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

Breaking: The Sky Is Falling. Will Publishing Innovate or...

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I’m worried, readers. I am worried about publishing as a business. My worries do not stem from used sales. My worries do not stem from piracy of digital books. My worry is that publishing will not take this opportunity to innovate. Anita Elberse’s article in the Wall Street Journal only increases my concerns. Elberse’s argument is essentially that the current publishing business model worked before and so publishers need to keep at it. I found her to be arguing that the existing publishing model is the only publishing model.

The current publishing business model:

The current publishing business model is built on the success just a few titles: The Secret, the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling, The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. According to Elberse,

Most large media firms make outsized investments to acquire and market a small number of titles with strong hit potential, and bank on their sales to make up for middling performance in the rest of their catalogs.

Publishing operates under the Pareto concept.   20% of the titles generate 80% of the publishing houses’ profits.   But one successful book or series does not a successful publishing model make.   Take The Secret by Rhonda Byrnes.   As of June 2007, there were 5.2 million copies of The Secret in print.   In December of 2008, S&S laid off 2% of its staff.   Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code has over 60 million copies in print worldwide.   At the end of 2008, Random House had eliminated the position of its discoverer, jettisoned a number of employees, and consolidated imprints into three more streamlined entities.   Scholastic enjoyed 7 years of unprecedented profitability under the Rowling franchise, but in 2003, Scholastic laid off 400 employees, in 2006 Scholastic laid off over 87 employees and in 2008, Scholastic instituted a hiring freeze and 110 employees took early retirement.  

Publishing thought it was recession proof.   It thought that it would weather any economic storm, any technological changes, and any consumer changes.   After all, you can’t improve on the book.   Harleqin came to prominence during the Great Depression as more and more people turned to entertainment as a relief from the depressive events of the day.   At the height of the Great Depression, there was a 25% unemployment rate yet Harlequin, and books, still thrived.

So what’s changed?   So   much.   

For one thing, as astutely noted by Tom Englehardt in the Nation, the entertainment landscape has changed dramatically.   

It was well known in the business that, during the Great Depression, books, like movies, had done splendidly. They were an inexpensive bit of entertainment and distraction, consumable at home, at a time when not much else pleasurable was going on in a rugged world. Ergo, books would be no less recession-proof in the next big downturn.

There was no reason to believe otherwise… unless you happened to focus on just how many dazzling entertainment options had, in the interim, entered the American home at prices more than competitive with the book. After all, most Americans can now read endlessly on the Internet, play video games, download music, watch movies and even write their own novels without stepping outside; and keep in mind that the $27.95 hardcover and the $15.95 paperback on the shelves of that mall store, once you drive there, aren’t exactly the inexpensive objects of yore.

In a July 2008 article, the NY Times noted that the teens addicted to the internet were part of the reading decline.   More and more people spend time on the internet and its not just teens.   For the million or so subscribers that receive the print version of the Times, there are twice as many that read the Times online.   Video games and video consoles are outpacing expectations and not seeming to suffer any hardship from the downturn in the economy.   Movie saw record box offices in 2009.   Englehardt’s point about the increasing cost of books is also important.   Mass markets are edging close to the $10.00 mark; and hardcovers are 3x that amount.   For the not so avid reader, would she rather buy a game for her WII that she can replay a hundred times than a book she might enjoy (or might not) for only a few hours.

In 2007, there was a fabulous article by the NY Times about the mysterious making of a bestseller.   It is not a science.   

Eric Simonoff, a literary agent at Janklow & Nesbit Associates, said that whenever he discusses the book industry with people in other industries, "they’re stunned because it’s so unpredictable, because the profit margins are so small, the cycles are so incredibly long, and because of the almost total lack of market research."

The first book by Curtis Sittenfeld, Prep, was wildly successful.   She was paid   $40,000 for her first advance.   Her success was awarded with a two book deal for a multiple of her first advance.   The book, The Man of My Dreams, at the time of the article was a disappointing seller.   One might even argue it was a flop despite all the money that the publisher threw into promoting it hot on the heels of the publication of Sittenfeld’s successful book.

Readers enjoy variety.   

The worst thing for an avid reader is hegemony.   Indeed, every YA book sale looks like a Stephenie Meyer knock off.   How many Grail books did we suffer through post Dan Brown (some would say they had to suffer through Dan Brown as well. I found it immensely readable)?   Publishers often seem to be looking for the next similar book to the previous blockbuster because they are so tied into the blockbuster business model.   

Simply because   it worked in the past doesn’t mean that it is going to work now.   And let’s face it, it didn’t really work that well in the past.   See above NY Times article and the guessing that goes on in the industry.     

The Music industry was built on album sales. When Apple got a hold on the digital music market, it introduced the concept of buying individual songs to consumers. Consumers took to that business model and rejected the old one. They liked the instantaneous aspect of downloading songs and they liked spending just the right amount of money on the music they wanted instead of buying an entire album to get just three songs.   In 2008, overall unit sales were up 10% due to digital downloads but physical album sales dropped 20 percent.   The music industry is watching its profitability decline as downloads increase because changing consumer behavior is reducing the profit margin.

So if the old business model for music based on album sales is no longer profitable, is the best thing to do to protect it with changing legislation? In other words, how long do we artificially support a failing entertainment business model? When do executives recognize that this is the time for innovation? To adapt to and predict consumer behavior in a way that is beneficial to the company and the artist?

Other Media Lessons.

There are only a few books that will ever have broad appeal and when that happens, it is a great thing.   But reliance on the 20% of books to provide a successful and growing book market will inevitably miss whole segments of the reading public.   In 2006, Netflix offered 60,000 DVDs.   

Out of the 60,000 titles in Netflix’s inventory, I ask, how many do you think are rented at least once on a typical day?
The most common answers have been around 1,000, which sounds reasonable enough. Americans tend to flock to the same small group of movies, just as they flock to the same candy bars and cars, right?

Well, the actual answer is 35,000 to 40,000. That’s right: every day, almost two of every three movies ever put onto DVD are rented by a Netflix customer. “Americans’ tastes are really broad,” says Reed Hastings, Netflix’s chief executive. So, while the studios spend their energy promoting bland blockbusters aimed at everyone, Netflix has been catering to what people really want — and helping to keep Hollywood profitable in the process

Wow, Americans’ tastes are really broad. Imagine that. Add in the rest of the world and you find perhaps even more diversity.

The entirety of the publishing model   built on the blockbuster requires it to spend lavishly in advances to get the right 20%. The problem is that publishing has no idea when it pays out its million dollar advances whether a book will be a blockbuster, no matter the amount of money that it spends on marketing. Hachette hit it big with Stephenie Meyer. It was packaged beautifully and the story hit alot of right notes with female readers. Hachette can’t print these books fast enough. The series is like printing money, one publishing person told me.     Times are good now for Hachette but the Twilight series is concluded. How many more years of immense profitability will it be able to sustain on one series alone?

Publishing Needs to Innovate

Publishing needs to innovate. I have some ideas but none that can be implemented in the short term.   Publishing needs to invest more heavily in print on demand technologies.   By now, they should have developed a POD machine that could print and bind a mass market in under 5 minutes.   POD can eliminate or, drastically reduce,  warehousing costs.   Publishing needs to learn more about its consumers.   It needs business intelligence.   This is where microtargeting can come into play.   If publishing spent less in advances and had better POD technology, it could provide more targeted sales.   Wouldn’t it be less of a risk to try to make money off of 80% of the publishing list rather than just 20%.

Have you ever bought a book at a non traditional book outlet (such as a bookstore or big box store)?   I have. I’ve bought books at Pottery Barn Kids.   In fact, one of my daughter’s favorite series, Keeker and the Sneaky Pony, we discovered at PBK.   I think that there’s some idea that the kids books at PBK are the high end of what is out there for kid’s books because the selection is so minute.   I couldn’t help but wonder, the other day as I sat leafing through some of the books while my daughter played with the kitchen set, why more books weren’t in these non traditional retail spaces? I.e., why isn’t Beth Kery’s Wicked Burn  at Victoria’s Secret?   Harlequin once sold books at Nascar races.   Books featuring knitters at knitting stores.   Books that are hot and sexy at lingerie stores.   Why not set up a vending machine at the mall frequented by young shoppers full of Berkley/Jove paranormal books?

Why not set up their own stores and sell books at a discounted rate, undercutting Amazon.   After all, if you have to pay 40%-60% of the retail price to the retailer, then there is a clear margin for price reduction sold direct.   There’s dozens of more ideas that other people will probably come up with as well.

The Fallen Sky

I don’t see alot evidence that publishers are going to innovate.   Look at the publishers partnering with new iPhone application ScrollMotion.   Instead of offering the book at a reduced rate, it charges more for the iPhone special.    Even HarperStudios, the experiemental publishing arm of HarperCollins, is relying heavily on celebrity focused books.   I see publishers slowly getting into the ebook market, but I am often shocked at how many books are not digitized.   As I sat with my friends liveblogging the other night, talking about ebooks, they asked me if every book that they wanted was in eform and I had to tell them no.   They couldn’t comprehend it.   I tried to explain rights and piracy and so forth, but I don’t think it was getting through.   And why should they care?

The problem is that the longer that it takes publishing to innovate and the more that they try to push their own reading selections on us, the consumer, the more that readers will turn to other forms of entertainment.   If I couldn’t read, I’d sew more.    I love to read, don’t get me wrong, but I can go extended periods without reading a book.   I was obssessed by this Apple iPhone game called Fieldrunners and I played that for five days, nearly non stop.   Before my daughter, my husband and I would play video games, we played Soduko, did crossword puzzles.   There are simply so many things out there that I can do and do for low cost that if publishing doesn’t provide me with the product that I want, I can see myself drifting away or I would if I didn’t have the blog.   I’ve seen it among my own friends who’ve left the avid reading market to become casual readers.   For those casual readers, who buy maybe 1   book a month, it becomes even easier to let reading go by the wayside.   

Publishing needs to be ready and able to meet the customer where she is at instead of requiring the customer to adapt to the publishing model.   My sister in law wanted to read Twilight over the holidays but the Twilight was sold out.   POD could have met that demand and made a sale.   Instead, she’s busy knitting with a special knitting machine she got as a gift.   

Reading consumption will decline   and it’s not because readers are buying used or because they are pirating, but because they will inevitably turn to other forms of entertainment as publishing increasingly offers a sameness to its selections.  

Publishing must change its business model to provide greater variety, with better targeted marketing. Today’s technology tools make it easier than ever for companies to do this.   Right now is an exicting time for publishing. It has an opportunity, in these difficult economic times, to throw off the mantle of the old.   After all, what do they really have to lose by changing?    We know what they are going to lose if they don’t.

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

553 Comments

  1. ms bookjunkie
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 04:39:07

    Well said Jane!

  2. Rae Lori
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 05:25:57

    Reading consumption will decline and it's not because readers are buying used or because they are pirating, but because they will inevitably turn to other forms of entertainment as publishing increasingly offers a sameness to its selections.

    That’s a scary but true reality.

    For the past few months, especially during the holidays, Book TV has been running Sara Nelson’s update about the publishing industry (now viewable on Youtube in two parts here and here) and she also makes mention that publishing probably won’t be the same in the coming years. It may revert back to a small niche thing in itself or, like Ms. Nelson mentioned, it may go back to the smaller publishing houses running things. In a way they already are because the larger houses tend to follow them like they did with the erotica and paranormal boom and ebooks themselves.

    In modern times much of publishing has been focused on big corporate investments (most of the CEOs come from other corporations like Pepsi, from what I understand) and, like you mentioned Jane, they focus mostly on celebrity ‘surefire’ books which is part of what may have attributed to it’s downfall. I was kind of bummed about HarperStudio following this model because they seemed so innovative for what they wanted to do with returns and printing.

    There’s already a movement with small presses and authors themselves taking matters into their own hands with marketing and bringing their work into the new media and directly to their readers. Michael Stackpole, a science fiction author who was once with a NY house talks about this a lot in his podcast and he’s been finding much success in the online world. Ebooks have naturally taken off recently and podcasting is pretty huge especially for authors gaining (and sustaining) their own platforms. Podcast publishing keeps popping up for novels and short stories alike which may a new future for the way stories are shared. As much of this is going on, the mainstream media doesn’t even know (or perhaps care) about, but it’s definitely happening. Once it gets on its feet the Espresso Book Machine could be a force to reckon with based on the ease of ordering a printed book on the spot. I can’t remember the recent con it was displayed at, but from what I heard it was a hit with readers and authors.

    Interestingly enough, Carolyn Reidy, CEO of Random House, cited independent publishing as a possible threat specifically for their big authors who, if they wanted to, could go off on their own leaving their houses behind. I know of one author who lost her contracts at an NY house and went back to her first small, epublished house who was jazzed to take her back and her fans were even more excited to see her series continuing.

    I don’t think readers and writers will ever go away as it is ingrained in our human nature to share stories. :-) It’s just the way it’s all presented and distributed (and perhaps between who it’s distributed) that will change. It’s definitely a time of adapt or die in the industry but still an exciting time indeed.

  3. Ann Somerville
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 05:32:42

    There are simply so many things out there that I can do and do for low cost that if publishing doesn't provide me with the product that I want

    Yes. It’s not like movies. If you want to see Dark Knight, you can’t go and knit your own, can you? But books? Reading? We’re awash with options. You can knit your own story, go find someone who’s knitted one for free, read knitted fanfiction, go hang around on knitting blogs…you can read all day and never open a book. Read for a year without buying one. It takes something incredibly compelling for me to read a print book these days – and yet the publishing industry is bound up in the chance of me, a committed reader, getting off my oversized butt and flogging myself over to a bookstore stuffed with biographies of politicians, sports stars and microcelebrities, and cookbooks. And pretty picture books with no content.

    I know what I want, and I can’t buy it in a bookstore. The publishing industry will go broke if they’re counting on people like me because their products suck, their method of selling sucks, and their prices suck. And dear readers, I am a picky consumer. I will knit my own if I can’t find exactly what I want, when I want it. And it won’t cost me anything but time.

    Excellent article, Jane.

  4. S. W. Vaughn
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 06:33:35

    Excellent article, Jane. You’re so right – and I’m glad to see that bit from Tom Englehardt, which puts succinctly what I’ve been wanting to scream at a lot of writers who keep sticking their fingers in their ears and going, “la-la-la-la, publishing isn’t in trouble, people will still buy books just look at the Great Depression.”

    There is much more cheap entertainment out there competing for people’s time than there was back then. Publishing is definitely in trouble, and writers who refuse to see that are just as mired in fantasy-land as the industry itself.

    Here’s hoping that someone, somewhere makes the right moves to change things for the better. :-)

  5. DS
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 06:50:10

    I received one physical book for Christmas– it was a small book of cat macros from I Can Has Cheezburger. I gave one book– it was a POD history of a book about the history of the area where I grew up. The person I gave it to was delighted because this is a very htf book in any edition.

    Different from past years, but no one ended up having to return anything because they already had it so it was less stressful.

  6. katieM
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 06:57:27

    I visited the EBM website and I was very impressed. It made me wonder how books are assembled at present. Do companies have similar book printing machines for paperback books? I also wondered if hardback books will become obsolete or prohibitively expensive when EBMs are more widespread.

  7. (Jān)
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 07:10:03

    What a great post Jane.

    It’s happened with so many of us. I used to read several hundred books a year, all purchased (though many were used). But the books I read weren’t doing it and I turned to manga, online fiction, e-books, books from other countries. It takes something special for me to buy and read a mass market print book these days, even used. I like small press because I like unique, and quality. Big publishers aren’t providing that, not that often.

    I love your idea of selling books in non-book venues. It would be great to walk into a restaurant and find foodie fiction or cultural books by the cash register, or to see sports fiction at the ballpark. Non-fiction worms its way into hardware and hobby stores. It’s silly for fiction not to take the same advantage.

    I hope some people listen to you. But what’s great about the tech world is that even if the fuddie-duddies ignore the warning signs, someone else with a vision will step up and create publishing’s version of iTunes. It would be a shame if the large publishing houses fell flat in its wake. But dinosaurs do tend to go extinct.

  8. Anonymous
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 07:28:37

    Sounds like it is time for Dear Author open an online POD bookstore, or create an affiliated one based on this model. Include digital readers, POD, and links to online publishers and POD titles with sell through rights.

  9. Kimber An
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 07:42:48

    My concerns are essentially the same.

    As an unprofessional, unpaid blogging book reviewer, I predict readers will react by turning more to the libraries, used bookstores, and gadzillions of free books availible to read or download on-line. We have an on-going post at Enduring Romance for readers searching for ‘Great Stories for Free & Dirt Cheap.’ Click on my username ‘Kimber An’ to get there. I also predict readers will turn more to ePublishers, so long as their prices are reasonable. I predict this because ePublishers tend to be more willing to take chances with stories written ‘outside the box.’ Unfortunately, ePubs also tend to bank too much on novels with graphic sex, which will turn off many readers too. If ePubs can provide some variety of stories without graphic sex scenes, they can pull in more sensitive readers as well.

  10. Kimber An
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 07:45:10

    P.S. Love the otter! They’re soooo cute, funny, and playful. Great parents too. We have lots of them here in Alaska.

  11. drey
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 07:48:14

    Great post, Jane! I for one, hope that books never go away. Yet, I completely get what you’re saying about publishing as a business. Sometimes we sit here & wonder why they don’t just get it, and get with the times.

    I read a lot. But I refuse to pay almost $30 for a hardcover – for ANY hardcover. $30 is a lot of lattes, a not-so-recent new console/PC game, multiple items of clothing for my kid, a new pair of shoes, more supplies for my other hobbies, snacks & a movie at the theater, a full tank of gas… And the $15 for a paperback, isn’t chump change either. I’ve picked up books on the spur of the moment, just because I love to read, only to find out that I didn’t care for the story. Or the writing. Whatever. Makes me a little more picky about picking up books. & I so want an e-book reader, especially for traveling with. But right now, I can’t bring my favorite books with, on a reader. What’s with these publishers???

  12. Heather Massey
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 07:53:10

    Well said.

  13. MoJo
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 08:54:08

  14. Emmy
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 08:54:17

    I agree that the price of books is almost making them prohibitive. $30 for a hardcover is just too expensive in a time when people are losing jobs and houses, and taking huge hits on the stock markets. It’s turning reading into something only the rich can afford to do, which might have something to do with the rapidly growing pirating business. Why spend $400 on an ebook reader, then $10 on books, when you can download for free to your pc or laptop, which has multiple functions?

    I frequently get annoyed at all the sameness. When one thing sells big, publishers rush to put out books of the same genre. I can’t begin to tell you how tired I am of urban paranormals. When I want to read something else new, there isn’t anything to be found because that’s all the publishers were buying last year. I don’t want to be told what genre I have to read this year.

    NY’s refusal to adapt to the current climate is hurting them. I don’t think it will be fatal, because I can’t comprehend a world with no books, but they are going to be forced into making some radical changes quite soon.

  15. Robin Bayne
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 08:58:47

    Excellent post!

  16. Keri M
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 09:02:20

    Jane, fantastic post! I too hope that books don’t go by the wayside, because for me it is my cheap entertainment. I would so miss the discussions that my husband and I get into about our favorite authors. So I hope that someone at one of the mega publishing houses checks out this post. To tell you the truth I can’t remember the last time I bought a hard-backed book, they are just too darned expensive, one book equals 1/3 of my grocery bill for my family a week, just can’t do it. I will pick up a paperback if I really, really have to have it at the big box store. Otherwise I shop used like crazy. My TBR pile is awesome! :-)

  17. Angelia Sparrow
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 09:33:55

    The sameness kills me.
    I spent more time than usual in Barnes & Noble this holiday. The only book–out of tens of thousands–that I want is Wishful Drinking.

    The Romance section was all heaving man-titty and rapt adoration or bad-ass urban fantasy heroines, tramp-stamp optional.

    The nonfiction was all Idiots Guides and For Dummies. (not to say I don’t own a few of those)

    And the advances! I hear about Mary Cheney getting a million dollar advance. Then she gets publicity most of us only dream of. Yet her book is ranked 2,593,564, while my friend’s little no-advance, self-promoted vampire murder mystery is 863,845.

    I read all my stuff from the library. Who can afford to buy a paperback?

    I do not get it…

  18. Catherine
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 09:39:57

    Once it gets on its feet the Espresso Book Machine could be a force to reckon with based on the ease of ordering a printed book on the spot.

    Rae Lori: You and MoJo both mentioned these machines. They sound like they’d be awesome (if I actually could get any book I wanted), but how do you browse? I’m still an impulse buyer and will pick up random books based on cover/back blurb when I go to the bookstore to pick up a book I know came out. How am I supposed to discover new-to-me authors if I can’t look around and have my eye caught by a book on display?

    I have a question for people more in tune with booksellers/publishers. If the industry does go to POD books do you think it will eventually go to nothing but ebooks? That was probably unclear, let me try again… Most of my friends don’t read the way that I do. They never surf the internet looking for book reviews and excerpts and release dates. They go to the bookstore when they feel like reading, but they don’t have an actual book in mind. They browse until they find something that they think they might like. If bookstores die out and new POD stores/kiosks take their place won’t the market lose all of those casual readers? There wouldn’t be an ability to browse anymore (I think). If print sales/POD sales go down even further do you think that ebooks will rise above them as the new widely recognized standard?

  19. Jane
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 09:42:41

    @Catherine I’ve actually thought about the POD in the store thing. Why not produce cover flats in a catalog and ship those to people’s homes or provide several copies at each store. How many people browse the aisle at one time? Provide binders or bound volumes of cover flats that contain the cover and back blurb, maybe even a small excerpt. Then you can rip off a sheet of paper (i.e. like at a Sushi bar), take it to the POD desk and in a few minutes, get all your books ready to be purchased.

  20. MoJo
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 09:50:57

    Rae Lori: You and MoJo both mentioned these machines. They sound like they'd be awesome (if I actually could get any book I wanted), but how do you browse?

    Well, if I were the bookseller, I’d have shelves of singles. Maybe they were books people didn’t want after having ordered them. Maybe they were things people really couldn’t decide about so I ran one off. Maybe I’d just start cranking out one at a time to build a browsing library of sorts and figure that into the cost of my overhead. And maybe I’d crank out one at a time of the new releases every month and have a “new release” shelf.

    (Obviously this would depend on square footage. In my Perfect Bookstore post, the storefront I talk about wouldn’t support many of those shelves if it also kept its coffee shop.)

    Browsing books, obviously, is important. It’s important to me, even as an e-book lover. What’s always frustrated me is if I’m browsing and there are 16 copies of the book I DON’T want and no copies of the book I MIGHT want if it were there.

    Or, like Jane said above,

    Provide binders or bound volumes of cover flats that contain the cover and back blurb, maybe even a small excerpt.

    I’ve been in needlework stores that use this method. Instead of bulky racks holding their patterns, they have those metal catalog frames (the kind auto parts stores use). You flip through that, pick your pattern, and they go get one for you from the back.

  21. Kalen Hughes
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 10:17:09

    I visited the EBM website and I was very impressed. It made me wonder how books are assembled at present. Do companies have similar book printing machines for paperback books? I also wondered if hardback books will become obsolete or prohibitively expensive when EBMs are more widespread.

    Rae Lori: You and MoJo both mentioned these machines. They sound like they'd be awesome (if I actually could get any book I wanted), but how do you browse? I'm still an impulse buyer and will pick up random books based on cover/back blurb when I go to the bookstore to pick up a book I know came out. How am I supposed to discover new-to-me authors if I can't look around and have my eye caught by a book on display?

    I thought the POD revolution was going to happen a decade ago . . . it just makes sense. You could order your book online and pick it up locally, have it shipped, or you could browse a shop (or at the library!) and have your book printed while you wait (or ran off for a latte). Aside from the EBM, there are also machines that make POD hardback books, so you could even get your novel in whatever form you chose (I’m a diehard fan of the HB for books I'm going to want to read over and over).

    Although I did just finish my very first ebook, and I think I'm a convert. It took awhile to get into the groove, but once I did, the CyBook ROCKED!!! I've spent way too much $ on fictionwise in the last two weeks, LOL! I still want my non-fiction research books in a physical form though (but that could change if ebooks and ereaders were to develop into a more research friendly format-’one that could handle colour images for example-’I might be sold on an entirely ebook world).

  22. MoJo
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 10:22:25

    I still want my non-fiction research books in a physical form though (but that could change if ebooks and ereaders were to develop into a more research friendly format-’one that could handle colour images for example-’I might be sold on an entirely ebook world).

    Much as I love e-books, I need my references in paper, too.

  23. rebyj
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 10:33:35

    I find myself reading more and more cheap and free books. My book budget is 25 dollars a month, I just can’t spend 30 bux on a new book. Some months it’s hard to spend 8 bux on a new paperback ! My money simply goes farther at the used bookstore. I’ve been finding 2008 category romances in our UBS free bin!

    I’ve also been reading more online, I found a good website thru a Jacqueline Carey website reccomendation last month .
    I highly recommend you all check it out.

    http://www.bookviewcafe.com/index.php Lots to read there.

    My list of books to buy grows longer and longer and longer . Hey, I MIGHT win the lottery someday……….if I ever let go of a dollar long enough to play it LOL

    I’ve started blogging about the free books I run across at http://luvfreebooks.blogspot.com/

  24. Cindy
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 10:54:24

    I agree, the prices are prohibitive. I believe I mentioned it when we were discussing the UBS situation. And at these prices, you even hear people in the UBS after getting their total “Even with my credit.”

    There are a lot of books out there that I won’t touch because I think “Oh, that looks good”, read the back, it’s a vampire. Not every reader likes vampires. Or even paranormal. Bring back the historical, if you please…western and medieval. My escape route.

    Read the upcoming release list each week at Ellora’s Cave, for example, at least five different genres represented, sometimes more. Only one release generally for their Cerridwen Press imprint, but I guess the sales aren’t there.

    And aside from them and Samhain, what’s with the hardcover or paperback price for an e-book. It uses no physical resources, it should be way less. There’s also no reason the other mainstream publishers need to take things OOP. Make them POD or E-book.

  25. Lynne Connolly
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 11:15:53

    Great minds and all that -I have an upcoming article on epublishing on TBTGTU, and yes, I discuss the Pareto rule, too.
    Great article, and it’s good to read that people are thinking about it. But there are industry diehards who refuse to consider a different model. I think the distribution angle is also important – people are buying fewer magazines and newspapers, and book distribution is done the same way, so the companies involved plus the rise in oil prices will drive the costs of transport and paper up. Paper production is energy-intensive.
    The system of returns is, I believe, crippling the paper side of the book industry. It’s killing the publishers, and they work on narrow enough margins as it is.
    The epublishing industry is coming along, and the biggest epublishing companies are expanding, albeit with caution. With younger people as at home with electronic devices as they are with paper, that’s where any expansion will probably come and the market reflects that.

  26. Brian Kelly
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 11:40:19

    Nicely put.
    The blockbuster business model overlooks the long tail of diverse consumer tastes.
    The shift all seem to be grappling with is the shift away from demography to behavior as the fundamentals to target audience defining. As you say, too little research. Do you know that there is much more customer information in the publishing world versus the broadcast world? Just not enough insight.

  27. Brussel Sprout
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 11:48:25

    I read books – my husband and children read books. Fewer books than we used to because the internet and Guitar Hero and Playmobil also attract our attention and time, but we like the physical objects. They don’t need batteries. I have looked at ebook readers, but find the screen a strain and don’t enjoy reading on computer particularly either – my laptop battery won’t last me the length of a decent book. I know from downloads that I also don’t get swept away when reading on machines. It’s not like curling up in my favourite armchair with a good book. Also, I’m based in Europe where the ebook market hasn’t really taken off (yet?).

    Recently, I have bought POD books (I do academic research in literature, history and education) from regular bookshops – I order them over the internet and either go in person or get them sent to me, and it does mean that costs of production on otherwise excessively expensive esoteric books are reduced, which I think is cool.

    While I agree that the traditional publishing industry needs to wake up to the realities of a broad market (our UK publishers have been badly hurt in 2008 by the waning demand for celeb memoirs and having spent enormous advances on garbage books that end up remaindered, have little spare cash for decent fiction), I am not so convinced that we are facing bookmageddon.

    I suspect that there are enough of us out there, and emerging markets besides where reading books has mileage. But I also think a lot of this has to do with education. We guys who teach reading and literature need to remind people of the effectiveness of reading in transporting us to other places. There is increasing research which shows that children who read privately for their own entertainment are much more flexible, adaptable and able to pick up a wider range of skills than non-readers. It’s not as if books are like cigarettes, where there is a damn good reason not to smoke. Books are really really good for us, even bad books. And I think that will keep publishing going, even if it is not necessarily in the form that currently persists.

    The points about needing diversity are sooooo true – I am very bored by various knock-offs of types of book in the women’s/romance/YA categories. But there are more and more small independent presses emerging, certainly in Europe, working to niches and experimenting with formats (Nick Hern books, a company that focuses only on drama, frex) and I think they can be more innovative and also produce better long-term returns for the writer. Unfortunately, it is tough trying to be a small-scale independent publisher because the big conglomerates are more able to throw money around – but maybe not so much in a recession, so it is the little guys’ opportunity now.

  28. Jessa Slade
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 11:57:20

    Adapt or die is the reality, but change is scary. How often do individuals — much less corporations — change voluntarily? Innovators are the exception not the rule, sadly.

    I find my mantra these days, about pretty much everything, is “Well, it’ll be interesting at least.”

  29. K. Z. Snow
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 12:15:41

    Excellent article, Jane.

    Publishing houses need drastically to decrease advances, print runs (yes, maybe examine POD possibilities), and cover prices.

    Publishing houses need drastically to increase their standards for acceptance, the variey of their offerings, and their e-book lists.

    Although most of my life has been devoted, in one way or another, to books, I can’t help but think if these mastodons keep refusing to evolve, they deserve to become extinct.

  30. Robin
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 12:38:55

    I don’t know what they’re smoking at the Harvard Business School these days, where Elberse teaches, but apparently it’s something real old school.

    Publishing is IMO a rather unique business to begin with. It’s not like manufacturing a vacuum, where consumers will simply shift their loyalty from one company to another. Because the product is a book or author more than a publishing company, consumers won’t exercise their right to exit in the same way with publishers, meaning that the consumer impact on publishing occurs differently. Then there is the relationship between the publisher and authors, which relies on a different model than the publisher’s relationship with readers, one that seems dictated primarily by the needs and desires of the publisher.

    You have three (at least) different sets of priorities in play — the authors’, the publishers’ and the consumer/readers’ — and those priorities can come into conflict as easily as they can align. Financial success for a publisher based on one blockbuster books, for example, can limit success for authors and readers when the publisher tries to replicate that success with tons of ‘looks like’ books. Or financial success can benefit readers and authors if publishers decide that their fiscal robustness is a reason to expand.

    So much seems to depend on how publishers conceive the business of publishing, how they model their practices, how they evolve their vision, and how they regard readers/consumers and authors. So much is scary to me about this, lol, because of the way publishers have traditionally held so much influence over what we read. If the big publishers aren’t willing to innovate, I can only hope that new modes of publishing will rise, whether that be through a greater respect for self-publishing, more boutique-type houses, or expanded electronic options. But in any case, IMO more needs to change than just the way publishers make money; we need an overall change in the balance of power among readers, authors, and publishers, and I have no idea how that’s going to occur.

  31. Leah Hultenschmidt
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 12:52:36

    Jane, this is a really thoughtful examination of the industry–a lot of what I keep wanting to say and don’t have time to properly construct.

    A couple things from a publishing-side perspective:

    the current publishing business model worked before and so publishers need to keep at it.

    I think the recent articles in the NYT and WSJ are really focusing on the conglomerate, dare I say old-school publishers who pay huge advances and rely on a few big titles per season and an extensive backlist to make their money. But that’s not the only model. You can definitely get by making a bit of money on every title rather than waiting to cash in a big blockbuster.

    Publishers often seem to be looking for the next similar book to the previous blockbuster because they are so tied into the blockbuster business model.

    And it works because readers keep buying them. For all the glut, the ripoffs still sell. Even years later. Not saying that it’s right or that it’s the only thing publishers should look for, but it does explain why it happens.

    But reliance on the 20% of books to provide a successful and growing book market will inevitably miss whole segments of the reading public.

    That’s why the other 80% of the books not raking in the dough are still out there. Some houses have adopted a bestseller-only policy (Bantam, most famously), but there are plenty of others who still support midlist growth.

    The problem is that publishing has no idea when it pays out its million dollar advances whether a book will be a blockbuster, no matter the amount of money that it spends on marketing.

    A huge reason why there shouldn’t be million-dollar advances. I’m totally with you there because there really is no way to predict. What’s spent on the advance should not be the determining factor in marketing dollars.

    Publishing needs to invest more heavily in print on demand technologies. By now, they should have developed a POD machine that could print and bind a mass market in under 5 minutes.

    Our printers have the technology. The problem is cost. To run a typical mass-market on the offset presses, it costs about 50 cents per book, but you need to run at least 5000 copies. If there’s less of a demand, POD is an option, but it’s going to cost $4-5 per book for about 500, which can still be a lot to sell in some cases. For this to work, readers would have to be willing to pay more to read books that don’t have as broad of an appeal.

    I couldn't help but wonder, the other day as I sat leafing through some of the books while my daughter played with the kitchen set, why more books weren't in these non traditional retail spaces?

    I think this is a fantastic idea and fully support it. Book should be everywhere, as far as I’m concerned–hair salons, clothing stores, cosmetics stores, florists, etc. The problem is that if a retailer is looking at products, they have to determine what will be most profitable for their space. Sometimes that comes down to a $50 nightie or a $6.99 book. And then again you go back to the blockbuster theory – that consumers are more likely to buy something that’s already been validated, something they’ve heard of. So often the books that are distributed are already brand-name authors or titles. However, there certainly are the success stories. Urban Outfitters has agreed to take several of the pulp noir Hard Case Crime titles, so it will be interesting to see how they do.

    Why not set up a vending machine at the mall frequented by young shoppers full of Berkley/Jove paranormal books?

    Love this! Again, with a vending machine, you’re probably going to get mostly bestsellers, but I saw one at Florida hotel about ten years ago and thought it was the best thing ever. You could buy your beach read right on the beach.

    I see publishers slowly getting into the ebook market, but I am often shocked at how many books are not digitized.

    Mostly because of the upfront costs of converting to DRM. Eventually, the money would be earned back, but it’s tough when right now things in general are so close to the bone. Though I’m with you in that we should just lose DRM entirely.

    Why not set up their own stores and sell books at a discounted rate, undercutting Amazon.

    Because this makes bookstores and other distributors very, very unhappy–no matter how much you try to argue it. And the last thing publishers want to do is lose distribution.

    There are simply so many things out there that I can do and do for low cost that if publishing doesn't provide me with the product that I want, I can see myself drifting away

    Totally understand how you feel – especially after getting a Wii for Christmas, being able to put movies on my PDA, having DVR and so many other technological conveniences.

    Publishing must change its business model to provide greater variety, with better targeted marketing. Today's technology tools make it easier than ever for companies to do this. Right now is an exicting time for publishing. It has an opportunity, in these difficult economic times, to throw off the mantle of the old.

    Again, absolutely agree with you. I think Penguin 2.0 is making a great start, and it will be interesting to see some of the other things coming out of new technologies and distribution systems.

    Thanks again for this, Jane!

  32. Marsha
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 12:55:42

    I don’t think that publishing will be able to settle itself without a discussion of what makes a “real” author and or a “real” book. We’ve explored the latter here at DA quite a bit in the ebook discussions but what about the former? There are regular swipes at self-published authors and those who offer their writing for free (via blogs, perhaps?) as not being quite up-to-snuff, author-wise. Within the last few days there was a comment on the Amazon author store thread about “all those self-published authors who will scream for their own store”. Benign enough words but the implication was clear: self-published authors are lunatics whose antics set them apart from the real writers among us.

    True, there’s lots of self-published junk. And there’s also a lot of industrially-published junk to go nicely along with the other business model problems. What if we change the way we look at those willing to self-publish or slap a paypal button on their blog? What if we thought, hm, they might be on to something here in circumventing a moribund industry rather than assume that they couldn’t get a contract?

    If we stop assuming that bypassing or subverting a seriously broken model automatically equals poor quality or letting the side (of authors) down we might find a foothold for fixing the whole mess.

  33. MoJo
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 13:04:45

    Thank you, Marsha.

  34. KJ
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 13:11:54

    I think the biggest problem is that a handful of editors (mostly in New York) are deciding what the reading selections should be for the rest of the country (and the world, honestly). And then that gets passed down to agents who refuse to take on books that might not meet that narrow window of interest.

    I think epublishers are going to score big time in the next few years while the traditional publishing industry flounders. Their ebooks are still affordable (most full-length books are less than the price of a paperback…around $5 to $6) and some (like Samhain) are offering more than just erotic romance.

    Epublishers also operate on a much faster contract-to-publication schedule.

    My experience is slightly atypical, but my very first book has been contracted by Samhain. A paranormal suspense. A spot opened up on their schedule, and it will be published on April 7th…I received the contract just last week. Can you even think of NY publishers reacting that quickly? Smaller publishing houses have a huge advantage over the big boys. I’m really hoping to win over friends and family to electronic books. Not only is it environmentally conscious, it’s cheaper!

  35. Jane
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 13:15:59

    @Leah Hultenschmidt: Thank you for your insider’s look. Obviously, what I am using for my analysis is purely from an observer POV. One thing that seems to be clear is that publishers need to be less dependent on distributors. I would think that ebooks can help with this as well on online retailing, but again that is from an outsider’s POV.

    I do understand the cost of conversion, but the majority of the costs of conversions for publishers come from DRM and the multitude of formats an ebook must be in to meet market demand. Elimination of DRM and one ebook format can greatly reduce costs.

    @KJ and @Marsha – The multitude of self published work scares me and the reason that it scares me is that without filters for quality, even subjective ones, I fear that the numerosity of junk will reduce reading.

  36. Marsha
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 14:05:06

    Jane, I don’t understand why self-published junk would be more harmful to reading in general than industrially-published junk. Anyone plopped down randomly into a big box bookstore or subjected to searching on Amazon would be hard-pressed to find her way around quickly and easily find something interesting. But we readers are a clever lot and I’m sure with some shaking out there would be clearinghouses and blogs to show us the way and eventually we’re figure out the lay of the land and find good quality reading.

    Any big, industry-shaking change requires a shake-out period where we endure the unknown. If I never see another celebrity “written” tome and in exchange I have to figure out how to find good books in the absence of the big publishers, I’ll be happy. I’ll be thrilled to throw some paypal cash at an author whose blog-published work excited me. I’m thinking that $10 directly to an author might be more than she’d receive from me purchasing the same book from a store.

  37. Hortense Powdermaker
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 14:05:16

    I don't know what they're smoking at the Harvard Business School these days, where Elberse teaches, but apparently it's something real old school.

    Agreed. Elberse doesn’t cite any data to indicate that the blockbuster concept is profitable. As Jane points out, if this is a good business approach, then why aren’t publishers thriving? Are they being dragged down by their midlisters?

    And I don’t believe large advances are a necessary component in the blockbuster model of book success. For every $1 million-plus advance that’s earned out there are two that haven’t. Charles Frazier got $8 million for a book that bombed. Jame’s Frey’s second book ($1.5 million advance) has sold less than 70,000 copies. Sacred Games, 900+ pages long, $1 million advance, 51,000 copies sold. Mary Cheney, Curtis Sittenfeld – the list goes on and on.

    Meanwhile, the advance for the first Harry Potter book was $4,000. The Da Vinci Code was part of a 2-book deal for $400,000. Best-selling children’s author Kate DeCamillo (Because of Winn-Dixie, Despereaux) wrote for 6 years and got 450 rejections and no advance for her award-winning book.

    Big Publishers should be able to tote up their giant advances + massive pr budgets and figure out if this blockbuster strategy is working. I would guess that it is not.

    But should we care if NY publishing is an epic fail? Epublishers and ebooks will take over. There will always be books – they just won’t be paper books.

  38. Kalen Hughes
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 14:07:58

    I think the biggest problem is that a handful of editors (mostly in New York) are deciding what the reading selections should be for the rest of the country (and the world, honestly).

    The bigger problem IMO is that fricken Wal-Mart is now determining what will even be published, based purely on what they will stock. I know of multiple authors who have lost contracts, had books canceled, or not been picked up again based SOLELY on the buying practices of Wal-Mart (if Wal-Mart doesn't buy you, you're outta there).

    This scares the bejezus out of me.

  39. Jane
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 14:11:30

    @Marsha: It’s the sheer volume. Self publishing counts in the thousands of releases versus the hundreds of releases. Editors do serve an important part of publishing for readers and it’s not just a filter, but it is in making a book better.

    How many self published authors are hiring professional editors to prune their work, assist with plot, and so forth? Very few authors write clean works that need no editing.

    That’s the real problem I see with self publishing.

  40. Cindy
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 14:23:11

    I’m not sure how to quote here, but I’m sure Kalen brings up a good point. A lot of Walmart’s practices scare me (worked there for a year and a half), and they have way too much power. On a side note, Sam Walton must be rolling in his grave at how far it’s come from his values and ideals.

    I was just telling my father the other day, they are due to fall and in a big way. He wants to see it. The only reason they get any of money any more is that my bank is in the store and it’s convenient. But my book buying? 90% from Borders or the UBS which also handles new.

    This is truly frightening that Walmart is having the power to tell me what I can read? I’ll go strictly ebook first with Ellora’s Cave and Samhain.

  41. Marsha
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 14:28:05

    @Jane: First, I swear I’m not trying to be argumentative, Jane. All of my thoughts are utterly in earnest. I stand ready for whatever smackdown may be headed my way.

    Now then. With regards to editors, it’s my understanding that editors won’t work with authors who intend to self-publish. But doesn’t this bring us right back to my first point of rethinking how we look at such authors? If editors consented to consider working with the self-published the quality of the books would increase. They’ll have to be paid, of course, so authors whose work is quality and rewarded with money from the reading public would be in a position to partner with editors for this purpose. Authors whose work isn’t so great wouldn’t find their position significantly changed from how things look now. Quality could be its own reward in a way that the current publishing set-up simply doesn’t allow.

    As to volume, yes, I see your point. No editor would choose to be deluged with every unpublished manuscript out there and I get that. I still think that after a settling out period we’d find things more orderly than not and if the goal is *more* books in the hands of *more* people in *more* outlets than just bookstores and discount marts I don’t think that volume would ultimately be a problem.

  42. Jane
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 14:32:23

    @Marsha I never thought you were being argumentative. The number of POD books is a multiple of 10 or greater than what comes from traditional publishing. My idea for more variety isn’t simply more books but more variety in the books that are published. I don’t know that we actually need more than 400 books published new each month. I don’t think we need 4000. Most readers aren’t going to sift through a morass of titles and read reviews in order to find books to purchase. Make it too hard to find a good read, and the readers will turn to doing something easier.

    There are editors out there that work for a fee, not ones that are employed by NY, but there are. I don’t understand your “rethinking how we look at such authors” I.e., until they are being edited, I still view them as being, well, unedited.

  43. Robin
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 15:08:08

    To me, the Walmart issue is just one more reason that publishing needs a new model. FWIW, I don’t think it’s fair to blame the distribution outlet for what they will or won’t sell; I think this is still the publisher’s burden in placing its books. If the publisher is rolling over for Walmart, they’re doing it for their own perceived best interest above readers and authors, which to me, again, suggests the need for new vision, both inside and *outside* traditional print publishing. One that involves all of those interested in the outcome.

  44. Kalen Hughes
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 15:29:27

    If the publisher is rolling over for Walmart, they're doing it for their own perceived best interest above readers and authors, which to me, again, suggests the need for new vision, both inside and *outside* traditional print publishing. One that involves all of those interested in the outcome.

    You couldn’t be more right . . . but it still scares me.

  45. LynneW
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 15:42:12

    Thank you, Jane, for a cogent and thoughtful exploration of a worrying situation. Let’s hope Those Who Can Make A Difference take note!

  46. Pat Brown
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 15:58:09

    Publishing needs to innovate? Hardly a new revelation. I and other writers have known this for some time. And the solution has been in front of them all the time but they have resisted it and stubbornly clung to a model that was bad when it was first introduced and will remain bad and untenable until it crumbles into the dust. Sort of like the dinosaurs they are, and like the small, nimble creatures who lived in their shadows, the new publishers will flourish online and in ebook and POD format. People will not stop reading. They just want a better way to do it.

  47. Anne Douglas
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 15:59:01

    I’ve been reading the comments all day, and I think many of you have raised valid points, suggestions and worries.

    One question I have, which possibly is a little aside to the main topic:

    I have yet to buy a celeb book, be that biographical/autobiographical, and I buy a lot of books. I read even more books than I buy (prob 3-4 to 1) and I can’t even begin to think when I even checked out one of these million/multi million dollar advance ‘celeb’ books. How does everyone else stand?

    Using myself as a guide, I can only see that the current model as being wholly ineffectual. I have wondered if in fact it is the midlist (under stocked, underpaid, under promoted that it is) at some publishers that are propping up the no hit wonders?

  48. karmelrio
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 16:01:56

    If the publisher is rolling over for Walmart, they're doing it for their own perceived best interest above readers and authors

    It seems to me that publishers, readers and authors ALL have some skin in the game. We all have insights which could help drive an evolution of the business model which meets people’s needs better than the current one does.

    Publishers have a profit margin to protect. Authors want to be fairly paid for their labor, see their books handled with integrity, and participate in profits should there be any. Readers want good stories at a fair price (and might I also put in a word for book covers and titles that don’t make me shrivel up in embarrassment).

    We can all make a difference.

  49. Emmy
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 16:09:11

    @Anne Douglas: I’ve never gotten a celeb book either, but I strictly read fiction for fun. The only non-fic I purchase is for educational purposes, so they’re all big, boring medical texts. If I want to read real life stuff, I’ll pick up a newspaper.

  50. Rae Lori
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 16:15:26

    @Catherine: I think Jane’s on the right track about the browsing. I was thinking, say with the EBM, it’ll be virtually in the machine like a vending machine where you can choose what you want then wait to have it brought up. It’d be really cool to have a built in: “If you like so and so, try so and so” to make it easier for readers to check out new authors. I also think Jane’s cover flats idea could work for those who like to be more hands on.

    I have a question for people more in tune with booksellers/publishers. If the industry does go to POD books do you think it will eventually go to nothing but ebooks?

    I don’t think print books will go completely away but will possibly become more of a niche things for collectors. Especially hardcovers. I don’t see that being as widespread as it is because many readers aren’t buying them except for their faves. And even then most wait until paperback. Print bookstores may also become like a niche in themselves for selling these. Although ebooks took a 77% rise this year, it’s still 1% of the overall marketplace so it’s hard to say how much they’ll take up in the industry but they are definitely on the rise.

    With the amount of free and cheap ebooks publishers and authors are sending out (it’s like an ebook party!) nowadays, it’s definitely catching on throughout the industry. Would be interesting to see the numbers later this year.

    @MoJo: Booksellers need to sit up and take notice of your perfect bookstore Mojo. It’s a dream come true!

    Also, well said, Marsha. :-)

  51. roslynholcomb
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 16:19:04

    I probably read more non-fic than I do fic, and I’ve never, to my knowledge bought a ‘celeb’ book. Actually, now that I think about it, I’m not even sure what a celeb book is. Typically I read a lot of history, or I go on a glom and read everything I can find on a particular subject. In the past few years I’ve gone through books on coastal LA, the New Madrid Earthquake, and the Underground Railroad as well as my always pet topic epidemology.

    Ewww, just had a thought, are ‘celeb’ books like Paris Hilton stuff?

  52. MoJo
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 16:22:32

    Booksellers need to sit up and take notice of your perfect bookstore Mojo. It's a dream come true!

    You know, publishers could do that too.

    I worked at Hallmark corporate headquarters for a long time, in the division that supports the retail stores. Only about 1/3 of the stores are franchises; the rest are company-owned.

    There’s no reason a publisher couldn’t take its act on the road to a strip mall, have an Espresso (and espresso), and sell its titles in paper and electrons. I mean, there’s been a lot of talk about “branding” a publisher. What wouldn’t brand it faster than having a Bantam Store? Or a Penguin Store? Or, hell, a Samhain Store?

  53. Rae Lori
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 16:45:52

    Now that would be an awesome sight. Especially if Samhain had their own bookstore. The readers would have thought they died and went to cloud nine! ;-)

    Weird aside thought, there’s also the idea of publishing going virtual like in Second Life. They already have a Penguin simulator, a Bantam store, Harlequin Presents has a booth at Publisher’s island and I believe Ellora’s Cave also has a booth there. Loose ID has a store as well. I wonder if this is also part of the future of publishing (especially considering the world has its own printing press). Most link to Amazon and the publisher’s site anyway so you can still buy a “real world” version of the book after checking out the excerpt. They just need to keep it updated a little more.

    Imagine if the virtual store linked up to the Espresso machine in the brick-and-morter publisher store? Wow. Definitely a bookseller’s haven for all.

  54. kirsten saell
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 17:57:17

    When one thing sells big, publishers rush to put out books of the same genre. I can't begin to tell you how tired I am of urban paranormals.

    The Romance section was all heaving man-titty and rapt adoration or bad-ass urban fantasy heroines, tramp-stamp optional.

    Ugh, I hear you, and I wasn’t that interested in them to begin with. Even many epubs were atrocious for this the last year or two–you go into the fantasy section, click on something that has a promising cover and title, and BAM, it’s yet another werewolf romance with a patented Kick-Ass Heroine. Bluh.

    Provide binders or bound volumes of cover flats that contain the cover and back blurb, maybe even a small excerpt.

