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Wednesday Midday Links: Plagiarism in Blogland

Yesterday was hate on romance readers day. I actually read one of these a week, if not more frequently, and generally don’t share them because what is the point, right? It is culturally acceptable to repudiate the romance genre and romance readers. From columnist, Kimberly Sayer-Giles, we have the “romance as pornography” meme*; Russell Moore takes it even further by suggesting that Christian romance novels where the couple pray together are an invidious force against happy marriages. Even the New Yorker felt compelled to write about this nonsense.

Over at Faster Times, Joshua M Brown ridicules Amazon’s move into publishing “They are starting with romance novels, we are told, because they are cheap and the nitwits buyers of them consume product constantly”; and then there was this supremely insulting article written by Claudia Cornell for the Daily Mail that says all romance authors are old ladies with blue rinses, “All around me are middle-aged and elderly women in their pearls and support tights.”

The more that these articles pop up, the less interested I am in proliferating their messages by blogging and tweeting about them.  Sure, the romance as pornography gave rise to a funny #hashtag on twitter titled #romancekills but why be defensive about articles that are so stupidly written? Doesn’t acknowledging them and defending them actually give them credence and power?  Because does any rational person think that reading about a couple that is praying together is going to ruin someone’s marriage? Does any rational person think that the readers of this blog and other romance readers out there are mindless nitwits?  No, of course not.  These are such huge and stupid overreaches that I just shake my head at their banality, lack of originality and thought.  These people will never be convinced of the value of romance novels or romance readers.

Or at least this is my excuse for not blogging about these articles. I’d rather point out things like this sent to me by reader Sandy. Nora Roberts donates $100,000 to McDaniel College where they will start a romance writing minor.

In addition, the college plans to use the funds to help build a core American romance library collection, including the complete works of Roberts, as well as to establish an endowed fund to support the collection.

The collection’s titles will be available online.

The college will hold an international conference on romance novels in November, with keynote speaker Mary Bly, a Shakespearean scholar at Fordham University who also writes as Eloisa James, a best-selling author of historical romance novels.

*****

Which brings me to this Salon article that asks whether reading great books makes you a better person.  Um, no. Everyone has the capacity to better themselves and some will find lessons through books and others through different mediums.  However, it’s an interesting theory:

There’s a theory, vaguely associated with evolutionary psychology, maintaining that fiction builds empathy, and therefore morality, by inviting us into the minds, hearts and experiences of others. This is what the British children’s book author Michael Morpurgo implied recently in the Observer newspaper, when he claimed that “developing in young children a love of poems and stories” might someday render the human-rights organization Amnesty International obsolete.

******

Some of the romance bloggers in our community were plagiarized by another well known member of the romance blogging community.  Wicked L Pixie and others found pieces of their reviews in this other blogger’s reviews.  The blogger had been notified several weeks ago but it wasn’t until Wicked Pixie went public that the blogger apologized and began to take down the offending reviews. It appears that there are so many of them that may contain plagiarized material that it is taking the blogger some time to rectify the situation.

******

In a tech headscratcher, 3M is investing heavily in digital books.  Last week they announced 3M Cloud Library, a software and delivery system for digital library books.  Now comes the news that they have bought a 25% share in Txtr, an ebook device manufacturer and the programmers behind the epub reading app, Txtr.  Nate thinks they are going to be a competitor to Overdrive. I would not have guessed that 3M, of all companies, would have entered the market of digital books.  I’m fascinated by this move and what it could mean, if anything.

*****

Kristen Nelson is accusing publishers of underreporting ebook sales. I hope she has some evidence to back that up.

2. Publishers are under-reporting electronic book sales in any given period on the royalty statements we are seeing.

That’s a fact.

I would hope that Nelson starts auditing those publishers, then, on behalf of her authors.  Another author is suggesting that her ebook sales and that of others are also being underreported.

