seem to be publishing books that not only push the boundaries but trample them by the wayside. Once your top selling book is a twincest threesome novel, I’ve lost interest in your books. If you are looking for Daddy/Daughter roleplaying stories, I’m not interested in your collection, no matter how diverse it might be.

If you can’t act professionally online, I don’t believe you are capable of putting out a quality, professional product. If you can’t bother to put up posts without using spellcheck or proper grammar, I doubt that you can edit a book correctly. If it appears that your epublishing house is on the ropes financially, I am not going to invest in a book that might be here today but gone tomorrow. From just a fan standpoint, I hate seeing authors getting screwed over and that makes me not want to my funds go to a publishing house that seems to have shady business practices.

One author emailed me that the benefit of Kindle’s new epublishing platform is that anyone can publish digital edition of her book. To me, this just means I have to wade through exponentially more crap to find even one decent book. Fictionwise has greater barriers to having a book sold on its site, but I appreciate those greater barriers.

When I buy an ebook, I can’t return it; resell it or even the get the satisfaction of throwing it against the wall and stomping on it one or six times. Given those restrictions, I am certainly not going to be trusting my time and money on books published by epublishers that haven’t already earned my trust.

The e publishing year of 2007 has been a sad disappointment for the most part (Samhain partnering with Kensington and the opening of Drollerie Press are two positives). I’m convinced that the RWA folks are all saying “I told you so” and feeling righteous about its new definitions of vanity and subsidiary publishers. Are the new epublishers going to raise the bar in 2008 or just alienate more epress fans? I might be missing out on some quality literature but right now, I’ve just lost interest in new epublishers.

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

75 Comments

  1. Angela James
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 07:56:13

    I'm convinced that the RWA folks are all saying “I told you so” and feeling righteous about its new definitions of vanity and subsidiary publishers. Are the new epublishers going to raise the bar in 2008 or just alienate more epress fans?

    I was at a small RWA chapter conference in November with Kathryn Lively from Phaze Press. The day before, Chippewa/Lady Aibell had announced they were closing. One of the things we discussed was that most epublishers don’t celebrate the closing of other epublishers. Most people might believe we think it means less competition. In reality, generally we’re thinking it reflects badly on us, as an industry, It doesn’t look good to anyone to hear of publishers abusing funds, not paying royalties, disappearing without explanation, failing to answer emails, handing authors rights back without warning or verbally abusing authors. And to hear of it happening multiple times…it starts to be harder to explain it off as an unusual occurrence.

    That’s not what we want people to think of when they think of epublishing. It’s not how we want people to believe epublishers operate. But it’s become increasingly hard, in the past year, to spread a positive image of epublishing as a place where authors can write outside the box, have a chance of telling a compelling story, and make money while doing it.

    It’s a shame that someone like you, who has been a supporter of epublishing, has come to the point of feeling this way but I wonder how many others do. To circle around to your comment about RWA, I still get quite a few invitations from RWA chapters to attend conferences and chapter meetings, but I worry that more and more chapters are going to be leery of taking a chance on epublishers, including Samhain, having them at the conferences, inviting them to speak or encouraging their members to submit to epublishers–of course, some chapters have never been supportive of this avenue of publishing and like you said, all of the turmoil in the past year can only have them saying “I told you so” and becoming more firmly entrenched in their beliefs. Very frustrating and disheartening for those of us, like me, who love epublishing and believe passionately in it.

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  2. Sarah McCarty
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 08:23:15

    I think I’m a bit more prosaic. I equate the rise and fall of epublishers the same way I look at the rise and fall of Pizza parlors. Many come and go, often without anyone even knowing they existed, but the better ones will stick around. And of the ones that stick around, a few will likely have a menu that I like.

    I do have to say that I’m a little surprised by the number of epublishers leaning toward fetish fiction for their dollar. There are already tons of fetish fiction sites and doing it better hasn’t historically meant more money.(They’ve been around on the net much longer than EC) It was only when Elloras combined romance with hot sex (and not extreme) that their profit column soared. Many authors backed off from the extreme they normally wrote, softened the edges and added a strong romance (not just an illusion) and made a whole lot more money. There’s a lesson about the market to be learned there, probably.

    I’ve always though relying on shock value to sell was a poor business plan as there’s an end to Kink. There’s also an endless potential to permanently offend the majority of the houses target market. It’s all well and good to say, “I will publish what I want and will leave no fetish untouched and hold no deviance in contempt.”, but the reality of business is that the house has to appeal to a large enough general audience to make ends meet, and to flourish, it has to grow to a certain point. That means it has to stay, to some degree, within mainstream comfort zones. Unfortunately, it’s vary easy in pursuit in an open minded pursuit of kink to alienate an entire audience with one book that glorifies subject matter abhorrent to the majority of potential readers.

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  3. Lynne
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 08:46:47

    I still buy from reputable e-presses like Samhain and Loose-Id, and one of my next ebook purchases will be from Drollerie, thanks to your recommendation, Jane.

    I totally understand not wanting to throw money at publishers — print as well as electronic — who haven’t proven themselves and may be shysters. I’m to the point now where I’ll do a quick KnowX search before I buy from an unknown publisher, and sometimes I’ll also see if they have a tax ID. If there are no records under any of the names the publisher might conceivably be using, then no sale to me. I just don’t like the idea that my money would be lining the pockets of some twit who’s stealing from her authors.

    And that’s just what I do as a reader. Let’s not even get started on the research I do before submitting a manuscript somewhere! :-)

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  4. Shiloh Walker
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 08:52:35

    In reality, generally we're thinking it reflects badly on us, as an industry, It doesn't look good to anyone to hear of publishers abusing funds, not paying royalties, disappearing without explanation, failing to answer emails, handing authors rights back without warning or verbally abusing authors

    Ditto that.

