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

Monday Midday News: Unhappy Author Goes Viral

I didn’t intend to post this link but I had multiple send this to my inbox and tweet the link to me.   As a result of this post is that the author’s name and books are viral. It’s a smart marketing strategy for her self published books but probably places any future publisher contracts in jeopardy.  Multi published literary fiction author posted a diatribe against her publisher.  The author relates the following story.

  • She signed a contract for a book that included a $20,000 advance in 2010.  She says that she was “coerced” into the contract because she was poor and had bills to pay.
  • She then awoke to the possibilities that self publishing might garner her some money.  She self publishes some shorts as a collection.
  • Her editor then calls her and suggests that those self published shorts may harm future sales. Words are exchanged. The author says that her editor screamed at her and accuses her of consorting with the enemy called Amazon.
  • She refuses to take down the collection of shorts.
  • Publisher sends a letter terminating the contract and requesting the advance back, accusing the author of breach.
  • The author made mention of a lawyer.

Ordinarily shorts are not part of a non compete clause so what I can glean from this is that the author’s agent didn’t negotiate for a narrow non compete or the publisher is totally wrong and in that case, the agent and author should be telling the publisher to take a giant flying leap.  If the author is not in breach, she should be able to continue to self publish.  If she is not in breach, it is not likely the contract can be terminated.   If the author does have a lawyer and a competent agent then it is not likely that the author’s book or writing career is held “hostage”.

Both of the previous publishing houses for the author have bought self published authors and currently publish authors who are self publishing. The current publishing house, with whom she has the dispute, is unknown.  If her claim that the editor editor was afraid that the self published short stories were going to harm future sales is true the editor is very unaware of the current market (which is possible) .

Lit fic authors are late to the digital publishing arena.  For a long time, they’ve looked down on digital publishing but  with advances contracting, even lit fic authors are turning to self publishing and perhaps regretting the past contracts they’ve signed.  (I wrote on literary fiction authors and digital publishing in 2008 and 2009).

Author contracts are very one sided, weighted heavily in favor of the publisher, but authors sign these contracts of their own free will.  The best thing about this new market is that authors have a ton of choices.  The challenge for authors in this new market is that with increased power comes increased responsibility and risk.  It means foregoing an advance to have more control. It means taking charge of one’s product. No longer will an author be able to say that she has no control over the back cover copy, or the content of her book, or the cover, or the price.  For some authors, this is something that they excel at.  For others, some kind of publishing entity is necessary.

*****

Print sales are down, dramatically, according to the AAP.  (If you are getting whiplash from the industry sales reports, you are not alone. After all, just last month Bookstats.org, of which AAP is a member, announced that there was revenue growth so take all these numbers with a grain of salt.)

  • Adult hardcovers – down 24.4%
  • Adult paperbacks – down 63.8%
  • Mass markets – down 21.6%
  • Ebooks – up 167.1%

Ebook sales are at 22% of trade book revenue.  (Trade books are fiction books including genre fiction)

*****

Speaking of confusing and inflated numbers, I understand that the RWR, a publication of RWA, is touting over a billion dollars of sales for romances.  In recent years, I’ve been privvy to Bookscan reports and do you know who they include in romance sales statistics?  Nicholas Sparks, Danielle Steele, Emily Giffen, and even One Day by David Nicholls (which is decidedly NOT a romance).  In fact, I would guess that eight of the top ten authors in the “romance” genre aren’t really romance authors at all.  How much of the billion dollar market is made up of Sparks, Steele, et al. and not actual genre romance fiction?  My guess is at least 1/3 if not more.

*****

I’m excited about the new Kindle for Desktop updates that brings copy and paste to Macs and the ability to create collections on your desktop. I wrote about it yesterday.

In other Amazon news, Wall Street Journal reports that Amazon is offering publishers licensing fees in order to allow Amazon to offer subscription access to titles. (Note: I didn’t link to the WSJ article because it is behind a paywall) Amazon already offers free TV and movies (nearly 3,000 titles) to Prime subscribers and WSJ suggests that this subscription access would also be free to Prime subscribers.  I have my doubts about who will actually sign on to Amazon’s library of digital books unless Amazon throws so much money at the publishers that they cannot possibly turn it down.

*****

I found this to be a fairly siesmic announcement.  3M has announced that it is investing in Pixel Qi. Pixel Qi is the company that developed an amazing LCD screen that looks great outside but we haven’t seen a device come to market with that screen yet.  3M has been getting into the library market where there is currently only one competitor, Overdrive.  Everyone thought that Google and Apple would be Amazon’s biggest competitor but in the book arena, 3M has the financial power to compete as well, and the company is making serious moves.  For those not familiar with Minnesota, 3M is located on Innovation Drive in Cottage Grove.  (Disclosure, my dad worked for 3M).

“Pixel Qi’s full-function color screen technology, for the first time, gives consumers an outdoor-readable video display with exceptional battery life, usable anywhere, anytime. It’s a first in the industry. In our collaboration with 3M, we have the ability to accelerate this into mass adoption,” said Mary Lou Jepsen, co-founder and CEO of Pixel Qi.

