There’s a New Digital Imprint in Town – Interview with Kate Cuthbert

Recently I was glad to get a chance to catch up a little with Kate Cuthbert, one of our AAR alums who went on to work in the publishing world and is now managing editor of Harlequin Australia’s new digital-first imprint, Escape Publishing. Kate has all kinds of great information about Escape to share, and best of all, the books are available worldwide, so you don’t have to be in Australia to check out this line!

I know you’ve had quite a history in the romance community. Can you tell readers a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Kate Cuthbert: Sure! I’ve been writing about romance for almost as long as I’ve been reading it. In the past I’ve written a fortnightly romance column for a state newspaper, op-eds and reviews for the New York Journal of Books and Bookseller and Publishers Magazine, a romance-focused newsletter for an online bookshop, and, of course, spent a couple of fantastic years reviewing for All About Romance! Continue reading

Cheap EBooks: Bane, Boon, or Bust for Readers?

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

Publishing News: Avon Social Reader

Avon released the following announcement Tuesday concerning their new social reader app:

The Avon Social Reader
New App integrates with Facebook to allow advance excerpts, sharing, and DRM-free purchasing

New York, NY – October 16, 2012 –Around the world, women are reading in new ways, often online or on a device, and sharing what they read via social media outlets. In many cases, Facebook has become a key part of the equation. Consumers are spending hours each day browsing the latest headlines while interacting with their friends, families and acquaintances through the platform. Now, leading romance publisher Avon Books is piloting a free Facebook app, AvonSocialReader.com , which will give readers the chance to read excerpts from Avon’s latest books, share their favorites with friends, and discover new content based on what their friends are reading. Up to 20 percent of each book will be available to read, and once a book is browsed in the app, a person can choose to have that book show up in their News Feed or timeline for friends to see. There will also be clickable buy links to DRM-free editions of the selected Avon books from allromanceebooks.com. Consumers can also choose to purchase DRM-enabled versions of the books at other online retailers.

A recent online consumer survey indicated that romance readers are highly active in the digital arena, purchasing e-books and sharing information via social channels. Many of the respondents pointed to Facebook as being the center point of their social/digital sharing world. “Many are using apps to share the news stories that they are reading online instantly with their friends,” says Liate Stehlik, Senior Vice President and Publisher of William Morrow and Avon Books. “The recent word-of-mouth phenomenon surrounding Fifty Shades of Gray confirms that women are talking about the books they are reading in equal measure. Thus, Avon worked to create a simple way for friends to connect on Facebook over the books they are most passionate about.”

She continues, “The Avon Social Reader is a fun, user-friendly way for readers to sample an interesting mix of excerpts posted to this Facebook app every month, and then virally spread the news about what they are reading via social media.”

Partnering with allromanceebooks.com allows Avon, for the first time, to offer a DRM-free option to their authors and readers, “a publishing capability many of them had asked us to pursue,” Stehlik says. The files can be delivered as secure Adobe ePub -book editions. Bestselling author Tessa Dare expresses her excitement, saying, “I know that DRM can be a frustration for honest, paying readers who just want to purchase and read books on their preferred devices. Avon’s experiment will help me reach a new segment of the digital readership.” New York Times bestseller Cathy Maxwell says, “I’m excited that readers will now have a new way to get the inside scoop on our books – and what a great, easy way to share with all of their friends on Facebook!”
The Avon Social Reader is intuitive and easy to use. Fully integrated within Facebook Platform, the app enables readers to flip from status updates to a book excerpt that a friend is reading with one quick click. The more they use the app and interact, the better it gets!
The Avon Social Reader will be launched out via Facebook today, with excerpts and buy links for the following titles:

· A Blood Seduction: A Vamp City Novel by Pamela Palmer
· A Lady by Midnight by Tessa Dare
· A Night Like This by Julia Quinn
· A Scandalous Scot by Karen Ranney
· A Warrior’s Promise by Donna Fletcher
· A Week to Be Wicked by Tessa Dare
· After the Abduction by Sabrina Jeffries
· Chosen: A Dark Breed Novel by Sable Grace
· Confessions from an Arranged Marriage by Miranda Neville
· Darkness Becomes Her by Jaime Rush
· Dark Desire by Christine Feehan
· How to Be a Proper Lady: A Falcon Club Novel by Katharine Ashe
· Lady Alexandra’s Excellent Adventure: A Summersby Tale by Sophie Barnes
· Last Vamp Standing by Kristin Miller
· Lyon’s Bride: The Chattan Curse by Cathy Maxwell
· Mating Season: A Cabin Fever Novella by Alice Gaines
· Nine Lives of an Urban Panther by Amanda Arista
· Once Burned: A Night Prince Novel by Jeaniene Frost
· Perilous Pleasures by Jenny Brown
· Sins of a Virgin by Anna Randol
· Skies of Fire: The Ether Chronicles by Zoe Archer
· Tarnished: The St. Croix Chronicles by Karina Cooper
· The Art of Duke Hunting by Sophia Nash
· The Way to a Duke’s Heart: The Truth About the Duke by Caroline Linden
· Under a Vampire Moon: An Argeneau Novel by Lynsay Sands
· Wanted: Undead or Alive by Kerrelyn Sparks
· When Dreams Come True by Cathy Maxwell
· Wicked Road to Hell: A League of Guardians Novel by Juliana Stone
· Winter Garden by Adele Ashworth

Facebook® is a registered trademark of Facebook Inc.

