5 Things I’ve Learned from E-publishing

NotoriousAtherton200x300Pat here, riffing on what I've learned from e-publishing:

1)    Readers want books that publishers have ignored for years.
2)    I can make more money on e-pubbing my backlist than I made when I first sold the books.
3)    If publishers don’t intend to keep a book in the store or sell it on-line, then they should automatically revert those rights to the authors so the authors can put the books out there for readers to find. To do otherwise is just plain rude.
4)    Social media is a time suck and I’m bad at it, but readers are beautiful and respond when I stutter abominably.
5)    All those geeks who declared that information just wants to be free are now driving Lamborghinis and wearing Rolexes by selling advertising.

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E-publishing and the Victorian era

Anne here. One of the things I find most fascinating about history is that it tends to repeat itself. For instance, most people would scoff at the notion that there are strong parallels between the growth of the e-publishing revolution and publishing in the Victorian era. Laudley

The Victorian era, you say? Parallels with e-publishing? In what way?

In the Victorian era, developments in technology allowed cheap, widespread production of print media which in turn led to a boom in publishing. Fiction also experienced a boom as stories serialized in magazines and newspapers became cheaply and easily available to a much wider audience.

In the 21st century, technological advances in electronic communications have led to a massive e-publishing boom. Serial publishing is also a feature of much current e-publishing.

Mention writers like Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and others and we all nod. Some of us even have their books on our shelves, though they were published more than a hundred years ago. We tend to assume that in the past, people purchased and read complete books, as we have for most of our lifetimes. But in fact, many of the first writers of popular fiction reached their initial audience through serialized stories published in newspapers and magazine.

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Found in the Publishing Attic: Dangerous Gifts

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo

Ten days ago at the New Jersey Romance Writers Conference, I gave a speech about the changing landscape of publishing.  (Putting that talk together was a real chore, because really, who knows???!!)  But today’s blog is about some of the interesting things that can be tossed up by the eddies of the new publishing river. 

Years ago, Jo Beverley and Karen Harbaugh and Barbara Samuel and I did an anthology called Faery Magic—historical romance novellas involving faeries.  It was the first of three anthologies we did together, and a whopping great amount of Faery_Magic--Kargefun, as author generated anthologies so often are.  We go wild with world building and bouncing ideas off each other and a good time was had by all.  Much time was spent discussing the usages of faery, fairy, and Faerie.  (Okay, so maybe one has to be a word wonk to enjoy such discussions. <G>)

Faery Magic was published in 1998. and reissued with a new cover several years later when it became ripe for the reversion of rights to the authors.  In those distant days (around 2004), authors were generally very happy to have books reissued.

But when reversion time recently rolled around again, the publishing landscape had changed.  Any author reclaiming her rights can now indie publish a novella in e-book format, and maybe make some reasonable money. 

I’ve indie published backlist novellas before: I have a four novella holiday collection A Christmas Flingcalled Christmas Mixchief , and my one contemporary Christmas novella, A Christmas Fling, is available as a free standing story.

So I asked for reversion of rights on my story, Dangerous Gifte.  But this is where the twist came in.  Kensington said they were starting a new e-only line and would like to publish my story as part of that.  I was torn.  I’m very possessive about my stories (MINE, MINE, MINE!!!!), which is why I’ve always been quick to revert rights when possible, a habit which has stood me well in the new age of indie e-booking.

But Kensington is also my principal publisher and they’ve done very well by me.  After much indecision and further coaxing by my editor (imagine trying to lure a feral cat to hand), I decided it would be an interesting experiment to have my publisher put out a novella electronically.  So as of last Thursday, Dangerous Gifts is available from all the usual downloading places, including the Kensington site. Barnes and Noble, and Amazon

Dangerous GIfts is a Regency riff on “be careful what you ask for.”  I reread the story a few days ago, and remembered how much I enjoyed writing it.  A faery lord, Ranulph of the Wood, becomes enamored of the enchanting harp music of a girl who plays in his woods, which are on her father’s estate.  He wants to bring her into Faerie so he can always have her music, but there are rules about how this can be done.  So he offers her a faery bargain: the greatest wish of her heart in return for her performing any one of three simplel tasks. 

194396309The plain, lonely daughter of elderly parents, Leah Marlowe yearns to be beautiful and beloved.  Such a dream seems impossible until a handsome, well dressed London gentleman magically appears in front of her as she plays in her favorite glade:

 “I am Ranulph of the Wood, a lord of Faerie," he said softly.  "I can give you beauty so great that it will bring all mortal men to their knees. Wealth, fame, the love of heroes—you can have whatever, or whomever, you most desire.”
     She gaped at him.  He was mad; there could be no explanation. Or perhaps she was merely dreaming.  
    “This is no dream.”  Ranulph took her right hand and raised it to his lips, pressing a cool kiss on her tense fingers.  “It is a sign of your own magical gift of music that you can see me.  Usually only sorcerers or simple country people can see the Folk, but sometimes artists and poets and musicians can also.”  
    She pulled her hand away, beginning to wonder if by some wild chance this encounter could be real.  The woods around her had always had an uncanny reputation, and the villagers avoided the area.  Leah came to this glade to play because the music inside her was always most powerful here.  “If you’re a faery, prove it.”
     He shook his head sadly.  “So skeptical, you modern mortals.”  He reached inside his coat and drew out a small looking glass.  Then he extended it to her, his fingers trailing sparkling light.  “See what you might be.”  
     Leah looked into the glass, and almost passed out with shock.  The image revealed was stunningly beautiful.  Her mousy brown hair had become a marvelously thick, glossy mane streaked with sun-kissed blondness, while her nondescript, gray-green eyes were a striking shade of green.  Her fair skin seemed almost to glow and her features had been refined to exquisite perfection.  Yet eerily, the face was still hers. 
     The image shimmered, and suddenly it showed plain Leah Marlowe again.  She gave a small whimper of protest at the loss of that vision of loveliness. 

Will true love survive the dangers of a faery bargain?  Trust me. <G> It’s a fairly longCat--fluffy 339 Dober novella and includes more than one romance, a dazzling female faery from India, and a magical cat with long, fluffy black fur. 

A great advantage of e-pubbing is that stories like Dangerous Gifts that have been buried in old anthologies can become readily available.  Readers who are completists and want to glom all of a particular author will find it easier to do.  Me, I’m just glad to have a favorite story available again.

What do you think of this new trend for e-publishing long lost stories?  Have you pounced on some that you’ve long wanted to read?  Are there such stories you’d love to see e-pubbed? 

And if you’re a stalwart print fan—I’ll give a print copy of Faery Magic to one person Faery Magic reissuewho comments on this blog between now and midnight Tuesday. 

Mary Jo, wishing everyone magical cats of their own <G>

 

Wench Susan’s New Venture

Patbookmark

Pat here, proudly announcing:

Susan King's first historical romance, The Black Thorne's Rose, originally published by Topaz/Penguin–is finally available in e-book form in an "author's cut" — to be followed soon by The Raven's Wish, Angel Knight and several of Susan's earlier historicals.

First, to whet your whistle, here’s the official blurb:

  The Black Thorne's Rose
A high-born lady…a mysterious forest outlaw … a daring deception

With her castle and lands forfeit, gently bred Lady Emlyn refuses marriage to a cruel lord and flees into the greenwood–where she falls for a bold forest outlaw, the Black Thorne, who courts danger in King John’s England. Caught in a game of passion and daring deception, Emlyn learns too late that the mysterious outlaw and the ruthless lord she despises are one and the same man. Now, for Thorne and Emlyn both, the greatest risk of all exists in the truth…and love.

“Excellent…filled with mythical legends, mystery and mayhem… an extremely powerful story.” — Black thorne Rendezvous

"Magnificent!" — Virginia Henley

Now, here’s Susan!      

Pat: Your debut historical romance, The Black Thorne's Rose is now finally available! Tell us something about the book. Why did you choose to begin your career with a medieval romance?

Susan: A lifelong love of forest outlaws and Robin Hood tales, and bookshelves (and a brain) filled with medieval research sources — what better reasons to write a medieval romance? Seriously, at the time I didn't realize that writing historical fiction was about to become a career for me. I was on an academic track, and took leave from that because I had three sweet little guys at home who needed a full-time mom for a while. And writing fiction was my guilty pleasure then. It was something I loved doing in my little bits of free time. So I was curious to see if I could really write good fiction and actually finish a novel, maybe even see a book published before I resumed the PhD work and teaching.

I had been playing with this particular story idea while working on my dissertation (medieval manuscript illumination and a study of iconography). During my leave, I wrote the story of Lady Emlyn, an English medieval lady (and manuscript illuminator in her spare time!), who loses her family castle to one of King John's barons. Fleeing  English forest an arranged marriage, she meets a forest outlaw who has hidden ties to the man she has refused to marry. Emlyn and her outlaw are soon caught up in danger and vengeance, while love develops unexpectedly between them–though not unexpected to the reader!

In Black Thorne's Rose, I wrote the sort of story that I wanted to read myself — an adventure-romance, a Robin Hood sort of tale, with a passionate and layered romance developing between the heroine and her mysterious hero — and a lot of old-fashioned adventure too. The excitement and danger of hiding in the forest, practicing archery, escaping the baddies, jumping off cliffs, risky rescues, mixed with legend and mystery, and even touches of humor (well, I laughed, but hey, I wrote it!). And there's a certain last-minute escape at the end that may still be unique in romance!

Pat: Did you find that the story held up after several years? You've obviously changed and grown as a writer–what was it like to go back to that very first book and bring it out again?  And what exactly is an “author’s cut”?  

Susan: Reading it again myself, years later, I found that I still loved this story, still had that sense of excitement and anticipation and great fun that I had felt while writing it. So bringing this book back–which received fabulous reviews when it first came out, and for which I'm still grateful!–has been a wonderful experience for me. I look forward to going through my other early romances to get those ready for ebook publication.

