Links, From the Internet, About Books

Heads up! Loveswept is back this time as a digital imprint. I think this is supremely smart of Random House. But watch, since Random House is an agency publisher now (BOOOOOOOOO), the digitally reissued Loveswepts will be $44.99 or some crazy thing. If the price is right, this could so rock. I’m devouring category romances right now.


My latest Kirkus column is a review of Kate Noble’s Follow My Lead, which I enjoyed quite much of a lot.

So much happens in the course of this book that the journey is the best part, from their needle-in-a-haystack hunt for a set of 500-year-old papers to their misadventures in stables, taverns and village fairs. Road-trip romances—romances where there is occasionally hard travel and the accessories of society are not available for the protagonists—are among my favorite types—and this one is excellent.


In the realm of Absolutely Freaking Awesome Press About Romance comes this article profiling Angela James and Carina Press. Holy crap, it’s a rare supernova of celebration, and an example of how romance and digital publishing can be taken seriously in the media: Romance Novels Are Steaming Up E-Reader Screens: How Angela James, head of Harlequin’s new romance E-book imprint, has forged a novel business model in paperless publishing.

 

While major publishers might worry about the size of the market for such books, especially the gay-themed ones, or of the potential backlash involved in getting them into brick-and-mortar bookstores, “there’s a lot of opportunity for experimentation in digital,” says James, making it a testing ground for which genres publishers want to expand upon.

It’s a new world, and the women who read, write, and edit romances are blazing the trail into it.


Book CoverLast month, I attended the Connecticut Romance Writer’s of America’s FictionFest conference, and I met Jennifer Fusco. She’s the Marketing Manager for Creative and Brand at GE, which means she works on GE’s product branding All the Time.

Thus it makes sense that she gave a panel on branding: what it is, what it means for authors specifically, how to do it, and why it’s important. It was like one pearl of wisdom after another. I told her she should write up her wisdom and self publish it as a guide for authors because she was equally fluent in business branding and in author career development, particularly in fiction. Holy crow, she did it. 

While it is short, “Market or Die: Sensibly Brand Building Advice for Writers” is a straight-to-the-point workbook that decodes what branding is, and why it’s important to an author’s promotional and marketing efforts. It also has exercises to help authors figure out what their brand is, and how to distill it into a few key words and phrases.

There are a lot of people who will proclaim themselves experts, but I honestly believe Fusco knows what the hell she’s talking about. I thought her presentation and her candid discussion of effective and ineffective branding was awesome. She’s also presenting at RWA in NYC AND she’s scheduled at the same time as my panel on reviewing, so it pains me a little to recommend you go to hear her, but if you’re curious, that’s a great opportunity to hear her talk about effectively building your brand as an author. 


And finally, from Susanna Kearsley comes this link.  So many people have been talking about the barriers between the reader and the publisher’s product, myself included, for a few years now. But when publishing executives keep hearing the same from people within their own industry, such as agent Jonny Gellar, perhaps soon it’ll have more impact: Makinson confident as publishers face digital “flux”.

However, Jonny Geller, agent at Curtis Brown, challenged the publishers on the panel to rethink their business models. “Everything we thought about how we do business is not right anymore, the whole chain from author to reader has to be reconfigured. All authors want is to get their books out to readers, and sometimes publishers and retailers get in the way of that.”…

Geller said his authors were now starting to ask the question “what are publishers doing?”. He said: “If publishers are still offering 25% of net receipts, then authors might just say, I’ll do it myself. If my authors create their own website, then what is the publisher doing? If I can’t speak to a publicist except during the three weeks of publication, then what is the publisher doing? If the publisher can’t get the book into stores, then what is the publisher doing?”

Kearsley considers this a gauntlet thrown. I read this and wonder, “Wait, is everything still in flux with the sea change, or has the flux moved on and some executives are confident while wondering where the hell the water went?” Or maybe we’re at “flux capacity.” That is enough flux, people! No more flux in publishing! We are at flux capacity and all this fluxing must stop now!

