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

Wednesday Midday Links: Kindle Fire, Kindle Touch, Nook Tablet All Ship...

First up are deals from Avon. These books are all priced at $4.99. Some retailers aren’t reflecting all the reduced prices but within the next week or so, this should be corrected. The deals are good for US and Canada and at Amazon, BN, and Kobo.

The Kindle Fire, Kindle Touch and Nook Tablets are all available. I picked up my Nook Tablet yesterday and am getting my Kindle Fire today and this weekend, there will be a review of both.  To test out video, I purchased a one month subscription to Hulu Plus.  Did you know that there were ads on the videos in HuluPlus? I did not.  *grumble, grumble, grumble*
Penguin has launched the revenue generating portion of Book Country today.  You can buy packages to assist your self publishing endeavor.  From Paid Content:
Book Country provides users with three self-publishing packages: $99 for a user-formatted e-book; $299 for a user-formatted print and e-book; and $549 for a professionally formatted print and e-book. Those who select the $549 option can choose from six styles created by Penguin’s in-house designers. Each style corresponds to a certain book genre: “The Sensation” for sci-fi/fantasy titles, for example, or “The Riddler” for mysteries and thrillers. Users can make up to 15 free formatting changes before the book is published.
In addition to the package price, Book Country also keeps 30% of the royalty if you price the book above $2.99 and 70% of the royalty if you price the book between $.99 and $2.98.  I’m not sure what happens if you want to give the book away as part of a promotion.  If the book is sold at a third party retailer site like Amazon or PubIt!, then Book Country keeps the same amount after the fees to the retailer are paid.  Thus, if the book is priced $2.99 and sold at Amazon, the author gets to keep $1.47.    (2.99 x. .70 (amazon keeps .30) x .70 (book country keeps .30).  As a consumer, I’m not likely to buy a book at Book Country and I don’t have much interest in being a member there which seems to be akin to beta reading self published books for free.
YA is burning up the sales at stores, so much so that bookstores are giving YA books front of store placement.  In my BN, there is a whole section at the front of the store called Teen Paranormal Romance.  Romance has been reshuffled from front of the store to the middle between mystery and science fiction.   Interestingly enough, some believe that YA’s success is that it is more HOPEFUL than contemporary fiction.  You know what I think?  I think the lurid romance covers are killing the genre.
Dimopoulos thinks that the egoism involved in YA books – including her own – might be the draw for grown-ups. How often do adults get to think only about themselves – and to experience love and sex for the first time? In addition, unlike much contemporary fiction, “There’s always some degree of hope at the end of YA novels,’’ Dimopoulos said.
Seriously, hopefulness in romance books has always been one of the major criticisms.
Barnes & Noble has some exclusive content of its own.  James Patterson is offering an exclusive digital novella to BN customers:
When customers visit a physical Barnes & Noble store and purchase Patterson’s Kill Alex Cross in hardcover, plus any other Patterson title for children or adults in any format, they will receive a Patterson novella, Merry Christmas, Alex Cross—exclusive to Barnes & Noble.
Will this lead to Books a Million and Amazon excising Patterson books from their catalogs as BN and BAMM did to the DC Comics after Amazon announced an exclusive windowing deal with DC Comics?
White characters are the default in books, even if the author describes them differently (which should encourage authors to experiment with race phenotypes in their books because most people won’t even notice!).  When movie posters of Hunger Games revealed Rue and Cinna as black, many facebook readers were shocked.  Some appalled.  Despite the descriptions in the books that provided markers to indicate that these characters were non white, readers interpreted them through their own lenses.  Rue, for example, is described in the book as having dark brown skin and eyes.  Collin wrote in the facebook comment “Shes [sic] Black?” and then there is Grace who wrote “at first when I saw the picture I was all sad and like “she’s black!” but then I read the book again and the book describes her as black. soooooo yea.”
Cinna is described as “cropped natural dark brown hair and slightly dark skin”  and the responses, well, read the responses via the link.
I don’t know if there is any better argument for authors to start diversifying their characters than those facebook comments.  The norm, default character in literature is white in color and so even if you do write a character with dark skin, readers will see them as white. It’s win win win all around.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and 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


  1. Nadia Lee
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 11:42:52

    What’s so plus about Hulu Plus if it’s not ad free?

  2. SAO
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 11:46:56

    There’s so much criticism of authors appropriating others’ identities that I’d be wary of writing a black character, although I’ve toyed with the idea of non-white chars from oddball backgrounds (like adopted into a white family or living as expats overseas) so they are not quite at home with “their” culture.