    Yes, some epubs are going to fail, but considering the fabulous way som have gone down in flames… online hissy fits, screwing authors over, authors putting on their diva hats when people dare to criticize this fantastic new e-pub (that goes down the drain within a matter of weeks), the unprofessional look of the sites themselves, the poor editing on the sites themselves… all of it reflect badly on epublishing as a business. If most of the epubs in said industry go down like this, it makes the general outsider think most, if not all, epubs are just like that. Sad, but there you go.

    Hissy fits, diva routines, unprofessionalism, dishonest business practices, none of them belong in any business.

    I wish some of these places would do their homework before opening up a new ebook site. I wish they would investigate the industry, take their time and learn the ropes, I wish they would decide for themselves they are opening up a business and that they need to act professionally. For that matter, I wish any and every author would decide to do that when they sign a contract.

    If more potential publishers would do their homework, learn the business, pay attention to what they do, what they say, if they would set up honest business practices, and keep to them, we wouldn’t see so many of them going belly-up.

    I don’t know if I’m right, but I have a suspicion that a lot of the new e-pubs that go belly-up, it happens because the publisher thought it would be a way to ‘get rich quick’, a way to do things how they want and not listen to anybody else’s rules or guidelines.

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  5. Shiloh Walker
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 08:53:43

    guh…

    Yes, some epubs are going to fail, but considering the fabulous way som have gone down in flames…

    SOME… not SOM

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  6. Shiloh Walker
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 08:57:12

    And I’m also going to say ditto to this…

    That means it has to stay, to some degree, within mainstream comfort zones. Unfortunately, it's vary easy in pursuit in an open minded pursuit of kink to alienate an entire audience with one book that glorifies subject matter abhorrent to the majority of potential readers.

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  7. Imogen Howson
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 09:20:02

    Given those restrictions, I am certainly not going to be trusting my time and money on books published by epublishers that haven't already earned my trust.

    Well, I think that’s reasonable. :-) I’m not willing to buy books from new, dodgy-looking publishers either. Even in the interests of scoping out potential markets for my writing. If a publisher has a typo three lines down on its index page, or if they have bizarre writing guidelines that outlaw basic parts of speech, I don’t want to trust them with my precious manuscripts. Nor do I want to bother reading what they do produce.

    I wish there was some more stringent quality control of e-pubs. I’m not sure how it could be organised, or enforced, or anything. But maybe a site like Dear Author saying ‘we won’t review books from unproved e-pubs’ is a step in the right direction. I have to say, I’m glad you didn’t have that policy in the summer, though, when Joely Sue Burkhart and I sent you our debut Drollerie Press releases!

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  8. Susan Helene Gottfried
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 09:37:29

    From just a fan standpoint, I hate seeing authors getting screwed over and that makes me not want to my funds go to a publishing house that seems to have shady business practices.

    I couldn’t agree more. Nicely put!

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  9. Keishon
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 09:57:42

    From a reader’s standpoint – Jane is right. The quality of books from epublishers is just god awful. Poor editing, a lot of fetish fiction, links to Playgirl sites–ah, I don’t think so. The only epub I visit is Samhain. Period. EC – don’t even get me started. I haven’t bought anything from them in a long, long, LONG time and they only had a handful of good authors like Sarah McCarty (only read a novella by her), Anya Bast and where in the heck is Shelby Reed? I love that Jayne does review some ebooks from a few of the other epubs that I wouldn’t even had known about. So, whatever she reviews here is what I pay attention to in that regard. I hate seeing authors shafted too and def. don’t want to be supporting an organization that treats it’s authors unprofessionally.

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  10. Charlene Teglia
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 10:03:00

    Jane, I can’t blame you. As both a writer and a reader, I feel the same and have for a while.

    Sarah, I’m with you; I’ve never seen the appeal of hardcore kink and the audience for it has to be vanishingly small. The top ten women’s fantasies are remarkably stable over time, and it just makes sense that the most popular titles with the widest readership will appeal to those fantasies. Not to some bizarre fetish with a potential readership of 200 people. *g* That’s just from a business standpoint. From a writer standpoint, well, I’m a storyteller. I never set out to write for the porn industry. I write sizzling hot romances, and I try not to get in the way of what my characters want to do even if it’s not what I’d do, but it’s always about the story for me, not the sex.

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  11. Mary
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 10:19:02

    I remember when ebooks exploded in the market. They were so convenient. I did not have to put on makeup or even get dressed to buy a book. If I couldn’t sleep at 3:00AM and I wanted something to read, I could just visit EC and grab a book. EC was fresh and new. They were publishing daring stories with amazing characters. I became a big fan. I still am. I credit EC with resurrecting the paranormal genre. So when I want to read an ebook I purchase only from well known epubs. I purchase EC. They still have some of my favorite authors. Still I must admit that especially this past year I went back to print. As ebooks started to release books by amateur writers who can not even create a marginal plot or characterization I went back to print. Besides now I’m hooked on urban fantasy…

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  12. Rob Preece
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 11:08:18

    Getting bad books is frustrating. Getting bad books and then learning that the author didn’t get paid is frustrating too (although if the book is bad, how much should the author have gotten). If you think about the books you’ve bought from major publishers, with major authors on the spine, you’ll have to agree that there is some horrible stuff out there–you don’t need to be a small publisher to publish bad stuff.

    One thing that most ePublishers do is provide substantial excerpts. Certainly we do at BooksForABuck.com and our distributors, like Fictionwise and Mobipocket do as well. That’s partly to encourage you to read more and partly to provide you with a good feel for what you’re getting, to de-risk your buying experience.

    I’m sorry to hear that you’ve given up on small and new ePublishers. We’re not new, but we’re small with about one book per month, and will continue to stay small. But I think we provide some of the best fiction out there–from hardboiled mystery to romance that explores different historical and paranormal themes to space opera SF, we’re doing things that the big publishers won’t do, or have abandoned in their need to grab onto the next big thing.

