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Meeting with Alicia Condon, Editorial Director of Kensington

Alicia Condon, is the editorial director of Kensington, but has been in publishing and romance publishing specifically for almost 30 years.

One of the first authors Alicia bought was Jayne Ann Krentz for a tiny magazine called Romantique. They bought possibly JAK’s very first book and Diana Palmer’s first book. In those days, there was only Harlequin and Candlelight. There was no robust American market for American romance authors. Around that time, Silhouette started up and she joined Silhouette a year or so later.

In terms of marketing, Kensington is experimenting with QR Codes that will appear on the book itself or a shelf talker. The QR Code could lead to backlist, interviews with the author, extra content.

We discussed the kTeen line. Alicia is really excited about both the Jennifer Estep and the Erica Roarke books and believes that adult readers will find them interesting. Jennifer Estep’s heroine just lost her mother in a tragic accident and so while the voice is light, the characterizations are darker. The heroine is bitter, confused, angry.

We also talked about the Erin Kellison books. Alicia bought Kellison when Alicia was an editor at Dorchester. She also bought C.L. Wilson’s fantasy romance series. Erin sought out Alicia because Alicia had bought the CL Wilson series.

The Kellison books deal with the fae but a different imagining of the fae world. The whole afterlife and the fae inhabit this Twilight, an in-between land of our world and the afterlife. Alicia described the world as “beautiful”, a world of imagination and emotions. The fae can’t cross over. Only Shadowman comes to ferry people from this life to the afterlife. The writing is beautiful and simple, but dealling with complex ideas.

You can read it as just a great adventure story and love story, but you can also see the more philosophical ideals in the story which explore death, afterlife and how one’s beliefs can shape both.

The first book starts out with the Shadownman coming for a young woman with a heart condition who always lived closely to the edge of death. She has seen his face all her life and loved him. Their love breaks all the rules. In fact, their coupling and their offspring create a rift in the barriers between our world and the afterlife and now evil beings can manifest themselves in our world and like a plague are spreading throughout the world.

Each book has its own hero and heroine. But the books start out with their daughter, a creation whom should have never happened. The third book, Shadowman, is the parents’ romance.

It’s got intense emotion, loads of action, interesting world building, great sex.

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G.A. Aiken, The Dragon Who Loved Me

The dragon stories are longer than her contemporary books and a bit more complex. More involved world. She’s doing a fantasy version of the Roman attack on the Britains. It’s almost an alternate history series. This book takes you to a new level in the struggle. The heroine is a warrior and she takes pride in her warrior status. Everyone wants her to join an elite society of warriors, but she resists, wanting to continue to fight on the front lines.

She has all these different society of dragons and how they interact with each other.

The G. A. Aiken is more of a dedicated series that builds upon each other. You get more out of the story if you start from the beginning. The first book is Dragon Actually. These stories speak to the importance of family and how the family ties can strengthen you.

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Seven Years to Sin by Sylvia Day

Alicia is a big fan of Sylvia Day. She’s smart and witty with a lot of emotional depth. Hot sensuality. Feels that SD is under appreciated.

The hero and heroine have a really scandalous backstory. On her wedding night, came across the hero having sex with another woman. She can’t ever forget this. Her husband has died a tragic early death. He is the Captain of the ship that takes her to her deceased husband’s plantation. Quite a bit of psychological development that gives the story depth and intensity.

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January 2012 release sees a new series by Donna Kaufmann. First two books are to be releasesd back to back. Sugar Rush and Sweet Stuff. The books are set in a fictional island off the coast of Georgia called Sugar Berry Island. She captures of the modern woman and the real life thought processes of how we think about romance and relationships in our own lives and where we are in our lives.

Everyone is going to want to move there. Seems like the place where every one realizes their dreams, low key although these people have a lot of cares. The heroine is opening up a cupcake shop. Donna has taken a whole course with a professional chef about baking. She started up this cupcake blog wherein every week, she tries out a new recipe and is blogging about it.

I thought Jayne would enjoy this one.

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Alicia is looking for fairly hot romances as she is primarily acquiring for Brava but does acquire for Zebra as well.

She is eager to find a contemporary western romance. Think that there is a huge readership that is interested in that setting and the characters. There is something about the west that has a huge appeal because the characters in that wide open setting allow them to be larger than life. With a cowboy flavor, but doesn’t have to be on a ranch.

Likes fantasy romance like CL Wilson and Erin Kellison, doesn’t want corny or cheesy world building.

Books don’t have to be connected. If you are doing a series, you have to have a world that is that compelling that people want to keep visiting it.

kTeen – looking for PNR and would like fantasy as well. Really focusing on the series that they have already acquired. So the story really has to stand out in order for them to acquire.

Marketing is focused on social media and digital marketing.

They do accept unagented submission.

I asked her about voice. She says that voice make you want to keep reading the book. The story doesn’t have to be that interesting. It just is the way that the story is told that keeps you moving.

Kensington doesn’t feel like they have to sell themselves. The authors are still submitting way more than they can have space to publish. It is too soon to know how Amazon is going to affect the romance market.

