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

Wednesday Midday Links: Liking the Unlikeable Character

Tribute Books has announced that beginning in 2012 it will become solely an e-book publisher young adult titles. They are looking for authors who are ready have a book published to a royalty paying press and are offering a 50% off the net retail price in royalties. They want to work with 12 authors, publishing one book per month.

This is not an endorsement of Tribute Books, but merely information that I’m passing along.

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Amazon has announced its quarterly earnings. While it enjoyed a 44% increase in North American revenue because of spending, profits had declined over 70%. Amazon anticipates that there will increase between 20% – 44% compared to last year in net sales. More here.

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Entangled Pub has announced they will begin to compete with Harlequin on a category book basis. Despite invoking the name of Harlequin, it appeared that category means length to Entangled Pub. As any long-time reader of category romances know, the category line promises a specific type of book. The press release, however, indicates a different focus.

Launching the Indulgence imprint offers the company the ability to focus on the 50,000-60,000 word stories which adhere to the tried and true tropes readers expect from category romances.

….

“There will be something for everyone in the Indulgence line,” says publisher Elizabeth Pelletier.

The press release goes on to say that it will offer Flirts which are 10-15K words and “Ever Afters” which are 30,000-40,000 word novellas.  This press release sounds like a reset. Hey guys, we are out here publishing books and we are going to be publishing more, in a variety of lengths. Hopefully the reset will include a reduction of prices. It does appear that prices are declining.  The book I reviewed here (positively I might add) cost $7.99 for an under 80K word novel at the time I reviewed it. The price for it is currently $3.99. It’s sequel is on sale for $6.99. There was no word in the press release about the price of the category books (or the shorter works).

Most of what I have heard about Entangled Pub is their denying legitimate bloggers review ARCs from Net Galley and sending semi offensive rejection notes. One thing I have experienced first hand is that Entangled Pub is very slow at responding to requests. I requested an Entangled Pub book and it took several weeks to get a response. I actually requested the book twice. (And both requests were approved on the same day). Many other bloggers have reported delays in responses, often the response being a rejection.

Lori Wilde, the acquisitions editor for the new line says that these categories are fresher than what is in the current market.

“These aren’t your mother’s category romances,” says Lori Wilde.  “They’re quick paced, exciting contemporary stories, whether funny, sexy, mysterious, edgy, or emotional, that showcase what it’s really like to fall in love in the twenty-first century.”

Hallmarks of the line will be the rapid-fire dialogue, fast moving plot lines, sizzling sex, and realistic characters.  Above all, the heartfelt emotions that speak to the way young people live, love, and work will be at the center of every story. “There has never been a more exciting time in history to be an author,” Wilde says. “Dare to seize the future!

Press releases are a tricky thing. Obviously they want to raise awareness and excitement for their new offerings but instead this release kind of slights existing category readers (and writers) as well as suggesting that their own offerings don’t contain a young, fresh, outlook with rapid-fire dialogue.  I do think that competing with Harlequin is a great idea.  I just don’t know that Entangled, with its near silent marketing squad, is ready to take them on.

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There is something funny about seeing a debate over low brow lit fic and high brow lit fic and what those in the lit fic crowd believe are deserving of literary prizes.  It means more, suggests one judge, when a readable book is judged along side others…less readable?

One anonymous publisher was quoted in the Guardian saying, “We need icy indifference to public opinion from our Booker judges, and we expect at least a few impenetrable, dark, tricky novels on the shortlist. That way it’s all the more surprising when a Life of Pi emerges.”

Impenetrable fiction for the win is the clarion call of some:

And yet there’s a consortium of people, headed by literary agent Andrew Kidd and supported by a host of literary types, who last week announced they were putting together a prize, to be known as The Literature Prize, for “writers who aspire to something finer.”

Why not just have a category for “books we think we are supposed to like because they are incomprehensible to us”?   More here.