    Now THAT is a very cool idea. Epubs like Samhain are doing POD books and getting them into stores–and they’re returnable, just like with traditional publishers. But if the books were printed on site, whoa. The store could have one actual copy of the book on the shelf, so you could still leaf through it and get a feel for the writing, then you ask to have it printed. If the customer was in a hurry and couldn’t wait for a fresh, the store could conceivably sell the shelf copy and print a new one to replace it. The higher per-copy cost of producing the book would surely be at least partially offset by eliminating returns?

    The bigger problem IMO is that fricken Wal-Mart is now determining what will even be published, based purely on what they will stock.

    FWIW, I don't think it's fair to blame the distribution outlet for what they will or won't sell; I think this is still the publisher's burden in placing its books.

    Holy shit, yeah. Since when did we all decide Wal-Mart should be the arbiters of our reading tastes? If Wal-Mart has that kind of power, it’s because publishers have handed it to them.

    I have wondered if in fact it is the midlist (under stocked, underpaid, under promoted that it is) at some publishers that are propping up the no hit wonders?

    I’ve wondered the same thing myself.

  55. Kat
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 18:23:52

    There’s an Espresso Book Machine in Melbourne, and I’m planning to try it in Feb, when I go down for the Australia Romance Readers Convention (ahem, small plug).

    Jane, you might find this book interesting: The Book is Dead (Long Live the Book). I’ve been meaning to read it, but haven’t had time to track down a copy. You can read chapter 1 here. From what I understand, the author argues that corporatisation of the publishing industry has resulted in books becoming commodities rather than products of culture, and that the demise of the book as an object doesn’t necessarily mean people are reading (although I think he means “telling stories”) less–just that they’re doing so through different forms. I think he’s also arguing that publishers have abdicated their role as nurturers of ideas, and that books were never suited for mass media. (Not sure what he thinks about genre fiction.)

  56. Kaetrin
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 22:00:23

    Well said Jane!
    The price of books is becoming prohibitive and my “habit” is now costing me a fortune!!

    I think they do have one of those machines in Adelaide at one of the big bookstores – my husband was telling me about it. You order it and it prints and binds in about 15 minutes or so. That would be great. I’d be prepared to wait 15 minutes for a book that was out of stock – I hate waiting for weeks and weeks!!

  57. AJane
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 22:04:12

    @Marsha: Thank you.

  58. Txvoodoo
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 22:13:41

    It sounds to me like the publishing industry is laying off the wrong people. They need to have people to find MORE books, not fewer people to nurture a select few authors. We need that diversity.

    While I definitely favor a few genres, my entire library is very diverse. I like reading different things, to learn, to experience, to think.

  59. The Daily Square - Conga ga Pozar Edition | Booksquare
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 23:10:07

    [...] Breaking: The Sky Is Falling. Will Publishing Innovate or Deteriorate?Jane from Dear Author reviews the challenges facing the publishing business and wonders if it’s too late to save the industry from itself. [...]

  60. XandraG
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 23:11:14

    @Kat – have you read Lawrence Lessig’s “Free Culture” yet? He speaks at length about this very thing–and best of all, the ebook is released under the creative commons license.

    @Jane – clapclapclapclapclap!

    @Marsha re: the Self-publishing model lacking editorial input. Maybe we need to rethink how we view editors. They’re traditionally attached to publishing houses, but there’s no reason an industry pro editor can’t edit a self-pubbed story.

  61. Kat
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 23:32:58

    Thanks, Xandra. I’ll check it out.

    Regarding self-publishing. I’ve noticed that many bloggers are venturing into self-publishing, which to me seems like a kind of democratisation of the publishing industry. I’ve also read a few authors who were initially self-published and were picked up by publishing companies–e.g. Christopher Paolini, Stephen Clarke. So I don’t think self-publishing is necessarily an obstacle if you’re a good writer and/or you write a great story. It’s probably frowned upon because, just on the law of averages, the chances of finding sellable self-published books is low (historically, but I think the increase in blogger/authors will probably change the numbers significantly), and there are issues of rights that a publisher will take into account.

  62. MaryK
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 23:42:24

    “they will inevitably turn to other forms of entertainment as publishing increasingly offers a sameness to its selections. ”

    I’ve stopped buying Harlequin Presents because of the repetitive, gag-inducing titles. If I feel like reading one, I reread a keeper or pick up an older title used.

  63. Anthea Lawson
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 01:43:33

    re: Wal-mart and cookie-cutter books.

    My co-author and I write adventurous Victorian-set romance, and one of the things that sets our books apart is the use of exotic locations. Our first book featured a botanical expedition to Tunisia, the second opens on the island of Crete.

    We were recently informed by our editor that the blurb for the second novel, out this fall, will have NO MENTION of exotic locale because Wal-mart won’t carry it if it does. Ouch. So much for branding.

    So if you’re browsing the romance section and think there’s nothing but man-titty and kick-ass heroines, try and look a little deeper. There may well be a truffle or two in there, concealed as a sugar cookie.

    Publishers control the entire outside of the book, which in our case (especially as newer authors) means Wal-mart does, too. This includes the title, the image, the copy, the quote, if any. Nothing we can do except keep pushing the boundaries between the covers as much as we can, and trust readers to come along. Wherever the setting.

  64. anthealawson.com » Blog Archive » Epiphany
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 02:39:25

    [...] many epiphanies in the coming year, especially for the publishing world. Catch this blog by Jane at DearAuthor. And hold on–it could be quite a [...]

  65. Cindy
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 04:11:42

    Wal-mart has no business dictating what books should be published nor determining anything else about it. They have entirely too much power in this country and need to be stopped.

    What’s wrong with the mention of exotic locale? There’s nothing offensive about that to me, so what’s wrong with Wal-Mart. But oh yes, these are the people who will only sell *clean* versions of music but carry The Tudors on DVD. I couldn’t even watch it, it was like soft core porn.

  66. Lynne Connolly
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 04:14:12

    Publishers are not idiots and they’re not blind. They know what’s going on, probably better than we do, but in order to change, they have to change the model. This is much more difficult than it sounds, involving legal and accountancy alterations, fundamental ones in some cases, and a new structure. The larger concerns just can’t do it overnight, but I’m betting the credit crunch will push them into speeding things up a bit, if it’s not doing that already.
    It’s probably why publishing houses are starting new ventures to cope with the new model, rather than trying to revolutionise their entire company. They will migrate to them, so the whole process will be more evolutionary.

  67. Evangeline
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 04:17:53

    @Jane: Since venturing into indie publishing, I disagree with using “self-published=unedited/no barriers against trash” as sole argument against self-publishing.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Marsha that we all need to change the way we think about self-publishing (not “vanity publishing”), particularly since opinions on the subject are oft repeated, yet rarely has any naysayer researched the industry nor contacted writers who have chosen to go indie for their perspective.

    I also distinctly recall that prior to e-books really taking off, most authors, published and unpublished, saw writers who entered the e-book market as “cheating the system,”or “finding a last resort after everyone rejected them,” or “not wanting to pay their dues.” It does everyone a disservice to use these same phrases on another segment of publishing after e-publishing has striven to change the way people look at them.

    It’s taken a few years, but thus far, the creme de la creme of e-publishers–as well as e-published authors–have risen to the top–and with much help from reviewers such as yourself and other respected romance industry bloggers. It would be a shame to blow the froth from the indie publishing latte before allowing authors dedicated to producing quality self-published works to get in the game.

  68. LizJ
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 05:33:51

    I don’t have an e-book reader and will likely not buy one till they get in the under $100 range. And I avoid reading on the computer because I, like many other people, read differently on a computer screen (after a while, I’m just skimming – the wrong way to read fiction IMO).

    I am buying less books, but a lot of that has to do with what the industry is publishing right now in romance – less straight historicals, too many paranormals (although I do like a good one), too much “chick lit” although that’s lessening, and too much straight contemporary or contemporary-suspense Go look at AAR’s list of books on sale for each month – the historicals are shrinking, the paranormal category isn’t as large as one might think. There is one big category, and it’s where contemporary romance and contemporary romantic suspense are lumped together. And this does not include Harlequins, they are under series books.

    Everyone in my family (DH and my two DD’s) are readers, so we kind of buck the trend. We don’t own a video game console. My girls (15 and 19) have a hard time finding books they like, even though there are some bestsellers that one or both of them has read (ie, Twilight).

    So, I really hope books on demand shows up, and soon. With publishing costs reduced, perhaps we’ll have more options.

  69. Susan
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 07:44:52

    I’m a publisher at a modest sized press (<$6M in annual sales). Want to say that many of us are innovating.

    IMHO, Prof. Elberse at HBS is wrong. I disagreed with her article last year regarding the long tail and books, and I disagree with her WSJ article. The blockbuster model works for certain books, but not the majority of what’s published. There are thriving publishers (even in this economy) across America who prove that she’s wrong.

    POD just became cost-effective for us (avg. $2.50-$4 unit cost) in the past 3 years. We looked into it 7 years ago and it still wasn’t cost-effective. We re-evaluated in 2007 and were able to implement in 2008. We now use it so that every book we’ve ever published, for which we still hold rights, is available. And we’re using digital printing for short runs on about 25-30% of our front list.

    As for ebooks: we’re getting there. It takes cash and we don’t have buckets of it. We’ve been able to digitize (e.g. scan) almost all of our books pub’d since 1925, but we’re now faced with the issue that many ebook retailers require different formats for their devices. Conversion costs money. We don’t sell pdf from our site because we don’t have the DRM in place and don’t have the cash on hand to invest in developing it. But we will, we will. We’re getting there.

    Our e prices are high. We know that and are re-evaluating. You could say that we were testing the market and have learned which segments will pay our current high prices and know that we need to rethink for trade, which we are presently doing. But I should point out that our e prices for stuff we’ve brought back in print are generally *lower* than many of our out-of-print books at UBS. You can buy it from us POD for $50 or pay $200+ at a UBS for some of our stuff.

    It all boils down to this: We are innovating. We’re just doing it slower than you want. The printing press was king for centuries. Give us a another decade to change, would you? We’ll get there.

  70. Kimber An
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 08:59:45

    I don’t understand why anyone takes the time to belittle self-publishing. If it’s such an inferior way to publish, why bother? It should be of no consequence. Irrelevent. Not worthy of your notice. A bug on a dog ten miles away.

    So, why? Why waste your time and breath?

    As far as editing, well, sometimes in regular publishing the creativity gets edited away to mold the story into something more trendy. If a reader is willing to overlook ‘i’ not getting dotted once in a while, he or she may find wonderous variety in the self-published ranks. There are more and more sites to help them search too.

  71. Jane
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 09:33:57

    @Susan I can appreciate that all of publishing is not stagnating and that you are innovating but I do wonder whether the mainstream publishers have a decade to change. I don’t think that they do.

  72. Jane
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 09:38:47

    @Evangeline I don’t know the difference between self publishing and vanity publishing and what you seem to refer to as indie publishing.

    Small print publishing with editors have some indicia, to me, of quality (although that can be eroded over time by frequent encounters with poorly edited works).

    As a reader, I don’t have time to research all the different modes of publishing and what time of quality examinations they endure, but if I spend money on a number of books that I find not to be of high quality, I’ll stop taking risks, my decision making process for buying will contract to include those old favorites that I know can be reliable to deliver a certain level of work. I don’t want that to happen but I do know that many readers are risk adverse and paying for self published books that have no editing process is a risk.

    I’ve read and purchased self published books and we receive a number of self published books for review. I do think that there is a difference between something edited and something that is not edited. I am just a huge believer in the need for critical review of a work before it is sold.

  73. XandraG
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 09:59:08

    @Kimber An – There should be no reason why wondrous variety and dotted i’s can’t coexist. Some of the attitude adjustment has to happen in the self-publishing circles, too. Too often, the first rationale I see for self-publishing is something that amounts to a conspiracy by Big Media(TM) to kill all true creative talent in its infancy. Now, not that there isn’t exactly that kind of conspiracy going on, but it doesn’t serve as an excuse for sloppy finished work, either in the copyediting area, or the storytelling area. And if the self-published author took more the approach of, “my story, let me tell you it” rather than, “my publisher, let me sell you on it.” Some of the most vocal self-published authors I’ve encountered will put out volumes on how great their publisher is and how well their book is selling, but hardly ever seem to say what their stories are about.

    @Susan – Glad to hear you’re innovating, but please for the love of your customers, lose the DRM. It is a broken model. It’s like having a pair of shoes that you try on and love in the store, but once you pay for them, the doors lock before you are out of the store, you can only wear them with one dress and at one event, and then only if the shoe salesman is there to hold them on your feet. Apple’s success came largely through accurate pricing and ease of use. Make it easy for your customers to buy at a reasonable price, and you will not miss DRM. Neither will your customers. In fact, you probably will get more customers without it. :)

    As a reader/consumer, I buy music and go out of my way to look for non-DRM music so I can be assured of being able to still listen to it a year from now. The one time I bought something DRM from Harlequin, I ended up not even being able to open it. As a result, I’ll never buy anything in that format, and it’ll be a long time before I give Harlequin another chance.

  74. Chicklet
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 10:38:37

    In 2008, I read about 80 professionally-published books, which is a pretty low number, especially for this community. But, if you assume a novel equals ~50,000 words, I read at least 100 novels’ worth of fanfiction last year. With the vast amount of professionally-published backlist titles, and the near-infinite amount of fanfic posted each year, I could never have to purchase a newly-published book again. I choose to buy newly-published books because I like the author or I read a rave review, but if new books get too expensive, inconvenient, or lackluster to justify my purchase, I can get by just fine using the UBS and the internet — without pirating — to satisfy my reading needs.

    Please keep in mind, I have a Masters in Library and Information Science, though I haven’t worked in the library profession yet. When a librarian says she’d possibly be fine never buying new product from NY publishers, something is wrong.

  75. Esri Rose
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 11:18:25

    It’s so scary and so true. I assume that Amazon’s Kindle is going to eventually whup publishers’ butts. It may take a while before publishers discount digital rights enough to make books as cheap as they should be when they don’t use paper or need warehousing, but that day will come, because they’ll be desperate. And then who will have benefited? Amazon, because publishers didn’t see the liquid ink on the wall.

    I’d happily buy a POD printer for $200-$300 if I could then buy/print books for three to four bucks a copy. And I’ve suggested this before on other sites: POD would let readers design their own covers. Publishers could make even more money by selling access to fab clip art for covers. I mean, come on. There’s money to be made all over the place, but they don’t seem to see it.

  76. kirsten saell
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 11:34:59

    We don't sell pdf from our site because we don't have the DRM in place and don't have the cash on hand to invest in developing it. But we will, we will. We're getting there.

    Gahhh! What XandraG said. You won’t “get there” until you forget DRM.

    There are epublishers out there making money and expanding while traditional publishers are laying people off willy nilly. And as far as I know, NONE of them use DRM. For Pete’s sake, you have a successful model sitting right in front of you. Why wouldn’t you take your cues from those who’ve made that model a success, dang it?

  77. Susan
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 12:14:30

    Kirsten, Apologies for being dense, but what’s the successful model that’s sitting right in front of me?

  78. KJ
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 12:27:15

    Susan,

    Please see Ellora’s Cave or Samhain Publishing to answer that question. Ebooks in multiple formats without DRM.

    http://www.ellorascave.com
    http://www.samhainpublishing.com

  79. kirsten saell
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 12:33:08

    I did sound snippy and it was rude of me. I apologize.

    But it’s just so very frustrating to see this issue revisited again and again. The “We can’t sell our ebooks for less because DRM is expensive,” or “We would convert more books, but DRM is expensive,” arguments do not fly when readers are screaming all over the place about how much they hate DRM, how they refuse to buy ebooks that are DRM-hampered, how DRM does nothing to discourage piracy and only makes ebooks difficult and ungainly for honest consumers.

    The most I have ever paid for a DRM-hampered book was $6. I only spent that because the store did not indicate it was DRM’d until after I bought it. The file said pdf, I purchased, then had to download software to be able to access my book, and now can’t copy it to a new device when my laptop craps out. I know better now. I refuse to spend more than $2.00 on an ebook with DRM. Yet most DRM-hampered books are much more expensive, partly because the DRM itself costs money. But publishers don’t seem to realize that DRM doesn’t just cost them money, it costs them readers.

    I have never–and will never–download a pirated ebook. But I also will never pay 12 dollars for a DRM-hampered book. Especially knowing the author is probably making less than 12% royalty on that book–instead of the 30-40% they could be making at an epublisher.

    Dragon Actually was released simultaneously in print by Zebra and in ebook by Samhain, because G.A. Aiken retained the digital rights and sold them to Samhain. Why would she do this? Maybe so the ebook would be released DRM-free, for a reasonable price, and her royalty percentage would reflect the lower tangible costs of production.

    You want to see a successful model? How about EC? Samhain?

  80. Susan
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 13:10:03

    Apology accepted, thank you. :)

    Don’t both EC and Samhain use pdf? Pdf has some DRM imbedded in it’s coding–and if you have to purchase before you can download the pdf, then that’s a type of DRM. They are managing a reader’s ability to get a copy of the book electronically.

    We aren’t withholding putting our books into e format because of DRM–we are holding off from selling directly from our own web site because of DRM.

    Our books are available via half a dozen vendors in digital format, and we’ve digitized and brought back into print everything we’ve ever published for which we hold the rights going back to our founding. And almost all of our titles are available for viewing on Google Book and in Amazon’s Search Inside.That equals roughly 2400 books in pdf.

    Our biggest hurdles are a) being able to sell ebooks direct from our site (we don’t have that capability), b) the fact that most reading devices require specific file types and conversion costs $$, and c) staff time to devote to the digital side of our business.

  81. Txvoodoo
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 13:23:18

    @Susan

    You’re confusing DRM with download authentication – they’re 2 different things. DRM is built into the book itself, download authentication is on the server, and restricts who can download a file.

    Neither one is expensive to implement. I could do both on my own, with tools available to any person with a computer and a small bit of tech saavy.

    Conversion is far less expensive than you’d think for NEW books – authors all submit their works in digital format, yes? You could possibly consider freelancers or outsourcing for conversion.

    I publish documents in various formats all the time, for convenience of clients/users – PDF, mobi format, etc. It’s really not rocket science, in either terms of tech or cost.

    If you’ve been told otherwise, you’ve been misinformed.

    That said, I agree very much with the above poster about DRM. DRM is a broken model, restricting and frustrating your end user. When I buy a dead-tree book, I can read it whereever I like – I’m not restricted to reading it in my living room. DRM essentially does that – restricts me to reading the book in one location. But we don’t *live* that way. I can’t lift up my desktop computer and take it to the bed with me. Instead, I have a Kindle. When I buy an ebook, I want to be able to read it on my computer AND my Kindle. Or, if I had another device (Iphone, sony reader, laptop), read it there.

    I am not saying this to be contrary or a rebel – this is how we grew up reading dead-tree books. This is the paradigm to which we have become accustomed. To shift that asks too much from your end user.

    BTW – PDF does not have DRM embedded in its coding unless the person creating the PDF puts it in there.

    Also you say “Our biggest hurdles are a) being able to sell ebooks direct from our site (we don't have that capability),” – I really just don’t understand that. Well, I do, in a way – I think you’ve gotten bad web advice. ANYONE could do this – this is why self-publishers can do it. I could set up a shop online TODAY, if I’d written a book.

  82. Emmy
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 13:25:04

    I have books in .pdf format from both EC and Samhain, and if there’s DRM involved, it doesn’t hamper me from transferring the content to my three reading devices (reader, laptop, pc). I’m thinking there’s no DRM with those files, because I would not be able to transfer books about if there were. DRM would block me from making a copy of the files and transferring those files to my other reading devices, as well as my two backup devices.

    DRM is incredibly easy to strip using multiple programs available for free online. It makes no sense whatsoever to spend “buckets” of money on something that is ineffective against its intended purpose- to wit: preventing piracy- but is effective in preventing honest buyers from utilizing their purchase to its fullest extent.

  83. kirsten saell
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 13:38:34

    Don't both EC and Samhain use pdf? Pdf has some DRM imbedded in it's coding-and if you have to purchase before you can download the pdf, then that's a type of DRM. They are managing a reader's ability to get a copy of the book electronically.

    Okay, here’s the thing. Adobe pdf is a form of file software. Adobe also makes something called “Digital Editions” which is the DRM that pisses me off so much. If I buy a pdf book from Samhain, I can back it up on as many devices as I like, move it to my ereader, stick it on a flash drive. It’s just a file, as portable as the MS word files I write in.

    Samhain also sells books from their own store in SONYpdf, MSlit, HTML, prc and a few other formats. And as far as I know, none of them are DRM hampered. What might happen to them when they go to retailers is another story. (SONY pdf files of Samhain titles from the Sony Ebookstore are DRM hampered, but not the ones sold by MBaM).

    AND, Samhain’s MBaM has an eternal bookshelf. So if I ditch my SONY in a year and get a new reader, I can go back to Samhain and download my entire collection of their books in a new format–hassle free and cost free. AND Samhain is adding new formats as they become relevant in the market, and (not intantaneously, but they’re doing it) converting their backlist to the new formats.

    And certainly if you already have a shopping cart for your print books, it wouldn’t take much to adapt your site to handle ebooks. I recently downloaded a free ebook from (I think) Kalen Hughes’ website. It’s not hugely difficult if you have someone who knows their way around website design.

    The appeal of ebooks for readers is their convenience over the print model. No shelf space, instant gratification of purchase, being able to carry hundreds of titles in your purse. DRM eliminates every single one of those benefits.

  84. Susan
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 13:42:06

    Txvoodoo, thanks for the clarification re drm and download authentication.

    What we want a reader to be able to take their book with them wherever they go, whether it’s in print or e; isn’t that the whole point–to make a reader able to read whereever they are?

    Here’s an example of cost prohibitive on file conversion: the best bid I’ve gotten is from a vendor who’d charge me $40 convert to Mobi from our typeset files. For one book, that’s not a lot. But for 2400? That’s $96,000, which for a smaller press like ourselves is a whole lot of additional cash (that’s 2-3 salaries, for instance). And I’m already paying to convert into the formats that my present digital vendors use. Yeah, it’s a one time investment, but I don’t have that one time money right now.

    I haven’t gotten bad web advice–our parent institution has rules and requirements for selling online that add levels of bureaucracy and administration that we haven’t yet chosen to engage. That’s not a univerisal publisher problem, it’s a specific to our press problem. (I probably should have clarified that in my last post.)

  85. Txvoodoo
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 13:57:02

    @Susan

    Wait – you’re already converting to digital formats? Then….what’s the issue?

    And while I haven’t priced out mass-conversions, $40/book sounds really expensive for a 3-5 minute process (once you’ve determined the process from your source to finished mobi). REALLY expensive. Like, “I’m in the wrong line of work” expensive ;)

    Now I’m considering setting up a conversion shop!

  86. kirsten saell
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 14:01:39

    Here's an example of cost prohibitive on file conversion: the best bid I've gotten is from a vendor who'd charge me $40 convert to Mobi from our typeset files.

    That is a huge concern, which is why I don’t understand why many NY publishers (and I assume small presses, too) don’t do all their edits in MSWord. It’s insane in this day and age to hear about the sole, marked up copy of a manuscript being shipped back and forth between a publisher and an author, when most authors originally write their mss in Word, and Track Changes makes editing a breeze. You go from red pen and “stet” and $$$ worth of shipping costs (and the risk of losing the only copy in transit) to accept or reject change and email back at the click of a mouse.

    AND, then you have the fully edited digital file on hand for conversion to various ebook formats, PLUS, once a book’s initial print run sold through, the digital file is still available for POD sales and the long tail. NY publishers have the tools to put UBSs out of business, but instead of using them, they whine about how UBSs hurt their bottom line. It drives me batty, it really does.

  87. kirsten saell
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 14:03:57

    And while I haven't priced out mass-conversions, $40/book sounds really expensive for a 3-5 minute process (once you've determined the process from your source to finished mobi). REALLY expensive. Like, “I'm in the wrong line of work” expensive ;)

    I think she’s talking about converting from physical copies or plates or what-have-you, to digital. Which, well, see my above comment.

  88. Kalen Hughes
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 14:28:37

    FWIW, I don't think it's fair to blame the distribution outlet for what they will or won't sell; I think this is still the publisher's burden in placing its books.

    Holy shit, yeah. Since when did we all decide Wal-Mart should be the arbiters of our reading tastes? If Wal-Mart has that kind of power, it's because publishers have handed it to them.

    I'm sorry to disagree, but Wal-Mart has this kind of power in the current market because READERS have handed it to them (not the readers who hunt out potential books/authors on the web, but the ones who casually grab what looks good while they're buying diapers and milk). The majority of mass market books (and specifically romance books) are now sold by big box stores (with Wal-Mart being the 800lb gorilla). So the publishers are merely reacting to/following the market. If the book has little chance of success and profitability if Wal-Mart doesn't pick it up, and Wal-Mart passes, then there is little incentive for the publisher to put the book out (or to buy more books from that author). And since Wal-Mart (and other big box stores) simply aren't book stores, and have very limited offerings in their book departments, this means much stiffer competition for those slots, and in the end, fewer books for everyone (even those of us who don't shop for our books at big box stores).

    There's also the issue of romance having entirely different standards for “success” than other genre fiction. Print runs are higher in romance, and the kinds of sales that a mystery or science fiction author would be over the moon about are dubbed “flops” in romance.

  89. karmelrio
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 14:56:54

    If a reader is willing to overlook ‘i' not getting dotted once in a while

    I’m …not.

    Copyediting errors are a pet peeve of mine – even more so when I find them in a book that has supposedly been professionally edited.

  90. kirsten saell
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 15:00:40

    You don’t have to be sorry to disagree, lol! And yeah, readers do have a hand in this, too.

    But it isn’t entirely outside the power of publishers to relax their definition of “success”, either. I think it all ties into the blockbuster mentality, and the reluctance by publishers to consider a modestly profitable book a success. If things keep going the way they are, the midlist will disappear entirely, and all we’ll be left with are books with blockbuster potential, that will either be hugely successful, or total flops.

  91. Robin
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 15:13:25

    I'm sorry to disagree, but Wal-Mart has this kind of power in the current market because READERS have handed it to them (not the readers who hunt out potential books/authors on the web, but the ones who casually grab what looks good while they're buying diapers and milk). The majority of mass market books (and specifically romance books) are now sold by big box stores (with Wal-Mart being the 800lb gorilla). So the publishers are merely reacting to/following the market.

    Well, publishers will sure be happy to hear this argument, since they keep making it about readers in general.

    But I must disagree with you and with publishers on this.

    Publishers are no passive players in this game, although they sure would like to see themselves that way, especially when authors come to complain about sales, contracts, covers, etc. And authors, I suppose, would rather blame readers than the more powerful publishers (who hold the immediate power of the purse).

    But readers don’t just shop at Walmart. Readers shop at Target, Costco, the grocery store, and many other so-called big box stores and heavily frequented retail outlets that are not book-centered but that can and do and might be able to sell books just as well as Walmart. And most readers who shop at Walmart have no clue their reading choices are being manipulated, so how can their mere business be magically converted to empowering Walmart over publishers and authors?

    To blame readers for empowering Walmart is, IMO, not only inaccurate but reflective of the very problems facing publishers now, namely the refusal to innovate and to function as much more than printing facilities and warehouses — to find better ways of acquiring, publishing, and placing books.

    Authors and publishers can blame Walmart all you want, just as Walmart can erroneously blame its customers (the vast majority of whom have no idea their reading choices are being manipulated and thus no active role in determining them), but to do so is an absolute abdication of responsibility for publisher choices, IMO (as well as author choices like choosing to sign with a particular house, negotiating contract terms, and making writing choices ‘for the market’), and a profoundly alienating gesture toward the very cohort you want to win over.

  92. Susan
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 15:45:08

    Txvoodoo, I’ve been quoted from $40 to $200 per title for converting from pdf to Mobi. We don’t have that expertise in house. Is it really that easy? Really? I’m mean, any old person could really do it?

    We convert everything to a bookmarked pdf. But while every vendor can take in that file, many charge fees to convert to whatever format they require, or we can convert it ourselves at our own expense.

    Maybe it really is that easy or cheap. If you know where I can get conversions for a whole lot cheaper–tell me–we’d seriously consider it.

  93. DS
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 15:53:07

    My word, we store our files as PDF and when I want to carry them out of the office I switch to Mobi and put them on my Kindle. Sometimes they don’t look too pretty because I’m in a hurry, but the technology gets better and better all the time. The mobi creator program is free.

  94. kirsten saell
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 15:57:27

    Holy shit, Susan! They want $40 to convert from one digital format to another?

    Maybe you could look into hiring one person to do all your conversions in house. I think this is what Samhain does, though I’m not 100% sure.

    And you know, there’s really nothing stopping you from immediately making your books available in pdf, or whatever formats are cheapest to convert into–and then adding more formats as you can afford them.

  95. Txvoodoo
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 16:04:48

    @Susan

    If your source file is already digitized (i.e. Word Doc, text file, HTML, or even PDF), yes, it’s really that easy. There are so many tools out there to convert to the various ebook formats – and most of them are free!

    I do it all the time. Heck, I make Kindle-compatible documents from long web articles I want to read, or novel-length fanfic, so I’m not shackled to my computer for my reading.

    I don’t put in all the metadata when I’m doing that – only Title and Author name, usually, and occasionally the date field.

    Here’s some info about creating Mobi and PRC files. (Kindle accepts PRC files):

    About the format

    How do I create a Mobipocket Ebook?

    The software

    Dead easy – really.

  96. Txvoodoo
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 16:06:21

    @Kirsten

    “Holy shit, Susan! They want $40 to convert from one digital format to another? “

    And this is why I said earlier up that I might be in the wrong line of work. I’m seriously now contemplating setting up a website: “Ebook Converter for Hire! More value for your $!” ;)

  97. XandraG
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 16:07:35

    txvoodoo says
    @Susan

    Wait – you're already converting to digital formats? Then….what's the issue?

    And while I haven't priced out mass-conversions, $40/book sounds really expensive for a 3-5 minute process (once you've determined the process from your source to finished mobi). REALLY expensive. Like, “I'm in the wrong line of work” expensive ;)

    Now I'm considering setting up a conversion shop!

    Um, especially if the mobipocket converter is, uh, free. If the publisher is seeking conversion from TeX or LaTeX printing files, there’s always this resource here:
    http://www.tug.org/utilities/texconv/textopc.html

    It sounds like this may be more than a technology issue. If Susan’s employer is anything like Mr. Xandra’s (a large educational conglomerate) then it’s more a corporate culture/business practices thing, and the Titanic doesn’t turn on a pixel. I wish Susan and her employer luck in heading towards the future and hope they make the right decisions for them and especially their authors and readers.

  98. Susan
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 16:14:41

    Yeah, well . . . yeah.

    Vendors charge fees for each type of conversion. To Mobi is one fee. To epub is another fee. To bookmarked pdf is the one we already do. XML is it’s own little fiefdom which we need to get into very soon.

    Jane sent me the link to mobi pocket creator. (Thanks, Jane) We’ll have to take a peek at what happens to our books (their pages designs and any illustrations) when we convert one. But even so, I’m not sure we could do all 2400 titles ourselves. Unless we could make it a student research project and offer credit one semester… Hmm…

    And we’re also going to start selling chapter by chapter pieces of books through a vendor this year. We’re a NF publisher, so we have the type of books that will go really well into single chapter sales. Especially for students who don’t want to buy the whole thing.

    Just getting the all the books reviewed for digital rights, scanned, proofed, and all the metadata created took more than three years because we had to parse this into everyone’s already full-time jobs. And we had a vendor who scanned fast, and was very accurate, and bookmarked the pdf for us.

    There’s a lot of detail involved and it’s been the details that have caused the delays and wrinkles in the process.

  99. Kalen Hughes
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 16:15:11

    @Robin: Just because these readers act out of ignorance doesn’t negate their effect on the market. The effect is real and indisputable. Could publishers have responded differently? Of course they could have, but publishers are dinosaurs plodding through a mammalian new world and are mostly reactive (rather than proactive) to market forces (and they're out to make money; they have no motivation in the current market to target niche readers, much as we might wish differently). Yes, the world of publishing is BROKEN. Yes, publishers are not responding in the way most of us would like (by being nimble and pushing forward into the 21st century). But none of this negates the simple fact that currently Wal-Mart IS making decisions that dictate what you and I and everyone else in the world gets to read.

    The question is what to do about it? If, indeed, anything can be done about it, when-’as you point out-’the very readers who are most influential are also the hardest to reach (essentially they're impossible to reach).

    I truly hope that when the publishing industry's growth pains are over they come up with something replaces the so-called Pareto principle with what Richard Spilman on The Huffington Post (Blockbusters and Publishing: The Pareto Principle vs. Netflix) called the Netflix principle: It suggests that consumers really like variety. Presented with choices, they will not necessarily make the same stale selection, over and over again. And therefore more is better and relying on blockbusters or bestsellers is a losing bet. This would empower the midlist and lead to romance being treated more like other genre fiction (which would be a good thing, IMO).

  100. Susan
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 16:30:00

    Speaking to Kalen Hughes point about readers wanting variety: on Google last week, 1,920 of our books were viewed, out of the 2,100 books we presently have live in Google book search. This statistic is consistent week-to-week.

    We know that if we put content out there, our readers will find it.

    BTW, Wal-Mart does not carry our books. We’re specialized and they aren’t going to carry our stuff. Though you will find our books at St. Mark’s, Vroman’s, McNally Jackson, City Lights, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Tattered Cover, Book Passages, Book Soup, MoMA’s gift, shop, etc., etc.

  101. Txvoodoo
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 16:31:36

    @Susan

    You said “We'll have to take a peek at what happens to our books (their pages designs and any illustrations) when we convert one. “

    Remember that ebook readers have, for lack of a better phrase, a lower expectation of design and illustration standards than dead-tree readers. (btw? I’m both – 2000 hardcopy books on my shelves, and over 500 ebooks :D)

    We’re reading on an ebook device for the content – the words. If they work, we’re happy! Heck, I really don’t mind lack of illustrations – it means smaller file size, so I can stuff more books on the device!

  102. Robin
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 18:13:43

    Just because these readers act out of ignorance doesn't negate their effect on the market. The effect is real and indisputable.

    I assume that what you mean by “their effect” is that they buy a lot of books at Walmart. Or perhaps that they don’t buy “the right” books, depending on the author’s POV? But in either case, how does the fact that readers buy books at a particular retail outlet make them responsible for the careers of authors whose books do not sell there, or for Walmart’s requirements for profitability in various goods? If there is a void in the market, someone is going to step in and fill it, which is something publishers should know well. Why isn’t it up to publishers to make the best effort to sell the books they acquire?

    Could publishers have responded differently? Of course they could have, but publishers are dinosaurs plodding through a mammalian new world and are mostly reactive (rather than proactive) to market forces (and they're out to make money; they have no motivation in the current market to target niche readers, much as we might wish differently).

    And still the fate of authors is the readers’ fault? I don’t know of any economic model in which consumers are supposed to carry the burden of an inefficient and ineffective manufacturer of commercial goods.

    But none of this negates the simple fact that currently Wal-Mart IS making decisions that dictate what you and I and everyone else in the world gets to read.

    Publishers and Walmart are *both* making those decisions, Walmart through dictating its terms and publishers by rolling over and refusing to change their business model, market differently, find new markets, create new markets, etc. And as long as it’s worked economically for publishers, they are just fine with it because, as we hear over and over, they are only concerned with the bottom line. I know that editors get caught in this crunch, as well, and that it’s not just authors. But as long as publishing is driven by a business model that operates the way the current mainstream print pubs do, they will make decisions based on their perceived own best interests as those interests are balanced with the demands of the other players, including authors, vendors, readers, etc.

    The question is what to do about it? If, indeed, anything can be done about it, when-’as you point out-’the very readers who are most influential are also the hardest to reach (essentially they're impossible to reach).

    Why? Consumers are reached all the time through various types of marketing. Otherwise no money would be spent on advertising. Again, IMO we’re back to who’s making the marketing decisions, who is receiving the gracious plenty of publisher marketing dollars, and how authors are conducting their own marketing.

    I truly hope that when the publishing industry's growth pains are over they come up with something replaces the so-called Pareto principle with what Richard Spilman on The Huffington Post (Blockbusters and Publishing: The Pareto Principle vs. Netflix) called the Netflix principle: It suggests that consumers really like variety. Presented with choices, they will not necessarily make the same stale selection, over and over again. And therefore more is better and relying on blockbusters or bestsellers is a losing bet. This would empower the midlist and lead to romance being treated more like other genre fiction (which would be a good thing, IMO).

    These are the same points that Jane made in her post, which urges publishers to explore different business models. Because the loss in profitability is finally — possibly — going to motivate publishers to innovate. But taking the point about readers enjoying variety, isn’t this even *more reason* to place the burden on publishers to find more markets than Walmart in which to place books? I mean, if readers can be characterized as wanting diversity (which simply reflects how off publishers are in claiming readers are driving the market, IMO, while they’re publishing more of the same), then publishers have every possible reason and opportunity to give them what they want.

    Plus, going back to your points about Walmart, if readers want diversity, and Walmart is narrowing the choice of what it wants in its store, then that strikes me as even more challenge to the argument that it’s reader desires and tastes that are driving the existing market. That is, whatever readers are buying have been selected for them by *someone* and that selection already represents a narrowed field, so readers are simply choosing from what’s available.

    And if that decision is supposedly based on what readers want, then I’d argue there’s a logical flaw in that reasoning, since readers aren’t getting a truly free choice to begin with. Because if readers want diversity, then logically speaking we should be buying *more* books that are *different*, which should favor a larger and more diverse stable of authors. Again, I would suggest that it’s publishers who are both responsible for and capable of meeting that market demand. And if they don’t, someone is going to step in an fill in the void, but that void only exists, IMO, because those who write and produce books have not exploited a broad enough array of markets.

  103. kirsten saell
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 18:33:43

    That is, whatever readers are buying have been selected for them by *someone* and that selection already represents a narrowed field, so readers are simply choosing from what's available.

    Yes, yes, yes. That’s not readers making choices. That’s readers being told what to like.

  104. Anthea Lawson
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 01:00:38

    @Robin

    You were speaking of abdicating choices, “as well as author choices like choosing to sign with a particular house, negotiating contract terms, and making writing choices ‘for the market'.”

    Maybe a few of the aforementioned ‘blockbuster’ authors have this power, but that’s it.

    Most authors don’t have nearly the power you think– not if they want to actually make a living (or even the beginnings of a living) selling their work. Writing is art, but, please, it’s also commerce. Sad to say, the creators of the content are often on the bottom rung of the decision-making ladder.

    The ‘choice’ to sign or not with a particular house? First off, who is willing to buy your book? If there’s a bidding war, you don’t have much of a choice. The winner wins. If there’s only one publisher interested, you don’t have a choice. Your agent also has a say in all this–they need to make a living too.

    The contract is negotiated, but again, authors don’t have a whole lot of power to change things. It happens, but invariably no sweeping changes. And if you really can’t live with something and the publisher won’t change it… no contract.

    Writing ‘for the market.’ Well, if you’re writing something perceived as unmarketable, it’s going to be a very tough sell. And if it’s a tough sell, you will have very little choice as to who is going to publish it and the terms of the contract. Catch-22.

    I, too, had a number of preconceived notions about how publishing worked and the author’s role in it, but since getting a two-book contract and having the first novel published, my eyes have been opened. Granted, every author’s experience is different, and every house has different ways of doing things. But the new author, and probably the mid-list author as well, can be rather small cogs in the wheel.

  105. Zoe Winters
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 01:12:58

    Marsha said:

    If we stop assuming that bypassing or subverting a seriously broken model automatically equals poor quality or letting the side (of authors) down we might find a foothold for fixing the whole mess.

    Thank you! I read posts like this, and I am genuinely perplexed by the fact that there are people who will STILL turn up their nose at me for going indie. Why on EARTH would I want to get on this publishing Titanic?

    There is nothing attractive to me about the NY system of things, and a small publisher can’t do anything for me I can’t do for myself. Hence, indie.

    Viva la resistance!

  106. Zoe Winters
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 01:34:50

    Also on editing and self publishing:

    Sure, there is a lot of crap out there. Sure there are a lot of people out there with no business sense or common sense who for some reason would research the flower business before opening a flower shop, but can’t be bothered to research publishing before starting what is essentially their own micropress.

    Sure there are people who won’t take the steps to have a good cover, professional interior layout, and editing.

    If my work is well-edited, and clean, and is packaged well, under my own imprint with my own ISBN numbers, and not something like Authorhouse or Lulu, then the average reader isn’t going to pass the book through some kind of mystical scanner that announces the financing for the project came from me rather than an outside source.

    I guess I just truly don’t get this argument. “Editing” has become the last stand argument against self-publishing, as if an indie author “can’t” get their work edited. It’s not rocket science to find an editor. It’s not even rocket science to find ways to get your work edited well without mortgaging your house.

    The fact that so many self-published books never see editing, doesn’t mean it’s actually a real barrier, it just means a lot of self-published authors aren’t doing the work they should be doing.

    Still, that has nothing to do with “me.” Nor is it really an argument against self-publishing. It’s just an argument against self-publishing without doing the proper legwork first.

    No one is asking readers to go through a special pile of “self-published books” to find the few gems in there. If you find a book that looks good, sounds good, and you read and like an excerpt, then you know up front. And it’s no larger a risk than half the crap NY is putting out now anyway.

    And most bad self-published books give themselves away with the cover way before anything else.

  107. kirsten saell
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 02:06:39

    who for some reason would research the flower business before opening a flower shop, but can't be bothered to research publishing before starting what is essentially their own micropress.

    Some of them don’t even learn to spell or use basic punctuation. And to be fair, the number of people whose entire culinary repertoire and business acumen consist of “Grandma’s meatball recipe” and “hey, how hard can it be to sell meatballs?”, who open restaurants would probably surprise you.

    Epublishing is only now beginning to stagger clear of the “poorly edited, lame cover art, crap stories that couldn’t sell in NY” stereotype. Self-publishing has at least as much BS to overcome in that regard, and authors who don’t take it seriously only serve to make it harder for all the others.

    I guess I just truly don't get this argument. “Editing” has become the last stand argument against self-publishing, as if an indie author “can't” get their work edited. It's not rocket science to find an editor.

    It’s not that they can’t–it’s that so many of them don’t.

    I’m not saying self-published authors can’t be super talented (sometimes more talented, IMO, than a LOT of traditionally published ones). But as self- and vanity publishing has gotten easier and cheaper, the ratio of “very talented but bad fit for NY” authors to “careless, take whatever shortcuts you can and wahoo! let’s get rich and famous” authors has gotten very broad.

    If I saw a professional-looking book on a store shelf, liked the cover, liked the blurb, and opened it up and liked the writing, not recognizing the name of the publisher wouldn’t stop me from buying. But it’s getting that book into the store in the first place that’s going to be tricky.

    Publishers, if nothing else, are like a familiar brand name. Booksellers know when they order a book from Random House or Penguin or Del Rey or Ellora’s Cave or Samhain that it will conform to certain editorial standards. Those publishers’ books are an educated risk. Ordering a self-published book is still largely a blind risk. It can pay off–big time, but the odds still are that the seller is going to get burned, and if the copies aren’t returnable, well, that’s an added incentive to reject it.

    I do wish you luck! The more individuals and small presses out there who show NY how it’s done, the more likely they’ll actually catch on and stop being stupid. The odds are against you, but they are surmountable. :)

  108. Zoe Winters
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 02:31:49

    Hey Kirsten,

    It’s a very good point about other people who open businesses without the proper research.

    I agree with everything you’re saying here. I think for most indie authors the best route might not be to try to get books onto brick and mortar shelves as a starting point. With the bookstore returns system, that just cannibalizes profits and makes it nearly impossible to get out of the red.

    For me the strategy is ebooks, and several online venues for print books using POD technology (but not a POD vanity press cause that’s a middle man. Most of those companies are using LSI for their printing anyway.)

    There is a sizable portion of readers now who buy from places like Amazon almost exclusively. I’d like to tap into that market. And bypass the returns system altogether. If my sales warranted wider distribution through brick and mortar I would cross that bridge when I came to it. But using Lightning Source print-on-demand printing, I would be able to get into both Ingram and Baker and Taylor’s catalog, so the distribution option would be there for bookstores to order even without print-runs.

    It’s a popular misnomer that POD books can’t be returned. The publisher sets their returns policy, not the printer the publisher uses.

    I’ll also want to focus attention on Library sales because they are non-returnable and expose me to more readers. Though they’re very difficult to get, almost impossible without reviews, since librarians really pay attention to reviews, yet it’s still worth some effort/attention to break into that market.

    AND I want to sell in some non-traditional markets. Stores that aren’t bookstores, but in some way vaguely tie in with what I’m writing. Because those are “true wholesale sales” No returns. No consignment. A sale is a sale and that is what I’m looking for.

    Part of the big trouble with the NY business model is the ridiculous returns policy. I want to work completely outside that system.

    I think a big problem for indies/self-published authors is thinking outside the bookstore. The brick and mortar bookstore isn’t the only place to sell books, and it’s not even the best place for an indie. It’s way too much energy for too little return, IMO.

    Further just getting “on” the shelves, doesn’t guarantee the books will move. If you have nationwide brick and mortar distribution but no marketing powerhouse to sustain it, you’re going to see a lot of bookstore returns.

    And the way I see it, the odds are against me anyway. I mean how many people want to be published? Finding success independently to me is no more difficult than finding success through NY from the point I am right now.

    And the way I’m going, I retain creative control and I’m building something that belongs truly to me. And there is no price tag I can put on that.

  109. Nora Roberts
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 04:51:55

    First, I’d like to say I’m not against change, when it’s smart or necessary or clever.

    One of the things I’ve noticed in this thread is referring to readers or most readers wanting/expecting/wishing. It seems to me that it’s most readers who frequent sites like this, who are very e-savvy, who look for diversity and read much and read often.

    That’s not really most readers.

    I’ve had to be in town about once a week the last couple months (our inn’s nearly ready to open!) so I’ve been in my husband’s bookstore a lot during the work week, and observed the casual reader, and the regular. They come in, browse, or come in knowing what they want. They buy books, and I’d venture to say few have e-readers. This will change for many, but it won’t change for all.

    I asked my son and his wife–self-proclaimed techno nerds–why they don’t have/want one. Turns out it’s the same reason I don’t. I want a book, and I work on a computer. Don’t want to read on screen. There will always be a goodly chunk of us in this camp.

    I love the concept of e-books. Anything that gives the reader a choice is aces with me.

    I think readers here take an interest in publishing far beyond what the majority of readers do. But I can say it makes me feel a little pissy when NY publishers–as I work with one–are regularly referred to as dinasaurs. Partly because I do work with one, and closely, and know first-hand how intensely and frequently and seriously they work to try to find another way to put a book in a reader’s hand.

    Change takes time, and nearly always involves some pain, mistakes, re-evaluation. I’ve seen considerable change in publishing since I started.

    For one, most writer/editors do not, as someone said here, pass a marked-up ms back and forth. I can’t remember the last time my editor and I did so. It’s been years. However, not all writers work on a computer. If a writer’s process is sweating away on a typewriter, that’s her process, and she’s entitled.

    One suggested advances need to be cut. Well, here’s one writer who’d object vigorously if my publisher cut mine. As long as my books are selling, I expect to be paid as I’ve been paid in the past. Sales go down, pay goes down. That’s business.

    Others say the price of paper books is too high. I disagree. To my mind. books are still a bargain. And there are innovations there, too. Bantam recently published my pal Mary Blayney’s Traitor’s Kill/Lover’s Kiss–two complete novels in one package for $6.99. That’s a bargain. Historical Romance–that some here were asking for more of. Beautiful cover. I just finished the first book yesterday and enjoyed it a lot. You guys should buy it.

    I agree completely with Jane on much of the article, esp that there’s so much competition for free time. I have a Wii. I am a slave to it.

    But I can’t take my Wii to the beach, or into the bathtub, or snuggle into bed with it. I need my books.

    We need change, innovation, fresh ideas as writers, in publishing, in marketing. Then we need time to try them out, and see what works.

  110. GrowlyCub
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 07:33:37

    Others say the price of paper books is too high. I disagree. To my mind. books are still a bargain.

    I live in the boonies. The closest bookstore is a Hastings which is mostly DVDs and CDs and in which the biggest book section is Christian fiction. No surprise, I don’t buy there.

    For the non-Christian books, their ‘new book’ shelves are almost exclusively $15 trade sized books. Those are not bargains in any way shape or form. [Tangent: I'm not usually an impulse buyer to start with, but on my last visit there were 3 or 4 books that sounded interesting that I may have considered picking up right then and there or at least written down for online purchase, if they'd been paperbacks instead of trade. I *despise* trade books. They hurt my wrists to try to hold them when reading and I think they are ridiculously overpriced, so I didn't even bother noting titles and authors because hell will freeze over before I shell out 15 bucks for an unknown author.]

    Most people living around me cannot afford even $4.99 for a paperback (Zebra new author program or categories). I honestly have no clue who buys the trade sized books because our unemployment rate is something like 7% and even the folks who have jobs make $7 an hour if they are lucky (most make less). I’m convinced the Hastings bookstore part is being carried by the DVD rentals and DVD and CD sales. There’s hardly anybody even browsing the book section.

    Fortunately, I’m not in that situation since my husband has a decent-paying job, but nevertheless, as a consumer I think books are WAY overpriced. Even if you take inflation into account, it’s a fact that I used to get 400+ pages in that romance paperback and now I get 300, if I’m lucky, all the while the price has gone up considerably over the last 3-5 years.

    I’ve moved almost all my book buying to used, because I read a lot and even though we aren’t starving like many of our neighbors, I cannot afford to feed my habit with new books at 8-9 bucks plus tax which comes to almost another buck at 9.25% in our neck of the woods.

