And yet… it lives!

A lot of insanity and yelling going on over at one of my fav sites, Dear Author, over the lawsuit that Ellora’s Cave is filing against Borders. Yes, that’s right, the bookstore chain. And Ellora’s Cave, for those of you who don’t know, is one of the premier ebook sites that also does print and a TON of erotica/romance books.

First, the linkage.

Now, the explanation.

The book industry runs on the idea of returns – that a bookstore can order, say, 100 copies from a publisher and if they don’t all sell they can return the unsold copies and get a credit to be used on future merchandise from that same publisher. Which sounds great in theory, but in practice can drive small publishers out of business pretty quickly if they don’t keep a tab on what’s going out and what’s coming back in. When I worked at Penguin Books Canada I remember clearly shipping out literally skid after skid of a hot new release and thirty days later getting BACK skid after skid of same release, now not so hot. It’s a vicious way of doing business and one that AFAIK doesn’t work anywhere else in the business world. But it’s been there for decades and there’s really no way out of doing business in the literary world if you don’t do returns.

Which, of course, is why many small presses freak out on the idea. So either they don’t offer returns and the author is screwed when it comes to trying to get your book into bookstores or they remain as epubs, which is fine as long as you can hit the right audience and get them to shell out for electronic words. Ebooks still only make up about one percent of the market and, as I’ve ranted before, won’t take off until we get a cheap decent ebook reader for under $100 and an established format for everyone. But I digress…

The comments are really what makes this posting scary. EC author after author come onto the site and explain how they’ve been done over by EC and then EC staff come on and snipe back. Really, really nasty stuff. And the usual mantra spouted is that you shouldn’t EVER badmouth your publisher. Even if they’re screwing you left and right, backwards and forwards.

This, I’ve seen in my years of watching, is a common occurrance. The author is expected to take anything from the publisher because they’ve given you Your Big Chance and you’ll Always Owe Them, even if they end up screwing you over in the end. Stay quiet and play the game ’cause otherwise you’ll be blacklisted or something along those lines.

But what often gets lost in the backwash is how the PUBLISHER handles themselves. I’ve seen quite a few of them on AW, in my personal emails and on other blogs race around like rabid pit bulls attacking the author or their supporters for daring to ask afew questions. And this can and does affect their public image and that’s not a Good Thing, no matter how good the books you’re putting out are. There’s nothing like watching a publisher freak out on a AW thread and then rush to delete all their comments to make sure they leave a good appearance – except that the deleted posts point out exactly HOW the publisher reacts. Then it’s up to the potential author to decide if they want to sub to a publisher with that sort of temper or track record. Some still do; the golden ring of being published supercedes the reality of having a bad publisher, unfortunately.

From the EC thread I gathered a few things – never submit to EC if you don’t write hardcore sex and if you’re not willing to be sold out for a few dollars. Not to mention crappy customer service from the customer’s end of it, which is unforgivable in today’s world of Amazon delivering anything to your front door.

It’s an interesting if long read for anyone wondering exactly what’s happening in the epub world, the publishing world in general and EC specifically. Sad, long, and you might recognize a few names since many of the EC authors have moved on to NYC big houses.

So it goes, as Father Kurt would say.

Yet another bad publisher going down…

… and unfortunately taking a lot of good writers with it.

Light Sword Publishing is the subject of the latest Writer Beware blog here – they’ve been busy in court trying to both declare bankruptcy and keep their assets, which is a heck of a feat. Hopefully they won’t be able to pull it off, but the interesting paragraph in Victoria Strauss’s post is here:

"Although bankruptcy clauses in publishing contracts guarantee the return of authors’ rights in the event of the publisher’s bankruptcy or liquidation, such clauses are rarely heeded by the courts, which tend to view publishing contracts as assets that can generate income to help pay off creditors. Contracts are generally held by the trustee until a decision is made to sell or abandon them. (See this post from the Dear Author blog, which provides a good summary of what happens when a publisher files for bankruptcy). "

What that means from this little old Canuck’s understanding is that even if your publishing contract includes a funky clause that states that if they go bankrupt all rights revert to you… it may not be so.

It’s already happened with other micropresses going under; the contracts being tied up in the courts as they are seen as assets – and I can’t disagree with the interpretation.

So what does this mean?

Well, aside from obviously NOT doing business with Light Sword Publishing, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your publisher or potential publisher and see exactly what their financial status is. If they start mumbling about going bankrupt don’t count on your contract to deliver your rights back to you – in the case above along with the DA posting there were a LOT of authors who got caught in the legal web and had their stories tied up for months.

Check, check, CHECK OUT your potential publishers before you submit to them. Get thee hence to Writer Beware or Absolute Write and ask about them. Don’t accept their glowing recommendations without doing the footwork.

Twice bitten, extremely shy. As Uncle Jim says – better to not be published at all than be published badly. And at this point, I can’t say that I disagree with him.