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Lionel Shriver writes at Slate.com about the need for more unlikeable characters.  I’m not convinced by Shriver’s piece.  She begins by defining the unlikeable character by parsing out what is not an unlikeable character.  It is not an anti-hero, a villain, or someone unattractive by accident (wherein the author meant to write a loveable character but failed by making the character annoying).  Shriver can’t encapsulate what a truly unlikeable character is that we should enjoy reading.

Maybe we’re getting down to the nugget: it is possible to sympathize with characters, while still despairing of their misjudgments and even finding them irksome. Eva’s plight as the mother of a high school killer is sympathetic, whatever her shortcomings as a parent, for the scale of her punishment has been disproportionate. Willy’s career disappointment is heartbreaking, even if her rivalry with her husband is ugly and catastrophic. We can sympathize with people of whom we sometimes disapprove, and whom we may not entirely like.

I think Shriver wants you to like her characters because they are flawed and difficult but not because they are unlikeable.

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Here is another (expensive) entry into the lighted cover ebook market.  It’s from Lightwedge and the cover is called Verso.  The unique thing about this is that it is charged via a USB cord rather than batteries.  The cost is $59.99.

Verso Phosphor

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

36 Comments

  1. Daisy
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 12:12:55

    Lionel Shriver is a woman.

  2. Becca
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 12:15:10

    I don’t see how the Versio cover is all that different from my lighted Amazon k3 cover, or the lighted cover I have for my Sony 350, neither of which uses batteries, but runs off the device’s rechargeable battery.

  3. Pia
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 12:25:48

    Just a small note — Lionel Schriver is a woman.

    …and I see someone else noted it as well. Sorry for the repetition.

  4. Julie
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 12:27:11

    Being a category junkie, I am looking forward to seeing some of Entangled’s Indulgence line. According to their submissions page, they will cost $2.99. I’ll take a chance on a few at that price point.

  5. Jane
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 12:32:00

    @Daisy thanks. fixed.

  6. Jane
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 12:32:42

    @Becca I didn’t know that the lighted cover for the Sony 350 runs off the device’s rechargeable battery.

  7. library addict
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 12:38:38

    So the fact I’ve enjoyed category romances written in the late 80s/90s means I won’t like Entangled Pub’s categories because they’d be old enough that the mothers of today’s young/hip audience read them? Good to know.

  8. Jane
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 12:39:39

    @library addict: Some of my fave cat romances are from the 80s/90s. I really mourn the loss of the Harlequin Temptation line. What a fabulous line.

  9. Becca
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 12:41:52

    Jane @6 – This may be a mistake on my part, since my Sony is on loan to a friend, but I don’t recall any place to put a battery in the cover. I probably shouldn’t have said anything since I couldn’t check it to be sure. But I know that my K3 lighted cover works off the K3 battery.

  10. kara-karina
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 12:44:55

    I’ve had such a rejection letter from Entangled after reviewing couple of their titles and really praising the publisher. I never mind when my rejection letter states that they decline to let me view the title, but when they say that I have to have at least 700 followers, 500 goodreads friends and god knows what else so they could consider me? and I see smaller blogs getting the same title? No, thank you. I’m not requesting anything from Entangled ever again.

  11. DianeN
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 13:25:23

    Am I the only romance reader who honestly prefers not to read categories? I pick one up once in a while if there’s a lot of good buzz about it, and sometimes I even enjoy them. More often than not, though, I find myself regretting that the author didn’t write a longer book with more character development and a richer storyline. And don’t even get me started on novellas… I will only consider reading one if it’s somehow tied in to a series I’m following. To me, all this short fiction is like going up to the buffet just once, and totally skipping the desserts!!

  12. SAO
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 13:29:02

    Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, won the Booker and she didn’t worry about trivia such as pronoun or dialogue attribution, making it tricky to figure out who said or did what. Certainly impenetrable and, to many, unreadable.

    I called it bad writing and absent editing, but the Guardian called it award-winning.

    I certainly plan to maintain an icy indifference to the sequel.