In other unrelated news, this article also contains mention of my very favorite job title ever, “chancellor of the exchequer.” Seriously, why can’t there be romance novels about the chancellor of the exchequer? I’d so love that.

 

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The Link-O-Lator

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  1. 1
    Ken Houghton says:

    “Seriously, why can’t there be romance novels about the chancellor of the exchequer? I’d so love that.”

    You’re the only one.

    Besides, the best-known Former C of the E is rather out of favor at the moment, since he moved on to be a mediocre PM.

    (You can imagine the tale—probably a Carina novella—in which Mr. Brown is (a) told he has a lovely daughter, (b) gets into a discussion with the Destitute Earl’s wife who says so, (c) things develop from there and he works the Treasury and she sees her husband’s ancestral place in the House of Lords being eliminated, until (d) they realise they are soul mates trapped in an Austenian [Brontesque?] situation so [e] he does the noble thing, saving her marriage, while in the process destroying his own, [f] with a coda in which their children meet-cute at Eton/Oxbridge/Henley (preferrably the latter, so they can talk about their marvelous shoulders), setting up the next book of the series.)

  2. 2
    Hannah says:

    Angela James is only 35? *feels even more like an underachiever*

  3. 3
    elaine mueller says:

    i started this, then aborted it, then started it again.  my comments may prompt some people to tell me where to get off, but hey, i never let that stop me before.

    imho, the publishers will do whatever they think is best for their short-term bottom line, and if that means screwing over the writers, they’ll do it in a heartbeat.  and they’ll screw over the writers long before they screw over the readers.

    the publishers know that many of the authors of those long oop loveswepts could maybe make a little bit of nice pocket change if they e-pubbed their own books.  i mean, c’mon, how many years has it been since loveswept folded?  13?  15?  20?  and now random house is gonna cash in and screw the authors again.  they’ll promote the big names, the ones who went from loveswept to bantam single title, etc., etc., and make big bucks, and the gals who might have wanted to get their rights back, spiff up the stories a bit, and put ‘em out there as indie e-pubs—they’re screwed.  screwed screwed screwed.

    i know readers want the books.  i know readers want ‘em cheap.  the fight is always between the readers and the publishers, and the writers invariably lose.  that so sucks.

    yes28—yes it does suck x 28

  4. 4
    saltwaterknitter says:

    “Seriously, why can’t there be romance novels about the chancellor of the exchequer? I’d so love that.”

    You’re the only one

    .

    She’s not the only one.
    I’ve decided this is my new title.  I’m not going to respond to my kids unless the call me chancellor of the exchequer. And instead of telling people I’m a stay at home mom, I’ll say chancellor of the exchequer. Maybe it will prevent the usual “Ohhhh goooood for youuuuu.” C of E sounds badass.

  5. 5
    library addict says:

    I was just asking Jane at DA who owned the rights to the old Loveswepts the other day.  I would love to get the old Barbara Boswell, Gail Douglas, Marcia Evanick books, etc I hope they aren’t as much as a full length single titles though.  Geez, I really can’t afford to replace my entire print collection in e as much as I may want to.

  6. 6
    EbonyMcKenna says:

    I adore Kate Noble’s books.
    I have all of them so far.
    And you lovely bitches got me on to them, so it’s all your fault I get nothing done when her latest book hits the shelves.

  7. 7
    JoyK says:

    I read the publisher’s remarks at their conference in London. I was particularly interested in their view of the publisher’s role—which doesn’t include ” print books, store them and freight them”.  Silly me!  I thought that that is what publishers did.  WTF!  Instead they are now more interested in “monitor piracy, understand global copyright, and understand metadata”. 