’nuff said.

there’s a wonderful interview with Alan Moore, mostly known for his faboo graphic novel Watchmen, here.

while it starts off talking about artists there’s a LOT of good advice here for writers and pretty well anyone who works in the creative arts – again, it all comes back down to doing what you love and if it makes you money that’s great… but if not then don’t try to rework yourself to fit into what you see as successful because in the end it doesn’t make it work.

meanwhile I’m about to finish off the third draft of “What God and Cats Know” and now it’s time to start working on the query letter and seeing if I can get a legitimate publisher this time. Been burned twice and getting very cynical about the entire industry because, as of late, it seems that the inmates are running the asylum and it’s more a case of who you know rather than what’s good making it onto the shelves. True, Terry Brooks said in one of his books that it’s all a matter of luck but I’d like to think that I’m a pretty lucky broad. 

and Lord… I’m dying for the Watchmen movie. And for Iron Man 2. 

and for more Middleman. Gotta get me one of those Jolly Fats Wehawken Temp Agency tshirts. Seriously.


Reviews, reviews and damned reviews…

You don’t have to be a genius to see that having your book reviewed is probably a Good Thing – sure, we’d all like to have it in the New York Times or some such esteemed paper but that’s often hard to get. So many authors fall back on smaller magazines or specialised ones that cater to their genres. Which is all fine and dandy until you find out/realise that some of them are literally selling reviews.

Dear Author starts the revelation train here –  which takes in a post from Lee Goldberg here and is mentioned as well at Karen Knows Best, a faboo blog.

In a nutshell, there are some magazines that sell you a review if you buy advertising space. Now, this isn’t that big a revelation for some but for the poor readers of said magazine it may be a bit of a sour taste. After all, why should I believe a review that’s basically been bought for the cost of an ad?

Now, having said that – I purchased an ad for my novel in RT. At the time I asked if there was a chance of getting a review, since my book was not only coming out late but the publisher doesn’t/didn’t believe in sending out ARC copies, or review copies before the book was published. The woman I dealt with (NOT an employee, just the one organizing the group ad) said to send it along and see what happened. Well, I did get a review. Three stars. Of course I got pretty well NO sales thanks to the review but it was nice to see some acknowledgment of my book in print. Did I buy that review? Sure as heck I did… I may not have bought the RATING but I bought the space for it to go to the reviewer out of the stacks and stacks of self-pub/POD/vanity/micropress copies that no doubt fill up rooms and rooms on a daily basis at RT. Did I know this from the start? Nope… I just assumed that I was buying the ad and tossing my book upon the heap in the back room with hopes of getting it reviewed. Now that I know that buying an ad pretty well guarantees the space for a review, well…

While I agree with Goldberg that it’s a major lapse in honesty for the reviewers not to say that there’s some payoff going on here I also sympathise with Carol Stacy of RT who states that it’s one of the ways for them to sift through the chaos above. But maybe it’s not the best and maybe RT should have a disclaimer somewhere in the magazine that states that the reviews of smaller companies are basically being bought by the advertising. Perhaps not the rating but the space for the review itself.

As for Affaire de Coeur, where this all started, it’s obvious that they’re just not as good as hiding it as others. Which is both a shame and a blessing, when you think about it. 

So next time you pick up a review for your fav book you may want to consider the source. And then wonder how the system still works with all this silliness going on.

Books, Books, Books…

Well, it’s been a great year for movies AND books in my opinion – sure we got a FABOO Iron Man (insert RDJ fangirl swoon here) and looking forward to more excellent comic-based movies but there’s some great books out there for those of you looking for something a bit different.

Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs is set in the Mercy Thompson world – and if you haven’t met her then you’re missing out on a wonderfully crafted world of shapeshifting, werewolves and magic. I just finished this one, the first spin-off so to speak, and I can’t wait for more. If you’re looking for a great way to spend some time in a different reality plus some hot sexy werewolf men… well, drop by the garage!

And I’m about to start on the newest Julie Kenner book, Deja Demon – her fourth in a series that started off with Carpe Demon. Imagine what would or could happen if Buffy, our favorite vampire slayer, decided to retire and get married and have a normal life. Except, as usual, things don’t always go to plan. With excellent characterization and dialogue that just won’t stop I’m dying to get into this newest book! And anyone who’s a Kim Possible fan and mentions it in her books, well… that clinches the deal for me!

I’m still slogging through The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman, but that’s because it’s non-fiction and a bit hard to digest quickly. Although the audiobook is a godsend during my Wii Fit step sessions and I can focus in better on the concepts. Still highly recommend this if you’re looking for the future wrapped up in an easily understandable package.

