Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Friday Midday Links: Courtney Milan’s Win Win for RWA

Jason Pinter wonders whether being online and so accessible removes the mystique of an author and thereby reduces one’s ability to sell books.

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More authors are getting into the casual gaming platform.   Orchid Games released Heartwild Solitaire Classic and recruited a few authors to write short stories that players are allowed to read after winning a game of solitaire.   The game and the stories are free.   Sherry Thomas has allowed us to host her free story here.   Right click to save the RTF on your computer or click the link to read the story in a browser.

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Courtney Milan has a great idea on how to resolve the business between RWA and Harlequin over Harlequin’s partnership with Author Solutions.   It reads like a win win to me.   Milan’s solution involves requiring all the Harlequin lines to be separate publishers and requiring Harlequin not refer any authors solicited from the conference to Dell Arte Press.

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October was a good month for book sales.   Nearly every category saw a positive increase.   The increase in adult hardcover is probably attributable to Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol.

  • Adult paperback increased 37.5% to $130.4 million.
  • Children’s/YA hardcover fell 0.5% to $87.9 million.
  • Children’s/YA paperback increased 20.2% to $52.7 million.
  • Adult hardcover rose 6.3% to $259.9 million.
  • Adult mass market was down 1.8% to $61.2 million.
  • Audiobooks dropped 1.8% to $19.7 million.
  • Ebooks were up 254% to $18.5 miillon.

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Carolyn Reidy, CEO of Simon & Schuster blames a soft market on the dismal S&S sales year:

Reidy noted that the bookselling marketplace "has been truly lackluster, and year-on-year sales at most of our major customers have declined significantly. Books from many of our continuing authors, as well as our higher-margin backlist, are selling at levels well below their peak." And although S&S had solid gains in its conservative and teen markets and strong performances in the U.K. and Canada, "the lower sales volume attributable to the soft marketplace was impossible for us to overcome."

I have a feeling the year end balance sheet at Simon & Schuster is grim.

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

17 Comments

  1. Moriah Jovan
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 12:38:04

    Jason Pinter wonders whether being online and so accessible removes the mystique of an author and thereby reduces one's ability to sell books.

    I think that may be true. For someone like me, though, it’s a necessity.

    ReplyReply

  2. Kalen Hughes
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 13:04:33

    Jason Pinter wonders whether being online and so accessible removes the mystique of an author and thereby reduces one's ability to sell books.

    I think that may be true. For someone like me, though, it's a necessity.

    I think genre may make a difference too. Romance kind of has its own rules for author/reader interaction (i.e. there’s way more expected).

    Courtney Milan has a great idea on how to resolve the business between RWA and Harlequin over Harlequin's partnership with Author Solutions

    She really does (esp her ideas about ePubs), but HQ already doubled down on the issue of referring slush to their vanity division. I'd be really surprised if they agreed to forgo this aspect of their business model (I'm betting they're contractually obligated to do so).

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  3. Janine
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 13:17:02

    That little Sherry Thomas story spread a silly grin across my face.

    ReplyReply

  4. Moriah Jovan
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 14:37:16

    @Kalen Hughes:

    I think genre may make a difference too. Romance kind of has its own rules for author/reader interaction (i.e. there's way more expected).

    It’s even more of a double-edged sword in that case, where greater interaction is expected, but the connection is far more delicate. If an author crosses some line, then the backlash is proportionate to the greater expectation.

    Every time I post a word anywhere on the romance blogs, I’m wondering if I’ve crossed some line or offended someone. But it goes with the territory, just like any other risk an author takes in the name of marketing.

    My biggest question would be: If publishers did a lot of the marketing and provided a little bit of a buffer between the author and the readers (the authors who wanted a buffer, I mean), would readers then have those greater expectations of author interaction?

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  5. Caligi
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 14:55:11

    Pinter’s question is doubtful, especially for romance.

    I know I keep buying Lauren Dane’s stuff, though I’ve yet to like a book, solely because I follow her on Twitter. Same with Maya Banks, though her books are at least hit or miss for me. If it weren’t for their Twitter presence, I’d have been one and done with them.

    Savvy tweeting and blogging deludes me into thinking we’re friends, and I like to give money to friends.

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  6. Kalen Hughes
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 15:03:11

    @ Moriah Jovan

    It's even more of a double-edged sword in that case, where greater interaction is expected, but the connection is far more delicate. If an author crosses some line, then the backlash is proportionate to the greater expectation.

    I've only really seen “backlash” when an author has a complete meltdown online, and even then I'm not sure it really hurts them with the vast majority of the reading public who are clearly not even online (or with their publishers). People are still buying/publishing Cassie Edwards books even though there was a huge plagiarism scandal. People are still buying LKH and Ann Rice books even though they had spectacular public meltdowns. People are still buying/publishing Deborah McGillivray books despite the whoa-shit-damn of a couple years ago (which I'm sure is still going on). And I'm sure that Candace Sams, despite her jaw-dropping antics on Amazon, is still selling books.

    In fact, I'm betting that in almost all these cases the bad behavior resulted in MORE sales, because it resulted in publicity. In some cases pretty big publicity that the author could never have paid for (like Neil Gaimen twittering about Sams).

    ReplyReply

  7. Moriah Jovan
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 15:15:25

    @Kalen Hughes:

    There is that.

