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

Tuesday Morning Links: Real Life Romance

Borders opens its ebook store to the public. It sells epubbed books using the standard epub encryption. Borders ebooks can be read on all devices that read epub. It is fulfilled by Kobo and thus has some backlist title problems which will hopefully be resolved over time. I’m not sure that Borders can gain 17% of the market just by opening its doors when it has missing content.

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Round 2 of Barnes and Noble v. Amazon involves a battle over students. According to one study, over half of college students are going to buy an ereader. Barnes and Noble’s gambit is to offer Nookstudy, a software application to be launched next month. The software application is designed to be a note taking, text book reading application. Amazon is offering free Prime membership for one year to all college students.

Spicing up the competition between the two is the news that Amazon has recently been granted a patent for a dual screen ereading device that is broad enough to cover the nook. There is no word, yet, on what Amazon intends to do with such a device but it has not been shy about enforcing patents in the past. Amazon patented 1-Click shopping experience. Apple licenses this for iTunes and its iPhone/iPad/iTouch. Barnes and Noble tried to implement its own 1 Click experience. Amazon sued BN and was granted a preliminary injunction. An out of court settlement was reached and BN instituted a two click buying process.

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Calvin Reid, writing for PW, notes that agency pricing has achieved publisher’s goals of seizing control over pricing, raising ebook prices, and allowing more merchants in the marketplace. Of interest, it notes that when there is pricing freedom, Amazon Kindle prices are lower:

On the other hand, Stephen King’s Under the Dome is available for $9.99 for the (agency model priced) Kindle edition, but rises to $16.99 on the iBookstore-’so buyer beware and go figure. And pricing can get even stranger. Kensington Publishing offers its books through the agency model for Apple and sticks with the wholesale model for Amazon. The resulting pricing for the iBooks and Kindle editions is much the same-’except when it isn’t. Mary Monroe’s novel, God Ain’t Through Yet, sells for $9.99 for the Kindle and $10.99 in the iBookstore, but L. Devine’s Drama High: Cold as Ice, a popular African-American teen series, is priced at $5.71 on the Kindle (a non-agency model price) and $8.99 in the iBookstore-’Kensington’s genre titles range from $4.99 to $9.99 in the iBookstore.

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Tony Holland, chair of the Society of Authors, spoke at the Romance Novelist’s Association and urged the authors to foment for larger royalties. Holland, among others, wants to see a 50/50 split in ebook royalties. Ironically, Holland uses the same arguments for higher royalties that readers use in arguing that prices of ebooks should be cheaper:

Although publishers “are inclined to dismiss the argument that costs are reduced on ebooks”, Holland said: “Once a system has been set up, publishers won’t be paying for warehousing, distribution and printing, and we have to ask ourselves what are they spending the money on?

Contrast this with Sandra Brown’s statements at Thrillerfest (Via EbookNewser):

“The huge downside is that they didn’t start charging enough, it should be closer to hardcover pricing,” she said. “I almost feel guilty when I download a book from a colleague, because I know how much blood sweat and tears went into that. I would pay more if they charged more.”

I give Sandra Brown an “E” for effort. (Seriously, I am going to start writing E for Effort reviews. No author will be insulted by those, right?) As several others pointed out when this article appeared, “What the fuck is with the comic book comparison” and “does she buy mass market reprints ever?”

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Author Ilona Andrews is giving away free content on Smashwords. What is the content you ask? Outtakes of the books from Curran’s point of view. Fun!

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Barnes and Noble is undergoing a lawsuit brought by investor Ron Burkle. BN voted in a poison pill provision which essentially would dilute Burkle’s interest and make a take over very expensive. Burkle sued, asserting that this was against the company’s best interest. In testimony, a few interesting things came out. Burkle wanted BN to buy Borders.

BN has suffered a 54% stock decline in the past 11 months and some are wondering whether BN’s purchase of founder and Chairman Len Riggio’s college textbook business to the tune of $514 million made sense.

Publishersmarketplace is the only venue that I could find that reported on Len Riggio’s impeachment during the trial. Riggio testified at trial that the poison pill was adopted to protect the company but in a videotaped deposition earlier admitted that the poison pill was to protect his family.

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James Patterson has announced he has sold over 1 million ebook copies. Of course, he has also sold over 205 million print books. It would be interesting to know how many print books he sold during the time period during which he accumulated the 1 million ebook sales.

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Author Tony Woodlief complains about the restrictions of copyright law and how it is economically and creatively inhibiting creators.

The copyright thicket is a growing frustration among writers and editors. One editor of a popular literary anthology (who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals from publishers) confirmed that many publishers pursue illusory short-term profit at the expense of both profit and art. By demanding fees that most people won’t pay, they forsake free advertising for the artists they claim to protect. If restaurants behaved that way, not only would they deny you the right to take home leftovers to your dog, they’d try to charge you for smelling their food when you pass by.

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And finally, a little real life romance story. Iker Casillas is the captain of Real Madrid the Spanish team and the goalkeeper. In the first match of the WorldCup, Real Madrid Spain lost to Switzerland and Casillas was blamed. Some accused Casillas of being distracted by the sideline reporter, Sara Carbonero, who happens to be Casillas’ girlfriend. Spain wanted Carbonero gone.

Many fans have been angered by her presence in South Africa, fearing it could prove a distraction for the goalkeeper and prove a destabilising influence within the squad. Carbonero was asked by her own TV station, Telecinco, about her influence. “Can I destabilise the team?” she said. “I think it is nonsense.”

Casillas went on to make two crucial saves in the final World Cup match and helped bring home to Spain their first World Cup trophy. In a post game interview with reporter Carbonero, Casillas gets emotional and then, well, you really need to watch it:

Life. You can’t script it better than this.

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

61 Comments

  1. Laura Vivanco
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 04:54:22

    And finally, a little real life romance story. Iker Casillas is the captain of Real Madrid and the goalkeeper. In the first match of the WorldCup, Real Madrid lost to Switzerland and Casillas was blamed.