    Rob Preece
    Publisher, http://www.BooksForABuck.com

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  13. Teddypig
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 11:10:36

    From just a fan standpoint, I hate seeing authors getting screwed over and that makes me not want to my funds go to a publishing house that seems to have shady business practices.

    Especially when I know and love the author and find out right after buying the book they did not see a penny from that book for a while.
    Sorry L. E. Bryce it was your book on that crappy Aibell site.

    I do not think the RWA did romance writers any favors by dumping any standards for ePubs.

    EPIC is not doing anyone any favors by not proactively and publicly identifying and denouncing known stealth vanity presses and just plain bad ePubs and setting higher standards. Providing template contracts does not cut it. I think it is sad that I get more information about what is going on from Piers than a whole group that supposedly represents this industry.

    Quite frankly every damn time I add a new ePublisher and a new review to my list on my web site I worry that I might be promoting a BAD ePub and possibly leading some poor writer or reader astray.

    Maybe I take it too personally but that is how I feel.

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  14. Anne
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 11:17:27

    I’m with you on this one. I will only be buying ebooks from ebook publishers I’ve come to trust over the years. I just can’t imagine reading some of what the new epubs are going to be putting out. EVER. Never, ever.

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  15. Jackie L.
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 11:27:20

    I just bought my first E-book evah. Being a fossil, I printed it out on paper. This had the added advantage of irritating my teenage son. And it’s one of tShiloh’s that Karen Scott was fangirl-ing on, and I’m loving it a lot.

    On the down side, I bought from EC–not something I ever thought I’d do. Just entering the site was total squick.

    I think the internet has just made it that much easier to rip people off.

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  16. Karen Scott
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 11:58:50

    Tina Engler first started Elloras Cave because of the restrictions within mainstream publishing, and allegedly, she didn’t want anybody telling her that she couldn’t write romance books dominated by sex. In my opinion, EC was successful, because A, they were the first, and B, they had Chrissy Bashear.

    I have no doubt in my mind, that if they were just starting out now (minus Chris Bashear), they would have the same difficulty getting readers.

    I remember buying an EC book years ago, that was absolutely littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. The hero’s name was also miss-spelled on at least two occasions, and I had a hard time figuring out whether some of the sexual positions that the h&h and got themselves into were possible.

    This wasn’t a one-off either, there were many books where I felt that the editor must have been high as a kite whilst editing the book, but the main difference is that at that time, EC were the only people doing erotic romance, so their readers were more likely to tolerate the crap, because quite frankly, they had nowhere else to go.

    These days, I think the women who decide to open e-presses seem to do so, just so that they can publish their own books, and although Tina Engler did the same thing back in 2002 (?), it’s a very different market now, and with a few of the NY houses offering erotic romance books, the competition is much more fierce.

    Like Shiloh said, most of the people who start up e-pubs seem to think it’s an easy way to make money. They forget that readers generally aren’t stupid people and can be quite discerning in terms of where they are going to plonk their greens.

    This year has certainly been a poor one for e-pubs, and as somebody who knows a thing or two about running a business, I’m absolutely staggered by the lack of research and just overall preparatory work, that should be a given when starting up a new business venture.

    There is a reason why women in business, generally don’t fair as well as our male counter parts, and it has nothing to do with the fact that we have a uterus and they don’t.

    I took the piss out of Teresa Jacobs when she complained that she’d closed MGP down because of hormonal females and bitching, but actually, on further reflection, I think she may have had something there. I think the inability make objective business decisions, and separate their personal lives from their business concerns, can be attributed to a lot of the e-press failures.

    Now before anybody starts frothing at the mouth, and accusing me of being sexist, I’m not saying that women don’t have the ability to run successful businesses, but that those who do, know enough not to go around pulling their knickers down in public, and pissing on the pavement.

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  17. veinglory
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 12:07:18

    Start up Mom & Pop epublishers aren’t holding the bar, places like Elloras’ Cave, Loose Id and Samhain are. I don’t here people saying price gouging and rotten fruit at their corner store are bring the food vending industry into disrepute. I wonder why epublishing is so often judged by the lowest common denominator.

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  18. Karen Scott
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 12:13:53

    Start up Mom & Pop epublishers aren’t holding the bar, places like Elloras’ Cave, Loose Id and Samhain are.

    Isn’t that because there are so few of them in comparison to the ones who eff up?

    I don’t hear people saying price gouging and rotten fruit at their corner store are bring the food vending industry into disrepute.

    And the same argument applies in reverse.

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  19. veinglory
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 12:26:06

    Yes, I list about 60 epublishers, I would recommend about 5. But finding a good epublisher is not harder than, say, finding a good blog–and still probaby a little easuer than finding a good self-published book. But then I kind of enjoy sifting through the chaff ;)

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  20. Teddypig
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 13:10:21

    I would recommend about 5.

    You know Emily I would love for someone in the know to list out their recs for writers and readers seeking clean ePubs.

    I would so beg to republish that information on my own site.

    I am all for not having to recount all the negative but just affirming those ePubs that are doing good and not charging their authors for services any legit ePub would never ask for or refusing to give royalty statements or being run by folks who skipped on paying the bills etc etc.

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  21. Lynne Connolly
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 13:20:07

    You’re saying what I did earlier in the year. I decided I wasn’t interested in sending my work to smaller epubs, unless I was sure that I would be properly treated and that I would be proud to be alongside the other authors listed there.
    I have books with Loose Id, Samhain and Ellora’s Cave, and I’m very happy with all three houses. Cover art and editing are both excellent and to be honest, you can tell by the discussions on the internal author lists that the publisher treats its authors in a professional way.
    But I’ve been involved in epublishing for 6 years or so, and it’s changed so much in that time. The Wild West days are long gone now, but they were exciting. But now’s the time for consolidation and product improvement, not for new setups.
    For someone like me, half way across the world, epublishing is a wonderful way to publish my books and to buy them, too.