* Carolyn Jewel found this letter to the editor which is pretty close to the KLS article. See analysis by Sunita

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

39 Comments

  1. Siobhan M.
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 11:09:20

    Wow. Didn’t know I was a blue-haired nitwit, nor that for all my reading (War and Peace, Grapes of Wrath, Stranger in a Strange Land, Huckleberry Finn) I’m a better person. I’ve learned a lot from romance novels because they’re great stories (oh yeah, the characters get together in the end and might have sex) and I read a lot of them. Thanks for the article – I learned a lot! :)

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  2. Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 11:28:16

    Will have to remember to get the the pearls out of the vault for RWA, but was rather hoping for the blonde rinse rather than the blue. I’ll cop to being an old lady though.;)

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  3. Ridley
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 11:44:40

    I’m with you, Jane. As amusing as the #romancekills hashtag was, the whole thing just felt defensive and silly.

    You’re not going to convince these people we’re not “mindless nitwits” by engaging in Twitter drama games.

    Who cares what those assholes think? I like what I like and don’t need society to support me on that. If I needed that sort of validation, I’d be a Red Sox or Patriots fan, not a Bruins fan.

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  4. nerdycellist
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 11:58:08

    Ignoring silly OMGROMANCE!! freaking out, I wonder what exactly is wrong with being middle-aged? Does reading romance novels lead to circulation issues that must be remedied by support hose? Is there no worse creature than an older woman, that the description of “middle-aged, pearl-wearing, support hose” is the very worst invective this author can think of throwing at us? My goodness, I should hope she never graduates from dewy youth to, well, anything else. I’m certain none of us is thrilled about the effects of aging, but then what’s the alternative?

    Not that I wish death upon Claudia Cornell, but it is disheartening to once again see such baldly misogynist bulls*t coming from a woman.

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  5. Moriah Jovan
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 12:01:13

    From columnist, Kimberly Sayer-Giles, we have the “romance as pornography” meme*

    KSL.com was moderating comments and since they didn’t post mine, I’ll recreate it here. Most of DA readers won’t understand it, but KSL understands I basically called them a shill for LDS church culture (NOT the church itself), which is why they didn’t post it:

    Clearly this article was vetted by CES [Church Educational System] and properly correlated. When you can come up with some data other than random speculation by a couple of pop psychologists, that’ll be news. Until then, this is just Relief Society in drag.

    Let’s just say I have no fear of excommunication for what *I* write…

    Re the other articles and their attempts at groundbreaking journalism, I’ll just cop Jennifer Weiner’s “very derivative, banal stuff.” Can’t ANYBODY do anything original anymore?

    Yes, they need to be ignored. Something (I don’t know what) in romance is happening that’s threatening to all these Serious Writers.

    There’s a theory, vaguely associated with evolutionary psychology, maintaining that fiction builds empathy, and therefore morality, by inviting us into the minds, hearts and experiences of others.

    Fiction is fiction. If it can’t make us go out and kill somebody (or, um, divorce our husbands for Fabio), it can’t make us more empathetic.

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  6. CK
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 12:01:42

    …women can become as dangerously unbalanced by these books…

    All pearl wearing, blue haired nitwits,UNITE!

    Let me go get ‘em pearls! LMAO

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  7. Tamara
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 12:19:41

    I feel a deep-down genuine sort of pity for Kimberly Sayer-Giles, Russell Moore, Joshua Brown, and Claudia Cornell.

    What does it say about your own life, when you want to take the time to cast aspersions upon a mode of fiction that brings so much pleasure to millions of readers? What does it say about you, that you’re so down on the idea of a story about love?

    I don’t know if any of the people mentioned above have actually read a romance novel or if they’ve just jumped on the bash-wagon to gain a little attention of their own. But they surely have to realize at some point that the Romance Novel will live forever, and there’s nothing they can do to change that. Maybe that’s what frustrates them so?

    I think it takes a generally unhappy person to lash out at the innocuous entertainments of others. Maybe envy motivates them, in some respect; seeing so many people having such a grand time reading romance.