    Casillas is the captain and goalkeeper of the Spanish team. It was Spain who lost to Switzerland in their first match. Casillas is also a goalkeeper at Real Madrid (and I think he’s their vice-captain), but Real Madrid aren’t the Spanish national football team, so they weren’t at the World Cup.

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  2. Janet P.
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 05:55:07

    I guess Sandra Brown might have a point if higher book prices equated to more money to the author. They don’t however. It simply discourages readers from buying and gives more money to all the middlemen(women) in between the author and the reader.

    I hate watching soccer but there were definitely some very attractive men out there. Any Romance novelists writing Soccer love stories these days? LOL

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  3. Stephanie
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 06:04:42

    Thanks for sharing the clip–definitely an “Aww” moment in real life. Loved it!

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    Jul 13, 2010 @ 06:12:29

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  5. Jane
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 06:22:59

    @Laura Vivanco Thanks. I will make the change.

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  6. Jorrie Spencer
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 06:25:43

    Aw is right. Casillas did an amazing job in the final and was immediately overcome once the game was over. I’d forgotten the whole girlfriend fuss at the beginning of the World Cup.

    Every World Cup I think about writing a soccer romance, but that’s about as far as it gets.

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  7. Jen X
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 06:45:06

    Re: Casillas

    That was so sweet! He spoke volumes with that emotional kiss. *awwww*

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  8. Kim in Hawaii
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 08:18:50

    Jane, please remember that “E for effort” was an opinion expressed by one author at a panel discussion. The panel discussion would have been very dull if everyone thought the same thing. In fact, life would be dull if all romance writers wrote the same book.

    The moderator specifically asked the panel and audience for their opinion on a blogger’s self imposed rule of not writing a review for a book that she did not like. Subsequently, the panel and the audience offered their opinions. There are no right and wrong answers. I believe romance readers are smart enough to discern for themselves that diverse opinions only makes us a stronger group.

    During the panel discussion about blogging, you and Sarah Wendell stated that there was enough room on the internet more romance readers to share their passion (and opinion) of books. In fact, you encourage more participation because “romance has been vilified.” How about we not vilify authors, bloggers, and readers for their opinions?

    As far as I am concerned, an F rating is F for Freedom of Speech. I am grateful that we live in a democracy where a wide range of books can be published. As Sue Grimshaw noted, “There is a book for everyone.” Likewise, I believe there is a reader for every book.

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  9. Castiron
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 08:24:50

    Actually, a tiered royalty structure (smaller royalty on the first N copies, larger royalty from N+1 to M, still bigger royalty for M+1 up) makes even more sense for ebooks than it does with pbooks. The publisher can recoup their initial production costs early on, and as the book sells enough copies for the production costs to average out to a tiny number, the author can receive a bigger share of the sales.

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  10. Jane
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 08:26:45

    @Kim in Hawaii Actually the E for Effort opinion was echoed by more than one panelist, along with reviewers and members of the audience including the daughter in law of one of the panelists.

    Participation isn’t to never comment. Further, I am not villifying authors, bloggers or readers. I am commenting on the opinion itself. I believe that giving E for Effort is patronizing to the author and does a disservice to the genre. It’s the “e” for effort mentality that makes it so easy for the genre itself to be vilified by the mainstream. If we can’t hold our own up to a critical light why would we expect anyone else to take this seriously?

    Criticism is not vilification and to say that it is, I believe, is an attempt to suppress criticism.

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  11. Kim in Hawaii
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 09:09:39

    Thanks, Jane, for your clarification. I thought it was an engaging panel discussion – I certainly learned something from it and it even opened my mind. I am just saddened that some bloggers, who didn’t even attend the session, are mocking some of the opinions that have been reported on the internet. I did not agree with everything that was said but I appreciate the thought put into what was said. You and Sarah were notably quiet during the discussion – I believe that your contributions would have been welcomed, appreciated, and thought provoking.

    Perhaps I should have been clear myself. As we learned at the panel, constructive criticism can be effective and is welcomed by the authors. But the ridicule of opinions – and an author – just disturbs me.

    Regarding the comment, I see you point that an E for Effort could be patronizing. So perhaps those reviewers who can only muster an E should not post a review at all (as some reviewers choose not to post a review for a book that they did not enjoy). I also see your point that we should be free to offer criticism of opinions – but let that criticism contribute to a greater understanding within the reading community.

    I regret that time did not allow us the opportunity to sit down and have a cup of coffee, as I would like to get to know you better. From what I hear from other blogges, your passion for romance is inspiring. Again, I appreciate the panel that you, Sarah, Sue, and Elizabeth hosted for bloggers, as you revealed some of that passion.

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  12. Jane
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 09:19:48

    @Kim in Hawaii Likewise, I think the support of panels that people didn’t attend is ludicrous like Lori Foster’s comments at the Smart Bitches blog.

    But to get to your point. You use alot of descriptive words with no definition. I.e., what is constructive criticism and to whom are we being constructive? In other words, I don’t believe reviews are for authors so the criticism we provide isn’t for the author but to allow the reader to judge for herself whether that book is going to work for her. In that context, constructive criticism can have very different meanings.

    Mocking? Am I mocking Sandra Brown’s opinion? Absolutely. It’s a ridiculous opinion that she thinks we should pay more for ebooks simply because of the effort authors put into the stories. Will I mock the books written by authors? Absolutely again. I think stories that contain ridiculous storylines like the USB nipple story or others are so outrageous as to necessitate ridicule. In other words, I don’t think stories are so precious that they don’t deserve to be made fun of. Will I mock an author herself? No. Will I mock another blogger? No. But the stories, the books, those are free game. I am doing my utmost to treat the book separate from the author which is why I would never say in a review something like “the author’s work is so bitter than I can’t help but wonder if she is going through a divorce” or “the author has written such a soulless work I wonder if she even believes in romance anymore.” I might think those things but I wouldn’t put them in a review because the review is about the book and not about the author.

    I think you will see very little ridicule and mocking of an author or any person on this blog. But the work of an author. Yes, that is totally fair game.