  13. LG
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 13:31:16

    @DianeN: I used to not read categories for the same reasons you describe, but now I appreciate them because they give me something I can finish reasonably quickly, even if I don’t have much time to read. Plus, the prices (at least the discounted prices that Walmart slaps on them) are nice enough that I tend to add them to my cart when I need a treat for my brain, and I don’t feel as guilty about it as I would have if I’d picked up a $5.99-$7.99 book.

  14. Jane
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 13:31:54

    @DianeN: No, a lot of readers of mass market fiction do not read categories. I think that there may not be a ton of cross over.

  15. Randi
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 14:00:16

    @Jane: “Why not just have a category for “books we think we are supposed to like because they are incomprehensible to us”?”

    Priceless. Made me choke on my PB&J.

  16. srs
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 15:13:10

    @SAO: See, that just shows how much tastes vary as I absolutely loved Wolf Hall and thought it was compulsively readable. I read the whole giant book in about 3 days because once I started, I could not put it down until I had finished reading it. I remember thinking how awesome it was that the Booker committee chose such an enjoyable book and am eagerly awaiting the sequel. And I’m usually fairly critical of lit fic.

    I guess this is yet more evidence that YMMV and that one woman’s impenetrable, over-serious and under-edited can be another woman’s favourite read of the year.

  17. Keziah Hill
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 15:27:54

    I’m interested in the discussion on unlikeable characters. Here in Oz a literary book called The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas was a contender for the Miles Franklin (the Booker or Pulitzer equivalent). It didn’t win although I think it should have but that’s another story. All of the characters except maybe one are unlikeable. I couldn’t put it down. It’s been made into an 8 part TV series which is also compelling watching. I think what Shriver means is that writers need to take more risks with their characters which is always tricky in romance. Readers have expectations and want them fulfilled.

    As for impenetrable novels, there’s a market for them. Small but there. Lit fic is like other genre, it has conventions even though it claims not to. Each to their own.

  18. Jane
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 15:47:26

    @kara-karina I don’t understand a) turning down legitimate bloggers or b) what this affectation is for blog followers. What is that? I read a lot of blogs that I don’t “follow”

  19. Lynn S.
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 15:49:09

    The lit fic crowd should know that if you start eating the tail, the rest will soon follow. That knowledge might be darky and tricky, but it’s not impenetrable.

  20. sarah mayberry
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 16:05:58

    I love this stuff about the Booker. When I was doing my degree, we had to read James Joyce’s Ulysses. Such a celebrated arty-farty book, but such a hard slog. To this day I’m convinced I’m the only person in the class who read the damn thing from cover to cover. I was hugely relieved when someone made a list of over-rated books recently and Ulysses was right up there. It ticks all the literary boxes – self indulgent, lacking story, inpenetrable in places, incomprehensible in others… Quick, give that man an award! Thanks for the tip on Wolf Hall, SAO. Have been circling this but you just sent me scuttling for cover.

  21. CK
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 16:18:53

    @Jane: To me that ‘followers’ thing is the same as the Facebook ‘friends’. It’s a nebulous status that really means nothing. How many of the followers actually read the blog and what about the rest of us who read it on a daily basis but don’t follow? Entangled is quickly becoming known in certain blog circles as, “Oh.Them.” Not a good way to endear yourself to bloggers who tend to have huge TBRs.

  22. Ros
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 16:40:27

    @SAO: Wolf Hall is the only recent Booker winner I’ve read, and I thought it was brilliant.

    While I’m excited at more short romances being published – I love category length – I do agree that the press release could have been better worded. It seems to me that Entangled are aiming for the same kind of thing as Mills and Boon Riva/Harlequin Presents Extra. We’ll see. I’ve sent them a submission but I hope that they get their act together with the marketing thing. As far as sending out review copies, if they’re electronic copies, I can’t see any reason at all for setting limits on that.

  23. Ros
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 16:42:17

    @Jane: I don’t ‘follow’ any blogs. I don’t use a post-aggregator or any other kind of reader. I just turn up my favourite blogs when I want and see what’s new.