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  22. Ann Bruce
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 13:43:56

    I don't here people saying price gouging and rotten fruit at their corner store are bring the food vending industry into disrepute.

    That’s because when a Mom and Pop store opens up, we generally don’t know about it unless you go by the store and see it. With epublishing and the Internet, it’s very easy for a epublisher to advertise and get the word out. The speed of the information and size of the potential audience plays a significant role on the impact of the epublisher’s demise.

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  23. Ann Bruce
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 13:44:57

    Yikes! “a epublisher” should be “an epublisher.” It was a long, wine-filled night.

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  24. Shiloh Walker
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 14:43:19

    Start up Mom & Pop epublishers aren't holding the bar, places like Elloras' Cave, Loose Id and Samhain are.

    But it’s the bad cases you hear about.

    It’s just like bad cops, charities that rip people off and shady lawyers. You hear about the bad ones so often and because the info about the bad ones is so prevalent, people start assuming all cops/charities/epubs are the same.

    We hear crap all the time about police brutality, about charities that use donations to make the CEOs rich, etc, etc, etc. Some people are going to look beyond that and know that the crappy ones aren’t representative of the whole.

    But others won’t. Especially outsiders, a lot of readers who aren’t as familiar with ebooks as others, authors that don’t epub and aren’t familiar with the market, etc.

    Tina Engler first started Elloras Cave because of the restrictions within mainstream publishing, and allegedly, she didn't want anybody telling her that she couldn't write romance books dominated by sex.

    I think because Tina made a success of it, others assume they can, too. What they don’t get is that Tina is probably the exception to the rule.

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  25. Shiloh Walker
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 14:44:32

    I just bought my first E-book evah. Being a fossil, I printed it out on paper. This had the added advantage of irritating my teenage son. And it's one of Shiloh's that Karen Scott was fangirl-ing on, and I'm loving it a lot.

    *G* Glad you’re enjoying it, Jackie!

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  26. veinglory
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 15:00:50

    I periodically list sales figures and the ‘not recommended’ and ‘warning’ presses. Add avoiding any press less than a year old or listed with a warning by Piers or Predators and I think the field is very much narrowed. The front runners are simply those for who I have data that sell the best because the readers know acceptable or better quality when they find it — Ellora’s Cave, Loose Id, Samhain. They are clearly the places to start if you ask me. There is a cluster of others that cater pretty well to niche markets.

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  27. K. Z. Snow
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 15:56:02

    I started out writing an entirely different post but soon realized I was so gobsmacked by certain far-left-field responses to this topic, I’d have difficulty being diplomatic. So I decided to “ac-centuate the positive”.

    Thanks, Emily and a few others, for lending some much-needed sense and perspective to the discussion.

    I strongly suspect, by the way, there are more than five reputable, reliable e-pubs.

    (Ooo…sometimes restraint, like strenuous civility, just about kills me!)

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  28. raine
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 16:11:24

    I think I understand what you’re saying, Jane.
    And in considering various houses for submission, lately it seems that more and more of them are looking for more and more ‘kink’, or bizarre sexual situations, rather than quality and better presentation. Maybe the extremes draw more attention in the market, but I don’t think they’ll work in the long haul.

    On the other hand–I LOVE that photo, lol.

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  29. Karen Scott
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 16:13:29

    Thanks, Emily and a few others, for lending some much-needed sense and perspective to the discussion.

    So which of the above opinions don’t make sense?

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  30. Lauren Dane
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 16:38:25

    I think, actually, this post as well as the overwhelming majority of the comments have been quite reasonable and civil.

    We can be willfully blind to the issue or admit there’s a problem. Most new businesses fail. That’s a fact of the economy. When you add to that poor research on market niches, absolutely horrible behavior on the part of those who are supposed to be the public face of that business and grabbing any any all manuscripts sent your way – you simply make the chances of failure even higher.

    That’s not revolutionary, that’s just common sense.

    It doesn’t mean all books from small epubs are bad any more than it means all books from bigger, established epubs are good.

    What it means to me anyway, is that it makes it harder to be taken seriously as an author when all around us we’ve got publishers having public meltdowns and attacking readers on their blogs. There’s simply no excuse for unprofessional behavior.

    Staying silent on that, pretending it doesn’t happen and it doesn’t affect our entire community isn’t “postive” it’s unwise and frankly, if we don’t police our own community who will?

    I want readers to know when they buy an ebook from my publisher they’ll get a certain level of quality. No, we can’t guarantee a reader will like every book every time, but we should be able to say, even if they don’t like the book, it was edited well and the product was professional. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for and if publishers can’t do that, they shouldn’t be publishing.

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  31. Bernita
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 16:45:39

    “What it means to me anyway, is that it makes it harder to be taken seriously as an author when all around us we've got publishers having public meltdowns and attacking readers on their blogs. There's simply no excuse for unprofessional behavior.”

    Yes.
    Thank you.

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  32. Seressia
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 16:49:31

    I admit to not being a big ebook reader, so I rely heavily on sites like this one when deciding what to buy. Given that I read on my laptop, I’m even more selective about my ebook choices.
    As a reader and a writer, I’m leery of publishers that haven’t been out there for a while or only seem to offer titillation thinly disguised as romance. With all the collapses this year (how many were there, any way?) it seems like the prudent thing to do is make a personal checklist and ensure that the publisher passes muster.

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  33. Patricia Briggs
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 18:32:28

    A long time ago, I heard some very good advice about ebooks. Don’t buy unless they give you a fairly long excerpt. If they can’t write a blurb, and give you a clean, interesting excerpt, then don’t take the chance.

    Of course, like everyone else, I’ve been bitten by the horrible ebook. Once I bought three books by an author I didn’t know, from a website I’d had some good luck with and they were all horrible: the I’d have flunked my high school students if they wrote this badly horrible. (In fact they have been mentioned in commentary on DearAuthor as being horrible) But out of about fifty ebooks, I’ve only been bitten four or five times. That’s about as well as I do in print books: though horrible ebooks do tend to be a lot worse than paper books.