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  13. LG
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 09:44:18

    I find Sandra Brown’s comments mind-boggling. As others have said, higher e-book prices would, for many authors, probably translate into fewer e-book sales and those additional dollars would probably not be going to the authors. And how the heck are e-books the new comic book? I’ve never heard the arguments people have used to try to argue that reading comic books isn’t reading used for reading e-books, ever.

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  14. Kim in Hawaii
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 09:45:40

    Thank you, Jane, for your thought provoking comments. I have contacted you off line about comments that were mocking, if not insulting, to individuals. I’ve also thanked you on line for your efforts to bring a greater understanding of romance reading.

    But I will correct myself – I cannot criticize those who want to write E for Effort. They are just following their heart. They are following Sue Grimsaw’s thoughts on the blogger panel, “I believe that something positive can be written about everything.”

    I appreciate the opportunity to have this interchange with you, but I will ask that we agree to disagree on this issue. I look forward to more thought provoking discussions in the future.

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  15. John
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 10:19:39

    Sandra Brown’s piece really made me want to just *head-desk* I mean, it’s pretty obvious that production costs for ebooks are non-existent. Saying they should be priced the same is idiotic. Like comparing cubic zirconium to diamonds. YES, they look the same and provide the same affect, but one is more costly to make and get, so obviously it’s going to cost more. :/

    The comic book thing also annoyed me. It’s like saying ebooks aren’t regular books because they are digital. WTF?

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  16. The Reading Reviewer
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 11:02:25

    To Kim in Hawaii – Amen, Hallelujah and thanks so much for sticking up for those of us that choose to be positive and only submit reviews for those books that we like. I agree it is everyone’s right to make negative comments but it is also my right to not say anything bad about a book and choose to just remain quiet. I don’t think this is the wrong approach anymore than I believe that negative reviews are incorrect. Everyone needs to remember we have an opinion about everything and maybe keeping it to yourself is okay. My goal is to making the publishing industry successful – so I try to sell books. Maybe I help and maybe I do not but I give it a try.

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  17. Carly
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 12:05:20

    Sometimes I wonder if it’s an audience disconnect? Every time I read books that name drop Prada handbags and Jimmy Choo shoes, I wonder if the author really thinks I can afford those things, or would be remotely interested in shelling out that much money for something I don’t need. It’s the same with Sandra Brown’s comments on hardcover books. My income is not Sandra Brown’s income. I don’t feel guilty about comparison shopping and waiting for paperbacks because I don’t have a ton of money to throw at my book habit (or shopping habit).

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  18. Ridley
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 12:07:59

    @The Reading Reviewer:

    What good is your opinion to a reader, then, if your loyalty is to the publishing industry? How can a reader trust your recommendation if you never say what you don’t like? Where’s the contrast that allows an A review to actually stand out?

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  19. Anya
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 12:30:17

    Real Madrid is the name of a team in the Spanish League where Casillas plays when he’s not playing for Spain on the international stage. However, Real Madrid is not the team that went to the World Cup. If you want to refer to it by name, it is also known as La Furia Roja, among other nicknames (much the same way that the Holland team is known as Oranje or England is known as the Three Lions).

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  20. The Reading Reviewer
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 12:33:21

    Thank you for the comment Ridley I totally understand your skepticism.

    However I don’t see this as being loyal to an author or publishing company but more that there is so much negative out there why not post some positive.

    My dislike of a book could just be that this is an off day for me but that doesn’t mean the book isn’t great for you to read and love it.

    I am afraid there are so many voices for the what’s wrong and not enough for the what is great.

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  21. Robin
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 12:46:48

    It’s one thing to say, ‘this is how I write reviews and I do so because …’ and to say ‘this is how YOU should write reviews.’ My impression, from reading a large diversity of responses from RomCon attendees was that it’s the second that was happening in that “E for effort” panel.

    I understand that some people will only write positive reviews, and I respect that. Those probably won’t be the reviewers whose work I gravitate toward, because positive-only reviews doesn’t generally tell me enough about what a reviewer values in a book or *how* they read, something of utmost importance to me as a reader. But certainly there is an audience for every type of review.

    What frustrates me is the idea that anyone is telling me (in the abstract, of course, since I was not physically present at that conference or panel) what is “right” in a review.

    And, really, think about this for a minute: would you really find it kinder to be told that your work failed for a reader but she recognized your great effort? Because to me that seems like a double ding, i.e. even trying your best you failed. It may just be me, but I’d rather someone think I put no effort into something they found less than stellar. It’s like the no less than 2-star rule; 2 stars out of 5 = 40%, which is wellll below a failing grade.

    Further, effort is not a measure of thoughtfulness, any more than a better book is a measure of greater effort. At best, grading for effort is a complete projection on the part of the reviewer and a collapsing of the line between book and author. At worst, I think it’s incredibly disrespectful to a professional writer to suggest that their work is of such a special class that it needs special, fragile handling. I mean, do reviewers who advocate the ‘E for effort’ grade also refrain from making any negative comments about restaurant meals, clothing, television shows and movies, songs, billboards, building designs, etc.? Because *lots and lots of people put great effort into their work* but we don’t judge it all as successful. So are the standards applied universally? My guess, which I’m sure holds exceptions, is no.

    Which relates to a problem inherent in discussing the mocking issue, as well, namely that it’s much more difficult to find mocking, parody, and satire funny when the object is something you feel personally connected to (or when you or your work are the object of it). And yet, I would venture to suggest that virtually everyone reading this thread has engaged in, enjoyed, and shared some sort of mocking, satire, or parody. From Saturday Night Live, to political cartoons, to Go Fug Yourself, to MST3K, to virtually every popular comedian, to myriad works of great literature (from Shamela to The Importance of Being Earnest), holding things up as ridiculous is, as anyone with siblings knows, part of the social condition.

    So it’s difficult, I think, for any of us to come out against mocking without sounding a bit hyporcritical.

    Now of course we all have different levels of sensitivity and different lines across which good sport will seem unkind. I remember reading a comment about an author (and from an author, IIRC) the gist of which was that this author would go cruising for dates at a funeral. Oy, did that hit me as over the line. And I dislike ad hominem attacks (saying you feel like punching a blogger in the mouth, for example, seems WAY over the line). It also bothers me when someone makes a negative comment about someone I like and respect, just as it does everyone else. But the problem with speaking publicly is that we’re subject to public response, and nothing of any import can be asserted without objection. The more extreme or provocative the opinion, the more agitated the negative response.