    I used to be amazed at the Harlequins from S. Africa in the 70s or 80s. There were few clues to suggest that S. Africa wasn’t just a tropical England and certainly not any black chars, unless you happened to notice the faithful family household help probably didn’t drop their H’s like a typical Cockney stock char from the land of thatched-roofed cottages.

  3. Maili
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 11:58:08

    Interestingly enough, some believe that YA’s success is that it is more HOPEFUL than contemporary fiction. You know what I think? I think the lurid romance covers are killing the genre.

    Sorry for being so random: I can’t remember where I saw this post, but someone wrote a truly interesting post about the current trend of YA covers. The complaint is that most YA covers have young girls appearing as corpses or dying.

    Found it: Cover Trends in YA Fiction: Why the Obsession with an Elegant Death?

  4. Keishon
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 11:58:29

    In my BN, there is a whole section at the front of the store called Teen Paranormal Romance. Romance has been reshuffled from front of the store to the middle between mystery and science fiction.

    Same in my area as well except romance was at the back of the store and was moved to the middle of the store right behind mystery. They have also increased stocking/selling a lot of toys and games and other products on the sales floor and all I can say is that if this is the future look for all bookstores then it is disheartening.

  5. Brian
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 12:06:11

    Here’s a deal that might interest some so I thought I’d pass it along…

    Tiger Eye: The First Dirk & Steele Novel by Marjorie M. Liu
    is currently free for Kindle, Nook, Sony and iBooks (for US customers at least)

  6. Lisa Renee Jones
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 12:06:51

    I have to admit I never pictured Rue and Cinna as black– in the audio books it just didn’t seem to be something I picked up on. However, I think as I reflect on that to think that the entire population was white would be a miss. I like that their is some diversity and honestly there should be more than just two races.

  7. Kim in Hawaii
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 12:23:46

    @SAO: I also thought of the recent (and recurring) criticism of “appropriation”. Yet Jane’s thoughts on the subject were reflective. It would be encouraging to see a colorful cast of characters. I believe a roadblock is the publishers – if they encourage more “realistic” manuscripts, they will come.

    Then again, I was raised by my family and trained by the military to be colorblind.

    Regarding your comment about a character with an oddball background, I recall an interview with the producers of Hawaii Five O who plan to do just that. Currently Masi Oka portrays Max Bergman, an original character from the first Hawaii Five O. According to the interview, a future episode will explain how an Asian man has a Jewish name!

  8. Mireya
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 12:35:48

    Have to check in my B&N, first thing you see when you walk in is the Nook display/store. Romance is almost extinct there. A grand total of two two-sided book cases. Pretty sad.

  9. Christine
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 12:59:03

    I haven’t read any of the Hunger Games books but the descriptions seem vague. Particularly this one “Cinna is described as “cropped natural dark brown hair and slightly dark skin”

    What is “slightly dark’? Dark compared to what is my question. I’m pretty pasty so slightly dark compared to me could be a very light tan. I can think of numerous ethnicities from all over the globe where someone could be described as “slightly dark.” Unless there were some other descriptions of this person in the books I wouldn’t have a clear idea at all of what they were supposed to look like let alone ethnicity.

  10. Jill Sorenson
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 13:03:37

    Funny, what struck me most about the Hunger Games trailer was how Jennifer Lawrence looked too pale and blue-eyed for Katniss. I’d originally supported the casting decision, as I thought she was wonderful in Winter’s Bone (fantastic movie). Now it seems like a mismatch, as I picture the character darker, leaner, less round of face.

  11. LG
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 13:13:59

    I read The Hunger Games, and I can’t say that I recall any of its character descriptions. I’m also pretty sure that character descriptions did not come up often (except for maybe Effie, but the focus was more on her hair, makeup, and clothes). Clothing descriptions, yes, but not descriptions of the people. I read fast enough that, unless a detail is particularly striking (“this person has green hair!”) or is important to the story, I sometimes miss things. Physical details like skin color, eye color, etc. apparently didn’t register as important enough for me to take note of. The big thing, to me, was that some people had the luxury of being well-fed and wildly dressed while other people could barely manage to survive from one day to the next.

    I should probably note that I haven’t read the other books in the trilogy yet and wasn’t wild about The Hunger Games, so I’m probably much less concerned about casting decisions and how the movie turns out than some people.

  12. Las
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 13:28:01

    @Jill Sorenson: I was just going to bring that up…the damn main character sounds non-white, and there was a big dust-up all over the internet about Jennifer Lawrence being cast, with white fans bending over backwards to defend the casting. But, oh noes!!, two characters–described as non-white in the books–being portrayed by black actors makes them “sad.” People are stupid.

