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

Nora-Roberts

Thursday Midday Links:  Facebook tried to launch a whisper campaign against Google

Thursday Midday Links: Facebook tried to launch a whisper campaign...

Facebook employed a major PR and lobbying firm Burson-Marsteller to launch a whisper campaign against Google. The Daily Beast broke the story and it is a compelling and almost unbelievable story. Burson-Masteller, for political junkies is the company owned by pollster Mark Penn, a chief strategist for Hillary Clinton’s run for presidency.

Confronted with evidence, a Facebook spokesman last night confirmed that Facebook hired Burson, citing two reasons: First, because it believes Google is doing some things in social networking that raise privacy concerns; second, and perhaps more important, because Facebook resents Google’s attempts to use Facebook data in its own social-networking service.

The idea that FACEBOOK is concerned about privacy is a joke. But given that all the whispers were true, it’s hard to make a case out against Facebook, at least a legal one. More from the Daily Beast.

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Remember when Jennifer Egan made the off the cuff criticism of YA author Kaavya Viswanathan for plagiarizing banal YA authors? She’s offered up a gracious and fulsome apology calling her comments indefensible and thoughtless, adding nothing of value to the conversation.

“I have nothing to defend in what I said,” she said. “I really wish I hadn’t said that, and was incredibly and immediately sorry that anyone was hurt by it. I don’t blame anyone for being mad about it.” Though she does believe there’s an interesting conversation to be had about genre and gender and literary culture, she doesn’t see her comments in that interview as any kind of effective contribution to that discussion. “I’m all for criticizing; I’m not saying that no one should ever criticize anyone else,” she continued. “But if you’re going to criticize, you should do it intentionally and thoughtfully and carefully and know whom you’re criticizing and for what. And I didn’t meet any of those criteria.”

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Paidcontent has an article summarizing the publishers’ fears of tech companies overtaking publishing.

HarperCollins’ international CEO Victoria Barnsley warned delegates, noting Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) recently launched a new publishing imprint for romance novels.

“We must be very wary of any of the tech companies becoming too dominant, We must recognise the misalignment between us and some of the technology companies. Some of them would happily see content commoditised and, as we’ve seen with Google (NSDQ: GOOG), they can have a casual attitude to copyright.”

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Authors in the news include:

Danielle Steele is still known as a romance author, although I am not sure why. She apparently lives in Paris now and is offending San Francisco by deriding its lack of style.

In an interview this week, she complained: ‘There’s no style, nobody dresses up — you can’t be chic there. It’s all shorts and hiking books and Tevas [an ugly but practical style of shoe].

‘It is as if everyone is dressed to go on a camping trip,’ she told the Wall Street Journal.

and Nora Roberts was wearing the requisite hat at the Kentucky Derby. This is a short interview of her on the KD red carpet.

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Facebook contests run by authors might be coming to an end. Ashley March alerted her fellow authors that hosting facebook contests could lead to your page being deleted.

***You should read this last one again. If I’m reading this correctly, it means that we can no longer hold “Like my page and I’ll give away a Kindle when I reach 5,000 fans” contests.***

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Barnes and Noble has finally convinced Wall Street that it is on the right track. Stock is up 50% in the last month. This is a great analysis of BN which includes praise for its digital initiatives:

Shares really took off in the last week of April when Barnes & Noble formally upgraded the Nook and kicked off an ad campaign highlighting the Nook’s unsung capabilities. (Forget books. What about streaming movies, reading e-mails and all of those other time-sucking hobbies that the iPad is known for?)

But warnings about the drag of the physical retail space:

This is still a company that has slowly sat by as $400 million in annual free cash flow (back in the middle of the past decade) steadily shrank until the red ink started to flow in 2010. Foot traffic continues to slump at its stores, and a rising number of them are no longer profitable (and would have been culled by a tougher management team). The race is on for the Nook and BN.com (the company’s web arm) to boost profits high enough to offset losses from the brick-and-mortar stores.

Ultimately BN will either have to downsize it’s physical presence or convert that retail space into selling something other than books. In many BN stores, there is a rise in toys and game merchandise but BN will have to go beyond selling Legos and Monopoly in order to maintain revenues to justify its rents.

Dear Author

Thursday Midday Links: Authors & publishers behaving badly

Is something in the water? We start off the new year with a rumble between PC Cast fans and Laurell K Hamilton fans over a slur against Hamilton’s fashion sense the Cast writing team integrated into their NYT #1 bestselling book, Awakened.

Now we have Mills & Boon authors descending on Teach Me Tonight taking issue with the critique of the new M&B line, Riva, posted by Laura Vivianco. In Kelly Hunter’s With This Fling, a Riva launch title, we are treated to a woman who decries feminism and gets “accidentally” pregnant through engaging in unsafe sex with a stranger. Riva is billed as fresh, modern and “sassy”.

As I mentioned earlier, this is only one book and one has to be careful about extrapolating from a small sample, but I’m nonetheless left wondering how often “sassy” in the Riva line will mean “prone to exhibiting ‘Power-based selective feminism’ and ending up accidentally pregnant.”

Trish Morey, Anne Gracie, and a couple others, come in to take the commenters and Vivianco to task. Trish Morey called out AGTigress who rightly pointed out that making a 25 year old an associate professor strained the bounds of credulity:

Yes, I’ll admit it now I’m also a romance author and I know Kelly Hunter both personally and professionally (and yes, AgTigress, you can rest assured Kelly is a professional, unlike your comment), and no, Kelly didn’t put me up to this. She’d no doubt be horrified. I just thought a little balance was called for.

