Distribute your eBooks at RWA

If you are an indie author or a small publisher, I have a cool free way to get ebooks into the hands of RWA attendees in two weeks. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if you could offer a free ebook to RWA attendees only and then promote it to people online? It would!

I spent a week looking at this

Silvercliff Sunrise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and I realized I had made two fundamental mistakes as I started out with my LibraryBox RWA experiment. I forgot two things.

Thing one: Most authors are very careful about how they handle their digital content (as they should be) and I am used to the more open approach of librarians (information wants to be free).

Thing two: As a librarian, enough people know who I am that I unlikely to be considered “that crazy lady.” In the author community, I am not well known enough to be kept out of that category on my name alone.

I am asking for authors to trust me with their digital content and experiment with me using their own content. I am asking for this and then I did not give an expiration date as to how long the material would be on my LibraryBox. Originally, I figured I would just leave all the digital content on the LibraryBox forever.

This was not a good plan. I will now be deleting the folder on my LibraryBox I create for RWA. That means, unless you tell me otherwise, the content you send me will be freely available to the people at the annual RWA conference for three days and then, poof, gone. I hope this makes a difference to some of you on the fence about whether to participate in this.

I do not attend a ton of conferences anymore because of family constraints but I will be doing this again at RT in Dallas in May, but you do not have to attend either event to be included.

I hope that some other authors will join Mia West and Nikki Penttila in this adventure to give out some ebooks at a conference filled with people who love to read.

p.s. Happy Monday.

LibraryBox at RWA

My amazing friend, Jason Griffey, has made an amazing little thing called LibraryBox. From the website:

LibraryBox v2.0 is a combination of a router (a variety of hardware will work), USB drive, and software that, when combined, give you a small, low powered webserver. The webserver acts like a captive portal, and delivers files that are stored on the USB drive.

In “captain dummy speak,” it is a device which creates its own wifi signal, allows users to log on to the signal, and then download any content on the device. It is completely open source and completely awesome. Libraries and educators around the world are using it to distribute books and class materials and to reach students in new ways.

I wanted to find a way for authors to use LibraryBox and I think I found a darn good one.

At the RWA (Romance Writers of America) Annual Conference in San Antonio starting on Thursday, July 24th, I will be walking around with a LibraryBox. I am starting on Thursday so it will not interfere with the Readers for Life Literacy sale on Wednesday.

Why should you care?

Everyone knows ARCs and free books are the things we love to give and receive at conferences. For indie authors or small pubs, this can be hard when most of their stock is ebooks. My LibraryBox will be a free, easy way for you to give copies out to people at the conference in real time to read, review, and rave over with almost no work on your part. Anytime I am at a conference event, I will have the LibraryBox on. Anyone with a wireless device (tablet, phone, etc.) can log on to the wifi signal the box creates and download books to read. LibraryBox keeps tabs on how many of each item is downloaded, but it does not track individual users due to privacy. At the end of each day, I will post the top 10 downloads. If you are an author or a publisher and you would like to participate, here are some FAQs you might want to know, be aware of, take heed of:

  • In order to participate in this project, you must be the digital rights holder for the works you send me.
  • This is for traditionally (with a publisher) or indie (self) published works. WIPs or manuscripts will not be accepted.
  • All files received for this project will be on this LibraryBox for the lifetime of the box, freely available. If this is a major sticking point, let’s talk about it. Updated: The RWA file on my LibraryBox will be deleted after the conference.
  • All books for this project will be in a folder marked “RWA2014” on the device listed in alpha order by author’s last name.
  • Files should be in easily readable formats, like epub or pdf.
  • There will be a page on this blog listing all the participating authors and publishers so readers and attendees can take a peek and so you can brag about it.
  • I will in no way use the books sent to me for profit or in any way not specified in this blog post. Like any digital content, once it leaves my hands, I can not control it.
  • You do not have to be attending RWA to have your book included!

Interested? Send me a copy of your book to mboule at gmail dot com. I will send a confirmation email when I receive your file.

I toyed around with dividing books by subgenre. Any thoughts on that? Opinions?

Questions? Ask them below.

Book Review: The Bride Prize by Sandra Schwab

I started to just write a tweet about this, but then I realized I had more than 140 characters worth of things to say.

Anyone who has been reading this blog long enough to see my reading lists, knows I adore Sandra. Not only do I love her books, but she is a nice, intelligent lady who lives in Germany and has a fantastic job as an English professor. All that to say, this review may be biased but it is all still true.

