“Brainstorming on the Beach” Conference with Novelists, Inc.
Multi-published authors are looking for a way to distinguish their epubbed books from the multitude. In some instances, they’ve banded together to form cooperatives. Here are three that presented to us at the conference. Again, these statements are from my notes and subject to my interpretation.
A Writer’s Work
This site is for authors who have had at least two commercially published works. They sell direct to readers. Books may be original or previously published. There is no exclusivity. The author can put it up elsewhere or pull it down at any time. The author gets 70%. Then 25% goes toward maintaining the website and the other 5% for Paypal fees. So far they have 18 multi-published authors participating. http://www.awriterswork.com/
This site is for authors who put their previously published backlists up for sale themselves. They can list the titles here. This site does not put the books up for sale directly. There’s a small fee for website upkeep. Each author will have their own page and links to their sites. http://backlistebooks.com/
Membership in Book View Cafe is limited to authors who have had at least one novel published with a traditional advance and royalty-paying print publisher. Author members may sell original works as well as backlist titles through this website direct to readers. They offer free fiction as well. These authors have varied amounts of experience in epublishing and help each other format and prepare their work. They can help with cover design, publishing, and promotion. http://www.bookviewcafe.com/
Someone said that ePub and pdf are the two most requested formats.
I imagine we’ll see more cooperatives by career authors who want to distinguish their body of work from the uninitiated masses. If publishers are the gatekeepers, then these authors have already passed through the gate.
Reinventing Yourselfwith bestselling authorJAYNE ANN KRENTZ .
Jayne had to reinvent herself numerous times, from writing futuristics to contemporaries to historicals. She takes her “core story” and puts it into a marketable setting. Names she’s written under are Jayne Ann Krentz, Amanda Quick, and Jayne Castle.
“Sooner or later, you will have to reinvent yourself.” Jayne offered three rules for writers to heed:
1. Identify your core story: conflicts, relationships, archetypes, and themes that appeal to you as a writer. Keep it fresh over time. Writers who want to survive must be able to adapt.
2. Know the market. Be familiar with subgenres and where your core story fits in.
3. Understand the importance of fictional landscape to readers. Each genre requires a particular landscape with conventions and reader expectations. Adjust your core story to fit that landscape.
I went to a couple of workshops on Digital Publishing. With so many Epubs popping up, writers are cautioned to evaluate them before submitting their work. Look at such things as cover art, frequency of releases, cover copy, and genre. Read a few of their books to see how well they’re edited and if you like them. Be wary of too many releases at once because titles can get lost in the crowd and there won’t be any standout successes. The same goes for your own schedule. Readers can get overwhelmed if you release too many titles in succession. Space them out by at least 8 weeks.
Digital pubs may pick up a series started elsewhere and may be interested in putting your backlist into digital format. The benefits of going with a digital pub instead of doing it on your own?
Established Reader Base
ANGELA JAMES gave a spotlight on Carina Press. She spoke on how to submit to this digital first imprint and what they do in terms of online marketing.
Career Planning in a Changing Environment
Issues important to authors were discussed in this seminar with agents KRISTIN NELSON, STEVE AXELROD, and KAREN SOLEM.
Do we want to release simultaneously in print and in ebook? Do ebooks cannabilize other sales?
Make sure you’re covered if your contract is cancelled arbitrarily (i.e. so you don’t have to pay back your advance)
25% of net versus 25% of retail price—the former is harder to track. Ebook royalty rates are still in a flux. Consider renegotiating your current contracts re ebook royalties.
Classic publishing model strengths are turning into weaknesses
Independent bookstores are in trouble and that will jeopardize hardcover sales
Publishers are trying to control all rights that may come down the road someday
New opportunities for authors are out there. In between print books, you could publish novellas or short stories in digital format. You can bring your own out of print books back to life on the digital platform.
The biggest question is still how to get your work noticed.
Authors are forging direct connections with fans through social networking. The challenge here is balancing the time requirements with writing the next book.
If your career isn’t moving forward, it’s time to diversify. Consider writing a bigger book. Do what you always do but in a different way. If you decide to write in more than one genre, ask yourself if you have time, if you are prolific enough, and if publishing in more than one genre will cannibalize your own sales.
Fight Scenes with popular author Angela Knight was a very useful workshop. I’m not going to repeat what she said here except to say I scribbled notes the entire time. She could have used another hour to complete her presentation and have a Q&A session but what she said was helpful. Some of it was common sense like save your biggest fight scene and worst villain for last. She offered some great ideas which hopefully I can deploy.
I also attended Publisher Booksignings and collected lots of free books signed by the authors. These are great for keeping up with what’s current in a genre. The Carina Press open house with cocktails and snacks was also fun.
The RITA and Golden Heart Awards Dinner and Ceremony was Saturday night. Everyone dressed up and excitement was in the air as we prepared to hear who’d won these prestigious awards.
What are those weird purple vegetables on the plate?