    So they protect their property from piracy, try to expand their copyrights so that they can continue to take 75%, and understand metadata (like, oh, librarians do for example).  No mention of any of the things that authors want like good editing and good promotion of their book as well as that pesky actual printing, storing and shipping.  Jeez!  I’d much rather buy my books from someone, oh, like the person who actually WROTE the book than these fat cat publishers without a clue of the real world of authors and readers.

  8. 8

    It’s been twelve years since Loveswept shuttered its doors. I suspect that many of the authors had already had their print rights reverted to them and e-book rights were barely mentioned in contracts way back then and that this was a whole new set of negotiations. I may be wrong, that happens a a whole lot, and I’m certainly not an expert on publishing by any means.
    What I can say though, is that I’m not sure that all authors are sold on the self pub the backlist route and I doubt – though feel free to prove me wrong – that the authors being promoted by Loveswept are going to be deeply unhappy with this project. I may be wrong and they’re just being quiet about it but with Random House publicity and marketing behind them, it should be a successful venture for both author and publisher.
    I think publishing is in a massive state of flux. I was speaking with an agent friend of mine a few months back and she was telling me how devastatingly hard it was to get into print publishing right now, especially mass market. Authors like Courtney Milan have parted with traditional publishing (with her recent Unveiled) and from the look of it, is doing fantastic. I’m not sure how many authors have the knowledge or the time to do what Courtney has just done, especially if they have a huge backlist. 
    Publishers are trying to find where they fit, too, in the new market place and profit is part of the game. But at the end of it, because of the Loveswept relaunch, readers at home and internationally will be able to have another means of getting their old favorites back in their hands.

  9. 9
    AmyW says:

    Considering the Loveswept schedule seems very light (if I understand correctly for various articles—launching with 8 repubs in August, then 1 repub per month afterward, and 6-12 originals per year?), I wonder if Random is having to renegotiate for the digital rights.

  10. 10
    elaine mueller says:

    thank you JoyK.

    Jessica Scott—first, it depends on how many of those authors were able to get their rights back.  from the comments i’ve seen here and elsewhere about harlequin releasing digital versions, i’d suspect it hasn’t always been all that easy for the authors to reassert ownership of their works.

    second, it depends on who random house is going to promote. they have the original sales figures and it stands to reason that they’re going to e-publish the most popular authors first, like tami hoag and marcia evanick, dorothy garlock, etc.  where does that leave writers who didn’t go on to huge mainstream careers? 

    third, publishing hasn’t been about the books for a long time, or at least not about the books writers are writing and readers are reading.  it’s been about the books the accountants are keeping—the bottom line.  it’s all about the money. 

    fourth, i think (just mho here) it’s infair to suggest that most authors aren’t capable of doing a decent job of self-publishing.  if they’re worried about their writing/editing skills, they can hire those services done.  it’s a cinch the “real” editors aren’t doing it any more.  publishers put the burden of promotion on the authors 20+ years ago, so that’s nothing new; most authors tweet and FB and have web pages as a matter of course anyway.  what more can (or will) random house do for them that they can’t do for themselves?  and a decent graphic designer can put together cover art in a matter of days with the author having full control over what image goes out on her work instead of taking potluck with a publisher.  for purposes of this discussion i contacted a friend who has a graphic design studio near chicago and she QUOTED a price of $275-350 to do digital artwork for an e-book cover.  i didn’t ask for a ball park estimate, i asked for a quote and i provided samples of the type of covers that are out there.  there are e-pub support companies that will digitize a printed book into e-pub format and supply cover art (i won’t provide links because i don’t want anyone to think i’m promoting the companies because I’m not) for under $500.

    it’s a gamble.  it’s a gamble of an investment of money that might be scarce for the individual author, as against the gamble that the author will land a print contract and pocket a cash advance, which might be ever more modest and ever more split amongst a series of payments spaced out over months or even years, and then the even longer wait for royalties (if any).

    but if i were an author today, i’d think once, twice, maybe even five times about spending the money on a trip to nyc and an rwa conference when the same investment could put my book online and in the hands of the readers without a huge cut going to a ‘publisher’.