The Bride Prize is, in a word, delightful. It is the first in a series which centers around a satirical periodical titled Allan’s Miscellany. Robert Beaton, the hero of the story, is an illustrator for the magazine. One of the major conflicts of the novella is that Florence Marsh’s father does not hold with those satirical rags and Florence, of course, is falling for Robert.

Schwab has included some hilarious excerpts from the magazine which made me pull down my own copy of Eighteenth-Century English Literature so I could flip through the section on Addison and Steele. A discussion of literature in The Spectator, issue Number 62 starts like this, “As true Wit consists in the Resemblance of ideas, and false Wit in the Resemblance of Words…”

I sat on the floor for a good thirty minutes thumbing through my lit book and chuckling. I then proceeded to talk Mr. Rochester’s ear off about the cultural force of true satire in the 1700s long past his eyes glazed over. He patted me on the shoulder and said something like, “That sounds nice, dear.”

Back to the book.

The Bride Prize is set a generation after Addison and Steele wrote The Tattler and The Spectator, but the need to drive change in society with the power of a well placed word is a theme throughout this small but fun novella. I do not want you to think The Bride Prize is all about social change, though it is mentioned. I do want you to know that the English major, librarian, geek that I am loved the references Sandra sprinkled throughout the story about history and literature of the early 1800s. If you are really a geek, and I know you are, you can signup for her newsletter and get a 24 page pdf which includes illustrations and historical explanations of all manner of things mentioned in the book. You can also buy a copy of the ebook with the extras for a bit more, see the link at the beginning of this post.

The Bride Prize is well worth your time. I smiled for a long time when it was over. I can not wait until the next installment in this series.

Highly Recommended

 

 

What the Golden Ticket Really Costs

I am in the process of querying the first novel in my fantasy romance series. I decided to directly query publishers, without an agent, because most of the publishers I wanted were epubs who took unagented submissions. I feel good about that decision, most days anyway, but I still have very mixed feelings about traditional publishing in general.

Disclaimer: I love books. I love reading books. Print books. Ebooks. As long as it has words in it and is a genre I like, I will read it so I am not snobby about format. I also buy my books and ebooks from a variety of sources: Amazon, used book sales, brick and mortar book stores, direct from publishers, and places like Smashwords, so I am not snobby about where the book comes from either.

The trouble comes when I start looking at numbers comparing traditional publishing to self publishing. Courtney Milan wrote an honest discussion with Ask A Mermaid recently where she discussed how to do a Profit and Loss (P&L) analysis for a book. Milan is a very successful romance author with an established author platform. She started doing P&L comparisons for books when she received an offer from Harlequin for a book she was also considering for self-publishing.

So if I only looked at the first year of my P&L, I would have said to go with Harlequin’s offer. But year two was where I thought I would get ahead: I projected about half the sales from year 1 in year 2, making the worst case scenario $12,568, the best guess scenario $39,000, and the best case scenario $77,775.

Doing the P&L this way forced me to accept that I was taking a risk—that there was a real chance that I would lose money by turning down Harlequin’s offer—but that the upside potential for the book was much, much larger by choosing to self-publish.

Milan’s established platform has allowed her to be successful publishing both traditional and self-published books. The catch here is that she had a very well established author platform.

Recently, Mike Corker, founder of Smashwords, shared a long post which analyzed the indie book market using data from Smashwords. Smashwords enables authors to publish their work and easily distribute it to all major eretailers while allowing them to retain their rights and keep 85% of the net profit. The standard net for authors from traditional publishers is 25-40% for ebooks and range from 10-20% for print.

The analysis of the data from Smashwords is fascinating in terms of title length, price points, and word count. Where it really drives home, though, is author profit:

Allow me to break it down this way.  An indie ebook author earns about $2.00 from the sale of a $2.99 book.  That book, on average, will sell four times as many units as a book priced over $10.00.  In order for a traditionally published author to earn $2.00 on an ebook sale, the book must be priced at  $11.42 (if the publisher has agency terms, as Smashwords does) or $16.00 (if it’s a wholesale publisher).  Remember, traditionally published authors earn only 25% of the net, whereas Smashwords authors earn 85% net.  If your book is traditionally published, and your publisher sells under the wholesale pricing model, you earn only about $1.25 for a book priced at $9.99, whereas an indie ebook author would earn $6.00-$8.00 at that price.

If a reader has the choice to purchase one of two books of equal quality, and one is priced at $2.99 and the other is priced at $12.99, which will they choose?

The numbers are staggering, but Corker’s last question is an important one and too often overlooked. There are buckets full of arguments for or against self-publishing. Some of those arguments have merit and some are just people being ugly to the wild child threatening the marble halls of the publishing industry.

