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Wednesday Midday Links: Amazon partners with Overdrive to allow library...

Amazon has announced a partnership with Overdrive to bring library lending to the Kindle. The first thing I would ask people when they wanted to know which device to buy is whether they want to borrow digital books from the library. That will no longer be a point of buying contention.

Customers will be able to check out a Kindle book from their local library and start reading on any Kindle device or free Kindle app for Android, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, PC, Mac, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone. If a Kindle book is checked out again or that book is purchased from Amazon, all of a customer’s annotations and bookmarks will be preserved.

“We’re doing a little something extra here,” Marine continued. “Normally, making margin notes in library books is a big no-no. But we’re extending our Whispersync technology so that you can highlight and add margin notes to Kindle books you check out from your local library. Your notes will not show up when the next patron checks out the book. But if you check out the book again, or subsequently buy it, your notes will be there just as you left them, perfectly Whispersynced.”

This is apparently available to every reader who either owns a Kindle or uses a Kindle App.  Library Journal notes that this may implicate privacy concerns.

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Sarah Wendell is hosting a lengthy comment thread that was spurred by a reader complaint about a Berkley book by Lora Leigh.  This isn’t Leigh’s first go around at the rodeo.  A St. Martin’s Press book was also the subject of many reader complaints due to editing errors.

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The debate about what function publishing serves exists everywhere.  At the London Book Fair, there was a panel of 2 against and 2 for.

The for argument is that publishers’ serve a gatekeeping role.

Free is far too much to pay for the majority of self-published books – and even some published books. The only way is to persuade readers that it is worth parting with their cash. Amazon may pay a 70% royalty, compared with a publisher paying 10% – but it is the size of the cake, not the size of the slice that is important.

*****

Stephanie Laurens started a new blog in February and posted 7 blog posts, mostly about price and now she’s done.  What I was surprised by was that the blog posts which were to be about the future of publishing were really about price and what can be done to maintain a higher price and the existing publishing eco system. It was interesting to read her point of view, but I’m left wondering what practical lessons can be taken away.  She does, however, reiterate the pro publisher pricing view point in that “Price is something established readers distrust – low price is not going to compensate them for time lost reading a poor work.”  It is in the best interests of authors to maintain a high price point.

Laurens appears convinced that until digital is greater than 70% of her readership, then trying to understand the digital reader doesn’t make sense.  Further, she believes that the existing readership is not moving toward digital books any time soon.  She also says that existing authors cannot offend existing readership by writing digital only books connected to existing series (Julia Quinn, the first of the trad publishing authors to experiment with digital only with her second epilogues has violated this rule).

To me this is another very viable avenue of reaching new audience at permanently lower prices – this doesn’t rely on sales, but will always be there. It’s something that cannot be done in print, and is to me one of the primary attractions of the digital world. However, there’s one caveat which currrently limits the ability of established authors with significant print audiences to dabble in this arena – they can’t publish any shorter work that connects directly with an ongoing series without risking the wrath of the woolly mammoth. And a happily reading woolly mammoth is still very important to many established authors.

One reader commented that she tried to post a comment and that her comment was deleted twice. If true, that is really unfortunate.  I looked around for an email to contact Ms. Laurens regarding the comment deletion but could find none.  Ms. Laurens, if you come to this blog via a link back, comment deletion is really frowned up in the internets.

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Salon. Oh Salon.  “Chick lit reimagined as respectable fiction” is the title of the article and it goes downhill form there.  Apparently some of their writer friends are being asked to “chick lit up” their manuscripts?  I don’t know who is saying that because I’ve heard chick lit is dead and has been for about 5 years.  Chick lit is called “women’s fiction” in editorial meetings.

“Chick lit” is one of the most depressing terms I can think of in the publishing industry. Then again, I don’t know that much book-selling jargon, so there are probably worse ones (“Magical tweenism?”), but that phrase — applied to frothy writing about “modern” women (and their love lives) –  is almost a derogatory term, implying the type of fluffy romance masquerading as post-post-post-new-wave feminist spiel.

It’s not that Gloss and Salon aren’t terribly amusing in their re-imaging of classic works, but why do it at the expense of segment of fiction that is likely enjoyed by their core demographic? You know, women who read.

But they are just repeating what other women in publishing are thinking, apparently. Jennifer Egan, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, called chick lit “banal” and “derivative” and suggested that Kaavya Viswanathan’s greatest sin was not plagiarizing but choosing the least interesting writing from which to copy.