  24. Evangeline
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 16:51:16

    Unlikable heroes abound in Mad Men. But would you really want to read book after book starring characters like Don Draper?

  25. MaryK
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 17:18:27

    This must be a different Lori Wilde from the Lori Wilde who’s a HQN author? “These aren’t your mother’s category romances” is kind of a weird statement. I mean today’s category romances aren’t “my mother’s” category romances because the lines have evolved over the years. It sounds like she’s talking about something that doesn’t exist anymore when, hello, they’re regularly on the bestseller lists. Or are they aiming for a younger audience? Twenty-first century young people rather than the twentieth century old folks who read HQN categories. That would account for the “your mother” thing. Heh.

    I’m pretty sure I could write impenetrable fiction. Dark and twisty that only I understand? I could totally do that. There’s not much point though since Lit Fic doesn’t make a lot of money.

  26. eggs
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 21:30:39

    What’s the difference between blog “followers” and “readers”? I would be happy to “follow” the blogs I read daily if it benefited the authors … but I don’t know what following is. Can anyone enlighten me?

  27. Jane
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 21:56:48

    @eggs: I don’t really know. I’m not even sure who started the whole “let’s measure bloggers by their ‘followers'” thing. I understand publishers need to separate legitimate requests from those who are just using NetGalley as a library but their metrics seem weird to me.

    Take, for example, the friends on goodreads thing. I accept every friend request, but I often regret it because many times it is authors who friend me and then immediately thereafter spam me with recommendations of their books. I even had a husband of a bestselling author do it twice. I had to hunt down his profile and unfriend him. So maybe some goodreads users intentionally keep their “friends” list low to ensure that it is readers only. Or the blog followers. I think many of us have no clue how to follow a blog. I think it requires a google account. Maybe readers don’t want to follow a blog. Doesn’t mean that there aren’t readers following.

    One of the bloggers that was turned down by Entangled Press has interviews with bestselling authors from mainstream publishers at her blog. Up thread we have a reviewer/blogger who was giving Entangled positive press from books she purchased herself and couldn’t get approved.

    I understand that NetGalley publishers get thousands of requests and that it is time consuming and difficult but Entangled is a small and new pub and I would think it would embrace “small” blogs (whatever small blogs are in the minds of pubs).

  28. Patrice
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 10:16:58

    Ok spew alert on the “books we think we are supposed to like because they are incomprehensible to us”. I admit I don’t read Lit Fic, because lihtarareeh books bore me to death. I also slogged through many a tome as an English major and so (albet with lingering self guilt) have given myself permission to read for fun, and fun only. Yes I am a rebel without a cause. If you tell me to read it, because it is award winning and will enlighten me, I will not. LOL

    And I am another romance reader who has not really read catagory romance. I’d get the odd one passed along by a friend but never got hooked. I used to read so quickly a short book just seemed like a waste. My MIL has read and loved them for years, especially sweeping family series types, which do sound interesting. But they take like 35 little books. Seems similar to series I read with 7 or more longer books. But who knows, I may find some good ones from recommendations here! That definitely happens. ;-)

    Entangled management needs to take a marketing and Biz 2 Biz customer service class. If you ask readers to act as a reviewer ie: a “business”, and perform a service for your business, then piss them off you have lost not only a biz vendor but also a reader/customer. And bad word of mouth travels exponentially at the speed of sound. That was true before blogs and twitter and is even more true now.

  29. Rhianna
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 12:02:02

    I’m a bit surprised to see other bloggers are having problems with Entangled. I’ve had just the opposite experience with one small exception that isn’t worth noting. In fact I was expecting to be declined for titles after I gave one of their launch titles a 3-star review.

    I’m definitely one of the smaller blogs out there too, as much as I hate admitting it in front of this audience.

    One thing I feel may be contributing to possible issues is that they are putting out a lot of books and setting up blog tours and promo for this many is time consuming. I’ve honestly never seen any other publicists put this much work into their job.

    I can’t see myself jumping into reading their catagory romances but I’ve really had great experiences with the authors writing for them so if any of them write one I might be persuaded to try it.

