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Archive for the ‘Digital Book Authors Rights’ Category

Getting noticed as a romance writer is hard work. Competition from bestselling novelists can suck the lifeblood out of a newbie’s promotion efforts faster than a vampire on a drinking binge.

A writer may go on tour, build a website, start a blog, make a trailer, create bookmarks, host a giveaway, attend conferences, join romance loops, and twitter until she gets carpal thumb, and still have more to do. Of all the fiction genres, romance writers strike me as being the savviest, most upbeat promoters of their own work today. They never stop working and networking, or looking for ways to get their books in front of readers.

Here’s the word. FREE is the new black.

According to the Associated Press, free books are now the latest weapon in the sales arsenal. It sounds counter-intuitive, but giving away an entire novel, not simply an excerpt or a short story is leading to dramatic increases in sales for known and lesser known romance novelists.

“There’s always going to be someone who wants free things. What we’re trying to do is link free with paid,” Maja Thomas, senior vice president of digital media at Patterson’s publisher, the Hachette Book Group, said. “It’s like priming the pump.”

“What we like to do is make the first book in a series free, usually a series that has multiple books,” said Scott Shannon, publisher of the Del Rey/Spectra imprint at Random House, Inc.

You can witness this dynamic in action at Amazon.com where a significant number of the top 25 romance novels for the Kindle are free.

For the last several weeks, Dark Fever by Karen Marie Moning has bounced around in the top five to ten books on the list. No mystery there. It doesn’t cost readers a dime to download. Not coincidentally, two of the author’s other books, Bloodfever and Faefever, have nearly kept pace in sales, even though the price for these is $6.00 and $6.39 respectively. Lara Adrian is another writer to benefit from this trend with her novels, Kiss of Midnight (free) and Kiss of Crimson (not free).

Del Rey Publisher Shannon is quick to add one caveat in the article by AP:

“We have had phenomenal success with using free books to get people to buy others by an author. But in the long term, we have to guard the market. We have to make sure people understand that time and energy goes into writing a book.”

Newbie eBook authors take heart. If you don’t have an entire novel you can afford to give away, or should even want to give away, apparently free is free and free sells romance. Short stories are just as sought after when the price tag is $0.00.

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that an online book retailer in possession of a good fortune in public domain fiction, must be in want of a manner to control it.

—Jane Austen (Not)

It doesn’t matter where you sit on the issue of Digital Rights Management (DRM) and protection of copyrights in eBook format, this post at The Consummerist, tells a tale of the truly absurd.

As part of the much hyped roll out of their new eReader app this week, Barnes & Noble offered free downloads of five novels in the public domain, among them Jane Austen’s beloved, Pride and Prejudice, the all time best book to read when you lose hope that romance exists.

There’s a catch, though. The books are wrapped in the same type of DRM that permitted Amazon to recently zap George Orwell’s 1984 from the memories of Kindle devices everywhere.

Writes The Consumerist‘s Chris Walters:

The ebook “war” is a race to the bottom, apparently, with Barnes & Noble trying to out-do Amazon on DRM stupidity. A reader emailed B&N customer service to point out that their “free books” offer consists of 5 public domain titles that are no longer protected under copyright, yet are still locked down with digital rights management (DRM). Their response? “For copyright protection purposes, these files are encrypted and cannot be converted or printed.”

As much as I love eBooks, it’s a good thing to know I have three paperback copies of Pride, plus the A&E version starring Colin Firth on both DVD and VHS, as back-ups.

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Given the hue and cry over this month’s blunder by Amazon, remotely removing two George Orwell novels from the Kindle reader of every customer who had purchased them, the company’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, evidently felt it was time for a mea culpa. Below is his apology as posted on the Kindle Community Forum:

This is an apology for the way we previously handled illegally sold copies of 1984 and other novels on Kindle. Our “solution” to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles. It is wholly self-inflicted, and we deserve the criticism we’ve received. We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.