    Really? The whole thing mystifies me.

    ReplyReply

  8. Kalen Hughes
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 15:48:35

    Me too, but then how many of us know people who say “Wow, this is awful. Try it. ” and how many of us then obligingly do?

    ReplyReply

  9. Estara
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 17:00:47

    Hmm, I become a more fervent supporter and proselytizer when I get more of an impression of an author of favourite books – true enough though, that this only happens if the impression I receive is favourable.

    I’ll still buy Elizabeth Bear books (or books edited by Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden) though, because I like her story-telling, even though they were initial parties in Racefail 09 1st round.

    If I’m meh about an author’s book though, or if his personal opinions are utterly vile to me, it probably will stop me from buying.

    ~my 2 cents re author mystique

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  10. Courtney Milan
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 19:04:44

    @Moriah Jovan:

    (I'm betting they're contractually obligated to do so).

    I keep seeing this, as if somehow the fact of a contract means Harlequin is bound to perform for ever and ever.

    A contract is not a death sentence. It’s not like Author Solutions can go and put cement shoes on Harlequin if they fail to comply.

    Contracts can be renegotiated, and modified; in light of changing circumstances, they often are. Sometimes, the terms of contracts allow for termination with notice, sometimes the contract terminates automatically after a specified time period. Good contracts provide for termination. Maybe not cost-free, but possibly.

    And even in the absence of termination clauses, contracts can be breached, so long as the breaching party is willing to pay the non-breaching party the profits it would have expected off of the contract (or the damages specified, so long as those are not punitive).

    A contract under these circumstances is a business arrangement, enforced by the payment of reasonable damages, not a lifelong commitment.

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  11. Jane
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 20:05:19

    @Courtney Milan: My understanding of your suggestion is that Harlequin promises to not issue the referral to any solicitations at RWA and not eliminate referral entirely or have I misunderstood this?

    ReplyReply

  12. State of the Industry… | Dave Courvoisier's Blog
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 20:22:05

    [...] You can find it HERE. [...]

  13. Moriah Jovan
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 20:37:19

    @Courtney Milan:

    For the record, I didn’t say that. I don’t have a dog in that fight. ;)

    ReplyReply

  14. Janet W
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 21:41:52

    The question:

    Jason Pinter wonders whether being online and so accessible removes the mystique of an author and thereby reduces one's ability to sell books

    In his specific case, from my perspective, I would say the answer is yes. His social media platform has not made me a potential buyer of Jason Pinter books.

    ReplyReply

  15. Courtney Milan
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 22:31:17

    @Moriah Jovan: Whoops, sorry. That was Kalen. I hit the wrong reply button. :shame:

    @Jane: I had thought they’d have to promise it across the board, but I’m sure that workable, temporary solutions could be discussed.

    ReplyReply

  16. Deb Kinnard
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 20:39:23

    I read with interest Courtney’s blog proposal to address HQ’s problem and It does look like it could work.

    However…the solution says that HQ can’t be encouraged to change its business practices (this would violate anti-trust laws somehow) but e-presses CAN, in that they should all begin offering advances or break off a “gold” division that can?

    ‘Scuse me. If we as an industry shouldn’t dictate business models to HQ, we shouldn’t be telling e-presses how to run their businesses, either. RWA is going to have to “do something” about the e- and small presses out there. Maybe it’s time and past time they stop applying financial criteria and decide what the word “publisher” actually means.

    (And, just for group hyuks, I almost typed “anti-tryst” laws. Hee heeee!)

    ReplyReply

  17. AQ
    Dec 20, 2009 @ 00:20:45

    Courtney’s idea is problematic.

    1. This would require that every publisher’s divisions and/or imprints be certified, not just Harlequin’s.
    2. There would need to be two lists: eligible and ineligible because of potential for name confusion / blurring.
    3. Imprints/Divisions come and go so the list would need to be constantly updated.
    4. How would RWA certify that Harlequin wasn’t sending slush pile rejections a referral to the vanity division? How would RWA certify that Harlequin editors only discussed eligible imprints?
    5. What happens if Harlequin or any publisher imprint failed to live up to criteria? Is RWA wiling to declare the entire enterprise ineligible? a division? Is there an appeal process? Is there a X number of strikes and out policy?
    6. Right now the issue is Harlequin & DellArte but we can’t assume the issue starts and ends here. Is RWA willing to monitor all publishers in this fashion down to a division/imprint level once this door gets opened?
    7. What happens when the next publisher “experiment” comes along which fails to meet the P.E. List’s criteria, will RWA adjust the criteria then as well so a major publisher can remain eligible?
    8. What happens if a vanity publisher decides to open a “non-vanity” division?

    Or perhaps the publisher eligibility list just gets scrapped.

    Whatever is decided is a major precedent so the decision needs to reflect a long-term view of the issue.

    solid e-publishers to become RWA Eligible, with only minor alterations to their practices.

    The e-publisher issue is a separate part of the publisher eligibility discussion. Rushing to find a two for one solution in January does neither the digital publishers or RWA’s membership justice. In my view, the solution requires a lot more thought from the Board as well as input from membership and digital publishers.

    ETA: If RWA maintained a completely hands-off approach, authors might not have control over their pennames. That is the issue that RWA advocated for, isn’t it?

    ReplyReply

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