The Gathering was Friday night. This was the FF&P (Fantasy, Futuristic, & Paranormal chapter of RWA) Steampunk Ball and Prism Awards with music provided by bestselling science fiction author CATHERINE ASARO. This took place at the Swan Resort, a short walk from the adjacent Dolphin. At the buffet, we had a choice of Roast Beef and Chicken, various salads, poached potatoes, roasted vegetables, and delectable desserts. The room was decorated with style and many of the folks dressed up in period attire. It was fun watching the costume contest and meeting so many new people. This is definitely an event I’d attend again. Kiss of Death chapter also has a chocolate party that’s fun if you belong to that chapter.
PRISM Award Winners:
Dark Paranormal: Immortal Danger by Cynthia Eden
Erotica: Secrets in Stone by Radclyff
Fantasy: The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber
Futuristic: Close Encounters by Katherine Allred
Light Paranormal: Secret Life of a Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks and Wild Blue Under by Judi Fennell
Novella: Belong the Night by Cynthia Eden
Time Travel: Viking Heat by Sandra Hill
Congratulations to all! It was a great conference. I met many new friends whom I hope to see again at future events.
What is an enriched ebook and how does it differ from an ordinary one? An enriched ebook has bonus features like on a DVD. These can include research material, references, deleted passages, alternate endings, footnotes, audio interview with the author, research photos, interactive maps that follow the action, music to accompany scenes in the story with music, commentary by the author.
As you may have guessed, adding these features means more work, but we do a lot of this anyway. For example, I’ve added a glossary to the ebook edition of Circle of Light, my first book published in 1994 and just now debuting in digital format. Imagine if I’d added these features to my mysteries when they came out in ebook format. I’d have been able to share my research photos, info I gathered at on-site locations, research material that didn’t make it into the story.
Do readers care? When you’re engrossed in a world the author has created, often you don’t want the story to end. I know that when I finished the Harry Potter series, I wanted to read more about the lives of Harry and friends after they left school. The brief epilogue wasn’t enough to satisfy me. So the question is, will readers want to read more about your fictional world and your characters? Do they care to learn about the writing process involved in creating the story? Or would they rather close the page and wait for the sequel? Will this enhance reading experiences or add more burden on the author’s shoulders? Will it draw in young readers who look for multi-media presentations? There’s no doubt the publishing industry is changing. Authors have to embrace these changes or risk getting left behind in the dust.
CIRCLE OF LIGHT, my seventh manuscript, became the first novel I sold. It began as a dream, wherein I was at my job as a clinical nurse specialist. The dream unfolded in much the same manner as the excerpt on my website. My dream ended at the same place, but I couldn’t let it go. I had to finish the story! I wrote the whole thing, and that’s my first book that sold. CIRCLE OF LIGHT became number one in a trilogy and went on to win the HOLT Medallion Award in the paranormal category. The story has ancient prophecies, mysterious glowstones, a magical Blood Crystal that foretells the future, and a transcendent healing power inspired by love. It also has villains: the evil Souks, a slaver race; the nasty Horthas with their stun whips; the Twyggs with their grasping branches, a traitor in the central government; and mercenaries who hire their services as assassins. It’s an exciting story. No wonder I felt compelled to finish it.
CIRCLE OF LIGHT, originally published by Dorchester when I was writing as Nancy Cane, is now available in digital and trade paperback formats. And lest you think it’s all purely made up, I used a National Geographic article on volcanoes for the scenes on Taurus, a volcanic planet. I used my Star Wars and Star Trek sourcebooks and technical manuals for inspiration in terms of ships and weaponry. The capital city of Bimordus Two is a biome, a self-contained ecosystem. I cut out articles about these habitats at the time, and they’re probably still in my files. So research took many forms for this futuristic romance. And because it’s at heart a romance novel, woven throughout the exciting adventure is the developing love story of Sarina and Teir.
Attorney Sarina Bretton is kidnapped from Earth to become the legendary Great Healer, thus saving the galaxy from a dreadful plague. To activate her power, she must marry Lord Cam’brii, a stiff politician. Instead, she falls in love with the spaceship captain transporting her to the wedding.
Captain Teir Reylock is drawn to the feisty woman he’s escorting to the capital city, but he must fulfill his duty. He doesn’t count on being assigned as her bodyguard once they arrive. Now not only must he protect Sarina from the Coalition’s enemies, but also he must guard her from his heart.
It’s hard work to breathe life into your backlist but well worth the effort. Fans who get hooked on your latest title will search the bookstore shelves for everything else you’ve written. Hoping to catch new fans with my upcoming futuristic romance, SILVER SERENADE, I’ve begun the process of updating the offering of my very first three published books. These futuristics ended up as a threesome that I now call the Light-Years Trilogy. Belgrave House is converting them to digital media so people with eBook readers will be able to download them onto their Kindles, Sony Readers, Nooks, and more. Originally published in mass market by Dorchester, these titles are currently available online in trade paperback format at iUniverse.com. You’ll have to look for me under the name Nancy Cane. That’s my alter ego for my earlier titles.
