Tag Archives: publishing

My two cents

Last week’s Big Brouhaha in romance, which has been dissected elsewhere, was Jane Litte’s disclosure that she had published New Adult romance under the name Jen Frederick.  Apparently the disclosure was prompted by the pending EC lawsuit against Dear Author, but Jane seems to have pretty effectively partitioned the JL/JF activities.

I’m mostly amazed that she manages to be a lawyer, blogger, parent, and writer.  Her time management skills and energy must be absolutely ridiculous.

As a reader, I don’t feel betrayed by Jane’s jump into writing romances.  I don’t feel like her advocacy for readers or being a reader-blogger foreclosed other professional options.

I’m kind of side-eyeing the writers wailing about her infiltration of “author-only” loops.  That’s a misnomer if ever there was one, I think, as nearly all working writers aren’t just authors unless they are extremely successful.  And absent a survey of every “author” (and all their pseudonyms) on a loop, I’m not sure how or why any participant could possibly assume that every participant was a single-role “author only”.

Ironically, the thing that keeps popping into my head is a line from a securities class I took once:  there is no general duty to disclose.  (The caveat to that is while there is no general duty to disclose, there are some specific disclosures prescribed by the 33 and 34 Acts and their Rules, but that’s not really relevant here.)  But.  BUT.  There’s an important case named Par Pharmaceutical (733 F. Supp 668 (1990)) that keeps coming to mind.  [A grossly simplified summary follows, and people with disclosure experience would cringe reading it, since disclosure is a complex, nuanced, heavily-litigated area; take it with a huge grain of salt.]  Anyway, Par bragged about its skill getting FDA approvals, but it turned out it got approvals by paying bribes; in shareholder litigation, the court basically said that once Par made statements about its skill getting approvals, those statements became fair game and could be alleged to be false and misleading (at least at the pleading/motion to dismiss stage).  There’s more to it than that, but the take away was that if the company hadn’t touted its legal/legitimate skill getting approvals, if they had been silent, Par would have had no duty to update or correct or disclose later investigations related to the bribery.  Circling back:  I think Jane had no general duty to disclose that she had published romance novels under a pen name.  Does her stance on conflicts of interest and transparency for author-bloggers make a difference, or create a duty to disclose?  Was it information that a reasonable reader would find material to the total mix of information available when selecting book recs or otherwise interacting with Dear Author?  Maybe, but that’s a question for the trier of fact/reader.

My own disclosures:  I’ve exchanged tweets emails with Jane in the past about things like fan fiction. I think I submitted a review for a favorite category novel several years ago.  I remember when Dear Author went online, and when Smart Bitches went online.  I still check DA periodically but don’t comment much there for a variety of reasons. I stopped checking SBTB several years ago when it went through a long patch of video posts and little meaningful content (I think that was about the time Candy left and also when SBSarah was either writing a book or maybe doing some kind of marketing thing).  Both blogs are big enough and influential enough that they feel like industry participants to me now, even if they don’t have a traditional role in the publisher-author-reader relationship.  Also, I read Jen Frederick’s Undeclared in 2013; my notes at Librarything.com (two stars) are that it needed a good editor and coherent character arcs — I remember thinking both the hero and heroine were twits.

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Piracy

Earlier this month, one of the many blogs I subscribe to for work linked to this report on Media Piracy in Emerging Economies, and wrote a concise summary.  The report and summary are very focused on piracy in other media, but I thought some (most? all?) of the bullet points were relevant to Big New York Publishing, particularly points three (antipiracy education has failed) and six (enforcement hasn’t worked).

The summary doesn’t address one of the driving forces (I think) behind ebook piracy — geographic availability.  What I find most interesting in the guest blog post is that the author points out that DVD piracy is what drove the global piracy and IP enforcement drive by the MPAA in the 2000s — and that it is a medium that is dying.  Is the publishing industry an analog, with books dying more slowly than DVDs?  The conventional wisdom is that ebook sales will eventually stabilize and paper will be remain a viable part of its revenue stream.  

I don’t know.  And I don’t have anything intelligent to share.  But I thought that readers who are interested in the publishing industry and the publishers’ antipiracy efforts would be interested in the report.

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SBD: a publisher I’m going to avoid

I missed SBD last week, so even though Beth hasn’t posted for this week, here it is.

I’m adding an epublisher to my list of epubs to avoid.  It hurts, because there are several authors I like who publish via this company.  It’s one that has been around for a while, comparatively speaking.  But it’s publishing P2P fan fiction now.  And its editing is just…not good, particularly in light of the extremely high prices it charges for books:  $8.99 for an ebook the equivalent of a mass market paperback, which I’m leery enough about in paper, forget the transient nature of ebooks.

Despite my better judgment, over the weekend I bought a new release by an author I’ve enjoyed in past from this press.  I should have known better on two counts.  First, in this series by the author, the POV character talks in dialect with heinously bad grammar with the kind of incorrect verb conjugations of very common irregular and regular verbs that gives the impression (to me) that the character must have scraped through school by the skin of his teeth and had parents who placed no value on literacy.  Yet that is clearly not the backstory created.  Add in the dropped “g” for anything ending in “ing”, should of for should have, the misuse of me/I in plural nouns and objects, and it made my brain hurt.  The cherry on top of the bad-editing sundae was the complete lack of direct address commas and random typos, and the misuse of commas following “but”, and I was highlighting all over the place.

The kicker is that the storytelling, once I got past the grammar, was good, and I like the characters.

But no.  Finished with this press.

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A related question

Sunita has a great post up over at Dear Author about the hidden costs of the $0.99 ebook.  I haven’t commented, primarily because I’m not a consumer of $0.99 or free ebooks for the most part, but also because I haven’t worked out my own opinion about the value/risk relationship and social “responsibility” of readers to the reading/writing/publishing ecosystem.  There is a great conversation going on about the value of the $0.99 ebook (or the free book) as a loss leader and social value/risk of cheap ebooks.