With deep apology to our customers,

Jeff Bezos
Founder & CEO
Amazon.com

Sounds sincere enough, but the reading public isn’t ready to forgive, as evidenced by an article yesterday in The New York Times. Consumers are growing increasingly hostile toward the company’s proprietary DRM (Digital Rights Management) software.

DRM is an option attached to Kindle books by each individual publisher which restricts the ownership and usage of the books purchased. Some claim that DRM means you don’t own the books you’ve purchased, which is perhaps why Amazon believed it had the right to remotely reach in and remove the previously purchased Orwell novels.

Writes Brad Stone in The Times article, “Amazon Faces a Fight Over Its E-Books:”

A growing number of civil libertarians and customer advocates wants Amazon to fundamentally alter its method for selling Kindle books….

The article mentions an organization, The Free Software Foundation, formed to take on DRM.

The foundation, based in Boston, is soliciting signatures from librarians, publishers and major authors and public intellectuals. This week it plans to present a petition to Amazon asking it to give up control over the books people load on their Kindles, and to reconsider its use of the software called digital rights management, or D.R.M. The software allows the company to maintain strict control over the copies of electronic books on its reader and also prevents other companies from selling material for the device.

As an author, I completely empathize with the need for writers to protect their copyrights. The last thing I want to see is people sharing my hard work for free (would doctors, plumbers, teachers, and others do their jobs without the expectation of being paid?). However, detractors of DRM claim that the software has little to do with copyright protection, which they argue, can be easily circumnavigated by hacks anyway.

All of this sounds very reminiscent of the early days of music downloads, so if history is any guide, we may have an idea as to how the situation could eventually wash out.

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Round up of Bloggers Blogging and Tweeters Tweeting about Nationals

Sarah Wendell over at Smart Bitches posted an entertaining RWA Mini Recap with details on too much beer at their Bootleg Booksigning, the standing-room-only success of the Digital Rogue Conference, and the healthy turnout for RWA’s last minute bone thrown to eBook authors and publishers, the “Digital Initiatives” seminar.

Barbara Vey has a quick post at Publisher’s Weekly about Janet Evanovich’s inspiring Q&A at breakfast this morning. Apparently Evanovich made her first sale only after buring a crate filled with 10 years of rejections letters.[warmth = better use for rejections than papering bathroom walls, IMHO]

I loved this Evanovich quote from the breakfast, found not on Vey’s blog, but posted by Susan Gable on the Absolute Write Water Cooler forums.

Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself. Life is long.
—Janet Evanovich

Meanwhile, the tweetosphere is on fire for the RWA Nationals:

  • Elle Drake, RWA attendee and writer of dark paranormal romance, broke the news on the winners of the Prism Awards for futuristic novel and novella
  • Quartet Press is currently engaged in an interesting twitterfest  at hashtag #rwa09, answering questions about copyrights. Hint: if you’re writing under a pseudonym, it’s still better to copyright a book under your real name. Lots of great info about how to protect your work.
  • Looking for photos from Nationals? So far, I’ve struck out on Flickr, but Twitter has photos posted by various tweeters.
  • One of the best blogs I’ve found, Blogging Nationals, is featuring a compilation of notable tweets from D.C. The tweeters themselves are quoting romance authors. Though these are recycled quotes, my favorite is:

Every time I hear writers talk about ‘the muse,’ I just want to bitch-slap them. It’s a job. Do your job.
–Nora Roberts

  • Finally, for all of us who aren’t at the conference, and are feeling sorry for ourselves, join the twitter chatter at #rwaenvy.

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Note: The Poll mentioned below by PW is different that the currently running RWA eBook membership question poll on this blog. You’ll find that poll to the right in the sidebar.

Here’s a quickie: Yesterday, at the Rogue Digital Conference, Jane Litte spoke about the Google Book Settlement (every published author is a stakeholder in the settlement). Now Publisher’s Weekly has opened up a poll to get authors’ take on the settlement, how they feel about it, and what it will mean to them. You can take the poll here.

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