    I’ve also found some terrific writers in ebooks. People who wrote stories that were outside of standard genre for the big presses to take a chance on. Josh Lanyon, for instance or Mary Janice Davidson (who has since moved on to paper). I find I’m more forgiving of writers who publish in eformat, with the understanding that some of them don’t get a lot of professional editorial help.

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  34. TeddyPig
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 18:40:27

    I think Emily that Elloras' Cave, Loose Id and Samhain set a high standard.

    They are what I would think of as first tier ePubs.

    There are other good companies out there Amber Quill, Cobblestone, Liquid Silver, Aspen Mountain Press, Changeling that I could loosely consider second tier. I have recently started to add on a few more I guess you would call them third tier like New Concepts, The Wild Rose but very very carefully.

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  35. Patrice Michelle
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 19:52:48

    I hope you’ll continue to highlight epublishers here on Dear Author (via whatever new criteria works for you and your review team). Just the other day I recommended Dear Author as a place that does review some epublished eBooks, for the very reason that has been mentioned on this thread–knowing which eBooks (epublishers) consistently produce quality editing, compelling characters and a solid storyline.

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  36. Jane
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 19:53:57

    I’m not saying that it is necessarily fair, my feelings, but it’s simply too hard to know what might be a worthwhile risk these days in the ebook market. I’m all for excerpts, but most of the ebook excerpts I’ve read are only one scene and that isn’t enough for me, anymore, to determine whether I am going to like a book.

    I don’t like not being as adventurous but I definitely know that I am not taking the risks on new ebooks anymore.

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  37. Jennifer McKenzie
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 20:30:27

    *Sigh*. As an ebook author, I’m very grateful for the new format and the people who are willing to read it. But, like Angela, I cringe when I see the behavior of some who are owners, senior editors or others in epublishing. I try (I hope successfully) to avoid the strident, defensive tone in any argument regardless of how passionately I may disagree or agree with any dispute.
    I notice that when my editor at Whiskey Creek Press told me that WCP had issued a formal statement to Piers Anthony (that should be there with his February updates I hope) I was both relieved and a little tense.
    When I approached my senior editor with all the WCP comments made, she was extremely prompt, reasonable and understanding about the whole thing. It is a relief to know that the “official” statement will probably be along the same lines.
    I have seen epub owners email their authors or other sites and it’s been unreasonable, unprofessional and downright scary to one who is published with them.
    But with Angela James’ presence online and my experience with Liquid Silver Books I’m hopeful.

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  38. Becca
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 21:37:42

    There are so many epubs. I think the kinkier ones are trying to stand out in a saturated market…but is it the kink that sells, or is it romance?

    I thought romance was the big dawg in fiction publishing. I wonder if we won’t eventually see those publishers who produce good, quality, romantic stories–erotic or not–stay alive.

    Too many publishers, print and epub, seem to think that erotica and romance have the same readership. I don’t think so, I think romance readers are loyal to the HEA, the lover’s journey, and trying to trick them into buying erotica marketed as romance will eventually backfire, because the reader is looking for a different type of story.

    But then maybe I don’t know nuffin’ since I did get pubbed by both Triskelion and Twilight Fantasies and question my own instincts!

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  39. Ann Bruce
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 23:02:05

    There are so many epubs. I think the kinkier ones are trying to stand out in a saturated market…but is it the kink that sells, or is it romance?

    If readers want only kink, I recommend going to one of the free alt.sex sites or something like that. A number of those postings are better written than what I’ve seen from the new crop of start-up epubs.

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  40. TeddyPig
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 23:20:05

    Actually Ann those freebies at at least one site I know of were written by a person who writes under other another name for a top tier ePub.

    From from talking to him (Yes him) there are several very good writers who would love to get their kinkier stuff published. Maybe these new more risk taking ePubs will be of benefit to them.

    I am just saying…

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  41. TeddyPig
    Dec 16, 2007 @ 23:21:06

    Dang where is edit on this thing?

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  42. L.E. Bryce
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 01:11:23

    Sorry L. E. Bryce it was your book on that crappy Aibell site.

    Did I miss something? Teddypig actually read something of mine? It’s okay (wait, no it’s NOT–show me the money!). Phaze offered to provide a home for those stories.

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  43. Robin
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 02:01:27

    I wonder why epublishing is so often judged by the lowest common denominator.

    Maybe because all industries are? IMO pretty much every type of business is judged by its standouts — high and low.

    As a reader, I’m less influenced by the number of epubs that close than I am by unprofessional online behavior and anything that smacks of a lack of seriousness, whether that be non-existence copyediting, defensive statements or online sniping, etc. Because like Jane I wonder how a business that doesn’t *appear* to take itself seriously would expect me, as a reader, to take their products seriously.

    Those epubs that have shown themselves to be professional outfits are clear stand outs in today’s industry, IMO, and I think when someone like Jane — who reads more ebooks and talks them up than anyone I know — is feeling disgusted with the perception that anyone and their neighbor can open an epub that that’s significant.

    Will these businesses put a black eye on epubbing in general? Not to die hard e-book readers. But since some folks opening these businesses actually think it’s a good idea to do so without any capital to speak of, I’d suggest that it looks more like *they’re* the ones who don’t respect the ebook industry. Which sucks for the good pubs and it sucks for readers, too, who have finite resources and at best an imperfect system for choosing among an absolute slew of books.

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  44. TeddyPig
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 02:05:07

    It was the ONLY book I ever bought from them and it was the second one I bought of yours. Yes, I have read Becoming, liked it too.

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  45. L.E. Bryce
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 02:17:00

    I had two books with LA, so I’m not sure which one you read.