    Maybe we should send them some of our favorite romance novels to cheer them up. Dear Kimberly, Russell, Joshua, and Claudia–life’s not so glum and dire! You all just need to read a good romance.

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  8. kaylea cross
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 12:29:43

    I find those attitudes beyond insulting and ridiculous. If those columnists don’t care for romance books, then they absolutely have the right to choose not to read them. They do not, however, have the right to disparage others for reading and writing them.

    At the end of the day, I’m still proud to be a romance author and avid reader. I for one think the world could use a lot more romance in it.

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  9. cursingmama
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 12:34:35

    The 3M news isn’t all that surprising to me considering they were the founding of Imation. It will be interesting to see what a company that isn’t book orientated (other than the use of their sticky notes for book marks) can do with books.

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  10. g_lavo
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 12:39:45

    @Moriah Jovan:

    I think you mean Jennifer Egan. Pretty sure Jennifer Weiner wouldn’t be judgemental about chick lit;)

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  11. Lynnd
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 12:44:26

    I agree with your simply ignoring all of the dimwitted articles slamming the romance genre. Why give the writers of these articles and the publications that print them any publicity. The only thing that i regret about these articles is how badly they reflect on the state of journalism today. Where did all the real journalists go?

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  12. Moriah Jovan
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 12:44:55

    @g_lavo Oh, crap! You are SOOOOO right! Arrrgggghhhh. This is why I hire editors and proofreaders…

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  13. Sheryl Nantus
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 12:45:05

    I agree about mentioning the actual names of the publishers who are supposedly underreporting the ebook sales. I’d like some actual statements, not just vague accusations. And if the reports are wrong, where are they getting the data from? Amazon? Is AMAZON giving out the wrong data and underreporting their ebooks sales? Where, who and how… all those little details.

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  14. Amanda Bonilla
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 12:54:48

    I actually followed and tweeted bit under the #romancekills hashtag. I found it good-natured and funny, not at all defensive. I think it showed what an easy-going bunch we are that we can laugh at ourselves. If anything, it was great entertainment, though it did distract me from work for much of the morning. ;)

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  15. Patrice
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 13:11:17

    Old ladies still do blue rinses? I live in Florida, the state which many of these banal article writers might still call the land of the living dead, and I can assure you I am not surrounded by blue rinsed hair.I have seen some kids with blue KoolAid rinses. It’s not surprising they are so uninformed as to use outdated stereotypes. Really.

    I stopped defending myself for reading romance years ago. In fact, usually when I get into a lively discussion about history, or business, etc and the conversation winds it’s way to books and someone asks me “what do you read?” I say “romance”. Then dare them to make a snide remark with what I like to think is my “amused yet ready to shoot lasers from my eyeballs” look. I’m told I just look crazy in a scary sort of way. So I try to dial it back a bit. lol

    Just happened Sunday. Everyone laughed and then we got into a wild discussion about the different fiction or media based conventions around the country and the multi-levels of porn versus erotic romance. LOL Of course we were at a lesbian’s home with lots of bikers attending the party, along with a couple of college professors and her parents/uncles and aunts from Chicago. A diverse crowd for sure. ;-) I imagine the writers of those articles would think that crowd inhabited the second circle of hell. *gg*

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  16. Tina
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 13:35:39

    Wow. My story so far….

    By birth I am ‘An Angry Black Woman’ (or sassy best friend..take your pick)

    Because I contribute to Jezebel.com I am also a ‘Lesbian Shit-ass’

    Because I am a girl, according to the NYT, I will only watch A Game of Thrones on tv only if they include sex, and I would definitely never read the books or any other like it.

    And because I read romance I have been rapidly aged, my IQ has been lessened and my bling has been reduced to a tasteful set of clutch-able pearls.

    Honestly, I can’t wait to see what label I get next! This is exciting.

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  17. P. Kirby
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 13:41:55

    Even if the reviewer had no ethics, you’d think she/he would have the good sense to know that she’d get caught. The stupid and unethical is strong with this one.