    But mocking an idea? Ridiculing an idea is the act of showing it to be ridiculous. Is that bound to hurt someone’s feelings? Probably. I generally don’t believe anyone when they say they can read critical comments about themselves and their work without at least a twinge. But what’s ironic is that the most negative feedback I’ve gotten on my reviews hasn’t been for any sarcasm — it’s been for those reviews where I’ve gone to great pains to be earnest in my critique. Maybe it’s easier to dismiss mocking, I don’t know. But I’ve always found that curious.

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  22. Ridley
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 12:47:30

    @The Reading Reviewer:

    “My dislike of a book could just be that this is an off day for me but that doesn't mean the book isn't great for you to read and love it.”

    And aren’t you charitable to spare people from thinking for themselves.

    After all, your affinity for a book could just be that it was a good day for you, but that that doesn’t mean the book isn’t trite garbage that others would read and hate it.

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  23. Kim in Hawaii
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 12:50:06

    As a military veteran and spouse, I am truly saddened that commenters such as Ridley question the value of other commenter’s opinions. I have lived outside of the US and worked with countries that do not allow women to have an opinion, let alone voice it.

    The Reading Reviewer and other bloggers choose not post negative reivews. That is their choice. Their choice does not devalue their opinion. The Reader Reviewer (like the site referenced at the book panel to start the discussion at RomCon) disclose this caveat. Readers then have a choice to read the reviews or not.

    I have a headache from this bickering.

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  24. MaryK
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 12:50:44

    @The Reading Reviewer:

    those of us that choose to be positive and only submit reviews for those books that we like. I agree it is everyone's right to make negative comments but it is also my right to not say anything bad about a book and choose to just remain quiet. I don't think this is the wrong approach anymore than I believe that negative reviews are incorrect. Everyone needs to remember we have an opinion about everything and maybe keeping it to yourself is okay. My goal is to making the publishing industry successful – so I try to sell books. Maybe I help and maybe I do not but I give it a try.

    Wow. Are you saying you’re just after my money? Because that’s certainly how your comment comes across.

    You’ve confirmed my theory that there are two kinds of reviewers: those who help readers and those who help authors. Reader Reviewers serve readers. The others do marketing for authors. I have no interest in Marketers.

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  25. Robin
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 12:54:43

    @The Reading Reviewer:

    My dislike of a book could just be that this is an off day for me but that doesn't mean the book isn't great for you to read and love it.

    To me, EVERY review carries this implicit understanding. A review is one person’s opinion and I think readers are generally savvy enough to know this.

    That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be free to write any kind of reviews you want. But when suggestions start flying about how reviewers should always point out something positive about a book (it’s not a classroom and these aren’t my students, would be my response), or that the tone should be a certain way or that an author’s effort should be acknowledged, that feels silencing to me. It’s one thing to silence yourself as a reviewer, but I think what people here are reacting negatively to is the idea that every reviewer should silence themselves within the same parameters.

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  26. The Reading Reviewer
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 13:08:12

    Thanks everyone for the lively commentary and especially to Kim in Hawaii who always has a great point to make. I greatly appreciate and respect your opinion and just ask that you do the same for me.

    Since I receive no monetary compensation for my reviews they are in fact my opinion and only my opinion be it good or not at all.

    But if a review I write sells a book for any author and keeps them writing and help support the publishing industry without any money coming to me – than at the end of the day I feel my job is done.

    Best wishes to all of you that sent a comment. I had not participated in these discussions before as up until two weeks ago I had a job which unfortunately due to downsizing I no longer have.

    I will until I go back to work check in occasionally to see what you are chatting about.

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  27. Janine
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 13:09:09

    @The Reading Reviewer:

    I agree it is everyone's right to make negative comments but it is also my right to not say anything bad about a book and choose to just remain quiet.

    Of course it is your right, but I think Kim in Hawaii was suggesting that Jane should curb her reviews of books that don’t appeal to her and IMO that skates perilously close to “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

    Just as you should have the freedom to say what you please on your blog, Jane should be granted the same freedom here on her blog.

    Where you see “so much negative out there” I see that there aren’t always enough honest and well thought out opinions that are useful to me as a reader when it comes to determining whether or not I would enjoy a book. For that reason I’m not happy to see attempts to silence reviewers who post “warts and all” reviews.

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  28. MaryK
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 13:09:39

    @Kim in Hawaii:

    The Reading Reviewer and other bloggers choose not post negative reivews. That is their choice. Their choice does not devalue their opinion.

    I’m not sure what you mean by value. It certainly makes their opinion less useful. If I have no guide to the likes and dislikes of a reviewer, I can’t tell how compatible our tastes are; and I’ll move on to another reviewer.

    I’d like for positive-only reviewers to consider this: You’re willing to direct me to books that you think are good. But you refuse to warn me away from books that you think aren’t good.

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  29. Ridley
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 13:14:47

    @Kim in Hawaii:

    So, only military spouses get to have opinions?

    When did the military dictatorship happen? I must’ve missed that somehow.

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  30. Janine
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 13:20:01

    @MaryK:

    I'm not sure what you mean by value. It certainly makes their opinion less useful. If I have no guide to the likes and dislikes of a reviewer, I can't tell how compatible our tastes are; and I'll move on to another reviewer.

    This is my main reason for posting DNF reviews. I hardly ever finish a bad book, my tendency is to dump them early. But I do review books I haven’t finished, if I get through one-third of the way and can give a plot summary, precisely because I want readers to be able to know my dislikes as well as my likes, so they can figure out if our tastes match or not.

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  31. Gwen Hayes
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 13:23:46

    Book reviews are not required reading, I’m not sure why people can’t just make the decision to say, “I don’t like the way this blog reviews books, so I’ll read this other blog instead.”