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Another Penguin memoir is under fire.  Sunita brings attention to the Three Cups of Tea controversy.  Greg Mortenson wrote a memoir about his time in India which included being captured by the Taliban.  As Sunita writes:

There is another set of “exaggerations” which 60 Minutes detailed, one of which the LA Times highlighted, which is of particular interest to me as an academic who conducts field work in South Asia and who relies on the kindness and assistance of local experts. The Times quotes the 60 Minutes press release:

In television appearances, he has said he was kidnapped for eight days by the Taliban. 60 MINUTES located three of the men in the photo, all of whom denied that they were Taliban and denied that they had kidnapped Mortenson.  One the men in the photo is the research director of a respected think tank in Islamabad, Mansur Khan Mahsud. He tells Kroft that  he and the others in the photo were Mortenson’s  protectors, not his kidnappers. “We treated him as a guest and took care of him,” says Mahsud.

This isn’t just a memoir distortion to shrug our shoulders about. This is unconscionable. It’s bad enough to make up being kidnapped by the Taliban. But to claim that your host is a terrorist? A host who writes for Foreign Policy? And you smear his extended family and friends, too, for good measure?

Worth an entire read. The memoir is under review by Viking, the publisher.

 

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

35 Comments

  1. Courtney Milan
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 12:15:10

    One of the few good things about the THREE CUPS OF TEA scandal is that I discovered byliner.com, where Jon Krakauer has posted his shorter piece of narrative investigative journalism that exposes both the lies and the financial mismanagement that Mortenson has engaged in in detail. (By “shorter” I mean 89 pages–it’s free for download through today, and I’m reading it now.)

    I’m so happy that someone is trying to monetize hard-hitting narrative investigative journalism so that we can still have this kind of stuff in a world where the news increasingly feels like predigested two-paragraph pablum. I hope that this form takes off, and as soon as Krakauer’s piece shows up on Amazon, I’m clicking “buy.”

  2. Moriah Jovan
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 12:23:45

    @Courtney Milan:

    I’m so happy that someone is trying to monetize hard-hitting narrative investigative journalism…

    There was an article in the NYT some time back (can’t remember what, sorry), and thought, YES! This is what IJ USED to be and can we get back to that, please?

    So I agree completely.

  3. Isobel Carr
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 12:27:52

    “Price is something established readers distrust – low price is not going to compensate them for time lost reading a poor work.” It is in the best interests of authors to maintain a high price point.

    The price wars and everyone’s 2-cents are fascinating to me. I don’t think it’s in author’s best interest to “maintain a high price point”, but I do think it’s in our best interest to discover what the best price point is for eBooks (a price that readers and authors both think is fair).

    I can tell you that the Kensington Debut program, where they discount an new authors first two books, is highly misunderstood by a lot of readers and that many most defiantly do equate price with quality. When LORD SIN came out, I got numerous emails and reviews that stated things like “This is a good book, I don’t understand why it was discounted.” and “The price made me think the publisher didn’t really think this was worth reading, but it is!”

    I’m guessing that the price point for indie digital will settle in between $2.99-$4.99 for novel-length fiction. But who knows, I’ve been wrong before. I thought I’d hate eBooks too, and now I read almost exclusively on my phone, LOL!

  4. Nadia Lee
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 12:32:15

    I can’t believe some think it’s now contracted authors’ job to hire freelance copyeditors, etc. to ensure that their books are error-free.

    From SBTB:

    And, as an author, if your publisher is cutting back on intensive editing and just supplying proofing (although even that seems to have been skipped here?), then it’s on you to make sure that your writing is properly represented to the world. If you know that you have a history of spelling/typing errors, hire a copyeditor. If you can’t go to that expense, at the very least run spell check and have a friend look over your work. Even someone who’s not a specialist should be able to spot most of these errors – I presume, for instance, that not everyone on this site spends their days editing, and yet plenty of people have noticed these errors.

    Why should anybody sign with a publisher if the publisher can’t even provide decent editing? This is intensely frustrating.

  5. Las
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 12:38:45

    I asked this at SB but I’d really like to get answers from as many as people as possible…

    How common is Leigh-type writing pre-editing? It’s pretty clear to me that all the problems with Leigh’s books are just how she writes (and how she’s always written), and for some reason–probably because she still sells–publishers don’t waste their time editing her work. Do many authors actually submit their books with tons of spelling, grammatical, and word usage errors and continuity problems that make the book unreadable, and it’s the editing that makes it good? It’s wierding me out a bit imagining that some of my favorite authors are, essentially, Photoshopped.

