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

Monday Midday Links: New survey suggest BN may bring back online...

So many interesting things out there on the internet today. First up we have a new blog by Stephanie Laurens in which she reaches out to the community of authors about her trepidation and excitement about the future of publishing. This definitely looks like an authorial community and I’ve got some thoughts about the topics she has brought up, but I won’t comment over there for fear of stifling the discussion, which, I think is fascinating. I hope that it isn’t taken private, as one commenter suggested, and the reason why is that I think these are voices that all in the publishing community needs to hear and I know readers will be heartened by Lauren’s comments that geographic restrictions don’t make much sense in today’s market.

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Phillip Downer, a retail consultant and former Borders exec, wrote a short piece on the downfall of Borders.   It really isn’t digital books but a series of mistakes in management (which does not bode well for the future of Borders as the management isn’t significantly different now).

Publishers’ Weekly wrote about the trickle down affect of the Borders’ downsizing.

The trickle-down impact will affect everyone from manufacturers to agents. Borders accounted for about 8% of overall industry sales, a higher percentage in some categories. A downsized Borders means publishers are likely to receive smaller orders and in turn place smaller first printings, resulting in less business for printers. The likelihood of lower print sales, one publisher said, means that books acquired one or two years ago when Borders was much bigger will have a more difficult time earning the advance back and that less shelf space could mean lower advances.

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I got into it with a self pubbed author on Twitter. I know right? Who among you isn’t surprised? Actually, I was trying to avoid confrontation with everyone after having this epiphany about a new spirit of cooperation at Tools of Change but I couldn’t keep my mouth shut.   I didn’t come to blows, but had strong disagreement with her statement (although apparently reading through her tweet stream, I possibly made her cry? Now don’t everyone get on twitter and attack her. She is entitled to her own opinions even if we strongly disagree with them).   Her statement:

Zoe_E_W: @angelajames the editors need too much upfront, and it makes every book into a huge financial risk.

and my reply:

@angelajames @Zoe_E_W we generally won’t review a selfpubbed book @dearauthor unless it is edited. We believe in the need 4 editors.

We do. We get queried by self published authors all day long and my response is always, “is this book professionally edited” and maybe 1 in 100 queries (if that) will respond in the affirmative. Self publishing doesn’t mean that you can skip all the steps in the publication process. It means, rather, than you eliminate middlemen in the supply chain and do it yourself.   You are your own general contractor.   Readers deserve and want self published books that are on par with what is put out by publishing houses.   I don’t think that self publishing authors want readers to equate their work with terms like “homemade” or “subpar”.

There are costs to publishing books and when you go through a publisher, digital first or print, those costs are absorbed for the author in exchange for part of the author’s profit.   I don’t mean to make anyone cry about this but I believe editing is an important part of ensuring quality.

Courtney Milan pointed me to this blog post by Amanda Hocking who points out self publishing is hard; likely harder than traditional publishing.

There are no tricks or schemes with self-publishing. It’s just about writing a good book, polishing it really well, getting a good cover, pricing it right, and putting it out there. There are no short cuts. If you want to be successful at this, you have to do the work.

I fully support self publishing, subsidy publishing (which is, in my vernacular, payment to someone else to help you through the self publishing process), coop publishing, and the like.   But I also believe that editing, copyediting, good cover art is invaluable.   Ms. Whitten did encourage me to look at her covers, as indicia of the quality of her books.

I’m sorry, but you have the impression that I “fire and forget” my ebooks, I guess. You might try looking at some of my book covers.

So I did. Probably Konrath’s biggest problem is that he never talks about the fact that self publishing books can cost an author money with no immediate returns.   As someone else pointed out, the majority of traditionally published books never make any money so why would it be different for self published books?   We can all get behind the idea of wanting quality works, regardless of how published, right?

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On Friday, I blogged about how Barnes & Noble quietly got rid of the online discounting for books for readers with a BN Membership.   Reader Lindsey emailed me screenshots from a survey BN asked her to take, suggesting that discounting may be coming back but that there may be a separate “digital membership.”   Why they would not have something like this in place before discontinuing membership discounts for online book orders doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.   Click for larger images:


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The International Association for the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR) is proud to announce it’s Third Annual International Conference, hosted by the Fales Library and Special Collection of New York University, New York City, 26-28 June, 2011.

Keynote Speaker: Laura Kipnis (Northwestern University), author of Against Love: A Polemic.

Registration is now open.
The full schedule is now available.
Lodging and travel information is now available.

Special student rates are available, as are rates for just one or two days of conference attendance, rather than the full conference fee.

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Apple has decided that everyone who partnered with them in the past should pay them for the privilege of being mentioned in the same sentence or something.   Readability App provides revenue to the content creators when people use its service to read things later.   Apple’s new policy requiring an in app subscription at 30% revenue share basically means no money for Readability.   Readability submitted an update for the app without the in app subscription and now Apple has rejected them.   There are two sides to this and it’s pretty well represented in the comments.   One side is Apple doesn’t have to provide you with the most optimal business model and that it is forcing apps to provide the optimal in app experience.   The other side is that Apple has a stranglehold on the mobile market and that it is unfairly using its power to force unreasonable concessions.   This other side is causing the Department of Justice and the FTC to look at Apple’s current practices. I don’t have anything concrete but I wonder if this move by Apple will result in the death of Agency pricing.