As a reader, I choose, almost always, to buy the cheaper, equal quality book because I can only buy so many and I would rather have more for my money. If I am going to spend over $10 on an ebook, I spend a long time thinking about it. Sometimes, I spend so long considering the purchase, I forget to buy it, even for authors I love. It is the main reason why there are some very popular series on my TBR list where I am more than one book behind. I love them, but I do not $10 love them.

Not only are books and ebooks from traditional publishers often more expensive, less of that price goes back to the author. Now, I know all about overhead costs with traditional publishing. I know why publishers price their books the way they do, but there will come a day, and that day might be now, when the way we do publishing changes and those price points will change too.

I did not decide to start writing for the money. No person with any bit of sanity and self-preservation does this for the money, but that does not mean I do not compare the number 85% and 40% and see the difference between them. I may not be great at Math but I can do addition and subtraction well enough.

There are costs to self-publishing, if you do it well. Editors, book covers, and marketing take both money and time. A P&L, as Milan pointed out, is essential to understanding the business behind your book. Even with these costs, if an author intends to build a platform over the course of a lifetime, self-publishing seems to be a better deal.

Recently, an author behaved badly and ranted about how good books do not earn money but popular trash, in this case erotic romance, sells well. (The original post was deleted by the author, but Heidi Cullinan’s response is brilliant.) Writers hear advice all the time about not writing to the market and writing the story they want to tell. That is good advice, but I am realistic. I know romantic epic fantasy is not a high selling genre. I have seen editors share frankly on Twitter that people say they want fantasy and sci-fi romance, but the sales numbers do not support it.

Sadly, if you go on almost any sci-fi/fantasy blog or website which reviews or lists books, there are very few by women and even fewer with romantic elements. Without some romance, the stories always feel flat to me. I want romance in the books I read and I want to write those books. I have done enough reading on the industry now, though, to know my audience is probably going to be small. I am fine with that, but a publisher may not be fine with the smaller earning potential.

Controlling my copyright is also important to me. It is hard to imagine signing over a significant portion of copyright for a small share of the profits. It breaks my librarian heart. I have done it for non-fiction in the past and it was hard to sign that line. I did it because I knew I had to sign to get what I wanted: a pretty print book in my hands. That is not to say I did not love my non-fiction publishers and editors, I did. They were wonderful to me.

When I started talking to Mr. Rochester seriously about writing fiction, he suggested I self-publish. I shook my head. I wanted a contract with a publisher, the golden ticket of affirmation in my hand. When I told my friend Jason Griffey I was writing fiction two years ago, he immediately laid out all of the reasons I should self-publish, most of which I have discussed in this post. I told him I would think about it, but what I was really thinking was that was not for me.

I have learned in two years things I did not know then, about writing and about the industry. My opinion is still evolving, but indie publishing has grown from a squalling infant to a college graduate, eager to please and show what it can do. I think the potential for indie/self-publishing is enormous  I think the way traditional publishing stands at this moment there is no growth potential. Traditional publishing is having growth and change pains. They will figure it out eventually, but it is going to be a messy, rocky road.

I have been querying publishers for almost a year now. I am waiting on four more responses. If they all come back negative, I am going to make a detailed P&L for self-publishing, draft a plan for editing and marketing, and then move forward. If I receive an offer from one of the publishers, I am still going to do a P&L and I am going to think very long and hard about saying yes.

I want a better share of the profits. I want more control over my copyright. I also want that golden ticket of affirmation from the industry, but I want to build a platform over the course of my career more than I need a publisher’s approval.

–Jane, happy to be writing

Book Review: Tales of the Underlight series by Jax Garren

This review is for the first two books of the Tales of the Underlight series by Jax Garren. The third book comes out today, so guess what I am doing for the rest of the day. You can read a mini review of the first book, How Beauty Met the Beast in my Books read in 2012 post.

Here is the blurb from the publisher for the first and second books:

How Beauty Met the Beast: Book 1

The Beast

Scarred. Damaged. Living with a terrible secret. Agent of the Underlight Wesley “Hauk” Haukon has nothing left but the fight for liberty against the oppressive Order of Ananke. He’s starting to lose hope…and then he sees her.

The Beauty

Despite her night job as a burlesque dancer, grad student Jolie Benoit has always played the mostly good girl. That all changes following a scorching sexual encounter with a stranger whose face she doesn’t see. After she’s kidnapped by thugs and rescued by a man with a very familiar voice, Jolie becomes a pawn in a struggle she never knew existed.

Hauk knows he cannot have her, and resolves to protect his heart and his secrets. But as they work together and grow closer, he finds new reason to keep fighting. Dare he risk hope in a new life, one where Jolie can see past his ravaged face and where their friendship can grow into something more?