    I’m sure the picture is different in more urban areas, but let’s not forget that lots and LOTS of people live in rural areas with no access to bookstores.

    To address the Walmart issue, I have to admit, to be told by an author that it’s my fault that Walmart doesn’t carry her books, is such an insult that I’m almost speechless with disbelief! Surefire way to no more sales EVER to me.

    It’s not my responsibility that your books be in the stores for sale, that’s your publishers’ job! What an incredibly dumb thing to say to your customers!

    I’ve mentioned time and again, that I cannot even get the local store to tell me when the stocker will be in. I have never seen the stocker, and the one time I saw one at a store when traveling they didn’t want to talk to me, nor were they interested in my opinion on what I would like to see.

    I cannot buy a book from Walmart that Walmart refuses to stock. That’s not me making the buying decision, that’s Walmart and your publisher is letting them get away with this, *not* me.

  111. Nora Roberts
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 08:21:36

    I don’t live in an urban area but a decidedly rural one. It’s one of the reasons my husband opened a bookstore.

    I’m not a big fan of trade–though my new quartet will come out in that format first. However, I’ve been on a little winter break, and paid attention to the people reading. Nearly all trades. Why? I don’t know. I prefer hardcover or paper–but trades are really popular with many, many readers.

    I have no problem, at all with used book stores or readers buying some of their books used. I can’t count the number of times I’ve gone on record about that issue.

    However again, when a reader buys all or most of their books used it does start to take a toll, particularly on the new or midlist writer, and those who publish them. I’m not criticizing the choice to buy used–I think, as I said, my record’s clear on that. But there is a downside on this side of the page if a voracious reader buys mostly or exclusively used to ‘feed their habit’.

    Writers have to eat, too.

    As to books being overpriced, we’ll have to disagree.

  112. Nora Roberts
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 08:23:57

    GC–fyi, my husband’s bookstore, Turn The Page, ships worldwide.

  113. GrowlyCub
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 08:33:44

    However, I've been on a little winter break, and paid attention to the people reading. Nearly all trades. Why? I don't know.

    I really think it’s a supply thing. What I said about Hastings, was also true on my last foray into the big city 85miles away at B&N and Booksamillion.

    Almost all new book shelves had trade sized books on them. If the vast majority of folks are impulse buying casual readers then it would make sense to think they’d buy those trade sized books since they are prominently displayed and available for easy in, easy out shopping.

    I’m pretty sure publishers look at that and say, ‘look people LOVE those new trade sized books, that’s all they are buying and we are making lots of money on them, so why should we bother with paperbacks?’ when lots of people hate the things and don’t buy them or only very reluctantly. But what do we do if the choice is not having a book at all or in trade. Some of us cave in.

    Chicken and egg again. Do people buy trade because they love it, or do they buy it because that’s all that’s available? Just like buying at Walmart, can’t buy what’s not there.

  114. karmelrio
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 09:21:21

    I want a book, and I work on a computer. Don't want to read on screen. There will always be a goodly chunk of us in this camp.

    WORD.

    I love the way physical books look, feel, smell. I love the sound of pages turning. I work in high tech, and I’m already looking at a monitor 10 hours a day for work. Factor in an additional hour or two each day to catch personal email, websites, and blogs. So the LAST thing I want to do when reading for pleasure is subject my already-fatigued eyes to even more screentime.

  115. Kat
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 09:32:22

    Regarding trade paperbacks… I don’t know for sure, but part of the answer might be that consumers like us aren’t always the people that publishers are thinking of when they consider these issues. Libraries, for example, buy books in bulk. These two posts (here and here) at Editorial Ass sum up the hardcover vs trade paperback debate from a publisher’s perspective. I think the general argument–that the profit-cost ratio is calculated on sales NOT related to ordinary book buyers–probably applies in the trade vs mm debate, particularly for a novel’s first release or an authorial debut. Or maybe bookstores are buying taller bookshelves.

  116. Jane
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 09:52:03

    Re: Trades. I love the trade paperback. Don’t know why. I like it’s floppiness, the matte finish of its covers. Usually the paper is slightly heavier than the paperback. I don’t have to bend the spine to read the book (as I sometimes do with mass markets because of the heavy glued spine).

    I love giving trades as gifts.

    The only thing I like about mass markets are the price.

  117. Jorrie Spencer
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 09:57:14

    I love trades too! I don’t like buying them for myself though, because as you say the price, but I usually buy them for other people.

  118. GrowlyCub
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 09:58:03

    Jane, gasp! :)

    I hope you never develop RSI or arthritis. I haven’t been diagnosed with either, but I’m really serious when I say the floppiness and the weight you love physically hurt me when trying to read a trade sized book. It’s not a good experience at all. :( I’m trying to read a fascinating book (Salt: A World History) right now, but I have to put it down constantly because I have such trouble holding it open.

  119. XandraG
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 10:21:24

    It hurts me to pay 12 or 15 bucks for a trade as opposed to an MM in the middle price range (5.99-6.99). But some of that hurt goes away when I think that I’m “eating” less dead-tree. However, if I open the book and find inch-and-a-half margins on the thing, I’m going to put it back on the shelf.

    I know that so many people like the “feel” of a book, but I’d also like to remind them that they also still read a lot online, even if it isn’t “book reading.” The same way people who most of the time watch TV will rent movies, DVDs, and whole seasons of Heroes.

    There are usability issues to be worked out, as there are with all new forms of content delivery, whether it’s an e-reader or a flat-panel TV (like viewing at angles and the lack of true black) that differ from the usability issues of the established formats, which we all live with. And eventually, we’ll either solve or live with the usability issues of the new formats.

    I suspect what’ll happen is that people who can’t live without print books, will kieep buying print books. And ebooks will keep picking up bigger market shares from people who either don’t require the tactile experience, or just want to alt-tab between their boring spreadsheets and exciting action without. What’s relevant is that the time is coming when it’s no longer acceptable to *not* have an electronic version at least available from the publisher.

  120. kirsten saell
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 10:37:51

    I can't remember the last time my editor and I did so. It's been years. However, not all writers work on a computer. If a writer's process is sweating away on a typewriter, that's her process, and she's entitled.

    It’s getting more rare, but I have still very recently (6 months ago or so)participated in conversations where a British author published through two NY houses said she cringed every time she sent her marked up ms across the ocean, and wondered why her one publisher hadn’t caught up with the other and moved to digital editing.

    And on a forum I belong to, we still see newly signed authors who write on the computer asking what “stet” is, so yeah, there are still publishers out there using it, and it just makes me shake my head.

    I'm sure the picture is different in more urban areas, but let's not forget that lots and LOTS of people live in rural areas with no access to bookstores.

    Me, me, I’m one of them!

    So the LAST thing I want to do when reading for pleasure is subject my already-fatigued eyes to even more screentime.

    Gotta say, I just got a Sony, and it’s no more fatiguing on the eyes as print. In fact, it’s nearly indistinguishable from print–except that I can enlarge the text, and there’s no issue with the print being so close to the spine that you have to hold the book so wide open your hand gets numb. Oh, and I can carry dozens of books on it so I’ve always got something to read.

  121. Robin
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 11:59:36

    re. trade sized books: As a reader who is accustomed to everything from case books to academic encyclopedias to hardcovers to MMPBs, trade strikes a good balance between the substantive feel of a hardcover and the ease and transportability of the MMPB. It’s softness makes it so that it can sit in front of me, open, without my having to hold it all the time. The nicer paper and softer binding makes it feel like it will last longer (more like a hardcover). It looks nicer on my bookshelves than a MMPB, but it’s not as expensive as a hardcover. In other words, IMO it takes the best of its brethren and has few drawbacks (except more expensive than MMPB and not as easy to stack). Ultimately, trade books remind me more of the massive amounts of non-fiction paperbacks — from literary theory and criticism to historical biography and political analysis — I read for work and for general scholarship purposes. I hate to say that they feel more “respectable,” but that’s probably part of it, to be quite honest.

  122. DS
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 12:12:02

    Poor mmpbs. Always the less respectable siblings.

  123. Zoe Winters
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 12:37:00

    The Trade vs. MMPB issue is a purely economic issue for publishers. You can make a profit off a shorter print run of Trade. MMPB in order to get the pricing down low enough to turn a profit with all the middle men involved in the production and distribution process, you have to print a large quantity. And you have to know a large quantity will sell.

    NY publishers print about two books for everyone one that sales due to the returns system. Sure you’ve got authors who totally sell out their print runs with no returns, but that’s a fairly rare phenomenon.

    So they don’t stock trades to try to “control the buyers” but because until they have an author who they truly believe can sell in the larger numbers, they can’t afford to put them out in MMPB.

    As for paper margins, sometimes the margins are too big, but that’s not normally what I find, since paper costs money and most publishers want to squeeze as many words on the page as possible. But it’s nice for many readers when the margins in the gutter are bigger because it keeps people from having to crack the spine. Of course I’m a spine cracker personally and I crack every spine, no matter what the gutter size is. But many people don’t like their spines cracked. My husband would freak out if I read his Anne Rice Vampire Chronicles because he doesn’t crack spines. Needless to say if I want to read it, I have to buy my own copy, or get it from the library.

    And I like Trades because I like the texture of the paper and the nicer quality of the book. If I’m reading a “throwaway book” sure, I’ll read MMPB, but the trades look nicer on my shelf and I personally prefer them, but yes they are expensive, I agree on that. Unfortunately with so many middle men involved in the process they HAVE to be. Publishers make a very low profit margin as it is. Something like 2%, it’s insane.

    Lower the price of books and bye bye publishers. Unless publishers started opening their own publisher brand bookstores and cut out some middle men. But they would still have to pay people to staff the stores and for the upkeep, so it might end up breaking even with the old prices or be more expensive. Until someone experiments with that model, we won’t know. (Though someone has pointed out to me that Barnes and Noble was a publisher first.)

  124. Robin
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 13:03:30

    Poor mmpbs. Always the less respectable siblings.

    Just to be clear, it’s all about superficial aesthetics and appearance, not content.

  125. Robin
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 13:11:41

    @Anthea Lawson I always come away from comments like yours wondering why so many people strive to be published authors under those circumstances.

    But in any case, if you discount the fact that anyone new to an industry or a job or a career starts with little influence, I’d say that the plight of new authors as raw labor for publishers is one more reason authors should feel invested in innovating publishing. I understand that defending the status quo may feel safer, but if all but the best selling authors are imperiled or disadvantaged by the current system, I would think that more of you would be agitating for change. Especially if the reality of NY publishing is as attractive as you make it sound. ;)

  126. Evangeline
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 13:17:54

    @Jane: When I say “indie” I mean self-publishing–except the author sees their book as part of an imprint they’ve created, rather than sending their book to Lulu or CreateSpace. By “vanity” I mean the sort of books everyone characterizes all self-published works as: poorly edited, sloppily produced books put out on the market for reasons of pride.

    Regarding the rest of your concerns, I have to point once again to e-publishers. We’ve all seen many come and go, and when a new one pops up and anyone purchases a book from them, that’s a risk. Yet, because e-publishing is rather “trusted,” there doesn’t appear to be as much reticence in purchasing a e-book as there appears to be when the phrase “self-publishing” crops up. And honestly, when I take a quick jaunt over to the websites of established e-publishers, I don’t see editor bios detailing their schooling and experience like what I’ve seen in lit agent bios and bios of NY editors–so what gives? Who has vetted them?

    I don’t disagree that editors are a must-have for all writers, but I fail to understand why anyone that self-publishes is viewed with automatic suspicion. In view of this being a review site, I find this discussion rather ironic. I dare to say there should be no grade under a B at least, nor should any review have cause to come across plot and/or character inconsistencies, poor editing, and a host of any other details critical editing should have caught.

  127. Zoe Winters
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 13:33:06

    Robin,

    It’s almost like stockholm syndrome. I do not get it.

    I get it for folks like Nora who are up there selling like crazy. And I understand everybody has to start somewhere. If it was realistic to believe that most people could write good books and become bestsellers after a long and arduous process, that would be great. But the numbers of people who ever reach bestsellerdom, or even who keep their book contract, are very small.

    So I guess I just don’t get it. My odds of becoming a NY Times bestseller are so bad, it doesn’t really matter how I publish. IMO.

    I don’t feel that NY publishing is attractive until and unless you start getting really strong contracts and marketing push. So many authors don’t get that. Ever.

    And in regards to Evangeline’s post and “vanity.” For me personally NY would be vanity, because knowing the odds of the kind of success I would want, and the likelihood of me getting it anyway, the only thing a NY publisher would do for me is feed my own vanity so I could say: “fill in the blank with big name publisher, published me.”

    Since that was my only motivation for NY, I decided to opt out of that route. If building my own business is vanity, then every restaurant operator and flower shop owner is equally vain.

  128. GrowlyCub
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 14:07:34

    So they don't stock trades to try to “control the buyers” but because until they have an author who they truly believe can sell in the larger numbers, they can't afford to put them out in MMPB.

    I’m a bit baffled by this assertion. Trade size is a fairly recent development for ‘popular’ fiction, and especially for genre fiction. Ten years ago, I didn’t own a single one of them and cannot remember seeing them anywhere except on non-fiction and textbook shelves.

    Publishers were able to put out mid-list authors in smaller print runs in mmpb just fine for a very long time. The inability to do so seems to coincide with more and more independent houses becoming part of large (not necessarily publishing) conglomerates with people at the helm who were not interested in the publishing business and whose only goal was to fatten the(ir) bottom line.

    That’s when the mid-list was chopped and this insane celebrity/blockbuster mega-advance bs seemed to really take off as well.

    I’m really curious. I never thought about this when I lived in Germany and other European countries. Does anybody know whether they have a returns system as well or whether the bookstores there outright buy/own their stock?

  129. Zoe Winters
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 14:14:43

    Hey GrowlyCub,

    You make a good point about there not originally being trade paperback size. I’m not sure what to tell you. I just know that when I ran all the numbers for printing, back before I decided to use POD tech, back when I was considering print runs, the pricing was just insane. You had to have way way too many MMPB copies to be able to turn any kind of profit at all.

    And it’s because you have to give such a high discount to bookstores and distributors that the per book cost has to be REALLY low to be able to compete and price the book at MMPB prices.

    And even then the actual dollar amount you’re making per book after costs is so low you have to sell a huge amount for it to be worth the expense and effort. So in a crunched economy, I can see publishers putting out more trade paperbacks. You just make more per book.

  130. kirsten saell
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 15:11:35

    Ten years ago, I didn't own a single one of them and cannot remember seeing them anywhere except on non-fiction and textbook shelves.

    Another advantage to trade size is that when mmp’s are “returned”, they’re stripped and pulped and the covers returned for credit. So the publisher is not only stuck giving money back, they don’t have the books to sell anymore. This insane system leads to the occasional time when half the print run (or more) of a specific book is returned, only to have the title catch on with readers. Then the bookstore tries to order them back a month or two later with credit they received when it sent multiple copies of the very same book to the landfill.

    Like I said. Insane. And I know not every bookstore abuses this system, but the shitstorm that hit publishing in October had a LOT to do with the returns system.

    Trade sized books are not pulped when they get returned. They’re remaindered and sold–sometimes for enormous discounts or less than cost, but at least the publisher has a chance to sell them again to offset some of the loss.

  131. Txvoodoo
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 15:18:58

    @Zoe Winters

    “And most bad self-published books give themselves away with the cover way before anything else.”

    You are so right. Even some of the smaller houses still work under this handicap, and I find it inexplicable. Look, not every cover has to use stock photos of hunky guys and fainting femmes! Abstract works, too, if it’s nicely done. There’s a massive group of young talented artists out there – explore deviantart.com, where they’re all posting their work madly. Hire them! Use them!

    @Nora Roberts

    “I’ve been in my husband’s bookstore a lot during the work week, and observed the casual reader, and the regular. They come in, browse, or come in knowing what they want. They buy books, and I’d venture to say few have e-readers. This will change for many, but it won’t change for all.

    I asked my son and his wife–self-proclaimed techno nerds–why they don’t have/want one. Turns out it’s the same reason I don’t. I want a book, and I work on a computer. Don’t want to read on screen. There will always be a goodly chunk of us in this camp.”

    You don’t see ebook readers in a bookstore, so it’s really not an accurate way of measuring the penetration. And while your son and wife might not have jumped on, my husband and I, equally techno-nerds, and huge readers, have. And I’ve bought ONE paper book since March, when we got our dual Kindles. The convenience is awe-inspiring.

    “To my mind. books are still a bargain. “ and “As to books being overpriced, we'll have to disagree.”

    Maybe so – but that $6.99 price tag? Ten years ago, it was $3.95. How many other products have increased that much? And that’s paperbacks – hardcovers have gone up even more.

    Nora, I love your work. But I have to disagree with you on this. I say this as someone who’s been an avid reader, and hyperlexic, from toddlerhood. Books are too expensive if we want to achieve penetration further.

    Make books cheaper, and more people will read. Right now, it’s a luxury item. One person buys a book, one person reads it. If they buy a DVD, the whole family can watch together. What’s gonna get the thumb’s up in tough economic times?

    It’s a SMALL luxury, but one nonetheless. And it keeps getting more luxurious.

    Yes, authors have to eat – but readers won’t forgo dinner to keep food on authors’ tables.

    I appreciate your love of reading and share it – wholeheartedly. But writers and publishers and the entire industry are going to HAVE to adjust to the economic climate. Adapt or die. That’s life.

    “But I can’t take my Wii to the beach, or into the bathtub, or snuggle into bed with it. I need my books.”

    I can take my Kindle to the beach, bed, and even bathtub, with a good case on it. I take it to bed every night. It’s always in my tote. I have 200 books at my fingers on long trips. And I can adjust the print size upwards when my aging eyes need a little help – can’t do that with a paper book. Covers are lovely, but I don’t buy for covers – I buy for the CONTENT. I’m a reader. I love art, but I have paintings on my walls for that.

    As to why ppl buy trade? Many reasons! First, that’s the intermediate step after hardcover. Where hardcover is prohibitively expensive, trade is only moderately so. Also, they’re sturdier than small-format paperbacks, now. New paperbooks tend to start falling apart after ONE reading. The print is also larger and kinder.

    @karmelrio

    “So the LAST thing I want to do when reading for pleasure is subject my already-fatigued eyes to even more screentime.”

    You haven’t seen an ebook screen, I think. E-Ink isn’t like a computer screen at all. No eye fatigue. I say this as someone who also spends that much time at a computer, and who has aging eyes.

    @GrowlyCub

    “I hope you never develop RSI or arthritis. I haven’t been diagnosed with either, but I’m really serious when I say the floppiness and the weight you love physically hurt me when trying to read a trade sized book. It’s not a good experience at all.”

    YES. Yes yes. I like huge, sprawling historical novels and fantasy epics. In hardback, they’re virtually a weight-lifting workout now. In paperback, I keep dropping them. In ebook? Size/weight of a thin trade. Such a relief!

  132. Zoe Winters
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 15:20:15

    Oh, yeah Kirsten, I forgot all about that point! So true. And stripping covers is such a waste. If you HAVE to do the bookstore returns thing, at least get the full book back, then if it’s not resalable as new you can at least use them for marketing promo or give to libraries. Do something productive with them.

    All the books that are pulped and wasted just kills me.

    And that irritates me about them re-ordering a book they stripped and returned the cover on. And that’s credit. This is why it cannibalizes sales. I understand that it’s hard for bookstores to survive, but it’s completely unfair to put ALL the financial risk on the publishers and when bookstores can return, and there is no limits put on that at all, and when they can reorder books they just returned, it’s just not fair play.

    Bookstores take no financial risk here. All the risk is on the publisher.

  133. Zoe Winters
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 15:27:28

    Txvoodoo,

    That’s a really good point about covers. I’ve seen some I believe Sherilynn Kenyon books that have completely abstract covers, very attractive. No pictures of houses, or people, or poses of couples together doing whatever they’re doing. And it works.

    So you’re right. There really is no excuse. It doesn’t have to be “zomg pop! bam!” to be attractive and professional. And great idea about deviantart.

    It’s definitely something I’m considering. Since discovering I’ve got some male readers, I’d really like to capitalize on that by making some fairly gender neutral covers that both men and women can feel comfortable carrying around.

    And I’m with Nora on personal preference being physical books. But I’ll still make e-books available because it’s a growing market. And definitely full of opportunity.

  134. Txvoodoo
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 15:46:16

    @Zoe Winters

    And not only abstract, but just illustrated! I’m really amazed when I see the amount of young talent out there. I have a lot of young friends I’ve met through design forums, and they’d give their eyeteeth just to have the opportunity to do a book cover, and not for thousands of dollars, either. Heck, look at “comic” style artists – they can do illustration, and might even work with you to develop a cover style unique to your books. In terms of branding, that’s ideal! “Oh, that’s a Zoe Winters book!” right off the bat :D

    I’ll be really honest – a lot of smaller presses like Samhain, etc? While I don’t care about the coveronce a book is ON my Kindle, an attractive graphic in the online book description sells me – and a cheesie one turns me off. That’s the visual arts side of my brain kicking in.

    I look at a piece like this, or one like this and think “Yeah, that could be a cover.”

    I guess it’s about looking outside the box? ;)

  135. MoJo
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 15:48:45

    @Txvoodoo

    I LOVE those illustrations, especially the second one.

    I’ll admit I went with a stock photo on mine, but it was perfectly suited to the story in so many ways.

  136. Zoe Winters
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 15:56:04

    Hey Txvoodoo,

    Great ideas. There really is so much talent out there. Some people just want the experience and are trying to build a portfolio. I believe all artists deserve to be paid and shouldn’t just have to work for free or really really cheap cause of my personal budget, but we all serve an apprenticeship in some form or fashion and artists need portfolios to get better work and better pay.

    And design students who want to be cover artists? There ya go. Or even just artists in general assuming you either know how to layout the cover yourself when you have the art in hand, or you have someone else who does.

    And I know what you’re saying. A good cover gives you confidence that the publisher knows what they’re doing, and cared to put out a superior product. And when the cover is good, the interior may not be good, but there is a better chance that it is. If the publisher is savvy enough to know a good cover the statistical odds just went up that they are savvy enough to know a good book.

  137. Nora Roberts
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 16:22:47

    I’m not saying, and didn’t that lots of people don’t enjoy e-books, or will enjoy them down the road. I’m saying, and will ALWAYS say, that not all of us want to read that way. The example is often used that it’s generational, or that the consumer has to be comfortable with technology. I simply offered an example of otherwise.

    Why is that such a problem for those who read and enjoy or publish in e? Why is it there are those of us who read and/or publish in paper who can and do agree that e-books are a good thing for many, but there’s a section of e-readers/writers who continually denigrate paper publishing?

    I’m annoyed by the term dead tree books. It’s meant to be denigrating, or it sure comes across that way. Hits me very close to where bodice ripper hits me.

    I’m also amazed by some posters’ attitude toward NY publishing. Almost as if they’re the enemy. I don’t mean the majority of posters here, but certainly there are a couple who strike me that way.

    It’s not about status quo for me, btw–and I started my comments on this thread by saying I wasn’t opposed to change.

    Re trades. I don’t agree this is a publisher-driven deal, or certainly not entirely. I think it started when Oprah started doing her bookclub books in trade. People got used to them, or liked them, or for whatever reason thought them ‘classier’ than mm. I don’t, but there you are.

    Of course we don’t see e-only readers in our bookstore. My point was there are plenty of readers who want or prefer paper, or who do a mix. My personal opinion is there will always be those who prefer a book rather than a reader. So what? More choices for the consumer to my mind, which is always a good thing. You don’t have to kick one to appreciate or value the other.

    Years ago–maybe close to ten now–I was lectured by an e-pub who told me in no uncertain terms that paper was dead, that e-books were it, and all there would be within a few years. That we were all crazy to hook ourselves to NY, or paper publishing–and on and on. I felt like someone was demanding I drink the Kool-Aid or subscribe to their religion. It wasn’t enough to allow e-books were a good thing, and would continue to grow, give readers another way of accessing books. It was like ‘testify!’

    I didn’t like it.

    Obviously, she was wrong. NY and paper did not vanish in a matter of years.

    I can and do get perfectly why some readers prefer e, and why some have switched from paper to readers altogether. No problem at all with that. I wonder why some have a problem with those of us who simply want the paper book.

    As for pricing. Look at movies, theater tickets, concert tickets. I can’t remember when mm went to 6.99 or 7.99, but I do know they’ve remained at that price point for quite a while. But I also agree we’re coming from that issue from different directions.

    As for bookstores taking no financial risk? This is just not true. I can’t speak to the large chains or the box stores, but we’ve had an indie for nearly 14 years. There is indeed plenty of financial risk, as there is in any business. It’s completely absurd to say otherwise.

  138. Zoe Winters
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 16:27:20

    Hey Nora, I don’t like ebooks either. I make exceptions for personal friends who are only published in E, but I’ll never read an ebook just for fun.

    I don’t see NY as “the enemy.” I’m not sure if I come off that way or not. It’s just not for me. And I may be a tad defensive because very often it’s assumed because I’m doing my own thing that I must just not be “good enough.” So when I see NY doing lots of things that I perceive as weird/goofy and completely unattractive, it’s mildly irritating to me that it’s held up as the holy grail which all writers should seek, period.

    I think it’s right for some people, but I don’t think it’s right for everybody. And until the assumption ends that everybody just naturally should want to be NY published or there is something defective with their brain or they aren’t a real writer, there will probably be a trace of defensiveness in me over the issue, even if I would rather I not come off that way.

    As for bookstores and financial risk, I understand that all businesses are a financial risk, but I was speaking in reference to the fact that books are returnable and with most publishers, returnable with no limits on when the return happens.

    No other wholesale business operates this way. This is consignment, not wholesale and consignment isn’t a real risk. I understand your husband owns a bookstore and so it’s personal to you. But from the publisher perspective, the returns system is unfair and doesn’t match the wholesale practices of other industries.

  139. Nora Roberts
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 16:53:09

    Well, if publishers thought the return system was unfair, I think they’d have done away with it by now. And if they do away with it, most independents will have to close or find another way. Publishers/authors need independents as many indies are more likely to give new authors, midlist, or unusual books a chance and some exposure.

    It’s still not right to say no financial risk as the books can be returned. They have to pay someone to pick them, order them, stock them, try to handsell them. And if they don’t sell, they have to pay someone to return them. That costs money, and offers no profit. Returning books means the money and the time the bookstore has spent acquiring the books, the shelf space they’ve given the books, the time and money spent to return them is down the tubes. That is financial risk every time a bookstore orders a book that’s not an absolutely sure bet.

    I also own a gift shop which features local artists’ and craftspeople’s work. Much is on consignment–primarily because the particular artist wanted it that way. The risk I take there is by paying someone to find the pieces we’ll stock, to stock and display them, price them, to try to sell them, handle the paperwork, and be knowledgeable about what they’re selling. Consignment isn’t a free ride for the vendor.

    I don’t think NY is the only way, or the right way for all. Never said anything like it. From the posts here, no one else has either.

  140. Ann Somerville
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 16:55:36

    I'm annoyed by the term dead tree books. It's meant to be denigrating, or it sure comes across that way. Hits me very close to where bodice ripper hits me.

    I just call them ‘tree books’ when I’m being facetious. I never intend it to be denigrating, but I do think it’s worth reminding people that the paper publishing industry is an enormously wasteful one, with a serious environmental impact. Anything which can make the industry more efficient and less wasteful, is good for it, good for consumers, and good for the environment. Paper milling is a very damaging industry.

    Not that dedicated ereaders aren’t in their own way wasteful – which is why I would prefer to buy a multifunction device I actually need, and not buy an ereader until I can justify the expense and the waste over and above using my laptop.

    I don’t think we have the luxury any more of ignoring the environmental cost of any leisure activity – or human activity full stop.

    [Am I the only person who doesn't (a) own a bath and (b) didn't read in them when I did have one? Getting a book wet is just as disastrous to me as getting a piece of electronic equipment wet. I would never take a book to the beach either. I take books seriously!]

  141. Zoe Winters
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 17:00:44

    Nora,

    Fair enough on the risk issue.

    I’m fairly certain most publishers would like to do away with it though. I’d personally like to see bookstores installing the Espresso book machines. Then whatever readers want gets printed on demand, everybody makes their cut, and nothing gets returned. Also no shipping costs on any end.

    It’s a huge waste of resources on all sides to have returns. Especially where the policy is to strip MMPDs. Plus it creates bizarre math on author royalty statements. You never really know what you’ve sold if things can be returned at any time.

    I never said you personally said NY was the only way, or that anyone here said it. But there is a high level of snobbery toward anyone who chooses to finance, package, and put out their own work themselves. That high level of snobbery in all industry specific areas makes people like myself somewhat leery.

    It’s like racism in the south. If you’re in a highly racist area you don’t really “know” that the person you are about to come into contact with isn’t a racist. So all systems are on alert.

  142. Nora Roberts
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 17:21:46

    ~I'm fairly certain most publishers would like to do away with it though.~

    I’ve actually talked to my publisher about this. And no, they wouldn’t.

    And you speak about installing an Espresso machine as if it was a simple matter. It’s costly, and it would also put people out of work as a bookstore wouldn’t need as many clerks. It takes away some of the ambiance an independent might generate to make it a welcoming place to come in, browse, spend some time–and hopefully more money.

    Not everything has to be instant and immediate. I think the kiosk type deals are great, but they’re not for every venue.

    Zoe, your system may be on alert but at the same time, you’ve spoken in a way that strikes me as a kind of reverse snobbery. I may have missed something upthread, but it seems to me the posters here have been supportive of your choices, ergo, you’re not in what you could call a highly racist area.

    Ann, I’m a card-carrying member of Greenpeace, and several environmental groups. I use recycled paper, etc, etc. But I want to read a book, and simply won’t feel guilty about it. And I may be overly-sensitive, but it feels monumentally unfair to ‘remind people’ to feel guilty for choosing to publish in paper or read in paper.

    Most people know Romances–or most of them–contain sex. But most of us who write or read it still dislike the term bodice ripper. It doesn’t remind us there’s sex in the books, but indicates it’s less worthy than other genres.

    The term dead-tree books may be accurate, but it’s a slap nonetheless. This is purely a personal take. It may not bother anyone else.

  143. Nora Roberts
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 17:24:09

    Zoe, I’m going to apologize because it feels like I’m picking on you. I’m not, or don’t mean to–truly. I just don’t agree.

  144. kirsten saell
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 17:38:59

    Well, if publishers thought the return system was unfair, I think they'd have done away with it by now. And if they do away with it, most independents will have to close or find another way.

    Publishers won’t do away with it because it would take every single one of them acting together to make it work. If one of them acts because the system is inherently unfair, the other’s will happily buy out their authors’ contracts when they go under.

    And I started calling them dead tree books because of all the times I’ve told people I was published and had books available in ebook, and then I’d tell them “and my first is coming out in print in January” and they’d go, “Huh? But you just said you had books out…” To most people “in print” and “published” are still synonymous. Never really thought the term was derogatory–at least not the way I use it. I’m glad my books will be available in print as well as e.

    But–I will and have told people who say “I’d never switch to ebooks because of eye-fatigue when reading off a screen,” that the Sony and the Kindle do not have that problem.

    I will and have told people who say “I like to take my book in the tub with me,” “I got two words for ya–ziploc bag.”

    That doesn’t mean people aren’t allowed to prefer books. But I hate hearing people making decisions based on erroneous information–like Susan’s cost of ebook conversion and DRM misconceptions.

    And I absolutely will shout from the rooftops that a publisher asking $14 for the digital version of a novel–especially one that’s cheaper in print–is counting on reader ignorance to help them rip people off. And hearing constantly how “I guess I’ll pay that rpice because authors have to make money too,” when those authors are probably making pathetically tiny royalties on those overpriced ebooks, just annoys me even more. Nora, if you’re not making at least 25% on your ebooks, something seriously stinks in NY.

  145. Txvoodoo
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 17:46:03

    I think calling “dead tree” terminology a slap is somewhat overly sensitive. I didn’t disparage any person, just the medium.

    Once, we used parchment. Then rag-based paper. Now, we take down an awful lot of trees – 35% of felled trees are used for paper.

    I’ve said before – I’m a reader, and have been for over 43 years. I have a 2000-book library in my home. Obviously, I love reading, passionately, heck, it’s why I’m reading this blog and commenting!

    But we have to look at the footprint we leave on the planet, and how we can minimize it.

    Is a book a lovely thing to hold, to cherish, etc? Yes. But at a cost. It’s disingenuous to think that just using a different phrase will make the reality of it go away.

    Paper books. Dead tree books. Printed material. Call it what you will.

    As I said before, I’m also a technogeek. I like to think that it can help make the world better. We have to do a better job with recycling old tech material, too. And my husband and I do that. We use old PCs, rebuild them and donate. There are ways to do all of that.

    For you to say “simply won't feel guilty about it.” – well, we can all think that way about a variety of things, right? But isn’t that part of the problem? We can rationalize our own choices.

    Now, I’m FAR from a paragon of recycling virtue. But we can ALL try.

    Oh, gah. I’m being so preachy here, and I hate that when others do it. But Nora, you’re a voice people listen to, by virtue of your fame and position. Your words have import. So your disparaging ebooks? Yeah, it’s hitting *my* sore spot.

  146. Kalen Hughes
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 17:55:26

    But there is a high level of snobbery toward anyone who chooses to finance, package, and put out their own work themselves.

    Yes, there is. Just as there is a high level of leeriness or distrust with/of anyone who proclaims their ability to do anything without proven training or credentials. My dad is a kick@ss plumber, but he's not a legal, licensed, insured plumber, so anyone who doesn't know him personally would do well to think twice before hiring him to do plumbing work (note: my dad only does stuff for free for family, he's not an under-the-table illegal plumber).

    Most of us who work in the arts also feel that credentials of some kind are helpful in weeding the seed from the chaff. Having an agent and editor think your work is viable and be willing to put their power and $ behind you is at least a base line assurance for the consumer that your work has value (or course mileage and opinions will vary as to how much trust to put into any particular agent, editor, or publishing house).

    This in NO WAY means that a writer who chooses to self publish is in any way an inferior writer, but it does mean that the reader/consumer has no outside, objective opinion to rely on.

    In short, buying a self-published book is a larger risk for the consumer. But the risk may well pay off, and if it does, said self-published author may find NY knocking (as several have over the past few years).

  147. Kalen Hughes
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 17:56:51

    So your disparaging ebooks? Yeah, it's hitting *my* sore spot.

    I have yet to see NR do this.

  148. kirsten saell
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 17:57:36

    Wait a minute. Nora didn’t disparage ebooks–at least, not that I could tell.

    And I have no real problem with the use of paper issue with hardback and trade paperback. Where I have a problem with it is when I see boxes of stripped books in the landfill–and no, they don’t all go into the recycling bin. And even when they do get recycled, the act of pulping them and turning them back into paper also uses up natural resources and damages the environment.

    I don’t think every bookstore abuses the returns system–I would assume that indies are probably more likely to use it in the way it was originally intended. But I’ve heard of big box stores taking boxes of books right off the truck, then stripping and returning them in order to get credit to buy “fresher” books to sell on Black Friday. How on earth is this not an insane waste?

  149. Nora Roberts
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 18:05:42

    ~Publishers won't do away with it because it would take every single one of them acting together to make it work. If one of them acts because the system is inherently unfair, the other's will happily buy out their authors' contracts when they go under. ~

    See, how do you know this? You speak as if this is gospel, but have you spoken with publishers, asked them their take, compared that publisher’s take with another’s, or is this what you think?

    I know Harper is experimenting with non-returnable books. That’s not all publishers acting together, but one publisher experimenting with a single imprint to see how it goes.

    When you make a statement as fact, instead of opinion or belief, I’d need to know where you got the facts.

    You may be absolutely right. But you could also be wrong.

  150. Nora Roberts
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 18:10:48

    Excuse, me WHERE did I disparage e-books? I did nothing of the kind. Not ever. Please, show me where I did so. Your sore spot is your own problem here, as I’ve not poked at it.

    You are being preachy. You really don’t have the right to tell me how I should choose to read in order to save the planet. It just irritates those of us who are pretty responsible about a great deal of things and happen to enjoy reading a book in paper form.

    It is you disparaging the form of books I write and choose to read, not me disparaging your choice.

    My words have import? Fine. My words say it’s just great people have choices–paper, audio, e. And NOBODY should have the gall to insult any of those choices, or any of those who make them.

  151. Robin
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 18:12:54

    I don’t think print books are ever going to be gone, and while the bibliophile in my rejoices, the environmentalist in me hopes that we find some way to address the global damage of paper milling and publishing.

    I gotta say, too, that it would have been great if all of my school textbooks had been available in electronic form, saving me from carting around at least 60 pounds of books on any given school day. And to have trade and professional reference books readily available in eform so they are always available and portable — heaven! So I really would like it if mainstream acceptance and adoption of ebooks was a faster process.

    I also believe that some resistance to ebooks has to do with not knowing the technology available for reading them. Reading ebooks on a good device is nothing like reading a computer screen, for example. That said, there will always be people who prefer reading in paper, just as there are people who will no longer buy a paper book. That’s not a bad thing, IMO. What I’d like to see is affordable versions of each widely available so that people could make a free choice (and affordable means of reading ebooks, too), which might very well cut down on some of the environmental impacts of paper milling and printing costs.

    Will that change the way publishing works? Yes, I think so. And it may scare some folks for whom paper is the norm and should — they believe — always remain the norm. But it doesn’t have to be the end of paper. That would make me sad, especially because there are some books that are as much visual art as literature, but also because I still love the tactile sensation/experience of old and new books.

    Wouldn’t it be great, though, if new ways of publishing could solve some of the problems that now cost publishers, bookseller, authors, and readers money — and improve our environmental status to boot?

  152. MaryK
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 18:17:22

    Re: paper v. ebooks

    I dislike ebooks mostly because of the danger of somebody turning off a server and destroying my library, but lately I’ve been thinking about another scenario and wondering how likely it is or if it’s just my paranoia rearing its head.

    Suppose I discover Author X in 10 years, but Author X, an e-published author, stopped writing in 2008. How likely is it that I’ll be able to get a hold of Author X’s work? Now, if Author X was paper published it wouldn’t be a big deal – I’d just set up an ebay search and wait. But will ebook back titles be available 5, 10 years after an author has stopped writing? The potential for the disappearance of a lot of great fiction seems likely.

    P.S. – I used to be into recycling/reusing before “carbon footprint” was a popular catchphrase. But I’ve been turned off of it by all the people who try to dictate what my “footprint” should be.

  153. Zoe Winters
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 18:18:47

    It’s cool, Nora. You have a bookstore, I don’t. So I can only speak from how things look from my side of the fence looking at it.

    And I know every industry blog I’ve ever read that over and over again everybody bitches about the returns system. I’m honestly baffled by any publisher would be “pro-returns.” I’m very much against all the environmental waste it causes. Can you explain why they are pro-returns? (If you know why.)

    I also realize Espresso machines are expensive. And they may be difficult and expensive to repair when they break down. But I “do” feel they are the future. At some point.

    MoJo had suggested something like having one display copy of everything. Or, maybe there could be a catalog that people could sift through. And what would be really cool is if we had giant coffee shops with espresso book machines. But I get in a real world setting things cost money and there is trouble shooting to overcome.

    I just don’t feel that what we have going on right now is working for most people. If it was, there wouldn’t be so much bitching on so many blogs about it. From agents and editors and publishers and readers and writers. Maybe not everybody feels the way I do about things, and that’s fine. But many do.

    Anytime there is change or prospective change there are two sides to the story, or more.

    Also I’m not totally sure that I “have” been defensive, but sometimes I come off in ways I don’t intend to. Sometimes I sound angrier than I am, or more defensive, because I’m passionate about my views. I have some strong opinions about many issues in publishing, but I don’t have any issue with people who choose to go the NY route. I’ve always felt that how people choose to publish has to be what is right for them, so I don’t really see a “reverse snobbery” going on.

    If I have come off that way, then I apologize. I get on a streak and am passionate about my views on things, but I’m not sitting around rubbing my hands together like Snidely Whiplash going “Soon, NY, SOON muahahahahahaa.”

    I do agree thought that people shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about reading in paper. I’m pretty pervy about my paper. And I agree that “dead tree books” isn’t the nicest phrase. If people don’t want to read paper, don’t read paper. But we’re all not converting to E. I like to soak in the tub with my paper.

  154. kirsten saell
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 18:23:35

    You’re right, I could be wrong. But I don’t think so. :D

    But here, let me word it as an opinion: I imagine if one publisher decided to stop allowing returns (without making some pretty major concessions) most stores would just stop buying from that publisher. Pretty sure Wal-Mart would. There are plenty of other publishers who allow returns to step in a and fill the gap.

    IIRC, the Harper-Collins experimental imprint is experimenting with a single store: Borders. They’re giving Borders a deeper discount in exchange for no returns. I think that’s a step in the right direction. But the fact that the competition still allow returns is going to make it extremely difficult for it to be successful.

    I honestly think the industry is sick. It just doesn’t know it yet. And from the top of the heap, it’s not always easy to see the system’s flaws, or when you see them, to see them as flaws. The blockbuster business model is just peachy–if you consistently write blockbusters.

    P.S. I have to wonder why advances are so important to extremely successful authors. I may be wrong, but I would guess that most authors with multiple bestselling novels under their belt aren’t going to have to get a day job if they don’t have a generous advance. And the thing is, they’re advances against royalties. I would assume writers like Stephen King and Nora earn out their advance on just about every title. It’s money you’re going to get anyway, now or later. So I wonder why a accepting lower advance would necessarily make an author in that position feel like they’re giving up something.

    I’m not trying to criticize–I really am just curious. Because I personally would take a higher royalty over a big advance–unless someone was handing me millions on a risky project that probably wouldn’t pan out, which is not your typical Nora or Stephen King book…

  155. Nora Roberts
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 18:25:58

    And call it what you will, but dead tree books is a term I personally find insulting. As I said, it may just be me.

    I can’t and probably will never understand why some proponents of e-books insist on pushing at shoving at those of us who prefer paper because we haven’t jumped on the form. It’s baffling to me that instead of celebrating the fact that we have all the choices in how we read or enjoy a book, there are some who insist their choice is the only correct one, or responsible one, or sensible one.

    And you know what, I have done what I can to try to make the world a better place. Being an e-book reader doesn’t make someone more or less aware of the world or her place in it. It’s really strange, to me, to consider a reading choice as a yardstick for what one does in and for the world.

    That’s not disparaging e-books, but disparaging those who like to use their choice of them as a hammer on the rest of us.

  156. kirsten saell
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 18:30:46

    But will ebook back titles be available 5, 10 years after an author has stopped writing? The potential for the disappearance of a lot of great fiction seems likely.

    Um, dude. With ebooks and POD technology, there is now no reason for any book to EVER be “out of print” unless the publisher wants it to be.

    If Samhain didn’t want to sell my books after a certain number of years, I could get my rights back and offer them for free, or at a nominal cost, through my website. I think Holly Lisle has done this with some of her out of print titles. There is the potential for eBay and used book stores to become obsolete, and for authors to keep earning money on their books for decades instead of months or years. The long tail is what epublishing and POD are ideally suited for.

  157. Nora Roberts
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 18:33:33

    Your advance is your guarantee. And you have the money in your pocket (or place of your choice) earning interest or paying your expenses long before you would ever start to earn royalties much less earn out the advance.

    And many writers depend on the advance to pay the bills, just like much of the rest of the world depends on a weekly or monthly paycheck. Some need that advance in order to afford to sit down and write. In a business with few guarantees, the advance is one for the writer.

    Personally, I don’t want to be in a business venture–ie more money on the back end, no money up front–with my publisher. I don’t want to think about it. I want to write, period. Others feel differently, and some do negotiate other terms.

  158. Txvoodoo
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 18:34:38

    @Nora Roberts:

    Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

    And yeah, I fully admitted I was being preachy, even as much as I hate it when others do it.

    As I said – it’s my sore spot. And, really, I guess I perceive a lot of snobbery about “I read my paper books, ebooks, pfft!” Note: perceived. Sometimes it feels like people are impugning that it’s not real if it’s not in actual, physical print.

    Some of my friends who started out being published in ebooks only have felt that way too.

    It’s a big world, with lots of options for all of us.

    @ kirsten saell – ziploc indeed! ;)

    @MoJo – there’s a lot of awesome talent out there! I love finding new folks who do stuff, especially if it’s different from what we usually see.

    @Robin – I’ve been reading that a lot of textbook publishers are going to start doing ebooks. I agree, it’d be a fabulous resource for students. It wouldn’t work for all subjects, such as those which are illustrated or contain massive amounts of charts and graphs, but for heavily text-based ones, it could be a blessing.

    @MaryK – that’s another aspect of it which I’ve been thinking about. Oftentimes, even ALibris or Amazon’s used books don’t even have a copy of an older book, especially if it wasn’t a major bestseller. I’d adore it if some of those out of print lists could go to ebooks, at least. I have at least 1 book that I’ve been working on tracking down for 5 years, and it was only published in the 90s! I read it then, lost the book, and seem doomed to never find it again.

    I don’t know which is more likely to survive – paper or ebooks of this kind. I’d speculate that the ebook would, but it is speculation. Time will tell?

  159. kirsten saell
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 18:38:50

    And many writers depend on the advance to pay the bills, just like much of the rest of the world depends on a weekly or monthly paycheck. Some need that advance in order to afford to sit down and write. In a business with few guarantees, the advance is one for the writer.

    I agree, and that’s what advances were originally intended to do. But if you could earn 50% higher royalties on your books with an advance half the size or 1/3 the size, would you ever consider that?

    An advance is a guarantee–but I think there are a few writers out there (yourself included) who don’t really need a guarantee. Their books are going to sell like hotcakes.

  160. Nora Roberts
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 18:44:48

    There seems to be a lot of perceiving going on. No e-books, pfff said or implied. Really, I’ll say again I think this is a definite problem with some e-book proponents. The perception that if you don’t read e, prefer paper, you’re saying e-sucks. It’s especially a problem when I think I said multiple times I was glad we had the choice of e-books. Really can’t be much clearer.

    Believe me when I say this attitude–and many, many appear to have it–is just as insulting and as negative and as false as those who put down the e-form because it isn’t in paper. And for one who just prefers paper, it doesn’t do a thing to make me at all more interested in the form as a reader. In fact, decidedly the opposite.

  161. Robin
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 18:48:55

    Suppose I discover Author X in 10 years, but Author X, an e-published author, stopped writing in 2008. How likely is it that I'll be able to get a hold of Author X's work? Now, if Author X was paper published it wouldn't be a big deal – I'd just set up an ebay search and wait. But will ebook back titles be available 5, 10 years after an author has stopped writing? The potential for the disappearance of a lot of great fiction seems likely.

    I don’t worry about the wiping out of electronic work, but I do think you’ve hit on another problem, which is that fewer paper books means less circulation of books through the system. And as we know, many readers acquire books in this fashion, books that are often more affordable and allow readers to sample new-to-them authors with little risk. Plus there is the DRM problem, which is a drawback I despise with ebooks and compromise my own objection to every time I purchase an ebook. And believe me, once ebooks become more popular, I’m going to have a laundry list of complaints about how they are created and sold too, lol.

    Several years ago, I swore I would never be an ebook reader. Now I am, and a happy one, to boot. I still read paper, too, and still love it. Mostly I think many of us are resistant to change because it presents a series of unknowns. But, as they say, change is constant, and it’s usually better to be on the upswing of evolution than on the down, lol.

  162. Nora Roberts
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 18:54:16

    How do I KNOW I’d earn 50% more, or any percent more? The book could tank. And yes, it could. Or the sales could just be soft on it.

    No, I wouldn’t consider it. I don’t want to have to worry about how the book’s selling when I could/should be writing the next one. I want my publisher to do the worrying. I want to write.

    Let me add this, my personal opinion. When a writer starts to think: Anything I put out there’s going to sell like hot cakes–that’s when that writer is going to write crap. Because the edge is gone the way of smugness, and smugness doesn’t respect or sweat over craft.

    The advance still does what it was originally intended to do. It gives the writer money on signing, on acceptance, on publication–a vaguely regular income for the working writer, he or she can depend on, plan on, budget for. Royalties aren’t guarantees, they’re the crap shoot. Sometimes we have a really good roll, but we can also throw snake eyes.

  163. Zoe Winters
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 19:02:25

    Okay i got caught in the mod bin, I THINK it’s because I used the “b word” more than once, but I wasn’t name calling, I was using it in the sense of complaining, lol.

    Anyway, if it ever posts it’s number 153. (or maybe it will post as another number, don’t know.)

    But it’s cool, Nora. I don’t think I’m being picked on. But I appreciate the apology. And if I’ve come off in ways I haven’t meant to, then I apologize for that. (more detail in the other post, if it ever gets out of the mod bin.)

  164. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 19:03:18

    Funny about the “dead tree” books… I’ve been hearing an AWFUL lot of about e-waste lately. So maybe we could call that a draw and be friends? (And if someone could take my three old CRTs off my hands in a responsible manner, I’d appreciate it!)

  165. Karen Templeton
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 19:09:16

    Suppose I discover Author X in 10 years, but Author X, an
    e-published author, stopped writing in 2008. How likely is it that I'll be able
    to get a hold of Author X's work? Now, if Author X was paper published it
    wouldn't be a big deal – I'd just set up an ebay search and wait. But will ebook
    back titles be available 5, 10 years after an author has stopped writing? The
    potential for the disappearance of a lot of great fiction seems
    likely.

    I think this is a very good question. If a print publisher goes out of business, there are still print copies in circulation. To wit: I published one lone book with Scarlet Publishing in ’98, literally right before they folded. Even with a laughably small print run, I still see copies of that book used here and there. IOW, it’s not at all hard to find, at least online, yellow and brittle though those copies may be.

    But if an e-publisher goes out of business — as many have — and the author opts not to re-release the book on his/her own for whatever reason, where would one find “copies?”