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Finally, the review by RedHeadedGirl at Smart Bitches today of Virgina Henley’s Seduced makes me want to do a re-read.   I seriously had forgotten the “CHOKED BY LEECHES” scene.

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

23 Comments

  1. Ridley
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 13:16:27

    I don’t understand Apple’s popularity as some sort of “indie” brand. They’re more The Man than Microsoft ever was in its heyday.

    Glad I use an Android phone. I only hope that the iPhone switchers with Verizon are not a numerous as predicted. iOS and Apple are dreadfully consumer unfriendly. I’d hate to see Android dead before it gets going.

  2. Louise
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 13:25:01

    I really enjoy reading Dear Author for the reviews, the industry snippets and especially the helpful information about e-readers, but did you really need to brag about how you made some e-pubbed author cry?

  3. Jane
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 13:31:30

    @Louise If that is how it came off, then I apologize. I certainly wasn’t bragging, more chagrined that my challenge of her claim that editing was something she just couldn’t afford in the publishing ruined her day. Pointing it out so that other’s who might read her tweetstream would know that I was aware of her unhappiness.

  4. Ridley
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 13:33:09

    @Louise: You honestly saw that comment as bragging about making someone cry? Really?

  5. Moriah Jovan
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 13:33:48

    …but did you really need to brag about how you made some e-pubbed author cry?

    You know, I saw that conversation and while I have my own thoughts about it, I don’t think Jane was bragging. The conversation itself was about the cost of editing and profitability, which then morphed into the idea that you can make a livable income by self-publishing. A few people can. Most can’t.

    As for the subject at hand, it’s hard enough to simply BE a “self-published author.” I didn’t want to hang my unedited ass out there for the world to see, and even then, though my first book was heavily edited, it didn’t have enough. Just one of those mistakes you make and learn from. My second book was (if I may say so) damn near technically perfect, and it consistently gets lower marks than the first one. I don’t even begin to know how to parse that.

    There are a few loud midlist authors out there who have books under their beds they want to put out, and they do think (and have publicly advocated) that editors are extraneous as long as you have good beta readers and critique partners. I call bullshit. You are never, ever so good or so popular that you don’t need an editor. I have a real problem with that advice and that previously traditionally published authors are giving it! Oy!

    The first rule of self-publishing is to get an editor.

  6. LG
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 13:37:05

    As far as the Whitten stuff goes, I took a look at some of her tweets. “So, if the books sell at a trickle and only afford me the income to buy covers, how do I afford or justify the editor?” and “And the result is, I no longer have a print editor because I can’t keep taking on debts when my sales are only a trickle.” were some interesting ones for me.

    As far as I’m concerned, books are about the whole package. A cover can draw a reader in (I hope Whitten doesn’t think that the cover you linked to is one of her better covers), but that doesn’t matter if you’re writing inspires your readers to bring out their mental editor. Forgiving readers might be able to recognize the gems under the muck that an editor could have helped clear out, but that muck could very well prompt other reader never to touch your works again. Also, with so many book bloggers around now, it’s quite possible that those bad experiences will be passed on to readers who’ve never touched your works.

    Self-publishing costs. Skimping on things like editors might help in the short run, but it’s not good for an author’s career in the long run.

  7. LG
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 13:42:31

    “you’re writing” = “your writing”

    My typos pain me.

  8. Laura
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 14:52:17

    I’m glad BN shows some evidence of listening to consumers. I feel more and more as though the big stores don’t want my business anymore. Borders lost me years ago, when they cut drastically down on the amount of stock they carried and rearranged “my” store, making it very difficult to just browse.

    Now, BN literally blocks the entrance to the store with a large Nook kiosk, surrended my Nook accessories. It’s like battling past the perfume saleswomen at Nordstrom. Every time they try to sell me the Nook, I ask if the member discount works on ebooks, and until they tell me yes I won’t even look at the damn thing.

    I’d love to do more business at our big independant bookstore, but despite the store’s size, romance gets shorted on space.

    It’s crazymaking, because browsing used to be my favorite way to find new authors. Now I rely almost entirely on the internet to discover new voices.

    Probably way off topic for the day, but thank you for letting me vent. ARG!

  9. Sylvia Sybil
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 15:19:02

    Damn, reading the title got my hopes up, but alas. Judging from those screenshots, B&N is not bringing back the everyday 10% discount for online purchases of physical books, but instead adding in a totally different discount for ebooks.

    “BN.com: 1-3 day free shipping” That’s it, just the free shipping which was a component of both the old and the current Memberships.