More information about The Avon Social Reader is available online at Avon’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/avonromance or via the direct link, www.AvonSocialReader.com .

What are your thoughts on this news? Is this a social platform you will use? Something you never knew you needed until it was there? Is the idea of substantial excerpts or DRM-free purchasing something that will draw you in? Or are you already tapped out on social media and sharing?

News and Musings

Sometimes, instead of one long blog post, I find myself with lots of smaller things I want to share. Today is one of those days.
- Earlier this week, I read an interesting piece in Forbes comparing Harlequin with Harvard Business Publishing. What could they have in common? Well, according to Nick Morgan, both have put lots of time and effort into community building. There are folks that just buy the occasional book here and there, but the most dedicated readers I know love to talk about books, so I’m all for having communities where we can do that. Reader-oriented sites and publisher sites obviously offer different things, but I know I’ve visited both and I suspect many readers have as well. Personally, I first discovered the online book world just as I was emerging from the free time-less fog known as law school and I’ve so enjoyed the people and ideas I’ve encountered there. Things have evolved a lot, particularly in the past few years, and I’ll be curious to see where publishers go in their community building. I think Harlequin has a headstart on most, but I see others getting into it as well, with blogs, Facebook pages and sites such as Heroes and Heartbreakers.
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Fall Non-Romance Preview

j_k_rowling_casual_vacancyYeah, I read non-romance.  Not much, but I do.  That being said, with romance reading and review books, plus grad school coursework, I have to be really choosy with what I read.  At the same time, I’m determined to branch out from romance and YA, and I’m going to make it my goal to read at least one non-romance book each month.  Since fall is big publishing season, here are three non-romance books that caught my eye, in no particular order:

The Casual Vacancy, by J. K. Rowling

Her first book since Harry Potter.  There is no way this is not going to be a publishing phenomenon, and canny for her, she’s going into adult contemporary fiction.  It looks good though – satire and small town secrets, and all that – and I like the cover.

Sweet Tooth, by Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan does 1970s espionage and romance.  Needless to say, I doubt it’s going to end happily, but I’m really, really looking forward to this one.  Features an Oxford mathematician as a heroine, who gets recruited by MI-5 and falls in love with the guys she’s spying on.  It’s already out in Canada (although not until November in the States), and the reviews are fantastic.

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How Do We Define Romance?

stormwalker How do we define romance? On a romance blog, one might as well ask what is life. It’s one of those broad, overarching topics susceptible to endless debate. We see authors offering endless variations from the most conventional to the most edgy and subversive. And yet, at the end of the day, we expect our lead couple to end up happily ever after – or at least happy for now. Though I still get irked with market restrictions from time to time, I have appreciated in recent years that we’ve been seeing a market full of change, choices, and great authors. And then I went to RWA 2012 in Anaheim.

The Elimination of Novels with Strong Romantic Elements as a RITA category

At the general meeting in Anaheim, Romance Writers of America(RWA) announced that it had decided upon a plan to reconfigure the RITA awards. Continue reading

E-Lending and the LendInk Brouhaha

kindlebook 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

So, Have You Read Any RITA Winners?

rita_award The 2012 RITA winners were officially announced on the last full evening at the RWA convention, on July 28, 2012. Many of us like to compare the winners to what we have already read and AAR reviewers are no exception.

Here are the RITA winners:

Best Paranormal Romance –Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison

Best Romance Novella –I Love the Earl by Caroline Linden

Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements – First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

Best Historical Romance – The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne
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RWA 2012 Wrap Up

disney RWA 2012 was my fifth conference; I’ve been to the last three in a row, and before that was at Reno in 2005 and Denver in 2002. With that many under my belt I am learning that each conference has its own vibe, and some are happier and, well, lighter than others. This was an upbeat, optimistic conference. I wasn’t the only one that noticed; there was more than one comment to that effect on twitter, and several people made that observation to me in person.

Part of the reason is that last year the industry was in transition and everyone felt a little tense. Everyone knew that digital publishing was having an impact and no one was quite sure what that impact would be for traditional publishers – or for authors. Continue reading

RWA 2012 – The First Full Day of the Conference

carinacovers As always, the Romance Writers of America conference is an almost overwhelming flurry of activity. On the one hand, I love walking through the hotel and hearing snippets of conversations from writers, editors, agents, and others. On the other hand, it can be something of a dizzying whirl. I’ve enjoyed catching up with folks I get to see only once a year, and I’ve gotten to meet some of the authors whose books I’ve loved, which is always a thrill. The sharing of ideas is quite contagious as people exchange information, tips, and gossip. As I’ve spoken to various authors, publishing houses, and agents, a few topics have already come up over and over again.
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