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Top Ten Things Publishers Could Do to Help Readers Buy Books

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1. Label the books in a series either on the spine or on the front or both (preferably the spine if that is the only place). I.e., Kresley Cole’s Hunger Like No Other is Book 2 in the Immortals After Dark Series so it should have #2 on the spine or on the front. The first story is The Warlord Wants Forever which is part of the Playing Easy to Get anthology.

Readers need to know these things so that when they go on a glom, they can easily pinpoint the books that they are missing in the series.

2. Include a relationship chart in the beginning of every book. Most books published today are series books, all somehow related to one another. It would be very helpful if, at the front of the book, all the books in a series are identified in the way in which they are related to one another and what characters appear in which books.

I.e., in Meljean Brook’s series, the first full length story features Hugh and Lilith in Demon Angel. (The first story in the series is Falling for Anthony, an entry in the Hot Spell anthology. The second full length story features Savi and Colin in Demon Moon. Thus in the front of her book, it would have something like this:

Why is this important? Because if we start with Meljean Brook’s Demon Bound in November 2008 and we read about Ethan and Charlie, we want to know what book they star in (Demon Night) so we can go out and buy it and every other book in the series.

3. Send publisher based emails to readers for all new releases coming from the particular house in one month. As a reviewer and blog owner, I am the recipient of summary emails from publishers which list several books that are for sale, a short summary of each and a link for “more information.” It would have been great, as a reader, to be the recipient of an email like this from each of the major publishing houses so that I would be aware of all the new releases in one email that I could print out or save to my phone.

Another correlating idea would be to text message the name of all the newly released titles much like Borders is texting coupons to readers. The text would contain just the title and author of each book released that month. I.e., a text from Avon could be:

It’s much easier for readers to manage 6-10 emails from various publishing houses than 20-50 from different authors. Readers want to know what is new and publishers have the power to provide that to them.

4. Provide an internal If You Like section at the back of the book. Readers are always searching for reads that deliver the same emotional impact as their favorite authors. In Borders, there are little shelf talkers that say “If you like author X, you may like author Y”. We’ve actually started that series here at DearAuthor. It would be great if publishers would put an insert at the back of the book that provided an internal “If You Like” so that if the reader did really enjoy Karen Rose’s Scream for Me, then Warner could tell us what other books from its house we might also enjoy such as Sharon Butcher or Susan Crandall.

It’s important, though, to think carefully on this because if you lead readers astray too many times, it will lose its effectiveness.

5. Make the covers more distinctive. I think but don’t know for certain, that Kresley Cole’s back to back releases were hampered in the success due to the similarities in the cover. The two covers were so similar that I think some believed that they had already purchased the second book. This is too bad because Cole’s latest release (which I like to refer to as Lick My Horns because I can never remember the title), was one of her best.

Blogland has often brought up the issue of the cover similarity. The SBs are comedically tracking Legs which appear on everything from book covers to advertisements for Vein treatment. The use of stock photography is one of the reasons of the similarities between covers today. The real danger of the use of stock photography on covers is that readers might look at the cover and think that they’ve already purchased the book or they’ve already passed it over. Neither lead to more book sales.

6. Make the titles relate to the story. I loved the title for Suzanne Enoch’s After the Kiss because it actually served to describe a moment in the book which changed the life of the characters forever. I really disliked Joanna Bourne’s title for her second book, My Lord and Spymaster because Sebastian wasn’t a spymaster. He was barely a spy. Worse yet were the titles for Kresley Cole’s last two books which were so similar that I couldn’t keep them apart. To this day, I don’t really know what the titles are to those two books. I can only remember them by characters and the fact I made up my own titles. It’s an issue that SB Sarah brought up over at her blog and it was apparent that Sarah and I weren’t the only ones having a hard time. It’s difficult to recommend books when you can’t remember their titles.

Another title concern is having series of books with different names. Mary Balogh has two regency series starting with adverbs with the letter "S": Simply and Slightly. See how easy it would be for readers to think, hey, I’ve already read that series of books before?

7. Have a website where readers can easily find out about titles, where to get them, what formats they’ll be in, when they’re being released, and how they relate to other books with a link to an excerpt. Each publisher’s website should contain the information of title, release date and book description as early as possible along with the excerpt. The publishers’ websites are generally difficult to navigate, counter intuitive, and lack substantive information. Instead, readers must go to each and every authors’ website to find out information, slowing down the process it takes to make a "buy" list. For example, at Harlequin, there is a different site for print and ebooks. There is no easy way to identify upcoming releases. At the Avon site, all the books are listed but numerous times (due to the numerous formats) so you have to scroll through a number of listings to obtain the information you want and the links are differentiated between so you don’t, at first glance, know why your screen is stuttering. It’s difficult to decipher. An example of counter-intuitivity is the Avon Romance site, a subsite of HarperCollins, and you don’t realize, until you’ve clicked, that the top bar is not for Avon Romance but for HarperCollins as a whole (i.e., the upcoming releases and new releases don’t relate to Avon Romance books). Further, there is a lack of consistency which creates issues because the top bar has "Upcoming Releases" and the sidebar has it titled "Coming Soon."

Penguin’s website is so unuseable that it is hard to know where to start. Again, it lacks intuitive features. To find the romance section, you have to click on the "Special Interest" tab. And the romance front page features books which are, well, not traditional romances. Worse, when you actually click on the subcategories, it doesn’t contain a comprehensive listing and it suffers from the same multi-listing problem that Avon does. Kensington’s website seems outdated and is difficult to navigate with titles within the sub categories of romance listed alphabetically.

 

8. Publish all series book in the same format. It’s annoying to have books of different sizes and/or types on the shelf for the same series. And as it is now, if a series shifts to hardcover in the middle, you end up having to buy duplicate copies of the same book or wait six months to a year until you have all books of the same type. I love the Bantam Discovery series where they put out the paperback and trade paper of the book at the same time. I think that’s genius. Ironically, I happen to like the trade paper better. Even though it is more costly, it lays open nicer and seems easier to handle.

9. Price hardcover ebooks at reasonable prices and release them at the same time as paper books. A sale is a sale is a sale, folks. Don’t punish the readers because the NYTimes and USAToday don’t take into account esales when tallying its lists. And please have ebooks available on the same street date as the paper copy. It seems to unfair to have to wait a week or even several for a book I can instantaneously download if it’s available.

10. Ask bookstores to shelve Romance with Romance regardless of the race of the characters and the author. And integrate your own websites instead of relegating AA authored Romance to separate lines and webpages.

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Any other suggestions? Differing opinions? We want to hear them.

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

120 Comments

  1. Ann Somerville
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 04:26:32

    Any other suggestions?

    I suppose ‘Don’t publish mediocre or downright sucky books’ is too obvious, but considering how many that do, I think it bears repeating.

    Having a good website should be the bare minimum for any publisher or author these days. It’s simply incredible how many don’t. Even Samhain do some strange things like not linking their ‘coming soon’ page to the actual book page, so if you use an old url, you just get a ‘page not found’ error, instead of an automatic forward. That kind of thing drives me crazy because from a programming point of view, it’s trivial to arrange.

    Covers that don’t make readers cringe to buy or carry them, would be nice. Considering the smart readership, and the smart authorship, the covers don’t half look like they are pitching to the lowest common denominator. How about a little respect, hmmm?

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  2. Marianne McA
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 05:41:29

    3. would annoy me. (So would 4).
    I could advance rational reasons, but I think it’s just a childish hatred of people telling me what I should read, or should enjoy reading.

    I particularly agree with 2 and five – the chart at the beginning of the books, and the distinctive covers. I’d prefer the charts to the numbers on the spines, because I irrationally feel that numbered books are for children, and because it annoys me when I’m shelving numbered books if I don’t have the complete sequence.

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  3. Anji
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 06:01:18

    God, yes! All of these are really good points. How often have I stood in the bookstore, trying to remember title names and figure out which books were part of a series and which weren’t.

    And I’d love to find all romance books in the romance section instead of searching through the AA section to find AA romance titles.

    I’d add to 8. that apart from timely ebook releases, I’d wish that all books in a series would be released in the same format. As an example, I bought Nora Roberts’ Daring to Dream and Holding the Dream in Mobipocket format – and then the final book, Finding the Dream, was only available in Adobe Reader. It took over 6 months til it came out in Mobipocket.
    And that when a series moves to e-book format, the earlier, non-ebook titles in the series also need to be released as ebooks. I’m still waiting for Magic Bites to be released as an ebook.

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  4. Sarah Frantz
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 06:10:39

    #2 would be just amazingly wonderful.

    And I went onto iTunes to by NR’s “Tribute” or LH’s “Death Angel” and they were both at hardcover prices. No thank you very much.

    I *didin’t* know that Blalogh had two series–I thought they were the same series and I just thought there were lots of books. I didn’t like the first one that came out in the first series, so I just haven’t read her in years. So I’m with you on that one.

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  5. Mrs Giggles
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 06:15:46

    I have a suggestion.

    Stop making short stories published in expensive trade paperbacks part of a series! Looking at you, Meljean Brook and Marjorie M Liu.

    Of course, I can live without those short stories but I’m a collector type of person and if I like a series, I tend to want to read everything in that particular series.

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  6. Leslee
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 06:40:40

    Amen, Mrs. Giggles! I agree with everything in this post. Jane, you are always spot on with a wonderfully detailed but concise discussion! I especially agree with the hardcover issue. More authors are going that way, J.R. Ward and now Patricia Briggs are two that I follow and it is going to either get expensive or I am going to get cranky because I have to wait to buy the books when they come out in paperback.

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  7. Nora Roberts
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 07:09:04

    Re the hardcover issue. I’d agree if the series is a specific number, like a trilogy. But an open-ended series is a different matter. How do you know where the ‘middle’ is? The shift to hardcover from paperback is a big advantage for the writer. In addition there are many readers who actually prefer hardcover. Can’t please everyone, but the simple fact is not every author is going to stay in paperback.

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  8. Kimber An
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 07:13:05

    All true and I like #4, #5, and #10 especially.

    #4 – I’ve seen these work very well.

    #5 – It’s overwhelming to step into the Romance aisle and look at all those covers! If a girl doesn’t have a list, how is she supposed to pick one out of the endless parade of sameness? She goes looking for her favorite authors’ names, for one thing. Try to make those names big. “Ahh! Gwyneth Bolton – I’m saved!”

    But, you forgot one.

