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Posts Tagged ‘eBook Romances’

In just nine short years, eBook sales will dominate the market. So says a survey from the Frankfurt Book Fair. Conducted last month, the survey polled 840 industry experts in connection with the fair, scheduled to take place October 14-18 this year.

The Frankfurt Book Fair is well known as the annual international meeting place for thousands of publishing industry professionals, a sort of RWA Nationals for agents, editors, publishers, film producers, and others who attend to buy, promote, and sell media and foreign rights.

In a post about the FBF survey, Bookseller.com reported:

Around half of those who responded to the survey said 2018 was the “turning point”, up about 10 percentage points on the same survey last year. In 2008, 27% were of the opinion that digital would never overtake print – now that number is only 22%.

The bullish prediction comes despite the majority of respondents admitting digital products still comprised just a fraction of overall sales – 60% esimated that “considerably less than 10% of their revenue” would come from digital sources this year – though this is expected to grow sharply over the next couple of years.

The vast majority – 80% – said they embraced “the radical change” digitisation brings about, rather than seeing it as a threat to the old guard.

I wonder how the Romance Writers of America awards committee will take the news, given their current stance on the legitimacy of eBooks?

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For anyone who has written and sold their first novel, what comes next can often be a daunting task. How do you get the reading public to notice you and buy?

Logically, it sounds like this should be the publisher’s job. They’ve bought your book and made it one of their products. You’ve given over your rights to them. Wouldn’t it be in their best interests to market it so that they can make more money?

Apparently not, according to an article by Neely Tucker of the Washington Post, “On Web, a Most Novel Approach.” Publishers do actively push their titles, but increasingly it’s those at the top of the food chain that get fed, while new authors, those in print anyway, who must fend for themselves.

Authors are expected to behave like mini-entrepreneurs, says Kamy Wicoff, founder and CEO of She Writes, a Web site devoted to helping women writers promote their books. She started the site in June. More than 4,000 writers have joined.

“The landscape has altered so fundamentally and irrevocably that almost no one is immune from finding ways to participate in the promotion of their books,” Wicoff says. “Writers with small advances and limited resources are expected to treat their book as a new company, with marketing and promotion and PR.”

Tucker makes this sound like a new development, though it has actually been the case for many years now. The current economic recession and systemic financial difficulties in the publishing industry, however, have accentuated the disparity.

Never Underestimate the Value of a Book Trailer

As an example, the Post tells the story of first time nonfiction author Kelly Corrigan, who in 2008 published a memoir, The Middle Place, about cancer’s effect on the family. True, nonfiction about disease is a long way from romance fiction, but many of the same challenges face fiction and nonfiction authors alike.

When her book came out, Corrigan received no invites to book festivals, was not sent on tour, didn’t even get reviews. What she did in response, however, could serve as an excellent PR blueprint for all authors. She got busy.

She cobbled together a trailer for her book on her home computer, using iMovie software, downloading a free tune off the Web for background music, and stuck it on her Web site. Her agent helped get her on one network television morning show. About 20 friends hosted book parties, which she hit on a self-funded three-week blitz, selling books out of the trunk of her car. A guy shot video of her reading an essay at one of these parties, and she posted it on YouTube when the paperback came out.

A year later, the book has sold about 80,000 copies in hardcover and another 260,000 in paperback, according to Nielsen BookScan data. It sat on the New York Times bestseller list for 20 weeks, peaking at No. 2. That homemade trailer has been viewed more than 100,000 times. The video of her reading has drawn 4.5 million hits.

EBook authors may not find themselves selling copies of their books out of their trunks. Still, the ingenuity behind Corrigan’s story is admirable and inspiring. This is a meaty article, with a single bottom line lesson. If you want to get noticed, it’s your responsibility to do it for yourself.

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Kassia Krozser, late of the shuttered Quartet Press, has posted an excellent primer for writers on the differences in eBook publishing versus print on her blog, Booksquare. If you’re an unpublished writer hoping eBooks might be your ticket to publication, or a print novelist considering selling extra romance eFiction to indie pubs such as Samhain or Ellora’s Cave, give “Digital Publishing: Looking at the Business Model,” a look.

Krozer sifts the pros and cons of the eBook publishing model for the novice, including:

  • Advances and lower royalties from print pubs  vs. no advances and higher royalties from eBook pubs
  • Selling on proposal to print vs. selling full manuscripts to eBook pubs
  • Differences in time to market of your manuscript in print and electronic format
  • Quality control of finished product in print and eBook
  • Expected sales numbers in print vs. eBooks
  • Pricing and third party sales

This is an extensive article. Even those already working in the eBook publishing world may discover a fact or two about the digital publishing model they may not have known before.