At least one commenter (to whom I will link if I can find her again in the 100+ comment thread) has mentioned excessive pricing as a counterpoint to the cheap ebooks.  What is a reasonable price for a novella?  In the last couple of weeks, two of my favorite authors have released ebook shorts of approximately 20 and 35 pages each, priced at $2.99.  While I respect their desire to make a living writing and their autonomy in setting prices for their self-published work, that price seems excessive.  Taking the shorter ebook into consideration, at least 2 of the pages will be “wasted” with author bio and copyright information, leaving a story of perhaps 18 pages costing $3.  That works out to ~$0.17 per page: I can think of very few paper books I’m willing to pay that price for — maybe the annotated edition of Emma? But that is a beautiful object, while this is a very short story that I don’t even own, after all — I just have  a license to it, I can’t resell it or share it or swap it legally.

After being burned by a similarly ridiculous price by the same author earlier this year, I’m reluctant to pay that price for an even shorter (and older, reworked) piece now.  While a lot of readers love this author, he’s edging off my auto-buy list after a few too many overpriced shorts.

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Cost per word

Yesterday, after reading a positive review of an ebook in my feed reader, I hied me off to Amazon to buy a copy.  The title is a fairly common one and that particular book isn’t available for Kindle yet, but I clicked on a similarly titled book and was taken to what amounts to written porn (that title/setting is apparently a popular one for porn, who knew?).  I have no objection to porn, and might actually have bought a copy until I read in the description that the collection included “over 15,000 words” — as if that is a high word count — for only $6.99.

Okay, let me put that price in context.  A Harlequin Presents category clocks in at ~180 pages and 50,000 or so words, and is priced at $3.29.  So Amzn and/or the publisher want me to pay twice that for a quarter of the, er, output?  I don’t think so.

Now, I know that the romance publishing industry and the porn publishing industry are not synonymous, although arguably there is some overlap in light of the popularity of erotic romance and erotica.  But are the price points that different?  Is $6.99 for what amounts to about 30 pages the standard?

Are books commodities to be weighed by word or sold by the pound?  As a consumer, is it fair for me to treat the purchase of a book, the distillation of an idea into a package, the same way I treat the purchase of other goods?  Maybe not, but there has to be some sort of benchmark for what I’ll pay and what is too much.

Certainly in the context of other goods and services I’m willing to pay more for what I perceive as quality or simply a taste or style that suits my taste, otherwise why would I buy Diet Coke rather than generic diet cola?  Or prefer one type of oatmeal to another?  I pay more for hardbacks for certain authors than I’m willing to spend on others; some books I’ve got in more than one format (ebook, mass market, trade, *cough*The Curse of Chalion*cough*).  But I’m not at the point where I’m ready to pay $7 for a very short bit of wank material that appears to be poorly edited based on the sample I downloaded.

On this same subject, I tweeted the other day about another a 66 page book (length given in the publication information) priced at $3.99.  Vacuous Minx noted that she might pay that much for the work of an author she trusted; it’s a reasonable position and I agree.  But in that case, there were direct address commas missing and punctuation and spelling errors in the sample, which had me deleting the sample and clicking away from the buy button.

Where is your line in terms of price and book length?

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And on a similar note:  making a sample available for download that includes ABSOLUTELY NOTHING except the copyright information and author bio is totally fucking useless as a PR or marketing move.  To me as a reader in terms of judging the quality of the writing as a basis for then buying the book, it is an utter failure.  In fact, I’ll decide NFW and spend my book budget elsewhere.

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Harlequin Horizons, Amazon, and the post office

I have no objection to Harlequin opening its own vanity press as a business enterprise.

But I dunno. Labeling the vanity press “Harlequin Horizons”, advertising it on Hqn forums, then saying it isn’t going to be affiliated with Harlequin’s “regular” publishing? Eh. At best that’s disingenuous, at worst it is sleazy and deceptive. From a reader perspective, it feels like a sleight of hand. If I were a writer, it would feel like a cheap money-grab, especially since Harlequin is mislabeling the enterprise as self-publishing, when its business model is actually that of a vanity press.

I’ve purchased a self-published book, Matthew Haldeman-Time’s Off the Record, which rocked my socks. In fact, it was the first gay romance I read, ever. One of my extended family published a family history narrative via a vanity press. It…was not the best piece of writing, frankly.

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Amazon has posted its Ten Best lists. I’ve only read one of the books on the Romancelist, and it was DNF — Julia Quinn’s What Happens in London. I skimmed the first few pages of Smooth Talking Stranger at the bookstore and put it back on the shelf because the premise and the characters did not appeal. Bending the Rules is on the TBR for when I feel more like a straight contemporary. *shrug* That’s fine, though. Different strokes and all.

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The post office’s track and confirm function tells me that they attempted delivery Monday evening at 6:52pm, then left a notice on my door. First, delivering at 7pm? The post office? I don’t think so. Second, no, I was at home Monday evening and the weather was good enough that my front door was open, leaving just the storm door closed; no postal service employee knocked on my door. Third, no notice was left. Also, why is the package being held at a post office that does not belong to my zip code or deliver to my zip code ordinarily? I can’t get through to a human being at the office because it either rang off the hook or was busy all day? Customer service fail across the board. How could anyone wonder why the postal service is going bankrupt with crappy service like this?

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Read a very brief Japanese-set historical today. Need to re-read. Was interesting. Not sure about sense of place. Setting and characters felt non-Western, but not all that historical. Notot sure how realistic setting and characters would have been, even taking liberties of genre fiction and the inherent fantasy.

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