    but that’s just me.

    i love books.  (you should see my house . . . and studio . . . and workshop. . .  ).  i’ve loved books for a helluva long time and more than anything else i respect and admire the people who write them.  the publishers who publish them?  meh.  they’re just after the money, especially in this electronic day and age when they’re no longer necessary.  do they provide a product that many people want?  yes, they do.  but as the e-option becomes more and more and more popular, as more readers enter the marketplace preferring e- over paper, the print publishers’ role is going to become ever more anachronistic.  and those authors who have recognized this and cut the ties to nyc and don mills (or wherever harlequin is these days) to become mistresses of their own future are the ones who will get my money and my enthusiastic support and encouragement.

    elaine

  11. 11
    DS says:

    This is Random House, remember?  In 2009 they tried to lay claim to e-rights based on old contracts that said they had the exclusive rights to publish the works in book form or in any and all editions.  I’m sure that they are more inclined to beg pardon than permission when it comes to romance authors. 

    And, frankly, the big names such as Johansen, Evanovich, Hooper, Brown have already had their books republished in digital form.  You can get a copy of almost any Johansen Loveswept title on Kindle for a mere $5.99 to $7.99.  And they are put out by Random House digital.  Same thing with Kay Hooper and Evanovich.

    The thing that there is a danger of happening is that fans may not realize that these are early works and might become annoyed.  People who are used to the current type of books the author writes.

    I have a friend that I have to steer away from old books by favorite authors because of this.  She doesn’t want to read old Tami Hoag romance novels.  And it doesn’t help that the publisher puts a new publication date on the book.  You have to know where to look to figure out that Keeping Company September 28, 2010 is the same book as Keeping Company 1990. 

    Sandra Brown tried to deal with this by writing a statement explaining that her earlier books were not the same as the books she was writing currently.  She did this in the 90’s I think—and ended up excoriated by fans of her romances because they thought she was saying bad things about romances, i.e., that they weren’t as good as the suspense/mystery that Brown later wrote.  Can’t win either way.

  12. 12

    Yep, it’s happening. I heard this morning about one Loveswept author who was surprised to find her book up there. She’s already put the book up on Amazon herself, because she was under the impression that she had the rights back. I’ll bet anything there are more.
    Oh yes, and they’re charging Agency prices. Grabby, much?
    Truth is, there’s a fortune to be made in digital with backlist and only having to pay the author 25% – and that’s net. Elaine’s right. It’s the accountants and marketing people who have the sway at the big publishers these days.

  13. 13
    elaine mueller says:

    regarding the “loveswept” titles listed at romanceatrandom.com—not all were originally Loveswept. 

    Remember the Time, by Annette Reynolds—Bantam Fanfare contemporary, June 1997.  no kindle version currently on amazon

    Dream Lover, by Adrienne Staff—Bantam Loveswept, June 1994.  no kindle version currently on amazon

    The Vow, by Julianna Garnett—Bantam Fanfare historical, February 1998.  no kindle version currently on amazon

    This Fierce Splendor, by Iris Johansen—Bantam historical, January 1988.  no kindle version currently on amazon (iirc, this was the first of “The Delaneys” series co-written w/fayrene preston, kay hooper.)

    The Baron, by Sally Goldenbaum—Loveswept #233, December 1987.  no kindle version currently on amazon.

    Lightning that Lingers, by Tom and Sharon Curtis,aka Laura London—Loveswept #25 (listed for 1991 but has to ‘84 or so originally).  no kindle version currently on amazon.

    Tall, Dark,and Lonesome, by Debra Dixon—Loveswept #655, November 1993.  no kindle version currently on amazon.

    Legends, by Deborah Smith—Loveswept, March 1990, currently in print trade paperback $15.  no kindle version currently on amazon

    already56? —oh honey, I’m way past 56!

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