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  46. TeddyPig
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 02:19:30

    From This Night

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  47. Lynne Connolly
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 06:30:19

    I’m with Lauren here.
    Many new authors, either worried by the rejection rates at the big publishers, or by the waiting time to get the book out there, send their work to smaller publishers, some of whom are taking almost every book sent to them. The best new publishers are taking it slowly and only accepting work they like. You might not have heard of some of them, because they’re not rushing things. Uncial Press, for instance, small as yet, run by someone well experienced in epublishing. Then there are the ones determined to make an instant splash, like the late unlamented Venus Press, so intent on getting a foothold they don’t ensure basic things like rigorous editing and decent cover art.
    And then, as I’ve recently become aware of, there are the publishers who are grabbing everything sent to them. employing other authors as editors, and creating a culture of very excited, very inexperienced authors. The communities on the loops are scary, volatile and divas abound. The experienced authors who send their work there don’t spend much time on the author loops, so the atmosphere is feverish. And unethical behavior creeps in, like leaks from what should be secure loops to other places.
    Nasty.

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  48. DS
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 07:27:36

    If it’s any comfort to anyone, this looks a lot like the mass market paperback shake out of the 60′s and early 70′s. There was once a lot more mmpb publishers than there are now– ok, there was once a lot more publishers period, but the mmpb market was once filled to the gills with lurid covers and titles that actually resulted in the 50′s in a congressional hearing about the threat of paperbacks. Ace, who I presume now to be perfectly respectable, once had a very bad reputation about royalties and published an unauthorized version of LotR that got them in quite a bit of hot water. McFadden, an early publisher of Jayne Ann Krentz under her Bentley pseudonym went into bankruptcy and took some of her novels with it– printed and pulped or never printed at all. Lancer’s bankruptcy caused major problems for their artists and writers.

    In conclusion I think epublishers are going through a similar shakeout as the market matures.

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  49. Katrina Strauss
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 09:31:23

    Some will wonder who the heck I am for saying this as I’m relativley new on the e-book scene and am myself known to push boundaries as we define the emerging genre of “erotica romance”, but a thinning of the herd is in due order. I believe we see that thinning in full swing as poorly-run houses collapse and poorly-edited work is called out by astute reviewers. Those of us who take our craft seriously must strive to survive the fallout and emerge as the ones who mean business. I, for one, am here to stay, and time will tell who else is with me.

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  50. Sheryl
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 10:28:58

    I think it may be akin to the dot-com crisis that hit not so many years ago – small businesses racing to “get in” on the latest craze and then not having the wherewithal to maintain a business past the first few months, or even years.

    I agree with Lynne’s concern in post 47 that there might be publishers overextending themselves in order to “cash in” on the supposed “boom” and who might have problems in the future. Remember, one of the huge problems with the dot.coms were that they overextended themselves and when push came to shove, they crashed.

    it looks like it’s still quite the “Wild Wild West” as far as e-pubs go – and not many sheriffs out there to let people know who the outlaws are…

    imo, of course.

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  51. Robin
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 11:25:17

    If it's any comfort to anyone, this looks a lot like the mass market paperback shake out of the 60's and early 70's.

    And if anything should encourage epubs to view themselves as legitimate *businesses* this should. Because what we’ve largely seen in the wake of this shake out is the conglomerate approach to publishing, where very few large companies have swallowed up most of the small outfits and made them imprints (Ace is now part of Penguin, for example, along with Berkeley, Putnam, and a number of other imprints). And generic diversity has suffered. In fact, epubs sort of jumped into that void, didn’t they? So wouldn’t it be a shame if the desire to expand diversity within the genre through e-publishing eventually ended up the way print pubs have (and this is where we might be seeing the other side of the coin as large print pubs begin to partner with epubs). I know that in a business environment there isn’t a formal self-policing function within an industry, but I do hope that epublishing can maintain a balance between entrepreneurial innovation and establishment stability.

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  52. Anne Douglas
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 12:58:09

    There are things I agree with on both sides of this fence.

    I made the decision long ago – possibly to my reading detriment – that I only stick with 3-5 publishers for eBook purchases. Usually 3 more than the 5, more often than not. So I don’t disagree with Jane’s decision to do just that, although I might not mesh with her reasons for doing so.

    I’ve been reading – like most of you – for a damn long time. No publisher is fail proof, not every book is readable for every person. I’ve picked up “the next better-than-sliced-bread NY author” and gone WTF? this is crap! and also picked up eBooks I expected not a lot from and been rather pleasantly surprised.

    No industry is all good nor all bad.

    One thing that would be nice to hear – maybe I’m feeling the time of the year, or something equally as sappy – is some praise for the ePublishers that ARE doing a good job. I’m glad that it was pointed out earlier that mmpb has it’s bad side too, as I’m really getting fed up with the constant negativity about ePublishing that continues to paint everyone ePublished with a tar brush.

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  53. Karen Scott
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 14:19:13

    I’m glad that it was pointed out earlier that mmpb has it’s bad side too, as I’m really getting fed up with the constant negativity about ePublishing that continues to paint everyone ePublished with a tar brush.

    It would be a lot easier to be positive about epublishing if some of the owners refrained from making twats of themselves online, and then blaming it on their personal circumstances.

    Gail Northman wailing about how much of a slut her daughter is, will stay in my mind far longer than somebody extolling the virtues of Samhain Publishing. I’m pretty sure that’s just human nature.

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  54. TeddyPig
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 15:15:08

    Oh Karen I am so with you. That was the lowest moment of this last year. I just did not want to remind anyone if I could help it.

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  55. Jane
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 15:20:21

    If you read Mrs. Giggles blog post today, you can see yet another owner of an epress claiming that personal issues (failed adoptions) are part of the delicate balance that epress business owners must face each day.

    It is much more the norm to see Northman type of debacle that it is to hear something positive.

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  56. Anne Douglas
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 15:24:52

    Karen, you’ll have no complaint from me on that front. There have been some horrid displays of bad judgement this last year.