 

 How Beauty Saved the Beast: Book 2

Jolie Benoit left her old life behind to become an agent of the Underlight. Training under Sergeant Wesley Haukon, she’s honing her combat skills, all the while coping with the intense sexual attraction she feels for Hauk. She keeps their friendship casual, but when his high school sweetheart transfers into their division, Jolie finds herself grappling with jealousy.

The Underlight gave Hauk a purpose, but he can’t escape his past completely. The physical and emotional scars from the fire that killed seven fellow Army Rangers will mark him forever. Jolie sends his protective instincts into overdrive, but he’s convinced he’ll never be worthy of her love.

Hauk is determined to keep Jolie from harm. But when the Order of Ananke ambushes them with a new weapon that neutralizes Hauk, making him vulnerable, it’s Jolie who must tap into her hidden strengths to rescue him–or risk losing him forever…

 

A tortured hero makes me swoon. A tortured hero who is a gentleman and does not use his baggage as an excuse to be an overbearing idiot is even better. A tortured hero who is also not conventionally handsome hits all my spots, the good ones.

Hauk is isolated physically and emotionally from others, even his friends, and this distance makes his growing relationship with Jolie nail biting. The way they gravitate towards each other, only to fling themselves away, builds the tension between them. Garren crafts Hauk and Jolie perfectly so their relationship woes are never forced or irritating to the reader. On the contrary, the reasons, especially on Hauk’s side, were heart wrenching.

Jolie has had all of the advantages of a privileged upbringing but has retained a decent moral character. Unfortunately, this has isolated her from most of her family and leaves few she trusts. Unlike Hauk, who is isolated because of his appearance (and that pesky thing about being suspected of murder), Jolie is isolated by her last name and her money. Both of these characters have some serious baggage dragging along behind them.

The pages are fairly smoking from the chemistry between Hauk and Jolie. The first novel starts off with an encounter that could set a sheet aflame (ahem) and the tension never drops from there. Hauk and Jolie, after the initial encounter, do not touch often but the reader keenly knows every time they do. By the time I finished reading the second book, the book was scorching my hands.

The romance is great, but the plot is not too shabby either. There are pagan, excuse me, heathen gods, good guys fighting evil power hungry men, magical mysteries, and people trying to build a better world. There are subtle, and not so subtle, references to steampunk, anarchy, fairy tales, science, burlesque, and Austin culture in the story line. It is a wild mix that Garren weaves together fluidly for a very fun ride.

These are books that I frequently recommend, and by recommend I mean beat over the head with, to people, and by people I mean anyone unfortunate enough to admit they read books. There are three books in this series, all increasing in length, and all very reasonably priced from the wonderful Carina Press. The third book, How Beauty Loved the Beast, comes out TODAY.

Do yourself a favor and make a very nice lady (Jax Garren) happy. Go. Buy. Read. And fall in love.

P.S. I will admit without coercion that I have read Met three times and Saved twice and all the bits around the web as well. I am head over burlesque heels.

Jane, has received nothing for this review except perhaps the right to stalk Jax Garren at the next conference we both attend.

 

Book Review: Rakes and Radishes

Rakes and Radishes by Susanna Ives

I originally wanted to read this book because of the title. I knew this book was either going to be good or good bad. While I love a good romance the ones that are good bad can be just as fun. Because it is from Carina Press, my bet was on good and I was right.

Henrietta, raised by two Mathematicians, is very smart but has unfortunately read too many romance novels and given her heart to a man lacking substance but not good looks. Kesseley, the Earl, neighbor, and childhood friend of Henrietta agrees to help her win back the wayward lover, though he himself is in love with the damsel. This is not a unique plot line, but the characters are amusing and lovable. Throw in some eccentric society Dames, a disapproving Momma, and a Beauty/Heiress and you have a few plot twists and bends that make for a very nice story. The author is crafty enough that she even turns some of the villains into likable characters. I read it in 24 hours and would have finished it faster had I not been interrupted by a family needing my attention.

While the characters were great and the story diverting, what made this novel truly a joy was the way that Ives uses the serial romance novel, with the gothic rake hero and the damsel in distress, as a background to the plot and a foil to the characters in the story. It was infuriating to see the smart Henrietta get caught up in creating a gothic romance of her own life, though the reader knows she surely most posses better sense. Kesseley reveals the darker aspect of a rake’s character by starting down a path he then has trouble not only navigating but escaping. While the characters each get their romance genre moment to act out, they are also discussing the latest in a series of gothic romances taking London Society by storm. Ives weaves together wonderfully both the lack of sense in gothic romances and the good sense her characters use to extract themselves out of their own romantic tangles.