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One of the biggest news stories coming out of RWA Nationals in Washington, D.C. last month was the flap over eBook discrimination within the RWA. Romance eBook programming was notably absent from the official schedule for the conference, and eBook authors within the organization took exception to this by holding their own Rogue Digital Conference, which attracted a sizable crowd.

rita_awardThe difficulty most eBook-only novels and novellas face in qualifying for the RITAs, continues to alienate authors who might otherwise join the organization. In a poll conducted on this blog during the conference, 51% answered Yes, they would join RWA if it offered the same rights to eBook authors as it does to print authors. Only 17% responded that they had no interest in the organization regardless of its stand on eBooks. Granted, this was an unscientific opinion poll, but it does demonstrate the interest eBook authors have in gaining respect for their format.

Quality and eBook Legitimacy

As discussed in Part I of this post, RWA and its 145 chapters strongly embrace the writing award concept. Awards assist unpublished writers by drawing the attention of agents and editors to exemplary writing. They also celebrate published authors and help them promote their work to the reading public. Yet the RWA doesn’t offer a single award for romance authors published in eBook format, and all but shuts them out of the RITAs.

Should there be a pathway to award recognition for these authors within the RWA?

Hardliners contend that only books from qualifying publishers should be eligible for awards (i.e. those that pay a $1000 or greater advance against royalties). eBook authors and publishers argue that this rule is outdated. Advances don’t fit the business model for this rapidly growing segment of the publishing industry, and bestselling eBooks often earn out well above the $1K threshold.

If money is being used as a determinant, and not the quality of writing, why not base eligibility on how well a book sells? Because hardliners could return that volley with an appeal on behalf of “deserving” books published by mainstream publishers. These, they would argue, may not have earned out or even come close, but evidently someone in New York felt passionate enough to lay out money upfront.

What is it exactly about an editor’s location, and the ability to purchase manuscripts with a large corporation’s money, that determines worth?

Do eBooks Need Their Own Awards?

It’s tempting to want to bypass the issue by establishing a different way to award achievement in eBook romance. Marginalized groups do it all the time, in a variety of fields, from acting to sports to business. They create their own awards to recognize excellence when the older, more established group ignores or excludes them. If you think about it, print romance writers already fit the definition of marginalized. How many romance novels do you think are going to find their way onto the nomination lists for the National Book Critics Circle or Pen Awards?

What would happen if RWA opted to create a special class of RITA Award or even a different set of awards all together? Let’s call them the GENAs (Good ENough for an Award). A dozen different award categories for the GENAs cover everything from subgenre (contemporary, erotica, fantasy, suspense, etc.) to entry length (novel, novella, short story). The main qualifications are that nominees are released as eBook-only during the award year, and that they aren’t self-published. No one on the GENAs committee cares if the entry got an advance or how many copies it sold.

First off, you would excite a hell of a lot of romance writers who up until this point had been completely shut out of the game. The impact on sales probably wouldn’t be that profound. I once had an editor tell me awards add absolutely nothing to the bottom line. Still, the effect on public opinion, while intangible, could bring in curious readers who until this time may not have even realized romance existed in eBook format.

On the other hand, I can already imagine the cries from some who would take offense at being relegated to a “special” category of awards. Why do I need an eBook ghetto award? What’s wrong with my work that I’m not allowed to compete with print?

Ghetto award or not, if offered, many would accept one with a gracious thank you. Nor would the fact that talent is being rewarded go unnoticed by industry media. eBook romance writers would incorporate the awards as just one more strategy to build the audience for their talent, until gradually they were on a level with mainstream members, and in some cases eclipsed the old guard. At this time, different awards for the two formats would seem redundant, even indulgent.

Not Really a Matter of Respect

I offer the above scenario not to advocate for it, but to illustrate that eBook authors, like a lot of marginalized groups, are determined. Give them award, don’t give them one, they’re still going to press forward with their work. Numerous indicators in the market suggest the tide of consumer resistance toward eBooks is turning. eBooks are the only segment of the book industry experiencing not just strong, but explosive growth (166.7% in the first five months of 2009 alone).

As much as I would like to say that the lack of acceptance of eBooks by the RWA constitutes a lack of respect, what I more firmly believe is that it shows an absence of foresight.

eBooks have the potential to level the playing field, democratize publishing. True, it isn’t that much cheaper for a publisher to produce an eBook than a print one, but other than server space, eBooks don’t have to be warehoused. Returns don’t constitute the gut wrenching financial worries they do with print. What the future of eBooks portends is a revitalization of the smaller publisher, reinvented for a new era, to replace those modest-sized print houses who found themselves gobbled up ten and twenty years ago by megapublishing groups.

Let Judges (Readers) Decide

Generally, editors at print publishers know their market. They tend to have finely-honed buying skills. Many possess degrees in English literature or creative writing, or years of experience working under someone else who has taught them how to critically assess the merits of a piece of writing. But so do editors working for eBook publishers. Should their tastes and judgment as to what does and does not constitute good, even great, writing be discounted?

Just because a print publisher has the advantage with a larger budget and deeper promotion pockets doesn’t mean it’s infallible. Both print and eBook publishers buy books that soar or bomb. Nor does a lack of an advance indicate a lack of respect toward the author, as long as that author is compensated in other ways, such as a higher royalty rate and faster payments.