    Plagiarism, unfortunately, is pretty rampant on the Internet. I’ve had entire blog postings taken without my permission and posted on other sites. Some with a link back; others not at all. And I’m a nobody.

    Nowadays, I try to link back to myself in my postings, especially reviews or with topics like gardening or my art.

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  18. Kira Brady » Like, Love, and Feminism
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 13:54:42

    [...] against Romance Novels in the form of a self-help article. You can read more about the bruhaha at DearAuthor, but the gist of it was that Romance Readers = addicts and cheaters. I agree with Jane at DA that [...]

  19. Sarah
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 13:55:01

    “Doesn’t acknowledging them and defending them actually give them credence and power?”

    In a complete not-surprise, since I posted a rebuttal, I disagree with you there. The more egregiously (and, it turns out, plagiarized, heh) offensive the claims about romance readers or romance as a genre, the more I think silence isn’t the best answer.

    It’s a question of extremes for me. There’s a scale of offense for me – for example “nitwits” comment didn’t make me do more than roll my eyes because being that uninformed makes the writer’s ignorance extra more hilarious. If he doesn’t know why the romance genre sells but thinks it’s “nitwits,” then he can go on with his head in the sand, or up his butt, or wherever.

    But the ideology spelled out in the KSL article tipped over the “OH HELL NO” end of my scale of “Worth reacting to” because it was so incredibly layered, almost too rich in its idiocy, that not saying something didn’t work for me, personally.

    When you add in the #romancekills silliness, then it got fun.

    That’s my favorite part about the romance community online, actually: when there’s a wider-scale reaction to negativity toward the romance community, there’s often an element of satire or silliness in the response that makes it fun to respond.

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  20. Jane
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 14:02:06

    @Sarah – I don’t know. The New Yorker blogged about it and so did the Guardian. Neither of those larger venues would have paid attention, in my opinion, had the response been so great. Giving it a bigger platform seems worse than ignoring it.

    P.S. this is not to say that the #romancekills hashtag wasn’t funny. It was but I also think it gave power to the original article by highlighting it.

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  21. LoriK
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 14:02:45

    There’s a theory, vaguely associated with evolutionary psychology, maintaining that fiction builds empathy, and therefore morality, by inviting us into the minds, hearts and experiences of others.

    I think that at best they have this backwards. Reading doesn’t create empathy, but empathy may very well effect reading choices.

    A person who is empathetic and likes to read is probably more likely to seek out stories that allow them to relate to the experiences of others. A self-involved reader will likely read books that are about people just like her/him. (See for example Eaquire’s list of 75 books men should read.)

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  22. Allie
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 14:03:45

    I’ve only got green hair dye at the moment. I suppose it will have to do.

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  23. KMont
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 14:07:20

    I agree with Sarah on this one, plus there’s the fact that if lovers of romance didn’t speak up about things like the KSL article, the only responses would have been the ones supporting it, making the naysayers look more vocal and more heard. While, yes, rational people know better than to take that article seriously, I also don’t see anything wrong or wasteful about folks either taking it seriously enough to reply via blogs or for others to go on Twitter and reveal it for the exact kind of silliness it is. I too tend to think it exemplified part of what makes the romance community more fun to interact with. I didn’t see anything defensive about it, but the exact opposite. More confident, actually.

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  24. Sarah
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 14:27:33

    @Jane:

    I don’t think the hashtag really gave power to the article. I think it highlighted for the overlapping communities on Twitter the total screwball ridiculousness of it, and showed that (a) romance readers are pretty smart and (b) have a sense of humor about ourselves.

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  25. Keri Ford
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 14:49:35

    I agree with Sarah on calling them out because staying silent, to me, feels a little like hiding what I enjoy. I can just see some poor impressionable person reading that article and tucking her ereader a little closer to her chest, feeling cut down for liking romance and then taking further measures to hide what she loves.