    And I just realised my comment of saying something nice might come off a little happy happy joy joy tell little Johnny only nice things cause you might hurt his feeling otherwise, though that’s not what I meant. I’d just like hear about some positive experiences. All we here is where NOT to go/spend our money.

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  57. Anne Douglas
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 15:26:35

    Well crap, bad proof reading FTW, Alex!

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  58. Jude Mason
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 16:33:18

    I’ve read through this thread and gone from so angry I wanted to strangle someone, to annoyed, and to agreeing whole-heartedly, and back again. Epublishing is such a huge, ungainly animal right now and the houses that fall flat are possibly the ones where the owners just didn’t do their homework, had too many family issues, or didn’t have a clue what they were getting into. The unprofessional rants in public make most of us want to scream, or spank those involved.

    As an author, I’m finding it more and more frustrating. I’ve had one fold under me, and that was an experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I’ve also found that the people at Mundania/Phaze have worked tirelessly to bring up their standards over the past year, successfully in my opinion. New pubs, well, we all just wait to see them fall, and are shocked as hell when they don’t.

    I’d argue one thing with some of you. Kink, it sells, and why shouldn’t it? I’m all for romance and erotic romance. There’s an enormous market for it, that’s been proven time and again. But, I think well written kink also has a readership. To say readers who want that kind of literature should go read it on a free site, to me, just shows intolerance. Just my opinion.

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  59. Deena
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 16:33:52

    Jane, thank you. We intend to live up to your good opinion of us.

    You said:

    I'm all for excerpts, but most of the ebook excerpts I've read are only one scene and that isn't enough for me, anymore, to determine whether I am going to like a book.

    I don’t actually like excerpts, but I know people do, and if they’re going to read one, it ought to be enough to make a decision. For outside distribution we generally go with the distributor’s standard, often 5%. On our site we excerpt between 5 and 10%, leaning toward 10, depending on the length of the story and where a natural break occurs.

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  60. MCHalliday
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 17:34:38

    Standards and quality are all good in my books. And we cannot depend on, “the conglomerate approach to publishing, where very few large companies have swallowed up most of the small outfits and made them imprint,” as Robin mentioned. This systematic buyout of small publishers has made it very difficult for ‘out of the box’ writers to get published and it took ‘new’ epublishers to make the change. Let’s not discount new publishers from the get-go as diversity, and the avante guarde, is what creates fresh vision and great reading. To toss them in the bin because a few epubs went under or had bad reps is a disservice to us all.

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  61. Sarah McCarty
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 18:09:03

    I think while most ebook sites have smaller excerpts, most authors put up a chapter, so if the site excerpt intrigues, it might be worth a visit to the author’s website if someone’s on the fence.

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  62. L.E. Bryce
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 18:37:15

    I try to have different excerpts on my website than what’s on the publisher page or Fictionwise, unless it’s a very short work.

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  63. Ann Bruce
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 19:29:46

    But, I think well written kink also has a readership. To say readers who want that kind of literature should go read it on a free site, to me, just shows intolerance. Just my opinion.

    Jude – Yes, I agree there is a readership, but the epubs that put out the kink don’t seem to be doing a very good job–and some are even marketing it as romance. Very misleading. And the reason I suggested free sites because I’ve read so much better on the free sites than on the epubs that charge $$$.

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  64. Ann Bruce
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 19:47:44

    Hmm… Just rereading my original post to see how I offended Ms. Mason with my perceived intolerance of people who want to read kink (which would include myself at times) when I recommended going to free sites:

    A number of those postings are better written than what I've seen from the new crop of start-up epubs.

    I guess my intolerance would be to poorly written stories.

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  65. Jude Mason
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 20:24:44

    Ann,

    A question, do you think kink, and I’ll have to insert some genre in here so we’ll go with pony slave, can also be classed as a romance? The kink, or fetish, is only part of the package, the love between the two main characters is the meat of the story.

    Romance is almost always defined as having a HEA. Kink can very well have that.

    As for the well written part, I’m afraid I have to agree with you, to some extent. There are some amazing free stories out there, but there’s also some very well written kink books for sale on the smaller epubs.

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  66. Charlene Teglia
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 20:31:59

    I don’t think it’s intolerant to note that if you want to write a story about, say, a hero with a foot fetish, you might have a very limited readership for it. *g*

    On a serious note, here’s the big problem I see: anybody can put up a website and call themselves a publisher, regardless of business ability, publishing experience, or even a sincere desire to do honest business. Writers have been the objects of countless scams, and epublishing makes it far too easy for the unscrupulous to set up shop and then fold up and vanish, tying up an author’s rights and owed royalties and leaving a big mess behind. You can’t even assume that all the new epublishers popping up have good intentions, let alone the skills and experience and financial backing to succeed.

    I’m all in favor of epublishing as a viable alternative for new voices and innovative stories, but encouraging scam artists and incompetents to go into ebusiness isn’t doing anybody any favors. Everybody loses; legitimate epublishers, authors, and readers.

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  67. Ann Bruce
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 20:39:46

    Romance is almost always defined as having a HEA. Kink can very well have that.

    Jude — You make a good point. However, from the kink I’ve read, the endings are not what I would consider HEA. They’re usually very ambiguous, a lot with the protagonist going off into the sunset accepting the “darker” or kinkier side of him- or herself. If someone markets that as romance–and I have seen it happen–I’m going to feel defrauded.

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  68. Shiloh Walker
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 20:55:26

    I don't think it's intolerant to note that if you want to write a story about, say, a hero with a foot fetish, you might have a very limited readership for it. *g*

    I don’t really considerate intolerant, either.

    Yes, there’s a readership for it. But the readership for the kinkier stuff among romance readers, even those who dig erotic romance, is going to be limited.

    There’s a much larger market out there, those who are into kink and labeling it as romance is probably causing them to lose out on a decent amount of the niche market.

    anybody can put up a website and call themselves a publisher, regardless of business ability, publishing experience, or even a sincere desire to do honest business.