It may seem like an easy transition, but I have spent hours reading through CIRCLE OF LIGHT, book one in the trilogy. Not only am I proof-reading for conversion errors, but I’m tightening the prose and adding a Glossary. So my ebook fans will get a new and improved version plus an added bonus!
Hoping to attract interest to the digital version, I’ve posted a new blurb and excerpt on my website as well as on iUniverse. And this doesn’t even count the numerous other places where my books are listed. I still have to do books two and three, but I feel it’s worth the effort. I’m very excited about the potential to bring these titles to a new audience.
If you have the rights back to your earlier works, now is a great time to exploit them. With digital formats, self-publishing, and print on demand, you can breathe new life into your backlist. A whole new generation of readers is out there, just waiting to discover your fabulous stories.
Macmillan’s current fight with Amazon over e-book business models is a necessary one for the industry. The stakes are high, particularly for Macmillan authors. In a squabble over e-books, Amazon quickly and pre-emptively escalated matters by removing the buy buttons from all Macmillan titles (with some exceptions for scholarly and educational books), in all editions, including all physical book editions. Thousands of authors and titles are affected; hardest and most unfairly hit are authors with new books published by Macmillan that are in their prime sales period.
Yet if Macmillan prevails, the eventual payoff for its authors (and all authors, if a successful result ripples through the industry) is likely to be significant and lasting.
For those of you who may have missed it, here’s the story so far:
Last Thursday, Macmillan CEO John Sargent informed Amazon that beginning in March, it would offer Amazon access to a full range of e-book titles only if Amazon were willing to sell books on an “agency” model that would pay Amazon 30% of e-book proceeds and allow Macmillan to set its own retail price for e-books. (Currently, Amazon buys e-books as a reseller at a discount of 50% off the retail list price and sells at the price it chooses.) Macmillan’s price under its agency model, in many cases, would be higher than the $9.99 ceiling that Amazon has been seeking to impose on the industry.
If Amazon didn’t find the agency model acceptable, Sargent said Macmillan would expand its “windowing” of e-book editions. “Windowing” is the practice of waiting until a particular edition of a new book has been on the market for a while before making cheaper editions available. Publishers have for decades waited until the hardcover sales window has closed before opening the sales window on paperback editions, for example. This helps protect the sales channels for hardcover books. Windowing e-books is similarly believed to help protect a publisher’s sales channels for physical books. The risk with windowing is that some owners of e-book devices are angered that low-priced e-book editions aren’t available as soon as books are released in hardcover form.
This was a bold move by Macmillan. Amazon has a well-deserved reputation for playing hardball. When it doesn’t get its way with publishers, Amazon tends to start removing “buy buttons” from the publisher’s titles. It’s a harsh tactic, by which Amazon uses its dominance of online bookselling to punish publishers who fail to fall in line with Amazon’s business plans. Collateral damage in these scuffles, of course, are authors and readers. Authors lose their access to millions of readers who shop at Amazon; readers find some of their favorite authors’ works unavailable. Generally, the ending is not a good one for the publisher or its authors — Amazon’s hold on the industry, controlling an estimated 75% of online trade book print sales in the U.S., is too strong for a publisher to withstand. The publisher caves, and yet more industry revenues are diverted to Amazon. This isn’t good for those who care about books. Without a healthy ecosystem in publishing, one in which authors and publishers are fairly compensated for their work, the quality and variety of books available to readers will inevitably suffer.
Macmillan’s move is timely because, at the moment, the e-book market is still far smaller than the physical book market, but the e-book market is growing quickly. The longer Macmillan waited, the more difficult the transition.
Amazon didn’t wait for March, when Macmillan’s new policy is slated to go into effect; it decided to hit Macmillan immediately and comprehensively, removing the buy buttons for nearly all Macmillan titles, in all editions. This is a direct attempt to use its clout in the physical book industry to enforce its business model in the e-book industry. In some ways, it was an unusual exercise of power for Amazon. The company has used the tactic of turning off buy buttons on several occasions before, but, with major publishers it’s usually selective, and doesn’t turn out the lights on nearly all titles. That treatment is reserved for smaller publishers. (Authors receive no advance warning of Amazon’s treatment of their titles, nor can they do anything about it.)
Amazon, it appears, overreached. Macmillan was a bit too big a foe, and Amazon’s bullying tactics were a bit too blatant. (For a flavor of media reaction, see this story in Fast Company.)
Sunday evening, Amazon announced that it would have to “capitulate” to Macmillan, “because Macmillan has a monopoly over its own titles.” (By this definition, nearly every company exercises a monopoly over its products.) We’re all still waiting for that capitulation: Macmillan’s books still weren’t available on Amazon on Monday evening.
If Macmillan does indeed prevail, the economics of authorship in the digital age are likely to improve considerably. We may go through some rough stretches to get there, however.
You’ll be hearing more from us on this matter soon.