    #11 – ASK READERS WHAT THEY WANT! No. Don’t just study the sales numbers of new books. That doesn’t account for readers who don’t like anything in New Releases. For that matter, stink on the sales numbers in general. That only accounts for the readers who liked what they found there. The biggest independent/used bookstore in Anchorage, Alaska has grown from a tiny little used bookstore to a huge readers’ paradise and I know why. They know what readers want and they give it to them. Title Wave Bookstore is as close to perfect as it gets, from what is available to how the store is laid out. Yes, they have a website. Of course they do! Nothing beats personally asking readers what they want. Book reviewing taught me that. Readers are smart and passionate about their books! They’ll tell you everything you need to know, if only you ask. I hear Tor has started some kind of interactive blog where readers can interact with each other. Brilliant idea! Not only can readers help each other find the books they’ll love, but Tor can have a first-hand peek at what they like the most.

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  9. Jennifer Estep
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 07:31:07

    Kudos, Jane! I think these are all really great ideas.

    In regards to #1, that’s one thing I like about Lilith Saintcrow’s Dante Valentine series. They all have numbers on the spine to tell you the order of the series.

    I also really like #2. That would be really helpful when reading J.R. Ward’s series or Marjorie Liu or Julia Quinn or, well, anyone who writes a long series with connecting/recurring characters.

    #3 would be helpful, but I also think it would feel like spam to some folks. I also wonder how the publishers would get the e-mail addresses and who else they would give them to. There’s nothing I hate more than signing up for something only to get tons of other spam offers I don’t want cluttering my inbox.

    I think #5 is probably the trickiest thing on your list. I do layout/design work, and it can be hard to make something similar enough so you know it’s part of a series but different enough to be distinctive. I actually really like Kresley Cole’s covers. The similar look lets me know they’re her books. And I can always read the back cover copy to see if it sounds like I’ve read the book or not.

    My suggestion would be to publish a series in a timely manner. If a house has an author under contract for 3 or 7 or even 12 books, then publish those books on a set schedule — and don’t make the lag time between books more than a year.

    One reason I fell out of love with Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series was the looong wait in between books. Now that he’s no longer with us, I wonder if the series will ever be finished. I know someone has been hired to write it, but still, I wonder, look at my books, and sigh.

    My other suggestion would be if a series isn’t doing well and the publisher knows they’re not going to continue with it, give the author a heads-up. Give her enough time to wrap up whatever story lines she can in the next/current book. Or publish one more book that wraps everything up.

    But either way, give the readers some closure. I hate when a series (whether it’s a book or TV one) ends before all the questions are answered. I seriously think there should be a rule for TV shows that get cancelled — they all have to make a 2-hour mini movie to wrap everything up.

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  10. theo
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 07:33:13

    I completely agree with the whole anthology thing. I was fortunate enough to find Kenyon’s Dragonswan and Moning’s Into the Dreaming as short books, published as stand alones. Now I feel like I have a complete series of Moning’s Highlanders though Kenyon’s is…well…some of hers are only available on her website, which is also a shame. If the author is going to take the time to write it, and he/she obviously has a following, why not make it available as a shelf copy? Many people don’t like to read long stories (or short for that matter) on the computer for a variety of reasons. It’s irritating to recommend a series only to have to tell that person that, in order to read it chronologically, they have to read three of them on the web.

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  11. GrowlyCub
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 07:54:15

    I strongly agree on the Hardcover issue. I find it especially baffling in cases like Mary Balogh’s. The publisher started putting out (some of) the Simply quartet in HC (and that whole series as well as the Slightly books are most definitely not her best work, oh well), but now she’s going to have a new series out next year where the first 4 books will be in paperback as back to back releases and the last one will be in HC.

    I understand it’s a big deal for an author to be in HC, but she had achieved that already, so why go back to paper and then back to HC? And also, while it might be a big deal, I’m not convinced that there aren’t more readers lost that way than won.

    I might be mistaken in that assumption, but I can say from personal experience that I stopped reading a certain series when it went to HC and due to the fact that I couldn’t remember which of the 20+ books I had already bought when they finally came out in paperback which neatly elucidates why point number 5 is so spot on. We won’t even talk about the redesign of the paperback covers after book 7, because I might blow a blood vessel when I think about that too long. :)

    I’m sure the publisher thinks beaucoup folks will buy the HC in the Balogh 5 books series when it comes out and they are probably right, and maybe I’m this lone weirdo, but it also creates a certain amount of ill-will towards the author/their books. Maybe I’m the only anal compulsive obsessive retentive reader out there who’d rather give up on a series than mix and match paperback, trade and HC on her shelves, but there you have it.

    I disagree with Jane on the trade size format. I find them hard to read, they are a bad format for my shelves, and I detest that the publisher gets away with charging double and more than they would for a the same amount of story in a mass market paperback. I would love for whoever invented them to burn in hell with no access to any kind of reading material for all eternity. :)

    Oh, and I just used Balogh as an example, not to bash her. I love her early works, even though I’m not enthused with the last two series.

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  12. theo
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 08:06:03

    GrowlyCub,

    Your post made me laugh, but in a good way! :) I don’t like the trade format either. It messes up the uniformity of my bookshelves, doesn’t fit in my purse and is cumbersome to read, for me anyway.

    And what’s with the two different sizes? Well, three if you count the mass market size. *sigh* Just print my books in the size I’m used to, can carry easily and fits nicely on my bookshelf with the 2,000 other mass market paperbacks because that way, I can squeeze more in.

    As for the hardcovers…I don’t buy them. I have, in all my years of ready, bought three. I’ve given up series as well because it’s gone to hardcover. They make me feel like I’m reading a textbook and again, are cumbersome, heavy to carry, and the easiest way to read them is sitting at the table with it spread out in front of me…like a textbook. I want to curl in my easy chair with my little mass market paperback and if I fall asleep while reading, know I won’t shatter one of my toes if it falls out of my hand and onto the floor.

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  13. Cathy
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 08:16:28

    I’d like to add that the back cover of paperbacks should always have a summary of the story, and not be filled with favorable quotes from critics or a full-sized photo of the author. A few quotes are fine (though they never impact my buying decision), as long as there is room for a decent summary. I’m never a fan of the full-cover photo of the author – the inside back cover is a good place for that, and honestly, what does the photo have to do with his/her writing skills? “Oh, they have nice blue eyes, this must be a good book.”
    I’ve put down many books because I couldn’t find a summary, or there was only a very small one on the first page.

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  14. MaryKate
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 08:20:47

    If a series does switch to hardcover midstream, I really appreciate when the paperback comes out six months after the hardcover (like the In Death series). The wait for Karen Marie Moning’s “Fever” series to come out in PB is interminable.

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  15. katiebabs
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 08:22:48

    I am all for titles I can remember! Dark Deeds, Dark Desires… which one is which?!
    NO tradepaperback. Honestly, I refuse to buy them because they are too expensive. I would go all the way then and buy hardcover.
    Make the blurbs better. I read these blurbs on the back and then as I read the story, I am like WTF? The blurb is way off!
    No more male cover models with only their 8 pack abs and their heads cut off. And you know which head I am talking about! :P

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  16. GrowlyCub
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 08:23:01

    Cathy,

    excellent point. I absolutely agree on the pic or the overabundance of quotes! Give me a sensible summary that is written by somebody who actually read the book!

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  17. theo
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 08:28:27

    MaryKate, That’s one of the reasons I’m not reading the Fever series. Well, that and the fact that it’s written in first person which I can’t stand to read because I never feel like I’ve gotten a real sense of all the characters. I’m only getting a skewed idea filtered through the ‘star’s head’ if you will.

    Which brings me to another complaint. What is it with the blurbs on the back of the book that has the hero telling you about his book, in first person, when the book is third person? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve passed on a book because the blurb starts with ‘Hello, my name is…’ I don’t care what your name is! I want to know what the book is about, not how you feel about it. So give me a blurb that matches the voice and content of the book.

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  18. Rosie
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 08:29:43

    The similar titles and covers in a series by the same author drives me crazy. I don’t understand it because it seems like a no brainer. When I have time to really browse I’ll pull the books down and compare with my list. If I don’t have time I won’t buy anything because I don’t have time and don’t know which one I’ve read.

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  19. Common sense in publishing | Moriah Jovan
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 08:31:31

    [...] know, reading is a faster process than writing). So when I read Dear Author this morning, wherein Jane proceeds to give publishers advice as to how to help readers buy books and she didn’t miss a trick, I shouted [...]

  20. Nora Roberts
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 08:35:22

    I don’t like trade as a reader. However, my Wedding Quartet starting next spring is coming out in trade for many reasons I won’t go into here.

    The thing is I just got back from a lovely week’s vacation, and did a lot of spying on reading choices at the pool. The vast majority of women who had books at poolside had trade paperbacks.

    I have no idea why, but that was the overwhelming choice of format in this small, informal poll.

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  21. Jane
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 08:38:27

    I’m not advocating that all books be in trade versus mass market. The Bantam Discovery line prints the books out in both trade and paperback. Because I get them free, I choose to read the trade paperback and I know that when I buy gifts, I tend to buy the trade and the hardcovers more.

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  22. Nora Roberts
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 08:42:47

    ~If a series does switch to hardcover midstream, I really appreciate when the paperback comes out six months after the hardcover (like the In Death series). ~

    I understand this, and my publisher and I worked really hard to make that work. I just want to say it’s not easy to pull it off–and not every publisher is going to be able to make it so, or be willing to.

    Let me add that there were excellent reasons for launching the In Death series in paper. And excellent reasons for switching to hardcover when we did so. This may be a part of the business of publishing that many readers can’t understand. Why should they? And yes, the change in format and price may be frustrating for some. I get that, too. However, we’re building careers, and have to make decisions based on business and career.

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  23. GrowlyCub
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 08:52:45

    Jane,

    understood. :) I know there are many people who like trade size, I’m just not one of them, mostly because I read a LOT (1-2 books a day, 3 if they are categories and I’m having a good day) and since I re-read a lot as well, I have to own the books, which is cost prohibitive in trade or HC and shelf space is an issue.

    Nora,

    interesting. For me these issues usually come down to the chicken and egg question. Do people read trade sized books because they like that format better, or do they read it because the books they want to read are only available in that format? The same question applies to why certain sub-genres are so popular. As with titles, I think people buy and read books in spite of format, cover, content, etc., because they cannot find the things they really want to read and being readers, even something they are not really fond of is better than not reading at all. That naturally doesn’t apply all the time or most of the time, but I know I’ve done it.

    I have to admit, the first thing that popped into my mind was that those ladies must have been reading erotic romance, :) since that sub-genre seems to be published exclusively in trade if it’s not in e-book and from all I can see is very well received by the female reading population.