*****

Dear Author is going to participate in a scavenger hunt in concert with other bloggers for the book New York to Dallas.  You can read a little more about it here at the facebook page. I think that it will test your knowledge of the J.D. Robb books. They sent me a sample question with a picture:

Q: In SURVIVOR IN DEATH, three members of the Swisher family are killed in their townhouse. Only their daughter Nixie is left alive. What neighborhood is their townhouse in?

 

UWS street sign for promo

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

22 Comments

  1. LoriK
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 12:39:02

    I can’t even fairly process the details of this whole drama because I’m totally stuck on her saying that she was coerced into giving up 75% of the profits on esales because she had bills to pay.

    I mean,girl please. Having bills to pay isn’t coercion, it’s life. Everyone who takes a job and negotiates for a salary feels that her bargaining position is limited by how badly she needs the money. I understand that she wasn’t happy with the contract, but her bills are not the publishers concern or responsibility.

    If she was making a more general statement about the fact that contracts favor publishers I could support that, but instead it seems like Ms Davenport needs to get over herself a bit.

    ReplyReply

  2. library addict
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 12:43:41

    Ooh, a scavenger hunt.

    The 3M announcement is of interest. I remember you posting about the Pixel Qi a few years ago and wanting an ereader with it. But then nothing was released so I eventually bought my Sony 650. But a color screen that can be seen in sunlight like eInk sounds like the best of both worlds.

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  3. Sofia Harper
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 13:17:29

    I came across that post last night. It reminded me of the good ol’ days of reading case after case and doing briefs. I always thought most lawsuits stemmed from lack of communication and ignorance. If she had self-published one book prior to signing the contract were they aware of this book’s exisitence? Did she not know that once she signed the contract that putting out another self-published title would be a no-no?

    Either way it’s turned into a cluster **** now.

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  4. Courtney
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 13:24:11

    My biggest question is where is Davenport’s agent in all this, and was this her first publishing contract that she signed (it sounds like it was). Maybe I read too fast, but if, in fact, she’d self-published the books prior to signing with her publisher, and the contract didn’t cover those books, she and her agent should have pointed that out. However, most pub contracts have clauses in which the publisher has the first option to purchase and publishing any “related works,” i.e. containing the same characters, same worlds, etc. Someone here didn’t do their homework-either the publisher who didn’t know related works were available, or her agent who didn’t explain the contract with the publisher.

    With regards to being “coerced,” because she needed the advance, I’m with LoriK-Woman, please. I’m “coerced” to show up to my job every day because I need an income and benefits. I’m sure many authors have looked back and thought “that wasn’t a good deal for me,” but they make the deals because they need the money and have to live with the consequences.

    Again, I’d like to know the agent’s role in all this, because it sounds that instead of being an advocate, the agent sided with the publisher-which makes me think this whole problem could have been avoided.

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  5. Lil
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 13:28:58

    I can’t help feeling this author’s post is maybe a bit skewed. The publisher wanted her to take down 600,000 Goggle hits? Quite apart from whether the publisher would actually do that, 600,000 hits? Really?

    ReplyReply

  6. Linda Hilton
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 14:19:06

    Re $1 billion in “romance” sales — If I remember correctly, that number has been tossed around for a very long time. I haven’t belonged to RWA since 1998 or so, and I think they were using that figure back then.

    It should be noted, however, that many — and perhaps most — readers (and critics) do consider a lot of books to be romances that purists might not include in the category. There’s a mindset out there that “if it’s a love story, it must be a romance novel.”

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  7. MaryK
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 14:56:33

    @Linda Hilton:

    There’s a mindset out there that “if it’s a love story, it must be a romance novel.”

    That’s not a mindset RWA should encourage since it contradicts RWA’s own official definition of Romance. It’s also not what readers expect or accept when they buy a book with the label “Romance” on the spine.

    Some readers might refer to Gone with the Wind as a Romance but I don’t think they’d be too pleased if the Romance labeled book they bought in the Romance aisle turned out to be GwtW-esque.

    ReplyReply

  8. Moriah Jovan
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 15:10:32

    @Linda Hilton:

    It should be noted, however, that many — and perhaps most — readers (and critics) do consider a lot of books to be romances that purists might not include in the category. There’s a mindset out there that “if it’s a love story, it must be a romance novel.”

    I disagree.

    I do not believe people who read Nicholas Sparks, Danielle Steel, Robert James Waller, Nicholas Evans as a matter of preference would deign to read romance as it’s packaged.

    However, I do believe that if a) the books weren’t packaged the way they are, b) weren’t shelved in the romance section, and c) given some of the best romances and weren’t told it was genre romance, they would like the books on their own merits.

    I know that a couple of the above-named authors (and let’s not forget Gabaldon) hate that they are considered romance novelists.

    ReplyReply

  9. Ros
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 15:18:01

    I’ve read that post and I still have no idea whether that author was in breach of contract or not. I’d bet good money she doesn’t really know either. She needs to read her contract, then get on the phone to her agent, editor and lawyer. She does not need to rant all over the internet. I’d bet that publishing house are just glad to be shot of her.

