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

Tuesday Midday Links: PW Gets a Romance Section

Publishers WeeklyPublishers Weekly is one of the more democratic mainstream review publications and has been reviewing romance for quite some time. PW has decided to eliminate the mass market review section and replace it with dedicated genre sections. Romance will have its very own space edited by Rose Fox, a journalist who reads and appreciates romance. This means that all romance will be reviewed together regardless of format (hardcover, trade or paper – no ebooks yet) and topic (paranormal next to historical next to inspirational next to African American etc). Along with the romance books will be question and answer sections devoted to romance genre related topics. I asked Rose a few questions about the upcoming feature:

1) What will you consider romance (ie. differentiating between UF / Paranormal, etc)

For the titles where it’s not obvious, I’ll decide case by case based on the input of the book’s publisher and my fellow editors.

2) Will you be doing category review?

I’m open to submissions of romance novels of any kind, though of course we can’t review everything. I would especially love to see more submissions from independent presses (though no self-published books, please) and more titles featuring people who aren’t straight white well-off Anglophones. I feel very strongly that the romance section should reflect the diversity of romances and romance readers. When in doubt, any publisher who wants to know whether or how to submit romance titles for review consideration is welcome to look through our submission guidelines [http://publishersweekly.com/pw/corp/submissionguidelines.html] and then email me if they still have questions.

3) Will you be having editorial features besides reviews in the romance section?

Yes, we’ll continue to feature noteworthy romance titles in our Pick of the Week and signature reviews, and noteworthy romance authors in profiles and Q&As. Romance publishers should feel free to send me pitches for any of those (no guarantees, of course).

4) Will there be these distinct sections for all genres?

In addition to our main fiction section, there’s already a mystery reviews section (edited by Peter Cannon) and an SF/fantasy/horror reviews section (edited by yours truly), and those will continue to run as they have.

5) Will this still be oriented to the trade or do you want to reach consumers who might subscribe to RT?

PW is still absolutely a trade publication, though of course anyone who wants to subscribe is welcome to!

I think this is fantastic of Publishers’ Weekly and I can’t wait to see the new and revamped magazine.

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Profits are up at most publishing houses. What a difference a year makes, right? Because of bestsellers like Stieg Larsson’s series and Sarah Palin’s book, Random House and HarperCollins both saw increases in sales and revenue. Simon & Schuster, which lacks a big powerhouse hit, saw a better return given that it decreased its operating costs. Penguin has had the most success because of consistent hits like The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Charlaine Harris. Ebooks accounted for 8% of adult trade titles by the end of June.

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HarperCollins is rebranding its Science Fiction/Fantasy imprint to reflect a worldwide imprint comprised of EOS and the UK/Australia/New Zealand line called Voyager. The new global imprint will be called HarperCollins Voyager. I hope that this means that HC Voyager will be buying world digital rights and releasing digital copies simultaneously in e-format.

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In a disturbing update on digital media ownership, the 9th Circuit has appeared to rule that digital downloads via the iTunes store are merely licensed and not sold. This would mean that you aren’t truly in ownership of the songs and other digital media purchased through the iTunes store and at other vendors with similar contractual language.

But in reviewing a decision in a suit brought against Universal Music Group by producers affiliated with rapper Eminem, a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held that iTunes downloads (even the DRM-free variety) are encumbered by enough restrictions that they can't be considered sales at all.

If I don’t own my digital products, then I either expect the price to drop dramatically or I will have to go back to buying paper books and converting them, by hand, into digital copies.

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If you have a little time and interest in critical examination of romance, I would urge you to take a read (or two) at the discussion prompted by a blog post of Katharine Beutner. Beutner is a graduate student and author of the critically acclaimed Alcestis. According to her blog post, Beutner has taught a course on romance book narratives largely based on the traditional regency romance (I believe that is what is to be gleaned from the comments).

Beutner presents a traditional romance narrative structure based upon Janice Radway’s conclusions of what an ideal romance is beginning with the building block of “the heroine’s social identity is destroyed.” The comments contain a dizzying number of articulate replies from individuals like our own Robin (aka Janet), Jessica of ReadReactReview.com, Carolyn Jewel, Eric Selinger and Laura Vivanco from Teach Me Tonight, and author Jeannie Lin.