  6. Jane
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 12:47:46

    @Las: Leigh’s editing problems seem consistent across publishers so it could be because the books are rushed. I will say that I’ve received ARCs that are full of errors. One author who has a wide following on the internet had an ARC that was almost completely intelligible at times because of poor word choice, grammatical errors and the like. The end product was not like that although I still disagreed with certain word choices, the grammatical errors and misspellings seemed cleaned up.

    I also recently read Three to Tango, a Berkley Heat anthology with four authors. Two of the stories had really egregious editing errors and two did not. One of the authors of the contribution makes public statements that she doesn’t like to be edited so I don’t know if she just chose to put out her work like that. I’m not sure what to make of it?

    The author can refuse to make edits. I’ve also heard of authors say that after their work comes back from the copyediting stage that there are errors there that didn’t exist prior to the publication.

  7. Las
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 12:49:57

    @Isobel Carr: The majority of super cheap digital book I’ve purchased have been awful, so I do tend to equate price with quality. The exception to that is books that are on sale. It’s dishonest, but it might be a better tactic for publishers to claim a higher original price and then offer a discount.

  8. Pat
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 13:04:22

    @ Courtney Milan

    Thank you for the link. I’ve downloaded the article and look forward—regretfully—to reading it. What is with people anyway?

    @ Jane

    A library-Kindle hookup is something I’ve been longing for. Any idea when it will begin?

  9. Jane
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 13:05:35

    @Pat No, everything that has been publicly said says “later” so have no idea what later means.

  10. Isobel Carr
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 13:39:22

    I’ve only worked with two publishers (neither of them being Berkeley), but I can tell you right now that Grand Central/Forever edits the holy bejeeus out of us. Their rep for really digging in and working on their books is one of the reasons I’m so happy to be with them. I can’t imagine my editor missing something like what’s being reported here.

    I had 4 rounds on RIPE FOR PLEASURE and 6 rounds on RIPE FOR SCANDAL. And that’s not counting the actual copy edits and the review that I, my editor, and an outside copy editor all do on the galley. I had “continuity” issues that actually weren’t flagged because the transition or action was mildly confusing and I’ve had to fight hard for some of my choices (and I haven’t won every battle).

    That said, I do think that sometimes “big” authors are allowed to ignore their editors to their own detriment. I think we can all point to instances where we strongly suspect this dynamic is in place.

  11. Lynnd
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 13:59:37

    @Courtney Milan: Thank you for the link. I am also glad there are now options for journalists to get paid to do good investigative journalism work since most of the news outlets are no longer prepared to do fund this type of work (to all of our detriment).

  12. Courtney
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 14:04:34

    There’s been a lot of discussion about editing errors/oversights for a lot of authors lately. I will say that I noticed typos in Nalini Singh’s last Angels’ book as well as Julie James, “A Lot Like Love.” Frankly, my heart breaks for those authors because I truly believe that typos should be caught by editors and copyeditors. Is it because these are both Berkely authors? I’m not sure and I’m fairly confident that other publishers have published works with editing errors.

    I also think that I see more typos and other editing type errors (verb tense, subject/verb agreement) now than I did say, 10 years ago. I don’t know if it’s because the market has grown so there’s more pressure to produce more work more quickly (something I suspect) or if it has to do with training-who is training the current generation of editors/copyeditors? Have folks lost the ability to properly edit in today’s world of text speak? I doubt it, but I definitely have seen and noticed more problems in the last few years than years ago.

  13. Janine
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 14:05:26

    @Las:

    From what I’ve seen in ARCs it’s not that common. Most ARCs contain a few errors that I catch and that’s about it (and I used to work as a proofreader). With that said, I’ve run across a few ARCs that have enough errors to really bug me.

  14. Isobel Carr
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 14:15:17

    I think some ARCs are pre-copy edit, and they’re certainly pre-galley. I’d expect to see errors in ARCs that aren’t in the finished books.

  15. carmen webster buxton
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 14:16:34

    A note to the person who asked about Kindle lending: I believe Amazon is promising it will be there by the end of the year. I expect they will try their best to have it in place before people start buying ereaders as Christmas presents. It certainly undercuts on the main reasons some folks chose Nook over Kindle.

  16. Janine
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 14:17:06

    @Isobel Carr:

    Yes well, Las’s question was “How common is Leigh-type writing pre-editing?”

  17. Sunita
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 14:18:01

    The Krakauer story is a terrific read. He is such a good writer. I did (yet another) post on this today, after reading the whole thing and thinking about it. Even if you don’t entirely trust Krakauer, there’s material in there that stands on its own and is damning. So very depressing. But if this piece doesn’t get long-form going, nothing will.

    And it’s edited really well. I didn’t see any obvious glitches or even typos when I was reading it, and it was put together in final form this past weekend (and released Monday). The production values are excellent, I think.

