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Friday News: The “Average” Barbie, the dark side of Kickstarter, the...

The New Barbie: Meet the Doll with an Average Woman’s Proportions – Remember the artist’s rendering of what an “average” Barbie would look like? Well, Nickolay Lamm decided to take his vision and make it a reality, raising $95,000 on Kickstarter to design and manufacture his own doll. to be advertised with the slogan, “Average is beautiful” (do you think we could circulate something similar for three-star reviews?). Lamm has the backing of the former vice president of manufacturing of Mattel, the company that has long made the Barbie, whose sales are currently in decline, and that connection will hopefully pair Lamm with a manufacturer who can produce a high quality doll. Frankly, I hope the Lammily kicks Barbie’s artificially skinny ass.

In a recent interview with Fast Company, Barbie lead designer Kim Culmone vigorously defended the dolls ridiculous measurements, arguing not only that it wasn’t responsible for instilling negative body images in young girls but also that it was necessary to get clothes on and off the doll’s body with ease. “I’ve heard that argument before but I find it odd,” Lamm said. “There are female action figures who are full bodied, and clothes fit fine.” –Time

Kickstarter Fail: Artist Raises $51K to Publish Books, Burns Them in Alley – And now we peer into the dark side of Kickstarter, with the story of John Campbell, a webcomic artist who raised more than $51,000 for a book based on his online comic, “Pictures for Sad Children.” Campbell did, in fact, produce the books, at a cost of about $30,000, but apparently did not have the money to ship them all, and in addition to having some of the Kickstarter money go to the IRS for back taxes, had to spend more of the money on a plastic-bound dead wasp for the inside of each book. Reading Campbell’s story, it sounds like this is more than a failure of money or Kickstarter, but it’s also a reminder that a Kickstarter investment is largely speculative.

Campbell said he successfully mailed 750 to 800 books, while another 150 were undeliverable and returned to him due to old addresses. He plans to burn the rest of the books that have been sitting in his apartment in boxes for over a year.

Two weeks ago, the stress of not being able to afford to mail the books prompted Campbell to burn 127 books behind a dumpster in an alley behind his apartment.

Campbell said burning the books was “like a weight lifted off of me.” –DNAinfo Chicago

Re-reading: The ultimate guilty pleasure? – This is a nice piece on the art of re-reading, from its changing pleasures as we get older, to speculation about its intellectual and emotional benefits, to the question of how many people do and don’t re-read, and why. Is re-reading only habitual among genre fiction readers? I hadn’t really thought about re-reading as something to remark and reflect on until I read this article. Playwright Samantha Ellis has even written a book, How To Be A Heroine, based on her longtime interest in Wuthering Heights.

Scientists have weighed in, too, citing the mental health benefits of re-reading. Research conducted with readers in the US and New Zealand found that on our first reading, we are preoccupied by the ‘what?’ and the ‘why?’. Second time round, we’re able to better savour the emotions that the plot continues to ignite. As researcher Cristel Russell of the American University explained of re-readers in an article published in the Journal of Consumer Research, returning to a book “brings new or renewed appreciation of both the object of consumption and their self”.  –BBC Culture

Revenue Declines Continue at Harlequin – Revenues at Harlequin have been on the decline for the past five years, and profits declined 27% from last year. Given Harlequin’s range of books/lines and perception of the reader as their customer, this is not great news. Harlequin has blamed competition in digital book pricing, but I’m thinking the crappy royalty arrangements can’t be helping, either, especially as more Romance authors turn to self-publishing.

In its report, Harlequin blamed ebook prices in North America, specifically, “increased discounts being offered on digital sales of other publishers’ bestselling titles.” Outside of North America, “growth in digital revenue was insufficient to offset print declines.” –Digital Book World

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!


  1. Infinitieh
    Mar 07, 2014 @ 04:15:16

    Many years ago, there was a realistically proportioned Barbie-like doll that did not sell. I remember seeing the dolls in the clearance section of ToysRUs. I recall that one of the complaints was that the doll could not wear Barbie’s clothes and parents were reluctant to buy even more doll clothes. Still, I hope this doll succeeds this time around.

  2. Ros
    Mar 07, 2014 @ 04:53:06

    I have made a lot of clothes for Barbie and her shape does NOT make it possible to get clothes on and off with ease. Fitting her waist while still being able to get clothes over her breasts or hips is the hardest thing about designing for the doll. Not to mention the outsize head. A realistically proportioned doll will be much easier to dress.

  3. T.L. Bodine
    Mar 07, 2014 @ 04:54:50

    I watched that John Campbell breakdown unfold, and man, what a mess. I hope he gets some help. It sounds like there’s a lot going on over there.

  4. Ros
    Mar 07, 2014 @ 05:05:12

    I think one of the best things Kickstarter could do would be to limit donations to the initial target (or within, say, 10% of it). The biggest failure stories I’ve seen have all been in cases where the donations have vastly exceeded the initial target and then the project owner hasn’t had the facility to cope with the extra work created.