Nothing more to report on the Blu Phi’er Publishing problems, other than a discussion on how the best of intentions can often turn a small press into a nightmare for the authors. It’s sad to see how many people get taken in by sweet words about how good their book is and how the publisher is right behind them… and then it turns out to be a horrible contract; lies about distribution and the like and the author is left holding the bag. 

The saddest thing is, to me, that these people aren’t evil. But they know little if anything about publishing and figure that because they can run a computer or a business in another field that it all translates over – and that’s just not true. Publishing is a full-time job with a whole lot of dedication needed and skills that can be only acquired through research and experience – andanyone who says otherwise is tooting smoke, IMO. Publishing companies have been started by housewives, computer programmers and disgruntled authors with no idea of how the system works or how they can make it work for them. And in the end so many of them fail that it’s sad. 

Again – check out your micropresses. Some of them may be honest, hardworking souls who really care about getting your book to the public. But there are those, and plenty of them on the Absolute Write boards, who don’t know what they’re doing and just want to play at being a publisher. Why give them YOUR book to play with?


Small Press Alert…

Well, there’s another dark cloud on the horizon for a small press – Blu Phi’er, to be exact. You can find details of the goings-on of this small press here and here. In a nutshell, not only did they cancel two anthologies and NOT inform any of the contributors, meaning that they have/had stories tied up there for months that could have been sold elsewhere, but they’re also playing fast and loose with the contracts, according to Absolute Write postings. Seems they’re making changes and not following them up in writing or even deciding to not comply with the contracts after signing them in good faith. Oh, yeah… that’s not going to look good for the public.

As well they’ve decided to not provide copies to the Horror Mall, an online horror bookstore, for a popular new book titled “Snuff”, even after taking pre-orders. Which, obviously, is going to affect sales of the book – d’oh!

And here’s another – Wild Cherry Press. Seems that they’re trying to dodge paying royalties to their authors by claiming that they’re in Spain, which I have no idea of the logic therein. Heck, the Bewares and Background board at AW is filled with these sorts of small presses with people not only asking about them but also victims posting their misadventures. It’s downright depressing, it is.

Now it’s possible that these companies are just going through a rough period or some other wonderful excuse for their mistreatment of their authors, but this is a huge warning sign to those of you considering going with small presses. CHECK THEM OUT first. With Absolute Write, with Writer Beware, with Preditors & Editors, with your Google search engine. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions – as noted on the AW thread it’s not surprising to most of the posters that there was trouble a-brewing due to the flashing red signs that kept popping up. And note that while there’s probably a few successful BP authors, that’s probably due more to their hard work than to their publisher. 

Don’t automatically assume that any negative criticism is due to rampant envy on the part of the poster or that someone’s out to keep the small presses down – there are plenty of EXCELLENT small presses and micropresses out there providing excellent material to the reading masses. But you have to look, ask and ask some more. Some publishers will tell you not to pay attention to Absolute Write; that because Writer Beware is run by SFWA and Victoria Strauss that they’ve got a hate on for small presses and the like – don’t believe a word of it. Better yet, check out the listings and see the horrors inflicted on these authors for yourself.

Hopefully this can all be resolved in a painless way for the authors, but I doubt it. Many of these wannabees tend to slither back under their rock and leave a trail of destruction in their wake with authors trying to get the rights for their books back and plenty of hurt feelings, not to mention lost income. It’d be nice to report in a few days that all’s well and they’ve cleaned up their act. But I’m not holding my breath.

Free ebooks sell more books?

Interesting commentary here about the free ebooks that Tor has been giving away.

Me, I’m still in the neutral spot. I’ve become a fan of the Julia Spencer-Fleming series because of the free ebooks from St. Martin’s Press, but I’m not sure if I’m the norm or not when it comes to boosting sales of the sequels or paper versions of the freebies. I guess it’s still coming back around to the problem of an affordable ebook reader that’ll be user-friendly.

Did Tor’s free ebooks affect sales? 

I’ve yet to receive the sales listings on my own book for the ebook sales at Fictionwise, but I don’t think there’ll be much there. I just don’t see ebooks as the real future of publishing until a cheap, user-friendly ebook reader is available to the public. And NO, I don’t mean the Kindle for over three hundred bucks or the Sony ebook reader for just under three hundred. If I can watch movies and television eps on a screen definitely meant to give me a rush into the trifocal stage of my life and that costs less than three hundred dollars, why can’t they come up with a reader for less?

Come on, folks – get a format for everyone to agree on and crank out those readers! I can bet that university students will be thrilled not to mention all of us who just want to read, not spend hours transferring formats and trying to break through security formats.

Excellent information for writers!

found this while surfing around the web:

Ten things to look for when submitting to small presses

it goes without saying that if you’re considering submitting to a small press/micropress that this article should be your first and best set of guidelines to start asking questions.

sure, some small pubs/micropresses may fall short of some of the requirements but if you’re only grabbing two or three out of the ten, well… let’s just say that you may want to reconsider.