    As for B&N, romance has been shelved right next to mystery around here for as long as I can remember.

  13. Laura Vivanco
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 13:40:53


    I used to be amazed at the Harlequins from S. Africa in the 70s or 80s. There were few clues to suggest that S. Africa wasn’t just a tropical England and certainly not any black chars

    Did you read any by Rosalind Brett? I think they were mostly written in the 1950s and 60s, but Harlequin published them in the 1960s and 1970s.

    I was struck by the way she included black characters primarily as “houseboys” and feckless/violent/ignorant/lazy plantation workers who needed constant supervision by the hero. Here’s part of a review (not by me) of one of the ones I read:

    I’m not going to ding the author for having a patronizing attitude towards the natives since this book was written in 1948. Vintage contemporary stuff like that can have offensive stuff for today’s readers, so just a warning here that if you don’t like to have adult natives treated and referred to as children, boys, etc. by the “big boss-man” then you’ll probably want to give this a pass. I found the author’s description and the very slow-burn between Clare and Ross to be ample compensation for her colonist treatment of the natives in her story.

    Personally, I didn’t find anything in the novel to compensate for that.

  14. Sarah Frantz
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 13:51:51

    @Laura Vivanco and @SAO: I was born in South Africa, left it for the US when I was 14, in 1988, before any of the apartheid laws had been lifted, and that’s what it was like living there. You had a black maid and a black gardener, and besides other black maids at your friends’ houses, and black people in the streets as you were driving, you didn’t see any black people at all. You certainly didn’t interact with them. It really WAS pretty much like living in a tropical England, except every house had a huge wall, a security system, and a dog (siege culture, after all). Everything was segregated–everything. I had NO black friends, no black acquaintances besides our maid. That was, after all, the point of the governmental policies.

    So, while it’s not cool to depict the black servants as feckless idiots, and certainly the maid I had until we left was awesome, that’s what it was like living there as a white person. It’s utterly different now–completely new country. But until 1988, yeah, exactly like that.

    I’m not excusing it. I’m not saying it was good or right. But I’m also not saying *I* was racist for living in a country I was born in, in a way that was “normal” for white people to live. I left before I hit much political awareness of what it all meant, but that description sounds pretty much like what a white adult still oblivious to or deliberately ignoring the political ramifications of life in SA would write.

  15. Courtney Milan
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 14:00:49

    I had pictured Cinna as Southeast Asian–I’m not really sure why.

    Diana Peterfreund mentioned the same thing happening with her books–people assumed characters were white when they are not described as white, because there was no explicit label of race.

  16. DS
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 14:23:09

    Andre Norton in her YA (probably would be considered Middle School level now) books from the 60’s (and 50’s for that matter) included a lot of people from different cultures. The first one that I noticed with a black hero was Storm Over Warlock. (The sequel to Storm, Ordeal in Otherwhere, was the first Andre Norton book that had a female as the viewpoint character). I remember doing a double take when I read Storm because our library in the 60s did not have a lot of books for young readers with nonwhite characters.

    I’ve been digging around in local history which has involved checking through old census records and discovered that the county’s population was far more racially diverse in the 1870’s and 1880’s than the 1960’s and 1970’s.

    And looking a primary records certainly made it more clear to me how black women were made to disappear from the public record pre-Civil War. Seeing a column in a sheet of birth records that asks for Full Name of Father or Owner if Slave surprised me even though I knew the history. The women’s names and the names of the children were not recorded at all.

  17. Isobel Carr
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 14:31:10

    I’m still waiting to see the casting for American Gods … the book has a big, racially diverse cast and a non-Caucasian MC.

    Also, Penguin expects people to be dumb enough to PAY for a service AND fork over a large royalty %? Say it with me, G-R-E-E-D-Y.

  18. Julie @ Manga Maniac Cafe
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 14:41:19

    @Jill Sorenson: I had the same thought about the casting for Katniss. I also think everyone looks too well fed, but hey, I think that just must be me. The casting for Rue is spot on.

  19. John
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 15:04:37

    Really interesting article on YA. I feel like we are seeing the connection to romance more and more. While they are not the same genre, they share a LOT of similar qualities. YA has more room for tragedy/other genre pools, but the main attraction of romance, internal focus, plot, and hope (in most) seems to be pretty consistent. I know a lot of YA readers will read romance and vice versa, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

    I don’t mind romance covers, but I think if they were to make themselves follow less of the classic route it would do some good. At least in terms of store placement and respect – even if it is the same product, there will always be detractors because of the cover controversy. YA has it, too, especially in the same-ness of covers, but I think many genres tend to have cover trends, so that’s neither here nor there.