    I think it’s great that they might be adapting a bit more to the digital market and hopefully digital readers will get some nice discounts out of this. But as someone who orders print books online, this new plan doesn’t do squat for me personally. And it’s not bringing anything “back”.

  10. FiaQ
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 15:21:16

    Thank you for the heads up on Stephanie Laurens’s blog. Her post and all respondents’ comments make a great read. It’s also made me sympathetic and optimistic that it’d work out best for authors soon and somehow. Thanks.

  11. Kerry Allen
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 16:42:47

    I agree it’s crucial to have someone other than writing buddies who tell you every word you write is magical (so you’ll do the same for them and everybody can feel good about themselves) take a critical editorial hand to every manuscript an author expects readers to pay more than spare change for, but I’ve read no shortage of traditionally published books full of typos, continuity errors, and gaps in logic you could fly a 747 through, so all editing—even professional—is not created equal. There are also authors who have the right kind of unpaid editorial support (brutal and unforgiving) and those whom no amount of editing will make readable.

    Whatever one’s editorial situation, there is no point getting bent out of shape if you don’t meet a reviewer’s eligibility requirements. The minute you decide to self-publish, certain doors slam in your face, and anyone who expresses surprise upon discovering this didn’t research their business plan at all.

  12. Sandra
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 18:08:23

    So, I give B&N $25 and then they’ll give me a $10 discount on a nook? That means that $250 nook Color now costs me $265. That’s a great deal if you’re B&N. While 40% off on select e-books sounds good in theory, it really depends on the selection. It doesn’t do me any good if it’s not something I want to read.

    They’re already discounting paper purchases online to all buyers, and the only remaining benefit to the existing membership is the free shipping. It sounds as if they’re trying to reposition the membership to pick up e-readers, but they’re going to have to do better to get me to re-up.

  13. Sylvia Sybil
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 22:36:42

    @Sandra: Actually, they took away the online discount for paper purchases recently. Now you only get a discount on physical books if you are in a physical store.

  14. library addict
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 23:31:17

    I don’t understand the Apple-is-better-than-sliced-bread attitude either, but not getting my hopes up that Agency pricing goes away so easily. Isn’t the iPad the main reason we have it to begin with?

    Don’t get me wrong, I want it to go away, just not holding my breath.

  15. Kaetrin
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 00:31:04

    Death to Agency pricing!!

  16. Sandra
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 07:37:01

    @Sylvia Sybil: Actually, they took away the online discount for paper purchases recently. Now you only get a discount on physical books if you are in a physical store.

    They didn’t take it away entirely. Small discounts (1 – 2%) are still listed on many books, to ALL purchasers, not just members. I buy several books at a time, so I never had a problem meeting the $25 free shipping minimum. It was the discount that caused me to renew every year.

    With the discount reduced and now made available across the board, there’s no impetus for me to keep my membership. The nearest physical B&N is far enough away that it’s not cost effective to take advantage of in-store discounts, and I rarely buy hardbacks so that discount’s useless to me as well.

  17. SandyW
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 09:37:29

    Barnes and Noble just saved me $25. My membership is up for renewal at the end of the month. Our local B&N store is 25 miles away; their abysmal selection of romance, SF, and manga makes it not worth the drive. The online discounts were pretty good, but now it will be much easier to order $25 of books at a time for the free shipping and handling.

  18. Lada
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 10:52:03

    B&N is once again proving how clueless they think their customers are. If I’ve invested in their proprietary device, the nook, why on earth would I care about 40% off of hardcovers or 10% off MMP? Why even refer to it as a “digital” membership? Given their track record so far, I have zero interest in paying $25 for the priviledge of a discount on ebooks of their choice. What a joke.

  19. Sheryl Nantus
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 13:10:51

    “Probably Konrath's biggest problem is that he never talks about the fact that self publishing books can cost an author money with no immediate returns.”

    This.

    I’m constantly amazed at the amount of money going everywhere BUT to the author due to the self-pub boom. Buy an editor, buy good cover art, buy the formatting… but that’s a lot of money going OUT to people who may or may not be qualified to produce a good product.

    I know the mantra is “you need to spend money to make money” but I wonder if a lot of authors aren’t being taken by scammers now hiding behind these labels who just take the money and run.

    I don’t expect to see Konrath do a blog post on anything like that soon. It’d be too depressing for his rabid followers to acknowledge anything less than total success for everyone, everywhere who dips into self-pubbing.

  20. Nadia Lee
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 22:29:42

    @Sheryl Nantus:

    Buy an editor, buy good cover art, buy the formatting… but that's a lot of money going OUT to people who may or may not be qualified to produce a good product.

    I know the mantra is “you need to spend money to make money” but I wonder if a lot of authors aren't being taken by scammers now hiding behind these labels who just take the money and run.

    It’s not just self-pubbing. You see unqualified people running epubs. (And scam artists disguised as agents…) You have to do your homework no matter which publishing path(s) you choose.

  21. Sylvia Sybil
    Feb 23, 2011 @ 17:19:45

    @Sandra:

    It sounds like we are in agreement. =)

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