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  32. Kim in Hawaii
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 13:24:42

    The library keeps extending my time so i add one last comment since I started this bru-ha-ha. Robin, your comment is dead on – no one should silence another. I did not hear that at RomCon. I do not read it here. I believe the conflict is that commenters (some who did not attend RomCon) are criticizing the decisions of reviewers who choose not to post a negative review. Jane believes this is fair game and maybe it is under the freedom of speech.

    But Robin, you asked readers back in February if authors should be sensitive to marginalized people. The majority of the comments felt that this sensitivity was more important than freedom of speech (in no way do I want to resurrect this discussion). Following that standard, I simply ask the readers now to respect that we will differ on opinions. Some are willing to defend their opinions, some will not.

    I love romance just as much as you all. I keep coming back to Dear Author because I value the information that Jane shares with us. I don’t agree with everything that is written and have occassionally commented on my opposition. But I try to be respectful to the other readers. At this time, I ask readers to be respectful that some bloggers do this, others do that, and everyone has the right in this great country to choose without having to defend their choice.

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  33. Lynne Connolly
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 13:30:48

    BTW, it’s Tom Holland, not Tony Holland. I attended that session, and found his argument well thought-out and interesting. I do agree with his conclusions, and he advises giving publishers limited ebook rights (he suggested two years) and then revise the royalty for the author upwards.

    There was another announcement at the RNA Conference, too. HMB (Harlequin Mills and Boon) is to hold a big contest to find a new author. Brand new, never before published, they said. I posted about it on TGTBTU, but the competition isn’t to open until August 1st, so get your category romances together! X-Factor style, with the public voting and a panel of experts to judge and mentor.

    Reviewing. I write, I read, I review. When I review, I don’t do it for the author, I do it for the reader. I’m careful not to review friends’ books, or books from a publisher I’m with, but I won’t abandon a review because I hate a book, or because I think the author deserves a break. Instead, I’ll say so in the review. I want value for money in the books I read. I’m always careful to be specific, to say what didn’t work for me in that particular book, as sometimes another book by that author will work for me, and some readers might be turned on for what turns me off. I have abandoned reviews in the past, but that’s because the book didn’t work for me, although I could see it was good. Just that I’m not its audience and I can’t find anything to say about it that would make sense.

    Just because I write, it doesn’t mean I don’t read as well. Because I do. Lots.

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  34. Randi
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 13:31:33

    Thanks for posting the Ilona Andrews freebie! I never would have found out about that if you hadn’t mentioned it here.

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  35. cs
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 13:32:19

    @Ridley: I agree, I was wondering why the lady thought being a military wife equalled to something. Love, you haven’t done anything of significance just by being married to someone who serves in the armed forces. Last time I checked, being married to someone who serves for his(her) country does not make their opinion any more valid, than the eighteen year old guy working at McDonalds. But thanks for being patronizing there.

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  36. Ridley
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 13:35:42

    @Kim in Hawaii:

    This has nothing to do with freedom of speech. That’s about government censorship.

    This is about fragile egos and sand problems.

    We have been respectful of the other bloggers who have “if you can’t say something nice…” philosophies. No one’s called them names or mocked them personally.

    However, respecting the blogger does not mean accepting their idea. You saying that you disagree opens you to discussion. If you don’t want to talk about it, don’t mention it in the first place.

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  37. Jane
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 13:40:02

    I think where the disconnect between some of us here is this. Yes, it is perfectly okay to have your own opinion but expressed opinions can be criticized publicly. It doesn’t violate free speech to disagree with an expressed opinion. The free exchange of ideas is exactly what free speech is intended to support and encourage.

    Thus, I can support one’s right to write any kind of review they wish, but I don’t have to support the type of review that is written nor am I required to respect the review given.

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  38. Kim in Hawaii
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 13:55:06

    Thanks to all the commenters for sharing as I believe we can learn from each other. I’m typing away at a library computer, which may have prevented me from taking the time to clearly communicate my thoughts. I’ve been away from my home for over 6 weeks now to care for my father.

    CS, I’ve worked in restaurants and offices in other minimum wage job through college. But I’ve also served 12 years in the USAF, supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States so we have these opportunities to express our freedom of speech. I do not think I am an more important than you, the McDonald’s worker, or illegal aliens. All my friends and collegues know I celebrate diversity and seek to benefit all.

    I’ve had to take on male chauvenist pigs to protect the rights for all. But nothing has been painful as trying to communicate with this crowd.

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  39. Ridley
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 14:04:40

    @Kim in Hawaii:

    “I've had to take on male chauvenist pigs to protect the rights for all. But nothing has been painful as trying to communicate with this crowd.”

    But we’re the mean girls?

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  40. Lynne Connolly
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 14:55:06

    BTW, the “it costs as much to produce an ebook as it does a pbook” argument was mentioned by the Random House VP, Rob Waddington who gave us a talk at the RNA.
    He received similar responses. He nearly admitted that they were using ebook profits to finance the pbook losses, but he didn’t quite get that far.
    Yes, it costs, but there are also significant changes. Do you think the pubs have been talking?

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  41. Shiloh Walker
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 15:43:32

    Jane, I love that video clip. I’m not a sports fan so if I hadn’t been here, I wouldn’t have seen this. And that was just beautiful to see.

    I’ve heard some about the fairy godmother panel *and I will state, what I’ve heard, I’m not impressed with*, but I wasn’t there so I can’t speak fairly.

    But I do want to toss this out, in general, for people who think that negative reviews are damaging to authors.

    I disagree…and that’s coming from me as both an author, and a reader who has bought based on negative reviews.

    There is a reviewer or two here with tastes rather similar to mine-when they rave, I might very well love the book. On the flipside-there is also a reviewer who has tastes that are almost the exact opposite. Books she doesn’t like, I’ve loved.

    Does this mean either of us are wrong? Nope. We just have different tastes, and that’s totally fine.

    But when she dislikes a book, I tend to like it, so I check out the books she reviews as well as the books the reviewers who have tastes that seem to mirror mine. Which means those negative reviews… or perhaps I should say critical reviews are actually decent sales tools for the author.

    Now, for me as an author, when I’m reading reviews of my own work?