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  24. karmelrio
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 09:06:32

    For me, it’s about usability. I never buy hardcovers due to their size and weight – they’re too big and heavy to read in my favorite reading location – the bathtub. When traveling, a paperback is lighter and takes up less space in a carry-on or suitcase.

    I check hardcover releases out of the library. By releasing in HC, the author has lost my purchase right out of the starting gate. If I like the book, I might try to remember to watch for it when it comes out in paperback, but … my memory is hit and miss.

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  25. Stephanie
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 09:16:11

    I would love, love, love if there was just a LIST on a good deal of publishers’ websites, telling me what the new or future titles are, and when they’ll be released. I keep an internal list of Books I Want (more like, “Why won’t someone give me these books for free?!?!”, since I am still a baby review-blogger) and it takes an awful lot of work to compile it.

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  26. KCfla
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 09:22:37

    Great post as usual Jane!
    I’m gonna agree with you on #’s 1 & 2. Or at least using one of them! I’ve gone bonkers going to websites, writing down titles in order, and remembering to take them with me when I go to the store. If the books are numbered, or at least listed on the inside IN ORDER, then that makes it easier for us readers to figure out which to buy.

    ( I have to confess – when I started the In Death series, because I was so far behind book-wise I just ripped that page out of the PB and took it with me to the store. That way I could *check* them off as I bought them. I bought another copy to replace the *torn* one though. Sorry Nora!)

    As for the whole HB, Trade, PB debate- I’m gonna buy the book I want. Yes of course I prefer mass market PB’s. But if the darn thing comes out in one of the other formats, and it’s one I really want- I’m going to buy it anyway. My bookshelves are messed up size-wise anyway what with what everyone reads around my house ;)

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  27. rebyj
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 09:24:51

    Those are great suggestions!

    I was in a UBS the other day and I look for authors who have a lot of books , because theoretically if they’ve been published a lot then they have some kind of voice and maybe I’ll like the books.

    I wish I remembered her name but on the back of one author’s books , instead of a synopsis of the story it was ALL quotes “Kudos for the writer of (name of totally different book””
    “NY TIMES says “blah blah blah blah”” Not one word on what the heck her books were about . I just walked on by. totally irritating to me in a UBS , I can’t imagine choosing to buy one of her books new on the basis of some rather generic cover art and braggart quotes on the back.

    Tell me what the freakin’ book’s about!!

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  28. Lori
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 09:27:58

    Standing O. Really. I agree with everything.

    And Ann, this: I suppose ‘Don't publish mediocre or downright sucky books' is too obvious, just made me laugh. Too true!

    As for the paperback/HC issue, I know that it is a major coup for an author to make the move to HC. I am torn between wanting to support my faves in their success and just not being able to afford all the books I want in HC. What really irks me is when publishers make the first 2 or 3 books in a series in PB, then pub the last book in the series in HC. For each series by the author. A perfect example of this practice is the past 2 series by Mariah Stewart. I had to wait for the last book in each of the last 2 series (torture I tell you!) because my book budget doesn’t cover it, and as Jane so ably pointed out, I want all my books in the series in the same format. They just look better on the shelf that way.

    And thankfully, as a web designer for a publisher, I was nodding my head throughout thinking “Oh goody – we do that.” Where appropriate, of course, since I’m in academic publishing…

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  29. Kirsten
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 09:28:08

    I would just add that publishers who put books out in eformat can easily create consistency and coherence as well.

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  30. lakaribane
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 09:31:15

    Thank you Jane! This post is spot on! I live outside of the US and HC are not on my list for different reasons, the top 3 being : too heavy to read in bed (my favorite position/location), too heavy to mail (when I need my fix and am willing to sell a kidney to buy them) and too expensive, how many paperbacks can I get for the price of 1 HC? Too many to even entertain that notion, that’s how much!

    I agree with Kimber An’s suggestion for #11, just ASK ME! For that matter, #3 is not a prob, as Jennifer Estep fears, because you can just sign-up at the website.

    All the physical problems cited (format, cover, title) are the reasons I was so happy for the Advent of Ebooks in 2008 but those prices!?!? I get instant gratification, no mail anxiety but the cost is still WTF to me! And the format issue is still annoying. To top it all off, as someone else mentioned here, the backlist of the author or the series isn’t always available in ebook format.

    Publishers, help me spend that hard-earned money by making it EASY for me, instead of punishing me and making me jump through hoops!

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  31. Mariana
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 09:34:57

    This list is so right on and timely. I just sent Sony a feedback note regarding posting a Coming Soon section. I always expect the release of the e-book to coincide with the book release and it’s not always the case; very annoying after waiting ages for a books release.

    And I COMPLETELY agree with Anji.

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  32. Michelle
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 09:44:34

    I know it may miss some books, but I tend to use the books on sale this month list on aar/likesbooks to find out what books are being published and make my own to buy list regularly.

    I like that some of my favorite romances of all times are/were available in hardcover because they last longer. I don’t have to fear that at some point I’ll have read the paperback so much it’ll fall apart, and I can’t replace it. FWIW, I’ve bought all of Mary Balogh’s hardcovers. Heck, I’ve even bought the mass market copies of some of those hardcovers for ok reasons. Honestly, it makes me happy when my favorite romance authors go hardcover because that makes me think their careers are going better, they’re more financially secure, and they can keep writing the stories I love.

    I do know many young women who have been trained to only want and respect trade paperbacks. They’ve been trained to think they are more respectable, literary, something extra… The marketing has worked for them.

    And, I’m guessing the marketing efforts of similar titles, covers, etc. works with the majority of buyers. I remember loving the V-books by Jane Feather, all those one word titles by Amanda Quick, etc. I primarily buy based on author name but before I’ve read enough to commit that name to memory, those marketing tricks help me.

    The only time I can think of it backfiring was actually Amanda Quick. Since she’s so into a “core story”, it got to the point that I’d look at a book, read a blurb, and even check the copyright date – and I still wasn’t sure if I read the book before. I do have to admit that was around the time she fell off my auto-buy list.

    And, yes!, the Web sites of most romance publishers are just awful!!!

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  33. Anne Douglas
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 09:55:13

    I have to wonder if the amount of people who refuse to buy hardcover outnumber those who prefer it?

    Very VERY few authors have earned my desire to buy their work at HC prices. A Series going to HC means I stop buying the books and get them out from the library instead (which pisses me off no end to have bought say 3 books and not be able to have the rest of them on the shelf when I go to reread them). I’m of the view if you start a series in one format, you should finish it in the same.

    And I agree whole heartedly on the cover/cover model front. Nathen Kamp, is a lovely lovely man, but frankly, I’m so sick of his mug I often don’t bother picking books up off the shelf to read the back blurb. If anyone else does the same that can’t be good for sales, surely?

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  34. cin
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 09:56:10

    Oh! I can highly recommend to publishers having a relationship page. It really helped me locate, and purchase, other books in a series. I picked up a paperback from the library that happened to have a chart in the front. The book I was reading was at the bottom of the chart but I went ahead and read it. Intrigued by other characters I used that chart, which had a tiny image of the book and named the lead characters, to purchase their story.

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  35. Darlynne
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 09:57:04

    What a great list and how do we make publishers implement it?

    A number of years ago, we asked a publisher’s rep who called on a little independent mystery bookstore about the intent behind trade paperback releases. He told us that, given a choice between mass market and trade editions, the majority of readers would choose trade, according to their research. The alleged reasoning is that trade editions look more intelligent, particularly as they were perceived as a vehicle for Literature. I love that erotica is so frequently published in trade ’cause that just blows such snobbery right out of the water. Not that erotica isn’t intelligent, but that the rationale for choosing one format over the other for that particular reason isn’t valid.

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  36. Monica Burns
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 10:09:34

    Nora Roberts said…

    …did a lot of spying on reading choices at the pool. The vast majority of women who had books at poolside had trade paperbacks.

    I have no idea why, but that was the overwhelming choice of format in this small, informal poll.

    Do you happen to recall any titles or names? A lot of small press and e-rom/erotica are printed in trade paperback. Although I’m not really sure why that particular format is used. Angela James might be able to answer that question.

    Would be interested to know if you can remember authors or titles as it might give a clue as to what readers are reading poolside, but at least they are READING!! *grin* My guess is you were just passing and probably didn’t get a close enough look. Rats. *grin*

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  37. GrowlyCub
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 10:10:18

    I love that erotica is so frequently published in trade 'cause that just blows such snobbery right out of the water. Not that erotica isn't intelligent, but that the rationale for choosing one format over the other for that particular reason isn't valid.

    Actually, that is exactly the reason I’ve been given by more than one erotic romance publisher on why they put their books in trade rather than mass market. Because it ‘elevates’ the book in the eye of the beholder.

    That reasoning irks me in so many ways it’s not even funny. I don’t give a flip about what others think of my reading tastes, and it pisses the hell out of me that I have to pay more if I want to read these titles to satisfy some romance/woman hater’s perception that if it’s in trade it can’t be trash…

    ehm, yeah, that how I *really* feel. (sheepish smile)

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  38. Jessa Slade
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 10:35:17

    More information always seems like a good thing: number of books in the series, chart of relationships, etc. And you’re right that what makes information most usable is a standardized format and clearinghouse, i.e. at the publisher level.

    As a newbie author with a series, everything everybody’s said makes me bite my nails because I’ll have NO control over any of that, not for a very long time. Not covers, not numbering, not even titles, much less publisher website design. All I’ve got is content (and oh please, don’t let it be downright sucky, as Ann says) but some of you say you might not even get to that part if the rest isn’t done right. It’s frightening, I tell you.

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  39. Monica Burns
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 10:44:55

    GrowlyCub said…

    That reasoning irks me in so many ways it's not even funny. I don't give a flip about what others think of my reading tastes, and it pisses the hell out of me that I have to pay more if I want to read these titles to satisfy some romance/woman hater's perception that if it's in trade it can't be trash…

    As an author of small press/erotic romance, I understand. I wish I knew the reason why publishers choose trade or mass market size. My guess it that it’s an economic decision. Maybe the agreement with the printer in terms of setup costs? Or perhaps higher costs to justify a lower print run and then distribution? I don’t know the answer, but definitely would like to hear one from someone in-the-know. *smile* I like to learn at least one new thing a day.

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  40. roslynholcomb
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 10:45:20

    I think I read somewhere that trade is actually cheaper to print, though I’m not sure why that would be. I don’t really have a preference. I won’t buy in hardback, even fave authors like SEP. I used to, and got burned so many times that I will never do it again. I get those at the library, or wait until they come out in paperback. It’s really interesting that I used to be too impatient to wait, now it’s all I can do to remember that someone has a book coming out. Amazing what having a child will do to your priorities. I will buy some non-fiction in hardback, but most of the ones I buy are trade size.