  166. Txvoodoo
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 19:24:39

    @Victoria Dahl: I’m all for that :D Wounded feelings all around, and yet we’re all READERS!

    @Karen Templeton:

    “But if an e-publisher goes out of business -’ as many have -’ and the author opts not to re-release the book on his/her own for whatever reason, where would one find “copies?””

    Interesting question. If the e-pub was the only source of the books, I guess it’d be defunct. But I know that most ebooks are available from several retailers, including Amazon, B&N, Fictionwise, etc.

    I guess rights for REpublishing would depend on contracts. Don’t know what happens if the publisher goes belly-up. I guess, if I were a writer, I’d want a clause in my contract saying what happens in that event, right?

  167. Nora Roberts
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 19:27:32

    I want to respond–because I forgot before–to a comment upthread re DVDs can be bought and enjoyed by the whole family, but when someone buys a book it has one reader.

    Not in my household, or the households of many I know. We share books all the time. I’ll read it, then pass it to my husband, and visa versa. Or to one of my dils or my sons. It’s rare a book around here is only read by one person. I’ve often loaned a book to a friend, or had one lent to me. Or simply given it to a friend because I really liked it and know she would, too–as I know I have a ready source if I need to get another copy to re-read.

    And not all the DVDs I buy can or will be watched by my whole family.

  168. mary beth
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 19:51:59

    Great article!
    I’m an ebook convert. A year ago I loathed the idea of ebooks. Then I found Stanza for my iPod Touch, and suddenly, I can read all the time, anywhere. I don’t need a book light, I don’t lose my spot, no one wanders off with my book, I have multiple books with me all the time. THEN I ran into DRM issues. UGH!
    Fictionwise and secure ereader format to the rescue. Love it. Can’t imagine life without it.
    That said, I see real problems with the digital age and publishing. Look at newspapers today. They joined the online revolution, lost sales, decided to charge customers to see the paper online, lost more sales. Today papers are trying to change, but it’s not easy, and it’s not cheap, and they’ve been forced to give the content away for free while moving to new avenues for revenue, and they’re laying off reporters in record numbers.
    If I were a publisher or author, I’d be shaking in my shoes at the thought of a book being bought by one person and then shared with a thousand others by a simple click of the mouse.
    I figure publishers will eventually figure out a way to join the digital age while protecting the author and the bottom line.

  169. Ann Somerville
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 20:01:06

    The perception that if you don't read e, prefer paper, you're saying e-sucks.

    The problem, Nora, as a big successful author, you saying anything about epublishing resonates with actually insulting statements made in this very place by other big successful authors that epubbed authors aren’t even writers at all.

    I don’t want anyone to feel guilty about reading paper books. I just don’t want anyone to blindly follow an already failing business model which is enormously wasteful, without challenging if there are better/smarter ways to do stuff. Like more POD, as an example.

    I think there’s room for ebooks and tree books. Both have advantages and disadvantages for readers and publishers. But while paper publishers and paper pubbed authors keep pronouncing from the mount (which I am not saying *you* are) that epublishing is for losers and eauthors are just fakes, frauds and amateurs, you’re going to find a lot of us are just as defensive as you are about your method of publication. The attacks on epubbing are a lot more diverse, noisy and widespread than attacks on the paper pubs. Epubs are tiny, and ebooks are a tiny part of the market. They’re not threatening anyone, but paper publishers are definitely doing a lot to try and damage that end of the market with their idiotic pricing structures for ebooks and DRM. It’s David and Goliath.

    I still don’t understand why books have to be sold on consignment for bookstores to survive, when hardware stores don’t operate on that basis. Why not sell the books in paper format that are sure fire hits or low risk, and epub/POD the rest until their success is demonstrated?

  170. Zoe Winters
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 20:10:43

    I think Ann makes some good points. I’m not sure “why” bookstores can’t survive if we got off consignment. Why is the book business SO different from every other business?

    When I first heard that the returns system was instituted during the Great Depression I thought it was a joke. I didn’t know it was an actually true story for awhile.

    Before the depression bookstores did not buy on consignment. So are we to believe that the publishing industry never recovered from the depression? Why couldn’t they go back to how things were after the depression ended?

  171. Catherine
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 20:12:33

    The term dead-tree books may be accurate, but it's a slap nonetheless. This is purely a personal take. It may not bother anyone else.

    No Nora, you’re not alone. It bothers some of the lurkers too, we just don’t say anything.

  172. Jackie Barbosa
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 20:32:14

    Publishers make a very low profit margin as it is. Something like 2%, it's insane.

    Just to point it out, most large retail corporations–like the 800lb gorilla itself–operate at profit margins around 2%.

  173. Bonnie
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 20:51:57

    I love the way physical books look, feel, smell. I love the sound of pages turning. I work in high tech, and I'm already looking at a monitor 10 hours a day for work. Factor in an additional hour or two each day to catch personal email, websites, and blogs. So the LAST thing I want to do when reading for pleasure is subject my already-fatigued eyes to even more screentime.

    Honestly, karmelrio, you really are misinformed. If you’re reading an e-ink e-book, you’re going to get a LOT less eye strain than reading paper books. I know this because I have really lousy eyesight, have a kindle and read much faster and more books because of it. AND I work on a computer all day. Not the same at all.

    I really wish people would give e-book readers a try before giving an opinion.

    It’s the “I will read paper books forever and die before I try an e-book reader” that bug me.

    Why?

    I like paper books too. I have a ton of them. I will always buy Nora Roberts’ hardcovers, signed from her husband’s book store and keep them on my book shelf. But, the ebook reader is invaluable for my lifestyle. And that’s the way I read them. MUCH easier on my eyes.

  174. Zoe Winters
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 22:13:21

    Hey Jackie, I wasn’t aware of that. 2% seemed really low to me.

    Bonnie, for me it’s that I really love paper books. To me the reading experience is about getting away from technology. So it doesn’t matter how great the e-ink is or how cool the gadget is, it’s just not for me. But, as I get older I may “have” to read on an e-reader. And if I do I’ll deal with that then.

  175. Bonnie
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 22:26:14

    Zoe, it really has nothing to do with getting older. But whatever…. God, that’s not good.

  176. MaryK
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 22:33:25

    @kirsten saell: “Um, dude. With ebooks and POD technology, there is now no reason for any book to EVER be “out of print” unless the publisher wants it to be. ”

    But you’re assuming action on the part of the publisher. I’m not interested in the publisher’s intentions. What if the book doesn’t sell well and they get tired of it taking up space on the server/webpage? What if the publishing house closes and the author doesn’t offer the book through other venues?

    When a paper book goes out of print, there will still be copies floating around no matter what the publisher or author does. I bought at a UBS a copy of Laura Kinsale’s Seize the Fire published in 1989. If that had been an epub book, where would I have gotten a copy?

    There was a thread on SB recently where posters were talking about a long out of print ebook which is supposed to be very good. After much googling and the like, they pieced together the original book though it wasn’t clear if it was complete. I think it’s great that they were able to salvage the book, but I have to wonder if it’s actually legal. Heck, it’s not even legal for me to open locked ebooks I bought from now defunct publishers.

    I just think that the lack of a secondary market is going to have more repercussions than just not being able to recoup money spent on dud ebooks.

  177. Zoe Winters
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 22:34:59

    What difference does it make if I don’t personally want to try an e-reader? I’m not trying turnip greens either. I don’t want my fictional reading experience to be tied into technology. But that’s “just” me personally. It has no bearing on anyone else’s reading choices.

    In the larger market I don’t think it’s an issue of paper or e-books. There should be both available. Just like no one is sitting around debating if we should have audio books OR paper books. It’s just different formats. And however other people want to consume their stories is fine with me.

    I have an ebook out. It’s just a format. It’s not anything for everybody to go to terror level orange over. Some people like baked potatoes some people like french fries. It’s no big deal.

  178. kirsten saell
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 22:43:56

    Royalties aren't guarantees, they're the crap shoot. Sometimes we have a really good roll, but we can also throw snake eyes.

    But isn’t this part of the problem? Large advances that don’t earn out? I know lots of people who are under the impression that if an author doesn’t earn out her advance, she has to pay the money back. They always seem surprised when I tell them all the author has to do is produce a publishable book by the date specified on the contract, and even if they don’t sell a single copy, they still walk away with their advance.

    If the advance is 10 or 20 or 30 or 50 thousand dollars, that’s not such a huge loss. And if it’s Nora or Grisham or someone with a track record, I guess there’s still the profits already earned for the publisher to partially offset the loss–although those profits were for different books, for which the author was already paid advance and royalties.

    What I’m saying is “advance against royalties” has somehow evolved into “money I get at the start in case the book bombs”. Where’s the publisher’s guarantee? Why does the author deserve that kind of security while the pulisher takes all the financial risk?

    And again, I’m not saying authors like Nora shouldn’t have the kinds of advances they do, because they have the track record. And I wouldn’t turn down an advance of $100 grand or more, either. And I’m not saying modest advances for new or midlist authors are not entirely appropriate. But so often we see a huge advance paid to someone we’ve barely heard of, and then the book tanks.

    I think if I had the choice of a sorta standard $15 000 advance with a 7% royalty, or a $5000 advance and a 10% royalty, well, I might choose the latter. Or no advance and a 20% royalty. That would be okay, too. My potential pay would go way up, and I’m not quitting my day job over $15 000 anyway. The risk would be shared between me and my publisher, making our relationship more of a partnership. And I would be paid based on what I’d earned for the publisher, not on how much my agent could convince them to gamble on me.

    Not saying anyone is wrong for vigorously negotiating a contract. But the Harper Collins experiment is really interesting to me for this reason among others.

    I still don't understand why books have to be sold on consignment for bookstores to survive, when hardware stores don't operate on that basis. Why not sell the books in paper format that are sure fire hits or low risk, and epub/POD the rest until their success is demonstrated?

    Preaching to the choir on this one, Ann, LOL.

    It's rare a book around here is only read by one person. I've often loaned a book to a friend, or had one lent to me. Or simply given it to a friend because I really liked it and know she would, too-as I know I have a ready source if I need to get another copy to re-read.

    Which is why ebooks should be cheaper than print. And why paper books will never really go away, I think.

    Interesting question. If the e-pub was the only source of the books, I guess it'd be defunct. But I know that most ebooks are available from several retailers, including Amazon, B&N, Fictionwise, etc.

    And if the publisher was no longer in operation, wouldn’t it be illegal for those retailers to keep selling the books?

    If I were a publisher or author, I'd be shaking in my shoes at the thought of a book being bought by one person and then shared with a thousand others by a simple click of the mouse.

    Oh, we already do. And not just authors who are published in e-format. Print books are pretty easily chopped and scanned, and are sometimes up online before legal copies are available for sale.

    When I first heard that the returns system was instituted during the Great Depression I thought it was a joke. I didn't know it was an actually true story for awhile.

    Yeah, it was supposed to be a temporary thing to keep bookstores selling books. Come to think of it, income tax was introduced as a “temporary measure” to fund WWII. I’m sure they’re going to put an end to that any day now, but somehow I think holding my breath until they do is not going to be good for my health.

  179. kirsten saell
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 22:52:07

    Heck, it's not even legal for me to open locked ebooks I bought from now defunct publishers.

    And that is insane. I suppose if the publisher went under or didn’t want to sell the book anymore, the author could request her rights back. Even the now-ambiguous definition of “in print” would not apply if the books were not made available. Then the author could sell the rights to another publisher, or exploit them herself. I know one author at a troublesome epublisher whose contract did not spell out specifically what rights were exclusive to the publisher. This made her technically within her rights to sell downloads of those books through her own site–which she did, for 1/3 the price the publisher wanted. If she wanted to, she could send the digital file to LSI and have them print up a bunch, POD. If the rights have reverted to the author, there is nothing stopping her from exploiting those rights.

  180. kirsten saell
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 22:55:59

    What difference does it make if I don't personally want to try an e-reader? I'm not trying turnip greens either.

    I don’t think anyone is saying you have to try one. We’re just saying that if your reason is eye strain, that’s not an issue. I personally know of several people who swore they would not get an ereader because they hate reading off a screen. They had to see the e-ink screen to believe it, and even those who did not convert on the spot had to admit eye-strain would not be a hindrance for them anymore.

    We’re not saying you can’t make a decision. We’re not even saying you have to try it first. It’s just frustrating when people make decisions based on erroneous information. It annoys me with ereaders, and it annoys me with hybrid cars. But that’s a whole ‘nother controversy…

  181. Zoe Winters
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 23:16:51

    No, my reason isn’t eyestrain. My reason is that I want ONE thing in my life that doesn’t require batteries or an AC adaptor. Just one thing that is not an experience with technology.

    When I get older I may “have” to read on an e-reader because I know it’s easy on the eyes and you can adjust the font size. But that would be an issue of “have to” not “want to”

    So my choice isn’t based on eroneous information. Unless it’s untrue that e-readers are technology and require batteries or an AC Adaptor.

  182. Txvoodoo
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 23:19:09

    @Zoe Winters:

    Now you have me wanting one that’s based on solar power. ;)

  183. Zoe Winters
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 23:20:20

    bwahahahahaha! Perfect for reading on the beach or by the pool. And folks in Arizona? They can read ForEVAR!

  184. Nora Roberts
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 05:24:38

    ~The problem, Nora, as a big successful author, you saying anything about epublishing resonates with actually insulting statements made in this very place by other big successful authors that epubbed authors aren't even writers at all.~

    If this were true, I’d have to think people were idiots. If I said something insulting abuot e-books, e-publishing or e-authors, that’s one thing. I didn’t.

    I enjoy this blog, and a couple of others, where I can post my opinions–and where most posters understand I’m not part of some authorial mind meld.

  185. Anion
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 05:35:46

    1. Prefer print to ebook. Also dislike the term “dead tree publishing”.

    2. Hate trade size. I have small hands and like to read one-handed (while I smoke a cigarette, or stir soup, or eat ice cream, or snuggle my children; get your mind out of the gutter! ;-) )

    3. Do not think publishing is a dying, obsolete, blah blah industry. Sorry, but I don’t.

    4. Am a bit confused. So now we’re saying ebooks should be kept in print forever and it’s wrong for them to go out of print? From the same people who regard the length of term in EC contracts as foul and disgusting and something no person with a brain would ever in a million years sign? I don’t mean to start an argument here, I really honestly don’t. But that’s quite confusing to me.

    5. NY publishing is still incredibly attractive, no matter how big or small your name is. National distribution, marketing, and money. Just because the typical or average first advance for some genres at some publishers is only 5k per book certainly doesn’t mean that’s what everyone gets.

    Not to mention the pride and respect of knowing your book went through a long vetting process and passed the test; that people who eat, sleep, and breathe books thought yours was good enough to put their name on and behind it. There’s really no feeling like it in the world.

    Just my opinion, of course. And I honestly don’t want to argue; after carefully avoiding this thread I got sucked in by Mrs. Giggles mentioning the “dead tree books” thing and decided to check that out, and got sucked in a bit.

  186. Nora Roberts
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 06:20:00

    ~I really wish people would give e-book readers a try before giving an opinion.

    It's the “I will read paper books forever and die before I try an e-book reader” that bug me. ~

    Okay, a couple things. First, why does it matter so much that some of us just want to continue to read a paper book, or just aren’t interested in trying out a book reader?

    And where is this forever and die coming from?

    It’s that all or nothing, that push, push, push that baffles me on this topic.

    As I said before it’s like it’s not enough to think it’s great readers have choices in their format. We must all convert, or it’s taken as a slight against e-publishing. That’s just weird.

    You know, my dil recently bought a Blackberry. I took a look at it and thought: Oh no, I don’t want one. I just want my phone. I don’t want all that other stuff on there. She loves it. Does the fact I don’t want to use one insult or demean all Blackberry owners?

  187. Genrewonk: thoughts and opinions by author S. Andrew Swann » Blog Archive » A note on the publishing apocolypse
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 06:41:42

    [...] world of publishing is imploding and Jane over at Dear Author has written a fairly lengthy piece on the need for innovative publishing in order to save the industry.  I’m not as frightened, [...]

  188. Anion
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 06:50:25

    @Nora Roberts:

    And you better at least TRY those vegetables Mommy cooked, too!

    :rolleyes

    I agree. I’m an adult. Why do I “have” to try something? I’ve been told I “have” to see Titanic, too, but I never will because I’m not interested, and I don’t see why that would offend someone. Who exactly am I hurting by not forcing myself to sample an entertainment I have no interest in sampling?

  189. karmelrio
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 07:36:44

    Honestly, karmelrio, you really are misinformed. If you're reading an e-ink e-book, you're going to get a LOT less eye strain than reading paper books. I know this because I have really lousy eyesight, have a kindle and read much faster and more books because of it. AND I work on a computer all day. Not the same at all.

    I really wish people would give e-book readers a try before giving an opinion.

    Hey, thanks so much for your learned re-interpretation of my actual experience. Which you know absolutely nothing about.

    I’m not getting into this one any further, other than to say that a) I suspect a business model will have to emerge that accommodates both, and b) it’s too bad that the discussion about Jane’s fabulous post had to turn into a cat-scratching epic shitstorm. Why am I not surprised. Sorry, Jane.

  190. Nora Roberts
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 07:42:49

    On advances. A book doesn’t have to earn out its advance for the publisher to make money. The advance is up front money on royalties, which are a percentage of the sale of a book. Yes, of course, a publisher may lose money if they’ve paid a huge advance and the book tanks. But, in fact, earning out the entire advance isn’t at all necessary for publisher profit. They take the risk, yes, but they also get a bigger piece of the pie from each sale.

    If a writer gets ten percent on each book, and the bookstore gets a 40 percent discount, that’s 50 percent for the publisher. They have to pay overhead, promotion, etc, etc. There isn’t a wide window of profit, but the publisher has the lion’s share of it because they have a bigger financial stake.

    The advance is a million, the book is priced at ten bucks with a ten percent royalty base. Sales weren’t as good as projected, and only hit 500,000. That’s a half a mil not earned off. But the publisher got about 2.5 mil on the book–1.5 after the advance–out of which they have to cover their costs for producing it. They’re still going to see a profit. And may see more on their share of sub rights. They’ve earned it, imo. And down the road, the book will probably rate a bit here and there, picking up more sales.

    Writing is a job. You get paid for doing a job. Your employer takes a financial risk by hiring you to do the job–which you may not do as well as expected, or which simply may not produce the results everyone assumed or hoped they would.

    You still get paid. But you may be let go afterward.

  191. Katrina Strauss
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 07:51:07

    E-book authors have dealt with the attitude that we’re writing in a second-rate medium for some time. I joke that if I had a dollar for every person who said “Let me know when your book comes out in print and I’ll buy it” that I could stop writing for a living. Not saying it justifies e-book writers slamming print, but just asking that print authors bear in mind that we e-authors deal with unintended insult on a constant basis. (At least we did… I do see the tide and attitudes changing in very recent months.) I can’t help but feel a bit smug that I now refuse to buy a new release unless it’s in e-book. Not that I’m getting rid of the “dead tree books” I already own, particularly the rarities and first prints and such, (then again, I did finally part with the 12-inch vinyl collection somewhere along the way…) but outside of manga and comics, it’s “e for me” from here on out.

  192. Nora Roberts
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 07:58:29

    Books v hardware. First books aren’t nuts and bolts, nor sold in from the producer to the retailer at the same mark-up potential.

    One day maybe bookstores will be able to acquire books from publishers at that same sort of extreme discount, but they aren’t able to now. The indie, at least, pays 60 percent of the cover price, leaving them a smallish profit window.

    Books aren’t produced and sold the way hardware is, or clothes or food and beverage, and the retailer isn’t able to mark them up to offset some of the risk of stocking them. Most retailer double the price (or more than) of what they pay wholesale for a product. If bookstores did that with their wholesale price, books would cost the consumer a lot more than they do now.

  193. Nora Roberts
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 08:03:00

    ~but just asking that print authors bear in mind that we e-authors deal with unintended insult on a constant basis.~

    So because others have done it or do it, it’s only natural to sweep others who haven’t and don’t into the same pile simply because they don’t choose the form?

    Romance gets slammed regularly. I don’t think it’s okay to consider everyone who doesn’t choose to read Romance as insulting–unless they SAY something insulting about the genre.

  194. Susan
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 08:30:13

    A publisher on returns:

    Firstly, I’ve been known to joke that the only people making a lot of money on books are the shipping companies.

    Here’s my press’s present returns reality. Our gross sales for this fiscal year are up, despite the economy. Our returns are WAY up. Thus, our net sales are down. We used to experience two high returns cycles in a year. We have had consistently higher than typical returns for the past 13 months. We’re not sure where this trend is going but are watching carefully.

    Our returns have run about 17% for many years. They are at 23% now. That’s lower than many general fiction publishers, who’s returns rate (overall, for their entire business) can avg. about 35% and higher.

    Do I want to do away with returns? Yes and no.

    Returns allow for those big stacks on tables and shelves that catch your attention. A store is more willing to merchandise books (vs. buy 2 to be put spine out on the shelf) because the risk is reduced (NOT eliminated). Ditto for signings and events. But getting those books costs them

    A bricks & mortar store that buys titles targeted for its readership, typically has about a 12%-19% returns rate.

    Azn has a 3-5% returns rate.

    Chains have 25-40+% returns rate depending on title, backlist sweeps from the shelves, etc. Recently Borders cleaned their shelves of our books and actually made returns in excess of their current balance due with us. That means they have a CREDIT with us. (That’s messed up.)

    Wholesalers have returns, too, though it’s been awhile since I’ve looked at percentages, so I don’t have a statistic.

    Txvoodoo: a couple production people tried converting from pdf to epub using some free software online. The book came through pretty well, but still requires proofing, cleanup, and correction. It works, but it’s not perfect, we’re not going to put flawed ebooks out there. Even if you don’t require anything fancy!

  195. Katrina Strauss
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 08:32:34

    Nora,

    I agree we’re all in this together. My own attitudes toward both romance and electronic format have opened and evolved since I was first published three years ago. I’m merely pointing out that e-authors have previously spent as much time promoting the medium itself as we have our own works. People who personally do not like electronic format often discount any works presented as such, so it can prove frustrating to the author who, in the end, just wants to write and get their work out there rather than shake the pom-poms for advancing technology. While I’m proud to say I’m personally responsible for popping a few e-book cherries, I’m happy that my work is being read, period, and am more than pleased that as of the past year, I’ve attracted readers who are already on board with e-books. Instead of asking me “When’s it coming out in print”, now I’m asked “When’s your next book coming out”, allowing me to focus more on, well, writing.

    As the tide shifts more in favor of electronic over print, it’s natural that someone in the spectrum is going to deal with what I’ve termed as unintended insult. I personally hate to see either side get slammed, but it happens. When a proponent of e-books offhandedly disses print, I don’t think they mean to be any more rude than someone dissin’ e-books in favor of print. Hence the need for folks on both sides of the fence to educate one another as to where we’re coming from. :)

  196. Jody W.
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 08:43:45

    And to have trade and professional reference books readily available in eform so they are always available and portable -’ heaven!

    Oooh, and searchable, bookmarkable, cross-referenceable…. It’s possible a lot of them already are, of course, and I know there will also be people who feel there’s no substitute for flipping through the pages of a monstrous tome or series of tomes for hours and hours looking for a single obscure reference.

    Both forms of book — or all three if we count audio — have advantages and disadvantages. I prefer electronic in some instances, paper in others. Audio in others, too! I just don’t like anyone telling me one is inherently better than the other, or that the readers of one are inherently smarter than the other. What I like is having a choice. I wish I could have every one of my books in both formats. Okay, let me rephrase when I think of the fact my physical library would crash through my floor…

    I wish I had every one of my books in a standard ebook format with the option to POD it if I wanted, and I’d be willing to pay a paperback cost for my POD as well, as long as the original ebook cost was *reasonable*. Or when I happen to buy the paper book first, it would be nice if the ebook came with it or I could get it as a substantial discount if I could prove I had bought the paper form new.

    Jody W.

  197. Susan
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 08:54:56

    Jody, We’d like to offer that, too. P&E bundles, that is. Just have to figure out the mechanics of it.

    I’d love to have a live-linked bibliography and footnotes. If I’m reading an ebook, check out a footnote with a reference to another work and could then just click through to it, that would be the BEST! Especially if I could click through to the library’s edition and virtually check it out of their collection. Some libraries offer this functionality within their systems, but I don’t think these editions can “roam” on ereaders, yet.

  198. GrowlyCub
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 08:55:17

    Recently Borders cleaned their shelves of our books and actually made returns in excess of their current balance due with us. That means they have a CREDIT with us. (That's messed up.)

    Yes, it’s messed up, and whatever else one might think of the Ellora’s Cave lawsuit and the way they may or may not have mismanaged their print program, this behavior by Borders seems highly suspect!

    There definitely is something fishy going on with Borders (besides the obvious credit and management issues).

    I’d hate to lose yet another bookseller, but if they are really trying to make a buck off ‘churning’ or just make the balance sheets look better on the backs of small publishers, they need to be stopped. Right now, with the information that I’ve come across, I hope they get their ass chewed in court.

  199. Jackie Barbosa
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 09:15:44

    I can't and probably will never understand why some proponents of e-books insist on pushing at shoving at those of us who prefer paper because we haven't jumped on the form.

    Personally, I have no issues with people who prefer paper to ebooks, anymore than I have issues with people who prefer cash to debit cards (my husband=cash, I=debit card, yet we still maintain a happy marriage, lol).

    That doesn’t change the reality that paper as the PRIMARY method of book distribution is on its way out, just as (quite honestly), paper money’s probably on its way out. Not overnight, not five years from now, probably not even a dozen years from now. But in two generations…yeah, probably gone as the primary method. That doesn’t mean there won’t be ANY paper books, but I suspect they’ll be the exception rather than the rule by the middle of this century.

    You mentioned that your technophile children (whom I assume are adults or nearly adults) don’t want to read books on their computers because they spend all DAY on their computers when they work. A paper book is an escape from that.

    But I think you’re asking the wrong generation. My kids are all under 12. They have been exposed to paper books (picture books, novels, etc.) since they were born. But they have also been exposed to the computer screen. And oddly enough, they like reading on computers. My 11yo actually PREFERS it to reading a paper book.

    In 20-30 years, ebook reader technology will be much improved from what it is today. (Just look at a current iPhone or Blackberry compared to cell phones that came on the market just 10 years ago if you want a salient yardstick for how quickly such technology progresses.) The children of today, who have literally grown up with computers as objects of entertainment and education and everything in between, don’t have the negative association of computer=work. For them, portable electronic devices are the way of the world. They have cell phones with browsers. They text their friends instead of calling. They are reading on the screen most of the time already. The notion that they’ll find reading a book on a screen just as natural and obvious as reading a website or text message from their friends isn’t far-fetched.

    None of this is to say there’s something WRONG with paper books or with loving them. I do. But I also like ebooks, and I’d like them more if I could get a really good portable reading device with tons of storage for $100 (perhaps incorporated into my cell phone). In addition to the obvious benefit of being able to read any one of the books I stored on my reader anywhere I go, instead of just the one I happened to bring with me or pick up in the airport gift shop, I wouldn’t have to hear my husband grouse every time I bring home ANOTHER paper book for which there’s simply NO room on our shelves. I could have as many as my reader would hold and he’d never say a word!

  200. Anon so Border's lawyers don't call me
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 09:16:04

    There definitely is something fishy going on with Borders (besides the obvious credit and management issues).

    This past summer, I spoke with a Border’s employee on a personal level. She told me that moral was low at her location, as management was getting laid off so as to keep lower paid employees on board to run ship. She was in the process of seeking new employment partly due to stressful work conditions, but mainly because she was suffering a moral dilemma. She said employees were instructed to only shelve surefire sellers by better known authors and/or bigger presses. She said there were boxes of books by lesser-known authors and small presses that were stashed in the back and *never opened*. It wasn’t a case of only putting one or two of these titles on display — the titles weren’t being put out at all. She said it made her sick. If this is happening at at least this one location, where else is it happening, and at what stores besides Borders?

  201. Jane
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 09:20:56

    @Anon so Border's lawyers don't call me I’m not entirely convinced that the credit balances on the books are anything but the result of Borders floundering business wise. I.e., if they could move more books, I’m sure that they would but now that they have struggling profit and loss statements, they have to cut down on the losses. If there is inventory that is not being moved, now is the time to return it instead of warehousing it (which is a taxable event).

    Fishy suggests bad faith to me and it’s something that you not only bear the burden of proving if you are EC, but it’s a very difficult standard.

  202. Nora Roberts
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 09:31:42

    Jackie, I don’t disagree with you–but I don’t think saying there are some of us who prefer paper and probably always will is denying or disputing that the e-book market will continue to grow. My objection is having people push and shove at those of us who just like paper books. Choice should be valued. I certainly see the advantage of e-form for those who enjoy it. Why is it a problem for some to see the value in paper for those of us who prefer it?

    I asked my kids–mid-twenties and early thirties–if they’d go for a reader, out of curiosity and because I thought they would–and it would be an excellent Christmas gift. They work in theater, but they live with their electronics. I never see either of them without laptop and cell phone. Their lives are on them. They talk in e-geek. But neither, both avid readers, were interested.

    My grandkids are young–just six and four–and right now they want paper books. Love to read or be read to this way. That may change as they grow. If so, I’ll happily buy them readers.

    For me, anything that gives a reader access to a book and pleasure in it is a very good thing. From some of the comments here, I don’t get that sense from some. Only e is the way. That’s my objection.

  203. GrowlyCub
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 09:51:55

    Fishy suggests bad faith to me and it's something that you not only bear the burden of proving if you are EC, but it's a very difficult standard.

    And it should be difficult to prove. The question I have is, if they can show that this has been a Borders practice for a long(er) period of time (meaning before they got in serious money trouble), would that not reach the ‘bad faith’ level?

    As somebody else said above, it seems the only ones profiting from the returns are the shipping companies. It may be time to look more closely into their relationships with publishers, or maybe I’m just a paranoid cynic. :)

    I’m still curious to see if any other developed country in the world uses a returns system and if not, how their booksellers survive?

    I wish I could think of somebody to ask in Germany, because they also have a fixed price system there (meaning no seller can offer the book below the publisher’s price, bye bye Walmart and Amazon discounts) or at least they had when I lived there (I’ve heard rumors of this possibly being abolished), so where I bought depended entirely on who stocked what I was interested in, price was not a factor because everybody charged the same.

  204. Kalen Hughes
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 10:06:04

    But if an e-publisher goes out of business -’ as many have -’ and the author opts not to re-release the book on his/her own for whatever reason, where would one find “copies?”

    Interesting question. If the e-pub was the only source of the books, I guess it'd be defunct. But I know that most ebooks are available from several retailers, including Amazon, B&N, Fictionwise, etc.

    I guess rights for REpublishing would depend on contracts. Don't know what happens if the publisher goes belly-up. I guess, if I were a writer, I'd want a clause in my contract saying what happens in that event, right?

    Amazon, Fictionwise, etc. simply resell ebooks from various publishers, same as a your local Borders resells physical books from various publishers. If the publisher does *poof*, those ebooks can no longer be sold. If the rights revert to the authors (rather than being treated as an asset and sold off to another publisher; and you can have all the clauses in your contract that you want, it'll be up to the bankruptcy court if your contracts/books are treated as company assets) then the author could recreate the ebook in all its various formats, at their own expense, and sell it themselves. The odds of getting that book sold by the major ebook retailers is questionable (and the odds of reselling it to another house is even slimmer, unless you're a fairly big name).

    There is a glimmer of hope for these red-headed step children though. I know that quite a few OOP Regency romances are being reissued as ebooks by Belgrave House. I think this tread is great!!!

  205. Jackie Barbosa
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 10:10:36

    From some of the comments here, I don't get that sense from some. Only e is the way. That's my objection.

    I guess I don’t see it that way. I see people saying that e is an increasingly viable alternative to print/paper which, along with POD methods of delivery for print books and abolition (or at least significant reworking of) the returns system, could represent the most sustainable publishing model for the future.

    E vs print is a delivery method option only, like the difference between getting your music on a CD or getting it straight from iTunes. (I do both, but I get the CD in a lot of cases because I want to be able to play the music on my early-90s vintage stereo system as well as on my iPod). We ought to be able to have the same choices in books–e, print, and (as Jody W pointed out) perhaps audio, too.

    The problem now is that for many authors, there’s only one delivery channel available–electronic. And when someone says, “I will NEVER read an ebook,” it sounds perilously close to a dismissal of the CONTENT based on the form. If the content is worth reading (i.e., a book you’d buy in paper if you could get it that way), it’s not any LESS worth reading because you can’t get it in print. And while I don’t get the impression you’re saying that at all, I can understand why it’s perceived that way by some e-authors…they feel their books are being passed over simply because of a prejudice based on delivery method.

  206. Susan
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 10:14:09

    Growly Cub, Returns for books are also done in the UK, Europe and Australia, just not at the same high rates as in the US. I don’t have any statistics to offer, just that I know it’s done.

  207. Nora Roberts
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 10:30:12

    ~And while I don't get the impression you're saying that at all, I can understand why it's perceived that way by some e-authors…they feel their books are being passed over simply because of a prejudice based on delivery method.~

    I guess I just can’t, because I’m very clearly and repeatedly NOT saying it.

    I don’t like the delivery method; the delivery method doesn’t suit me. This has nothing to do with content whatsoever. If some e-authors feel it does, I’m going to have to say that’s their problem.

    I also don’t have an IPod, but I’m delighted the rest of my family so enjoy theirs. I prefer my Satellite Radio or CDs.

  208. GrowlyCub
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 10:30:34

    Thanks, Susan. I wonder why there’s a lower rate. It’s a fascinating topic!

  209. Keri M
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 10:33:10

    My husband and I both love our paperbacks and am currently trying to figure out where we can add a bookshelf in our home, we currently have 15 and have filled them all up. I am completely uninterested in ereaders, however my husband wants one in the worst way. I have read a couple of ebooks online and have them saved on my pc and I will be buying my very first POD book by F. Paul Wilson very soon.

    His “Peabody-Ozymandias Traveling Circus & Oddity Emporium” horror book has never been printed in mm format and is very rare, so he decided that he would take on the task himself…huugs to F. Paul. I don’t think that publishers are going anywhere and I do think that e-anything is going to be on the rise. My husband will get his e-reader for Christmas if I can keep him from buying it first and DRM becomes a thing if the past.

  210. AnneD
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 10:49:03

    @ Growly cub – I wonder if it might be due to the fact that it is not the ‘norm’ to buy something and return in the other countries. It still boggles me today, how much retailers will take back as returns from the customer here in the USA. Although I am seeing changes to that policy.

    I know that is not publishing specific, but until I’d moved to the USA, I’d never even contemplated returning a book (and many other things, too) because I didn’t like it etc.

  211. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 11:10:17

    And when someone says, “I will NEVER read an ebook,” it sounds perilously close to a dismissal of the CONTENT based on the form.

    Whatever it may sound like, that’s not what it is. In fact, I’m kind of stunned at the statement.

  212. Jackie Barbosa
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 11:30:14

    I wrote:
    And when someone says, “I will NEVER read an ebook,” it sounds perilously close to a dismissal of the CONTENT based on the form.

    Victoria Dahl wrote:
    Whatever it may sound like, that's not what it is. In fact, I'm kind of stunned at the statement.

    I’m obviously not expressing myself very well, perhaps because I’m having a hard time thinking of any good corollaries in other industries. The best I can come up with is “I will never watch a straight-to-DVD movie.”

    Even if I say it’s only because I want to see ALL movies on a big screen in a theater with surround-sound, there’s an implied value-judgment about the content in my unwillingness even to TRY it.

  213. Kalen Hughes
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 11:42:54

    I'm obviously not expressing myself very well, perhaps because I'm having a hard time thinking of any good corollaries in other industries. The best I can come up with is “I will never watch a straight-to-DVD movie.”

    Even if I say it's only because I want to see ALL movies on a big screen in a theater, there's an implied value-judgment about the content in my unwillingness even to TRY it.

    I’m not really sure I can think of one either. But the scenario you're talking about would be more like: I will never watch a DVD, because I only see movies in the theatre, and therefore I will never watch a straight-to-DVD film. The judgment is about the delivery method, not the film itself.

    But really, until eReaders become MUCH more reasonable in price* AND access to computers becomes nearly universal AND internet access becomes cheap/free, eBooks are going to remain a niche product with a limited audience (note, I just got a CyBook and I'm a gaga convert; I NEVER thought I'd enjoy reading this way, turns out I love-love-love it).

    *You can now get an MP3 player for under $20, so it’s priced to reach the masses; plus the audience interested in buying and listening to music is MUCH larger than the audience interested in reading, whatever the format.

  214. Robin
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 11:48:14

    4. Am a bit confused. So now we're saying ebooks should be kept in print forever and it's wrong for them to go out of print? From the same people who regard the length of term in EC contracts as foul and disgusting and something no person with a brain would ever in a million years sign? I don't mean to start an argument here, I really honestly don't. But that's quite confusing to me.

    I don’t think everyone understands that “in print” means that publishers are still exercising their rights to print and distribute a work, thus keeping those rights from the author or from expiring all together through the passage of those years marking copyright protection. What I think most people mean when they express the electronic v. print dilemma is that print books have the chance to circulate endlessly through secondary markets, whereas ebooks do not.

    More generally, though, I think there is a strong faith in physical books as *eternal* in a bigger sense — as in the artist’s work exists eternally in physical form. I even saw this argument on Smart Bitches in terms of fan fiction (by Roslyn Holcomb, I think), in that fan fiction threatens the memory of the original in the event that the original becomes more obscure than the fan fiction works.

    And it’s understandable from the creator’s point of view — who among us wants to contemplate the long-term obsolescence of our own work? When the reality, of course, is that most of what we produce *won’t* live on perpetually, whether it be in physical or electronic format. In fact, I think you could shift the argument the other way and say that electronic works have a better chance of lasting because they can sit indefinitely on hard drives, some of which will escape the bit internet meltdown (as opposed to the worldwide apocalyptic fire that destroys all those print books?), but I’m not particularly invested in either side. My big concern with electronic books is, of course, the limitations on reader re-distribution and the existence of a secondary sales market. But in any case, I think we need to accept that most of what we see as fabuloso in our current culture will be unknown to populations hundreds of years beyond us.

    As for the ebook v. print book — who’s bashing whom — thing, I certainly don’t want anyone to feel guilty about *reading* — regardless of the format. But as a former stubborn print-only reader, were it not for the persistent recommendations of e-reading friends, bloggers, commenters, etc., I don’t know when I would have boarded the ebook train, but I know it would be much farther down the line. That doesn’t mean I think anyone should be pushed into anything, but as someone who had a lot of misconceptions about ereading, I appreciate people talking about why some of those misconceptions are *mis*, since they helped me overcome my natural resistance to something I thought would ruin my paper-reading experience, my obsessive love of paper books (especially *old* books), my scouring eBay for affordable first editions, etc. And I guess I see some of these comments not as part of an ebook-or-die campaign, but more of an attempt to dispel popular misconceptions about a still relatively new technology. YMMV, of course.

  215. kirsten saell
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 11:50:44

    The returns system is not an inherently horrible one (for trade and hardback, anyway, although pulping mmps is still, IMO, an insane waste), but it is really, really easily abused:

    http://editorialass.blogspot.com/2008/11/crash-flow-or-what-went-wrong-in.html

    And while I don't get the impression you're saying that at all, I can understand why it's perceived that way by some e-authors…they feel their books are being passed over simply because of a prejudice based on delivery method.

    Yes. And when they’re being passed over because “I don’t want to read on my desktop,” when there are PDAs, iPhones, ebookwise and those blammo e-ink devices all over the place, well, it rankles that your books are being passed over because potential readers are uninformed.

    Some will never take to ebooks, and that’s fine. But repeated claims of eye-strain and screen fatigue when they simply aren’t an issue anymore only spreads erroneous impressions to others who might have given it a try but now won’t. Which is probably why whenever anyone gives those as reasons why they won’t switch, you get immediate and vigorous protest.

  216. Jackie Barbosa
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 11:53:16

    I'm not really sure I can think of one either. But the scenario you're talking about would be more like: I will never watch a DVD, because I only see movies in the theatre, and therefore I will never watch a straight-to-DVD film. The judgment is about the delivery method, not the film itself.

    Totally granted.

    And yet, to me, it’s the NEVER part of the equation that I struggle with, and perhaps it’s what makes me sense a negative implication about the quality of the content.

    Never? Really? EVEN if the book/film was by your very favorite author/director and EVEN if you really longed to read/see it and EVEN if there were no other way to get the content, you would NEVER read it/watch it simply because of its format? I find that both mind-boggling and self-limiting.

    I don’t like hardbacks. I find them too heavy, too big, and extremely unwieldy. But if I REALLY want to read a book and the only way I am ever going to get it is in hardback, then I would rather read it in hardback than not at all. So I find it…well…strange people can be so averse to a particular delivery format that they will deny themselves otherwise highly desirable content.

    And this will be my final word on the subject ;). Promise.

  217. kirsten saell
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 11:53:33

    His “Peabody-Ozymandias Traveling Circus & Oddity Emporium” horror book has never been printed in mm format and is very rare, so he decided that he would take on the task himself…huugs to F. Paul.

    Now THAT’S what e and POD is perfect for!

  218. Karen Templeton
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 11:54:23

    Re: The “I will never read an e-book” discussion:

    Several readers here have stated categorically they refuse to read trade paperbacks, some for cost issues, others because they find them uncomfortable. I’ve even heard people say they hate trade paperbacks because they mess up their bookshelves!

    Delivery method, not content.

    Which is not to say that SOME readers DO lump all e-books together in a derogatory way when they say that (just as some readers lump all *insert hot button of your choice or — gasp! — romance* books together when they refuse to read one). But not all.

    Look — some people prefer to cook with gas, others electric. Some people adore their outdoor grills; others (like my husband) won’t touch ‘em. And yet all do the same thing — cook food. But isn’t it great that we have choices that allow us to exercise our personal preferences?

    And that’s really what *this* discussion is all about, since I haven’t seen even a hint of e-book content disparagement in any of the previous 200+ posts.

  219. Jane
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 11:55:53

    I’m one of the biggest ebook reading evangelists around. I’ve been advocating for it for years, even before I started blogging. I DO NOT believe that just because you decide that reading in paper is your preferred format that you are somehow dissing the content. That is a hyperbolic claim and not one that can be backed with evidence.

    I do believe that there are plenty of reasons not to go “e” and format issues being the most important one. The trade off is convenience. But ridiculing others for not reading in eformat is not going to get anyone who adores their paper books into trying out ebooks. It will only give those people a negative association with ebook reading and with ebooks in general.

    I would argue that any negative associations people have with ebooks have alot less to do with the content than the individuals who are supporting the content who run around and say those who don’t read ebooks are (insert perjorative). There’s no value implied judgment here.

  220. Robin
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 11:59:52

    OMG how could anyone prefer cooking on an electric stove??? ;)

  221. Karen Templeton
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 12:14:55

    OMG how could anyone prefer cooking on an electric stove??? ;)

    TOTALLY off topic now…but I’ve been cooking on electric now for more than 25 years, because that’s the way both houses we’ve lived in during that time were set up and I didn’t want to deal with having a gas line run to the kitchen. From necessity, I adjusted. But I’ve *never* liked it and would trade a child for one of those gorgeous, six-burner gas stoves (in a kitchen with dual dishwashers and double ovens and, oh, yeah, a scullery maid to clean up after me. ;-)).

    One of those kids just moved into a house with a gas stove and is all, “OMG, cooking with gas is AMAZING!”

    BUT. I’ve heard tell of people who feel exactly the opposite. To each his own and all that.

  222. GrowlyCub
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 12:21:26

    OMG how could anyone prefer cooking on an electric stove??? ;)

    Well, if you were 9 years old and watched a kitchen catch on fire because the cooking oil ignited first on and then the gas stove, you might reconsider that gas cooking thingie…. and yes, I know you were being tongue in cheek. :) I still am extremely suspicious of gas anything, however. Terrified would probably be the better and more honest description.

    I dislike (and I’ve expressed myself even more strongly) trade sized books, and yes, one of the reason is that I have paperback shelving and the durn things don’t fit, but there are other more important reasons, which I’ve mentioned above. But even though I dislike them, I have bought them in the past and will probably (kicking and screaming) buy them in the future, if that’s the only way I get to read a certain story. That doesn’t mean, however, I don’t wish disagreeable things on the person who successfully suggested popular fiction adopt this format. :)

    See, again POD would be the solution to this issue. I could get the version I like best, and those who prefer HC or Trade could get what they want.

  223. Jackie Barbosa
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 12:24:10

    Since this is a different subject…I’m not breaking my promise, lol.

    One of those kids just moved into a house with a gas stove and is all, “OMG, cooking with gas is AMAZING!”

    BUT. I've heard tell of people who feel exactly the opposite. To each his own and all that

    There is a difference, is there not, between “I prefer to cook on a gas (or electric) stove” and “I will NEVER cook on anything but what I prefer.” A preference for one thing over another isn’t an automatic rejection of all other possibilities.

  224. GrowlyCub
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 12:26:27

    I have a question for Robin and other erstwhile reluctant e-reader adopters.

    I’m reading a lot of e-books on my laptop, and while I don’t have too much trouble with eye-strain, I do with my wrists and shoulders due to the page turning. That however is not my biggest concern.

    I find that I start skipping and skimming even when I’m deeply involved in a kickass emotional story, if I’ve read too long on the lap top in one sitting. And I know there are a couple of books that would have gone on my ‘keeper shelf’ if I had read them in paper first and I hate the idea that I’m missing out on a great book because the format makes me skip and skim. Do any of you have that issue with your e-readers?

    That and the price have kept me from trying out e-readers (and the fact that I schlep my laptop EVERYWHERE and would end up with yet another electronic gizmo to carry around on my travels), even though I’ve liked the way the e-ink looked on the Kindle that I got to hold for a few secs last year.

  225. Book Bizzo #1 Rugby meets romance, romantic comedies lead to divorce, and lazy cooks outnumber romance readers - Book Thingo
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 12:27:06

    [...] a publisher have to be in the shipping and warehousing business?” (via The Book is Dead blog) Dear Author agrees, and Jane goes through a bunch of other interesting links and issues in her [...]

  226. Nora Roberts
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 12:28:10

    @Kirsten.

    I’m not uninformed–and I’m just going to say it–It’s annoying that it’s assumed if you don’t want to read on a screen you just don’t get it, are uninformed. Why should it rankle anyone because some prefer paper. I’m sorry I’m not reading your books because of the form, but I’m not saying your books aren’t worthy of being read. Equating a choice of form to some sort of insult to the writer in that form is just wrong.

    @Jackie.

    I don’t think I once said NEVER. And even if some do, again their choice, their right, their perrogative–without it ever meaning an insult.

    I’ve come to think that many e-authors are looking for an insult, and entirely too pushy and over-sensitive.

    Jane’s absolutely right, the attitude I’m getting pushes my resentment buttons, when I’ve had absolutely no problem or resentment with e-pub–in fact, just the opposite because I like the idea of offering readers choices. But there seems, to me, to be a lot of resentment from e-pubs toward those of us who want to read a paper book.

    @Robin

    I live in the boonies and fear the big-ass propane bottle (bomb) I’d need outside my kitchen to cook with gas. So, I cook, happily enough, on an electric stove because–haha–I don’t like the delivery system in my location for gas. ;) back atcha.

  227. MoJo
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 12:30:07

    @GrowlyCub

    I find that I start skipping and skimming even when I'm deeply involved in a kickass emotional story, if I've read too long on the lap top in one sitting.

    I caught myself doing this. I’ve trained myself to slow down and treat it like print. Doesn’t matter if it’s a blog or PDF (on laptop) or on my eBookWise. It’s easier to do this on the hand-held device because there isn’t the constant distraction and temptation to check e-mail and blogs.

  228. Robin
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 12:35:30

    Karen, I grew up with an electric stove and thought gas was primitive! Now I am so grateful to have such a primitive means of cooking food. Just the ability to turn off a burner and leave a pan on it seems like a luxury! It amazes me that people can cook really complicated and/or temperamental food on electric, simply because of the relative inflexibility of the heat levels. So anyone who cooks well on electric has my respect.

    But anyway, back to the topic at hand . . . I wanted to comment on the advance issue, because whenever this comes up (along with returns, but I have even less understanding of all the dynamics there) I am struck by how unique publishing is in this regard. I mean, many, many incredibly talented and creative people have to wait to actually produce their work before being compensated for it. Which does not discount the validity of the advance system, but it does make me wonder about the rationale of the advance as uniquely necessary and suited to publishing. Surely there are other industries that can benefit through this contemporary system of patronage, or by contrast, other industries that could serve as a means to challenge it.

    Someone above talked about the risk to the publisher in the advance system, but I wonder about the risks to the reader when books banked on in big numbers don’t pay off for the publisher. How does that constrain risk taking (or enhance it, for that matter)? And while I can certainly understand why authors want the advance (especially authors who have worked under that system for a long time and who are proven sellers), and I cannot imagine an author actually turning down a big advance (‘no, please, don’t throw all that money at me!’), I wonder sometimes at the vagaries of publishing.

    As a reader, for example, I sometimes feel that books are treated *too much* like commodities, while the pseudo-patronage system of advances can suggest a more artist-focused philosophy. In the main does it all fit together and make sense? Is there an overriding philosophy in publishing or is it always going to be a difficult balance between valuing the art of literary work and the commercial value of books as products? And are publishers seeing the economic challenges as an opportunity to retool or as an unwelcome prod to change?

  229. Nora Roberts
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 12:35:41

    Jackie, I believe I used the word ‘prefer’ numerous times.

    And I just disagree again. If I or anyone says they will never read a book except in their preferred form, so what? They’re not saying I will never read an e-book author even if her books come in my form at some point.

