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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. 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.

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  2. 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.

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  3. 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.

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  4. 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!!!

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  5. 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.

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  6. 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.

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  7. 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.

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  8. GrowlyCub
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 10:30:34

    Thanks, Susan. I wonder why there’s a lower rate. It’s a fascinating topic!

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  9. 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.

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  10. 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.

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  11. 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.

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  12. 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.

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  13. 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.

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  14. 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.

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  15. 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.

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  16. 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.

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  17. 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!

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  18. 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.

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  19. 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.

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  20. Robin
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 11:59:52

    OMG how could anyone prefer cooking on an electric stove??? ;)

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  21. 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.

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  22. 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.

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  23. 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.

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  24. 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.

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  25. 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 [...]

  26. 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.

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  27. 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.

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  28. 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?

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  29. 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.

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  30. 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.

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  31. 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?

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  32. 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.

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  33. 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*

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  34. 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.

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  35. 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.

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  36. 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.

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  37. 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.

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  38. 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.

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  39. 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 :)

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  40. 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.

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  41. 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

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  42. 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.

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  43. 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.

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  44. 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.

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  45. 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.

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  46. 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.

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  47. 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.

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  48. 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.

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  49. 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 ;).

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  50. kirsten saell
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 14:37:10

    Oops, just realized Zoe said the exact same thing in the second half of her comment.

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  51. 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

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  52. 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.

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  53. 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.

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  54. 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.

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  55. 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?

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  56. Nora Roberts
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 17:35:21

    Victoria, I think I love you.

    Nora

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  57. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 17:48:24

    Nora? My insides feel funny. *g*

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  58. 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. ;)

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  59. 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.

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  60. 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.

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  61. 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.

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  62. 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.

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  63. 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.

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  64. 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?

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  65. 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!

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  66. 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.

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  67. 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.

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  68. 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.

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  69. 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 )

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  70. 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.

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  71. 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.

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  72. 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.

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  73. 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.

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  74. 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.

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  75. 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.

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  76. 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.

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  77. 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.

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  78. 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 :)

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  79. 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.

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  80. 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.

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  81. 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.

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  82. 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.

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  83. 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?

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  84. 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.

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  85. 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.

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  86. 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.

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  87. 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.

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  88. 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.

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  89. 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.

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  90. 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.

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  91. 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.

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  92. 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.

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  93. 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.

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  94. 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.

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  95. 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.

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  96. 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. :)

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  97. 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.

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  98. 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!

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  99. 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.

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  100. 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.

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  101. Angela James
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 10:08:35

    And I just have to say…I ♥ Stacey.

    And maybe even Shannon too? Heh.

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  102. 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.

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  103. 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.”

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  104. 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.

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  105. 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?

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  106. 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.

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  107. 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. :)

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  108. Nora Roberts
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 10:32:13

    Katrina, mildly miffed is accurate. Taken so personally isn’t.

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  109. 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

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  110. 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.

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  111. 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.

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  112. 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.

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  113. 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?!?

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  114. 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.

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  115. 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.

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  116. 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.

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  117. 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.

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  118. 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.

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  119. 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.

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  120. 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.

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  121. 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.

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  122. 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.

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  123. 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!

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  124. 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.

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  125. 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?

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  126. 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! :)

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  127. 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.

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  128. 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.

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  129. 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.

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  130. 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.

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  131. 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.

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  132. 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.

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  133. 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.

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  134. 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.

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  135. 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

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  136. 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.

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  137. 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.

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  138. 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.)

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  139. 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.

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  140. 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.

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  141. 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.

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  142. 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. ;)

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  143. 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.

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  144. 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…

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  145. 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.

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  146. 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” [...]

  147. 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.

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  148. 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.

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  149. 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.

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  150. 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. :)

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  151. 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.

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  152. 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.

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  153. 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.

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  154. 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.

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  155. 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?

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  156. 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

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  157. 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.

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  158. 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.

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  159. 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!!

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  160. 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.

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  161. 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.)

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  162. 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

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  163. 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.

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  164. 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…

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  165. 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.

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  166. 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”.

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  167. 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 ;)

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  168. 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.

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  169. 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.

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  170. 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!

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  171. 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.

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  172. 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.

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  173. 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.

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  174. 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.

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  175. 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…

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  176. 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.

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  177. 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.

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  178. 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.

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  179. 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?

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  180. 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.

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  181. 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?

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  182. 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

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  183. 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.

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  184. 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.

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  185. 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.

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  186. 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.

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  187. 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.

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  188. 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.

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  189. 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.

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  190. 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.

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  191. 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. ;)

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  192. 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.

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  193. 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.

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  194. 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.

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  195. 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.

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  196. 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.

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  197. 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.

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  198. 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.

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  199. 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.

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  200. 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…

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