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  41. Anion
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 10:47:07

    That reasoning irks me in so many ways it’s not even funny. I don’t give a flip about what others think of my reading tastes, and it pisses the hell out of me that I have to pay more if I want to read these titles to satisfy some romance/woman hater’s perception that if it’s in trade it can’t be trash…

    I agree 100%. Can’t put it any better than that.

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  42. Anion
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 10:48:40

    Okay…it’s not letting me edit my comments to fix those quote tags. Sorry everyone.

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  43. Jane
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 10:49:41

    My understanding is that mass market is an offset print that costs more than the trade. Plus, with trade, a bigger size, you print less pages than in a mass market, also affecting cost.

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  44. MPH
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 10:53:07

    I totally vote for #2. When tracking down stories in a series, I was surprised how publisher don’t make it very easy for readers to do so. Recently, I tried picking up on the Trouble Shooter series by Suzanne Brockman and In Death series by J.D. Rob. It took me days of research and visiting different sites to piece together a list of the series in chronological order. Publishers usually list the books by author, written to date in the beginning of the book, why not go the extra inch and list them by series if they are indeed part of one?

    #6 is ingenious, it’s so basic! Did someone not finish his/her English and Writing course in school??! Part of the course also teaches how to summarize a story properly. The past few Linda Howard books have recieved negative reviews due to misleading synopsis of story. That’s not good for anyone. Go work for Star and In Touch tabloids if you like to mislead people.

    mph

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  45. Monica Burns
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 11:00:28

    My understanding is that mass market is an offset print that costs more than the trade. Plus, with trade, a bigger size, you print less pages than in a mass market, also affecting cost.

    Thanks Jane. I thought it might be something along those lines. Cost is ALWAYS a factor in printing.

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  46. theo
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 11:02:57

    I hated trying to find the reading order in a series and very few author websites list them, though they seem to be getting better. But I do know that more often than not, the two biggest online booksellers are now trying to include Book 1, 2, 3, etc., in their descriptions of books in a series which has really helped me. But yes, if it takes me more than oh…fifteen minutes to try to figure out the order, that publisher has lost me as a reader for that series.

    You’d think that as a series, that concept would be pretty basic.

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  47. Keishon
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 11:04:28

    9. Price hardcover ebooks at reasonable prices and release them at the same time as paper books. A sale is a sale is a sale, folks. Don't punish the readers because the NYTimes and USAToday don't take into account esales when tallying its lists. And please have ebooks available on the same street date as the paper copy. It seems to unfair to have to wait a week or even several for a book I can instantaneously download if it's available

    Amen to all those suggestions but especially that one.

    And Dennis Lehane has YET to release his first book, A Drink Before the War, in ebook but ALL THE REST OF THEM are available in ebook format so I can’t complete the set for my e-library. Makes no sense at all to me. None. Nada. Why do this?

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  48. GrowlyCub
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 11:05:01

    I’m curious about the cost angle. Does anybody know whether that is a recent development, say due to new technology making it cheaper to produce trade? You’d think if it had always been cheaper, mass market would never have gotten off the ground.

    I understand that there’s more money for publishers and authors in trade sized books. I’m looking at it purely from the angle of a reader who can either buy 2 mass markets or 1 trade sized book. If I buy the 1 trade sized one, I’ve put more money in that particular author’s pocket, but if I buy 2 mass markets, I might have bought a couple of slices of bread for 2 authors which will allow both of them to continue writing stories I want to read.

    Considering that I’d rather have more books from mid-list authors to choose from rather than fewer by a handful of bestsellers (since I hardly ever read folks off the bestseller lists), my vote will always be for the 2 mass markets.

    Over the last 10-15 years, we’ve seen the mid-list authors getting squeezed out of budgets, for slots, covers, promo, etc. while humongous advances were given to a handful of authors. That concentration on bestselling authors (aka guaranteed money making machines for the publisher) seems awfully short-sighted to me as a business plan, because even bestselling writers will die eventually or stop writing for other reasons.

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  49. azteclady
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 11:07:05

    GrowlyCub

    Actually, that is exactly the reason I've been given by more than one erotic romance publisher on why they put their books in trade rather than mass market. Because it ‘elevates' the book in the eye of the beholder.

    That reasoning irks me in so many ways it's not even funny. I don't give a flip about what others think of my reading tastes, and it pisses the hell out of me that I have to pay more if I want to read these titles to satisfy some romance/woman hater's perception that if it's in trade it can't be trash…

    I so wanna be you when (if I ever) grow up!

    I don’t like trade, at all. I don’t like paying twice the price of a mm for the same content; I don’t like how they look on the shelf; I don’t like how they feel. Mostly, I don’t like all the assumptions made about the content’s value based on the format. Don’t freakin’ judge books by their cover and all that. The few I do have are almost all from authors’ giveaways–which thoroughly defeats their purpose, at least for this one reader, doesn’t it?

    While I’m anal retentive enough myself to prefer having all my books in one format–and I like mm because I can fit more of them in the house–I really like knowing my favorite authors have reached that plateau (hardcover releases) in their careers. And I selfishly want writing to be a profitable career for them because then they’ll keep on writing and entertaining me.

    However, I have a tiny book buying budget, so I will often have to wait for the mm release for my own copy, and find a way to get the HC from the library for a first read. (Linda Howard)

    The one thing that kills me, completely, are finite series where the first five or six books are mm and the last one is HC–I don’t know the publishers’ reasoning, but it just makes me wait again for the mm, and sometimes I simply forget about it. (Mary Balogh)

    Anthologies: I will end up buying them sometimes, for that. one. short. story that is part of a series (yes, Meljean Brook and Marjorie M. Liu are right there), but I’ll grumble and moan, because I rarely will actually read the other short stories, let alone seek out those authors.

    And I won’t even go into the mockery that are blurbs–seriously, people, how hard is it to either read the effin’ novel, or let someone who has read it write the effin’ blurb?

    *ahem*

    Jest sayin’

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  50. Catherine
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 11:07:50

    The biggest independent/used bookstore in Anchorage, Alaska has grown from a tiny little used bookstore to a huge readers' paradise and I know why. They know what readers want and they give it to them. Title Wave Bookstore is as close to perfect as it gets, from what is available to how the store is laid out.

    Kimber An I so agree with you. I loved Title Wave. I miss it so much. My bookstores are crap compared to it. They have such a nice atmosphere and are friendly and knowledgable.

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  51. Virginia Kantra
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 11:10:15

    Really interesting post and discussion. I will point out that while the parent company Penguin’s website poses some problems for romance readers, you can sign up for a very nice monthly newsletter from Berkley Jove.

    You can check out an example here
    Berkley Jove July News

    Love the suggestion for the relationship chart. Something to bring up with my editor when we talk next week!

    Virginia aka She-of-the-similarly-titled-books-wth-different-covers

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  52. Corrine
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 11:29:17

    I prefer mass market to hardcover or trade paper, but I’ll buy any of the three, though I am extremely wary about hardcovers as I too have been burned. (But the one or two extremely good hardcovers and my lack of will power tends to outweigh any past scars when I see that shiny dustcover of a must-have title). The format I really don’t understand, however, is the premium mass market. You know, that one’s that just half an inch bigger than the regular mass market, but they charge you an extra dollar or two for. I’m starting to see less and less of them, so I’m guessing maybe publishers realized they weren’t fooling anyone.

    I have to second the “blurb on back cover over author picture/quotes.” Even if they want to cover the whole back with this stuff, at least put a summary in the front inside cover or something. My #1 pet peeve is a book with no summary.

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  53. JenB
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 11:39:23

    I wholeheartedly agree with labeling the books within a series. They already list the author’s other works in the front of each book. How much harder would it be to put those in order and label them by series? I am under the impression that the lack of labeling is intentional. Uninformed reader buys a book without knowing it’s part of a series. Then he/she goes back to buy the rest of the series. The publisher sells six or seven books to the customer that only intended to buy one. There are exceptions to every rule, of course, but I think the lack of labeling does sell more books.

    I also wish hardbacks were less expensive. I avoid them like the plague just because I don’t like them, but my husband frequently reads series that are only available in hardback (because of age) or that switch from MMPB to HB in mid-series. And it is next to impossible to re-sell/trade them. The Book Rack near my house won’t even take hardbacks for trade because they say no one buys them.

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  54. Judi
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 11:42:06

    Never in my life have I been so picky as a reader. Anything that can enhance the experience would be appreciated. For a long time, becoming an author ruined my reading life, but it's gotten better. Now, with the economy being what it is I've become picky for the obvious and universal reason.

    I find it very difficult to plunk down full price for a HC. I'll do it for my favorite authors…maybe…but I don't like it and often wait for a discount, a coupon or Costco. I'd rather buy trade for my favorites and I don't want to have to apologize for liking them. However, I learned a valuable lesson last week…I could easily miss out if I get stuck in any preference. I picked out Nora's HB Angels Fall at a deep discount during my morning mall walk. I can't believe I nearly missed out…or maybe it's in pb and I just didn't know. I'm a skimmer, but this book made me slow down and savor. It was like old times. Delicious!

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  55. AnimeJune
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 12:07:19

    How about not just distinctive titles, but titles that are relevant to the story? So many novels now have “buzzwords” in a title, so the title serves more as advertisement than an indication of the plot. Sure, it might be a vague indication of what goes on in the novel, but it’s also a vague indication of the plot of DOZENS of other novels.

    If I were a publisher, I would hereby ban the following words from EVERY regency historical romance title: Sin, Scandal, Wicked, Rake, Surrender, Seduction, Passion, Pleasure. For the LOVE OF GOD. Stop using these words – every other romance reads like the the Sinful Scandal of the Rake’s Wicked Seduction, etc. etc.

    Lisa Kleypas, Julia Quinn, and Eloisa James can ALL come up with original and interesting and eye-catching titles. Follow their example!

    As for the trade paperback/hardcover issue, I’ve found I don’t really have a problem with it. Sure, it might be hard to wait for the paperback to come out, but you know what could ease that pain? Being able to order the hardcover from the library for FREE. Then if you love it you can buy it in paperback. The ease with which paperbacks are damaged means most libraries don’t catalogue them by title, so you can’t find it through their catalogue you have to look through their imperfect selection in person.

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  56. MS Jones
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 12:22:27

    Jane, I agree with all your comments except for # 3, because I’m not interested in what a publisher has to offer – I read certain authors only. (The ones you and the SBs recommend.)

