Over the past couple of months, I’ve had the good fortune to help develop a new e-reading app. I’ve been a fan of e-readers since the day I got my very first Kindle. Currently I read on a Kindle Paperwhite, a Kindle Fire, an iPad, and an iPhone. I also use a variety of apps to read. I’ve tried the Kindle app, iBooks, Marvin, and Bluefire. I read five or more books a week and, despite searching, have yet to find the perfect e-reader.
I look forward to RWA all year long. Admittedly, a large part of it is the sheer fun. This year I kept gleefully telling my colleagues at work that I was off to spend a week going to cocktail parties and talking about books, and that they should feel very sorry for me. But beyond the parties, friends, and chatter, I enjoy the vibe of the conference itself, which is different every year. Since I’ve been able to attend the last four years in a row, I’ve enjoyed seeing how that changes. Where do we pick this up? Well, Lynn and I make a huge effort to attend as many publisher spotlights and tweet them when we can. We also watch our tweet streams to see what other attendees are talking about, and talk to authors at the literacy signing and publisher book signings. Here’s what was “in the water” this year:
Branding and New Adult: I believe we heard both of these terms at every single spotlight we attended, without exception. Last year, publishers seemed to be scrambling somewhat (especially after Stephanie Laurens’ evocative speech) to explain their relevance in the current wide open market. This year, they all seemed to by quite clear on what they brought to the table: Branding, packaging, and marketing. They are making coordinated efforts to turn each author into her own distinct and recognizable brand. All of them said they want multiple contracts and series. Now, to be clear, several clarified that “series” does not have to mean six shape-shifting brothers who all live in each other’s pockets; series can mean books set in the same world, even if that means they are more loosely connected. What publishers clearly do not want is an author who genre hops like mad. You can do it, mind you, but that probably means you have two distinct brands, and perhaps that you have them at different houses. If you are a newbie hoping to break into the field, you are better off picking something and sticking with it.
As for New Adult, my sense is that publishers are scrambling to hop onto this bandwagon and ride it while it’s hot. How long will it be hot? Who’s to say. But I did tell my 21 year old writing daughter that since she is writing about characters her age she should be submitting them now…while everyone is looking.
Paranormals are on the backburner: I admit to thinking I might never hear these words, and since I am not really a huge paranormal fan I admit to being pretty happy to hear these words. After several conferences spent hearing about how readers were clamoring for more vampires, shapeshifters, succubi, and just plain others, I’m a little glad that the enthusiasm has run its course for now. This also helps me out as Managing Editor of AAR. I’ve spent the last several years with a list full of complicated paranormal series books that reviewers struggled to follow because they could not always read the previous 37 books in the series.
Publishers still want paranormals. But if you’re a new author they are looking mostly for paranormals with humor, for which there is still more of a demand, or something very high concept (another big conference buzzword). However, if you love to write and read more traditional paranormals don’t despair, because…
Digital publishing makes nearly anything possible: Every traditional publisher has a digital arm, and many publishers who started out digital and gaining traction. The digital arms (and small but growing e-only or e-mostly pubs) are willing to take a chance on nearly any setting or subgenre if they think the writing is good enough. This is where they’ll publish your vampire book or your Colonial romance if you are not Christine Feehan or Pamela Clare. They’ll brand you and (hopefully) let you take off in a more niche market, which is much cheaper to do in the digital milieu. This can only be good news for readers who crave variety (if a little challenging at times for those of us who are trying to find all these great books and tell you about them). The other interesting thing that more than one publisher noted is that the digital market and print market are really not the same. Different types of books can perform better in each market, and what takes off digitally does not always translate to print (and vice versa).
Indy and e “friendly”: And speaking of e-publishing, I personally was thrilled to see the conference becoming more e-friendly. A few publishers – most notablyAvon – had their authors hand out ebooks as well as print versions. Those of us shipping books home to, say, Colorado – and who might have husbands who complain about the possibility of being killed in a book avalanche – were very grateful. RWA also held its first indy book signing, which was well attended and popular with both indy authors and conference attendees.
Usually, this is the spot where I talk about my conference workout photo, but working out at this hotel was kind of a drag and the view was not inspiring. I am more of an outdoor girl in the summertime, and this hotel in the heart of downtown Atlanta was not really situated in a good place to run outside (though the weather was really not bad). I took photos from the gym, but they were depressing. Instead, you can enjoy the cheery picture of our hands (Lynn’s and mine) – sporting the glowy, sparkly rings they were giving out at the Avon party. We’ll be reporting to you next year from San Antonio. Dare I ask if anyone runs along the River Walk?
And, it’s Cyber Monday! I tend to do my holiday shopping all throughout the year, so I’ve never been a Black Friday shopper, but sometimes Cyber Monday sucks me in. I do spend a lot of time on the computer after all….
I like my Kindle and I’m not looking to replace it. However, I know my brother wants one, and the Paperwhite is already backordered to December 21, so it looks like I’m not the only one on the hunt. And if you’ve been looking for a Kindle Fire, they’re just a little bit cheaper today.
I have to admit that my passion, ire and wrath about publishers and eBook pricing has been more about how it affects me as a consumer. But now that things seem to be turning around I have lost some of my tunnel vision and realize that our libraries have been through the wringer as much as we have(if not more, quite frankly), and they still don’t have a viable resolution yet.