  18. Isobel Carr
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 14:19:45

    @Courtney: Do you think electronic copy edits might be contributing to this? I just did these for the first time on the second book in my new series and I found it REALLY disconcerting to deal with all the track changes stuff on the page. I’m going to have to go over that galley with a fine-toothed comb, cause I’m SURE that some strange stuff has slipped though. I should have printed out the final version. Just thought of that now. *grumble*

  19. Isobel Carr
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 14:24:54

    @Janine: Not having read Leigh, I’m not sure I know exactly what kind of errors were talking about, but typos are a given IMO. Esp ones where you type the wrong word or some kind of auto-sub “helps” you, LOL! As for the bizarre continuity error where they’re in one place and then suddenly somewhere else entirely with no transition, I’d guess that’s pretty rare, but I KNOW I’ve seen happen in more than one book. I think it was a Sherrilyn Kenyon book where they were running through the woods and then suddenly, mid-action, they were inside a cabin. Very strange.

  20. Sunita
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 14:26:57

    @Isobel Carr: But you can put up a clean page & a track-changes page next to each other on the screen, or print one out if your screen isn’t big enough, and work that way.

    I’ve been using track changes on collaborative docs as well as those in the editing process (with up to 4 editors). It’s not easy, but it shouldn’t result in more mistakes if you take time to get the hang of it.

  21. Courtney
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 14:32:38

    @Isobel Carr: I’m not sure if it’s electronic edits, although I’ve got to be believe that authors and their editors have been using track changes for quite awhile. Whatever the reason is, it’s a quality-control issue. Again, I think responsibility for these errors mainly resides with the publisher/editor, not the author.

    For me, reading a book with editing problems is like listening to a cd with scratches and breaks-it takes the enjoyment out of it to a certain extent, particularly if the books are novellas or standard mass market paperbacks around 90,000 words. I can forgive typos more easily in a 700 page book than in a novella or standard paperback.

  22. Isobel Carr
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 14:45:48

    @Sunita: Right, but when using it for the first time, there may well be a “learning curve” (and I’m by no means a luddite). I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to print out the final version until now, but it didn’t. It got quite messy though, because my publisher’s directions were that I wasn’t to accept or reject the edits, I was to STET in comments the ones I didn’t agree with and make changes as necessary to the manuscript. Thankfully, I know my editor has gone back over it very carefully and I still have the galley to catch errors in (just wish I wasn’t so d@mn dyslexic).

  23. Isobel Carr
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 14:47:34

    @Courtney: I’ve never used track changes before. Even my first book with Grand Central was done with all paper edits, so this is VERY new to me (and I assume to them).

  24. Elizabeth
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 14:49:30

    @carmen webster buxton:

    This is half true: I asked for the NookColor after debating between it and the Galaxy Tab. I hated reading the NYTimes on my original Nook, and enjoy it on the touchscreen of the NoolColor. But I do agree that library borrowing was a big factor.

  25. Courtney Milan
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 14:55:54

    @Isobel Carr: I print out everything. I feel totally “Get off my lawn!” about it but I just don’t think I can edit on the screen. I don’t believe it’s possible. Harrumph.

    And for @Las: I can’t speak for other authors, but I try to make things as good as I can with every draft. If I see something wrong, I fix it. Just because there’s no guarantee that I’ll see it the next time it comes in front of my eyes. But every successive draft is better–both because of editorial input and because I’m putting in more work to clean things up.

    And, yes, my copy-editor just found a really embarrassing drift of eye color in my upcoming book. I can’t believe I let that happen. I’d like to think I would have caught it myself when I got the proofs–but I’m glad she did!

  26. Sunita
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 15:17:31

    @Courtney Milan: I print both versions, because after a couple of rounds on a coauthored paper with multiple versions and then one or more editors, I can’t see anything. I put them side by side and hope for the best.

    There should be a damnyoutrackchanges.com website.

  27. Courtney Milan
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 15:28:00

    @Sunita: Yes, me too! I get line edits from my editor in Track Changes and then I print them out and make HANDWRITTEN CHANGES on another printed document, which I then go in and put them manually in the document, which I then print out and reread. Please don’t tell my agent who preaches that nobody needs paper anymore. I think I use like 9 reams of paper per book and that’s not even vaguely an exaggeration.

  28. Isobel Carr
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 15:50:42

    I’m old school about so many things (I make costumes by hand, I have a degree in book arts [handset type and bookbinding], I actually cook), so when I try to be a 21st century girl, I don’t always succeed, LOL! I’m just happy to hear that other people still feel the need to edit on paper. Oh, I do find that uploading my manuscript to my eReader gives me a new, clean perspective and helps me find errors. So I guess I’m not a hopeless luddite.