    Like most of the commenters here, I never buy HC books. They’re too unwieldy and take up too much space. When there’s no simultaneous paperback option, it’s a lost sale to the publisher, because I check the hardcover out of the library. When the paperback version comes out I don’t buy it because I’ve already read the book.

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  57. Cat
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 12:31:08

    Lisa Kleypas, Julia Quinn, and Eloisa James can ALL come up with original and interesting and eye-catching titles. Follow their example!

    Wow! I hope all readers don’t believe the author gets to pick their own title…because the majority are mandated by the publisher.

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  58. Susan/DC
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 12:33:27

    I love most of the suggestions, especially about having back blurbs that actually describe the book, titles that actually have something to do with the book so that you can remember which book is which, and numbering those in a series. Alexander McCall Smith’s Precious Ramotswe books are numbered, and it’s been very helpful when I’ve gone looking for one at the bookstore. Seems like it would be such a crowdpleaser and easy to implement without any additional expense to the publisher.

    As for trade versus MM vs HC, I rarely buy HC due to the price. However, even though they cost somewhat more than MM (although less than HC), I usually prefer trade. I often read on the treadmill, and trade books lie flatter and stay open better. Plus, for whatever reasons, they generally are easier on my rapidly aging eyes and I’ve got less eyestrain at the end of the day. My preference has nothing to do with appearing more literary; this is the first time I’ve ever heard that argument.

    A good website should be a no-brainer for a publisher today. Mary Balogh has taken her hits due to her similar series titles and move from PB to HC mid-series, but her website clearly lays out her books and tells you which are related, which is a very helpful feature.

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  59. MaryKate
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 12:39:55

    Recently, I tried picking up on the Trouble Shooter series by Suzanne Brockman and In Death series by J.D. Rob. It took me days of research and visiting different sites to piece together a list of the series in chronological order.

    I compiled my “In Death” series several years ago, but it used to be that in the first couple of pages of the book, there would be a “works by Nora Roberts/JD Robb” and the In Death series was listed in reading order. Are they now listed alphabetically? Because I can see with a series that has so many books that the reader would get frustrated with that.

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  60. Kalen Hughes
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 12:44:35

    NO tradepaperback. Honestly, I refuse to buy them because they are too expensive. I would go all the way then and buy hardcover.

    And then there are the readers like me who would buy EVERYTHING in Trade if only that were an option. I loathe Mass Market. Trade books fall open and stay that way! MM has to be HELD open, and it makes my hand ache.

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  61. karmelrio
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 12:52:52

    Wow! I hope all readers don't believe the author gets to pick their own title…because the majority are mandated by the publisher.

    Frankly, the more I learn about this industry, the less attractive writing my own book (for anything other than my own pleasure) becomes. I sometimes envision a horrible scenario where I get “the call” and… I end up being too embarrassed to even carry my own book in public – much less promote it – because the cover’s a steaming pile o’ Velveeta and the title was pulled out of some MBA bean counter’s ass. And I have little to no control over something it took three years of my life to create.

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  62. TracyS
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 13:01:21

    Wow! I hope all readers don't believe the author gets to pick their own title…because the majority are mandated by the publisher.

    I’ve seen many an author bemoan the title their book was given. I’m guessing (someone in the know can correct me) that some bigger name authors have more say in the matter, but on the whole, it’s up to the publisher.

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  63. Catherine
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 13:06:31

    I totally agree with #’s 1&2. They make it so much simpler for me to track down the other books in the series. Seriously, don’t you want me to buy your other books? Make it easy for me! Besides, nothing pisses me off more than getting a book expecting it to be a stand alone (because it wasn’t marketed as part of a series) and finding out that I don’t understand the content/jokes because I haven’t read the other ones.

    #7 is definitely important. I don’t just mean the publisher’s website either, I mean the author’s website too. I don’t care to read about their life through a blog, but I want a clear concise listing of what books have come out, how they relate to each other in a series, and what books are about to come out.

    #8 Yes! Yes! Yes! There is nothing that irritates me more than a sudden shift in book type. I was reading this one series and in the middle of it one of the books was printed in something larger than mm. I don’t think it was large enough to be trade though. I looked everywhere to see if it came out in a different version, but I ended up having to buy it like that. I totally ruined the lines on my bookshelf. Then, the next book it was back to mm! Grrrr!

    I don't like trade as a reader. However, my Wedding Quartet starting next spring is coming out in trade for many reasons I won't go into here.

    Nora, is this going to be like your HC books where in 6 months to a year they will come out again in mass market?

    I don’t mind authors going to HC as long as they re-release it in a little bit in mass market. I know some people love HC, but I don’t and I want the option to buy a different format a little while down the road.

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  64. MB
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 13:08:49

    Jayne, these are great suggestions!

    On a personal note, there are VERY FEW authors I am willing to pay hardback prices for. (None of them are typical “romance” authors.) So, if the author switches to hardback only, I switch to library loans. I have a great local library and I know how to use the system to get the books almost as soon as the publication date/bookstore puts them out.

    I then, may or may not, (usually not) buy the book when it comes out in paperback for my keeper copy.

    So, typically, most authors lose my sales when they switch to hardback.

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  65. Sami
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 13:15:51

    I agree with every point you’ve made. Do to 1,2,3,7 and 8 Google Docs has become my best friend. I have tables devoted to keeping authors and series in order, color coding to know which format the title is in (hc, trade, mass, anthology and ebook) and which books I’m missing or are due soon. Another table (calender) for new releases and old releases I’m missing. I have an entire bookmarks folder just for authors’ sites so I can keep up on the non-published tidbits, new releases and all the other goodies, I have an amazon wishlist with nothing but older releases to add to orders (so I don’t buy $500+ books at one time) and another just for pre-orders (which amazon sometimes gets wind of before the author or publisher announces). I also make sure to tell amazon I own a book no matter what format so they’ll keep recommending more to me.

    Some days I’m glad I don’t have a day job because where else could I find the time to keep all this up, as well as reading all these really good books.

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  66. GingerW
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 13:25:10

    Working in a library, I have a different perspective on this than some readers: the library world is full of people who consider mass market paperbacks to be Not Real Books. Also, due to the reading habits of some people who treat mmpbs like they were magazines (and fold the front cover around to the back while they read, making a book whose spine is rolled and broken in one use, grrrrrr!), these titles often last for fewer than 10 circulations in a public library.

    This means that when a favorite romance or other genre author makes the leap to hardcover or trade paperback, the chances of a library owning their work and managing to keep it on the shelf more than 6 months go up exponentially.

    Not only do many libraries resent buying mass market books (I am not one of those people, but I work with them!) but also some library systems choose not to catalog their mass market books but consider them a browsing only collection. This makes reading older mass market books through libraries a difficult thing as many copies that exist in some libraries are not lendable between libraries due to lack of cataloging.

    For all those reasons, I really champion the hardcover and trade paperback books. I think they’re hard on not-rich readers who buy most of their own books, but a lifesaver for very-not-rich readers who depend on the library.

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  67. KMont
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 13:28:14

    For years – YEARS – I have wondered why series are not properly labeled somewhere on the cover. Then there are books that list out previous installments inside…but they may not be in order. This is probably my number one gripe and for it to still be a non-issue with publishers is amazing.

    I wonder if they don’t do a list at all sometimes because a lot of readers seem to like it if a series can be read out of order? Or for a series book to also be able to “stand alone”? I know I’ve picked up a book before that sounded great on the back blurb, only to look inside and see how long the back list for the series was, and put the book back for a later date. On the other hand, due to there being no clear order of the series, I still couldn’t tell which book was first, second and so left that series altogether. Finally, the only way I was certain was by checking publication years. How fun is that, to check 2 point type for a series order?

    And then we come to the back blurb itself…honestly, some of them just suck. Better back blurbs! We need them. They should represent the story within and too often they don’t.

    I love your ideas for publishing websites. Clearly they are not geared towards readers/consumers though, but may be more trade oriented? Like Ms. Kantra suggested above, I’m subscribed to a couple of publisher newsletters; they’re OK, but rarely spark my interest enough to buy. I think it’s because the ones I get are a conglomerate of all the genres they sell and I’m not interested in most of what they sell. I do wonder if it would be possible for them to customize the info you get in one, so that you’re only seeing what interests you. Surely some of them have that capability.

    But back on the trade side of things, it’s a bit confuddle-huh to even find info on their submission requirements sometimes.

    The same stock image used multiple times doesn’t bother me, though it might make me snort a soda through the nose when SB Sarah finds those legs for the upteenth time. I work in design though so I understand how one great picture can snag a lot of folks’ attention. I’m sure the photographer loves it too. Besides, if the designer does a decent job, they can make a cover look different enough to where it doesn’t matter if the same picture gets used twice…or three times…Many more though and they might want to reconsider. Photography, especially the custom photo shoots, can be astronomical in cost. You’re not simply paying for the pics; you’ve also got the models, cost of travel for the crew, hotels sometimes, and on top of that, you pay the photographer’s daily rate, which can be thousands of dollars. And if you want exclusive rights to those images forever and ever, fork over the mula. It’s no surprise that the same royalty-free stock imagery is seen repeatedly.

    Sorry for the long post. As usual, yours is informative and thought provoking.

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  68. Ann Bruce
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 13:32:04

    Ginger – My library covers some paperbacks in a really hard, self-adhesive plastic, so they last just as long as hard covers.

    And for everyone complaining about the weight, size, readibility, etc. of hard covers, trade, and mmpbs, the answer is e-books.

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  69. Ann Bruce
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 13:34:28

    Clearly they [publishers' web sites] are not geared towards readers/consumers though, but may be more trade oriented?

    No, the web sites are designed by people who don’t have a clue about usability. These people should be sent to one of Jakob Nielsen’s seminars.

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  70. Jules Jones
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 13:37:59

    3. Send publisher based emails to readers for all new releases coming from the particular house in one month.

    But not unless the reader has *asked* for those emails, thank you.

    Yes, I did just come home to find that some promo company has decided to add me to their mailing list.

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  71. theo
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 13:43:05

    I’m sorry, Ann, but I have to disagree with you on the e-book thing. That is something I will NEVER be able to use, regardless of how ‘convenient’ it might be.

    I am an interactive reader. I want to feel the paper, pet the pages, turn them by hand, flip back and forth, feel the book as I read it. E-books have to be the most impersonal way to read I think, and I’m sure this is probably just me, has ever been invented. There’s just no experience like holding that book in your hands.

    But again, like I said, that’s only me and I’m sure I’m in the minority. I’d rather slog four MM around though than a hard, plastic Kindle or other reader.