    Jesus, ladies, it’s the damn reader or screen I don’t want to use. And that a lot of others don’t want to use. This is NOT an insult to the author.

  230. Robin
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 12:47:01

    @ Nora Roberts: that’s just because *you don’t understand* how great it can be! ;)

    I find that I start skipping and skimming even when I'm deeply involved in a kickass emotional story, if I've read too long on the lap top in one sitting. And I know there are a couple of books that would have gone on my ‘keeper shelf' if I had read them in paper first and I hate the idea that I'm missing out on a great book because the format makes me skip and skim. Do any of you have that issue with your e-readers?

    No, but I tend to skim when I’ve read too much in any medium. I agree with whoever said that it’s easier on a dedicated reader when there is no temptation to check email or blogs or whatever. And also the e-ink technology of, say, a Sony reader (!!), makes it feel like you are reading a paper book, all the way down to turning the pages (and it make the trade v. mmpb issue a moot point, except for the feel of the reader, of course). And for reviewing purposes, an ebook is usually much easier, because I can run a search if I lose a passage to which I want to refer later. Plus I can bookmark pages without turning down the edges of the book physically. So in a way I think I’m paying even more attention on the ereader, because it’s easier for me to read on it, if that makes sense.

  231. Jane
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 12:47:35

    There are two ways to evangelize something:

    1) There is a great alternative out there and alot of misconceptions about it and if you had the opportunity to experience this great alternative, you might change your mind.

    and

    2) Jane, you ignorant slut.

    One is more effective. Guess which one it is?

  232. Nora Roberts
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 12:51:26

    Robin, advances aren’t exclusive to publishing. I’m nearly finished with the rehab of the inn. When hiring subs, they expect a chunk up front, on contract, before starting work. It’s the way it’s done. Then they’d get another chunk as the work progresses, and the final cut when the work is complete.

    In publishing, it takes about a year AFTER publication for royalties–if the book has earned off in that time–to start coming in. Often more than a year. Without the advance, that’s a long time for a writer to wait to be paid, a long time for those funds to stay in the publisher’s hands. Publishers already hold a reserve against royalties for returns. Fair enough, imo.

    The larger the advance, the more it’s spread out. A percentage on signing, another on acceptance, another on publication, and often the last on pub plus six months. If it’s hard/soft, those are additional cuts. HC pub, PB pub, PB pub plus six. We get don’t get the whole shot before the work is done, or before it’s published.

    I think, too, if you were to commission a painting, the artist would get a portion of the fee-an advance–before starting the work.

  233. MoJo
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 12:51:46

    And for reviewing purposes, an ebook is usually much easier, because I can run a search if I lose a passage to which I want to refer later.

    I swear I caught myself looking for CTRL-F on a print book the other day. *G*

  234. Karen Templeton
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 12:55:08

    There is a difference, is there not, between “I prefer to cook on a gas (or electric) stove” and “I will NEVER cook on anything but what I prefer.” A preference for one thing over another isn't an automatic rejection of all other possibilities.

    Well, I don’t think that many people actually say “never” in either circumstance…or they don’t mean it as vehemently as it’s sometimes being construed here. Sure some do, and will, and that’s their prerogative.

    But just as I had to learn to deal with the electric stove even though I prefer gas, because I moved into houses with electric hookups, I daresay a lot of those “never read an e-book” folks would read e-books if a) someone thrust a reader that worked for them into their hands and b) that was the only option, at least for that time. They, too, would adjust. Except for maybe my 97 yo mother, who refuses to let me get her a new touch-tone phone to replace her ancient rotary number.

    However. Some people just don’t want to buy/deal with another gadget. Or read novels on their computers. Or on the tiny screen of an iPhone/equivalent. Why? Because the method doesn’t appeal to them. And yeah, for some, there’s no book/author they absolutely MUST read that would make them change their minds. And why should anybody try? It really is like my husband constantly nagging our sons to eat something he loves but they don’t — they’re not gonna suddenly develop a taste for it simply because he’s forced them to eat it!

    I do understand the frustration of authors who are only published electronically who feel potential readers are automatically dismissing them because they write in e-format…but I think that’s true of *any* author, print or e. How many times have I read readers declare they won’t read books with kids/babies in them, or series romance, because of their perceptions about what those books are, or aren’t? Since I write series romance with lots of babies/kids, it used to rankle me, too, to have my work dismissed out of hand –and that *was* about content. I finally let go of all that some years ago, realizing that we all have different tastes and preferences — and that we’re all entitled to them.

    It will all shake out as it’s meant to, in good time. Readers *are* embracing ebooks now more than ever, after several years of decidedly sluggish growth. I’ve yet to see it personally with Harlequin/Silhouette (my ebooks sales are a minuscule fraction of my total sales), but that may be partly due to formatting issues discouraging readers from buying e from them. However, figures do seem to be climbing steadily for many e-only authors at the more established e-presses — a positive sign, yes?

    Really, we’re not in separate camps, here. The point is to increase readership, catering to those readers via whatever medium they prefer.

  235. kirsten saell
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 12:59:44

    Why should it rankle anyone because some prefer paper. I'm sorry I'm not reading your books because of the form, but I'm not saying your books aren't worthy of being read.

    No no no, obviously I’m not expressing myself well. And this has little to do with anything you specifically have said here, Nora.

    (And my books will be in print as well as e–there’s just a 10-month delay between the one and the other, so I really don’t have any personal stake in whether people switch to e. But I can see how an exclusively epublished author might feel when people say they would never, ever, ever read an ebook–not necessarily insulted, but definitely excluded.)

    What I’m trying unsuccessfully to say is that I’ve repeatedly encountered on this thread and elsewhere, references to “screen fatigue” and eye-strain and not wanting to read off a computer as reasons people will not even try ebooks. And every time I see those references I feel an obligation to challenge them. Not because people don’t have every right to prefer one format over another (or to never read an ebook, if that’s their choice), but because those issues are not issues with ebooks.

    “Screen fatigue” is non-existent with the Sony and the Kindle, despite the fact that they have screens. They are so close to paper as to be virtually indistinguishable. And eye strain can actually be alleviated by using them, because you can enlarge the text to suit your needs. And although visitors to this blog are certainly more informed than many on the subject, there are still plenty of people out there who actually believe you have to read an ebook on your computer, or even online while connected to the internet.

    When people put those erroneous beliefs forward as reasons not to switch, I feel a certain responsibility to refute them, so that other less well-informed people who may be on the fence about ebooks don’t make their decisions based on misconceptions.

  236. Kalen Hughes
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 13:18:02

    OMG how could anyone prefer cooking on an electric stove??? ;)

    @Robin: OMG, we are finally in 100% agreeement. :) Not for the first and only time though.

  237. Jackie Barbosa
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 13:19:53

    Nora, I apologize for misunderstanding you and for misrepresenting what you said.

    Please keep in mind that I never said I believed you have anything against ebooks or have a poor opinion of them. I’m entirely sure that’s not the case. Moreover, I’m pretty sure it’s not the case for most people who choose paper over eformat, simply because I’m pretty sure most people haven’t even discovered ebooks yet!

    I’ve simply been trying to express why so many authors whose work is available only in e-format are touchy/cantankerous about the subject. It’s because they can’t control the delivery method for their books any more than you can prevent your next four books from coming out in trade before mmpb. They would LOVE to give readers who want their books in print format the ability to have them. But it’s not up to them.

  238. Kalen Hughes
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 13:23:08

    “Screen fatigue” is non-existent with the Sony and the Kindle, despite the fact that they have screens. They are so close to paper as to be virtually indistinguishable.

    I do, however, get thumb fatigue from pressing the stupid button to turn the page.

  239. Ann Somerville
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 13:30:45

    I would argue that any negative associations people have with ebooks have alot less to do with the content than the individuals who are supporting the content who run around and say those who don't read ebooks are (insert perjorative).

    I honestly don’t think those of us who’ve been told we’re not real authors, that our ebooks don’t count as proper publishing credits etc, are being told that because the person with that assumption has been scarred by negative evangelism.

    I believe people should be able to read however it suits them because content is the important thing, not the mode of delivery. However to ignore the relative benefits or costs of any mode of delivery is not sensible for a business or a consumer.

    Robin, it’s amazingly easy to get used to electric. But I’m glad I once again have gas :)

  240. Nora Roberts
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 13:34:38

    ~But I can see how an exclusively epublished author might feel when people say they would never, ever, ever read an ebook-not necessarily insulted, but definitely excluded.)~

    Then I guess I’m hard-nosed because I don’t. The exclusively epub author also made a choice when he/she submitted to the publisher. I’m delighted the author has a chance to see her work pubbed, to have a writing career. Delighted many who enjoy e-books will have the opportunity to read her work. And you know what? That should be enough.

    But to feel excluded because there are some who don’t and won’t read e? Not their responsibility, and that feeling of exclusion falls on the author’s shoulders, imo.

    We’re all entitled to our own choices, and to complain that not everyone makes the choice we want them to make, or think is best, is very foolish, I think. And, in the end, mostly puts people’s backs up.

    I’ve learned a lot about e-books from Jane’s columns, and from Angela James’s comments. I think these two women are the very best cheerleaders for e-publishing I’ve come across. I like and respect them both, a lot, and looked at ereaders a bit more closely simply due to Jane’s enthusiasm for them.

    But I just don’t like them. I like Jane and Angela, but I don’t care for their preference in reading formats.

  241. kirsten saell
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 13:39:16

    I do, however, get thumb fatigue from pressing the stupid button to turn the page.

    And I get hand fatigue from holding a print book open. I don’t even have to hold my Sony. I can set it on my knee and hold a beer in each hand while I get one of my kids to press the button for me. :P

  242. Nora Roberts
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 13:40:30

    Jackie, I appreciate it.

    And must confess, I did have a choice re the trade format. It took a lot of convincing, and several months to get me to agree–as a kind of experiment, and because we were doing a quartet instead of a trilogy–and several other factors.

    In the end, my choice. It may turn out to be a mistake–but I made the choice.

    I’m not going to complain if and when some readers say I’m not buying the book(s) because I don’t like trade size. That’s *their* choice, and they’re entitled to it.

  243. Zoe Winters
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 13:42:52

    Nora said:

    ~ As I said before it's like it's not enough to think it's great readers have choices in their format. We must all convert, or it's taken as a slight against e-publishing. That's just weird. ~

    Exactly. It’s “just a format” until someone doesn’t want to read that format. Then it’s terror level orange.

    Katrina said:

    ~ E-book authors have dealt with the attitude that we're writing in a second-rate medium for some time. I joke that if I had a dollar for every person who said “Let me know when your book comes out in print and I'll buy it” ~

    It doesn’t mean they don’t think that it’s a real book though. It’s not a personal slight. They as a reader just don’t like that format. If a book only came out in audio book and the reader said: “Tell me when it’s in print and I’ll buy it,” would that be offensive too?

    A long time ago, I used to sell Mary Kay Cosmetics. I had several friends who were either allergic to the product or had something else they were happy with. When dealing with consumers, it has to be understood that not “everybody” is your demographic. Even if it looks like they might be at first. Most women may use makeup or skincare, but it doesn’t mean they are interested in your brand.

    Not all readers read all genres or in all formats. That’s just sales. It’s not a snub. It’s preference. Women who wear dresses a lot because they prefer them aren’t somehow “against pants.”

    I’m not going to start reading Sci-Fi because Sci-Fi authors might think I think their books aren’t worthy otherwise. My time is too valuable to spend doing things I don’t like to prevent other people from thinking I think they personally are “lesser.”

    @ Nora: That’s true about the mark-up issue. I’d forgotten that point about not being able to mark-up. The retail price is already set.

    ***

    On the topic of the ebook market growing. YAY. That thrills me. Anytime something grows where I have an opportunity for sales or exposure is exciting to me. I’m all for ebooks growing. But I don’t believe they’re going to “take over.” At least not for awhile. In a generation or two, maybe. Folks like EC and Samhain and others were very very smart to get in on this wave early.

    And Karen makes an excellent point with regards to the folks who have said they’ll never read trade. Well since I’m using POD tech, the only format in print my books will be available in is trade. There won’t “be” a MMPD edition.

    There are people who won’t read my book because of that. And that is FINE. I don’t begrudge someone not wanting trade paperback. It is rather pricey, and part of why I’ll offer E too. People who don’t like E or trade, well they just won’t read me. And I hate that, but there are many reasons many people won’t read me. Hell, some people won’t read me cause they think I’m too mouthy, and there is nothing I can do about that. (well, except maybe stop talking, but I try and repeatedly fail at that.)

    It’s really the same thing with E. There is just a perceived snub in the E-argument. But it’s not really there.

    As for E, I also never said never. I have made exceptions for books by friends that aren’t in print, and I’m about to make another exception for a book one of my friends told me was so so so wonderful but only available in E and audio. But when I make these rare exceptions, I print them out. It’s still not the same to me, but it’s for a friend.

    As for an e-reader? Like I said, if my eyes ever get so bad it’s the only way I can read, then yeah.

  244. kirsten saell
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 13:49:31

    But to feel excluded because there are some who don't and won't read e? Not their responsibility, and that feeling of exclusion falls on the author's shoulders, imo.

    True, it isn’t the reader’s respobsibility. And I’m not saying those authors shouldn’t own their feelings. Just saying I understand those feelings and why they exist, and that epublished authors have been fighting an uphill battle just to have their books acknowledged as books. It’s clear to me, at least, where some of the defensiveness is coming from.

  245. Zoe Winters
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 14:06:14

    Ann says:

    I honestly don't think those of us who've been told we're not real authors, that our ebooks don't count as proper publishing credits etc, are being told that because the person with that assumption has been scarred by negative evangelism.

    This is very likely true. But, people who judge you based on a prejudice are really telling you more about themselves than about you. You can’t do anything about these people.

    There are people who think romance authors don’t write real books and aren’t real authors. (I thought that too a long time ago.)

    There are people who don’t think e-authors are real authors.

    There are people who don’t think self-published books are real books, ever no matter what. Because they haven’t been “vetted.” I’ve seen a few books put out by a few not great small publishers that were horrific. If those books were in any way vetted in any way that matters I don’t believe it. Yet, no matter how much work I do to make sure my work is of a good quality, it will be said that my work wasn’t vetted so it’s probably crap.

    But it’s my choice to write romance, and it’s my choice to put out my own stuff. There are trade-offs. Though Anion mentioned earlier something about NY really being better and no one doesn’t want it. (and I’m paraphrasing so I may have gotten her wrong, it’s WAY back there in the comments) I don’t believe that’s entirely true. Yes, NY has great marketing and distribution capabilities, but I don’t like working for other people. I need to run my own show.

    If it means it’s a much smaller show with lesser distribution, that’s fine. I know most writers consider themselves self-employed, but I don’t see it quite that way. Not when I can produce my own books myself. I want control over my format, cover, title, etc. And I can’t get that the trad way. And I understand that. I don’t think the value or quality of a book is measured by the number of people who have bought it. That’s a cultural thing.

    And sorry I got off on a self-publishing tangent, but there was a point to it. And the point is: “Hey e-only authors, you don’t have it so bad.” ;) There is always going to be someone who is against whatever it is you’re doing and who make it a personal thing about you. But you can’t change those people.

    And it’s also true that while it’s easy to do when it’s SO frequent a phenomenon, it’s completely unfair to just assume people think poorly of you and your choices based on how other people have reacted. And that’s something I do a lot myself and have to watch out for.

  246. Robin
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 14:22:23

    Robin, advances aren't exclusive to publishing. I'm nearly finished with the rehab of the inn. When hiring subs, they expect a chunk up front, on contract, before starting work. It's the way it's done. Then they'd get another chunk as the work progresses, and the final cut when the work is complete.

    I think there’s a significant difference, even though I agree with you that publishing is not the only industry that gives money up front. But with construction, the money is being paid out for firm job costs. That is, labor is set at a certain amount, materials cost a certain amount, and the estimate may change in the final cost, but it’s not like the contractor keeps the extra money if the job ends up costing significantly less like an author does if his/her books don’t earn out the advance. Plus, in contracting it’s most often the lowest bid that secures the job, while in publishing the power dynamics are a bit different, with publishing companies bidding against each other and amping up the deal for the author (in the case of a book that’s shopped, of course).

    Same with the deposit on the piece of art. Again, you’re talking a fixed price and a deposit that constitutes consideration to secure the contract and provide for materials, etc. But I don’t equate paying in advance with an advance system. Although for an author like you, who I’m guessing earns through your advances, the advance becomes more like a deposit on total earnings. But theoretically it’s still spec money. Now you may argue that publishing simply computes the equivalent of an author’s salary via the advance system (equivalent since authors aren’t employees and varied because value is relative), but it does seem to lead to this blockbuster or star system that is under debate, with some authors getting very high advances for books that don’t sell, imperiling the ability of other books to be purchased and for readers to get books that look like the “failed” blockbuster.

    I don’t think the advance system is necessarily wrong or unfair. I’m just curious about how it impacts publishing specifically, because it *is* a guarantee of money based on speculation of a book’s potential sales. And it clearly has an impact on publishing as a whole, on authors who don’t get big advances, on readers who get books someone else has initially selected for us, and on editors and others whose fortunes rise and fall on the economic stability of a publishing house. If an advance is merely a determination of an author’s value to a publisher, then let’s call it that (like an actor’s $20M salary because they have star draw, even if they turn in a crappy performance), and if it’s not, if it’s supposed to be true compensation, then that’s something different, IMO. The way it’s set up, it doesn’t look to me like it’s a system — in general — of true compensation reflective of the real costs of a job performed. Which is neither good nor bad, but it does have certain widespread costs and benefits.

  247. kirsten saell
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 14:22:58

    E-book authors have dealt with the attitude that we're writing in a second-rate medium for some time.

    It doesn't mean they don't think that it's a real book though. It's not a personal slight.

    Except for all the times it does and is.

    And no, it isn’t all in the epublished authors’ imaginations. They deal with TONS of comments from other authors and readers who consider epublishing one minuscule step up from vanity publishing.

    ETA: I am not ascribing this attitude to all authors and readers, or even to any who have shared comments in this thread. Just that the attitude exists.

  248. Zoe Winters
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 14:29:28

    Maybe, Kirsten, but almost no one can tell the difference in “vanity publishing” and actually starting a business where you just happen to be creating your own book to market instead of outsourcing for writing talent. The concept is completely lost on a lot of people.

    But I can’t FIX that. I can try to educate, but I often just end up coming off screechy and insane, so for every person I gain to my perspective I lose another one who thinks I’m a flaming lunatic.

    And I’m not saying the attitudes are “right” just that you can’t do anything about them most of the time. People’s attitudes shift when they choose for them to.

    And it’s not fair to jump on people who don’t think epub authors are “lesser beings” just because they don’t like the format. And just because other people have that view.

    A lot of my friends are epubbed only. And I think they’re great. And I’ll read their stuff because they’re my friends. But I print it off.

    One of my friends indie published her book. She had a totally free ebook copy available for download. I read the first 3 pages, then bought the print copy. It’s just about the format for me. Nothing more.

    ETA: And I realize you aren’t saying that I personally am snubbing e-only authors. In re-reading my comment it looks like I think you think that. And I don’t. Gah. I do much better in verbal communication.

  249. Jackie Barbosa
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 14:33:05

    And must confess, I did have a choice re the trade format.

    Fair enough. I suspect you’ve got way more power than I have ;).

  250. kirsten saell
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 14:37:10

    Oops, just realized Zoe said the exact same thing in the second half of her comment.

  251. Zoe Winters
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 14:38:11

    bwahahaha. It’s cause i talk too much. Seriously, dude, if I could learn to take it down to a couple of paragraphs we’d all be happier. :P

  252. Imogen Howson
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 15:01:11

    I find that I start skipping and skimming even when I'm deeply involved in a kickass emotional story, if I've read too long on the lap top in one sitting. And I know there are a couple of books that would have gone on my ‘keeper shelf' if I had read them in paper first and I hate the idea that I'm missing out on a great book because the format makes me skip and skim. Do any of you have that issue with your e-readers?

    Definitely not. I read my first 3 ebooks–two short stories and one novella–on the computer and couldn’t bear it. It didn’t feel like reading a book at all. I would never, ever, ever read a whole book on my desktop or laptop–it negates the whole pleasure of the reading experience. And yes, I did automatically end up skimming and skipping in a way I wouldn’t with a print book.

    On my dinky little PDA (HP Jornada 545) it’s a completely different feel. I don’t skip at all, and there’s no significant eye strain. Although, because the screen is backlit, I imagine there’s more eye strain than with an e-ink reader. But I love it. It fits in one hand, I can read in bed without disturbing my partner, and it doesn’t strain my thumb because there are no pages to keep open.

    Aside from the greater comfort, and ease of reading in the dark, there’s no difference in the feel of reading an ebook on it, and reading a print book. The only downsides are not being able to read in bright sunlight (e-ink doesn’t have that problem) or in the bath (I don’t trust Ziploc), and sometimes the curse of DRM.

  253. Nora Roberts
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 15:03:39

    Robin, I understand your points.

    The thing is, in most other cases, the creator is going to be paid, in full, when the work is completed. Writers aren’t. They’re going to be paid a percentage of the sales, and that’s going to take some time to come in, be accounted, paid out. Meanwhile, without an advance, they’d get nothing for the completed work, and wait until it was published–anywhere from an average of 9 months to two years after they’ve turned it in. Then they’d have to wait again, six months, say, until those initial sales are calculated. That’s a very long time from doing the work, finishing the work and getting paid for the work.

    There are publishers and areas of writing that work on a flat fee. You write this, we’ll pay you X. And that’s that. Most of fiction writing, in books, is royalty based. As long as it is, writers need to get paid along the way of publication.

    And while there certainly are some celeb books that get wildly high advances, it’s usually because the publisher believes they’re going to recoup–or at least get some cachet and publicity from signing the celeb.

    Most of us go up the ladder of the advance scale over time. It’s rare for a new author to get an enormous advance. Much more usual to establish a track record, a sales record, and climb up.

  254. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 16:28:40

    Can we stop pretending that e-readers don’t cost a boat-load of money? People read on their computer screens because they can’t afford another option or don’t want to spend their money that way. So YES, eye strain is an issue.

    Also, as to “I’m tired of people telling me they don’t read e-books.”… Do you know how many people tell me they don’t read romance in a year? Friends, family, people I’ve known my whole life? Do you know how much that upsets me? Um… not at all. We have all heard this sentiment expressed a million times about romance. I don’t need to be told how it feels.

  255. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 16:36:59

    Do you know how many people tell me they don't read romance in a year?

    And let me point out that “I never read romance” is an absolute based STRICTLY on the content. Jumping-to-conclusions not needed. Unless, of course, I wanted to assume the worst of everyone. That they’re telling me I’m stupid and dull and uneducated and they think my work is meaningless. But why the hell would I want to go through life like THAT?

  256. Nora Roberts
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 17:35:21

    Victoria, I think I love you.

    Nora

  257. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 17:48:24

    Nora? My insides feel funny. *g*

  258. Katrina Strauss
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 17:59:13

    Also, as to “I'm tired of people telling me they don't read e-books.”… Do you know how many people tell me they don't read romance in a year? Friends, family, people I've known my whole life? Do you know how much that upsets me? Um… not at all. We have all heard this sentiment expressed a million times about romance. I don't need to be told how it feels.

    This was the same sentiment I was expressing in regard to a print author taking issue with terms like “dead tree books”, when an e-book author must contend with equally dismissive comments on a regular basis. For the record, I stopped being offended by the “Oh, it’s an e-book….” reaction by my third published title, while I’ve told anyone who disapproves of my genres of romance, erotica, and m/m to “bite it” all along. I was simply lending some perspective here. I don’t find La Nora or any other print author’s opinions expressed here to be insulting, simply ironic. Yes I iz a writer, but apparently I did not convey my sense of irony as well as I’d like to think I did.

    Let’s face it, most of us here are all bastard redheaded stepchildren in some way or other. It’s just that depending on the topic at hand, some of us will feel misaligned at worst, amused by the irony at best. Next blog post, the shoe will be on someone else’s foot, and we’ll all have a moment of deja vu and make another 200 posts on the latest topic of conversation. ;)

  259. Lynne Connolly
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 18:12:34

    I’m a writer. I write books. Not ebooks, or paper books, just books. What people choose to read them on, or how they read them, is entirely up to them, and the more media available the better.

  260. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 18:15:00

    This was the same sentiment I was expressing in regard to a print author taking issue with terms like “dead tree books”, when an e-book author must contend with equally dismissive comments on a regular basis.

    yeah, but there is a huge difference between jumping to conclusions and knowing when you’re being pushed.

    If you’re being subjective, “I don’t read e-books” is no more fraught with insult than “I still buy CDs.”

    But “Oh, you read dead-tree books” is more akin to, “Oh, you read smut.” Either statement is meant to be a poke with a sharp stick.

  261. Jane
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 18:17:31

    @Victoria Dahl I don’t buy books with red covers on them. Just don’t like the color red. Also don’t like the 2 inch heel. It’s just not the right height for me. I prefer the 3 inch heel or higher. I don’t really understand why people wear 2 inch heels. Please don’t write books with red covers or heroines who wear 2 inch heels.

  262. Nora Roberts
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 18:24:47

    ~I don't find La Nora or any other print author's opinions expressed here to be insulting, simply ironic. ~

    I must ask why. The dead tree comment opinion? I don’t like it; said so. Would I obsess on it, bring it up at every discussion on the topic of ebook/print books? No.

    But it’s a disparaging term. I never disparaged e-books. I said my personal choice in reading is paper. This is in no way insulting or disparaging for the form. I didn’t come up with some snappy and snide term to describe e-books. I can’t think why I would. I think, as I’ve said ad nauseum now, it’s great to have choices.

    To say I prefer and want to read books in this form and not in that doesn’t strike me as ironic, so I must conclude the irony is due to my personal objection to the term often used by e-book proponents for paper publishing.

    Katrina, I feel, sincerely, you and a few others are projecting your own frustrations and upset onto those of us who not only support what you’re doing, but think it’s a wonderful thing–but simply prefer to enjoy books in the form we like. Since we don’t choose to read in YOUR form, we’re obviously not supportive enough.

    But, you know what, that’s all you get.

    Just because you feel you have to contend, from some quarters, with a dismissive attitude doesn’t make it okay for people to take an equally dismissive attitude toward other forms of publishing. I really don’t see the irony. What I see is, hey we have to take it from these guys, so you should suck it up when we point at you.

  263. Nora Roberts
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 18:26:21

    ~But “Oh, you read dead-tree books” is more akin to, “Oh, you read smut.” Either statement is meant to be a poke with a sharp stick.~

    Said more concisely and entirely more to the point than my post.

    Now I have a funny feeling in my insides.

  264. shirley
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 19:01:16

    And let me point out that “I never read romance” is an absolute based STRICTLY on the content. Jumping-to-conclusions not needed. Unless, of course, I wanted to assume the worst of everyone. That they're telling me I'm stupid and dull and uneducated and they think my work is meaningless. But why the hell would I want to go through life like THAT?

    Helluva long comment thread to find this tiny nugget, which sums the whole thing up. With a lovely bow too :D. Regardless of all the positives of e-books, there will be those who choose not to ‘opt in’. Regardless of the positives of print books, there will be those who choose e and won’t return to print. And really, folks, that’s okay. It is.

    As to the argument for or against either, well… From an older woman’s perspective, I don’t care HOW people, especially young people, choose to read. By screen or by turning pages matters not. What matters is that they *are* reading and based on the industry information I’ve seen, reading more. I don’t even care if they are reading cheat books (I don’t know if that’s the right term or not) for their video games. They are reading, comprehending, and learning whether they know it or not. That’s all good, IMO.

    Paper sales are down some this year and last, in certain genres more than others. E sales are rising, again in certain genres more than others. Will most people one day convert to digital reading? Considering the history, I’d say ‘yes’ is a safe bet. Will print completely disappear? Well, to answer that, have all authors completely stopped writing books by hand? Or using a typewriter? Those answers are no, so I doubt print will completely disappear and not just because some people prefer to hold a spine and turn pages. Also because putting words on a lasting form of ‘paper’, be it stone or papyrus or pressed wood pulp, is something man has been doing since he figured out how to write.

    To perhaps take the thread in another direction, I offer my hope for the future of books. I think print will change immensely, but by that I mean a move from wood pulp to a synthetic composite which allows the same benefit of paper without the ‘negative’ ecological impact. I think this perhaps as yet uninvented future ‘paper’ will allow for less cost – to both buyer and producer- while still fulfilling the desire to put words down for posterity in a physically tangible format. In fact, this product could perhaps open a doorway for a blend of e and print, where the ‘paper’ could potentially work as a screen, with the option for digital information presentation. Then one could flip through the same, say twenty, bound ‘pages’ getting the feel of reading an ‘real’ book, while allowing the option of changing the content of those ‘pages’ simply by selecting a different title from one’s e-library. Or, a larger version, could be strictly dedicated to one specific title, and the bound ‘pages’ would then remain one book, forever.

    Now wouldn’t that be cool?

  265. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 19:49:33

    Please allow me just a moment to giggle in coquettish excitement. !!!!! Okay, I’m done. Thank you.

    Shirley, your comment jogged something free in my brain! I can easily imagine tween and teens transitioning to e-books very easily. But I can’t imagine how many decades of tech advancement we’d have to see before there would be board books and pictures books for kids in some sort of e-format. The delivery system would have to be uber light and indestructible. And even then… I don’t know. Seems like we’re still looking at many, many decades of children being introduced to books via paper. And if that is EVERYONE’S first taste of books (Ha! Literally.)… board books and touch-and-feel stories and bookshelves packed with the written word…

    Yeah. I’m not sure even the general public will ever make a full transition.

    Victoria, who’s still waiting 8-10 weeks for her Kindle to arrive!

  266. Katrina Strauss
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 19:52:08

    Katrina, I feel, sincerely, you and a few others are projecting your own frustrations and upset onto those of us who not only support what you're doing, but think it's a wonderful thing-but simply prefer to enjoy books in the form we like. Since we don't choose to read in YOUR form, we're obviously not supportive enough.

    I assure you I do not fall into that camp. Two years ago I might have, but spending time here in blogland with indie to NY authors alike has, as I stated previously, made me more open. However, I talk with “strictly e” authors who do feel that way, and while it no longer bothers me, I know it distresses others. Meanwhile I still run into folks who will not even give my work or other works a try that are only available in e-book form. Since I’ve found a readership already on board with e-books, I figure hey, if someone won’t try out a new author based on format, their loss, and move on to someone who doesn’t need convincing. So no frustration here.

    I was a reader first, an author second, and I support reading and writing, period. I simply find it ironic to hear print authors point out a certain term or attitude regarding e vs. print rubs them the wrong way, when I converse regularly with e-book authors who feel the same way but from the opposite side of the fence. As Lynn pointed out, she writes books. To play on Shakespeare, it’s the story that’s thing. But not every reader — or award-giving writer’s association — sees the various choices out there as simply “books” or “stories”, and yes, some do make sweeping generalizations. Authors whose work is only available in e-book can’t help but derive satisfaction as more folks discover the medium.

    Do I want to see print completely phased out? No. Will I turn down a chance for print? No. I’m a true bibliophile who loves walking into libraries and bookstores just so I can stand there and inhale the scent of old paper and ink. But if I’d never given e-books a try, I’d have missed out on some brilliant new talent.

    No offense intended, Ms. Roberts, just as I’ve learned none should be taken when this issue comes up. One row of my physical bookshelf is devoted to Roarke and Eve alone, and I won’t be parting with those paperbacks anytime soon. It’s just that I’ll be reading their future adventures on my Sony 505.

  267. shirley
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 19:59:30

    Shirley, your comment jogged something free in my brain! I can easily imagine tween and teens transitioning to e-books very easily. But I can't imagine how many decades of tech advancement we'd have to see before there would be board books and pictures books for kids in some sort of e-format. The delivery system would have to be uber light and indestructible. And even then… I don't know. Seems like we're still looking at many, many decades of children being introduced to books via paper. And if that is EVERYONE'S first taste of books (Ha! Literally.)… board books and touch-and-feel stories and bookshelves packed with the written word…

    Oh, but think about those uber flexy cutting boards that are available now. Scratch proof, light-weight, heck dishwasher safe even. Now think about how much transformation the computer chip has made just in the last five years. There are chips now that are smaller than the tip of a pencil, but offer more computing power than half a cities worth of desktops. That’s what I’m imagining. A high tensile, poly-carbonate or something like, which is paper thin. I don’t think that’s even decades away. Look at flat screens. In five years they’ve gone from five to eight inches thick to barely more than three inches thick.

    And OMG, I have to say, I’d have loved cleanable books for my kids when they were young. I don’t know how many Dr. Seuss’ I’ve bought in my life, even the heavy board types, because someone spilled a meal or drink on it and it was ruined.

    But we’re still ‘right’. Paper, or something equivalent, won’t completely disappear and I don’t think it should. It’s a unique and lasting medium that mankind should be proud of and like anything else, if it’s well enough loved (or turns enough profit, lol) humanity will find a way to ensure it’s continued existence.

  268. XandraG
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 22:09:06

    I want to read all my books tattooed on the backs and rear ends of muscular, tanned cabana boys that follow me around everywhere I go. They’re portable, they’re waterproof, and awesome for the environment!

    And my three year old is rarely seen without her Leapster and reads “board” books at starfall.com.

    Paper, or something equivalent, won't completely disappear and I don't think it should. It's a unique and lasting medium that mankind should be proud of and like anything else, if it's well enough loved (or turns enough profit, lol) humanity will find a way to ensure it's continued existence.

    I read both paper and e, and my only real, true requests as a reader/consumer for paper, or the future equivalent, is for the system to not be wasteful (former lean manufacturing consultant here–the publishing industry makes our heads explode on a regular basis)…and for the damn glue to be strong enough to withstand a reading or two.

  269. library addict
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 00:22:20

    Yes. And when they're being passed over because “I don't want to read on my desktop,” when there are PDAs, iPhones, ebookwise and those blammo e-ink devices all over the place, well, it rankles that your books are being passed over because potential readers are uninformed.

    I am a paper book lover and can't ever see giving up paper books altogether.

    I've also purchased quite a few e-books. I don't have a dedicated e-book reader or a cell phone that allows me to read e-books (I just got the Sony Walkman phone and was happy to join the MP3 crowd). Reading on my PC or clunky old laptop is not comfortable for a full length book, though I have often done it.

    But realistically, until the price of reading devices -’ especially the I've-heard-it's-really-lovely E Ink type -’ become drastically more affordable I don't see myself doing more than 5% of my reading in e-format.

    But even if I won the lottery tomorrow and was able to purchase the Sony Reader, I would still buy paper books. I love reading a physical book. I'm like Nora's (or JD's) Roarke, I like the aesthetics of books. Hardback more than Mass Market, and I really don't like Trade (sorry, but they do mess up my bookshelves :P )

  270. MaryK
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 00:44:45

    @Victoria Dahl: “Can we stop pretending that e-readers don't cost a boat-load of money? ”

    Yes, let’s.

  271. Ann Somerville
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 01:12:44

    @MaryK:
    I read dozens of ebooks a year – I don’t own any form of ereader. I do have a computer though.

  272. MaryK
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 01:28:24

    @Katrina Strauss: “I simply find it ironic to hear print authors point out a certain term or attitude regarding e vs. print rubs them the wrong way, when I converse regularly with e-book authors who feel the same way but from the opposite side of the fence.”

    So, because there are people who say “I don’t read ebooks,” it’s acceptable for ebook people to say “Your books are dead trees”?

    Then, because there are romance fans who say “I never read horror, mystery, etc.,” is it acceptable for horror, mystery, etc. fans to say “Your books are bodice rippers”?

    Disagreements over personal preferences are not grounds for name calling and disparagements. Ebooks aren’t different from any other product in that “I still run into folks who will not even give my work or other works a try” is a complaint of everybody who has sold anything in the history of selling things.

  273. Persephone Green
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 03:28:50

    @Anion:

    It’s not for me to be judging mothers on their child-rearing habits, but…yes, it *does* actually strike me as childish to say you’re certain you’ll dislike something without even trying it. It strikes me as a characteristic of someone who never steps outside of their own comfort zone, who never takes risks, who may miss out on something they’d like because they’re too stubborn to admit they just for once might be wrong.

    If you only spent five seconds with a Sony Reader and said you hated it, I might roll my eyes, but I certainly wouldn’t harp on you about it. Taste is taste. But refusing to try something, even if only once and for free, that for some people is their only medium of reaching consumers? Yes, it appears insulting. Even Nora admits to at least looking at her friend’s Blackberry before passing judgment.

    I love books. I love print books because of the cover art, the longevity, the permanence of the paper. Given that old computers release loads of dioxins on developing countries who use them for scrap metal, I’m not inclined to believe e-ink will be completely environmentally friendly. But I would be remiss if I did not feel disgust at the system of returns we now have that is so wasteful and harmful to the environment, right now. Dioxins may be able to be cleaned up. Cutting down trees prevents those trees from producing oxygen and consuming carbon dioxide. Global warming, once we reach the tipping point (which is coming very, very soon), will be irreversible.

    I want both forms because I admire the art form of print but enjoy way more stories than I do cover art. I read ebooks, and if I love the story, I buy the print version.

    We pass around books in my family as well, but reading aloud is the only way to share the same time slot that we could with a movie, and frankly, I’m a voice actress, so I’m picky about vocal narration. A book is a better overall time investment, but it is a solitary investment nonetheless. A movie doesn’t have to be.

    Frankly, books aren’t competing with movies. They’re competing with the Internet, video games, channel-surfing, multimedia games, more toys, sports, fanfiction, etc. Mainly the Internet, but also the immediacy of portable devices that provide mobile means to access what used to be fixed entertainment like TV and film.

    Eighty years ago, you could read a book on the bus. Now, you can talk on a phone, watch a film or TV, listen to music while reading, surf the web, or play video games. It’s a battle for the five-minute gaps of free time, not the three-hour evening slots.

    Oh, and my parents try to use the internet as little as possible. Mom hates it. I can tell she’s being dragged into the twenty-first century by the heels. She takes baths every day and gets the newspapers (and her books) wet on occasion because she always reads in there. She looked horrified when I told her that hardcover sales were slowly being threatened by the economy and current reading trends. She said she’d never, ever read from an e-reader, that she ‘wants to feel the pages in her hands.’

    I casually pointed out the Sony Reader to Dad at our Borders over the holidays when we were all shopping together, thinking he would get a kick out of it. I don’t own an e-reader, because I have no problem (yet) using my old PDA and my computer. The next thing I knew, he’d dragged Mom over, and they were practically drooling over the device.

    “That is really cool,” Dad said. “Just like real paper.”

    “Would you ever buy one?” I asked.

    “If I could buy the books I wanted? Definitely.”

    That last answer was my Mom.

  274. Jules Jones
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 03:32:57

    One of the points I think Katrina has been trying to make is that it’s not really the “I don’t read ebooks” that has set up the defensive attitude a lot of epubbed authors have. It’s the repeated encounters with people who equate being epublished with being vanity published. Yes, they are out there, and I have encountered them. People who make it very clear that they consider themselves Really Published, while I am a vanity published author who is only epubbed because I’m not good enough to get a Real Publisher interested.

    Some of these people earn rather less money from their Really Published books than I do from my epublished books. Some of them are, in fact, published by the likes of AuthorHouse, and thus *my* reaction is to point and laugh at them. But a lot of epubbed authors get very fed up with it, and very prickly about disparaging remarks about ebooks, to the point where they see even “I don’t read ebooks” as disparagement rather than a factual statement.

    Now, until I got my Cybook late last year, *I* was one of the people who don’t read ebooks. I understand very well why a lot of people won’t even try ebooks. Several commentators have mentioned the eyestrain issue, but my big bugbear has only been touched on lightly — RSI. So I certainly distinguish between “I don’t read ebooks because the format doesn’t suit me” and “I don’t read ebooks because if it’s an ebook it must be unfiltered slush”. The comments in this thread have been of the former variety.

    The same thing can be said of “dead tree”. Some people are using it as an insult, but many are not. I use it, because I picked it up as a bit of geek humour, used amongst people who enthusiastically read words regardless of whether they’re on dead trees or dead electrons. I’ve been using it for years, years in which I was one of the people who wouldn’t read anything longer than a short story in electronic format because the format didn’t suit me.

  275. Ann Somerville
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 04:25:31

    Cutting down trees prevents those trees from producing oxygen and consuming carbon dioxide. Global warming, once we reach the tipping point (which is coming very, very soon), will be irreversible.

    [Warning: Science Content]

    Cutting down trees is not causing global warming. Trees both make and consume CO2, just as they release and consume 02. The only time trees sequester carbon is when they are buried deep, don’t rot, and essentially become coal. We are going through global warming not because we’re cutting down new trees, but because we’re digging up old ones and releasing long sequestered carbon into an atmosphere which until the last couple of hundred years or so, has had a pretty low level of CO2 compared to other periods of life on earth.

    Paper made from trees – note, you can make paper from lots of things, including hemp, and if we did more of that, paper would be a lot less damaging a product – is bad because it increases deforestation of virgin and long standing forests, thus degrading and destroying habitats supporting many different lifeforms, and increasing problems like erosion and flooding. Deforestation of the Amazonian rainforest is literally changing world climate – which is not the same thing as global warming. Worse still, diverse forests are replaced by monocultures of quick growing conifers which support very few animals, and certainly not in countries where those conifers are not native, such as Australia.

    Paper milling releases toxic waste, uses precious water supplies, and is a dirty, high-energy-consuming industry. Therefore wasting paper is irresponsible. Wasting any commodity which depends on environmental degradation is obscene.

    Having said that, paper, like plastic, does have essential and often nonreplaceable uses. Paper records are less vulnerable to the kind of obsolescence and data loss that funnily enough I use as a theme in my new novella (Reaching Higher, if anyone’s interested.) You don’t have to struggle with DRM, capricious or badly managed servers, or your ebook repository going broke, up in smoke, or corrupted by a random power strike. Paper has been around a while, and we’re a long way from replacing it with anything less damaging, easier to use, or cheap.

    However, because paper is an environmentally costly product, I am bitterly opposed to the current returns process in the publishing industry which is so enormously and pointlessly wasteful. I would – no disrespect to Ms Roberts and her business interests intended – rather have more POD machines and service points, and fewer clerks (though experience tells me technology tends to breed assistants, not remove them), and have more books of the transitorily entertaining kind in eformat because let’s face it, a lot of romance is not deathly stuff, and far fewer books printing in hard cover and expensive formats just to boost egos and incomes.

    If any company or any writer’s career depends on the returns system as it operates now, then I have zero sympathy. Waste of this kind is literally costing the earth, and we have to stop writing cheques that the environment is no longer able to cast.

    [Science Content Over]

    Besides – Trees pretty, factories not.

  276. Ann Somerville
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 04:31:27

    Some people are using it as an insult, but many are not.

    I literally had not, until today, seen anyone react negatively to the phrase ‘dead tree book’.

    Now if someone said ‘omigod, your book is made out of murdered trees’ then you would know they were extracting the urine.

    I think unless Greenpeace do a PETA and start telling people to call trees ‘green kittens’, it’s pushing it a bit to see every instances of ‘dead tree’ as a slap in the face to print authors. After all, we wipe our bums backsides with dead trees too.

  277. Jules Jones
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 04:39:15

    Anne @276: I’ve had it used to me as an insult back in my fanfic days, because I was one of the dinosaurs who insisted on publishing my fic in paper zines instead of putting it online. It was mostly joking, but only mostly.

  278. Ann Somerville
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 04:47:20

    @Jules Jones:

    Never heard the expression at all until I started writing original. Never use it either. I still think the people with the biggest hang ups over form are those in the print side of things, but there’s a lot of ‘la la la I can’t HEAR you’ going on in the e-side when people point out issues of quality, compatibility and DRM.

    Me, I want to be able to walk into a book store, order any book on the planet (especially all that fabulous gay fiction I see on Amazon and can’t afford to ship here) and have the only choices to consider be whether it’s printed on the spot, put on a CD, or loaded into a reader device for me. Or tattooed onto Johnny Depp’s bum backside :)

  279. Nora Roberts
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 06:34:34

    ~But a lot of epubbed authors get very fed up with it, and very prickly about disparaging remarks about ebooks, to the point where they see even “I don't read ebooks” as disparagement rather than a factual statement.~

    Then I have to say those who have this reaction need to grow some skin. Publishing can be a bitch, and if some are going to see insults where none are given, they’re going to be really unhappy a lot of the time.

    ~I simply find it ironic to hear print authors point out a certain term or attitude regarding e vs. print rubs them the wrong way, when I converse regularly with e-book authors who feel the same way but from the opposite side of the fence.~

    But I haven’t made any disparaging remarks about ebooks, or indicated I don’t think they’re ‘real’ book–nor has anyone here that I recall. And still, paper books have been referred to as dead tree books. So, I guess I find *that* ironic.

    ~If you only spent five seconds with a Sony Reader and said you hated it, I might roll my eyes, but I certainly wouldn't harp on you about it. Taste is taste. But refusing to try something, even if only once and for free, that for some people is their only medium of reaching consumers? Yes, it appears insulting.~

    No, it doesn’t. I’ll grant stubborn but not insulting. If someone doesn’t want to try something–their choice–and refuses to, they’re just not your customer. Even stubborn’s a stretch for me because I don’t understand why anyone should be obliged to move out of their comfort zone, particularly to accommodate someone else.

    And for me, the more I’m pushed to do so, the more I’m likely to dig in my heels.

    Choices are often about taste, about lifestyle, about habit, finances and scores of other things. I like to read paper books, I like my pretty simple phone (that actually does a lot of things I haven’t and likely never will try). If I were still touring and traveling extensively, I might take another look at my dil’s Blackberry with all those intimidating buttons as it would be useful on the road. Just as I might take another look at a reader, considering it would lighten my luggage load. But I don’t tour or travel extensively, so neither of these items suits my taste, my habit, my lifestyle. That’s not an insult to anyone. It’s my life.

  280. Imogen Howson
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 06:41:12

    I’m sure Ms. Roberts doesn’t need my help making her point, but I’m published solely in e-form and I have always assumed “dead-tree books” was meant as a little slap at print books. Or, if not a slap, at least a deliberate pointing out of “a tree died to make your book”.

    So, when used in a conversation with print authors, it does have some of the impact of talking about eggs to someone who doesn’t buy free-range and calling their eggs “eggs from caged hens”. It’s factually correct, but it’s also a loaded term (not that I’m trying to say print books are the ethical equivalent of battery farming–I’m just commenting on the loaded-ness of the term).

    People are–obviously–free to use the terms they want, and if you want to make an environmental point then I guess “dead tree” is a way to do it. But calling them print books would be just as correct, and would avoid offence. Which kind of seems like a plus to me.

    As an aside, I don’t much mind people saying they don’t read ebooks (I mind a little cos it’s always sad to hear about a sale that will never be). I do mind, intensely, when I’ve explained in detail what epublishing is (professional company, contract, royalties), that people still say to me, “Oh, that’s your book that’s on the internet, isn’t it?” As if it’s just stuck up on a web page somewhere. I realise, of course, that that’s to do with my vanity, but still–inward snarling.

  281. Ann Somerville
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 06:53:39

    @Imogen Howson:

    It's factually correct, but it's also a loaded term.

    Forgive me if I’m just a little jaundiced and uninterested in what offends romance authors right now, when too many of them dismiss much more serious concerns with facile explanations that it’s okay to use truly vile insults if you don’t mean to offend anyone. ‘Dead tree’ pales into nothing compared with some of the things said to and about me and people I know lately, and romancelandia is just fine with that.

    I don’t use the term. I see no need for it. But I also see no need for someone of Ms Roberts immense stature to give a flying cheesy wotsit what anyone here calls how she’s published. It’s not like she has a thing to prove. She can laugh all the way to the bank and the awards ceremony and her next contract, and the mockers, if so they be, can sit on their butts and wonder where they went wrong.

    “Oh, that's your book that's on the internet, isn't it?” As if it's just stuck up on a web page somewhere.

    How do you think I feel when people look at the fact I have free books “stuck up on a web page” on my site, and assume that’s because they aren’t good enough to be published, that any books I do have published must be vanity published, and that my writing is crap because I’m not with a New York publisher even though I write in a genre New York won’t touch with Johnny Depp’s pole? I can’t even convince people who buy my ebooks that the free stuff is probably even better, and a lot cheaper. To them, it’s not ‘real’, and even though all they’re risking is time, they won’t take that chance.

    I used to think all that mattered was telling a good story. Now I realise a good story is the last thing that matters. It’s all about status, and contacts, and luck, and writing what’s hot, and having good editorial support. A monkey with a typewriter will have some degree of success if they have the rest of it – and be taken more seriously than many e-pubbed authors too.

  282. Imogen Howson
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 07:07:41

    Oh, I also have free reads on my website. And I don’t think they’re lower in overall quality than my published ebooks (although one has an embarrassing continuity error that a copy editor would have picked up, and that I must fix!).

    But I find it irritating when they’re lumped together with my published books, that have been through the whole submission and editing process and that make me eligible for full membership of the RNA. Because I wouldn’t go round telling people I was published if all I had was free reads on my own website. Not because it’s bad, but because it’s just not the same thing.

  283. Nora Roberts
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 07:36:16

    My stature has nothing to do with it. I’m a writer.

    I’m pissed off when someone refers to my work or Romance in general as bodice rippers. It’s insulting and inaccurate. I don’t laugh all the way to the bank. I sit on my butt and write–like the rest of us, and like the rest of us take a lot of pride in my work, and some offense when–I like the term loaded–a loaded phrase or term is used to refer to that work. And, to me, dead tree books is a loaded phrase.

    And the fact that some dismiss issues important to you, Ann, doesn’t make issues that are important to others less.