Two things struck me as I read this. First, the having academics who love and study romance is going to do a lot for increasing the respect given to the genre. Second, the open exchange of ideas and information that took place in that thread was remarkable. I give Beutner a lot of credit for being open minded and taking criticism of her off the cuff blog post with graciousness.

I hope if you have a moment, you’ll take the time to read it.
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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

18 Comments

  1. Exciting Changes on the PW Reviews Pages! « Genreville
    Sep 07, 2010 @ 13:07:18

    [...] to interview me about the new section, so if you have questions, they might be answered there. Take a look! And many thanks to my fellow PW blogger Barbara Vey for her kind words over at Beyond Her [...]

  2. Karenmc
    Sep 07, 2010 @ 13:34:05

    Interesting. It seems that PW is going in a good direction, unless the law of unintended consequences is lurking somewhere.

    I skimmed through the comments at Katherine Buetner’s blog. Heady stuff. I appreciate getting my brain all in a knot trying to follow discussions such as this.

    Since 1988 I’ve used Apple computers at work and had Apple products at home. For some reason, though, I’ve never purchased music from iTunes. I’ve continued to buy cd's and now it looks like I still own all the music I thought I bought : )

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  3. Mireya
    Sep 07, 2010 @ 13:48:14

    I never bought anything at iTunes, I went Rhapsody, and what I download is “rental” meaning the second I stop paying my sub, the tracks will be gone. I am fine with that, however, with actual digital purchases, that decision is a HUGE hit. What the hell, I am paying full price for a book and that single compy will not be considered legally my property… I bet the big publishers are doing an effin’ jig right now.

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  4. Claudia
    Sep 07, 2010 @ 14:30:19

    It definitely pays to read the fine print when it comes to digital media. I was so used to amazon’s infinite downloads (if unbox licenses were properly used/released) that I was shocked to have to have to appeal to Apple to redownload all the stuff I lost when the external hd devoted to Itunes died days before buying a bigger exthd for backup. An even then I lost everything that had changed via updating or removal fromthe store since my original “purchase.”

    So desepite having rebought my musica collection while my cds were in storage, I’m now holding onto cds I was going to donate and have returned to buying DVDs instead of downloads. At already half a terrabyte of Itunes content, I feel like I’ll be juggling externals hd to provide backups of backups of backups in perpetuity. Might as well just buy discs and learn how to convert shows and movies for mobility.

    Even before the hd crash, that ebook distributor/format fight and loss of some books at FW taught me about rentals vs. ownership early on. It obviously didn’t teach me enough, but I finally learned my lesson :)

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  5. lucy
    Sep 07, 2010 @ 15:10:01

    Then if we don’t legally own digital media content, I can see pirating going up.

    I’m really happy that publisher’s profit have gone up, because it means book publishing is not dying like some people say. But at the same time I’m a bit angry because they are being greedy by charging us full price on something we might not really own. Therefore they are making money by screwing us.

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  6. Sunita
    Sep 07, 2010 @ 15:29:47

    Jane, have you had a chance to make sense of the decision yet? I’ve only read it once, and of course my knowledge is pretty limited on this, but it struck me that the WSJ account elided a couple of important distinctions. First, the licensing issue refers to the relationship between the copyright holder and the 2nd party, not the buyer (unless I missed something). Second, I wonder if ebooks will be treated the same way, since the decision explicitly talks about payments based on volume of download (whereas ebook patyments are constant per unit, right?).

    I can’t believe every bench, let alone every circuit, is going to agree with this ruling, which should give us a fine mess until the SC decides to get involved.

    I wonder how Amazon is reading this, given their tendency to yank books through whispernet has treated Kindle ebooks like a licensing rather than an ownership arrangement with buyers. If the license aspect extends to buyers, then I think they had better figure out a way to make Kindle owners feel that licensing is equal in value to buying.

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  7. MaryK
    Sep 07, 2010 @ 15:39:06

    Did they give reasons for including DRM-free downloads?