    That’s why I played a little with #romancekills and liked seeing the rebuttals and the huge sense of community coming together in one place and tossing up their middle finger with humor. It was one huge group saying there’s nothing wrong with reading romance [I need that on a tshirt]

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  26. Annabel
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 15:33:36

    My husband has always referred to my favored reading material as my “lady porn.”

    And strangely, I have never even thought to compare him to the men in my romance books, probably no more than he compares me to the women in his porn clips. One is clearly–CLEARLY–fantasy, while the other is real and true. Meh. I actually get kind of turned off by perfect fantasy romance heroes anyway.

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  27. Kim in Hawaii
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 16:52:11

    @Ridley: I don’t often agree with you, but I do to your comment today.

    I have too much too do (and too many books to read) to waste my time on naysayers.

    Birds of a feather stick together …. so I only frequent blogs that promote romance.

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  28. Andrea
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 20:31:46

    @Sheryl Nantus:

    The article on Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s blog goes into the ebook reporting issue in great detail: it’s not a question of Amazon reporting anything. Amazon does not report ebook sales directly to authors (unless the authors are publishing directly there themselves). Any figures from Amazon go to the publishers. And what the authors receive is a royalty statement which _estimates_ ebook sales as a percentage of physical book sales (which are in themselves incredibly unreliable figures).

    I don’t know if Kristen Nelson has proof. Kristine Kathryn Rusch is making a deduction based on her direct ebook sales for the books she publishes using her own publishing company, vs her reported ebook sales for books she is selling via publishers. She is selling a reasonable amount of ebooks per book directly (hundreds if not thousands), and yet that publisher is reporting her sales for a “similar book” as being something like 20. So it’s not proof in that case so much as immensely suspicious.

    It’s definitely going to take an audit to get any proof of this. Audits, however, seem to cost a lot of money, and are best done by guilds or groups.

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  29. Carly M.
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 21:04:58

    On the Kristin Nelson post — I’m really curious if this is true. A few weeks ago I stumbled across an article on top Washington state authors that said Julia Quinn’s “10 Things I Love About You” sold 17k e-books last year of her 544k total of the same book. I absolutely do not believe that number. She’s a popular author in the genre, romance readers have been a large segment of e-reader adopters, the book was in the Kindle top 100, and she only sold 17k copies? Really? That does not pass the smell test. Article here: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/books/2014724474_litlife11.html

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  30. JessP
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 22:59:37

    Last Friday’s Wall Street Journal, Friday Journal section, had an article called “The Season of the Supernatural.” Description of the article being “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em: Literary authors jump on the fantasy bandwagon, unleashing an onslaught of zombies, werewolves and ghosts.” Basically, that some literary authors, having a difficult time finding any widespread popularity, have been (belatedly) reading the handwriting on someone’s wall and turning to elements of genre fiction to find wider success – thereby blurring the lines in literary fiction with elements of fantasy/scifi/paranormal to achieve a blend which will find a wider market, but will lose purity in the process. The lines between high art and low art are blurring. That seems to be a bad thing. Presumably, fiction will then be ruled by the hoi polloi, rather than those who actually understand what it should be.

    Perhaps the negative blogging was a shot across the bow to high concept authors to pull back from the cliff, in case they were thinking of incorporating elements from that most despised genre, romance. Once down to that level, there would be no way to redeem ones lit’ry authorial credentials or status, so don’t go there. Or not. It would be nice to think that those who denigrate romance with such lockstep, mindless, thoughtless, anti-intellectual abandon are the ones who are the new “left-behind” of civic (and civil) discourse, playing to an ever-smaller audience of like-minded people who reassure themselves that their way of thinking is the only way of thinking. Let them keep talking among themselves, and ignore them as one (hopefully) ignores internet trolls.