    ~I used to think all that mattered was telling a good story. Now I realise a good story is the last thing that matters. It's all about status, and contacts, and luck, and writing what's hot, and having good editorial support.~

    What bollocks. Yes, luck matters as does good editorial support–but without a good story you’re not going to get very far on luck, and unlikely to get the editor in the first place. Status? How do you get it without consistently telling a good story that appeals to a readership?

  284. Ann Somerville
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 07:52:44

    And the fact that some dismiss issues important to you, Ann, doesn't make issues that are important to others less.

    And yet you said “I've come to think that many e-authors are looking for an insult, and entirely too pushy and over-sensitive.”

    Actually, if people dismiss issues important to me, what happens is I give less of a damn about what gets them upset. And in the scheme of things, ‘dead tree book’ or what have might be a loaded term, but not what you might call the worst thing anyone could say about you, is it? At least you’re not dealing with people saying your writing is not real etc, and you characterising those trying to explain how constant that attack is as ‘oversensitive’ doesn’t make me particularly sympathetic to your cause.

    If that sounds harsh, well, yes it is. You don’t need me to support you. You are, after all, in the vast and powerful majority of successful writers, and authors like me are not. You can say ‘oooh, my feelings are hurt’ and three thousand fans will rush to defend you. I don’t see you need to be defensive when you don’t need defending.

    How do you get it without consistently telling a good story that appeals to a readership?

    In my experience and in my genre – arsekissing. Talent has bugger all to do with it.

    Call that bollocks or whatever you like. But you don’t move in the epublishing world, and I do, and I know what I know.

  285. Nora Roberts
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 08:20:07

    Jeez, Ann.

    First, that is the impression I’ve gotten in this thread–some epubs strike me as over-sensitive. And definitely pushy. Far from all, but some with comments here, yeah. Which isn’t dismissing their issues, but saying that I’ve felt pushed because I don’t read in e-form.

    Of course, the dead tree term isn’t the worst thing someone could say. I never said or indicated it was. That’s taking it over-the-top. I said I didn’t like it, said why.

    I haven’t attacked you or any e-writer, nor has anyone one this thread, nor do I have a ’cause’. I have an opinion.

    I’m not asking you or anyone to support me–I thought we were having a discussion.

    I took your final statement to mean publishing in general, so I’ll bow to your knowledge and experience in the e-world as you’re right, I have none. But I will say I hope you’re wrong, as what you said doesn’t speak well of epublishing, nor does it bode well for the future of that form if ass-kissing is key, and talent means nothing.

  286. Shannon Stacey
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 08:42:16

    And yet you said “I've come to think that many e-authors are looking for an insult, and entirely too pushy and over-sensitive.”

    Call that bollocks or whatever you like. But you don't move in the epublishing world, and I do, and I know what I know.

    I move in the epublishing world and Nora’s not wrong. I think constantly trying to gain respect and battle against legitimate and real slights has caused a lot of epublished writers to become so over-sensitive they see offense where none was given or intended. The twisting of her words in this conversation to look offensive when they clearly weren’t is just one small example.

    And considering it looks like we won’t be happy until Nora buys a Kindle, pushy’s not so far off the mark, either.

  287. Gennita Low
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 09:30:15

    @Ann Somerville:

    But I also see no need for someone of Ms Roberts immense stature to give a flying cheesy wotsit what anyone here calls how she's published. It's not like she has a thing to prove.

    I didn’t see that as Nora having to prove anything. She merely expressed an opinion about a term, one I’ve listed on my blog as a 2008 term/word that I’ve picked up on the Intertubes, in fact. I had laughed when I first came across it and had also realized that it was meant as a little jab, which I appreciated because I enjoy a good-humored jab now and then. But in a discussion in which e-authors are bringing up points about why certain image issues make them uncomfortable and feel insulted, I don’t see why Nora’s bringing up her own dislike of having printed books being called “dead tree books” as irrelevant, just because she is already successful and has “nothing to lose.”

    Nobody’s opinion should be dismissed just because she is who she is. It’s not as if she jumped in screaming on top of her voice that everyone should view the term wrong, immoral, insulting and anyone who uses it are evil Nazi puppy-boilers.

    I’m just saying that I’ve learned much when authors speak up about their experiences and reactions. How they expressed them is also part of that education.

  288. Jane
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 09:42:37

    Crap, I lost my own comment due to computer negligence. Anyway, the constant dunning of people who don’t prefer to read ebooks only turns people away from epublishing and ebook reading. And it makes people look like asses.

    No offense to Nora, but she’s only one person. If she truly hated e technology, she wouldn’t allow her books to be in digital form but hers were in digital form way in the early stages.

    There’s quite a bit of hubris going on here and much of it NOT reflecting well on epublishing or ebook reading. Let me tell you that you guys who love digital so much are doing no service to those of us who are trying to convince people how great digital is which pisses me off.

  289. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 09:44:51

    I am so not wading through the 200+ comments going on…but a few things caught my eye.

    Nora said…

    I'm not uninformed-and I'm just going to say it-It's annoying that it's assumed if you don't want to read on a screen you just don't get it, are uninformed

    Hell, I’ve got 40+ titles out in ebook from my epubs. And up until I bought myself a Sony Reader, I didn’t read ebooks. It was just too hard on my eyes.

    So about ebook readers in general…

    I do have a Reader and I love it more than I ever thought I could. But those are my choices. I’m not going to make somebody feel like they need to plunk out the money to be a Reader/Kindle/whatever.

    If somebody tells me they don’t read ebooks because they don’t like reading from a PC, I’m more than happy to show them my Reader and several have fallen in love with the idea. Several have bought one.

    Others didn’t like the idea so much. That’s fine.

    And still despite the fact that I love my Reader, I don’t always choose to read on it. Even if a book is available in ebook format. Sometimes I just want print. My choice.

    We have to remember ebooks are still relatively ‘new’. With the breakout of the Kindle and the Sony, we’ve got a lot more people looking into ebooks and as the technology becomes mroe common, we’ll have even more people looking to them in the future.

  290. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 09:46:45

    Nora also said…

    I've come to think that many e-authors are looking for an insult, and entirely too pushy and over-sensitive.

    Sad, but in my opinion, it’s true.

    Yes, I can understand why some/a lot/many epubbed authors get touchy, because it wasn’t that long ago when I had people laughing in my face over the fact that I was epubbed and I was told, numerous time, ‘I guess you took that route because you couldn’t hack it in the real publishing world’. :o| Absolutely. Couldn’t sell to NYC if I tried. *Morons*

    However, the fact that epubbed authors had a lot of negativity doesn’t mean we need to jump down the throats of others. Even if it’s somebody that’s given us grief directly in the past.

    All it does is make you look unprofessional, and too often, it just makes the insulter feel validated. And it also makes the insults look valid in the eyes of observers.

    You prove to others than you’re a professional and worthy of respect by acting professional and demonstrating respect.

  291. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 09:48:18

    About advances…

    Personally, I think the multimillions that are paid to celebs for bios and to ‘new’ authors who may or may not be the next big thing are chancy deals and I can see that they may be hurting publishers. A proven author has earned the multimillion, and the trust, and is worth the risk. New, unproven authors, no, even if they may very well have the next big thing. And celeb bios??? How many ever earn out the advance? When they don’t, the publisher eats it and that will hurt the industy.

    But…

    And many writers depend on the advance to pay the bills, just like much of the rest of the world depends on a weekly or monthly paycheck. Some need that advance in order to afford to sit down and write. In a business with few guarantees, the advance is one for the writer.

    I agree, and that's what advances were originally intended to do. But if you could earn 50% higher royalties on your books with an advance half the size or 1/3 the size, would you ever consider that?

    Kirsten, that depends. When do I get the money? I’ll be getting an advance in the next month or two for books that won’t be out until 2011. That money will let me pay for promo, in advance when it does the most good, it will let me pay down promotional expenses, and it will also help me take care of my family, meet my obligations, just as a paycheck is supposed to.

    It meets those needs now-getting the money, even possibly MORE money in 2011, isn’t going to provide for those needs now and if I don’t have something to provide for those needs now, those 2011 books won’t get written because I’d be going back to work full or part time to meet my obligations.

    Advances for authors DO make sense. Especially proven authors. If Jove wants to pay NR $500 Gazillon dollars, I wouldn’t blink an eye. She’s proved she can sell, and then some. But paying the same fee to a celeb bio (again…do those ever earn out) or to an unknown, it doesn’t make sense to me.

  292. Jane
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 09:52:32

    @Shiloh Walker

    It meets those needs now-getting the money, even possibly MORE money in 2011, isn't going to provide for those needs now and if I don't have something to provide for those needs now, those 2011 books won't get written because I'd be going back to work full or part time to meet my obligations.

    But why is that how it should be? I mean, yes, I understand that an author needs payment now but that is because that is the system you are familiar with. If the system for payment of authors in publishing was at the time of sale of their work then their expectations and planning would change. And, not to sound harsh, but why should the payment system care about when you have to work full time or part time to meet your obligations? If advances are an inefficient part of the system and part of the reason that it is a dying business model (as some have suggested) then you are just gaining in the short run.

    As an eauthor yourself, you haven’t always been part of the advance system so you know that publishing can work a different way. It’s more advantageous for the author to bear no risk for her work which is essentially what advances do – eliminate the risk, but the less the risk in any endeavor and the lower the reward.

  293. Anion
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 09:52:48

    @Persephone Green:

    I didn’t say I was certain I’d dislike Titanic without ever having seen it. I said I was certain it doesn’t interest me. I do not care for Leonardo DiCaprio; I do not care for Kate Winslet.

    I do not care for historical revisionism, or films that turn heroes into villains. I do not care for filmmakers who disregard the express wishes of the families of people who lost their lives by filming their graves.

    I am not interested in the film. I don’t like movies with unhappy endings. I do not like tearjerkers.

    I know whether or not the movie interests me. It does not. That’s not childish; it’s refusing to waste my time on something that is essentially totally unimportant. It’s a fricking movie. Who the fuck cares if I watch it or not?

    Just like this. While I love books and make my living writing them, and so of course think reading is important, whether or not I or anyone else likes reading ebooks is not a big deal. It’s a personal preference. It’s no different from the fact that I prefer Coke to Pepsi. It’s not earthshaking.

    (But while I’m on the subject, why in the world is it childish to say you’re sure you won’t like something without trying it? I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like shaving my head; must I do it once to be sure? I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like smoking banana peels; must I do that once to be sure? I’m pretty sure that, since I don’t like lamb, I would not like lamb stew, so why do I have to eat it to make sure? It’s not childishness, it’s knowing my own taste and making an intelligent supposition.)

    And quite frankly (this is no longer directed at Persephone, just to clarify), I’ve been told “I’ll read it if/when it comes out in print” as well, and it is not an insult. It doesn’t hurt my feelings to be told that, not one bit. Why would it? It wouldn’t hurt my feelings to be told “I don’t read that genre” or whatever either. I have a friend who doesn’t like paranormals or urban fantasies, so she doesn’t read my books. That’s not an insult. Why would I want to make her read something she doesn’t have any interest in, and thus probably wouldn’t enjoy?

    Some of us just don’t like reading on a screen. Perhaps I would feel differently if I had an ereader; I’d like to get one someday, sure. But until then, reading ebooks means reading on my laptop or desktop screen; it means I can’t read in the tub, or while outside for a cigarette, or while stirring soup on the stove or in the minute or two that I’m standing by the over waiting for the timer to go off. It means I can’t take it into the bathroom with me and read while I brush my teeth (what?) or while I perform any other necessary bathroom functions during which reading is convenient. Can’t prop my laptop with my knee and read while I dry my hair–or rather I could, but it would be awkward.

    Paging forward and back in ebooks is difficult for me. I hate that little grabby PDF hand. I lose my place easily.

    So until I can do all of those things with an ebook, I’m not really going to read ebooks. THat’s not an insult. It’s not saying “Ebooks are crap so I’ll never read them.”

    But just like I will not generally buy a hardcover book because I don’t like the format (too big and heavy; the problems with trades plus ten), and will only buy a HC is it’s an author I LOVE and a book I’ve been DYING for; just like if I have a choice between trade and mmp I’ll always take mmp…I don’t like to buy ebooks.

    If a book is only avilable in HC I generally don’t buy it. Is that an insult to the author?

    If a book is only available in trade I might very well not buy it. Is that an insult to the author?

    Hell, if I don’t like the back cover blurb I probably won’t buy it.

    If it’s written in first person I probably won’t buy it.

    If it’s written in present tense I definitely won’t buy it.

    If the hero in a romance is blond I might not buy it.

    If the heroine is a writer I probably won’t buy it.

    If he story revolves around a Big Misunderstanding I probably won’t buy it.

    All of those things are personal taste, and not an insult to the author.

    Your books and the format in which they are printed are not YOU. It’s not a judgement of YOU when readers decide they don’t care for something about your book, whether it’s the tense, the cover, the format, or the story itself.

  294. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 09:53:33

    And yet you said “I've come to think that many e-authors are looking for an insult, and entirely too pushy and over-sensitive.”

    Call that bollocks or whatever you like. But you don't move in the epublishing world, and I do, and I know what I know.

    I move in the epublishing world and Nora's not wrong. I think constantly trying to gain respect and battle against legitimate and real slights has caused a lot of epublished writers to become so over-sensitive they see offense where none was given or intended. The twisting of her words in this conversation to look offensive when they clearly weren't is just one small example.

    Okay, I THINK that was Stacey quoting Ann quoting Nora.

    And I just have to say…I ♥ Stacey.

  295. Shannon Stacey
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 09:59:36

    Hell, I've got 40+ titles out in ebook from my epubs. And up until I bought myself a Sony Reader, I didn't read ebooks. It was just too hard on my eyes.

    I blogged about this recently. I sold my first book to EC in Jan of ’05, but it wasn’t until the end of ’08 that I became a true e-reader by choice. It took having to pack away all my books and bookshelves for a remodel and having the right format on the right device.

    And that’s what I see as being the problem—there’s no one store where you can play with all the formats and all the devices and find one that works. In the beginning I’d buy formats I could read on my laptop, but I never got around to reading them because reading on the computer sucks. Then I got an iPaq and put Microsoft Reader on it, and hated it. Then I found Mobipocket for it and I’d read on the iPaq if there was no other way to read it. Then came the Mobi on the Palm TX and that worked for me. NOW, with Stanza on the iPod Touch, I’ll actually make a note of a book I see at Walmart and come home to buy it from Fictionwise.

    I’m hoping that the Sony reader being in Target will be a start, but unfortunately you still don’t get the opportunity to curl up on the sofa with it and see just how different from a computer screen it is.

    Finding the right combination of format and device is really a matter of personal trial and error, but there’s no way to go through that—if you don’t live near Jane or Angie—without investing a substantial amount of money.

    That’s one of the reasons I enjoy the devise conversations here. My husband bought me the Touch for Christmas and I never would have given a thought to ebooks on it, except I’d seen Stanza mentioned here. That combo—Stanza & eReader on the Touch just happens to be the perfect combo for me.

  296. Katrina Strauss
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 10:00:16

    But I haven’t made any disparaging remarks about ebooks, or indicated I don’t think they’re ‘real’ book–nor has anyone here that I recall. And still, paper books have been referred to as dead tree books. So, I guess I find *that* ironic.

    I never said that you or anyone else here did, and not sure as to why anything I’ve stated above may have been interpreted as such. I’m simply comparing the issue of what some here have expressed as “anti-print” sentiments to “anti-electronic” sentiments that are often voice throughout the community. I guess to me, it was a moment of surprise, and an indicator of the shift from print to electronic, to see a successful NY author — be it you, or any other well-known author in any given genre — expressing displeasure over a certain sentiment, when I’m so used to reading through blog posts and forum threads where it’s e-book authors dealing with the naysayers, inadvertently offensive or dismissive terminology, etc. A print author may not see the tongue-in-cheek humor behind a term like “dead tree book”, but I’ve seen the term “e-book” used elsewhere, on multiple occasions, as the disparaging term in and of itself. That’s what the “strictly e” authors have often found themselves up against, and that’s why you’ll hear some of them embrace terms of the “dead tree” variety.

    As I’ve stated more than once above, I’m no longer on a mission from God to revolutionize the publishing industry. I write what I write, in the format that I write, for readers who either don’t mind e-books or even seek e-books. If someone doesn’t want to read my e-book, oh well. I could care less if Nora ever picks up a Kindle, and I’m not here to convert her or anyone else. I was merely pointing out that, as e-book authors have been rightfully advised to grow a thicker skin (trust me, I’ve told my own peers the same thing plenty of times), then those giving out that advice would do well to do the same and not take “dead tree” comments so personally.

    With that being said, I too have told my peers (including my closest friend) that if they want print so bad, quit submitting to e-publishers. I’ve also slapped a few wrists after I’ve seen more than other e-author promote their wonderful e-book by advising folks to hurry up and buy it so they can meet sales requirements for print, then sit back and wonder why no one is buying the e-book. But at the same time, I understand what it’s like to go onto a board somewhere to promo your work, and instead of discussing said work, you instead find yourself defending the medium against skeptics. That’s why I don’t go to those places anymore, incidentally. I go where the market is, as any good salesperson would. Any converts I happen to pick up along the way are just an added bonus. :)

  297. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 10:07:23

    As an eauthor yourself, you haven't always been part of the advance system so you know that publishing can work a different way. It's more advantageous for the author to bear no risk for her work which is essentially what advances do – eliminate the risk, but the less the risk in any endeavor and the lower the reward.

    But the thing is…epublishing for me isn’t working as well as print publishing. It’s just not.

    Epublishing’s options, quick release dates, frequent release dates, those are the reason epub is profitable for some authors.

    With epublishing, basically unless you write fast and release often, you’re not going to make the money. (And by often, I mean 4-6-8 times a year-that is an exhausting pace to maintain)

    With print publishing, that’s not true.

    If there’s a way to main print publishing work for authors without advances, I can’t see it. Especially those of us on the midlist who write for a living.

    I can tell you this-if all of a sudden publishers decided to do away with advances, a lot of midlist authors wouldn’t have any choice but to just give up writing for a living.

    Without those advances, I wouldn’t be able to write the books. Because without those advances, I can’t wait 2+ years to see money. I’d be working full-time and I’d probably be going back to school as well.

    I’m not the only one in this boat. It’s pretty common for midlist authors.

    We need those advances. They are what allows us to meet our obligations so we can stay home and write. Those obligations have to met and without the advance, the only other option is working full-time. Working full time isn’t quite so conducive to writing-I know, I’ve done it, and I’d rather not go there again. It’s just too hard.

    What I think needs to be done is for publishing to reconsider HOW, WHO and HOW MUCH they pay…

    Proven authors, fine. Give them the money.

    Unproven, this is easy to handle, because a small advance is generally all an unpublished writer generally expects. That new, unpubbed writer is still working full time and chances are that book is already done and written.

    Celebs…again, I really don’t see the point-maybe offer something like $X amount based on preorders and X amount the month after the release.

    But for the midlist authors, we have to have that money. Again, because midlist authors are generally writing books on proposal, they need the time to finish the book and without money to live on, they can’t write the book.

  298. Angela James
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 10:07:31

    I’m blushing because I’ve used “dead tree books” myself in the past, with no conscious offense meant (who knows what my subconscious is doing in there) and didn’t realize that people might take it badly until several weeks ago, one of my authors commented on who much she hates the term and how offensive it is to her. I had no idea!

  299. Anion
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 10:07:39

    @Ann Somerville:

    In my experience and in my genre – arsekissing. Talent has bugger all to do with it.

    Call that bollocks or whatever you like. But you don't move in the epublishing world, and I do, and I know what I know.

    Dittoing this. I can’t speak for epublishing as it relates to m/m, but if it’s like the rest of the epublishing world…yes.

  300. Nora Roberts
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 10:08:05

    I heart Stacey, too.

    And Gennita, I just want to point out that you can’t be SURE those people aren’t evil Nazi puppy boilers. They’re sneaky, and know how to blend.

    Jane, are you talking about flat fee–in that you would be paid, at the time of completed ms–in full, no royalty base? Or that you would get the advance on future royalties–which start with publication and sale–at the time of completed work?

    If the first, there are publishers and authors who’ll work flat fee. Also a risk, of course, on both sides. And unless the publisher could and would turn that completed ms into a book, distribute it and so on in a quick turn around, it would still be speculative.

    If the second, it’s still an advance, it just doesn’t come in increments, starting with the signing of the contract.

    If you meant actual sale–retail–of their work, as I said before that could take up to a couple years after the work is completed before the author sees a penny. I don’t think anyone would be happy to work that way.

  301. Angela James
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 10:08:35

    And I just have to say…I ♥ Stacey.

    And maybe even Shannon too? Heh.

  302. Jane
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 10:11:15

    @Shiloh Walker I believe that you believe that you need the money bc else you wouldn’t be writing but how did you get into writing in the first place (and I’m not just talking about you but almost all authors who worked and wrote their novels while working). There are plenty of authors who don’t write for a living right now because they can’t / won’t write as fast, won’t change for the market bc they merely want to write for what they want to write, etc.

    I agree that advances are what allows you to meet your obligations, but that’s only bc that is the system under which you operate. If you worked on a commission only basis for your books, then you would learn to live and write differently. The system doesn’t have to support authors who need advances to meet their obligations.

  303. Shannon Stacey
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 10:12:04

    That’s funny! After almost sixteen years of having the last name Stacey, I honestly rarely notice, and I answer to it when it’s used in person. The only time I ever went out of my way to correct somebody is when my newborn son’s pediatrician said “It’s little Stacey. What are we seeing her for today?”

    “Umm…to check his circumcision, thanks.”

  304. Katrina Strauss
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 10:18:39

    I'm blushing because I've used “dead tree books” myself in the past, with no conscious offense meant (who knows what my subconscious is doing in there) and didn't realize that people might take it badly until several weeks ago, one of my authors commented on who much she hates the term and how offensive it is to her. I had no idea!

    I myself won’t be using the term anymore, outside of reference points I’ve made here in the comments to back my argument. I do take Ms. Robert’s comments to heart, believe it or not. I still think she shouldn’t take it so personally, but only because I’m certain she’d rightfully have advised me to do the same in a discussion about anti-electronic sentiments. Perhaps that’s what I found most ironic — that this author who I view and admire as one tough cookie was mildly miffed by an offhanded term that most people use in a tongue-in-cheek rather than derogatory manner.

  305. Nora Roberts
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 10:27:06

    Commission based? As in you don’t get anything until actual copies of the book are sold–then the sale is reported to the publisher from the retailer, that sale(s) go through the accounting process, then the publisher pays you? Honestly, that would take forever–at least with print books.

    Lawyers get retainers, yes? An advance on services to be rendered. In order to take a case, most require a retainer so they can pay expenses, do the work required.

    The publisher buys the book–or the proposal–or buys the rights to publish the work when complete, and to hold the sole right to publish that work for a period of time. The author is then contractually obligated not to shop that work elsewhere, and agrees to deliver said work by a certain date. Why should the publisher make no financial payment for that buy on signing of that contract? And another payment when the work is completed and accepted? Another when, as agreed, the work is published?

  306. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 10:30:01

    ow did you get into writing in the first place (and I'm not just talking about you but almost all authors who worked and wrote their novels while working).

    By writing less, and writing when I could in between working and raising two young kids. And the book that first sold to EC was written before the kids came along. It was actually a book that I worked on, off and on, for a year.

    Those who aren’t yet published are writing with the hopes of being published. The realistic ones know they may not sell right away and they aren’t going to make plans based around the money, they aren’t going quit their job in order to write more.

    Once I sold, I still worked full-time up until 2004. I’d planned to find a part time job and luck was with me, i didn’t need to, because I had a sufficient backlist with EC and I wrote frequently, and I wrote shorter stories for them. Still, the only way I was able to write when EC was my only publisher was to put out a book every 6-8 weeks. That is exhausting.

    I can’t see anyway that model that works for epubs would shift over to work in the traditional publishing world. Traditional print doesn’t have the quick turn around. They don’t have the wide variety of story lengths available.

    I agree that advances are what allows you to meet your obligations, but that's only bc that is the system under which you operate. If you worked on a commission only basis for your books, then you would learn to live and write differently. The system doesn't have to support authors who need advances to meet their obligations.

    But…when would the commission happen?

    I feel it’s unfair for anybody to expect a writer to put months into a writing a book, and then wait until the book comes out in print a year or more later.

    It’s always going to be a wait with NYC. They need time to get the covers done, to do their own promo, and everything else that goes into.

    Writers who write for a living do it because they CAN write for a living. That’s my incentive, to provide for my family. Take that incentive away and I’ll go back to penning stories for my own amusement.

    I honestly don’t believe that the midlist authors who receive nice advances, the unpublished authors who receive small advances, or the mega names that get MEGA advances are the problem.

    I feel some of the problem is when a publisher makes a gamble on unproven authors and shells out HUGE sums of money and then ends up eating that advance. I feel part of the problem stems from the ridiculous amounts paid to celebs (again…do they ever earn out?).

    And of course, the return system, but the thing is, without that return system a lot of smaller bookstores are NOT going to order, bigger bookstores will order less, and midlist and new names aren’t going to be on the shelves all that much. It will only be the big names who’ve already proven they can sell a boatload.

    Yes, I feel some changes need to be made, but if those changes are made at the expense of the authors and the booksellers, that’s not going to help anything, and it will actually hurt the reader because the reader will have far, far less to choose from.

  307. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 10:31:57

    And I just have to say…I ♥ Stacey.

    And maybe even Shannon too? Heh.

    LOL. Oops. Sorry, Shannon! The bratlet had a sleepover. I’m sleep-deprived. :)

  308. Nora Roberts
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 10:32:13

    Katrina, mildly miffed is accurate. Taken so personally isn’t.

  309. Katrina Strauss
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 10:36:29

    Katrina, mildly miffed is accurate. Taken so personally isn't.

    My apologies for any misinterpretation on my end. We’ll go with “mildly miffed” for me as well. Alliteration sounds fancier anyway. :D

  310. Jane
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 10:43:43

    @Nora Roberts There’s no question that the way that the system works now is inefficient. If print publishing moved toward more ebook like fulfillment systems, then the lag wouldn’t be so serious. But let’s assume that when an author got into publishing she knew that it would be two years before she would see profit from her work, would that change the behavior/expectation of an author?

    Not all attorneys work on retainer. When I was in private practice, we worked on contingency only and we would work, with no payment and we advanced costs, on cases that would not be “turned” or generate income for the firm for sometimes as much up to two years (or more if cases were appealed). Some cases we lost and were out those advanced costs which could range in the $100000s of dollars but that was the risk we took because other cases we settled or won and that risk paid off against the losses so I actually can empathize with the “two year wait” for money.

    @shilohwalker – from what I hear, the advances being paid out in the future for books that are in the midlist are going to be shockingly low so the system might change regardless of the author expectations.

    I’m not sure, really, how I feel about advances as a way of doing business. It seems that in publishing, the houses bear almost all the risk and advances are a risk transfer that is part of the problem.

  311. Nora Roberts
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 11:04:07

    I’m often told, when I’ve asked questions about how e-pub works, that you really can’t compare the publishing process to print. I’ve learned that’s true, for a lot of good, legitimate reasons. I don’t think you can expect print to move toward or try to follow the publication process of e, either.

    Print is always going to take considerable time to produce. Covers, binding, paper–stuff I don’t even know about and just don’t want to. And, at this time in any case, there are many, many, more print books produced that e–and the volume adds to that lag time.

    If a law firm works on contingency, they likely have several going at once. Most writers have one book going at a time, and as Shiloh said, simply couldn’t afford to write in the first place if they had to wait two years before they were paid for their work. Not unless they had another source of income.

    It’s one thing to be an aspiring writer, to eke out time to work, to write with the hope of selling and making a living. That’s part of the process of making and building a career. But when and if a publisher contracts you, yes, I feel strongly they have to pay a portion of the price up front.

    They’re a business, and part of being in business is taking a risk. The writer takes one, too. Will the publisher do a good job with the work, will it be marketed correctly, distributed well, will the cover be right and so on. Those issues are out of the writer’s control, and completely in the publisher’s. The writer controls the quality and content of the work, but the publisher controls the rest.

    They hold the lion’s share of the power, so to my mind, they should bear the lion’s share of the risk.

  312. Jules Jones
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 11:23:33

    What Nora said @311. There are differences between epublishing and print publishing, and I’d think long and hard about going with a print publisher that didn’t pay an advance.

    One of the reasons for that is that at mid-list level, the advance isn’t the majority of the publisher’s costs in bringing a book to market (at least in the sf&fantasy genre, which is the one I have some familiarity with). If a print publisher can’t afford to give me an advance, what else can’t it afford to do? There are respectable print small presses that don’t pay an advance, but that’s the catch — they’re small press.

    Right now, epublishing is small press. That’s a feature of the market penetration of the devices needed to read ebooks. A decent epublisher will compensate for the lack of advance by paying royalties monthly, from the first month of publication. I’ll take small press if that’s the appropriate market for my books, which happens to be the case for the length and genre that I write. But if Mills and Boon/Harlequin suddenly decide that they want to get into the English language yaoi market, you bet I’ll expect an advance. Because “advance” is short on “advance on expected royalties”. It’s an indicator of how much money the publisher expects to make on the book.

  313. GrowlyCub
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 11:41:49

    But if Mills and Boon/Harlequin suddenly decide that they want to get into the English language yaoi market,

    Shall I start writing them requesting they invite you to be the inaugural author for that new line, Jules? :) Just tell me, and I’ll sharpen my quill!

    I really don’t think (the normal business, not celeb) advances are the issue. I don’t see how paying $1,250 to a new and even a not so new author as an advance for a book is breaking the bank, even if you multiply that by many authors for a publishing house.

    And if anybody thinks this is ridiculously low, I did not make those numbers up, they came right from the horse’s mouth at Denvention last August at a panel that had a mix of authors with different success levels (Kevin Anderson, Lee/Miller, Robin Owens and a couple I had never heard of) and agents in the audience. My understanding was that all authors on the panel get higher advances, but they are all already published for many years.

    Owens mentioned that her new 3 book contract (with Berkley? I’m not sure I remember right) moved some of the advance money to after publication and let me tell you, the other authors were flabbergasted and so was the audience!

    While the majority of authors on this panel were SF/F, Owens is considered more romance than SF/F. I’ve heard advances are slightly higher in romance for authors starting out, but don’t know if that’s true or how much the difference is. Quite honestly, I don’t know how anybody pays any living expenses with an advance that size even if it were double or triple for a book that might take them a year to write, but maybe I’m living an extravagant lifestyle. :)

    One thing that struck me was that Steve Miller mentioned that a $2,500 advance for SF/F was considered low 25 years ago. So, if we are now at $1,250, and if you take inflation into account for 25 years, advances have actually decreased in value exponentially!

    I really think the time for mega-(celeb)-advances is over. I’m kind of surprised that publishing houses are still doing that, especially since they now seem to all belong to non-publishing conglomerates who worship the bottom line, because if we can see that that practice doesn’t work, why can’t the folks who are supposedly in the know about the industry?!?

  314. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 11:45:35

    The writer controls the quality and content of the work, but the publisher controls the rest.

    They hold the lion's share of the power, so to my mind, they should bear the lion's share of the risk.

    Ditto and ditto.

    Jane, I understand, mostly-I think, where you’re coming from. I do think some changes need to be made within the publishing industry.

    But changes affecting advances are basically penalizing authors. You may not see it as such, but trust me, from a writer’s viewpoint, that’s exactly what it looks like and how it would feel should it happen. I can say with some confidence, I’m not the only author who would feel this way.

    Whether you see it this way or not, I feel taking those advances away would also penalize readers.

    Those advances also do a lot more than just help a writer meet her personal obligations.

    They also pay for things like promo and contests.

    They pay for websites and unless you maintain your own like I do, those websites are expensive. Even my initial investment in the program I use wasn’t cheap.

    Most of us here probably agree that an author needs a website, some sort of web presence.

    Those advances pay for promo, a lot of the behind the scenes promo that is directed at booksellers and book sites.

    Those advances let authors plan contests to entice readers to their site in hopes of hooking them.

    Without the website, without that promo, without those contests, the writer isn’t going to be able to get the info out about her book very well (in some cases, at all) and without some sort of promo plan, that writer’s career becomes even more of a chancy thing.

    I promoted the hell out of my upcoming Feb book, and it was mostly promo directed at booksellers. I’ve already seen results from that promo. That promo was costly. If I didn’t have money from the advance, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.

    Like Nora mentioned, epublishing works on a different model than print- quicker turn around is possible, more frequent releases are possible. That’s part of why epub’s model works. It just won’t transfer all that well to print.

    I agree, publishing needs to modernize some, but it needs to happen in a way that won’t hurt readers, authors, booksellers or publishers. Because it’s one big circle, what impacts one group will trickle down to the others.

  315. Jane
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 11:48:33

    Fantasy and SF authors are paid lower advances than romance authors. Advances are just one part of the publishing problem/dilemma. The time lag between work being finished and work being published is another. When i say “ebook like fulfillment”, I’m talking about the time in which it takes a reader to obtain a copy of any book that is still under contract. One way for brick and mortar stores to compete with ebooks is to provide some type of immediate fulfillment plus experience. I.e., at Turn the Page, there are signings and other “events” that draw crowds. To reduce on waste (returns), a POD machine costing $50,000 that could print any book under 5 minutes in some kind of paperback would deliver at a reasonable cost that kind of immediate fulfillment.

    Certainly there is no device on the market these days, but what if, ten years ago, the publishing industry had taken some of its record profits and invested R&D into that instead of paying out advances hoping that the next book would be The Secret or the Da Vinci code. I would argue that now is particularly the time that publishing has to look to re invent itself and really challenge the way its been doing business because it simply can’t continue on the same way in every aspect, including advances.

  316. GrowlyCub
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 11:52:57

    I promoted the hell out of my upcoming Feb book, and it was mostly promo directed at booksellers. I've already seen results from that promo. That promo was costly. If I didn't have money from the advance, I wouldn't have been able to do it.

    I really don’t think the advance should be used for promo or was meant to be used that way (Nora, correct me if I’m wrong). As a reader, I feel promo should be the responsibility of the publisher, that’s why they get the lion’s share of the profits and I would have thought that would be the appeal of going with a NY publisher over an e-pub.

    I understand why an author who came from the e-world where you have to promo yourself, because the press is small, would use part of her advance this way, but do authors who were never published by an e-pub consider the advance money to be used to do their own promo?

    Curious minds want to know.

  317. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 11:58:35

    I really don't think the advance should be used for promo or was meant to be used that way (Nora, correct me if I'm wrong). As a reader, I feel promo should be the responsibility of the publisher, that's why they get the lion's share of the profits and I would have thought that would be the appeal of going with a NY publisher over an e-pub.

    Growly, authors have to handle a lot of promo. Publishers do some.

    But if we relied on publishers to do all…well, it wouldn’t happen. I imagine even the mega sellers still handle a lot of their own promo and I know for a fact that at least big seller sets aside a set percentage of every advance she gets just for promotional purposes.

  318. Anion
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 12:02:28

    $1250 is a small press advance. I don’t know who the new authors at Denvention were who got advances that small, but wow. I sure got more than that for my first NY novel, as did everyone else I know.

    Oh, and getting a portion of the advance on publication is pretty standard and has been for years. It blows, but it’s standard.

  319. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 12:06:59

    I understand why an author who came from the e-world where you have to promo yourself, because the press is small, would use part of her advance this way

    Just thought of something else…lol…actually, when it comes to promo, I’m behind the game with other print authors. I’m just now starting to do more promotion and others I know, print-published, routinely shell out large amounts of money for promo. It’s just part of the game.

    And the epubbed actually handicapped me, as far as picking up on promo. Previously, all of my promo was just chatting on the publisher lists for my epubs and posting excerpts, keeping up a website. There wasn’t as much cost involved.

    It’s a far different matter for print and it’s one I’m still trying to figure out.

  320. Anion
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 12:08:30

    And like Shiloh said, all authors have to do some promo. That’s the way it works.

    How many publicity people does the publishing house have, and how many authors? There is no way each author can get the amount of promo they’d like out of a house.

  321. Shannon Stacey
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 12:13:36

    I don’t know specific numbers, but I know Dorchester’s had a reputation for a while of offering advances low enough so other authors have gotten upset with an author for accepting it, feeling that author was aiding and abetting in the lowering of consideration for authors across the board. According to Brenda Hiatt’s “Show Me the Money” survey, their low end of the advance spectrum is $2000, which isn’t a lot more than $1250. I’ve heard, however, they make up for the inability to offer large sums up front by offering good marketing and sales support, so it’s a trade-off, I guess, and up to the author to decide what’s important for her career.

  322. Lynne Connolly
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 12:14:18

    Whether you see it this way or not, I feel taking those advances away would also penalize readers.

    I agree with you, Shiloh. The print world works on a different model with longer lead time. While I’m happy not to take advances for my epublished books, because the time between acceptance and publication is shorter (and I rather like getting the monthly check!), I wouldn’t be happy to do that with a print contract.

  323. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 12:15:04

    I have an honest question that has been bugging me for awhile. To me, e-publishing is an alternative path to publishing. I don’t know if it STILL is, but it certainly started out that way. Stories that filled a small niche that just couldn’t turn a profit in print. Edginess that couldn’t get its foot in the door. Story lengths that didn’t get much action in the print-publishing world. And yes, authors (only some, mind you) using e-publishers as a stepping stone to get to NYC.

    It was certainly an alternative path ten years ago. And five years ago. Now? I think it’s filling up more and more niches and has created whole subgenres and a boom in the e-reader industry, and I think that’s great. Is it still an alternative way of publishing? I think it is evolving into more than that. But my question is, who takes the alternative path and then demands to be recognized as “traditional”? I’m sorry, I’m struggling to find a way to say this.

    I live in Park City, which hosts the Sundance Film Festival. This is arguably one of the biggest film festivals for independent films. It operated here with much prestige and not a lot of money… until the big filmmakers realized they were missing out on something. (Sound familiar?) Now there are big-studio artsy films here to, though they aren’t allowed to compete. There are Aquafina lounges and Starbucks theaters, etc. etc. The independents DO NOT like this. They want it to remain edgy and independent. It’s part of the pride. And while there are a very few films every year that get sold to a big studio and make lots of money, most of them don’t.

    And I don’t hear the filmmakers walking around saying, “Why can’t we be just like Hollywood? Why don’t I get treated with the same respect as Spielberg?” Or, “it’s not fair that people who only go to big-budget films won’t see my movie.” It’s an alternative route to success, and they don’t expect it to be the same as being a Hollywood producer. They don’t WANT it to be the same. Are their films just as good? Oh, come on. A lot of them are better.

    Grrr, I’m frustrated with myself. I’m not saying, “this is your lot, suck it up and like it, e-pubbed authors!” I’m saying there should be a recognizable pride and accomplishment that has nothing to do with NYC. A success that is not affected by the 75% of people who’ve never watched an independent film (or read an e-book)… and yes I pulled that number out of my bottom.

    An alternative path is, by definition, NOT the traditional path. BUT, I’m sure it can be argued that e-publishing isn’t an alternative path, so enlighten me!

  324. Nora Roberts
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 12:20:56

    I did some self-promotion back in the day to help build and expand readership and exposure. My rule-of-thumb, and basic advice is that self-promo not exceed tent percent of the advance, and no more money or time than the writer can afford.

    But the website is a good point. An author’s pretty well expected–and I’ve read plenty of comments on sites like this that verify that–to have a website, to keep it updated, to make sure it’s easy to navigate.

    That costs.

    In print, a book that takes six months or less from completion to publication is considered crashed. Crashing a book costs the publisher more money.

    Time lag is part of the process. A good, strong cover can’t be designed until the ms is finished, or at least until the art department has a clear sense of the story, the theme, the elements desired. Editing can’t be done until it’s finished–line or copy ed. An editor is going to be responsible for more than one ms, and have other duties as well–acquiring, cover meeting, pitching a ms she wants to acquire, negotiating with agents, and more. The book has to go into production, has to be sold in to wholesalers, retailers. If there’s any promotion, it has to be planned and implemented.

    I can’t speak to methods of streamlining this process because I’ve never worked in publishing on the other end, but I can’t think print is ever going to have the potential for the quick turn-around like e.

  325. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 12:39:05

    And, to back up my claims of not putting this well, let me say that I was NOT referring to getting respect in the industry… But to the complaints that lots of people won’t read books that are e-published. It IS an alternative delivery system, which means you’re not going to reach traditionalists. Right?

  326. GrowlyCub
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 12:41:02

    Time lag is part of the process. A good, strong cover can't be designed until the ms is finished, or at least until the art department has a clear sense of the story, the theme, the elements desired. Editing can't be done until it's finished-line or copy ed. An editor is going to be responsible for more than one ms, and have other duties as well-acquiring, cover meeting, pitching a ms she wants to acquire, negotiating with agents, and more. The book has to go into production, has to be sold in to wholesalers, retailers. If there's any promotion, it has to be planned and implemented.

    But, Nora, besides production as in making the book physically and maybe the wholesaler pitch, all these elements are also part of e-publishing.

    I’m not arguing with you that print takes longer, but I do believe there are probably areas where NY could speed up since e- is already doing the same things, just faster.

    On average, NY stories seem to be longer (although that’s changing lately downward too, grumble), so there’s more to edit, line-edit and copy-edit, which adds to the time lag.

    Covers are one of my pet peeves. I’ve been told by several folks ‘on the inside’ that books with blond guys on the cover do not sell. I guess that means nobody’d better write blond heroes. While I appreciate that making a good cover takes time, I find that most books (both print and e) have covers that have zero, nada, ZILCH to do with the story or the characters, more often than not the characters are described as X hero/Y heroine, and the cover will have them reversed or worse. If ‘good covers take time’ is used as part of the argument that explains why NY takes longer, I have to say I’d be more convinced if most covers didn’t strike me as completely unconnected to the story inside.

    Quite honestly, if you can’t make them look even remotely like the characters inside the story, I’d prefer the publisher go with a non-people cover, or cut their heads off, or something. I just read an old Joan Wolf, where the hero is described as tawny haired and the heroine as having black hair, but what’s on the cover? A black haired guy with a blond heroine. That really irked me throughout the story and was so distracting it detracted from the story.

    Anyway, got a little distracted there, but hey, that’s the fun of these discussions! :)

  327. Robin
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 13:14:47

    And, to back up my claims of not putting this well, let me say that I was NOT referring to getting respect in the industry… But to the complaints that lots of people won't read books that are e-published. It IS an alternative delivery system, which means you're not going to reach traditionalists. Right?

    I can only speak for myself as a reader/observer, but the sense I’ve gotten from *a lot* of epublishing is that authors see it as a path to NY — as a bridge to the “traditional,” if you will. Not all epubbed authors feel this way; many really did and do see it as a true alternative and therefore of a different model/readership, etc., but I think there is enough of the bridge perception to create perhaps some conflict within epubbed circles over what its purpose and therefore its publishing model should be (and look at the numbers of authors who have crossed over, making it seem even more like a casting call for NY publishers in some instances).

    Consequently, I don’t think all e-pubbed authors are thinking along the same lines as you — that is, you choose to be independent because you don’t want those things that characterize the traditional. I think for enough epubbed authors, it *is* an issue of respect (even for those who see it as a true alternative model), because as an author you’re either looking to move into the NY world and want to be seen as NY material, or because you don’t want to move there and want to be accepted as valid in your own terms (yeah, I know this seems like a contradiction, but IMO it’s a common psychological state — like wanting approval from a disapproving parent, even though you don’t necessarily respect their opinion).

    Reading through all these comments, though, I think you hit it on the head when you mentioned respect, because my very facile assimilation of this discussion is that everyone wants respect and many feel it’s not being given (and what follows is a general reaction to the thread, not a reaction/response to your comment, Victoria). Now there’s some split around whether its withholding should make someone be more or less respectful in return (I tend to promote the “more” side, partly because IMO it’s more practical and efficient), but at core I think we’re seeing how very disrespected people feel within a community that itself is united in perceived disrespect from some outside community.

    Just goes to show that huddling together on what some would see as the margins of respectability does not promote unity, but, to some degree, a competing sense of who’s more disadvantaged. I cannot imagine that the discussion about ereading v. print reading would have endured if it were not really a discussion about who feels more dissed and how people’s perceived power in the community does or doesn’t entitle them to claim that. Power and respect — those very things that have given rise to the dynamic vis a vis the entire Romance community, which we are now playing out in different permutations through discussions like this one. IMO there’s defensiveness on both sides of the format debate, and thus a potentially endless exchange of explanations, defenses, and assumptions.

  328. Nora Roberts
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 13:27:46

    GC, yes, agreed, there are many stages that are the same in producing e and producting print.

    I did think e was generally much shorter–but I don’t know a lot about the form. The longer, the book, the longer the editing process.

    Do e’s also go through the galley process? I don’t know, but proofing galleys adds to the time–and the longer the galley, etc. I’ve got a nearly 500 page one I’m working on in the evenings right now. Unless I put everything else aside and do that exclusively, it’s going to take me several nights to proof, then turn it back in for production.

    I understand the complaints re covers from readers and authors who don’t get much attention there. But if the publisher puts time, effort, thought into it, cover design takes considerable. If the author’s reached a level where they have cover approval, that can add to the time, esp if the author’s fussy or very involved.

    I’ve also been told that most e-authors don’t have agents. I expect that cuts down on the negotiating time, and the other areas during production and planning where an agent might get involved as agents are fairly standard for print authors.

    Some of the lag time is also due to scheduling. Most NY houses have numerous imprints with numerous authors and numerous ms to be slotted in.

    I’m a pretty quick writer, and always ahead of schedule with my ms. It’s not unusual for me to have a ms complete a year or two before publication due to scheduling the book. The galleys I’m doing now are for my July hardcover, that I finished last winter, or early in the spring. I can’t quite remember.

    Oh, and as they’re not sold in like mm–and probably other factors I don’t know about–a hardcover’s complete to publication time can be much less.

  329. Zoe Winters
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 14:37:14

    Hey Victoria,

    I agree with what you’re saying about an alternative path is alternative for a reason. Those who take an alternative path should take pride in what it is and what they’re doing. But in publishing it’s a little different. You mentioned indie filmmakers. Well in filmmaking and music, being indie is cool. It’s a mark of achievement and pride.

    But it’s like there is a whole different world in publishing. If you “go indie” in publishing, or do anything a different way, half the publishing world is looking down their nose at you and trying to figure out why you weren’t “good enough” to do it their way (NY.)

    So it’s a little different. I wish that epubbed authors and indie authors would take more pride in what their doing and not try to compare themselves so much (and that includes me), but it’s much easier said than done to have pride in something when so many people within the industry think you’re a lesser mortal.

    In filmmaking even the Oscars have a segment for independently produced films. But almost all writing associations and awards for mainstream publishing do NOT have a section for excellence in indie work. (and by indie I dont’ just mean small press, I mean author produced and author financed work. Because some of it actually *is* worthy. Two of the most meaningful books I’ve read recently were by two of my indie (self-published) friends.)

    And in many of the groups they try to segregate the authors out, based on how “legit” their publisher is. Many don’t accept epubbed authors or self-pubbed authors as “real authors.” It’s like you didn’t even “write” a book or do any legitimate work on it, unless a specific and rather closed set of people “vetted” you. And that’s complete BS.

    Indie filmmakers and indie bands are still viewed within their own industries, as real filmmakers and real bands.

    People try to make the argument that indie filmmaking and bands are different because it’s collaborative. Well indie authorship is collaborative too. We still have to have help with editing and design and any facet of the process that we cannot do ourselves. We don’t work in a vacuum either. No matter how much crap gets put out by some people.

  330. Zoe Winters
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 14:46:18

    Growly,

    One thing about epubbed only work that makes it faster is, the cover can be designed “while” the author is doing final edits. But for print, you have to have it absolutely complete before you get a cover. You have to know your exact page number, and your paperweight and ppi (pages per inch), so that you can get the exact specs for cover design. So that slows it down. Everything has to be done in a certain order.

    And also in print, people who want reviews? Most major review sources expect advanced reader copies 4-5 months BEFORE print release. In order to be competitive and attract reviewer attention, a lot of publishers opt to make their ARC’s look like the final book (which means cover done.) So with some publishers, pretty much everything is done, but an extra 4-5 months have to be padded in front of the pub date, in order to get the reviews.

    So you can see how all this slows everything down.

  331. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 15:01:56

    @Zoe Winters:

    You’re right that it’s easier said than done. I totally agree. Emotions are squishy. *g*

    But I also think that the world moves so fast now, and people expect respectability to come quickly. I don’t think Sundance was the be-all, end-all when it started. It’s been around for THIRTY YEARS now. There wasn’t any money or respect at the start. It takes time to build a reputation. TIME.

    Thirty years later, there is now an alternative to the alternative here… It’s called Slamdance and runs at the same time as Sundance. Doesn’t get much money or respect yet.

    As for indie music… Yes, it’s cool. So cool it’s no longer really indie. *g* As for truly independent music, there are a few bands who’ve published to MySpace and then made it big. And millions who haven’t. But I don’t think I could start a band, post high-quality, just-as-good-as-traditional songs to MySpace, and expect my neighbors to think of me as Dave Matthews. Because if I wanted to be Dave Matthews, I suppose I would take the route that Dave Matthews took.

    If you choose the alternative route and expect traditional results, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. And if you choose an alternative delivery system, imho, you don’t get to complain that traditionalists aren’t reading your books. You can try to bring them over to the light, but that’s your responsibility, and it should be a happy one.

  332. Nora Roberts
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 15:07:54

    It struck me that if DA or a lot of the posters are really interested, maybe there’s a way for DA to interview a senior editor or managing editor, or publisher in a NY print house, and the same in an ehouse on the various steps and stages and the reason for them. Maybe even follow the progress, timing, production of a paper title and an e-title to compare how it’s done, why–or why not.