    Besides, if I don’t like the book and it turns into a wallbanger, at least I can give it to the used bookstore. I’ll be replacing parts on an e-book reader.

    No thanks…

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  72. AnimeJune
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 13:44:59

    I didn’t know authors often didn’t choose their own titles – but my point still stands to publishers. If you keep using the same, like, eight words in a title, all the titles start to run together.

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  73. Catherine
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 13:46:25

    And for everyone complaining about the weight, size, readibility, etc. of hard covers, trade, and mmpbs, the answer is e-books.

    I dislike e-books more than any of those options. I may prefer MM, but I’ll still buy HC or trade if I have to. I’ll never buy e-books though. Cool for people who like them, but they are not the answer for everyone.

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  74. DS
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 14:06:12

    I like hard backs for collecting and trade paperbacks for reading–along with vision problems and the fact they lay open better, I can read them without worrying too much about creasing the spine.

    Have to agree with Mrs. Giggles about beginning series with short stories.

    As for trades “looking more intelligent” it’s something I might have not thought about except I was in Borders the other day browsing general fiction and discovered several authors I would have expected to see in Romance. Susan Carroll and Tracy Grant are two names I remember. Very nice looking fine art covers with good quality paper and nary a mention of Romance on the cover. I thought they were trying to appeal to readers who are prejudiced against the genre– but they looked great.

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  75. Brit
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 14:11:51

    Kudos Ann.

    Although this topic isn’t ebook feasibility, I love what you said from a “green” mindset. One of the reasons I bemoan buying paper is because I’m really trying to be socially responsible in my everyday life. My daughter is a now becoming a well-known green blogger, so reading “e” helps me to do my part. And not just because I write ebooks…I also have a HB credit under another name.

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  76. Michelle
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 14:17:01

    I don’t think Susan Carroll or Tracy Grant are writing historical romance anymore. I think their books are now considered historical fiction (with romantic elements) and are marketed/packaged accordingly.

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  77. GrowlyCub
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 14:17:02

    I find the green argument in favor of e-books fallible. By the time you add up the mercury, other heavy metals and non-biodegradable components in the computers, laptops and e-readers that keep getting discarded in favor of ever newer, more powerful technology, a biodegradable book is the much greener alternative.

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  78. Nora Roberts
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 14:18:45

    I honestly can’t remember the titles I saw last week, but they weren’t erotica or erotic romance. Those covers generally sort of . . . pop out. I seem to recall a lot of what I’d call women’s fiction, chick lit, general fiction, some romance. That’s sort of thing.

    I guess I was surprised to see so many trade-size. I generally see mm or hardcover around a pool. Not this year.

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  79. Nora Roberts
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 14:22:35

    Yes, the Wedding Quartet will come out in mm. I can’t remember the timing between the trades and mm, but when the mms come out, they will come out in sequential months. There are 5-6 months between the books in the series in trade format.

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  80. Marianne McA
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 14:24:48

    I wonder if they don't do a list at all sometimes because a lot of readers seem to like it if a series can be read out of order? Or for a series book to also be able to “stand alone”?

    KMont, I think that’s a good point. Unless the bookstores kept an author’s entire backlist, you might well be in a position where you could only find books #6, #7 and #8 – and readers might feel disinclined to jump in in the middle of a series.

    And it can be daunting when you see a book you like, and realise there’s a whole slew of other books you need to read first. I know I considered buying Kushiel’s Mercy after it was reviewed here, but the thought that I had to read five other books before I got to it made me mentally shelve it in my ‘I’ll get to that sometime’ section.

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  81. SonomaLass
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 14:30:25

    Nora Roberts, as usual, makes a good point about the HC to PB shift. There’s a difference between doing that in a limited series (seriously annoying to us readers) and in an unlimited series. If an author has a series going that has no end in sight, the shift from PB to HC (representing an increase in prestige and earning power) makes sense; I can applaud her success (or his, Mr. Pratchett) and either make the switch, endure the wait for the later release, buy the e-book, or use the library. It’s harder for me to take when the switch to HC happens for just the last one or two books of a series of five or six. At that point, I’d rather the publisher had left the format alone and promoted the author to HC status for the next series she or he wrote.

    I like mass market and trade both, for different reasons. Trade is easier on hands, and eyes, but of course not on the pocketbook. Many of my favorite authors were available only in mm for so long that I got used to it, so I don’t mind if that’s what’s available. And if I’m considering taking a shot on a new author, I’m more likely to do that at mm prices. More important to me is consistency of format, especially a “short” (seven books or less) series.

    Mostly I agree with Jane’s points. I very strongly endorse the basic philosophy — if you want readers to buy your books, treat us nice and make it easy for us to find books we want and will be glad we bought.

    Side note to Jennifer Estep that may interest other fantasy readers — the author hired to finish Jordan’s Wheel of Time series is Brandon Sanderson. I recently read his book Elantris and loved it. (More, honestly, than anything of Jordan’s after the first one.) He writes very well. Another of his books, Mistborn (which I believe is the first of a trilogy), is available as one of the free downloads from Tor, which can be found here.

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  82. Brit
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 14:45:45

    By the time you add up the mercury, other heavy metals and non-biodegradable components in the computers, laptops and e-readers that keep getting discarded in favor of ever newer, more powerful technology

    Oh I wish I’d get the chance to discard…fat chance. I haven’t found a computer that lasts more three years. Trust me when I say I don’t want to buy a new one. I really believe manufacturers make products so they don’t last.

    A person who reads ebooks isn’t going to buy a more powerful computer to read an ebook. My ereader is four years old, only $119 when new with a $25 credit to buy books and is still going strong. It’s rechargeable and runs for a very long time on a single charge.

    And I don’t want to wait until my favorite authors are published in biodegradable. This is something I can do now.

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  83. Evangeline
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 14:46:07

    I must say that I prefer trade paperback because the covers tend to be more attractive than MMPB (Pam Rosenthal has received some gorgeous covers!) and they feel better than MMPB (paper, cover, and more flexible). Since I carry large purses and tend to leave the house with actual HC non-fiction in my bag for reading :) I have no issue with the size and weight.

    May I concur with the plea to discontinue or relax the use of Nathan Kemp? Publishers have played him to death the way they did John de Salvo and Fabio. When I see him on the cover I’m more likely to ignore the book than to buy it because it’s just creepy to go the checkout line with 6 books featuring the same man on the cover–make an annual calendar already. Geez.

    I am curious about No 4: how would it work? What if a publisher didn’t have an extensive roster of authors (i.e. Avon could recommend their historical authors all day, but contemporary? Or romantic suspense?)? Based on the track record of assuming readers based their splurges on minor details like setting (the Regency) or a certain type of character (the jaded rake) instead of writing or themes, wouldn’t the recommendations be as worthless as those vague endorsements?

    1,2, & 6: Yes! I can’t say how irritated I am with catch phrase covers. It is an insult to readers’ intelligence when a book is released that seems as though the publisher had a contest to see who could fit as many cliches into a book title as possible (Jillian Hunter’s Boscastle titles make me cringe).

    Rest of them: you said it all. And for that matter, on No 10, tell RT to stop listing upcoming releases as [AA]–I have no clue if it’s romance, mystery, street lit, women’s fiction, etc until I receive the issue.

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  84. Bev Stephans
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 15:00:46

    If you want to know the sequence of an author’s series, go to FANTASTIC FICTION. This is a website I literally stumbled onto a couple of years ago. Just about every author that writes fiction is listed. Their books are listed chronologically as well as by series. I use the site at least once a day.

    I like trade size over mass market as the print is usually bigger. When you get to be my age that’s important! LOL!

    The only time I buy hard cover is if it is going on the keeper shelf.

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  85. Ann Bruce
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 15:08:38

    By the time you add up the mercury, other heavy metals and non-biodegradable components in the computers, laptops and e-readers that keep getting discarded in favor of ever newer, more powerful technology

    Maybe it’s just me, but all my electronics last at least five years. I used to have a computer that’s over 10 years old. When I was finished with it, I gave it to my sisters, who are still using it. My current notebook computer is approaching five years. My cell phone is approaching six. My iPods…well, I keep upgrading, but the old ones always find good homes.

    And I do think e-books are greener because I keep hearing of dead tree book returns in the 30%-50% range. And those books do not get recycled. They just get tossed in the trash.

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  86. Kalen Hughes
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 15:11:26

    And for everyone complaining about the weight, size, readibility, etc. of hard covers, trade, and mmpbs, the answer is e-books.

    When they invent a reader that gives me a book-like reading experience and doesn’t cost the equivalent of 40 or so books, MAYBE this will be true. Right now? Not so much . . .

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  87. Monica Burns
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 15:14:40

    Nora said…

    I seem to recall a lot of what I'd call women's fiction, chick lit, general fiction, some romance. That's sort of thing.

    I guess I was surprised to see so many trade-size. I generally see mm or hardcover around a pool. Not this year.

    That’s really interesting. I’m curious as to whether this might be a trend. I know there is a new size that’s been tried out that’s not an actual trade paperback, but its more narrow and taller than a MM. Supposedly there is value to the size and ease of holding it to read. I saw one a few months ago in MD, but I really didn’t care for it. But then it’s change, and who really adapts to change that well. *grin* Thanks for trying to jog your memory.

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  88. Ann Bruce
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 15:17:10

    I am an interactive reader. I want to feel the paper, pet the pages, turn them by hand, flip back and forth, feel the book as I read it. E-books have to be the most impersonal way to read I think, and I'm sure this is probably just me, has ever been invented. There's just no experience like holding that book in your hands.

    I used to the feel the same way, but circumstances (i.e. running out of books to read during my commute, having hard covers bonk me on the head, moving from my parents’ house to a one-bedroom condo, etc.) made me change my mind.

    Besides, if I don't like the book and it turns into a wallbanger, at least I can give it to the used bookstore. I'll be replacing parts on an e-book reader.

    Pressing the Delete key might not be as satisfying as throwing a book against the wall, but I’m adjusting.

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  89. MoJo
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 15:18:49

    Maybe it's just me, but all my electronics last at least five years.

    Ann, same here. I have a 386 I use to experiment on with Linux. I have a 386 that runs on DOS and just has typing games on it for my kids and the occasional recipe (with WordPerfect v.Ancient).

    My work Windows PC is 6 years old (very heavy usage, probably 18 hours/7 days). If the motherboard of any computer in my house is still good, it finds a use in my house, even if I have to roll back to DOS to do it.