Oh, I have talked about it before in this blog but it is not something that I followed religiously. One reason is that as a Kindle owner, library lending wasn’t an available feature for a long while since Amazon didn’t have any type of agreement with libraries. And finally when they did add this feature, I found a very limited collection of books available. Almost all major publishers such as Macmillan Publishing, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Group, Brilliance Audio, and Hachette Book Group blocked libraries’ access to eBooks. HarperCollins limited the access to 26 times before the book expired. Random House reaffirmed its commitment to the library eBook market but tripled their prices. Continue reading
If you follow eBook news, you know it’s often all about pricing. From complaints about high prices and allegations of collusion on prices to concerns about cheap eBooks, customers are always keeping their eye on the price. It’s annoying to find that the new eBook you want is $14.99, while the hardback often costs less (including shipping).
To avoid paying too much for eBooks, I check out bargains on the MobileRead Deals, Freebies, and Resources forum every day. The eBook Bargains thread is also hugely popular on AAR’s own Potpourri board. It’s great to find free and bargain eBooks from authors I love, or from authors I’ve been wanting to read. Not long ago, I got nostalgic and gladly bought some Newberry Award winners for $1.99 each because the books reminded me of those great trips to the school library. Of course, I also wound up buying some higher priced titles because I just had to get a copy of The Witch of Blackbird Pond again. Continue reading
The latest Internet scandal about piracy isn’t about piracy — it’s about misunderstanding what eBook lending is all about. What happened proved that social media can be a powerful force, but those powers aren’t always used in the right way. Just ask the owner and users of LendInk, a legitimate eBook lending site that did not host any files. LendInk was taken down because of erroneous takedown notices from concerned authors. This story even made news in Australia.
Writers are one of the biggest forces in getting eBook pirating sites shut down. This power is a good thing. But what if the site isn’t actually a piracy site? What if, like LendInk, it’s one of several lending sites, sites that are allowed by Amazon, B&N, and other eBook vendors? Then we have a problem. Continue reading
It’s no news that eBooks caught 99% of the population unawares. (Check out the article link in the next paragraph – boy, have we come a long way.) I’d say most authors got with the times, and most have now been e-publishing current books as well as backlists for a few years.
Except for one writer: Joanne Kathleen Rowling, aka the Woman Who Can Do Whatever the Hell She Wants. Seven years ago, she officially refused to make the Harry Potter series available as eBooks, despite rampant piracy – until last year, when she announced the arrival of Pottermore, a “unique and free-to-use Web site which builds an exciting online experience” around Harry Potter, and produced in partnership with Sony (according to the press release). Ten months later, Pottermore opened to the public, and hoo boy, the windmills start again.
What is Pottermore? It’s two things. First and foremost, it’s an online portal through which you can relive the Harry Potter books, see chapters and scenes gently animated, interact with the Harry Potter universe, discover characters’ backstories and behind-the-scenes tidbits, and engage with others in the Pottermore community. You can go shopping on Diagon Alley, collect galleons, magical artefacts, and Chocolate Frog Cards, duel with other wizards – oh, and you answer two nifty quizzes to get a wand and be sorted into houses. (My wand, by the way, is a 10-inch unyielding ash with unicorn core, and I am now officially in Gryffindor.)
The must-have device for readers these days seems to be an e-reader whether Kindle, Nook, Sony, BeBook, or other dedicated reader. For those who want to do more than simply read on a device, there are always computer screens, tablet computers, netbooks, and more.
To test how up to date you are on eReading, I’ve come up with a little multiple choice quiz. (I’m a former teacher. Testing’s in my blood.) The answers come from the recent PEW Report on E-Readers published in April 2012. (The questions use PEW wording so that the results stay true.)
What percentage of Americans have read an eBook?
Every once in a while, a book will pop out of nowhere and get all kinds of mega media attention. Usually, this is limited to Nicholas Sparks’ novels in which the heroine (and sometimes the hero) usually dies, but this time out it’s linked to a novel that is, unmistakably, a romance. With an HEA and everything.
I’ve read the book – the first two, in fact – and, excuse me, if I just don’t see what the Big Deal is all about. Fifty Shades of Grey flirts with BDSM, but isn’t really, since the focus is on how “wrong” the hero is for his obsession and it seems to me as if the BDSM lifestyle is diminished increasingly throughout the first two books. I haven’t read the last one, yet, but I’d be pretty damn surprised if a BDSM-lite HEA isn’t involved.
Now, for the eleventy-seventh time, I’m not knocking BDSM, but it’s just not my thing, okay? But the BDSM in this book is of the ultra mild variety so, if any of the masses out there are reading it for their secret BDSM thrill, the truth is there really have to be books out there that can more effectively satisfy that desire.
Last week, I mentioned that certain publishers won’t let libraries lend their eBooks. To bring it home more, if you are looking for romance eBooks by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Lora Leigh, Keiran Kramer published by Macmillan Publishing at your local library or Simon & Schuster’s authors such as Jayne Ann Krentz or Sabrina Jeffries, don’t waste your time looking because their eBooks are not available for lending. If that is not enough, Penguin, which only offered backlist eBook titles for library lending, announced that it is terminating its contract with OverDrive, the library digital vendor, and starting February 10 will cease to offer any of its eBooks to libraries.