    I’d be interested anyway.

    I think it’s fairly easy to have ideas or suggestions, even complaints about how publishing is structured, but unless you’ve actually worked in the industry–in a NY house or ehouse, it’s much harder to see the whys. Some of the suggestions, ideas may work, or may work when technology takes another step or two. Some might not. It might be interesting to find out.

  333. Gennita Low
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 15:08:52

    Growly Cub,
    It’s all in the definition. What the marketing department deems as a great cover doesn’t neccesarily mean the cover is connected to the story inside. The cover is picked with an eye toward targeted market–the feel of a genre, the expectations of the general reader, how the author is perceived by her readers.

    1) The feel of the genre

    Colors to set the mood. A sexy or the suspenseful situation. Or, for comedy, a light depiction. I’m not saying that readers are happy with what are on the coves (many do complain), but over all, if you just look at covers in different sections of a bookstore, you’ll see how they kind of give off the same vibe.

    2) The expectations of the targeted market

    Most readers still love the clinches. They buy them. Some collect the books by cover art. Just look at the fan sites talking about COVERS depicting Nathan Kamp or John de Salvo. This, to the grimaces of many romance authors, is really part of the romance genre business. A sexy man on the cover is outsells a pretty fan lying on a book. This, obviously, has nothing to do with whether the hero looks like the half-naked dude on the cover.

    But there are other kinds of art. Look at the urban fantasy covers now. Tough girls in sexy leather wielding swords abound. This is connected to the “feel” of the genre (1), although personally, I’m getting weirded out by all the whole body tattoos. ;-)

    3) The author as perceived by readers
    Some of the top-tiered authors have a signature look. Some of the series have a signature look (re: J.D. Robb’s books). On some covers, the author’s name is HUGE. There is a reason for that–the readers are buying because they trust that name and know what to expect. Authors who are known for their erotic stories will usually get a more sexier cover.

    The art and marketing departments don’t have time to read the 4000 books that are coming out. What they tout as a great cover has only a little to do with what is inside a book. I must add, though, having a great editor who understands her writer is an added plus because she/he can express to the marketing department the elements in a storyline or an idea to an artist that an author 1000 miles away can’t. Some editors, especially the less experienced ones, kowtow a lot to the art and marketing departments, mainly because they don’t have much power or don’t see that a particular cover is not going to go well with the book.

    ***The above is written from my experience and from talking to friends. Other authors will have different experiences with their pub. houses and editors.

    *****************

    In relation to Jane’s essay about the book industry dying, no doubt there are changes ahead. Smaller advances and more streamlining of lines. The POD ideas voiced here probably have been tossed about in the big conference rooms. The hardest part about implementing great ideas is to convince every element of an industry–printing, publishing, writing, selling–that it’s going to work and that no one’s going to lose their job/department/income/fill-in-the-blank in the process. The Internet is only ten years old; any start-up business associated with it is still in its infancy.

  334. Angela James
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 15:17:57

    I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said, Gennita, except the internet being only ten years old :P There are actually small press online publishers who’ve been around longer than that.

  335. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 15:32:26

    Just on the chance that Anion is still following the thread, can you email me?

    shilohwalker(at)gmail.com

  336. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 15:44:52

    @Robin:

    but the sense I've gotten from *a lot* of epublishing is that authors see it as a path to NY -’ as a bridge to the “traditional,” if you will.

    Yeah, I think this is what’s causing the confused look on my face. I’m viewing it as an alternative, and there are others (not all) approaching it as a stepping stone.

    Thanks for the convo, Robin.

  337. kaigou
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 15:46:40

    For whatever reason, LJ doesn’t seem to behave when it comes to trackbacks, so consider this the manual version: posted a link back to you: smacked in the face by the long tail, though that particular post is mostly on the bookstore’s part of the equation, borders-churn, and how bookstores work as a business. Ended up being long enough that I figured I’d ruminate on long tails & possible innovations in a second post.

    Thanks again for a great post that got me thinking… man, it’s been awhile, yet I will probably always have that shopkeeper-brain hiding in me somewhere.

  338. kaigou
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 15:49:36

    For whatever reason, LJ doesn’t seem to behave when it comes to trackbacks, so this the manual version, though that particular post is mostly on the bookstore’s part of the equation, borders-churn, and how bookstores work as a business. Thanks again for a great post that got me thinking… man, it’s been awhile, yet I will probably always have that shopkeeper-brain hiding in me somewhere.

    (this may be a duplicate; I can’t tell if the first attempt was eaten or just…eaten.)

  339. Gennita Low
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 15:51:42

    @Angela James,

    Yes, you’re right ;-). I didn’t phrase it properly. The Internet, as invented by VP Al Gore (joking!), as a popular place accessible by the masses, is around ten years old. Obviously, it’s been in use by many people before that, but I don’t think it hit its stride till Mr. Windows started making things clickably easy and that cheaper memory expansion, along with multi-tasking capabilities, made it an essential aspect of businesesses and even then, it took a couple more years before the real excitement started.

    I know, for myself, going online in the 80s was like Red Riding Hood walking through the woods till the first browser was introduced, thus opening the way for that term World Wide Web as we know today. To put it into perspective, we’re now using I.E. 7.0? Or 8.0? Netscape was the king in 1994 when Microsoft released I.E. 1.0 and slowly moved in on the kill.

    Sorry, slightly o/t ;-P. Just wanted to reemphasize that e-publishing and print publishing, although tied, are two very different business models.

  340. Zoe Winters
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 16:06:20

    All good points, Victoria. It does all take time. Indie filmmaking has been around for quite awhile, and indie music has been around for over a decade. In publishing, the barriers have only recently dropped where anybody can play, and it’s going to take awhile. Especially since, almost everybody thinks they can write a book, and you rarely run into random people who say: “If only I could find the time I’d make that documentary film on migratory butterflies.”

    And if respect was the absolute most important thing to me here, I’d be doing things a different way. This is part of the trade-off of the path I’ve chosen. But like you say, emotions are squishy, and I can’t always keep mine under control. :D

    Though it is a goal. If someone doesn’t like the path I’ve taken, it’s more “my problem” than theirs, if I react to it or if I react to things that aren’t even being aimed at me. Because the world doesn’t spin around me and never will. There will always be people who disagree with things I do, whether it’s in publishing, or in other areas, and I have to grow and develop the security in myself to just do my thing, and not worry about it.

  341. AnneD
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 16:09:12

    Totally off topic and only slightly tongue in cheek:

    COVERS depicting Nathan Kamp or John de Salvo

    Do you think it would be a sticking point if at some time in the near future I decide to make a run at NY I insist on a no Nathan Kamp clause?

    As for dead tree books, can’t say it’s a phrase that appeals all that much to me even as an ePublished author, neither does calling eBooks ‘green’ totally appeal either (I’d go for efficient though). Both have good sides and bad, and who am I to poo-poo one over the other? After all I write in e, buy new mainly now in e, get out from the library on paper, and hope to one day have works published in paper as well (although, if I don’t I won’t kill myself over it).

    The paper based book will never die, but it might have to give a little shelf space up to its electronic based cousins, and I’m just fine with that, there is plenty of room for both of them.

  342. GrowlyCub
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 16:10:04

    Maybe even follow the progress, timing, production of a paper title and an e-title to compare how it's done, why-or why not.

    I'd be interested anyway.

    That would be fab. I’d be very interested as well. As Nora said, it’s easy to make suggestions when you have no clue what really goes on. I’d love to learn how the process works.

    I totally understand why print takes longer overall, I just think that since it can be done faster (as Nora mentioned with ‘crashed’ books), there may be lessons in there how to apply that industry wide and maybe not cost extra as it does now. Anything that cuts out time in the middle will be cost reducing and thereby profit-enhancing.

    Gennita, all valid points, to a degree (except the internets, they’ve been around a while longer than 10 years. :) I just picked on the cover issue because it’s one of my pet peeves when they not only not depict the characters in the story, but depict characters from a different one, lol.

    I agree that covers are used in signaling. While I’ve seen some pretty UF covers, I find them useful mostly in that they signal to me to stay far, far away from the book, same with the darker, often abstract suspense covers, the loud colored cartoon humor/chick lit covers, and the soft-toned women’s lit covers. Let’s see, did I miss anything? grin If it’s not historical or contemporary, its chances of being read by me are miniscule and I’m grateful that covers do help me in weeding out what I want and do not want to read. This gets very tricky though, when the book is mislabeled or mis-covered…

    I’m one of those narrow folks who got castigated up-thread for not wanting to read things I have no interest in and like Nora, the only reaction I have to being told I’m childish for not wanting to is to dig in my heels and try even less. :) Stomp foot, make face!

    I only have so much time and money and I’m not going to waste either on a book I *know* I have zero interest in, regardless of what its container looks like (e-, mmpb, trade, HC). Folks just need to get over the idea that I owe them anything, be they fellow readers or authors.

    Going back to covers, as I said before, while all the examples you give above may be valid in the big scheme of things, I, lonely reader, do not want to see cover characters that look exactly the opposite of how they are described in the book. It makes me either annoyed or even goes as far as ruining a book, depending on how distracted I am from the story and how important the physical attributes of the characters are to the story itself.

    More power to the marketing department if their cover with folks on it that aren’t characters in the book sells a million copies. The successful author probably won’t notice the lack of fan mail or dollars from me, but being as self-centered as I am, I think that’s a shame all the way around, grin.

    Oh, and those branded J.D. Robb books actually have 3 brands, grin. When they first came out they had sparkly foil type covers with white, then came the name covers, still kinda sparkly, but mostly dark, now the neon ones (also for the HC if I remember right). For people who like their series to look homogenous, this presents a never-ending annoyance. ;)

  343. Zoe Winters
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 16:10:51

    Gennita,

    We got on the internet in either ’96 or ’97 and at the time we got AOL (back then), I was still in high school and I really thought we were the last people on the planet to get on the internet. Of course I was a teenager and had a very skewed perspective, but still, haha.

    ***

    I’d also be interested in what Nora suggested, hearing from a larger pub and from an epub to find out their exact production process and why things are done the way they are done.

  344. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 16:18:18

    I just think that since it can be done faster (as Nora mentioned with ‘crashed' books), there may be lessons in there how to apply that industry wide and maybe not cost extra as it does now. Anything that cuts out time in the middle will be cost reducing and thereby profit-enhancing.

    I’m not so sure. “Rush” jobs, and that’s basically what crashing sounds like, always cost more. It requires expediting it right to the top and it’s not always cutting out the extra, as far as I know. It’s people putting in extra hours and rushing things and putting other stuff of to the side.

    The ‘crashed’ books will still have the normal things, editing, final line edits, cover discussions, wholesale market pitches-although the wholesale market sales may not be as in depth, because pubs aren’t going to crash a book that isn’t likely to sell, which in my mind, means it’s a proven seller, so booksellers aren’t taking as big a risk and would probably be more likely to buy.

    If that makes sense…

  345. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 16:19:52

    @Zoe Winters:

    Especially since, almost everybody thinks they can write a book, and you rarely run into random people who say: “If only I could find the time I'd make that documentary film on migratory butterflies.”

    Oh, God. Thanks for that. hee

    Yeah, I’d say that self-published books are more akin to self-produced music, and bear the same burden. There is some truly blindingly bad stuff out there, and we’ve all experienced it in some form or another. (Extended family, anyone?) And then there are nuggets of greatness. I’d say the ratio of bad to good is probably the same in music as in writing.

  346. Another Round in the On-Going “Industry Must Innovate” Saga « Genre Bender
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 16:23:23

    [...] 10, 2009 by Stephen Buchheit Via S. Andrew Swann over at Genrewonk we have a link to Dear Author and an article about the doom of book publishing. Okay, well it’s more a “change or die” [...]

  347. Zoe Winters
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 16:24:20

    Victoria,

    That’s why I think it’s really important for anyone serious about producing their own work to get off of Lulu or Authorhouse or iUniverse and start their own micropress imprint. Yes, it costs more to buy your own blocks of ISBN numbers, but it’s already such a struggle to be taken seriously. If your books blend in with all the other small press books instead of having “authorhouse” or some such stamped on them, it’s just one less piece of stigma to have to fight against.

  348. Nora Roberts
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 16:25:07

    Shiloh has it, as I understand crashing, pretty much right. It’s very expensive, and mostly only going to be done for proven sellers–when the author is extremely late on deadline. That sort of thing.

    It also means the book will often lose the chance of seeding–sending out ARCs to booksellers or reviewers, at least in a timely fashion, getting the cover and other info into wholesaler catalogs.

    It’s not streamlining, it’s rushing, and paying a stiff price for expediting.

  349. XandraG
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 16:26:44

    @Victoria: I guess the Sundance analogy would have to depend on whether or not the actors in independent films would qualify for SAG membership (or the equivalent for producers and directors and all that). Because the “respect” issue isn’t really from *people* who say they will never read an ebook or whatever, but it’s rather the 800-lb gorilla we’ve all been edging around in the form of a certain writing organization whose goals are to “promote romance” and yet whose actions seem to add the rider of, “only if it’s done a certain way.”

    Now this is a gorilla best left for a thread of its own, as it’s been known to consume whole other unrelated threads, blog posts, and even entire blogs themselves. So now that I’ve said it, we’ve named it. Let’s put an afghan over it, get it a drink, and pull in some chairs from the other room.

    To address the discussion of the NY Lag, advances, and differences from e, I’ll say this from my perspective as someone who used to help businesses streamline their manufacturing processes for a living.

    Seems to me that an advance is a requirement for an author, because as a raw materials provider, your raw materials don’t become a salable product until two years after they’ve left your hands. Going from there, in essence, your publisher has paid a supplier for raw material that it then has to process and warehouse for two years before being able to recoup costs of that material, let alone see profit from its refined state.

    Some of that two years is going to be spent refining the material into the product–in this case it’ll be editing, typesetting, packaging, and mass-producing. The publishers would do well to examine first how much of that time is actually taken up with processing, versus how much falls in the “hurry up and wait” category. Then it falls to the publisher to determine how much of the actual process could be streamlined by adopting different business processes…or new technology.

    How much of a print publisher’s process is still taken up with paper copies of edits, for example. Sending paper copies back and forth via mail or fedex to the different suppliers it needs to interface with. I’ve no doubt that some of that would still shake out as “current best practice” and that would be fine–if it were analyzed and found to be true.

    Next, how much of a publisher’s time is spent from acquisition to availability. Is your acquisitions editor’s time really best spent in meetings convincing marketing folk their potential acquisition will make a good product, or can that be absorbed into another position, freeing up the acquisitions ed to acquire faster, and leaving the marketing folk figuring out how to sell it, rather than making the marketing folk decide what to acquire, and making the acquisitions editor have to market her potentials to the marketers.

    Can intermediate production streamline as well? When a company makes widgets, the company must first assemble widget gizmos to go inside the widgets. Are there widget gizmos in the publishing process that can be built better? How fast does edited and proofread copy turn into galley proofs (and why isn’t anyone throwing beer and pizza to a hacker to create a quick and easy conversion tool?). What is the current best practice for the publisher to interface with suppliers and subcontracted production facilities. Where is the interface with the actual access points?

    Finding a better way to do it is not just a question of “does a better way exist?” but also a question of “is it feasible to move to doing that better way in a reasonable time, and will we gain more than we could lose from changing to that better way?” In every company I consulted for, we had to build in “losses” – equipment and more importantly, people for whom the coming change would be too much.

    I have no doubt that if the publishing industry really took the time and spent the effort to examine its practices, they’d find that the current way is not the most efficient, most lossless way to deliver content. But until now, it’s been more expense and effort to look into change than to preserve the status quo–I get that. The Titanic does not do donuts in a gas station parking lot.

    I guess we’ll see if this economic downturn will be enough motivation for publishing as both industry and individual entities to frankly self-examine, or not.

  350. GrowlyCub
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 16:39:48

    Yes, XandraG, thanks for writing so much more knowledgeably about what I was getting at.

    One way to cut down on time between acquisition and publication could be to send out e-ARCs instead of paper ones; that would allow them to go out before the cover is finalized. Again, that’s not as feasible as paper ARCs for some people right now, but it could be targeted and with e-readers becoming more wide-spread, it’s something to look into. And it would save a boat-load of cash in not having to print and mail so many ARCs.

    I got a couple for print books when I was affiliated with a review site, so it’s already being done if not on a large scale just yet.

    I don’t have all the answers or possibly even any, just an interest as a reader who wants to continue to receive lots of value in reading fun for a reasonable outlay, but there are little things that may be obvious to folks on the outside that aren’t to those on the inside because of ‘the way things always have been done’ or maybe not. :)

  351. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 16:41:40

    @XandraG:

    I guess the Sundance analogy would have to depend on whether or not the actors in independent films would qualify for SAG membership (or the equivalent for producers and directors and all that).

    Errr… Yeah, I guess the analogy falls easily apart, because RWA isn’t a union and being or not being a PAN member of RWA won’t affect your career in a significant way. As oppposed to being a member of a union-driven industry.

  352. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 17:01:36

    One way to cut down on time between acquisition and publication could be to send out e-ARCs instead of paper ones; that would allow them to go out before the cover is finalized.

    But that’s assuming the reviewers will READ e-ARCs. Some authors already send out a decent amount of e-ARCs, but not all reviewers want them. Not all booksellers want them. So sending them out to those who won’t read them is a waste of time, and it also costs the author who would have benefited from the ARC being read.

    Not everybody is ready for e-anything and until the book industry as a whole is ready to embrace it, we can’t force it on them.

  353. XandraG
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 17:36:25

    @Victoria:
    Yeah, like I said…a gorilla for another jungle. With dangling metaphors. :)

    I’d at least like to see the returns system addressed. I know that everyone says the indie bookstores would go under without return-ability. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Barnes and Noble is not an indie bookstore. Does the B&N in Metropolis need to be able to return Clark Kent’s unsold books to the publisher for credits when the B&N in Gotham happens to be hosting a signing with Clark Kent in attendance and could use the extra copies? Why does it fall to the publisher to provide credit for books about Poughkeepsie that won’t sell in Phoenix, when B&N Phoenix could ship the things to Poughkeepsie and sell ‘em there?

    I realize that the returns and credits system has become a currency of its own, which seems to be a problem, because like the mortgage-backed securities, it’s funny-money and that joke only goes for so long before it all falls flat.

    To be fair, it’s not just B&N. Borders isn’t an indie, either. Publishers offer credit and accept returns in good faith that the bookstores tried their best to sell the stock. Bookstores with multiple locations like B&N and Borders need to show a little more good faith and responsibility (and maybe self-awareness) by sending the books that won’t sell at one location on to another one better suited to them.

  354. GrowlyCub
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 18:08:52

    Again, that's not as feasible as paper ARCs for some people right now, but it could be targeted and with e-readers becoming more wide-spread, it's something to look into.

    Shiloh, you must have overlooked this next sentence when you composed your reply.

  355. Txvoodoo
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 18:16:23

    This thread has been utterly fascinating to me, especially as a non-writer.

    I’m beginning to think the entire publishing industry is like the mafia or a Greek college organization. It’s so nebulous, with its own language, procedures, and ways to break in!

    I guess this is true of almost any industry but wow…yup, this is an education.

    I wonder, if you all could restart the industry from scratch now, what would you change?

  356. Gennita Low
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 18:24:32

    Zoe,

    Oh yeah, remember those AOL CDS offering free hours (30?) for a month? Heh. Back in those days, we didn’t have unlimited Internet usage, but then, I remember thinking I only needed a couple of hours a day to check email and go onto my Prodigy Forums *grin. Look at us now–IVed to the thing, LOL.

    The question, then, is when did e-books and the possibilities of an e-book industry enter into the consumer awareness? I, as a writer, heard about people writing stories online around 1994 but never bothered to check those out. E-publishers/writers wasn’t even in my radar till the late 90s, although I know they were around the sf community. Even then, I wasn’t able to grasp the concept of electronic files being passed back and forth, even though I was already saving my writing files on my hard drive. I was still pooh-poohing at the need of people toting laptops around. LOL.

    So, let’s give it 5-10 years–the e-reader might be an everyday item being carried around, who knows? Or, if the state of the economy takes a long time to recover, then it might take longer while everyone gives up luxury items for more necessary things.

    *********
    As Jane pointed out, there is a lot of waste in the print industry. The business model being used right now will continue the way it is as long as publishing houses are bought up by conglomerates and viewed as investments that yield 13 percent (a number taken out of V. Dahl’s bottom, heehee) profit every year. Books are currently seen as fungible commodities. I don’t know how to unteach these billionaires from viewing authors as toothpaste labels.

    //sad

  357. anon2020
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 18:25:05

    Coming in late to this and I haven’t read all of the comments. Mostly the ones at the bottom but now I’m way behind again so who knows where I left off. A word of warning: this rambles along but I think there’s some important points in it and I don’t have time to streamline them. Hopefully, someone can say it more concisely.

    I don’t think the e-pub model is a good one to base the print model on because the model has definitely shifted and I would posit to some of the established e-publishers benefit rather than the e-authors. From my outside observations, the length of time has definitely increased between submission, acceptance and publication in the e-pub world. 2 plus years might not be that far off for some new e-pubbed authors. In addition to this you definitely don’t see the frequency of releases of an individual author at one e-pub house. Anyone remember when Lora Leigh, Lorie O’Clare, Cheyenne McCray, etc. had about one release every month? In the e-world, I suspect it’s pretty hard to make a living without outside income unless you have a lot of releases per year. I don’t believe that you could do that with one publisher like EC any longer, which means that you have divide your promo to multiple e-publisher bases. They aren’t necessarily all the same customers.

    In addition the marketplace for digital has been dilluted IMO. 8 books a week from EC, 6-8 from Samhain, 4 books from Loose-ID, etc., etc., etc. When EC started out it was 2, then 4 with no real competition for its customer base. And I’m sorry but e-books hit my price point around 4 years ago. I continued with them for a while but lately when I purchase a story I generally don’t feel that I’m getting my money’s worth. I can’t trade them, share them. They tended to be much shorter than their NY counterparts and the writing hasn’t been as polished at it once was. Yes, this is only from my limited choices as of late. E-books have become more of a luxury purchase for me. At one time I didn’t mind because I knew the numbers of books being sold were lower and I wanted these authors to be able continue to give me stories I wanted to read and I wanted to watch them grow as authors. I don’t feel that way any longer. I’m sure there are some true gems in the digital world that I am missing from the small e-publishers but I no longer have the time or the inclination to shift through the releases to find them. Especially since I perceive the focus to have shifted from a good cutting edge story that had hot sex to hot sex in search of a good cutting edge story.

    What does this have to do with print publishing? I think print has done a similiar thing in terms of market saturation. I remember reading an article about Harlequin’s romance lines in the NY Times about 4-5 years ago. It kept going on and on about how profit expectations were down. Oh, poor poor HQ. (That point was hammered home again and again in the article.)

    Well, in the nitty-gritty of the details I found some interesting tidbits. Seems that HQ had literally double the number of releases per month. Profits were still up but profits per book were down.

    In that scenario the publisher is still making money but the median income distribution per author shifts downward and IMO the author class as a whole gets screwed. AND I also think this leads to part of the 80/20 distrubition grid because there are so many releases how can a readers find the gems. Churning them and seeing what stick out seems to be the business model of the day for the entertainment industry as a whole. Be they music, movies, TV or publishing. And it’s all about right now. Today, this week. No waiting to build the audience. Think of the entertainment you consumed twenty years ago and imagine the stuff you would’ve missed with today’s marketplace’s need for instanteous results. Simplistic thinking on my part. I know.

    So before we start talking about how advances might need to go by the wayside, we should be talking about how publishers can streamline their marketplace procedures to increase their and the writer’s profit per book. I mean, how many book releases does the reader really need in a week? In fiction? In romance? in whatever. That’s wonderful. It’s great. All these choices in a world filled with more and more entertainment choices.

    But how in the world do I as a reader find out about all of these books? some of them? mostly NONE of them?

    Yes, I’m all for diversity of stories but let’s be realistic, the publishers do a terrible job of reaching their customer base as a whole. Prior to being online, the most marketing I received on books really had to do with walking into a bookstore. That’s it.

    I suspect that most readers are in a similiar boat. Consider the RWA identified 60 million US romance readers. How many of those are online? get RT magazine? etc. How are they getting their books or making their purchasing decisions? I suspect many of those decisions are made for them by the gatekeepers. First you have the publishers themselves, filtering out the subjective ‘good’ from the ‘bad’, then what they need to fill their lines. And then you have the book-buyers/purchasers of Wal-Mart, Tarket, Border, B&N, etc.

    Readers. Shrug. We simply accept these gatekeeper decisions. And why the hell not, since for the most part it meets our needs. We don’t worry about whether or not an author can make a living writing a novel, we really only care about our reading fix. And by that statement, I don’t mean that readers are callous. I just think that there is an assumption in the back of our minds that if an author gets published and has books on the shelves that they can at least get by without outside income. Actually on second thought I know I never really gave it much thought. I just wanted to read something. And let’s face it, if the publishing model as we know goes under, most of us readers won’t care because we’ll adjust and either find another way to get our reading fix or we’ll replace it with something else from our many entertainment choices.

    If there was one thing I’d tell a publisher to do to change the model, it would be to grow, and maintain the midlist author. Stop throwing things at me to see if it sticks. Give me consistency, give me a great story, make me want more of the same. To do that the publishers need to make sure that the midlist authors has the resources necessary to become master storytellers. I know some will argue that that’s not the publishers responsibility. I say that it is if the publisher wants to maximize their overall per book profit. And finally, I say that a publisher needs to figure out ways to retain those authors. To establish loyalty. In order to do so they need to do more to deserve that loyalty. I think this is a big problem in the US period. The worker is disposable so why should the worker have any loyalty to the employer. But I digress.

    Why should a publisher do this? Well, let’s talk movies for a moment. I know who Fox, Paramount, etc. are. But I don’t decide to go to a movie because it’s released by a certain studio. I look at who the director is, who the actor’s are, etc. And ofcourse what the plots about but the movie studio never sways me. Same thing in publisher. I’m never swayed by who the publisher is in NY publishing. I do, however, give it more consideration on the e-publishing side of the world.

    Anyway, give the midlisters the resources to become even better storytellers with stories that stay with me and I will stay a loyal reader to that author AND I will want more stories of the same caliber to meet my reading fix. Keep churning them out stories that I can’t remember the moment I close the book and I will simply get what I’m looking for from another entertainment venue. Let’s face it, my TV and internet costs are already fixed monthly costs, my book reading is part of my discretionary budget.

    PS. I don’t like the lawyer analogy for the publishing model. I understand the point but a more comparable analogy would be that the legal secretaries, IT workers, mail room, etc. essentially all of the ‘overhead’ personnel don’t get paid until the case generates money. Why not apply the same model to the movie industry? The cameraman, scriptwriters, make-up, sound personnel, extras, etc. No one gets paid until the movie is released and the movie studios count their receipts.

  358. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 18:59:06

    Again, that's not as feasible as paper ARCs for some people right now, but it could be targeted and with e-readers becoming more wide-spread, it's something to look into.

    Shiloh, you must have overlooked this next sentence when you composed your reply.

    Yeah, I did, I’m sorry.

  359. Judith Rochelle
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 19:35:40

    All I can say is, terrific post. I agree with everything you said. And so does my alter ego, Desiree Holt!!

  360. Persephone Green
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 21:20:55

    I’m still catching up on content around the 280 mark, so please bear with me.

    @Ann Somerville:

    Yes, of course you’re right. I’ve read the reports before, and all I can do is plead stupidity for posting at 4 a.m. My brain jumped between the myriad of things we’re doing to screw things up — among them, the uprooting of old forests and the burning of fossil fuels — and connected them erroneously. I get so frustrated myself when I see misinfo out there. So all I can do is say, mea culpa.

    Anybody who’s interested in what contributes to global warming — please ignore what I said above.

  361. Persephone Green
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 22:08:13

    As I’m not sure when exactly the phrase “I don’t do _____” (plus snobby expression) came into fashion, I can’t say for certain that it’s a Gen-X or Millenial Gen trend. However, I remember it being one of many phrases du jour during the heydays of Seinfeld and Clueless. Perhaps it’s the metric similarities between that phrase and “I don’t read ebooks.”

    Perhaps it’s a lack of body language and tone of voice that makes it sound condescending. Even though it’s not something worth getting worked up for me personally beyond mild irritation that I can’t define well, I do think it’s worth discussing. I can see why it strikes a nerve, as that was the first impression I had when reading it. I’m betting that for many e-pubbed writers, that nerve it’s hitting can be pretty damn raw at times.

    I have always assumed “dead-tree books” was meant as a little slap at print books. Or, if not a slap, at least a deliberate pointing out of “a tree died to make your book”.

    So, when used in a conversation with print authors, it does have some of the impact of talking about eggs to someone who doesn't buy free-range and calling their eggs “eggs from caged hens”. It's factually correct, but it's also a loaded term (not that I'm trying to say print books are the ethical equivalent of battery farming-I'm just commenting on the loaded-ness of the term).

    I almost started in here on a rejoinder about calling SUVs ‘gas-guzzlers’ and how the term eventually made its way onto the primetime news and actually changed the way we look at SUVs, but I LIKE paper books, and there’s no alternative paper model to compare them with like their is for the cars and trucks. Also, the scale is completely different.

    If people choose to interpret the term as loaded, then that’s their choice.

    I’ve seen it frequently used between techno-geeks (Notice how I’m using a word that non-techies might consider ‘loaded,’ but isn’t necessarily if you’re part of the techie culture?) as a contemporary of dead electron books/emails/etc. It’s a joke. Maybe I should tell more jokes so that people understand? ;)

    Not that I remember even using it. Or caring one way or the other.

    It’s funny. I’d never considered using the term on a regular basis. Now that I think about it, it might help e-book authors’ sales!

    (That was sarcasm, by the way.)

  362. kirsten saell
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 03:37:57

    Does the B&N in Metropolis need to be able to return Clark Kent's unsold books to the publisher for credits when the B&N in Gotham happens to be hosting a signing with Clark Kent in attendance and could use the extra copies? Why does it fall to the publisher to provide credit for books about Poughkeepsie that won't sell in Phoenix, when B&N Phoenix could ship the things to Poughkeepsie and sell ‘em there?

    XandraG, will you marry me?

    As I’ve said before, the returns system (other than stripping and pulping) isn’t inherently evil. But the tendency to abuse it, out of greed or laziness or simple unawareness, is probably huge with larger chains. There’s no sense of social conscience, no good faith at play–it’s what’s easiest and most cost-effective for the corporate bottom line. And yeah, that bottom line is probably better served by returning (or stripping and pulping) 150 copies of Book X in L.A., even as the Seattle store is busy ordering 300 copies of the same title.

    And there’s little incentive for them to change their ways unless publishers put their foot down. I’ve suggested in the past that maybe the Sierra Club ought to be apprised of these shenanigans. Aren’t they in the business of saving trees and keeping dinosaur goo under the ground where it belongs? There’s an enormous environmental cost in shipping books back and forth, or overprinting and overshipping and having half the product sent to the landfill. It’s a travesty, really, one that has strayed FAR from its intended purpose.

    I’m not saying the process has to go altogether, but I think I would feel a LOT more comfortable about it if returns of mm paperbacks were remaindered rather than destroyed.

    As far as the “dead tree” thing goes, well, I’ve oft lamented upon reading a singularly bad book “OMG, they killed a tree for that?!!” (Oddly, the lament is the same in my mind whether the book in question was e or tree.) But I have never uttered the term “dead tree format” intending to insult or belittle. As I said before, to me it’s merely a glib way to avoid the inevitable ambiguity between the terms “published” and “in print” that e-authors (especially those whose books are or will be offered on paper) have to deal with. I refer to my own books that way. My first, which was published in e- in March, will be available in dead tree on the 27th of this month.

    The insult is in the context. I won’t be referring to Nora’s books that way–or anyone else’s who takes issue with the term. But I feel free to label my own books as I choose–be they bodice-rippers, chick porn, smut, or the shattered, mutilated remains of innocent trees. Those poor trees. They didn’t do anything to me, and I killed them. Killed them!!! :P

  363. Nora Roberts
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 08:10:54

    Apparently for some it’s not only not enough to treat epublishing and its authors with respect. One has to agree to read in the form to be truly supportive. And even that, for some, doesn’t do the job.

    On another blog it’s suggested that I–along with Steven King–tell my NY publishers–the dinosaurs–to ‘shove it’ and enter into an agreement with an epublisher, and that will bring more people online to buy ebooks.

    Yeah, I’ll get right on that.

    Further, it’s suggested that I–again along with King–publish my books simultaniously with Samhain as another author has. That would be better for my career, and potentially help NY ‘see the light’.

    No offense, Angela, but I have no plans in this direction at this time.

    These suggestions on my career plan come from people who know absolutely nothing about it. It takes some balls, in my opinion, to believe you know better than me, my agent, my editor, my publisher as to how I should run my career.

    It not only puts my back up–obviously–it again makes me equate this sort of person to those who push epublishing in a way that does more harm than good–and simply HAS to slap at print.

    Comments like these, and some here, weigh heavily for me against the strong and interesting columns Jane writes on ebooks, and the always sensible and informative insights Angela James provides.

    If those of you who do this actually think you’re convincing many of us who prefer paper books to switch or give e-books a try, let me tell you, you couldn’t be further off the mark for me personally.

  364. Angela James
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 09:30:12

    Further, it's suggested that I-again along with King-publish my books simultaniously with Samhain as another author has. That would be better for my career, and potentially help NY 'see the light'.

    No offense, Angela, but I have no plans in this direction at this time.

    None taken. But for the record, if you’re ever wondering what to get me for my birthday…

  365. AnneD
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 09:35:03

    Seriously? Someone had the balls to suggest that. Consider me goggle-eyed. I’d be as pissed as you in the same place at having someone tell me how to run my career to better theirs.

    Okay, yeah. I think it would be cool if some of the blockbuster names put something out with one of the ePublishers, but definitely not as some shaft-it-to-the-NY-publishing-man. That would make no sense career wise whatsoever. It would be interesting though, to hear the comparison of the process and outcome from the authors perspective, and possibly the publishers too. Not in a OMG-you-must-support-us-your-poor-epublished-brethren way but from a analytical point of view. I would find it interesting to see if form beats out content, or if diehard fans would try something new for a piece of their fav author.

  366. Jody W.
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 09:57:40

    Dead tree book is to ebook as snail mail is to email? Snail mail could be loaded if you, for whatever reason, feel great pride in the efficiency and speed of your postal service. Plus, snails are slimy and have been known to take over fishtanks when you’re not paying attention.

    Ok, not really. But sorta.

    Then there’s hardcopy. A possibility but it’s also loaded…in a good way. Hur, hur, hur! But that doesn’t make electronic or audio a softcopy, does it?

    As for myself, I’m trying to call them paper books instead of “print” books because to me both paper and electronic books, as well as audio books, are in “print”.

  367. Angela James
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 11:39:55

    It not only puts my back up-obviously-it again makes me equate this sort of person to those who push epublishing in a way that does more harm than good-and simply HAS to slap at print.

    Comments like these, and some here, weigh heavily for me against the strong and interesting columns Jane writes on ebooks, and the always sensible and informative insights Angela James provides.

    If those of you who do this actually think you're convincing many of us who prefer paper books to switch or give e-books a try, let me tell you, you couldn't be further off the mark for me personally.

    I’ve been thinking about how to respond to this, because it’s hard not to without someone feeling offended, which isn’t my intention but I also think it’s an important point to address. I will say that I had assembled my remarks in my head while I was making lunch and darnit, why didn’t I write them down then because they sounded 10x more intelligent.

    The thing is, I feel your frustration, Nora, I don’t disagree with you, and I have to say (admit?) that you’re not the first to make a similar comment. I don’t want people to go away with that as their lasting impression of epublishing, though.

    So many of us feel passionately about epublishing, and want everyone to feel the same, but we have to come to a point where we recognize and form some sort of acceptance that’s not going to happen. We’re still young and many people still so new to the industry, that we’re not quite there yet, but I have faith.

    It’s much like romance. How much do those of us who come together here love romance? Enough to spend hours, days, weeks, years investing our time, energy, heart and souls into talking about it, analyzing it, reading it, writing it, publishing it. We know it’s a wonderful thing and we just know, truly believe, that if everyone would throw aside preconceptions and give it a shot, they’d come to love it too, maybe even more than us, if that’s possible. Maybe it won’t come with the first glimpse of romance, with the first page or even the first book, but we know if we can just hit on the right book, the right author, the right subgenre, they’ll love it. LOVE it.

    How many times have you seen someone come to the defense of romance, to the defense of “bodice rippers” and winced, thinking their defense of what we all love comes off as more of an attack, and that it’s not going to do anything to convince the person they’re addressing, only drive them further away?

    And so it happens with epublishing. Some of our defenders, in their passion, don’t always present the best defense. But just as with romance, I hope people won’t take a few defenders as the face of the industry, but will remember there’s so much more to epublishing than what’s played out on blogs. There’s a wealth of businesswomen and men behind this industry, creating a viable business model while offering consumers another place to buy amazing books in all genres, offering authors a place to publish books that might not otherwise fit elsewhere. Epublishing offers opportunities and exciting possibilities that weren’t there before. But epublishing doesn’t need to replace traditional publishing, and shouldn’t strive to. I believe epublishing exists because of traditional publishers, not in spite of them. There’s no reason for one to replace the other.

    So I guess what I’m hoping by even attempting to craft this into words (I should stick with editing) is that a few people who stridently and passionately defend epublishing no more represent and speak collectively for our industry than do the people who stridently and passionately defend romance from naysayers collectively speak for you, Nora, or anyone else who loves romance. In the same sense, I don’t pretend to speak for the industry collectively but hope my individual opinions and defenses present a positive image that will help, rather than hinder, something that I truly believe in.

    I think it’s important and hope that, as an industry, epublishing can continue to come up with positive ways to collaborate in promoting the benefits of the business model, the books, and the authors. Doing it that way, maybe we can get more people to drink the kool-aid. It comes in any flavor you like ;)

  368. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 12:05:07

    @Angela James:

    But just as with romance, I hope people won't take a few defenders as the face of the industry, but will remember there's so much more to epublishing than what's played out on blogs.

    Thanks for this, Angela. You’re absolutely right, of course. I do think it’s worth pointing out to those people that they are damaging their own cause. But I also appreciate you pointing out the obvious… That they don’t represent the entire e-world!!! There are certainly some romance advocates I wouldn’t want advocating for me. *g*

    But I do have to disagree with you on this:

    We know it's a wonderful thing and we just know, truly believe, that if everyone would throw aside preconceptions and give it a shot, they'd come to love it too, maybe even more than us, if that's possible.

    Yeah, I know it was hyperbole, but I can think of many people i wouldn’t suggest a romance novel too. I don’t think it would be their cuppa. No harm, no foul. I don’t care for straight mysteries. No harm, no foul. And for those who don’t like e-reading… Same darn thing. Not everybody is like me. Thank God.

  369. kirsten saell
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 12:51:04

    This is the comment Nora is referring to, and it came out of my mouth. And yeah, it was a bit glib. Perhaps if I put a “Maybe” in front of that last paragraph, or “authors like” in front of the names, it wouldn’t have pissed Nora off so much…

    G.A. Aiken had her one of her books published simultaneously in ebook by Samhain and in print by Zebra–totally separate, with different cover art. Because she had enough bargaining power, she was able to retain her electronic rights from her NY pub, and sold them to Samhain–who actually know what they’re doing. So instead of a few points up from the 6% she gets on ppb, she gets Samhain’s 40% royalty on the digital version, and the ebook costs about 5 bucks, instead of 10, or 12, or 14. Better for the reader, better for her.

    That’s what Stephen King and Nora Roberts should be doing. Maybe then NY will actually start to see the light.

    No, I don’t think I know better than Nora’s (or Stephen King’s) agent how to function in the traditional publishing industry. I pulled the names of two big sellers out of a hat. I suppose I could (and probably should) have said “That’s what huge bestseller X and huge bestseller Y who have sales in the millions and name recognition out the wazoo should be doing,” but using those two names seemed more succinct. They’re iconic.

    And I didn’t intend to suggest anyone go with Samhain specifically–I just mentioned Samhain because they’re the only epub so far that I know of who has done this outside of a partnership. But I am pretty damn sure an epublisher who has been successful in the epublishing industry would likely do a better job of exploiting someone’s digital rights than a NY pub–and they’d make a higher royalty.

    Tell me there isn’t something horribly off about a traditional publisher being “unable” to sell an ebook for less than $10 when they’re at the same time paying the author 1/4 of the royalty percentage an epublisher pays. Or less. Especially when that epublisher can somehow make a profit on the same length of book sold at $5.95 or less?

    My comment was intended to say that only those authors with clout in NY would be able to get publishers to change the way they deal with digital. Sorry that I offended you, Nora–especially when I only mentioned your name and King’s because they fit certain criteria. It wasn’t personal.

    But to be honest, I think it was a very cool thing that Aiken pulled off, and if more authors with even more stature did the same, I think we’d see electronic royalties from NY pubs going up, prices coming down, and DRM going bye-bye.

  370. Angela James
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 13:05:06

    G.A. Aiken had her one of her books published simultaneously in ebook by Samhain and in print by Zebra–totally separate, with different cover art. Because she had enough bargaining power, she was able to retain her electronic rights from her NY pub, and sold them to Samhain–who actually know what they’re doing. S

    Probably understandable in such a long thread, but I missed this quote. I don’t want to burst any bubbles and I also can’t share confidential details, but I do think it should be said that that is not at all even close to what factually happened. The circumstances weren’t that at all. I’m sorry to disappoint!

  371. Jane
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 13:06:01

    @kirsten saell: Actually, the first author to do this was Terry Goodkind. He sold his digital rights to Rosetta in exchange for a higher royalty rate.

    I highly doubt that an epress can “exploit” an ebook sale better than an epublisher. They use the same fulfillment companies (i.e., Fictionwise, Lightning Source or Overdrive). The brand name that the print publishers enjoy is better and more widely known as epublishers, even online.

    I think you’d need to articulate exactly what ways, other than possibly royalty rate and given that we don’t know (and it’s not our business to know) what royalty rates any “big name” author gets fro NY, that an epublisher can more effectively exploit the sale of an epub book for a print author.

  372. Angela James
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 13:06:30

    Oh, though I should add that it’s not to say that we would take electronic rights if an author wanted to sign them with us, for a book already in print. We’ve done it in the past. Just that the above situation is being used as an example of something that didn’t happen.

  373. kirsten saell
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 13:08:18

    And so everyone knows, I put that comment up at the other blog long before this conversation got started. Had I read Nora’s comments here before I made that comment, I would have known she was not feeling the love and would not have used her name.

    My suggestion was in the nature of a person who goes to a Chinese restaurant and says “You know what you guys should do? You should have a smorg on the weekends!” I’m pretty sure most restaurant owners would not be offended by the suggestion–even if they knew it would be a bad idea, or simply wasn’t for them. The would take the suggestion in the spirit in which it was offered.

  374. Jane
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 13:10:17

    @kirsten saell: If I was a patron in said Chinese restaurant, I would think you were ignorant to suggest that they bring in Swedish food into the Chinese restaurant.

  375. kirsten saell
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 13:14:00

    Probably understandable in such a long thread, but I missed this quote. I don't want to burst any bubbles and I also can't share confidential details, but I do think it should be said that that is not at all even close to what factually happened. The circumstances weren't that at all. I'm sorry to disappoint!

    It’s just what I heard through the grapevine–that it wasn’t about the partnership. Sorry I got it wrong! And I made the comment on another blog. A week ago or something…

  376. kirsten saell
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 13:15:08

    If I was a patron in said Chinese restaurant, I would think you were ignorant to suggest that they bring in Swedish food into the Chinese restaurant.

    Every other chinese place in Canada has one. And they call them smorgs, too. It wouldn’t be seen as an insult here.

  377. XandraG
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 13:20:58

    Nora Roberts writes:
    On another blog it's suggested that I-along with Steven King-tell my NY publishers-the dinosaurs-to 'shove it' and enter into an agreement with an epublisher, and that will bring more people online to buy ebooks.

    I think Stephen King already tried this some years ago? Not the “shoving it” part, but the ebook part. I don’t remember whatever came of it beyond the fact that, duh, it was the best selling ebook of that year.

    I wouldn’t ever presume to give anyone else career advice, least of all someone who’s obviously done just fine on her own. I’d also think the “celebrity endorsement” way is akin to part of the current problem with traditional publishing (isn’t the ridiculous celebrity advance that will never earn out part of the waste in some form?), so trying to “sell” the general public on ebooks with “celebrity endorsements” seems like it’s probably going to be less than effective. More a novelty than anything else.

    What I would hope–and take this in no way as “career advice” but merely something to think about–is that authors with traditional houses consider their e-rights and royalties in the context of the epublishing world, rather than the traditional publishing world. Epublishers traditionally pay 25-50% royalties. Even if your e-sales are only a fraction of a fraction of your sales, eventually that’s going to increase, and this is a fluid time when it might be more possible than in the future to increase your royalty rate on electronic sales, while it’s new and negotiable. Right now, the standard is set by smaller outfits, and it’d be a shame if the big guns came in and knocked it all down when all authors would benefit from larger royalty rates.

    I hear authors with trad houses many times mentioning how their e-rights are something they barely even think about, which I think is a mistake (for *any* author with *any* type of right), and I hope that doesn’t come back to bite either the individuals or authors collectively, in a tender and fleshy area.

    To me, this seems like good business sense, and it’s not meant in any way to direct someone else’s career. Just something to think about.

  378. Angela James
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 13:22:38

    It’s just what I heard through the grapevine–that it wasn’t about the partnership. Sorry I got it wrong! And I madde the comment on another blog. A week ago or something…

    It wasn’t about the partnership. But it not being about that doesn’t equal it being what you said. I’m not trying to bust your chops, and I certainly appreciate the sentiment behind it! but I think it can be harmful to present something like this so confidently as fact in order to prove a point.

  379. kirsten saell
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 13:35:17

    But it not being about that doesn't equal it being what you said. I'm not trying to bust your chops, and I certainly appreciate the sentiment behind it! but I think it can be harmful to present something like this so confidently as fact in order to prove a point

    You’re right! Again, sorry to get it wrong. It would have been cool, though.

    The brand name that the print publishers enjoy is better and more widely known as epublishers, even online.

    You’re telling me that if someone saw a Grisham title they wanted in ebook at fictionwise for half what the last one cost, they would even look at the name of the publisher?

  380. Nora Roberts
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 13:36:08

    Angela, you are such a credit to your industry and your publisher. Sincerely. I hope others take a cue from you. Really, they should erect an Angela James statue.

    Kirsten, I just don’t think you get where I’m coming from. It’s really not up to you to suggest or advise that ANY author pursue a certain career path, or make any changes along that path. It’s not just a bit glib, imo. It’s way over the line.

    You don’t know someone else’s business, goals, strategies–so how can you possibly assume to suggest they should do this or that?

    Your enthusiasm and belief in e-publishing shouldn’t take you don’t these roads–as far as I’m concerned.

    You don’t know what I’m doing, my agent’s doing, my publisher’s doing, what my royalty rates are, what my advances are, my sub-rights agreements or what any of my contractual obligations and assets are, so how can you suggest?

    Even to say Author X should–are you an agent? Do you work in publishing?

    What you believe is right for you is hopefully right for you. It doesn’t make it right for me, or Author X, or across the board.

  381. kirsten saell
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 13:38:20

    so trying to “sell” the general public on ebooks with “celebrity endorsements” seems like it's probably going to be less than effective. More a novelty than anything else.

    I wasn’t suggesting it as a way to sell the public on ebooks, but as a way to let NY know that applying the traditional print model to ebooks isn’t something that’s fair to authors or readers. Why should I pay 14 bucks on a book I can never resell or even share with someone, especially when the author’s only making 6 or 8% on the sale?

  382. kirsten saell
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 13:39:32

    Your enthusiasm and belief in e-publishing shouldn't take you don't these roads-as far as I'm concerned.

    Career suggestion noted. :P

  383. Nora Roberts
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 13:42:36

    ~Tell me there isn't something horribly off about a traditional publisher being “unable” to sell an ebook for less than $10 when they're at the same time paying the author 1/4 of the royalty percentage an epublisher pays. Or less. Especially when that epublisher can somehow make a profit on the same length of book sold at $5.95 or less?

    My comment was intended to say that only those authors with clout in NY would be able to get publishers to change the way they deal with digital. Sorry that I offended you, Nora-especially when I only mentioned your name and King's because they fit certain criteria. It wasn't personal. ~

    But, see you don’t *know* because, as far as I know, you don’t work for a traditional publisher and aren’t an author with clout in NY. Therefore, you honestly can’t know how it works.

    And believe me when I tell you that neither I nor King could or would be able to get publishers to change the way they deal with digital. You’re giving us entirely too much credit and power.

  384. kirsten saell
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 13:44:16

    What I would hope-and take this in no way as “career advice” but merely something to think about-is that authors with traditional houses consider their e-rights and royalties in the context of the epublishing world, rather than the traditional publishing world. Epublishers traditionally pay 25-50% royalties. Even if your e-sales are only a fraction of a fraction of your sales, eventually that's going to increase, and this is a fluid time when it might be more possible than in the future to increase your royalty rate on electronic sales, while it's new and negotiable. Right now, the standard is set by smaller outfits, and it'd be a shame if the big guns came in and knocked it all down when all authors would benefit from larger royalty rates.

    I hear authors with trad houses many times mentioning how their e-rights are something they barely even think about, which I think is a mistake (for *any* author with *any* type of right), and I hope that doesn't come back to bite either the individuals or authors collectively, in a tender and fleshy area.

    Yes! And thank god this isn’t career or business advice. Obviously you’re better at staying out of trouble than I am, LOL.