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  90. theo
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 15:22:09

    I know there is a new size that's been tried out that's not an actual trade paperback, but its more narrow and taller than a MM. Supposedly there is value to the size and ease of holding it to read. I saw one a few months ago in MD, but I really didn't care for it.

    EWWW! I bought one of those, not really seeing it for what it was. It doesn’t fit on my shelf, sticks out like a sore thumb…nope, don’t like those at all either.

    As for the e-readers, I’m sorry. I’ll never get used to a ‘plastic book’, no matter how hard I try. Because I did try. And I couldn’t stand it. I’d rather take one book with me that I know is excellent and read it half a dozen times. But hey! That’s just me!

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  91. MPH
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 15:38:09

    I compiled my “In Death” series several years ago, but it used to be that in the first couple of pages of the book, there would be a “works by Nora Roberts/JD Robb” and the In Death series was listed in reading order. Are they now listed alphabetically? Because I can see with a series that has so many books that the reader would get frustrated with that.

    I’m sorry I was misleading (yes, the irony of complaining about it as I’m doing it), I didn’t mean to complain that the publisher doesn’t list the books in chronological order but that they don’t always bother with the list or when they do, the list is not as helpful as it could be.

    Actually, in the case of the In Death series, it was easier since the author writes the series under a pseudonym and so the titles listed are all relevant to the series. I just remember picking up a ppb version at the library and it didn’t have the list of work by author at all. With Suzanne Brockman’s Trouble Shooter, the listing is of ALL of her work and therefore, I had to go on the web to figure out which ones are part of the series and which are stand alone.

    Now that I have a few websites to go to, it is not as frustrating but it’s extra work. We shouldn’t have to depend on the computer when the book can provide those helpful tidbits.

    mph

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  92. Shreela
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 15:41:55

    If series are clearly numbered, I love matching titles: Evanovich! But the numbers don’t have to be part of the title, as long as it’s on one of the covers, or in the first/last pages. I wish to repeat: NUMBERED! Because some publishers print lists chronologically by date, while others do it by series — it gets really confusing without numbered lists.

    I totally agree with Jennifer Estep’s wanting closure (books as well as TV series):

    My other suggestion would be if a series isn't doing well and the publisher knows they're not going to continue with it, give the author a heads-up. Give her enough time to wrap up whatever story lines she can in the next/current book. Or publish one more book that wraps everything up.

    But either way, give the readers some closure. I hate when a series (whether it's a book or TV one) ends before all the questions are answered. I seriously think there should be a rule for TV shows that get cancelled -’ they all have to make a 2-hour mini movie to wrap everything up.

    #7 – “Have a website where readers can easily find out about titles, where to get them, what formats they'll be in, when they're being released, and how they relate to other books with a link to an excerpt.” — that applies to authors’ websites too please.

    Slightly off-topic, and probably not under authors’ control: When series-books are made into film, please do not cast a famous celeb! The big-name celebs seem to hate doing sequels, so we end up with 1-2 movies, or just one season on TV. Do you think we’ll see Matthew Mcconaughey as Dirk Pitt ever again (aside from the lawsuit between the show’s producer and Clive Cussler)?

    I remember a reader’s poll on Evanovich’s site about who readers would like to see cast as Ranger — the poll heavily leaned towards The Rock (Dwayne Johnson). Uh, he’s pretty big right now, so how many Stephanie Plum movies would be made? I’d much rather see up and coming actors cast as a series’ main characters.

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  93. Ann Bruce
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 15:52:36

    Besides, if I don't like the book and it turns into a wallbanger, at least I can give it to the used bookstore. I'll be replacing parts on an e-book reader.

    Just remembered something. About 10 years ago, when I worked for a company that shall not be named, Sony or Sanyo had a really small notebook computer designed specifically for work in the field. These babies could be dropped from a crane, come apart, and put back together again with no problems. I got my hands on a demo unit and it survived everything I put it through, even jumping on it and getting it wet.

    Now, if only they can incorporate that technology into an e-reader…

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  94. kirsten saell
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 15:53:49

    Very VERY few authors have earned my desire to buy their work at HC prices. A Series going to HC means I stop buying the books and get them out from the library instead (which pisses me off no end to have bought say 3 books and not be able to have the rest of them on the shelf when I go to reread them). I'm of the view if you start a series in one format, you should finish it in the same.

    The one thing that kills me, completely, are finite series where the first five or six books are mm and the last one is HC-I don't know the publishers' reasoning, but it just makes me wait again for the mm, and sometimes I simply forget about it.

    They do it because now if you’re that far into the series, they’ve got you by the short and curlies. It’s like a drug dealer giving out freebies and then upping the price once you’re hooked. In their eyes, there’s less risk in bumping an author up to HC at a point where they’ve acquired not only a readership, but a readership that is jonesing for that particular book.

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  95. Seressia
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 16:26:00

    Because small presses publish smaller print runs, it is cheaper for them to print in trade. Larger publishers with larger print runs are able to absorb the set up and print cost of the mass market books because the price per copy to print is smaller than the price per copy for trade.

    I was thrilled when Lilith Saintcrow’s Devil books came out with numbers on the spine. Made it easy to know which books I had or didn’t. The Sookie books are beginning to confuse me.

    Count me as someone who doesn’t follow authors to hardcover, especially if I’ve started a series in MM. I know there are quite a few series I stopped reading altogether because they jumped to HC. I’ll wait for the paperback, and hope I remember to get it when it does. Of course, I have a short attention span, so (god, I really did forget what I was going to say here!)

    Great suggestions, all!

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  96. Seressia
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 17:01:15

    Do you think we'll see Matthew Mcconaughey as Dirk Pitt ever again (aside from the lawsuit between the show's producer and Clive Cussler)?

    I think the fact that they attempted to change Sahara into a comedy guarantees that we won’t see Matthew as Dirk Pitt again–or anyone else for that matter.

    Then again, I didn’t think they could revive the Batman or Superman franchises…

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  97. Anne Douglas
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 17:21:44

    They do it because now if you're that far into the series, they've got you by the short and curlies. It's like a drug dealer giving out freebies and then upping the price once you're hooked. In their eyes, there's less risk in bumping an author up to HC at a point where they've acquired not only a readership, but a readership that is jonesing for that particular book.

    I’m this odd duck who’s never really gotten so far into jonesing for any series (or author for that fact) to make the big leap to HC for an entire series. I’m not a rabid ‘fangurl’ either – I loathe costume parties, you won’t find me wearing wings at RT I don’t think :)

    That’s not saying I haven’t bought HC in the past, but usually if I can’t get it at the library I pull up my pouting panties, grit my teeth and wait for the paperback. At the rate I read buying HC would cripple me in a month. If I read 1-3 books a month, sure HC might not be such an issue, but when I can read 7-8 a week easily… well, the math aint pretty, even when many of them come from the library.

    I’m all for standardised notations for series etc at the front of the book. Hell, just the dates beside the titles in an authors backlisting would do it for me. Nothing like thinking the order descends when it ascends :(

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  98. Seressia Glass: Blog Me » Blog Archive » They Get it
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 17:56:00

    [...] Author posted a reader’s manifesto of the Top Ten Things a publisher could do to help readers buy books. My favorites are 10, 9, 5, [...]

  99. DeeCee
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 18:22:33

    I agree with what most of you ladies have stated. I only wish that publishers would not only print a list of the books by that author, but have it in chronological order (and by series if that applies). It always made me mad to pick up a book published by Kensington, specifically the Zebra imprint. Nothing was listed.

    I loathe trade paperbacks. They’re just as heavy as a hc, and b/c I have arthritis cramp my hands from trying to keep the floppy pages open. Hardcovers can lay flat and MM spine’s crack easy enough that there is less pressure on my hands that way. Cost is a factor in my “retail” purchases. If the book isn’t on sale anywhere and I really want to read it, I’ll wait for the UBS or Ebay to get it cheap.

    I also dislike the new trend of releasing a smaller category length romance book for the full $7.99. Its barely 200 pages but its just as expensive as a book that has 800 pages.

    I only buy a hardcover book when I believe it is worth what I pay. I’ve been cheated many times, and it gets old. If its an author like Suz Brockmann I’ll definitely buy it in hardcover. I reread them. But if the quality of the books in hardcover start to slip, I’ll wait for the paperback or the UBS to get a copy. I’ve got the time to wait. Meanwhile, the author doesn’t. If his or her books start to decline they are the ones that suffer. Which I would think would spur them on to create the best books possible. Shoddy editing, plot loopholes and adding a deus ex machinas will only make me put the book down earlier.

    The only thing that will continue to make me clueless in the matter of book publishing is pricing. If you pick up a book in the young adult or kids section and compare them to an “adult” book, the pricing scale is ridiculous. $10.99 for the Stephanie Meyer trade paperbacks, but $17 for some romance author’s???? Or Beagle’s The Last Unicorn in HARDCOVER for $9.95, but Brockmann’s All through the Night for $16.95??? How is it that a young adult trade paperback is so much more affordable than an adult counterpart? The other day I saw in my local Hastings Kathryn Jordan’s Hot Water for $13.00–it’s smaller than a mass market paperback!!! WTH???

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  100. Robin
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 18:31:18

    My additional suggestion: instead of spending an inordinately large amount of promotional money on authors who are already bestsellers, surprise me once in a while by promoting a midlist author whom I might not be familiar with or a new author who might not otherwise get the big push. Spotlight an author once a month (perhaps in conjunction with a publisher newsletter I’m signed up for) who would show me the kind of diversity publishers are always claiming they represent, even though the authors might get lost in the slew of books published every month.

    As for the decision to go hardcover, I can understand how business imperatives and author careers are essential to these decisions. But it seems to me that both of these things implicate the reader, too, at least indirectly. And as a reader, sometimes I feel that an author or a series is being promoted at my expense, literally and metaphorically. And that pisses me off. It can completely turn me off to buying the books new, at the very least.

    Also, I suspect that even if I got the whole explanation for why particular decisions and strategies are made and followed, I’d still be incredulous about some of them. Because this isn’t an exact science, and we might all have different judgments about what would and wouldn’t work. One thing that seems to be true of publishing, though, at least from what I’ve heard from numerous sources, is that the business tends to move VERY SLOWLY and in a reactive rather than proactive way. No generalization is universally true, of course, but I do often wonder how many business decisions in publishing are made because a) they conform to what’s familiar, b) they reflect a low level of internal coordination, and c) they are based on a whole lot of guessing about what readers want, making their success uncertain and uneven in the best circumstances.

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  101. DeeCee
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 18:33:21

    One thing I loved about Evanovich’s books is that each one is a distinct color. They not only catch my attention, but ensure that I don’t double up on the same book.