    If it’s just…

    This book sucked.
    I hated her.
    I hated him.
    She was poor.
    She was trashy.
    Go buy this instead…

    Those reviews, IMO, are kind of pointless, and I don’t pay them any attention.

    but a well thought out review that details the problems? I can learn from those. And HAVE learned from those. I think back when I’m working on current projects–what did I do wrong the last time, and where can I improve?

    Those critical reviews are a useful tool for writers, or they can be, if the writer chooses to utilize.

    Writing is a tough business. Plain and simple. And if a writer can’t handle having negative or critical or harsh (or whatever you want to call them) reviews, they may do better in another business-otherwise, this one could very well eat them alive. Reviews are just the tip of the iceberg. If they can’t handle that?

    O.o

    Just my opinion and all, but it’s part of the business and readers, reviewers, they shouldn’t feel the need to silence their opinions just because they aren’t hearts and rainbows.

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  42. Robin
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 17:14:59

    @Kim in Hawaii:

    I believe the conflict is that commenters (some who did not attend RomCon) are criticizing the decisions of reviewers who choose not to post a negative review. Jane believes this is fair game and maybe it is under the freedom of speech.

    I see it quite differently; IMO what’s going on is that there’s a fundamental disagreement about how people *should* review. That panel at RomCon, whether attended by everyone commenting here or not, was about the “ideal” review — and I understand that one individual went so far as to state that she “hated” review sites that wrote “below the belt” reviews. Whatever those are.

    And that’s the problem, IMO. Why is it okay for someone to make that comment but it’s not okay for me or someone else to say hey, I have problems with that as an “ideal” standard. I have problems with holding Harriet Klausner up as the ideal “professional” reviewer. I have problems with the idea that every review should include a positive statement or a compliment or an assurance that the author’s fans might like the book. That doesn’t mean that other reviewers will change their mind or stop writing their reviews the way they want, but it shouldn’t mean I don’t have a right to object, not as a matter of free speech, but as a matter of promoting a diverse, engaged community of Romance reviewers.

    It’s tough, IMO, because the Romance community has always promoted what I would call the more “fannish” review — the review written by people who love a particular author no matter what she writes and who care about the author personally. I have all sorts of issues with the way IMO some publishers and some community values promote a false intimacy between authors and readers (calling authors by their first name, for example), such that the author is always standing between the book and the reader. Now that authors have to do so much of their own promotion, I think we’ve reached a new level of that connectedness, and it has definite advantages and drawbacks.

    I’m one of those readers who wants to push the author away from my relationship with the book. I have come to realize that I am not much of a fan in the way many Romance readers are — I don’t really care where an author gets her ideas or what her perfect hero or heroine looks like or where she travels for inspiration, etc. That doesn’t mean I dislike authors; it just means I see them in the same way I see everyone else — as people with whom I may or may not have a personal or professional affinity. And I get that I’m sort of a square peg in the circle of the Romance community because of that. But still, I figure that since there is so much room in the community for positive-only reviews and commentary, there should be some room for not always positive reviews and commentary, and that it just may be the two cultures won’t really mix well together. But I’ll bet you a buck that Dear Author and Smart Bitches would land on the “below the belt” list of review sites. And yeah, *that’s* objectionable to me. ;D

    But Robin, you asked readers back in February if authors should be sensitive to marginalized people. The majority of the comments felt that this sensitivity was more important than freedom of speech (in no way do I want to resurrect this discussion).

    I don’t want to derail the current discussion, but I just want to clarify that I wasn’t asking people to be sensitive to marginalized people. I was asking whether readers felt that authors had any responsibility in how their books were sold (ie a book about a black character being sold with a cover depicting a white person) or in how they publicly presented themselves (i.e. a straight woman publicly presenting herself as a gay man to make her m/m book more “authentic”). Some people do believe that an author should be mindful of groups that have been historically discriminated against, and that’s a provocative discussion, as well. But I certainly don’t think that talking about the portrayal of race, sexuality, and culture in books is tantamount to suppressing freedom of expression. I mean, if we don’t talk openly about these issues, how are we going to move past the kind of misunderstandings and judgments you expressed frustration about in one of your own comments?

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  43. Michelle
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 17:15:31

    Not only is Jane a mean girl, but she is also an unpatriotic one. I loved it how some people who weren’t even at the panel were correcting those that were present.

    I like it when reviewers discuss what didn’t work for them. It gives a more rounded review.

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  44. Moriah Jovan
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 18:19:30

    @John:

    I mean, it's pretty obvious that production costs for ebooks are non-existent.

    I have read this ad nauseam since Sandra Brown said what she did and I get so tired of this. It is NOT TRUE.

    @LynneConnolly

    He nearly admitted that they were using ebook profits to finance the pbook losses, but he didn't quite get that far.

    TANSTAAFL.

    It’s called amortization.

    What is NOT happening in the minds of consumers is the amortization of the cost of editing and art and royalties from the p-book to the e-book. What’s not being thought about is the cost of third-party distribution, the cost of web and server space, the cost of formatters (trust me on this one), and that’s just for starters.

    Because of perception, e-books can’t be held to the price of, say, a trade paperback and definitely not a hardback; however, they should be at the price point of a MMPB (assuming a comparable length) because you trade convenience/immediate gratification for re-saleability.

    That said, let me be clear: I get the perception. I even have it sometimes, particularly when I buy a novella for $4.49 that turns out to be 18k words—and ones that are badly strung together, at that.

    I do NOT think e-books should be priced like hardbacks or trade paperbacks, but this notion that they cost nothing or almost nothing or very little to produce is simply not true.

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  45. Suze
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 18:24:29

    I had a student once who asked me to give her feedback in “sandwich” form (something positive, what the problem is, and then something else positive) because she responded best to that kind of feedback. While that form of feedback is valid and can be useful, I felt (and still feel) imposed upon and insulted. She was essentially saying that she wouldn’t accept any feedback-from her instructor, who was there specifically to correct her missteps-unless it came packaged with hugs and kisses.