Recommended, just make sure you have the afternoon free to sit on the couch

Writing in a Canyon

It seems like often when I am talking to my friend, Jason Griffey, we end up talking about the print format and how it is going to die. Notice I did not say if. I think we always circle back to this because usually one or both of us are in the middle of some kind of writing project or other and we are frustrated with the process or the medium. Both, usually.

I am in the middle, the literal middle, of writing a book and the process has been interesting. Most days I hate it, though I do love to write in general, but writing a book has been not exactly what I thought it would be. It took a conversation with Jason for me to put my frustrations into words. I should clarify that by book, I mean a print book, made of paper and sitting on your shelf. I do think print books will be with us for a long time to come but I believe their purpose will be collection and vanity printing, not for reading and certainly not for most research. Here are some reasons from a writer’s perspective that cropped up in our chat:

Writing a print book is like writing in a vacuum. I am used to immediate feedback. I have mostly written for online venues where people are not shy about telling you to your virtual (or real) face that what you are writing is amazing or absolute trash. Sometimes they tell you both in the same sentence. This helps ideas become refined and evolve in amazing ways. I am used to the wisdom of the crowd being a sounding board. Writing a print non-fiction book means you write to yourself. Your sounding board is you. It is boring! I do not like it. I do not like it with green eggs and ham!

Some days I feel like I am typing into a canyon and the only thing coming back to me is the clicking of my keyboard after it has distorted itself by time and distance. It sounds different but it is the same stuff I just sent forth. It is not a satisfying process nor do I think it is a conducive one to brilliant new ideas. As my conversation with Jason proves, I have the best ideas when spurned on by my peers.

You might argue that I am just accustomed to social media, I have ADD instead of writer’s block, or that I need instant gratification. Perhaps you are right, but I am not the only crazy person who feels this way and it is one of the reasons why print books are going to go away. And it will happen sooner than we think.

The other main reason that this process has grated on my mind is a very practical one. Most books it is out of date as soon as the first sentence is typed, let alone edited, typeset, printed, delivered, and actually read by a consumer. Add to that equation a book that involves a discussion of technology and you are in serious trouble. I am writing a book that discusses technology and I find myself being a bit more general than I would like. I am saving individual tool highlights for the appendix and in the chapters I try to be general, wikis instead of MediaWiki for example, because I do not want the reader to be distracted from the concept by the outdated tool mentioned. In an extreme case, the use of an outdated tool in a discussion could actually damage the argument if I then loose credibility for its use. For some books, this may not be an issue if the tools are the discussion (or maybe even more so?), but I am talking about the ideas and beliefs behind the tools or the uses applied to the technology, not the technology itself.

As a consumer, I believe the print industry is just not a sustainable model in its current iteration. The problems with the industry and the format for consumers are many, but this post is not about those reasons. As a writer, I just hate that I feel like I am yelling to myself about something that will be outdated by the time it is in print. On the upside, that is why the book will have an accompanying web site with new links and information. Technology to the rescue of print media!

I feel, I should, after all this blathering, disclose what I am writing because I know you all want to know so you can buy it when it is out. Vanity printing, I said, remember? *smirk* It is a book for Information Today, Inc. on how the wisdom of crowds and technology has changed conferences, continuing education, and training. It is, I believe, very exciting because the very nature of the way we learn and share is evolving. The wisdom of crowds is changing the individual.

I am shocked most days that I am writing a book at all. In my mind I think, “Holy crap! I am writing an actual book! And people might actually read the thing!” My manuscript is due in May.

–Jane, is living with her laptop until May

Feeling Rejected?

In the spirit of scorned romance, I bring you a lovely post on the top ten reasons why editors reject manuscripts. The post is from Angela James of Carina Press, an eprint only imprint. Side note, is an eprint still considered an imprint if nothing is actually imprinted, except your mind?

As I was reading the list, I was thinking it is a wonder anything ever gets published at all. Then, I thought of all the books I have thrown at the wall for exhibiting one of these flaws. I will confess, however, to enjoying some novels whose overuse of romance novel narrative (i.e. amusing usage of words like heat, shaft, throbbing… you get the picture) are so over the top that I cackle all the way through.

The one I always remember as being the most hilarious for its overuse of themed adjectives was Bride and the Beast by Teresa Medeiros. That novel has some doosies, but the story was amusing enough that I found it all very funny. Not, I think, the intention, but I was entertained.

If you are feeling rejected this Valentine’s Day, curl up with a good or funny romance and remember that amusement comes in many forms. And often from unexpected places.

–Jane, lover of a good romance