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Dear Author

Thursday Midday Links: Q&A with Maya Banks

I can hardly believe it is already Thursday. The holiday shortened week (for the US readers) and last week’s RWA conference has me all mixed up. Hopefully I will get caught up by Sunday.

Item number one today is the news that we are going to host a Q&A with Maya Banks. Why Maya Banks? Because she was high on her dental medication yesterday and offered to answer any question and I took her up on it. Now she’s committed and can’t back out. In all seriousness, Maya has a lot of publishing information to offer. She first published with Samhain back in 2006 (I think) and she’s now going to be self publishing and writing books for two different publishing houses: Berkley and Ballantine. She’s hit the NYT list with both her Samhain books and her traditionally published books and she’s not afraid to tell you her numbers.

This Q&A is subtitled, Everything You Wanted to Know About Publishing But Were Afraid to Ask. And truly, we want you to feel comfortable asking what you might deem to be the most crass questions for which you want answers. I.e., what are the sales numbers for your books? What kind of advance did you get? What are your royalty figures? If you guys think this is helpful, we will see if other authors will be willing to do this.

The idea is that if there is ever a time that authors need answers, and really transparent ones, it is now. You can leave anonymous questions in the comments or email them to me at jane at dearauthor.com. These Q&As will be posted on Sunday and then Maya will check the comments to the Sunday posts in the evening and answer follow up questions there.

This is not just for authors. Readers, if you have questions, please let us know.

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I’ve paid for a site analysis by Yoast and so you’ll see some changes in the upcoming month to Dear Author. If there is anything you don’t like (or things that you do) particularly in regards to getting around the site, let me know. I want to make this site as easy to use as possible.

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Barnes & Noble is selling refurbished Nook Color devices on its Ebay page.  Nate says that this is the normal price for reburbished units and you may want to wait until the regular factory direct nook colors drop to around $225.  The difference, I believe, is primarily in the warranty.  The refurbished unit comes with a 90 day warranty and the factory one comes with a one year warranty.

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The Economist suggests that readers are unwilling to pay full price for books and this discount mentality is what is leading to the decline and maybe even ultimate eradication of brick and mortars book stores.

The problem, however, is that no one seems willing to buy full-price books anymore. Campaigns to get people to buy books from their local bookstores—such as “Save Bookstores Day” on June 25th—miss the point. While there is demand for real bricks-and-mortar places to gather, drink coffee and read new books, such places can’t exist if the market can’t accommodate them.

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Overdrive is offering DRM free ebooks when the publisher allows this.  Honestly, though?  I don’t mind DRM on library books.  Library books are meant to be borrowed and thus it seems right for borrowed books to have DRM.  DRM on books that I buy is another story.  What do you guys think?

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Dear Author

The Things I Learned from RWA 2011

Here is my list of things I learned from RWA 2011:

  1. Harlequin and Sourcebooks are really interested in what the reader has to say in all areas of the publishing process from the cover, titles, and content to how the stories are sold.  They use their blogs, facebook and twitter accounts, and customer service emails to acquire this information.
  2. There is no one path to success. Bella Andre is not out there on the blogs, but she’s making personal connections to her readers. Courtney Milan is connecting to her readers through twitter, blog posts, and comments around the internet.
  3. Authors are probably more afraid of approaching readers than readers are afraid of approaching authors. Or it may be a mutual apprehension. Many authors tell me that they are introverts and signings are a painful process made only less painful by the readers who are brave enough to approach them.
  4. There are many types of publishing and no way is the absolute right way.  Unfortunately, I see a lot of authors deriding others for their choices under the guise of helpful advice. Some authors are really going to be proficient at self publishing. Many authors will not be. Some authors are well suited for traditional publishing. Some are not. The reasons that authors choose to self publish, go with a digital first publisher, or with a print first publisher will vary from author to author depending on her aversion to risk, her core competencies, her family situation, her goals, and so forth. Every person is different and we can’t judge whether a person is making the “right” decision about her career unless we are her.
  5. While Courtney Milan says that we shouldn’t make predictions, I have to make one. I think that the most successful self publishing authors will be those who love the business side of publishing as much as they love the creative side. There will always be the exceptions, but generally, I think that the entrepreneurial authors are the ones who we will still see self publishing five years from now.
  6. Family oriented sweet contemporaries, mostly set in some small town (make up your own if you don’t want to use a real one), are hugely popular. Every editor I talked to seemed interested in those. I have no idea why urbanites aren’t interesting. Also, the love of the cowboy hero was palpable.
  7. Editors think that authors self censor too much (and that critique partners may be doing more harm than good). I heard more than one editor say that the manuscripts that they like best are ones where they can see the raw voice of the author. Many times, submissions come in that are polished so much that they are too smooth to be interesting. Write with raw passion, authors. This is an industry built on emotion and the manuscripts have to show this.
  8. There is a lot of experimentation going on that readers don’t know anything about (and that no one would tell me either!) I was told by more than one person that pricing ebooks is not set in stone and that publishers are trying different things to see what works best. I do believe, however, that if the house is driven by hardovers, it is the hardcover policies that drive the prices of the mass market division. Interestingly though, Loveswept and Avon Impluse both set the high water mark at $5.00 indicating that there is some understanding that digital books should be priced less.
  9. Authors often skip over digital first publishing in their musings about what they will do if they leave traditional publishing. There often is a conflation between self publishing and digital first publishing. Two different things folks. An agent who gets into publishing is a digital first publisher. Agents that offer publishing service packages for fee and a percentage of profit are engaging in a business model known as vanity publishers. No one has brought up whether RWA will allow the agent/publisher to continue to be members.
  10. Editors can articulate why a reader should read a book better than any marketing person. I loved listening to the various editors share with me some of their favorite upcoming books. These editors really do have a passion for what they do and I think if anything saves traditional publishing it will be the editors and their support of the books that they love and must see published.