  30. MAClarkeScott
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 12:21:59

    @DianeN: I am totally on the same page. Every once in a while I will read a cat romance (usually it was a free gift or something) and come away wishing I hadn’t bothered. I commend those who write them and serve their obviously appreciative audiences but they are not for me.

  31. MAClarkeScott
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 12:26:26

    Regarding Shriver’s piece: Is it not the job of the writer to create empathy for her characters, and to imbue them with flaws to make them human? Is that not WHY we empathize with them and care about their stories? Yes, we may exaggerate their talents and good qualities to compensate (Because we don’t *want* to empathize with flawed human beings), but the point is for the reader to accompany the protagonist along on their journey, and this invariably means they learn something about themselves or the world that they did not know before (both the characters and the readers!)

  32. HollyY
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 12:32:55

    @MaryK: No Mary – it’s THE Lori Wilde. She’s listed as a member of Entangled’s Advisory board: http://www.entangledpublishing.com/the-advisory-board/

  33. KarLynP
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 13:36:02

    @Becca:

    I have had both types of Kindle covers, and the Amzn one is much better. My first cover had those elastic corners (but no light), which didn’t hold up well at all. My Kindle kept sliding out, so it was useless in my eyes. I later bought the Amazon K3 and it secures the Kindle to cover using two side latches that lock in. While my light recently quit working after 1 year of use, the cover still holds my Kindle safely from slipping out. Since the price is the same, I personally recommend the Amazon K3 lighted cover for the added security.

  34. MaryK
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 13:58:59

    @HollyY: Weird. I’d expect someone who’s written category romance to do a better job of talking about it.

    Category romance isn’t for everybody, and I get that some readers don’t like it. I don’t believe that anybody has to like anything. Non-fans should keep in mind though that Cat Rom has just as much variation in author voice as other Rom subgenres and just as much variation in quality. Romance has a reputation for being formulaic, and Cat Rom does even more so because its conventions are even stricter than the conventions of the broader Rom genre. If Rom is like a sonnet, written within a specific structure, Cat Rom might be a rondelet or haiku. They may not be to everyone’s taste but they’re not necessarily less for being shorter and more focused.

  35. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 07:59:28

    Because of your comments here, I went and requested an Entangled Publishing title (“Busted in Bollywood”) through netgalley. Because I review for a big site (The Good, The Bad and The Unread) which has multiple reviewers and a lot of hits, I’m classed as a “professional reviewer.” I get most titles I ask for, so I’m careful which ones I choose. One publisher sends me details of the ARCs available and makes it easy for me to click on the title and get the book.
    Not Entangled. Yes, semi insulting, because they asked me to check my profile and ensure “the following details” are filled in. They are. But it doesn’t matter, because I don’t review on my own blog, or on Facebook or any of the other places they mention. It’s only insulting because they failed to check.
    So no. With 20 or more books on my Kindle waiting to be reviewed, I’m not writing to the publisher direct, as they suggest, and begging. There aren’t any books that are compelling me to do that, although they do look interesting.
    That’s the thing. Like most other reviewers, I do it in my spare time for nothing (and the free books, which are wonderful, since I do read a lot).
    Yes, the response did take a long time. Since this was an experiment, I didn’t push them. Probably a week, when most requests to view are answered almost immediately.
    Are they gaming the system, only choosing the reviewers likely to give them a rave review? Or have their achieved their stated aim (in the response I received) of getting 200 reviewers per title?
    Que? 200 reviewers? As a writer, in the two or more months after a book is released, I can expect around 6 reviews. Many writers get none at all, and they are really keen to get a review. Perhaps Entangled are just going for the individual Amazon reviewer.
    Category? They’re going to have to throw a lot of money at that to make it work, considering Harlequin’s stranglehold on the sector.

  36. Tribute Books
    Dec 26, 2011 @ 16:13:18

    Jane, thank you for helping to spread the word about our call for young adult manuscript submissions. We appreciate your support.

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