  29. Kerry Allen
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 17:30:18

    Editing back-to-front also prevents you from getting caught up in reading and helps you see what’s on the page instead of what you “know” you wrote.

  30. Las
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 19:25:38

    Thanks for all the replies.

    It’s not really typos and misspellings that bother me so much–those are the things I expect an editor to catch, and while I notice them, they’re not enough to pull me out of a story unless it’s every other word. It’s the major continuity errors (especially when they occur on the same page), the odd word choices and funky phrasing, lousy grammar, the inexplicable POV shifts, etc. that I feel indicates a lack of skill on the writer’s part when they’re the rule rather than the exception in her work.

  31. Isobel Carr
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 19:33:04

    Well, so much for hubris! GrowlyCub has been pointing out all my typos on Twitter. ARGH! Why isn’t SHE my fricken copy editor? Seriously.

  32. Barbara
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 22:45:09

    That was me that posted/tried to post at Stephanie Laurens’ blog. I actually posted three times – one lengthy post where I quoted several points of hers and offered my differing opinions. That post went up, stayed up for about twenty minutes then vanished. It disappeared when I came back to the page later to see if anyone else had posted. Since I’d gotten the link from a tweet I’d seen from Jane and saw she was still on Twitter, I asked her quickly to see if she could see my post – sometimes Chrome does screwy things with me and I have to clear my cache when I mess with my browser windows too many times. By then, my post was gone.

    Since there’s no way to contact Laurens or anyone else, I just asked why my post had been deleted and within just a minute or two, that post had been removed, this time saying, “deleted by author,” which it hadn’t been. The last post that’s left up is mine.

    The only points I’d made which were hardly offensive were that people looking at backlist titles weren’t placing the same value on them as frontlist titles because they don’t usually have the same value to the majority of the readers that are buying them – and we do know the difference between a book written in 1996 and one in 2011. They’re not being read for continuing a series, they’re usually being purchased for nostalgia’s sake or something else. Most of us who buy them already have a paperback copy or can get one for a couple of bucks at the secondhand store. So yes, they should be priced accordingly.

    I also told her that any other price problems she was having ought to be taken up with her publisher before she started laying them all at the feet of people who read ebooks. That until publishers got wise to the right way to determine a reasonable pricing scale, customers were going to complain. Agency 7 pricing wasn’t going to let her readers get used to any “sweet spot” she thought a backlist price would set. I believe I said it wasn’t about her, it was about them. I suggested she look around the blogosphere for conversations about ebook pricing and linked to DA, telling her that unless the book was extraordinary, a $12.99 ebook was simply not ever going to be an acceptable price point for the majority of people.

    Lastly, I just reminded her that she was wrongheaded about her idea that she was abandoning her base if she started paying attention to people reading ebooks. People reading ebooks ARE her base, they just happened to switch.

    There were some other things in there, but hey, this is all from memory since she deleted me. I was also very polite, since my mom would have beaten me with a stick if I hadn’t been, so that wasn’t why I was deleted. :)

  33. SAO
    Apr 21, 2011 @ 01:04:36

    Different authors and different books have different readerships. Some bestselling authors might have a large percentage of people who don’t read much. The fifth book in a subgenre series might have a readership that is mostly devotees. I know a lot more people who have read Harry Potter 1 than Harry Potter 7.

    It would be nice to assume authors and publishers know who their readers are, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Readers who visit author websites are a small fraction of a successful author’s readership.

    Someone who reads one or two books a year is probably not price sensitive. Those who read 20 books a month are. What e-books take away is the windowing that publishers used to do, with hardcover, trade and mass market (going on to used and library, from which they didn’t benefit).

    The easy math is X sales times Y price, which lots of authors seem to do, noticing that X times Y+more > X times Y. Predicting a supply and demand curve is a lot tougher, particularly when even books in the same series might sell differently.

  34. S. V. Rowle» Blog Archive » The Tipping Point in Publishing
    Apr 21, 2011 @ 17:01:39

    [...] is HUGE. Not only will you be able to bookmark, highlight, and take notes on book you check out, all of those notes will remain stored in the cloud so that if or when you decide to buy or borrow that book again, all of the notes, highlights, and [...]

  35. Sterling Editing » Written on the internet
    Apr 22, 2011 @ 13:28:10

    [...] This links post from Dear Author and this one from Writer Beware have so many great items that we’re just saying, “Go read them!” Kindle lending through libraries, plagiarism, and more. [...]

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