Though this ebook version is not quite the same book that was published years ago. This is a new version–the "author's cut," I call it — meaning that the author has cut, trimmed, edited and vastly improved the book! When I sat down to read BTR again a Glasses few months ago, it was no longer as a newbie writer, but as an experienced author. Here was my chance to improve on a book I still truly loved. Some of that extraneous language had to go. Out came the red pencil and the "delete" button… I got rid of the "'tis twas, 'twere" contractions sprinkled liberally throughout; cut extra description (how many times do we need to describe the hero's gorgeousness?); and a lot of exclamation points bit the dust. I trimmed language — but the story, the events, the characters, all remained. I'm happy to say that The Black Thorne's Rose is fresh, lean and trim in its new incarnation, and still a fun story. 

Pat: Why did you decide to e-publish your earlier books, and what has that experience been like?

Susan: I've been planning to get my Susan King historical romances out in ebook form for a while now, and finally all the aspects came together — the time to review and edit, and the right company with the expertise to prepare and handle the ebooks. Not to mention my own understanding of the whole complicated process – trying to grasp what needed to be done and the best alternatives to choose. The learning curve on getting these books out in this form is very big, and I've been fortunate t
o have the advice and expertise of some wonderfully talented and knowledgeable people. My ebook publisher is ePublishingWorks!, a company run by Nina Paules, one of our own Word Wenches readers.  Nina is doing a beautiful job with all aspects of the e-pub process, and with the help of her company, I'm very excited to get these early books out there and into reader's hands again!

Black Thorne's Rose is now available for Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, Kobo, iBook, and several other venues, with more options appearing all the time. And I'm happy to announce that my second historical romance, The Raven's Wish, will Raven be available very soon. Raven's Wish was my first Scottish-set historical. Here's a sneak preview of the cover!

Susan has a new Facebook author page – click here to see Susan's page, and be sure to "like" it!  

 

How many of you are eager to see the return of medievals? Raise your hand! Have any of you been straying from historical romance lately? Do you have any idea why?

 

Update! Nina has offered to give three Amazon gift versions of BLACK THORNE'S ROSE to random commenters. These versions can be read on your computer as well as other devices. I'll call the cut-off time as midnight Thursday, April 28th. Drop a line and say hi and you may be a winner!

Author Book Publishing

Girlreading Pat here:

While Amazon and Macmillan and Apple publicly tear at each other throats, and Google and Authors’ Guild wrestle over the goldmine of literary cyberspace, authors are quietly setting up bookstores on the sidelines, building the publishing industry of tomorrow.

Yes, readers can already find author-published e-books on superstore websites like Fictionwise and Amazon, the big forums encouraging authors to venture into e-publication.  Except authors pay a high premium at these sites for the simple privilege of placing a title there, often 70% of sales.

Others of us have decided there is no reason we should pay 70% of our hard-earned money to do what we can do ourselves. Equally, there is no reason for readers to have to pay the inflated price for that 70% cut. So we are gathering together to experiment with author co-ops like bookviewcafe.com, or distribution centers like AwritersWork.com.  Essentially, what we’re doing is eliminating the middle man. We’re taking titles that have already been edited, revised, and proofed, sold in paper, then returned to us, and we’re reformatting and selling them as e-books for lower prices than the big guys offer.

What we’re learning is that it’s not as cheap to sell e-books as we’d hoped, but we can still make more money doing it ourselves while keeping prices substantially lower.  NewRomantic_Couple_600x800 (image to right is my attempt at creating a cover for an anthology of historical novellas.)

Take a look at the two sites I mentioned. Bookviewcafe.com is mainly fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal. Today is the grand opening of Awriterswork.com, and for the moment, they’re romance-oriented, but the diversity for a start-up is promising.  Drop by and tell them hi and welcome them to cyberspace!

The variety of authors on these sites is phenomenal, and the prices are below anything Amazon is currently offering on comparable quality. And much of the material is not available elsewhere—pretty good for a cutting edge frontier store!

BVC is already publishing some original fiction. AWW has some original nonfiction, as well as newly released backlists, plus anthologies of novellas and short stories that have never appeared in the same editions before. (As much as we wanted to put up each story for 99 cents, we learned it cost as much to put up a short story as a full book, so it was cheaper to collect the stories.) If you find a favorite author on any of these sites, you only have to sign up for a newsletter to learn of their next release. Can you Merely_magic130x200 envision a future where you may never have to go to a bookstore again? (image left is a combined attempt by several authors at creating new cover art for Merely Magic)

I know the print model is still out there. Print-On-Demand books are already on the way for BVC and may be in AWW's future. But as e-readers and netbooks and iPads become prevalent, more and more books will find their way into the hands of readers via technology. We’re hoping readers will discover it’s cheaper to buy direct from the source, but right now, it’s a brave new world out there, and we don’t know what will happen.

Obviously, I’m fascinated with change and not everyone is. But if you can’t buy some of these books anywhere else, why not take a look around?  Now’s the time for readers to speak up and steer the future toward the next generation of publishing, so what directions would you like to see us try?