Also looking for contemporaries as they are on the upswing. Looking for contemporaries that don’t feel category. The stories feel bigger. There is more development to the plot and characters. There is some kind of hook.

No particular trope. Wants to be surprised with something different. Thinks readers want something different. Writers are the catalysts for the next new thing. You are able to transform what is in the popular culture into the story, the written expression of our thoughts and emotions and viewpoints.

Will be getting on NetGalley.

Brava books – 3 books a months
Aphrodisia – 2 books a month
Zebra – around 10

Digital royalty is 25% off the net. No disproportionate increase in digital sales from one format to another.

Authors who have a higher online presence often have higher digital sales.

Views digital first lines as a way to publish the books that really need to be published. It allows you to break out of artificial categories. Where does the book have to be shelved in the bookstore.

Tuesday Midday Links: RWA Tips Hints and other stuff

Tuesday Midday Links: RWA Tips Hints and other stuff

RWA is coming up and even though I have been degowned (as opposed to defrocked) I am going to meet up with editors, authors, publicists, and other bloggers and readers.  As part of the TBR newsletter, I’ve offered some tips on packing.  I’m a big believer in carry on only but this year will be a real struggle.

I’m also meeting with various houses to find out what new titles for which we readers should be on the look out.  Is there anything you want to know?  Here are a list of publishing houses that agreed to meet with me:

  • Berkley
  • NAL
  • Avon
  • Hachette
  • Bantam/Ballantine
  • Sourcebooks
  • Kensington
  • Harlequin
  • Carina Press
  • Samhain

I’ll be filing daily reports of these meetings.

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At the literacy signing, a number of authors are participating in the romance trading card venture.  Look for the red RTC button or print out this list.  I will tell you that this is a great way for a reader to break the ice with an author. I’m reluctant to go up to people I’ve never met and this is a great excuse.  The Romance Trading Cards are the brain child of Jeannie Lin whose September book, The Dragon and The Pearl is about a real courtesan.  Can’t wait. Take a gander at these:

Jeannie Lin's RTC

From Jeannie:

The best way to find the cards is to look for the RTC buttons and stickers which authors will be displaying on their badges and on their signing table. Also check out http://www.romancetradingcards.com for a list of authors and sample cards. I’m hearing buzz about groups of authors such as the Ruby Slippered-Sisterhood (of which I’m a part) issuing special series and doing a scavenger hunt during the Literacy Signing so fans can collect all the trading cards. I know there were similar ideas being batted around in other groups.

RTC-Button

I will be collecting a set of 4 cards to giveaway here on the blog. I have 4 sets from RT to giveaway as well.  Author Meljean Brook has had art specially commissioned for these cards.

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Galley Cat brings up a good concern.  Publishers are bragging about how fast they are going to digital press with new books but what does that mean for the reader in terms of quality.

But is this quickness to turnaround copy realistic? Even cutting out manufacturing and distribution times, it seems awfully quick for a book to be written, edited, laid out, copyedited and formatted in just a couple of days. Is eBook publishing changing the expectations of book turnaround times?

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There is a lot of chatter amongst authors about the underreporting of royalties.  One publisher expert suggests that the problem extends even further, from publishers to retailers.

We are not questioning the integrity of any reseller service, we are merely pointing out that the digital ebook world is built on a lots of trust and not a lot of counter balances. Some aggregators do provide some statistics of sales online, others you wait for the sales report to tell you the facts after the event. In all cases money sits in cash flows waiting for yesterday’s financial processing to grind into action.

Obviously there are a number of problems in the existing system.  One other expert in the multimedia sales arena has shared that flash reports of sales can be given daily with monthly true ups.  It probably behooves authors to move away from 6 month based royalty reports to something quarterly.  This will be a seismic change for traditional publishing, but probably a necessary one.  As authors’ opportunities for publishing grow, publishers will have to modify their behavior to provide a more attractive service for authors, outside of the advance itself.

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New York Post is now blocking access to its web page if you are using an iPad.  Instead, it directs people to purchase the App.  I think this is a terrible idea but what do I know?  How this is done is by the website recognizing what browser you are using. The browser you use has a footprint based upon the size of the webpage it reads and the operating system.

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Overdrive has been the sole digital book vendor to libraries for a long time, but competition is heating up causing Overdrive to become more aggressive in its offerings.  Yay for us.

To meet both demand and respond to librarians concerns, OverDrive said it will introduce a series of new features that eliminate the need for librarians and readers to deal with various e-book file formats, allow multiple patrons to simultaneously check out the same title, and add thousands of new e-books and audiobooks. It will also provide support for Kindle Library Lending, and add an opt-in feature that let patrons recommend desired titles to their libraries.

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In the Kindle and other etailer stores, readers will be seeing a whole slew of Harlequin category titles.  Harlequin has a goal of digitizing over 10,000 books in 2011 and books from the 1990s and earlier will be designated as “Harlequin Treasury” titles, in part to make readers aware that these may not have the most modern of sensibilities within the covers. I keep asking for Charlotte Lamb books.  Someday.