    Then you compare that to what they did to Sherrilyn Kenyon’s reprinted backlist in the DH series. I’ve read them all, and even I can’t distinguish between all the brooding faces in the black backgrounds.

    Now if its a series, I much prefer the books look cohesive…just not identical. Its misleading and annoying as hell. The Elizabeth Peters reprints from Warner books a few years ago look identical. Only the front mini picture is different. Black covers with white lettering and the same border patterns. When I had to print off a list to keep with me so I didn’t double…it got old and was inconvenient.

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  102. Ann Somerville
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 18:35:06

    Nora said something above which puzzles me, and given the antipathy of readers (including myself) to both the price and format of hard covers, could someone explain – why is going to hard cover a good thing for an author?

    I have to confess that I’d never paid the least attention to the format of paperbacks before, except I like the larger size (trade) better for reading and holding. The cheaper versions are always on such nasty paper, and fall apart with too much handling.

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  103. Robin
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 18:35:39

    Oh, and I am apparently one of the few readers who loves trade, especially the way I can read it carelessly without breaking the spine (i.e. the literally flexibility of the book). I love it when a book can sit open on my desk as I type a review, rather than having to hold it open or shove it under something to hold it open.

    Also, a comment about short stories in expensive anthologies: with the advent of ebooks, I think it would be wonderful if shorter stories and novellas could be published singularly and sold as independent works. I’m just not one of those readers who will read every story in an anthology and be turned onto a new author. Instead I am the reader who will usually avoid an anthology unless there is more than one or two authors whose work I really want to read, or where there is a similar or overlapping theme (like the Tangle antho). If I sense an antho is being used as an expensive vehicle for a big name author, though, I can easily become resentful and turn away.

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  104. Miki
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 18:40:19

    Don't punish the readers because the NYTimes and USAToday don't take into account esales when tallying its lists. And please have ebooks available on the same street date as the paper copy. It seems to unfair to have to wait a week or even several for a book I can instantaneously download if it's available.

    Amen!

    And what’s it going to take to get them to count us, anyway?!

    I also agree with the commenters about releasing ALL the books in ebook, if you’re going to release one, and releasing them in ALL the available formats.

    I’ll tell you, I’m in a cold sweat right now. More and more books I’ve been waiting to buy *cough*VirginiaKantra’slatest*cough* are coming out only in Mobipocket (and – I assume – the fugly Kindle’s format). I buy only eReader if the book has DRM. Lately, I’ve passed on more and more books that are being released Mobi only.

    And I stopped buying ANY new books in paper copies – hard-, trade-, or paperback. If a book I want comes out only in paper (or not in eReader)? Used books. I’m only one reader, but that’s my statement. This one reader doesn’t want the paper any more!

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  105. DeeCee
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 18:40:33

    Ann-from what I understand an author going into HC is a risk for the publishers b/c of the cost. Publishers don’t want to shell out the extra $ to produce a HC that won’t sell through.

    Plus, I know in my neck of the woods that HC books have face time on the shelves that many paperbacks don’t get.

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  106. Jane
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 18:42:32

    Hardcover is meaningful for a whole host of reasons, some of which have been articulated here. A hardcover is more likely to be purchased by libraries. A hardcover is more likely to be reviewed by major review organizations like newspapers, PW, Kirkus, Library Journal, etc. A hardcover means more money. You get 15% or more off the retail price which means that you only have to sell 1 hardcover for every 6 paperbacks to make the some royalty (assuming you only make $.60 per mass market sale). It’s more prestigious. You don’t get returned and stripped, you get remaindered. And so forth.

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  107. Miki
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 18:43:28

    Oh, and on the value of trade paperbacks to publishers? I thought that one of the big reasons why publishers were pushing trades was because they can be remaindered. If the books don’t sell on the first pass, they’re sold “remaindered” – those books with the black marker on the bottom or side margines – as “bargain books”. Mass market just goes to the landfill (which makes me cry, the thought of books being discarded, unloved, unread … *sniff*).

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  108. jessica
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 18:54:15

    I agree completely with Jane. On a personal note, I prefer trade over mass marked especially for fave authors. I’m hard on my books so I prefer something that has a little bit more heft to it. As for finding an authors series, please make it easy. When I glommed the In Death series I was able to find it on NRs website quickly and easily. Loved that I didn’t have to go searching. Fantastic Fiction is another great site, but why can’t the publisher do the same? Or the author?

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  109. Kristie(J)
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 19:14:52

    I’m not sure if this one has been mentioned or not – but when a series does go hardcover mid-way through, make the first ones available in hardcover sometime. I noticed this with my JD Robb books. I started buying them when they did go hardcover and also found Naked in Death in hardcover – but I’d love ALL the earlier ones that way too now – since I’m getting quite the nice collection going in hardcover.
    Also I’d LOVE to see other publishers copy Zebra’s idea with new authors. They have the first book of many a new author on for a special price and then the second one for a dollar more. I get them all the time since it’s such a good deal and it’s a great way for new authors to get a readership base.

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  110. Bonnie
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 20:34:58

    why is going to hard cover a good thing for an author?

    Well, I’m only a reader, but I would think when and if an author is able to publish a HC, she/he has “arrived”.

    More sales=more money=HC

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  111. K. Z. Snow
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 23:53:39

    Nathen Kamp is a lovely lovely man, but frankly, I'm so sick of his mug I often don't bother picking books up off the shelf to read the back blurb.

    BLASPHEMY! I’ll take Nathan Kamp’s mug in front of my eyes as often as I can get it!

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  112. DS
    Jul 23, 2008 @ 05:32:35

    Baen at one point put out hard cover editions of some of the early Honor Harrington books. They did not have dust jackets but illustrated laminated wraps. Not quite as nice as hard cover with dust jacket but at least the same size and I have seen them on library shelves, which may have been the original intent. I also think Ace did something similar with LKH’s early books which were PBOs. I used to belong to the SFBC just to be able to buy hard cover editions of some books that were only available in paperback.

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  113. Leslee
    Jul 23, 2008 @ 06:28:11

    I should have been more specific in my post. I LOVE the In Death series and I followed it to hardback because I have to have it the day it comes out-no exceptions. I would have to be unconscious on the street date to miss it. I will probably follow both J.R. Ward and Patricia Briggs because I love their series but other authors whose work isn’t as consistent, I have stopped buying in hardback. If I want to read it right away I get it at the library or get it used. I know it is very important for an author to got into hardback because they get more money for their work. I am very happy for Patricia Briggs because I know she will get much more attention for her work and she deserves it.

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  114. Anne Douglas
    Jul 23, 2008 @ 07:14:20

    BLASPHEMY! I'll take Nathan Kamp's mug in front of my eyes as often as I can get it!

    Hey! I never said his mug was ugly :) … just that the hero in the book could be an albino and they’d still put him on the cover, and I’m a big fan of at least having the hero’s colouring match the authors description.

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  115. Leeann Burke
    Jul 23, 2008 @ 08:13:24

    I completely agree with #2 and 5. Personally, I like an eye catching cover. If the cover is dull I’ll pass on it, even authors who are on my auto-buy list.

    As for recommendations within the books they’d only be able to recommend authors from their own publishing house (I think) and to be honest it wouldn’t influence me. What does influence me? Covers and ads online have the biggest impact on what books I buy.

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  116. karmelrio
    Jul 23, 2008 @ 10:07:31

    A blog devoted to the many, many book covers featuring Nathan Kamp.

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  117. GrowlyCub
    Jul 23, 2008 @ 10:40:48

    Thanks karmelrio.

    Dear me, the gentleman certainly gets around! Since the closest bookstore is 60 miles away, I don’t get to browse much and admit that I had neither heard his name nor seen him on any covers before, nor noticed that he’s all over Romanceland.

    Looking at this site made me go: ‘where was *I* when this all happened?’ Or maybe it’s really because I don’t pay attention to covers, except when they are as ugly as the turquoise dog or pink leg ones that SB Sarah finds for us to snark.

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  118. Lissa
    Jul 23, 2008 @ 14:53:52

    I mostly agree with the list as stated, though I don’t care to receive emails from the publishers – or recommends of similar authors. I do especially like the notion of making series books easier to find. Please label them as book 1 and so on – or at least include a list in the front of books of the chronological order of the series.

    My biggest pet peeve is re-releasing of books. I understand the reasoning – to generate more readership of a certain author, or to herald the long-anticipated release of a new book – but if you have changed the title/cover/re-written the original book – tell me, upfront on the cover. I hate, hate, HATE to get a new book home only to open it and find out that I have the original on my shelves. And while I am on the subject of re-writes – QUIT DOING THAT! I have yet to read a re-write that in any way, IMO enhanced the original story. There are reasons that I fell in love with or hated the original story and you re-writing it is not going to change my opinion either way. Plus, again IMO, there has never been a re-write worth my shelling out more $$ for the same story.

    As for the trade vs mass market vs hardback – I prefer all my books in a series be the same format – but if I want the book badly enough, I will purchase it regardless. I have found though, that for me, with most authors, with very few exceptions, moving to hardback signals the end of the series, even if it continues for additional books. IMO there seems to be a lack of continuation within the series from mm to hb. Almost as if the author is now writing to a different audience. One notable exception to these is the In Death series – most series lose me after the 4th book or so, I just tend to not really care about the characters any longer, but these books just get better and better. IMO Ms. Roberts can continue to write about Eve and Roarke well into the 2050′s!

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  119. Shreela
    Jul 24, 2008 @ 15:02:02

    Leeann Burke on July 23rd, 2008 at 8:13 am:

    As for recommendations within the books they'd only be able to recommend authors from their own publishing house (I think) and to be honest it wouldn't influence me. What does influence me? Covers and ads online have the biggest impact on what books I buy.

    I agree with the first part of what Leeann wrote. And for me, that also goes as far as other author’s recommendations listed on the book jacket/back; it’s my guess they’re pressured into supporting the house’s other authors. So I take those with a pinch of salt.

    But online ads do nothing for me; I look up the author in a social book site and see what the other readers are saying. I used to look up reviews in Amazon, until I learned those are so easily gamed.

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  120. Shreela
    Jul 24, 2008 @ 15:06:11

    Seressia on July 22nd, 2008 at 5:01 pm:

    I think the fact that they attempted to change Sahara into a comedy guarantees that we won't see Matthew as Dirk Pitt again-or anyone else for that matter.

    I agree, and it’s too bad. I’m going to watch it again; I didn’t get the comedy feeling the other times I watched it — unless you were being sarcastic about how awful the movie was compared to the book 8^)

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