    And I have to agree with Charlene again. Some epubs have become huge and some of the epubbed authors can make a very decent living off of writing alone. And I suspect because of that, others want to cash in.

    Nothing wrong with wanting a piece of it… if you do your homework beforehand, deal with all the licensing stuff, the registering, establishing a decent website beforehand, if you’re prepared to work hard, and if you’re prepared to put out quality stuff. And uh… please, when the blurbs go up, make sure they’ve been edited and aren’t full of errors.

    Shoddy looking sites, lousy covers, books that read like a rip off from other popular ebook sites, incompetent management, unprofessional behavior, sites full of spelling and grammatical errors…none of this reflects well on the epubbed industry.

    There’s an old proverb,

    a chain is only as strong as its weakest link

    Within the epub industry, there’s been a lot of weak links lately. It’s nice to think we’re judged by the strongest, the best, the most professional, but most of us know that people are more apt to complain when they are unhappy, than compliment when they are pleased.

    Last time I said anything to a manager at a restaurant was because the food or the service or both sucked. I hardly ever hunt down a manager just to praise. I can’t be the only one.

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  69. Shiloh Walker
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 21:08:42

    However, from the kink I've read, the endings are not what I would consider HEA. They're usually very ambiguous, a lot with the protagonist going off into the sunset accepting the “darker” or kinkier side of him- or herself. If someone markets that as romance-and I have seen it happen-I'm going to feel defrauded.

    Also, there has to be more than it than just a HEA. There has to be a serious, romantic relationship that happens within the story, between two (or more if you do the menage and +) people. That relationship, in a romance or an erotic romance, needs to be the core of the story.

    Can that be done with kink? Yeah, I imagine it can. But if the kink takes front and center over the romance, then it’s not romance. And, FWIW, I’ve said the same about erotic romance. The sex and the romance are both important but if the sex takes precedence, it’s not well written erotic romance and IMO, it’s not really even erotic romance at all.

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  70. Jude Mason
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 21:28:32

    Charlene, Ann, Shiloh,

    You all make excellent points and I agree with most of what you’re all saying. Kink has a market, and depending on how it’s marketed, it can be sizable or not.

    Coming out with a book that’s all fetish, sex and little story isn’t what I’d call romance either. The couple, threesome or moresome and their feelings for each other have to be the heart of the story. Ann, ‘having the protagonist going off into the sunset accepting the “darker” or kinkier side of him- or herself’ isn’t romance, it’s sad. But, having a loving couple participate in a fetish together, and perhaps fighting off some dastardly villian, can definitely be romantic.

    Shiloh, I also agree with you. Talking about the marketing or chances of decent sales when you’re writing fetish or kink is business. Finding the right place to market is huge. But, I think these smaller epubs might be a good place to start. Finding one that’s going for quality rather than quantity is a challenge. I think I’ve succeeded, but only time will tell.

    Interesting and thoughtful replies ladies. Thank you.

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  71. Robin
    Dec 17, 2007 @ 23:01:39

    One thing that would be nice to hear – maybe I'm feeling the time of the year, or something equally as sappy – is some praise for the ePublishers that ARE doing a good job.

    I think the praise is most often in the good ebook reviews here and elsewhere. I noted in my Shelly Laurenston reviews, for example, that I enjoyed her ebook releases more than her first NY print book, and I’ve tried to pimp that Samhain series to everyone I can, lol.

    Jane and Jayne read SO MANY ebooks, translating into some very, very strong reviews and exposure for many ebooks to those readers like me who are still at a bit of a loss when it comes to finding on our own the ebooks that meet our expectations.

    Clearly no publisher is perfect, but I think all of us are aware enough to see how people from various epubs represent themselves and their publisher in the online community, and I’m pretty sure that it translating into more sales in some places and less in others. And the good epubs will either make it for the long run or will find a way to make their exit as easy as possible for their authors, IMO.

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  72. Treva Harte
    Dec 18, 2007 @ 20:45:40

    I’m flattered that Loose Id is considered “top tier” and apparently not a new e-pub in town nowadays. Then again, Loose Id is almost four years old and most e-pubs are even newer than that. Ellora’s Cave, which was a training ground for members of other e-pubs that have been mentioned as “top tier,” is just seven years old. That’s apparently ancient in e-pub years. I hope that LI has been a training ground for some other e-pubs I can think of–and in the right ways. A lot of the newer and shakier e-pubs seem to be outsiders who, from their viewpoint, saw some of the “glitter” in the e-pubs and not the hard work and professionalism required. I’m not saying apprenticeship at another e-pub is necessary, but it doesn’t hurt.

    I’ll be fascinated to see what Loose Id and the others are like when we hit a decade, considering how quickly the business is evolving.

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  73. Sandra
    Dec 19, 2007 @ 12:03:46

    Loose Id certainly taught me a lot and has been an excellent business model for me.

    And Shiloh…often I’ve sought out a manager at a restaurant to express praise over some job well done. The look on the manager’s face when he or she arrives at the table is one of worry/fear/concern, and then turns to delight and pride when they get the good news.

    Many of us only hear bad things and psychology tells us that the negative lasts a lot longer than the positive. Having both is a good thing.

    I appreciate the discussion here.

    Kudos to Dear Author for allowing frank and open discussion.

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  74. Johnss
    Jan 14, 2008 @ 02:47:32

    Publication through digitization is the emerging trend and most of the publishers are following. There is a website called http://www.pressmart.net providing the services of digitization for print publication like books, news papers, magazines, journals, etc. Most of the publishers are using pressmart.net services for e-editions of print publications.

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  75. Where the hell is EPIC? | Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary
    Mar 23, 2008 @ 04:01:37

    [...] Veinglory lists approximately 60 epublishers on her site but would only recommend about five of them (back in December 2007). Emily is obviously do a great service (for no [...]

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