Here’s the scenario I’d like to see happen. RWA calls in whatever committee has the power to make policy on the RITAs, and tosses out the old eligibility rules. Just tosses them. They refuse to ignore or separate eBook authors into a different class of awards. If they’re that concerned with money, they specify a publisher must fit one of two criteria to qualify, either the traditional publishing model (advance plus low royalties), or the new model (no advance, but high royalties).

While they’re at it, they create a couple of additional categories to accommodate the inherently shorter length of many eBook romance offerings. Finally, they don’t force eBook publishers to produce bound copies of their books for judging. What silliness in a time when RWA chapters routinely prefer electronic vs. paper entries for their own contests.

eInk is still ink. Give the judges both formats to read and let them decide what’s worthy of an award and what’s not. All authors deserve a chance to compete.

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Note: Wednesday’s bestseller lists are below. This post has been bumped to the top from its original posting yesterday.

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Death, the Vamp and His Brother by Lexxie Couper

Samhain Publishing

Paranormal Romance ~ Current New Release

Lucan by Susan Kearney

Forever, Hachette Book Group

SciFi Romance ~ August 25, 2009 (paperback), September 5, 2009 (Kindle)

Batteries Not Required by Anara Bella

Samhain Publishing

Erotic Romance ~ Current New Release

The Ocean Between by Lynda Coker

The Wild Rose Press

Contemporary (Shiek) Romance ~ Current New Release

Heart of the Volcano by Imogen Howson

Samhain Publishing

Paranormal Romance ~ September 15, 2009

Would you like to see your trailer here next Sunday?

Send me the link to your trailer on YouTube or Google Video. In addition to the usual romance subgenres, romantic suspense, urban fantasy, and YA paranormal romance trailers are also welcome!

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A question that pops up again and again on writing forums is, how much money can I make writing romance in eBook format?

One excellent answer can be found in the “Submission Tips” section of the Author Information Packet at Ellora’s Cave and Cerridwen Press. Though the tips, naturally, are meant for authors submitting material to the publisher’s own lines, what they say about earnings is fairly universal:

That varies greatly from author to author. Royalty payments depend largely upon how many titles you have placed with us, how popular those titles become with readers, and how well you market your stories. It is important to remember that it takes an extreme amount of popularity with readers and quite a few available titles to make enough money at writing to live off of the income, but we most certainly do have authors who make a VERY cushy living here.

Shiloh Walker, who has written more than 50 romance eBooks, has an excellent guest blog on this topic as well, posted at Electronic and Small Press Author’s Network, a chapter of the Romance Writers of America®. Walker was able to quit her job and write romance eBooks full-time less than two years after her first sale. She’s a fast writer, though, churning out a new eBook every 4-6 weeks. Establishing a large backlist of titles is crucial, she explains, to making a full-time living at it.

In June, romance writer Marianne LaCroix conducted an informal survey of over 300 eBook romance writers. The results, barring some statistical anomalies, are fairly interesting. At indie publishers such as Samhain and Ellora’s, the highest percentages of writers, 34% and 47% respectively, report making between $1K and $5K per title over the course of a year.

If you think about it, writing is like opening a small business. The majority of small businesses operate in the red during their first year, or even into their second year. Establishing a clientele, in this case a base of fans who will pay for your fiction, takes time and persistence.

For a lucky few, sure, it happens over night, but for the vast majority, it’s as much a work-in-progress as everything else about writing. What gives me hope are clues found in blog posts, submission guidelines and polls, such as those listed above.

I’m going to make it, and you can, too!

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This survey includes six of the top eBook venues. The number of books shown for each site is the total that site classifies as romance on their main “browse all romance” page.  Venues are listed in order of numbers of books. Note: In many cases, figures will include eBooks that also have print editions. Breaking out electronic-only editions from the totals isn’t feasible.

This week, All Romance eBooks leads the pack with a substantial 1.66% increase, while eBooks.com brings up the rear, holding steady, with no new romance novels added to their catalog.

Amazon.com (Kindle) 18,508 titles (18,347 last week) 0.88% increase
Formats:
DTP format for the Kindle, iPhone, and iPod

All Romance eBooks 17,930 titles (17,638 last week) 1.66% increase
Formats: Adobe PDF eBook, MSReader, HTML, Mobipocket, Palm DOC/iSolo, Franklin eBookMan, Hiebook, Rocketbook, Open eBook.

Books On Board 13,665 titles (13,492 last week) 1.28% increase
Formats: ePub, Secure Adobe Editions (ADE), eReaders, MSReader, Mobipocket.

The eBook Store (Sony) 11,338 titles (11,163 last week) 1.57% increase
Formats: EBL for Sony Reader and PC

Fictionwise 11,030 titles (10,864 last week) 1.52% increase
Formats: Gemstar/Rocket eBooks, Adobe Reader, MobiPocket, MS Reader, eReader

eBooks.com 9,020 titles (9,020 last week) 0.0% increase
Formats: MS Reader, Mobipocket Reader, Adobe Digital Editions


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