    Writing a novel is a huge amount of work, and emotionally risky, as any art is. I would say that writing reviews is also a lot of work, and is also emotionally risky (and is also an art). I personally wouldn’t write a negative review because it would be too much effort for my lazy self. For starters, I’d have to read a book I didn’t care for, at least twice (once to experience, at least once more to analyze). Then I’d have to spend a lot of time thinking about a book that I didn’t care for. Finally, I’d have to write about a book I didn’t care for.

    In the case of bloggers, I’d not only be doing it for free, but it would actually cost me (I don’t know how much it costs to blog, but I know there are some fees that bloggers have to pay). It would be coming out of my free time that I could be spending on other hobbies, friends, or family.

    However, I do find negative reviews helpful, for reasons that others have already listed, and often hysterically entertaining. For example, the Pregnesia review at SBTB. The review wasn’t an attack on the author, but a funny description of why the book didn’t work for the reviewer. The response from the author, in the comments, was quite possibly the classiest internet interaction I’ve ever seen.

    I find the giving props for effort idea to be baffling. Except for when being coached or taught as a child, where on earth do you get credit for the effort you put into your job? Especially when, for all your effort, your results aren’t very good?

    I don’t think anyone really needs to acknowledge that getting a book to the point where it’s published is a lot of work, I think that’s kind of self-evident.

    Nobody needs to be told that olympic athletes work really hard just to qualify. Comission-based salespeople don’t get bonuses for extra effort except in the form of increased sales. Lawyers don’t get praised up for the work they do to prepare for trial, and they sure get ripped on if they don’t win their case.

    In short, I don’t support the E for Effort (very useful shorthand, that) philosophy of book reviewing.

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  46. Suze
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 18:39:26

    @Moriah Jovan:

    I get that there are costs to produce e-books, and I know you’ve explained a lot of them in various places before. I appreciate that.

    What I’ve never seen, and would like to, is a generic breakdown of production costs. Although, now that I think about it, I’ve never seen one of those for p-books, either.

    Still, one should be able to break down the myriad costs in putting any kind of book together and come up with a price based on real expenses and a reasonable profit margin, accounting for amortization and supply & demand.

    What frustrates me is that the prices (from the big publishers) seem to be all over board for no rational reason, and consumers are supposed to just accept them unquestioningly. And I just cannot bring myself to believe that it costs a publisher more to distribute a digital copy of a novel than a mass-market paperback copy of the same novel.

    If publishers, or anybody, could come out with a logical model of how retail prices for e-books are arrived at (something that doesn’t even MENTION hardcovers), I’d be very interested to see it.

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  47. ShellBell
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 19:03:17

    Calvin Reid, writing for PW, notes that agency pricing has achieved publisher's goals of seizing control over pricing, raising ebook prices, and allowing more merchants in the marketplace. Of interest, it notes that when there is pricing freedom, Amazon Kindle prices are lower

    I’d be interested in knowing if total eBook sales have increased, dropped or remained static since the introduction of the agency pricing. From my POV my sales in eBooks has dropped dramatically. As a reader of eBooks trying to purchase any eBooks from New Zealand is now virtually impossible. The 5 agency publishers have restricted access to the majority of the authors that I read. While there is now an eBook retailer in New Zealand their catalogue is still small. I still manage to purchase the occasional eBook through a couple of UK sites, but most of my purchases are now for Samhain, Carina Press etc authors. I have a list of at least 20 new releases (authors such as Alyssa Day, Naomi Novik, Joss Ware, Nalini Singh, Maya Banks, Lauren Dane, Ilona Andrews etc) that I have not been able to purchase. Now, if I am able to borrow the new release from the library before I am able to purchase an eBook then the author misses out on a sale.

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  48. Moriah Jovan
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 20:35:51

    @Suze:

    That’s an awesome point, and it’s one I’ve wondered about.

    However, here’s this. I’ll out myself right now and tell you I’m The Anonymous One.

    I’ll also tell you The Proviso has paid for itself—

    And that Stay (book 2) didn’t cost but a fraction that much (I got way smarter between books) and it’s been very profitable for me. I don’t have numbers on book 2, though.

    Those are only my numbers for a very big book and are atypical (even for me now because, as I said, I got smarter about $$$ allocation).

    I’d sure like to know the same thing you’re asking about.

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  49. brooksse
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 21:40:27

    “I almost feel guilty when I download a book from a colleague, because I know how much blood sweat and tears went into that. I would pay more if they charged more.”

    If publishers offered a hardback/ebook bundle for a couple bucks over hardback price, then people like Sandra Brown wouldn’t have to feel guilty.

    Personally, I don’t feel guilty because an ebook sale to me is not a lost hardback sale. I stopped buying hardbacks after a one too many so-so and DNF books. Mostly, I can wait until the ebook price drops to the paperback price. If I do pay more than paperback price for an ebook, it’s not a loss to the author/publisher compared to a hardback sale, it’s a gain compared to a paperback sale or a UBS sale.

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  50. Janine
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 22:42:17

    Writing a novel is a huge amount of work, and emotionally risky, as any art is. I would say that writing reviews is also a lot of work, and is also emotionally risky (and is also an art).

    Amen to that. Reviewing is its own art form and while I have my own opinions on which reviews are well-written and which ones aren’t, and I may even post those opinions from time to time, I wouldn’t presume to tell another reviewer how to write her reviews unless she turned to me for advice on this topic — and even then, I would be hesitant for fear of squelching her voice.

    IMO the snarky or mocking review, which I know not everyone appreciates, is just another subgenre or flavor of reviewing. It’s not one I personally feel comfortable writing but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy reading some of them or that I don’t find some of them helpful. I do, and I think they have as much right to a place in the exchange of opinions, views and even art, as any other form — including the romance novel.

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  51. Janine
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 22:50:14

    @ShellBell:

    I'd be interested in knowing if total eBook sales have increased, dropped or remained static since the introduction of the agency pricing.

    I’d be interested to know that too, and even more interested to know what effect the “agency model” has had on piracy.

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  52. Mezza
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 23:37:23

    I am an Australian Military veteran (10 years service)and want to take issue with Kim from Hawaii. Waving your service around and implying that there is a particular way of viewing the world and understanding of what is right or wrong that is associated with military service and veteran status is a step towards fascism. Have you read Robert Heinlein’s Star Ship Troopers? You don’t speak for me or represent me. I also think you are the one saying that freedom of speech is OK as long as I agree with you. You preach from a very high pulpit.