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  31. Suzannah
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 05:01:38

    The best part of any Daily Mail article is the comments section, where people write in pointing out all the inaccuracies in the article. I loved the comments under this one ;-) And, as one of them said, I think the last laugh is had by the 70-somethings making £100,000 a year. Heck, I’d have a blue rinse *right now* to make that from writing!

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  32. Mike Cane
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 08:16:29

    I’m a day late to this shindig. Take heart that people *can* change their points of view on Romance. I was once one of the nitwits who dismissed it, and Jane and others educated me out of that. To all who write Romance who might see this Comment, write your asses off and make them the best books you possibly can. Because in ten years, you’ll all be recognized and taught in colleges. That’s how it works. I’ve seen it over and over.

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  33. Christine M.
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 10:03:44

    @Mike Cane: +1

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  34. Sheryl Nantus
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 10:36:48

    @Andrea:

    But what if Amazon isn’t giving the right numbers to the publishers?

    If the publishers are starting off with the wrong numbers, they can’t be faulted for giving underreported numbers. The assumption here is that Amazon is being honest and the publishers dishonest.

    I agree an audit would be useful – but tossing out hyperbole and going to extremes to announce that ALL publishers are ripping off their authors doesn’t do anyone any good. Hard facts are needed.

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  35. Cindy
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 12:54:51

    Oh of course, several years after I move out of MD, McDaniel college would start a romance writing minor. Foo. It was even in walking distance for me. That just sucks royally.

    The only thing I’d seen mentioned about that one article was a forum where we all pretty much bashed it to death. Hadn’t heard about the others. Seriously? Praying together destroys marriages. How odd. I always believed (and not from reading inspirationals) that sharing faith strengthened a marriage. Silly me.

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  36. Andrea
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 18:14:42

    @Sheryl Nantus:

    The Kristine Kathryn Rusch article notes that (from her point of view) at least one of her publishers appears to be reporting accurately, and that at least one isn’t. I don’t know if Kristen Nelson intends to suggest “all publishers” or not, since she made such a very brief statement.

    And, as I mentioned, the figure as discussed in Ms Rusch’s article isn’t anything to do with any number Amazon might be providing the publisher. The publisher isn’t basing royalty statements on that figure. The publisher appears to be taking the number of _physical books_ sold, and reporting the number of ebooks sold as a percentage of the number of physical books sold.

    Given that Amazon has the technology to tell small publishers using their KDP ebook platform their sales within an hour of each and every sale, I’d really be surprised if Amazon was the problem in any ebook number reporting issue.

    Ms Rusch’s article makes clear she thinks the issue is that the publishers simply haven’t modernised their accounting processes.

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  37. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Yet another linkity post in which there are no llamas
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 07:57:06

    [...] Book news linkity from Smart Bitches and Dear Author. [...]

  38. Lorraine
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 20:55:35

    It’s always seemed pointless and a bit defensive to me the way we in romancelandia respond to these awful, disparaging essays and comments about our beloved genre.

    We all know that our love of romance novels has nothing to do with our intelligence, educational background or ability to discern fantasy from reality. It is simply a genre of fiction, no different than westerns, suspense, thrillers or spy novels, each of which has its own tropes and formulaic parameters, (think I first read that on Teach Me Tonight). None are better or worse.

    I’ve read romance for 35+ years and these days it’s the only genre I read due to a lack of available reading time. I don’t need anyone’s approval or understanding. It’s enough for me that I enjoy it. Have I felt embarassed for reading it…sure sometimes, but that’s mostly due to the awful book covers. I think as a community we’d be better off lobbying the publishers to stop using such ridiculous covers, (actually stepbacks would be great, cuz I love me a bunch of man-titty), than trying to make the condescending, uniformed masses understand our love of the genre.

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  39. Suzanne
    Jun 04, 2011 @ 11:36:16

    I read the #romancekills article and came to the conclusion the author was a closet romance novelist with beaucoup rejection slips in her file drawer. As for the others, I gave up taking them seriously long ago. And BTW, I may be pushing 65, but my hair is defiantly red and always will be.

    ReplyReply

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