  5. Ann Rose
    Mar 07, 2014 @ 07:24:32

    While I am certain that e-books and royalties are the main reasons behind Harlequin’s declining revenues, I’ve also noticed that the various lines seem to be disappearing from most bookstores and other venues (drug stores, grocery stores and the like) . I rarely see Superromances (my previous auto-buy line) on any shelf anywhere, and while I know they’re still available in digital form, I’m less likely to seek them out and have turned to other publishers for contemporary romance because they are right there on the shelf (or promoted online in e-book form) when I am in the mood to open my wallet. Visibility, that “grab and go” aspect for small indulgences like romances or magazines or other point-of-sale temptations (as pulps used to be sold in train stations and drug stores for a high-volume, transient audience), is a big key to retaining customers, in my opinion and experience.

  6. Marianne McA
    Mar 07, 2014 @ 07:24:57

    (I’m somehow marginally annoyed that you can’t access the BBC piece from the UK. It just doesn’t feel fair.)
    I am surprised that anyone would term rereading a guilty pleasure – what is there to feel guilty about?

  7. SAO
    Mar 07, 2014 @ 07:46:39

    Harlequin has long been an incubator for women authors. I suspect that the good ones can break out of HQN a lot faster now, and do, leaving Harlequin spending more time developing authors and less time cashing in on their success.

    Barbie’s proportions make it possible for mediocre sewers to make gathered skirts (the easiest sort) for their doll without losing her waist in all the gathers, or worse yet, having so much bulk at the waist that she has a spare tire. I did a lot of sewing for Barbie, who was a lot more satisfying to sew for than Skipper.

  8. Christine
    Mar 07, 2014 @ 09:06:35

    There is a reason Barbie’s waist is so comparatively tiny. When she was designed she was meant to be a fashion doll, used the way young girls played with paper dolls at the time with the multiple outfits. For a doll that size any fabric is comparatively thick and huge, by the time a gathered waist skirt was made and put on her it looked “normal.” Barbie of 1959-1990’s is much “bigger” compared to the Barbies today. She has dramatically shrunk in size.

  9. fairyfreak
    Mar 07, 2014 @ 12:38:57

    I’m always surprised when people tell me they don’t re-read books…it’s just something I’ve always done with books I like and keep.

  10. hapax
    Mar 07, 2014 @ 12:51:06

    @Marianne McA:

    I am surprised that anyone would term rereading a guilty pleasure – what is there to feel guilty about?

    I always feel guilty about re-reading because my TBR pile is so huge. I’m always having to return books to the library without having a chance to read them.

    Heckopete, with all the books stacked up that I’m supposed to review, I feel guilty every time I read a book “just for fun”!

  11. Melissa
    Mar 07, 2014 @ 13:05:01

    I am interested in a number of Harlequin books that I put on my wish list, but I am not paying $5 or more for e-books that are over a year old. Maybe Harlequin can start doing discount sales (short term) or tiered pricing: if first 6 months at X price; after 6 months, lower the price by X amount; after one year from publishing date lower the price to a final X price. Fans of certain authors won’t wait six or more months to read the latest work, and those just discovering Harlequin’s stable of authors get a price break on earlier work.

  12. Jody
    Mar 07, 2014 @ 13:05:13

    Rereading a book gives me the assurance whatever slings and arrows life is currently hurling at me, everything’s OK somewhere; Jane’s got her HEA with Mr. Rochester, Middle Earth is safe, and Holmes has solved the case. Guilty pleasure? More like therapy.

  13. Marianne McA
    Mar 07, 2014 @ 18:30:10

    @hapax – I can’t do TBR (unread books nag at me + I’m not a forward planner in my reading) – so that didn’t occur to me.

    We ought to start a charity for beleaguered reviewers: ‘Your kindness and generosity will help us to care for these hardworking creatures. Just £3.99 a month will allow each reviewer to read a book they might actually enjoy.’
    (Seriously, I’m sort of horrified that reviewers might not get to read books for fun any more. I feel like I’ve been taking you all for granted.)

  14. Kaetrin
    Mar 07, 2014 @ 23:59:24

    @Hapax. I hear you. My TBR is approaching 2000 (it includes some, but not all of my audiobooks) and between that and my review books, I rarely have time to re-read. There are only a few books I like to re-read anyway. I’m easily distracted by the shiny.

  15. Willaful
    Mar 08, 2014 @ 02:03:03

    Not feeling able to reread is really the dark side of reviewing. I try to take regular sanity breaks and just read whatever I want, but get easily sucked back into the madness.

  16. Laura Jardine
    Mar 08, 2014 @ 08:43:17

    I used to re-read all the time as a child. Favorites included Anne of Green Gables, Emily of New Moon, Ballet Shoes, and various Gordon Korman books. Actually, I used to re-read more often than I would tackle new books, sometimes re-reading the whole thing, sometimes just my favorite chapters. I found it comforting to open a book and know that I would like it. Trying a new book seemed like too much of a risk most of the time.

    I don’t re-read anymore because there are just so many books out there I want to try. In fact, I have never re-read a romance. However, I have been contemplating taking 2-3 months and re-reading all my favorite romances. That sounds like a lot of fun, and I doubt I would feel guilty about it.

  17. Kathryn Flaherty
    Mar 08, 2014 @ 21:51:24

    Maybe HQN’s sales have declined because people can’t buy their books. I had an account with the Ebook store to buy titles I couldn’t get in Australia, now I can’t buy anything from them. I have to buy from the Australian Mills and Boon site which has a dismal amount of each months titles and doesn’t even carry all the lines. I buy the odd print book that takes my fancy but I no longer follow certain authors or lines because I can’t always get the next book.

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