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  8. Honeywell
    Sep 07, 2010 @ 16:06:58

    I’m so sick of this nonsense. It’s bad enough I need to strip the DRM off of everything I buy to protect my digital library now to make sure I can still read it next year no matter what ereader I’m using or if the seller is still in business. It might not be legal to strip the DRM off of my files but to my way of thinking I PAID for these books so they’re MINE. Now you’re telling me they’re not?

    Buying at full price and not owning the freakin’ books on top of the DRM and no re-sale rights? Reading and deleting sounds like a better deal to me. It’s the same difference except I won’t be the one being screwed. Or maybe I’ll just get more out use out of my WoW subscription. Idiots.

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  9. Sunita
    Sep 07, 2010 @ 16:12:50

    @MaryK: Again, I am not a lawyer, but the DRM-nonDRM distinction didn’t seem to come up.

    For readers who want to wade through the legalese themselves, here’s the decision

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  10. Lynn S.
    Sep 07, 2010 @ 21:24:31

    All the recent court decisions keep increasing my leeriness of DRM. It's scary to think you're paying the same price as a hard copy and apparently have no rights of your own towards your purchase. Not to even get started on how a digital version of a book should be more for a hardback than a mass market. It's the same download, right? And nowadays books are almost exclusively produced through word processing software on computers, right?

    When you mention converting are you talking about scanning and converting with a software program? I probably shouldn't admit this but I've actually typed up some of my favorite short stories in RTF and then converted them to EPUB through calibre. I really enjoy typing and the stories look so nice when I load them onto my pretty Sony Pocket Edition reader.

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  11. Jane
    Sep 08, 2010 @ 05:49:23

    @Sunita I have not read it. Obviously one circuit court does not “law of the land” make but I’ve always viewed the 9th Circuit as more … not sure where I am going. After all, I think another restrictive copyright decision came out of the 9th Cir about four or five months ago. You could be right that the terms are different between the copyright holder and the 2nd party but I thought that the decision was based on the Apple TOS between Apple and the consumer.

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  12. Sunita
    Sep 08, 2010 @ 09:36:10

    @Jane: I am just trying to be optimistic. Because even if it is not between Apple and the buyer, any time they start to talk about licensing in relation to purchased material, a la software, we are down the road to being majorly screwed.

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  13. Kate
    Sep 08, 2010 @ 10:14:06

    About time there are a lot of great romance novels, like Soul Mate< by Ronald Lewis Weaver, that just need someone to give them a shot.

    ReplyReply

  14. Mireya
    Sep 08, 2010 @ 11:34:55

    I am so fed up with people using the romance tag to sell books.

    ReplyReply

  15. Mireya
    Sep 09, 2010 @ 07:29:56

    P.S. *points to the comment right on top of hers* in case anyone is wondering.

    ReplyReply

  16. Estara
    Sep 09, 2010 @ 08:08:43

    @Mireya: Those are spam bots anyway, the only thing is to delete them and ban the IP.

    Re: License versus Ownership – it pays to read the ToS of the various vendors, because some of the smaller ones (that admittedly don’t have the selection the bigger ones have) do sell you the digital file and not just a license to use it (at least in Germany they do).

    That’s why I haven’t downloaded anything off Amazon.de ever ^^ (never mind itunes), and even software I buy directly from the producer (although they also sell my a license – they usually don’t have the terms of being able to wipe the programme off your pc – in Germany they’d get problems with privacy rights).

    But all in all I totally agree that it seems to become more and more a mess of curtailed rights, the further and more convenient technology becomes.

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  17. MaryK
    Sep 09, 2010 @ 13:44:09

    Yeah, looks like my bank account continues to be safe from the HQN Categories. I’ve been toying with the idea of Kindling them if I could figure out how to strip them for backup, but if they turn out to be licensed files rather than bought files I’m guessing it’d be some kind of violation. In that scenario, it would totally suck if publishing went all electronic.

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    Sep 10, 2010 @ 07:39:36

    [...] linkity posts from Dear Author, Smart Bitches, and [...]

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