  385. Nora Roberts
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 13:44:41

    It wasn’t a career suggestion–I don’t know anything about your career.

    It was my take on online or really any kind of discussion.

  386. kirsten saell
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 13:47:08

    And believe me when I tell you that neither I nor King could or would be able to get publishers to change the way they deal with digital. You're giving us entirely too much credit and power.

    I don’t believe any one author could, either. I do think that collectively, now is the time for authors in general to make their feelings known. I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be any easier to get a higher royalty rate on digital when ebooks comprise 20 or 30% of an author’s sales. The fact that they’re getting the short end of the stick will just be more obvious.

  387. Nora Roberts
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 13:50:21

    ~I hear authors with trad houses many times mentioning how their e-rights are something they barely even think about, which I think is a mistake (for *any* author with *any* type of right), and I hope that doesn't come back to bite either the individuals or authors collectively, in a tender and fleshy area. ~

    I don’t think much about my e-rights–but my agent does. That’s her job, as far as I’m concerned. Hopefully those other authors have good agents who are doing theirs.

    The only reason I actually know my e-royalty rate is because my agent and I discussed it again not all that long ago. I couldn’t tell you–if I were inclined–what the deal is on any of my other sub-rights without going to look them up. But my agent would know. It doesn’t mean I don’t care or that I’m careless. It means I have an excellent agent whom I trust absolutely–and she’s on top of that kind of thing.

  388. kaigou
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 13:54:01

    But I am pretty damn sure an epublisher who has been successful in the epublishing industry would likely do a better job of exploiting someone's digital rights than a NY pub-and they'd make a higher royalty.

    Maybe it would help if instead of seeing ebooks as “another format of paper-bound books” we divided it out and used the analogy like so:

    When you sell rights for a book to be published, there are separate rights for making a movie about that book. No publisher in their right mind would say, “first, we do hardback, then we do paperback, and THEN we’ll film the book!” It’s just not their area. (And would make it even clearer that like movie rights, erights are an agent’s area to manage, not an author’s, perhaps?)

    If a movie producer wants to do a film of the book, they buy the rights and do it themselves. If ebooks are treated the same way, traditional (paper-bound) publishers would be able to say, “look, if you want ebook version, then find someone willing to buy the rights to it, but that’s not our area, we do PAPER.”

    The distribution methods are different, the packaging and formatting presentation is different, the applications needed to create and protect and decode are complex in and of themselves. And then there’s the work done to protect the work from piracy afterwards — work that a normal publisher doesn’t have time to fuss over, let alone go about chasing. A paper-focused publisher may even dismiss the threat of (or worse, utterly overestimate the threat of) piracy and how to prevent while not making texts impossible to read. Same text, yes, but completely different business model, marketing, and distribution lines.

    In which case, Nora Roberts’ response would work the same way it does when I hear from authors who don’t want to chase after the elusive Hollywood beast: I’m fine where I am, this is the area of the market I’m focusing on right now. Etc. It makes it less of a “yep, mean ol’ me is denying you an alternate format” and more of a “that’s a completely different industry/set-of-rights.” It might at least reduce the chances of offense on either side, the author being pushed or the readers getting pushed back at.

    Although I do find it amusing in a quiet way that the only Roberts book I’ve ever read or purchased was… an ebook. Granted, it was a peculiarly kind of locked ebook that doesn’t have a Mac interface except this one really expensive software package, so I had to download and install the test version to read the novel, and once that test version expired I now have a novel I can’t ever reread short of, I guess, buying a PC — but a $50 chunk of software to read one book seemed excessive.

    But I was at home, I had just read a review of the book, I was curious, Fictionwise had it, I figured out I could rough-ride the software, so I got the book, enjoyed it immensely, and am rather sad that now that option isn’t available at all because I don’t want to shell out $50 for the full commercial product whose interface was rather unpleasant anyway.

    Plus I also made a note to myself to avoid that format (and publisher) in the future. There’s protecting against piracy, and then there’s selling me a book and ripping it out of my hands once I’m done — with the demand that if I want to read it again, I must shell out more, be that software or hardware. It’s a kind of hostage technology.

    (That isn’t a complaint against Roberts, or any author: it’s not an author’s prerogative to determine format. That’s a bad choice on the publisher’s part, and it’s one more reason I think p-publishers should hand over erights to an epublishing affiliate who’ll understand there’s got to be a better balance between protection and dissemination.)

    Anyway, I’m no longer a Roberts virgin, ayup! But since you couldn’t pay me enough to stand in the romance aisle at a bookstore, all credits for devirginizing must go to ebooks.

  389. Nora Roberts
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 13:55:52

    But Kirsten, authors don’t HAVE a collective, nor do they act as one. The Author’s Guild certainly deals with matters, and some authors belong to it. But we are not a union–and above all not a collective. We are so individual, and our wants, needs, goals, abilities, talents, work ethics.

    You want something for epublishing–that’s very clear. I don’t blame you a bit. But to expect or believe authors–and authors with clout (most of whom will be happy with their contracts) to collectively do–I’m not entirely sure what–to change the face of publishing, is very naive.

  390. Nora Roberts
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 14:01:33

    ~Although I do find it amusing in a quiet way that the only Roberts book I've ever read or purchased was… an ebook~

    I’m of course, delighted by this–and sorry the rest of the process was such a hassle.

  391. XandraG
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 14:03:02

    Kirsten Saell writes:
    Yes! And thank god this isn't career or business advice. Obviously you're better at staying out of trouble than I am, LOL.

    I dunno, I may be skirting the line here. ;) The suggestions to think about that I made above would likely simply not work if only one author tried them or took issue, even an author with a lot of selling power (which is a damn shame, too–as artists and creators I like to think that authors are a unique and valuable part of the process). It would have to be a majority of authors, and probably their agents, too. It’s something I’ve thought about for a while as an author myself.

    Just as individual evangelism isn’t going to tip the scales in favor of e-reading–it’s not one person being convinced or talked into trying out an ereader or whatever, it’s *people*– which is different, and will pretty much happen on its own. My main focus is on writing really good stories that will be there and waiting for them when they’re ready, or really good stories that *other people* will harangue them into trying out ebooks for. ;)

  392. kirsten saell
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 14:06:56

    Plus I also made a note to myself to avoid that format (and publisher) in the future. There's protecting against piracy, and then there's selling me a book and ripping it out of my hands once I'm done -’ with the demand that if I want to read it again, I must shell out more, be that software or hardware. It's a kind of hostage technology.

    Every epublisher I’ve ever dealt with doesn’t even have DRM on their books. Retailers add it after the books are distributed to them, but if you buy from the pub’s own store, you get a completely unhampered product.

    I bought a pdf ebook from a retailer once and had to download special software to access it. It was free software, but it still pissed me off. I won’t buy ebooks that are DRM-hampered if at all possible. I certainly won’t pay more than I would for the print version of the same book since I’m giving up my right of resale. Yet I see this frequently with traditional publishers. If ebook sales only comprise a minuscule fraction of their sales, well, I think we all know why that is. I read ebooks almost exculsively. And I almost always get them from epublishers, because traditional publishers so often just don’t seem to know what they’re doing.

  393. Angela James
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 14:12:36

    Angela, you are such a credit to your industry and your publisher. Sincerely. I hope others take a cue from you. Really, they should erect an Angela James statue.

    Ahaha. I appreciate you saying so–it means a lot coming from you. Still, I can only imagine the response that would draw from some people. Heh.

  394. Angela James
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 14:19:02

    I don’t think the e-pub model is a good one to base the print model on because the model has definitely shifted and I would posit to some of the established e-publishers benefit rather than the e-authors. From my outside observations, the length of time has definitely increased between submission, acceptance and publication in the e-pub world. 2 plus years might not be that far off for some new e-pubbed authors.

    I had this flagged to come back to. I don’t believe the epub business model is about the length of time to publication. That is one of the reasons people cite for going with epublishing. But regardless, I would say that the majority of epublishers don’t come even close to 2+ years from time of signing to publication. I just signed a book this week that will release in September 2009. That’s not a long time at all.

    I would think that instead of pointing to the length of time from submission to publication for epublishing as being something negative, people would instead see it as a positive thing. We cannot on one hand say the editing and copy editing in epublishing needs to be better, but on the other hand say the length of time from contract to publication should be minimal to keep the epublishing edge/business model.

  395. kirsten saell
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 14:21:08

    I dunno, I may be skirting the line here. ;) The suggestions to think about that I made above would likely simply not work if only one author tried them or took issue, even an author with a lot of selling power (which is a damn shame, too-as artists and creators I like to think that authors are a unique and valuable part of the process). It would have to be a majority of authors, and probably their agents, too. It's something I've thought about for a while as an author myself.

    No, they won’t. And I don’t think it would necessarily need to be a “collective” thing. Just that as authors and agents become more familiar with the paradigm, they would hopefully make a little noise and demand some changes (even small, incremental ones). But I think it probably will have to be some fairly big names selling their electronic rights separately and being wildly successful with it (which is likelier to happen now than when Steven King tried it “some years ago”).

    NY pubs are corporations–money is what will determine their policies. If they saw Besteller X’s new title selling in the high tens of thousands of copies (not inconceivable for a BIG name) out of an epublisher at 5 bucks and making 10% per unit profit, when Bestseller X’s last title’s ebook version (sold through NYPub, DRMed out the wazoo, at $14) sold hundreds of copies at 60% per unit profit, maybe that would get them to look at how they’re doing things, and how they could be done better.

  396. Robin
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 14:21:55

    Reading through these comments on authors pressuring NY for a change in the way they do digital, it comes across to me more like an attempt to benefit epublishing particularly by imposing change on NY — that is, it sounds more like the primary intent and interest is a boost to epublishing. I don’t know if it was meant that way, but that’s kind of how it’s coming across to me, and, if I were an author with a “traditional” NY publisher, I might be offended by that.

    I thought we were just getting used to the idea that epublishing and print publishing were two different business models (wasn’t that at the heart of those RWA Pan eligible/vanity press not eligible discussions?), and I think that’s a good thing. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways for the two to work together, or that ebooks can’t and shouldn’t be part of so-called “traditional” publishing models (just as many epresses have ventured into print), but I don’t think it’s doing either epublishing or print publishing much good to use one to leverage power for the other, even if both benefit. IMO whatever changes happen in either venue must benefit and reflect the integrity of that venue’s mission and vision.

  397. kaigou
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 14:22:57

    Nora @ 390:

    The entire hassle illustrates why I think epublishing should be considered a separate entity. When I purchase ebooks from epublishers, the formats may be locked or unlocked, but they’re invariably PDFs that I can read on Adobe, which as cross-platform means I could read it anywhere, on pretty much anything. The biggest hassle in ebooks are the formats imposed by the major publishing houses, actually. That’s why normally I avoid them. It’s not really worth it.

    Although thinking further, I realize: we talk about how ebook-audience is different from p-book audience, with some minor overlap, and isn’t that a lot like movie and book audiences, too? “Oh, I just saw the movie, I’ve never read the book,” and then there’s, “I loved the book and of course I went to see the movie.” Sometimes there’s cross-fertilization, sometimes not.

    Ebooks can operate the same way: “I love the book, but I can only pack so much when I travel, so I got the ebook version, too!” or “I don’t want to read a computer for three hours; I only want paper.”

    (Honest, I am NOT going to burst into cries of everyone getting along. More like, “money to be made! stop arguing and get the money!” or maybe that’s the former bookstore owner in me.)

    Hmm.

    Perhaps we’re being wrong-headed about this, and the ones to educate are the agents. They’re the ones who manage rights, after all. If erights are best served/marketed by epublishing-focused distributors, I think agents would be in the best position to rearrange erights. Take them out from under the blanket with p-rights, and start treating them like the other separate, secondary, classes of rights: movies, foreign languages, audio, and so on.

  398. Angela James
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 14:28:49

    Nora asked:

    Do e’s also go through the galley process? I don’t know, but proofing galleys adds to the time–and the longer the galley, etc. I’ve got a nearly 500 page one I’m working on in the evenings right now. Unless I put everything else aside and do that exclusively, it’s going to take me several nights to proof, then turn it back in for production.

    I had this one flagged to come back to as well. This is where I think epublishing probably falls short of traditional publishing because I don’t know of any traditional publishers where you can’t outline their basic editorial process, which everyone can assume will include galleys. Unfortunately, while many epublishers do have an editing/copy editing process, there are, and I believe will always be, those who don’t. I “blame” that on the ease of starting an epublisher versus a traditional print publisher.

    This is kind of off topic, not that we haven’t already veered around a bit in this thread, but we’re running an end-of-the-year survey of our readers. It’s only four questions but the last one is a free-for-all, tell us what’s on your mind question. The one comment that stuck with me out of all that we’ve gotten is one that said (paraphrasing): I’ve been finding errors in your books. It’s not that I don’t find those same errors all the time in NY books, but you can’t have those. You have to do it better because people look at you harder and are looking for those errors.

  399. kirsten saell
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 14:36:57

    it comes across to me more like an attempt to benefit epublishing particularly by imposing change on NY -’ that is, it sounds more like the primary intent and interest is a boost to epublishing. I don't know if it was meant that way, but that's kind of how it's coming across to me, and, if I were an author with a “traditional” NY publisher, I might be offended by that.

    If that’s how it’s coming across, that’s not how I, at least, intended it.

    I’m not so much speaking as an author, but as a reader who loves ebooks and would read many many more NY published books in digital if they did away with DRM and made them affordable. I live miles and miles from the nearest bookstore. E is an absolute necessity for me–and without it I would only have used books and no author or publisher would make a penny from me.

    Looking at things from a reader’s perspective, with an e-author’s (albeit limited, but probably greater than most) understanding of the ways epublishing differs from print–well, when I go to fictionwise and see a DRM-hampered, 80k novel priced at $13.95 when it costs five bucks LESS in print, I can’t help but feel the publisher is asking me to bend over and take it where the sun don’t shine. And I won’t do it, even for an author I love. I can’t be the only one out there who feels this way, either.

    But sadly, NY won’t even know they’re losing sales until someone shows them the actual sales they’re losing. If that makes sense.

  400. kirsten saell
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 14:39:16

    It doesn't mean that there aren't ways for the two to work together, or that ebooks can't and shouldn't be part of so-called “traditional” publishing models (just as many epresses have ventured into print),

    The difference is, you don’t see the epublishers forcing print into the e model. Unless I’m going to be earning 40% on my trade paperbacks and no one bothered to tell me…

  401. Nora Roberts
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 14:42:16

    Robin, that was certainly my take. When I’ve asked questions about how e-works for authors–and I was coming to it from a paper publishing perspective–I was told I couldn’t compare them. Different models, different set up.

    And I got it because it was very well explained to me (Tip of hat to AJ again.)

    But now, it seem, some are trying very hard to meld the two models so it will somehow benefit the e-side. And it’s a bit irritating.

    Kaigou, I think, in some cases, the e-rights are sold direct to an e-pub. We elected not to do so with mine–and hopefully Penguin will eventually work out the kinks that annoy the e-reader.

    ~Ebooks can operate the same way: “I love the book, but I can only pack so much when I travel, so I got the ebook version, too!” or “I don't want to read a computer for three hours; I only want paper.”~

    Yes, God! Exactly so. I’m not the least offended you won’t read me in paper. I’m delighted you had the choice, and tried one of my books in digital.

  402. Robin
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 14:45:54

    when I go to fictionwise and see a DRM-hampered, 80k novel priced at $13.95 when it costs five bucks LESS in print, I can't help but feel the publisher is asking me to bend over and take it where the sun don't shine. And I won't do it, even for an author I love. I can't be the only one out there who feels this way, either.

    What I don’t understand is how this is the burden of the print pubbed author to address? I hate some of the pricing schemes out there, but I don’t even think about the author when I’m gnashing my teeth and cursing the publisher for thinking I’d be stupid enough to pay *more* for an ebook than for a-brand spanking-new print copy.

  403. kirsten saell
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 14:55:53

    But now, it seem, some are trying very hard to meld the two models so it will somehow benefit the e-side. And it's a bit irritating.

    As I said, I would never have suggested any NY author sell their electronic rights to an epublisher if NY handled them in a way that satisfied me AS A READER. But for whatever reason, they don’t, or can’t, or won’t. And when readers feel like they’re getting cornholed, they won’t buy.

    If NY showed a little flexibility and made their ebooks an attractive alternative to print, I would stand up and cheer. I would even buy them.

  404. kirsten saell
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 15:01:41

    What I don't understand is how this is the burden of the print pubbed author to address?

    The burden is not on the author, the burden is on the publisher. But I do know that publishers will not change without feeling pressure from both readers and authors.

  405. Katrina Strauss
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 15:06:20

    I'm not so much speaking as an author, but as a reader who loves ebooks and would read many many more NY published books in digital if they did away with DRM and made them affordable. I live miles and miles from the nearest bookstore. E is an absolute necessity for me-and without it I would only have used books and no author or publisher would make a penny from me.

    My own decision to switch to e-books was based on my experience as a reader, not an author. Up until just a few months ago, I too considered e-book second option if a book wasn’t available in print first, and here I’m strictly e-published! My geek-tech hubby has read more e-books than I have, as he’s been reading them since the late 90′s. My way of thinking gradually changed until that lightbulb moment of epiphany, it was based on an issue of consumer convenience. (But again, not here to convert the masses, just sharing my own experience as I nod and agree with Kirsten.)

  406. Zoe Winters
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 15:18:19

    Kirsten,

    For what it’s worth, I read what you said in the spirit of how it was meant. I don’t think you’re trying to tell authors how to run their careers, or trying to meld NY and E. I know exactly what you’re saying.

    NY has gone on about how ebooks haven’t taken off. Well what could possibly be some of the reasons for that?

    DRM, high prices that in many cases are higher than MMPB. (IMO an e-copy of anything should never be higher than the print version. Because part of the reason the print version is so high is because of physical raw materials being bought and used for each individual copy, and shipping, and warehousing), And, oh yeah…no standardized format.

    In music we have MP3′s. We don’t have 30 competing music formats, with different listening devices that only play some and not others.

    If NY was actually interested in THEIR OWN e-sales (not in promoting e-publishing itself), they would scrap DRM, lower prices, and agree on a single format that everyone can use, so different e-readers are the difference in getting an ipod or a Zune (or Zoon? I don’t remember the spelling.)

    Not a Kindle vs. a Sony E-reader which use different formats, and are not “just” different devices.

    So I don’t think it’s insane to think ANY bestselling author should be tested out in this way. for the benefit not of ‘e-publishing’ but publishing in general.

    If they truly are two different models, then what is NY doing with e-rights? Melding is already being done if NY has, uses, and mismanages e-rights. If it’s too much for them, they don’t know what they’re doing, or they don’t care enough about it, then they shouldn’t hold rights hostage that they won’t properly exploit.

    It’s my opinion, that just like the music industry absolutely RAILED against digital music because of piracy, that NY is dragging their feet as much as possible with E, and trying to make the print version more attractive.

    When you use DRM, and on top of that make your Ebook more expensive than some of your print books, what you are saying to the public is: “We want you to buy the print book, not E, and we’re trying to manipulate your buying choices by making the one we don’t want you to buy as unattractive to you as possible.”

    Well consumers aren’t stupid and they can see through that crap and it pisses them all off.

    If a big brand name author (or several preferably) “were” to be able to sell their digital rights separately to one of the more successful e-houses, then we would get a truer read on the current ebook market potential. Not as an incentive to get more people to read ebooks.

    And I say all this as someone who doesn’t personally LIKE ebooks. It’s just a common sense way to test things.

    So I get what Kirsten is saying and I don’t think she’s trying to say any of the things she’s been accused of saying here. Whether or not she’s “in” publishing directly is neither here nor there. It’s an appeal to authority and not actually addressing her point.

    If there is something genuinely wrong with the idea, address the idea on it’s own merit, not by telling her she’s not an authority and therefore any idea she comes up with is just dismissed out of hand.

    This kind of lack of thinking outside the box is exactly why publishing is where it is right now.

  407. GrowlyCub
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 15:46:46

    I’m a reader, and as a reader I have a strong, vested interest that the authors whose work I enjoy are able to feed themselves and their dependents so they don’t go and do something other than writing.

    If I see their books coming out in formats that I won’t buy, I tell them and I tell the publisher. Naturally, the author is not responsible for the format (except in cases like Nora described above), but I want the authors to know why I do or do not buy their books, so they can weigh in (how successfully is a different question) when relevant decisions are being made about their books. Sometimes my not-buying decision has to do with format, with content or, in the case of anthologies, with who else is in the book.

    For example, I love Susan Lyons, I want that new story really badly, but it’s packaged with one by an author I will absolutely, under no circumstances, EVER give money to again, so that’s why I didn’t buy that new book which includes Susan’s story. I feel bad about that, because I want to support her writing career, but if I want to stick to my principles regarding the other author, that’s what I have to do.

    Now, if Susan’s story were available (maybe after a certain time) as a stand-alone e-story, I’d buy it in a heartbeat and cry only a little that I’d prefer to have a paper copy, and voila, POD would again make me very happy indeed!

    I have an interest in what royalties an author receives for their books, both paper and e- and I’ve refused to buy e- from NY houses because I know how little the particular authors would see of that inflated NY e-book price. Why? Because if I buy, I’m actually confirming the publishers’ idea that I’m okay with them fleecing their authors and DRM and paying more for an e-copy than for a paper book.

    I’m not talking generalities here, I’m thinking of the numbers told to me by NY authors in private conversations.

    I’m sorry if some think that I as a reader wanting NY authors to get their money’s worth of a new technology is sticking my nose in where it doesn’t belong, but (shockingly) I disagree. It very much concerns me if the author ends up finding a day job and having to stop writing because their publisher only paid them the same royalties on their e-books as on their mmpb, as opposed to a higher rate.

    Why do I, who have no clue about publishing beyond what I’ve heard from publishers, authors and agents, think I can have an opinion? Well, facetiously, but with a grain of truth in it, because I was a business major once upon a time and I understand economies of scale and similar concepts.

    Most books seem to be prepared electronically nowadays (except for the galleys portion and even that I’ve heard of being done electronically on occasion, unless I misunderstood) and while there are some conversions to be done, there is not that much additional work going into making a print manuscript e-publishable (most of the cost is associated with DRM, which needs to go away because it’s useless in preventing piracy).

    There are however, no printing, no warehousing, no physical distribution and no returns costs for e-copies, so why should the author still only receive the royalty rate given for mmpb where all these costs do accrue?

    I’m not giving anybody advice, but I have an opinion and that opinion is that NY authors and/or their agents should try to get a higher royalties for e-rights than mmpbs due to the cost differential and if concerted effort by more than one author is required to pressure the publishers then I think it wouldn’t hurt authors and agents to look into that.

    I don’t know what Nora’s rate is, I’m not talking about her. I’m going by what I know through industry insiders, which is admittedly not as much as I’d like. It irks me tremendously to know that a writer whose work I enjoy is not able in part to pay her rent because she’s locked into a contract that’s standard for NY and that does not pay her more for e- than for paper. And when I read other authors saying that ‘there’s nothing to be done and you readers have no clue and shouldn’t have an opinion’, then I find that irksome as well. It’s possible some of the posts weren’t meant that way, but that’s sure what they sounded like.

  408. Zoe Winters
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 15:58:47

    Growlycub,

    Because if I buy, I'm actually confirming the publishers' idea that I'm okay with them fleecing their authors and DRM and paying more for an e-copy than for a paper book.

    Yes. :D

    And I totally agree with your view that DRM doesn’t prevent piracy. What DRM does is, give a fun challenge for hackers, and piss off honest consumers. Treating every consumer like a thief, IMO isn’t the way to handle things. What should happen instead, IMO, is education. So readers really know how much piracy can hurt authors. (though the verdict is still out on that since Cory Doctorow, published with Tor, has all his books out in print and free ebook simultaneously and his print sales are higher since doing that. Though if E ever becomes the primary delivery method, this could bite him in the bum later.)

    I think most readers who got a pirated copy of a book, but found they really enjoyed it, if they understood money had been taken out of the author’s pocket, and they had a way to pay for it after the fact, many people are honest and many people would do that.

    So rather than DRM, we need to facilitate and set up a way that people who get pirated copies can pay/donate/whatever after the fact. It would be far more beneficial IMO than the DRM.

    I know if I am treated as someone who has good will toward others, I am more likely to behave in that way. If I’m treated automatically with suspicion like a dishonest little thief, well, it doesn’t give me the warm fuzzies.

  409. kirsten saell
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 16:18:15

    I know if I am treated as someone who has good will toward others, I am more likely to behave in that way. If I'm treated automatically with suspicion like a dishonest little thief, well, it doesn't give me the warm fuzzies.

    I wonder how many people figure, “If I have the name, I might as well have the game.” Especially when the free illegal product is 10 times easier to use than the over priced legal one.

    I’m with Growly. I think validating shitty business practices by buying DRMed ebooks at those prices, especially when authors aren’t fairly compensated, is a travesty.

    And thanks for the benefit of the doubt, Zoe. :) I was beginning to wonder if I had some special gift for pissing people off…

  410. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 16:46:10

    And I totally agree with your view that DRM doesn't prevent piracy

    No, it doesn’t. But non-DRM’ed books get pirated to an extent that is sickening. I’ve tracked about 10K worth of illegal downloads of my books over the past two years. And the majority, as in 95% were non-DRM’ed books.

    So DRM doesn’t prevent it. But not having DRM doesn’t prevent it either. Unfortunately, there are just far too many people out to get something for nothing and never mind the fact that it hurts authors.

  411. Zoe Winters
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 17:09:25

    Shiloh,

    Not having DRM doesn’t prevent piracy, obviously, but it also doesn’t piss off the honest consumer either. Like I said, there needs to be some simple system set up where someone who reads a pirated copy and likes it and wants to support the author, can. Bank on people’s good will, rather than their bad will, and most try to live up to those expectations. Most people believe they are good people and need to continue to believe that. When you offer them opportunities to back up that perception, more often than not, most will take that opportunity.

    And at “this” point, I’m not sure how much it hurts authors. E-only authors, yes. But print authors, probably not so much. As I mentioned earlier, Cory Doctorow, has all his print books released simultaneously with a free ebook version and the distribution of the free ebook has increased sales. But it obviously is a problem for those published only in E.

    And don’t forget, readers have “always” been able to read for free. They can just go to the library. And authors don’t get paid for remaindered copies or copies sold through used bookstores or the resell program on Amazon. So there are many many ways that aren’t illegal for readers to read and get their hands on copies of books, where the author doesn’t make a penny.

  412. Nora Roberts
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 06:38:13

    Writers are paid for remaindered books.

    Libraries buy the book, and if it goes out a number of times will have to be replaced. We’re paid for the buys.

    It may seem to some that piracy doesn’t really hurt print authors, but I feel it does. My titles are downloaded illegally thousands upon thousands upon thousands of times. Literally hundreds of thousands of illegal downloads of my titles. Believe me, that hurts.

    Piracy isn’t reading for free like checking out a book at the library. It isn’t buying the book used. It’s stealing it.

  413. Jackie Barbosa
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 11:09:05

    Zoe wrote:

    But for print, you have to have it absolutely complete before you get a cover. You have to know your exact page number, and your paperweight and ppi (pages per inch), so that you can get the exact specs for cover design.

    If that’s true, I wonder how Kensington designed my cover and produced my cover flats well before my page proofs (which are sitting over on the table just begging for my undivided attention) had been done. I’m pretty sure it was in design (if not printed) well before I even received my copy edits.

    Hmmmmmm…

  414. Jackie Barbosa
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 11:28:25

    Zoe wrote:

    But for print, you have to have it absolutely complete before you get a cover. You have to know your exact page number, and your paperweight and ppi (pages per inch), so that you can get the exact specs for cover design.

    If that’s true, I wonder how Kensington designed my cover and produced my cover flats well before my page proofs (which are sitting over on the table just begging for my undivided attention) had been done. I’m pretty sure it was in design (if not printed) well before I even received my copy edits.

    Hmmmmmm…

    With regard to eliminating advances and print writers learning how to do without getting paid until after their books are released the way epubbed authors do, I think this ignores several significant differences in the way print and ebooks are distributed and sold.

    First of all, with an ebook, there is no physical object to change hands. The majority of ebooks are sold directly from the publisher to the consumer without a middleman (although, of course, there are entities like Fictionwise and the like that offer ebooks from multiple publishers). Notwithstanding, however, there is no such thing as a “return” in the ebook world. Ebook resellers don’t order a specified number of copies from the publisher and then try to pass them on to consumers with uncertain results. And the ebook publisher doesn’t incur any additional costs to sell 10,000 copies versus 1,000 copies…there’s no RISK on the part of the publisher that it is spending money to produce copies that will never sell.

    What that means, practically, is that an ebook-only publisher can pay royalties on a very frequent basis (monthly and quarterly are the most common), and it can know exactly how many copies of the book have sold and compensate the author accordingly. Not so the traditional print publisher. “Sales” of a print book are not sales direct to the consumer, but sales to booksellers. The first print run for the book is based upon the number of orders received from booksellers. Those books are shipped and (one hopes) placed for sale on the shelves in the retail outlets that ordered them (of, if the reseller is Amazon, in Amazon’s warehouse). It is months and months before the publisher knows how many of those copies actually make it off the resellers’ shelves and into the hands of consumers. The way it ultimately knows is that the books don’t come back as returns.

    And this means that, when paying royalties, the publisher makes an educated guess on a bi-annual basis as to how many of the copies is has shipped are going to come back, and holds that amount out of the author’s check as a credit against returns. It can be, as I understand it, several years before an author actually receives full payment for every copy of the book that was printed and sold because that’s how long it takes before the publisher can be assured those copies aren’t coming back.

    So, by saying, “An author should be willing to wait until her book is published and sold to get paid,” what you are actually saying (under the current structure, at any rate) is that the author should be willing to wait literally years after delivering the manuscript to the publisher to be paid. That’s neither practical nor fair, IMO. The publisher, in contracting the manuscript and thereby retaining exclusive rights to the work, owes the author at least a token sum of money because those rights are worth something to the publisher. If those rights AREN’T worth something, in and of themselves, then the publisher shouldn’t be contracting the work.

  415. Jane
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 11:31:48

    @Jackie Barbosa I think the problem is that advances aren’t a token sum. The publishing industry is gambling that one book will earn out sufficient to pay off for its many failures. Isn’t the statistic that greater than 2/3s of books never earn out the advance?

  416. Nora Roberts
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 11:49:50

    ~Isn't the statistic that greater than 2/3s of books never earn out the advance?~

    Jane, I don’t know the statistic, but I can’t stress enough that a book doesn’t have to earn out its advance for the publisher to make money. I promise you, you can ask any editor, any publisher, any agent this question.

    I’m not talking about the ginormous celebrity book deals, but the general fiction deals.

    I once heard the CEO of a major NY house say that if a book earned back its advance and more, the agent wasn’t doing her job. That may be a bit extreme, but it’s not entirely untrue.

    If you’re basing your theory that the publisher loses money every time a book doesn’t earn out, your base is simply incorrect.

  417. Jane
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 11:53:22

    @Nora Roberts Under the Pereto principle, though, 80% of the books are not making money for a publisher, regardless of an advance. I did read this morning that 70% of books lose money for a publisher, but I don’t know what all that entails (i.e. what percentage of loss that the advance figures).

    Again, I’m not advocating for a wholesale dismissal of the advance as part of how publishing does business but it does seem to me to be one area of waste.

  418. Jackie Barbosa
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 11:54:23

    Jane wrote:

    I think the problem is that advances aren't a token sum. The publishing industry is gambling that one book will earn out sufficient to pay off for its many failures. Isn't the statistic that greater than 2/3s of books never earn out the advance?

    I have no idea what the statistical average for earn-out is, but my advance on my debut was less than half my percentage of the cover price if the sell-through on the first print run after returns was a mere 50%–which seems pretty reasonable to me. Of course, I believe Kensington (and Dorchester, IIRC) are known for paying smaller advances with the result that most of their authors do earn-out.

    Even if a book doesn’t “earn out,” though, that doesn’t mean the publisher actually lost money on it. The percentage paid out to the author per copy is quite low (6-10%, I believe, depending on format and the like). I have no idea what the publisher assumes its profit margin will be, but I’m betting it’s enough to soak up a lot of the purported “losses” when an author doesn’t earn out the advance.

    Frankly, it seems to me you’re under the impression that authors are getting oodles of money upfront as a matter of course, when my experience says that’s not the case at all. A handful of authors get big advances for their books (and most of those who do are justified in receiving it because they have track records that support it). The vast majority get relatively little (and most don’t even try to live on their writing income–my understanding is upwards of 80% of all published authors have a day job and NEED it!), and they deserve (IMO) to be paid SOMETHING for delivering a quality manuscript worthy of publication to the publisher, complete with exclusive rights to publish it.

    Another thing you may not realize is that publishers can “sit on” an author’s advance for some period of time, simply by not “accepting” the manuscript. That is, the author can deliver the manuscript in March, but the publisher can avoid paying the author the “acceptance” portion of the advance for a period of months simply by not reading it and accepting it for publication. I’ve heard of the second book in a two-book contract sitting on an editor’s desk for upwards of nine months!

  419. Jane
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 12:14:40

    @Jackie Barbosa I don’t think that authors make oodles of money in advances. I’m not even sure if the HarperStudios experiment is going to work with new entry fiction authors and not celebrity authors. But what I do know is that the current way that publishing is run isn’t going to last bc of its economic inefficiencies. New publishing business models will arise and with it new payment models to the content creators. Right now the way that authors get paid is advances against royalties and royalties themselves. In a different business model, how will that change and will the change benefit the content creator?

    I’m for publishing. I’m for content creators. I’m just worried about the existing state of this industry and how it will evolve.

  420. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 12:17:38

    And at “this” point, I'm not sure how much it hurts authors. E-only authors, yes. But print authors, probably not so much. As I mentioned earlier, Cory Doctorow, has all his print books released simultaneously with a free ebook version and the distribution of the free ebook has increased sales. But it obviously is a problem for those published only in E.

    Unfortunately I’ve seen too many people crowing over getting a book for free that they would have paid for before they found a way to get a digital format for free. Free ebooks for promotion aren’t the same thing as theft. Me giving a person $10 bucks is a far cry from somebody taking $10 bucks from me without my permission.

    Will some go out and buy? Yes, I imagine some do. But too many of them then turn around and pirate the work out, in one nasty circle. There are a couple of sites where I’ve got books listed and they were actually more illegal downloads than copies sold and if that doesn’t suck, I don’t know what does.

    And too many of those who pirate have no intention of buying the authors’ work even after they’ve illegally downloaded and ‘tried’ the author out. Some might, but the majority aren’t going to-too many of them are into the mindset that either it doesn’t hurt the author or they just don’t realize that it is illegal or they just don’t care.

    I’ve seen authors have hundreds of thousands of books illegally downloaded. Nora mentioned

    My titles are downloaded illegally thousands upon thousands upon thousands of times. Literally hundreds of thousands of illegal downloads of my titles. Believe me, that hurts.

    I’d say that’s a conservative figure. I’ve seen her titles on sites where there are easily 1000 different members posting the files and most of them have been downloaded in the high hundreds and thousands, higher. That’s money she is entitled to-she earned it. Taking something that she rightfully earned does indeed hurt.

    And don't forget, readers have “always” been able to read for free. They can just go to the library. And authors don't get paid for remaindered copies or copies sold through used bookstores or the resell program on Amazon. So there are many many ways that aren't illegal for readers to read and get their hands on copies of books, where the author doesn't make a penny.

    Yes…legal ways.

    I do get paid for remaindered books-a lower percentage, but I still get paid.
    I get paid when libraries purchase my books.
    I get paid for the original copy that was sold before it ended up in the used bookstore.
    I get paid for the original copy that ends up on Amazon selling for a penny.

    Those books, each individual one, are just one particular copy and I received my rightful compensation.

    When the ebook formats turn up on filesharing sites, one copy is easy made into ten thousand. One copy can be easily emailed to 1200 people, who can then email it to another 1200. One copy becomes a million in the blink of an eye. I get nothing for that and it doesn’t matter whether I need the money (and yeah, I do) or not.

    It’s still my hard work, something I spent weeks and months on, something I spent my own hard earned money promoting and I get nothing for them.

    Yes, since the majority of my work is epubbed, I probably do feel the impact harder, financially, than somebody like Nora Roberts but it doesn’t matter whether the author can afford to have somebody steal from her or not.

    Theft is theft.
    Wrong is wrong.

    Doing wrong to somebody else does hurt.

    It also costs the publishers millions of dollars-I heard a figure that it was actually into the billion dollar range now.

    That loss gets passed on to authors who have series cut, to new authors because the publisher isn’t as willing to take as many risks, and to readers who end up having to pay higher prices.

    So not only does it hurt the author who has her work stolen from her, it also hurts the publisher, it hurts other authors, and it hurts the readers.

  421. Karen Templeton
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 12:26:29

    Re: advances

    Look — I shake my head, too, when I hear of an unknown, unproven author getting a high 6-figure or even 7-figure advance, even if it’s for multiple books. A huge risk for the publisher, IMO, and an unnecessary one.

    But most romance authors don’t get advances anywhere near that size — and those that do, as has been said, have track records to justify it. But to reiterate both Nora’s and Jackie’s points, authors don’t get the whole thing on signing. In my case, as a Har author, I get part on signing, part on proposal acceptance, and the remainder on approval, usually 6-8 months before release. It’s not a huge amount, but if that model were to suddenly change to only getting paid after the sales come in?

    Insert little ROFL dude here.

    Before publication, of course you write on spec, whenever and however you can. But once you’re contracted — once the publisher is basically telling you they expect you to deliver X number of projects by certain dates — it becomes a job, even if only part time. So why on earth shouldn’t an author expect compensation while she fulfills her obligation? As Nora said, advances are your guarantee — I know I will make at least X number of dollars for X months of work, which at this stage of my career, I do not see as unreasonable. It’s good faith on both sides: I promise to deliver a salable story by a certain date, they promise to market that story to the best of their ability. It’s a shared risk this way; the no advance scenario is not. At least for print publishing, for all the reasons already stated.

    I have had a few books with Har that haven’t earned out, almost always because of distribution issues beyond my control. But the vast majority of my, and my fellow Har authors — esp. for category/series — not only earn out, but earn beyond the advance. In some cases, well beyond. In Har’s case, that non-earn-out figure is nowhere near 80 percent. In my case, it’s around ten percent, and except for one book we’re only talking a few hundred shy of missing that magic threshold. That doesn’t mean Har lost money on those books, only that the books didn’t perform as well as we’d hoped.

    If a publisher IS routinely losing great gobs of cash b/c it’s doling out too many huge advances, then THAT publisher’s business model, IMO, needs serious retooling. That doesn’t mean the advance system is wrong, but rather that — in some cases, maybe even in too many cases — it’s being handled unwisely.

    But let’s leave your average, small potatoes author — who’s not exactly living the high life off her writing earnings — out of the discussion, ‘kay?

  422. Karen Templeton
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 12:35:40

    And what Shiloh said.

    Big, BIG diff between one physical copy being read even a half dozen times, and a single, pirated e-copy being downloaded dozens, hundreds, thousands of time.

    And frankly, I do not believe most of those downloaders have any intention of ever buying. Why would they, when it’s so easy to get it for free?

    Not that I don’t understand the frustration of legit e-readers who just want to be able to copy their own purchased e-books to other devices. That would drive me insane, too. But the pirating makes my heart bleed, it really does.

  423. Nora Roberts
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 12:42:11

    ~I get part on signing, part on proposal acceptance, and the remainder on approval, usually 6-8 months before release. ~

    And in my case, and I’d say a lot of others in out-of-category, it’s part on signing, part on acceptance, part on pub–and often the last on pub plus six months. It’s spread out this way to give the publisher a chance to recoup part or all of their outlay before the advance is completely paid.

    I’ve had books that haven’t earned out the advance, and I can promise you, the publisher didn’t lose any money. In fact, they made money.

    I’m not waiting a couple years after the work is complete to make mine.

  424. XandraG
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 12:57:25

    If that's true, I wonder how Kensington designed my cover and produced my cover flats well before my page proofs (which are sitting over on the table just begging for my undivided attention) had been done. I'm pretty sure it was in design (if not printed) well before I even received my copy edits.

    Oooh, ooh, I know this one from ancient days in an old job. Your publisher has standards for paper weight, content length, margins, and font size that accommodate a range of word counts between (min)X and (max)Y. Based on that, they know that Z number of pages equals W thickness, where Z pages contains the text with word count Y. W becomes the cover flat standard for the spine, and Z becomes the page count standard. If word count < Y then font is adjusted, margins may shrink or grow, and filler pages are inserted until thickness of pages becomes W.

    (Also, there was some stuff about multiples of 4 put in there because of how folio sheets get chopped up into smaller bits to make books, and which fronts and backs go together. Kinda interesting stuff, but there ya go.)

  425. Zoe Winters
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 12:58:13

    Jackie, either they had already decided exactly on the number of pages the book was going to be and it was going to meet that requirement or else, or they padded in extra blank pages to give room for copy edits, or they later adjusted the design specs either up or down to fit the book.

    My personal guess would be the middle one. It’s less headache than the other two.

    Because that’s how the cover size specs are determined. Though your comment did help me to brainstorm quickly and realize ways to expedite the process. When I’m in final polishing edits, I have a close enough idea of page count that I can pad in a few blank pages to get my cover designed while I’m doing that, and expedite the whole thing.

    Then again, that choice does lock things down pretty much from that point onward, unless I want to have to worry about the specs being changed later.

  426. Zoe Winters
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 13:08:34

    Shiloh,

    I never said theft or piracy was okay. And if most readers don’t understand how badly it hurts authors, then they need to be educated, not DRM’d to death. IMO.

    I also was fairly certain that some publishers weren’t paying for remaindered books. If I was in error about that, I apologize. Though I don’t really know how most authors can really know what has sold and what hasnt’ sold and what their genuine royalty should be with the returns system. It’s funny math all the way around, IMO. (And that isn’t to instigate more debate, I said “In my opinion”)

    With libraries, yes you get paid for that one copy, and when it gets worn out, for another copy. But being paid a dollar or two for something to be read hundreds or thousands of times isn’t exactly major compensation here.

    My point was “not” that piracy and libraries and borrowing books from friends were the exact same thing, or that piracy was okay. My point was . . . if someone wants to A. Read your book and B. Not pay money for it, there are plenty of LEGAL ways that can be accomplished. Or if they want to buy it used, as many people do, the author never sees a penny of that. (sure, they were paid for the first copy, but what difference does that make if it’s resold on the internet 32 times alongside the brand new copies at Amazon?)

    The entire boat is being missed here. If someone is downloading your work for free, something in their head says: “I shouldn’t have to pay money for this.” And if that’s the general attitude, then piracy is only a symptom of the problem.

    And if piracy gets completely out of control where no one can stay in business, then we’d better find a new way to monetize our art. Cause DRM can be hacked.

  427. Zoe Winters
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 13:17:15

    XandraG, thanks, That would make sense that they would have ranges like that. If that’s the case, then that’s one less reason for the publishing process to be so damn slow. Color me stumped now.

    I definitely do not have that sort of thing down to a science yet. maybe in 10 years, I’ll know 50 different ways to get my book into an exact cover spec size with a big word range taking all the variables into account.

    It’s a good thing to start keeping notes on.

  428. Nora Roberts
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 13:28:06

    ~ But being paid a dollar or two for something to be read hundreds or thousands of times isn't exactly major compensation here.~

    It would only be a handful of times for a paperback before it needs to be replaced, and probably a couple dozen times for hc. We’d need a librarian to give us a better idea on that. But it sure wouldn’t be hundreds or thousands per copy.

    It’s a small amount, sure, but libraries perform a valuable service, and most writers are happy to support them, and to know their books are being offered.

  429. MoJo
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 13:37:41

    The entire boat is being missed here. If someone is downloading your work for free, something in their head says: “I shouldn't have to pay money for this.” And if that's the general attitude, then piracy is only a symptom of the problem.

    The public has been trained to believe that information is and should be free. It’s become an entitlement. At some point now or in the extremely near future, they won’t even be thinking “I shouldn’t have to pay money for this.” It simply won’t occur to them that there should be an even exchange of ideas/entertainment for money.

  430. Zoe Winters
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 13:38:55

    Point was:

    People do not have to pay money out of their own pockets to read. Period.

    It’s a luxury to buy and own a book. Especially in this economy.

    If your average person feels that they don’t have to or shouldn’t have to pay to read, then we have a larger problem than whether they are pirating or going to the library, or swapping books with their friends.

    I used to work in my high school library, back when you still had the little slips in the back of the book that was stamped. there was the slip glued to the back filled up, and then there would be a card front and back that was in a pocket filled up with date stamps. Counting all those little spaces added up to over 100 checkouts. And I don’t know how many cards a book went through before it was replaced. But it was more than one. But I know that we weren’t replacing books willy nilly and some of those books were checked out fairly frequently and had been there for quite awhile.

    Maybe books used to be put together better, I don’t know. But I do know that your average book doesn’t experience that much wear and tear from simple reading unless people are playing dodge ball with it.

  431. Zoe Winters
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 13:54:06

    And as a caveat, yes some books do have to be replaced after very few checkouts because they are mishandled and not treated well. But your average reader isn’t throwing books against the wall. And many books do go through circulation a few hundred times before needing to be replaced.

    But yes, “thousands” was a bit of hyperbole, and I should have refrained from it because it obscured my point. Which wasn’t really about the “exact number” of times a book is checked out, but that people can and do read for free, and even if a book is checked out 100 times and then replaced, what was that? A penny per time it went through circulation that the author made?

    We were talking about what takes money out of the author’s pocket. And I’m NOT saying libraries are bad. I’m only saying if someone does not want to pay money to read, they never ever have to. Whether that is by piracy or borrowing at the library or from a friend.

    And also that there are many ways in which authors do not make money on every new body reading their book. (again, not that piracy is okay or doesn’t hurt authors.)

  432. shirley
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 16:35:58

    And frankly, I do not believe most of those downloaders have any intention of ever buying.

    This little tiny bit here really, IMO, speaks to the what piracy is and how it doesn’t necessarily have an impact on e-authors.

    WAIT! Before you start screaming, listen.

    Shiloh is right, right, right that at any given point there may be hundreds of pirated copies of her work on sharing sites. She’s also right that those books are gaining her no money. The place where I think a lot of digital authors get lost is when they talk about money lost due to piracy. While I’m sure there are occasional persons who get for free what they might buy otherwise, I also know without doubt that the overwhelming majority of people taking up her, and other’s, books WOULD NOT BUY IN THE FIRST PLACE. They are ONLY taking pirated copies BECAUSE they are free, not because they have to have the next Shiloh Walker book and they ‘ain’t gonna pay for it’.

    I know this because I look at what’s up at a lot of file sharing sites. E book content is barely a drip in the pan. Most of it is software. That’s beside the point though, my point is nine times out of ten those reading pirate copies ARE NOT the kind of people who are going to buy what they got for free. Digital authors aren’t losing money because they wouldn’t get the purchase in the first place.

    Hang on, hang on, just a little more, *g*

    This is not, in any way, to say that piracy is good, fine, or we should just let it happen and say oh-well. NO. NO. These sites should be found and shut down. Not necessarily for the sole benefit of those who *are* losing money, but because they aren’t safe by and large. Downloading from these sites can have a detrimental effect not just on one user, but on many. AND because when you get things for free, often you get what you (don’t) pay for.

    And maybe eventually, when all things become affordable for all, or when people stop feeling entitled to every thing they want, this won’t continue to be a problem.

    Um, yeah, I know. Wishful thinking.

  433. Zoe Winters
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 16:43:29

    Shirley,

    I think this is an excellent point! It’s really not a case of someone having $15 bucks in their hand and saying: “hmmmm I could buy this book, or I could just pirate it.” I’m sure “some” people think like that, but most people who pirate weren’t paying for it anyway. If they didn’t pirate it, or couldn’t pirate it, they wouldn’t have gone out and bought it.

    They “might” have gone to the library or borrowed it from a friend, maybe. But if they went to the library, that still wouldn’t positively affect the author’s pocket book. Unless that person was so rough on the book he forced the library to replace it, either with his funds, or the library’s.

  434. Jules Jones
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 16:55:59

    432/433: one slight problem with that is the number of authors who have seen comments on file-sharing sites that are variations on the theme “OMG, I can’t believe how much money I wasted on paying for ebooks before I found this site, I’m never going to pay for an ebook again”. In other words, people who *have* been paying for books, but have no intention of doing so now they’ve found a way to shoplift without any risk of getting caught.

    That may well account for only a minority of the people downloading pirate copies (and I personally think it is a minority). But it doesn’t make authors particularly receptive to the idea that none of those people would have ever have bought a copy in the first place.

    And yes, shoplifting is what it is. It is the equivalent of going into a shop, picking up a copy, and walking out without paying for it; it is not equivalent to waiting until the library copy is available or your friend’s done with her copy before borrowing it and then returning it. Making a copy available to anyone is *not* the same thing as borrowing a library copy or lending your copy to a friend. It’s the same as going to a copy shop and making photocopies of the paid-for copy for anyone who wants one. One paid for copy can only be read by one person at a time. If you want it badly enough you’ll buy your own. If it’s popular enough, the library will buy multiple copies.

  435. Zoe Winters
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 17:05:14

    And yes, shoplifting is what it is. It is the equivalent of going into a shop, picking up a copy, and walking out without paying for it; it is not equivalent to waiting until the library copy is available or your friend's done with her copy before borrowing it and then returning it. Making a copy available to anyone is *not* the same thing as borrowing a library copy or lending your copy to a friend.

    I don’t know that this is directed at my comments, but in case it is . .. I never said that.

    I wasn’t speaking about the moral implications of piracy. We all know piracy is theft and stealing is morally wrong.