  20. Ridley
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 15:04:46

    You know what I think? I think the lurid romance covers are killing the genre.

    I completely agree. Avon in particular makes me embarrassed to read and defend romance. There’s having a house style, and then there’s the visual equivalent of copy/paste. I have a couple paper books of theirs that I got for free and I can’t seem to bring myself to read them. Right or wrong, I think that if the covers are all recycled garbage, the plots probably are too.

  21. Estara
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 15:15:25

    @Brian: Thanks a lot!

  22. Ros
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 17:19:40

    The egoism is what puts me off YA. Self-obsessed or self-absorbed teenagers are of no interest to me at all. When they’ve grown up enough to start caring about other people they can come back in a proper romance and I’ll read them then.

  23. CourtneyLee
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 17:21:36

    I’m on the same page as LG: physical traits didn’t register in my brain as much as clothing, makeup, etc. I think this is because I don’t do much visualizing as I read, or if I do, it’s piecemeal. The color of Effie’s hair, Peeta’s frosting creations at the bakery, the flowers that Katniss used to adorn Rue, the “duck tails” of Prim’s shirt as she walked up to the stage at the reaping.

    I don’t know if I’m going to see the movie. I have a hard time watching movies made from books I loved. I’ve been burned before and I adored The Hunger Games trilogy so much.

  24. Janine
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 19:40:13

    @Jill Sorenson: I’m pretty sure Katniss was described in the book as having light eyes (gray, I think), but she was also described as olive skinned. Jennifer Lawrence does look too pale to match what I pictured, and not as thin as I imagined Katniss either. It’s not that I’m normally in favor of anorexic-looking stars, but in this case, well, they are called the Hunger Games for a reason.

  25. SN
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 20:55:37

    That’s pretty much how I feel. I’ve read some incredible YA – like Perfect Chemistry – but for the most part I have no interest in or like for characters who are at an age where “It’s all about me.”
    I also have a hard time taking most YA romance seriously, and find the astounding number of books that end with a marriage proposal stupid.

    @Sarah Frantz:
    That’s how I would expect it to be.

  26. rebyj
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 00:09:23

    Thanks for posting the Avon books on sale. I snapped up Sandra Hill’s book. Oh the books I’d buy if they were all 4.99 or less!

  27. Mireya
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 08:46:48

    It would be paradise if ebooks were $4.99 or less, even if they included ads at the end of the ebooks.

  28. Lada
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 10:56:51

    It’s so strange to me that people have a hard time with diversity and automatically picture all characters as being caucasian. The gal who was sad to find out Rue was black…I don’t even…What?

    I guess I’m opposite and picture diversity even when it’s not there. Mavis from the In Death books has always been Asian in my head even though she’s described as white. I really appreciate authors like Nalini Singh who populates her books with different heritages. Maybe it’s easier for authors who write PNR but I do wish more authors would take risks.

  29. B
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 13:32:29

    @Nadia Lee: The plus of HuluPlus is that it allows wireless streaming of a few shows to other devices, such as a Roku box, so you can watch on your TV. Ads are the same as watching Hulu online; most current shows are web-only. The only reason I subscribe is to watch the Daily Show; wouldn’t bother otherwise. I much prefer buying ad-free episodes from Amazon-on-Demand.

  30. eggs
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 14:06:55

    I think a lot of readers just skim over authorial descriptions of what characters look like and substitute their own. I regularly re-read books and am shocked to read the initial descriptions of characters. They often have no relationship to the image I held in my mind in terms of colouring, body shape, etc.

    For example, I just finished reading Shona Husk’s short, Summons: A Goblin King Prequel. I’m sure Husk gave a specific physical description of the Goblin King in her story, but as soon as I read the words ‘Goblin King’ I see David Bowie. The end. My brain will accept no substitutions! Therefore I would say that our perception of the physical characteristics of characters (including race) often has little to do with how the authors describe the characters and a lot to do with the idiosyncratic operations of our minds.

  31. Laura
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 16:53:13

    @Lada: I know! Why sad? I thought Collins made it very clear that Rue and Thresh were Black. I thought she tried to show that their district was mainly black without spelling it out. It would be nice if more authors allowed their main characters to have nonwhite friends so readers could get used to imagining people of color in their fiction.

  32. Rachel
    Nov 18, 2011 @ 10:08:53

    @Maili: Thanks for the link, Maili!

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