    ReplyReply

  10. Linda Hilton
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 15:26:01

    @MaryK:

    @ Moriah Jovan

    I’m not saying the love story = romance is correct or accurate. I’m saying that a lot of readers out there still believe this. Not all of them, but a lot. They simply aren’t aware of — and probably don’t much care about — the details of what RWA considers “A Romance Novel.” Danielle Steel is romance to a heckuva lot of people. Steel herself might turn up her nose at the notion, and I’m quite certain a lot of the other authors do, but I’m only talking about how the readers would classify the books.

    And I’m pretty sure — but I could be wrong — that RWA uses (or at least used to use) figures from the industry regarding $$ sales and % of total sales for romance. I don’t know where else they’d get the figures.

    And I do agree that those who read Sparks and Waller and the others as their main choice in fiction probably wouldn’t be caught dead reading “A Romance Novel,” and probably wouldn’t label those books as romances either. But many who DO read romance and ALSO read Sparks, Waller, et Cie. would very likely lump them all together.

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  11. Christine M.
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 20:27:02

    @Moriah Jovan:

    I know that a couple of the above-named authors (and let’s not forget Gabaldon) hate that they are considered romance novelists.

    As in Nicholas Sparks throws a hissy fit every time an interviewer mentions the word ‘romance’ in conjuncture with his novels. It makes me laugh every time.

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  12. Lil
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 21:05:03

    “However, I do believe that if a) the books weren’t packaged the way they are, b) weren’t shelved in the romance section, and c) given some of the best romances and weren’t told it was genre romance, they would like the books on their own merits.”

    My sister, who once upon a time devoured Mary Stewart and who now loves J.D. Robb and Deanna Raybourn (in the mystery section of the library), would never deign to read a romance novel. That’s those tacky books with the embossed covers that they sell in the supermarket, right?

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  13. Lorenda
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 22:38:46

    I have noticed that the Kindle bestseller lists on Amazon constantly include all of the authors mentioned above in the “Romance” top-lists, so RWA isn’t the only one claiming these are romances.

    Not saying they’re right, but that it happens.

    ReplyReply

  14. Brian
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 22:50:51

    I have noticed that the Kindle bestseller lists on Amazon constantly include all of the authors mentioned above in the “Romance” top-lists, so RWA isn’t the only one claiming these are romances.

    The same can be said if you look at B&N’s romance best sellers. Sparks if there. Laurell K. Hamilton is there. Lots of urban fantasy stuff is there. All under Romance.

    ReplyReply

  15. Brian
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 23:29:14

    As in Nicholas Sparks throws a hissy fit every time an interviewer mentions the word ‘romance’ in conjuncture with his novels.

    His publisher lists his books under Romance on their site.

    ReplyReply

  16. belinda davis
    Sep 13, 2011 @ 02:43:57

    I am a new author, Will you PLEASE read my book”MY LITTLE SECRETS” author Belinda Davis,A love story that happen in the south, alot of praying and walk ing by faith and not by sight!To get my book PLEASE go to Barns and Nobles on line.THANK YOU SO MUCH!

    ReplyReply

  17. Anita
    Sep 13, 2011 @ 03:39:07

    Re. Davenport – this is terrible news. I for one ADORE her short stories… each one is a work of art. I hope her novel sees the light of day. I tend to wonder though, what was her agent doing?

    ReplyReply

  18. Christine M.
    Sep 13, 2011 @ 09:09:01

    @Brian: Then he should either suck it up or ask his publisher to change the category he falls under. :)

    ReplyReply

  19. Deb Kinnard
    Sep 13, 2011 @ 17:11:59

    The publisher-versus-author segment of the post? Sorry, but isn’t this what we sign with agents for? My read is that before she signed the contract, this is what the agent should have done: “sorry, your contract precludes your publishing any more short story collections on your own” or, conversely, “no, you can go ahead.”

    If this agent didn’t understand the contract as it read, in plain legalese, s/he’s not worth 15%.

    ReplyReply

  20. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Linkity on the lam
    Sep 16, 2011 @ 02:02:15

    [...] Book and publishing news from Dear Author. [...]

  21. Nonny
    Sep 16, 2011 @ 19:53:03

    @Moriah Jovin:
    However, I do believe that if a) the books weren’t packaged the way they are, b) weren’t shelved in the romance section, and c) given some of the best romances and weren’t told it was genre romance, they would like the books on their own merits.

    I’ve done this. I’ve handed books to people and not told them it was a romance, just raved about the story. In pretty much all cases, they read and loved them. I know several people who are now avid romance readers who wouldn’t have touched them with someone else’s fifty foot pole before. ;)

    ReplyReply

  22. Monday Midday Links: Amazon Questioned About Privacy by Congress - Dear Author
    Oct 17, 2011 @ 10:01:37

    [...] Davenport’s hated publisher is Penguin. ****** Paul Biba posted about Harper Collins’ poor quality digital publication [...]

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