Morey goes on to suggest that readers should see the anti feminist statement as a throwaway line (although never comes out and defends the unprotected sex with a stranger) and that those who argue differently are suggesting readers are not very savvy:

Readers are actually very savvy at working things out and knowing when a character is teasing as opposed to being deadly serious. I do believe it’s a mistake to underestimate romance readers that way.

For the record, I read and enjoyed With This Fling, but I never got the sense that the heroine was teasing about her lack of support for feminism. Apparently I am one of those unsavvy readers.

Anne Gracie doesn’t like the criticism because these books are fun and flirty and are not meant for serious inspection:

But more to the point, these are romances — fun, escapist fantasies, and this RIVA launch book is fresh, original and funny. I mean — for heaven’s sake — the heroine invents a fiance, and then disposes of him with rumours of “long pig” (cannibalism) — how serious do you think this is meant to be? It’s a comedy, not a realistic treatise on the Status of Young Female Academics Today.

Anne Gracie

I think that Mills & Boon authors should appreciate that their books are taken seriously and that we readers view them as authentic literary figures instead of people who are writing throwaway trash. But maybe they prefer to think of themselves as writers of work that are undeserving of critique and that their work is so lacking in substance as to be unable to withstand scrutiny. Can’t have it both ways. And really, Teach Me Tonight is a blog run by academics inspecting the vagaries of the romance genre. Do you really expect them not to flyspec a book?   It’s like going to Five Thirty Eight and complaining about all the talk about statistics.

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Update: Decadent Publishing claims the following:

We do not (and did not) share any purchaser information. Outside sources approached me with the claim that one of our authors was being personally targeted and by whom…not vice versa. We have a policy at Decadent that our authors will not review one another.

I asked a follow up as to why the unhappy author was accusing the reviewer of piracy and the other accusations of rifling through the sales data for personal information but no response has been given yet.

Update x 2:   Decadent claims that it never provided the reviewer’s real name to the Enders.   I have asked the Enders to contact me.

Next up in the What the hell category is Decadent Publishing. Apparently an author for Decadent Publishing co blogs with someone else and reviews books. They reviewed a Decadent Publishing book by Graylin Fox and gave it a poor grade. Fox took to Twitter and accused the reviewers of pirating the books because Decadent (according to the bloggers) matched up the purchaser records to the reviewing records and informed the author that the reviewers had a) not been on the official review list and therefore not real reviewers and b) there was no record of any of the reviewers purchasing the book from Decadent.

What. the. hell. That is a serious invasion of privacy. What you purchase from a company should not be shared with a third party, at least not without a subpeona and an opportunity for the purchaser to take legal action to quash that subpeona.

Decadent Publishing posted on another thread that the author who reviewed the Fox book might want to be released from her contract:

Decadent Publishing said…

A question?

Would you like out of your contract with Decadent Publishing since you don’t seem to respect either them or their authors?

I guess buyer beware for those who buy direct from Decadent. This is one reason I try to never buy from small presses and only from the larger corporate retailers. I have some confidence that Amazon isn’t going to be checking my purchasing records on behalf of some angry author out to exert some petty agenda.

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Nora Roberts has joined the millionaire club at Kindle.

Amazon.com, Inc., (NASDAQ:AMZN) today announced that Nora Roberts has become the third author to sell over 1 million Kindle books, becoming the third member of the "Kindle Million Club." As of yesterday, Nora Roberts has sold 1,170,539 Kindle books under her name and her pseudonym J.D. Robb. The Kindle Million Club recognizes authors whose books have sold over 1 million paid copies in the Kindle Store (www.amazon.com/kindlestore). Stieg Larsson, author of the Millennium Trilogy, was the first author to hit the 1 million mark. James Patterson, author of more than 65 books that span the genres of suspense, fantasy, romance, historical fiction and children's, was the second author to join the Kindle Million Club.

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The Young Adult Library Services Association released their best of YA fiction list.   Even though the list is called 2011, it contains all books published in 2010.   It’s a nice list for those who are struggling with a) what to read or b) what to buy for a teen.

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While not directly related to books, at least one survey shows that the gap between consumer expectations and publisher understanding of those is huge and that publishers will either have to change consumer expectations or meet them:

The good news for publishers is there’s a consensus that digital is the future. Over three-quarters of the publishing industry professionals surveyed believe that technology is driving publishing, and slightly less than three-quarters think that technology can “make or break a publication.

The bad news for publishers is that as important as technology is, you simply can’t ignore the expectations of your customers and hope to succeed — even if you nail the technology.

That leaves publishers with two options: change consumer expectations, or find a way to meet them. Chances are the publishers who do the latter will get to where they need to go a lot sooner.

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Finally, I was sent this fascinating blog post by Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson publishing.     Hyatt goes through and explains why ebook prices have not dropped dramatically, stating that many of the publishing costs are not eliminated by the move to digital.   In conclusion, though, Hyatt gives away a big position and that is under the 9.99 price model, his company is making the SAME AMOUNT in digital as they are selling hardcovers at retail.

So far in our experience at Thomas Nelson, the elimination of manufacturing and distribution costs are being offset by retail price reductions and the three additional costs I have outlined. The good news is that we are making about the same margins, regardless of whether we sell the book in physical form or digital.

In reality, if the margin is the same at the reduced price of $9.99, the efficiencies gained by going digital are quite meaningful.   Hyatt doesn’t address the zero unit cost of reproduction of the digital file v. the print book or the issue of mass market pricing (wherein publishers must be making out like bandits with the change to 70% revenue without the corresponding retail price reductions).