    I read Dear Author for the debate the wide views and the commitment of everyone to romance and community. This is a site were differences are shared and create a whole. This is the snarkiest thing I have ever written because my sense of values is engaged the things that led me to service in the military actually disparaged.

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  53. ShellBell
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 23:41:20

    I'd be interested in knowing if total eBook sales have increased, dropped or remained static since the introduction of the agency pricing. From my POV my sales in eBooks has dropped dramatically. As a reader of eBooks trying to purchase any eBooks from New Zealand is now virtually impossible.

    That should actually read my ‘purchases’ not ‘sales’.

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  54. John
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 12:43:40

    @Moriah Jovan: Sorry, that’s really all I’ve heard myself, and people rarely move to correct it. My point being that the ebook costs less than the hardback, and it should be priced less in accordance. Thanks for pointing that out! I never really expected them to cost absolutely nothing, either. >.> Learn to watch wording: Very important in Romanceland.

    @Suze: I would like to see that as well. I think I’d better understand Sandra Brown’s opinion, as well as everything else, if I knew exactly WHAT the costs where, HOW they differ from print publishing, and WHY the prices are so all over the place. If readers knew more about that, I think it would help them better understand what’s going on and give them a better idea of how to react. Second-hand information *clearly* does not make the waters any easier to work through.

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  55. Moriah Jovan
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 12:47:27

    @John:

    No worries. :) I personally believe the e-book should cost the same as the MMPB, because they have different, but equivalent pros and cons.

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  56. Robin
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 13:11:45

    @Moriah Jovan: I am just not ever going to think it’s fair to pay mmpb prices for ebooks without retaining the right of first sale.

    But the larger problem for me is that publishers seem so incredibly inefficient and disconnected from the end user of their products that I distrust any defense of higher ebook prices based on “cost.” NOT that costs aren’t present in the creation of digital texts, just that I’m not convinced ANY book pricing is based on production costs. Because I didn’t hear any of this talk of “value” and “cost” until publishers began to suffer financially and ebooks started picking up market steam. Now all of a sudden it’s about value and cost, when before it was about . . . what, exactly?

    I’ve said this before, but the big publisher mentality strikes me as so similar to that of the natural monopolies — a firm belief that they are the single, superior source and that they can basically do what they want because consumers NEED them. For a long time, it seems they have been able to absorb god knows how much inefficiency in their business model (such as it is), and that is no longer the case. But still that monopolistic thinking persists, frustrating and alienating the true necessity — consumers with discretionary income they’re able and willing to spend on new books.

    Until I see some authentic awareness of the consumer/reader in publishers’ rhetoric and practice, I’m going to be making purchasing decisions based on my own priorities, needs, and sense of fairness — because the Agency publishers have failed to convince me of the soundness of their judgment (and don’t even get me started on the diminishing quality of print books, from paper quality to binding to copyediting!).

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  57. Moriah Jovan
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 14:42:23

    @Robin:

    Right to your whole post with a teeny caveat here:

    I am just not ever going to think it's fair to pay mmpb prices for ebooks without retaining the right of first sale.

    It’s my own myopia that I truly forget that the big pubs use DRM. I’m so immersed in the world of micropresses and the digipub leaders who do not as a matter of course AND because I just don’t buy from the big publishers anymore (because of DRM) that yes, I forget.

    So my thinking that e-book price should match MMPB presupposes that there is no DRM. It also encapsulates my thinking that the immediate gratification of an e-book is a fair trade for re-saleability.

    As far as the monopolistic thinking goes, they have so far not been hit hard enough in the pocketbook to make much difference (IMO). I don’t think their thinking will change anytime soon. There are sooooo many people NOT online and NOT aware that it’ll take a while.

    I think the best a reader who’s interested in these things can do is vote with her pocketbook—and let the publisher know directly that that’s what she’s doing. If it’s a quiet boycott, it won’t be heard.

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  58. Suze
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 15:58:59

    vote with her pocketbook-’and let the publisher know directly that that's what she's doing

    I almost sent Katie MacAlister an e-mail, telling her that I didn’t buy her “steampunk” book because of geographical restrictions. I didn’t, in the end, because it came out way to angry and accusatory, and I really don’t think it was her fault. I didn’t want to make her feel bad.

    Do you think I should have let her know? Or should I have addressed it to her publishers?

    Come to that, I think I tried to e-mail Penguin about not being able to buy Briggs’ Silver Borne when it first came out, and just couldn’t find anywhere to send it. They don’t seem to want to hear from anybody at all.

    I suppose I could make up a really obvious form letter, fill in the blanks, and send paper letters to publishers.

    “Dear Publisher. I recently attempted to by a digital copy of ___________ and was unable due to __________. Because of this inconveience, I have instead purchased another, available e-book and you have lost a sale. Sincerely, me.”

    Wouldn’t that be an awesome campaign? Flood publishers with examples of purchases they’ve lost, including the prices you would have paid. Think they’d get the message?

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  59. Moriah Jovan
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 16:11:47

    @Suze:

    Think they'd get the message?

    I actually sighed and said (out loud), “I don’t know,” when I read that. It seems so hopeless, doesn’t it?

    Or should I have addressed it to her publishers?

    That.

    Come to that, I think I tried to e-mail Penguin about not being able to buy Briggs' Silver Borne when it first came out, and just couldn't find anywhere to send it. They don't seem to want to hear from anybody at all.

    And a great big sigh again. I just don’t know.

    Occasionally I wonder if eventually readers WILL BECOME WILLING to wade through the internet slush pile.

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  60. Jane
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 12:30:02

    @Suze I think it does pay to write the publisher and let them know what you think. Otherwise, they feel like what they are doing is having no measurable negative effect.

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  61. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Pick a peck of peppered linkity
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 01:02:46

    [...] Author does linkity posts several times each week. While Dear Author’s linkity is usually serious stuff, the linkity at Smart Bitches [...]

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