Sunday, May 30, 2010

What Readers Want: BDSM

by Meghan Conrad

I ran the reader panel on BDSM at EC's RomantiCon 2009. The room was packed—we filled up quickly, brought in more chairs, and even then had people standing.

What Readers Dislike
  • Overly submissive heroines, especially ones who seem to need constant reassurance. Readers wanted the heroine to have a sense of self-worth without the constant praise of her master.
  • Overly controlling heroes/doms. The sub shouldn’t have to ask permission for everything—permission to go to the bathroom was mentioned by several people as a particular squick.
  • Humiliation for the sake of humiliation. Lifestyle humiliation is difficult for readers to buy into and, they said, pulls them out of the fantasy.
  • Doms who are very into degrading their subs. It seemed fine when it happened once in a while, but when it became a steady part of the relationship dynamic, readers were turned off.
  • Doms who cross boundaries they've specifically been asked not to cross.
  • Scenes with a ton of equipment, or scenes that require a diagram to figure out what’s where and who’s tied up with what.
  • Wham, bam, thank you ma’am sex—it needs to be clear that this is a relationship outside of the sexual relationship. Readers don’t find it believable when characters meet and jump right into heavy BDSM in the first scene.
  • “Young” characters—characters who don’t have the emotional, social, or intellectual development that you’d expect from an adult. Incredibly naïve heroines were mentioned specifically, as were characters who are so fucked up from previous hurts that they’re emotionally crippled.
  • Treating subs as animals (keeping them in a cage, for instance, or leashing them) was up there with bestiality on the list of do not want. Pet play was also mentioned repeatedly as a squick.
  • When the use of a safeword ends the scene or, worse, the relationship. Readers were quite adament that the safeword should end the act currently in progress, nothing else.

What Readers Like
  • Giving and caring male doms who are more about providing pleasure than punishment.
  • An exploration of the character’s motivations—why they’re into this lifestyle.
  • Showing the strength in submission
  • Use of non-specialized equipment: headboards, ropes, and handcuffs instead of St. Andrew’s crosses and bondage chairs.
  • Exploring the trust between the hero and heroine, making it clear that the trust has been earned, not just handed over.
  • Safewords were preferred by the vast majority, with readers commenting that the use of a safeword shows that the dom really cares for the sub.
  • Characters with full, interesting lives who have personalities and goals that are unrelated to their BDSM lifestyle. Being into BDSM should be one trait among many, and shouldn’t be the primary characteristic of the character.

Things Readers Want More Of
  • Fem dom was a surprisingly common request—well over half of the room said that this was on their wishlist.
  • Submissive alpha males
  • Thinky reads
  • More characterization
  • A closer look at the characters’ headspace. Readers commented that they like to spend scenes deep in someone’s head focusing on how that character feels, both emotionally and physically, and how they react; that detailed descriptions of sexual apparatus and what people are doing are less interesting to them than the emotional components of the scene.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Quote of the Day

Editor Lee Boudreaux of Random House:
We had an intern one summer at Random House who said to me at the end of the summer, “It dawned on me; I could be making more money anywhere else.” And I said, “You are surrounded by people who would be making more money doing their job anywhere else.”

Book publishing is not where you go to get rich--as an author, as an agent, as an editor, as a salesman, as a publicist, none of it. But that means it is staffed completely by people who are committed to the idea of books, and getting them out there in the world to be read, and making those books as good as they can be, and making them reach as many people as they can.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Science Fiction Romance

by Raelene Gorlinsky

I recently (May 19) did an interview on SFR Brigade ( This is an extract from that blog article.

What are the most common reasons a novel (especially a Science Fiction Romance novel) is rejected?
Most common – and unfortunately VERY common – is lack of consistent, detailed and believable (logical) world building. World building is important in any book, but absolutely critical in science fiction or fantasy.

What grabs your attention, makes you sit up and want to read more?
A unique or very uncommon premise and setting (world). A heroine I admire, who behaves intelligently and believably.

Tell me about a few of your favorite/best-selling Science Fiction Romances novels. What really stood out in these stories that made them unique?

My favorites? – These are stories that have uncommon plots and characters, rather than the standard clichés or tropes of the genre. I especially love the strong heroines; I can’t stand a wimpy or TSTL character.

Linnea Sinclair’s An Accidental Goddess – I adore this.

Susan Grant’s The Star King

All the books in Judy Mays’ Celestial Passions series! (

Beast of Dreams by Cynthia Williams (

Kate Douglas’ Starquest series ( – although that’s more futuristic, not really science fiction

The Sailmaster’s Woman by Annie Windsor (

I just ordered Close Encounters by Katherine Allred, and am looking forward to reading it. Also on my TBR list is the steampunk Mechanical Rose by Nathalie Gray (

What are you looking for right now? What kinds of submissions would you like to see pop up in your e-queries? Anything you’re dying to see more of? Steampunk? Futuristic? Space Opera?

I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to see erotic steampunk. Steampunk romance is one of my favorite subgenres for my personal reading. An author who can combine incredible world building in a steampunk setting with a super-steamy sexual and romantic relationship will be a hit with me and with EC.

Hmm, any of you writers do urban fantasy romance? That’s another favorite subgenre of mine – contemporary or slightly future set. (Nalini Singh’s Angel series !!) EC would love to get erotic urban fantasy submissions.

Oh, and note that I always mention the “romance” part. I personally prefer romance in my science fiction, steampunk, or UF. For EC, we accept sexy stories with romance (Romantica®) or without romance (erotica). Futuristic erotic romances also generally do quite well at EC.

We have editors who love science fiction romance in all forms, so if you write a great erotic book, one of our staff may be able to fall in love with it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Quote of the Day

"We need to be less focused on format and be more focused on content and meeting the needs of our customers. We should be format neutral."

~ Oren Teicher, CEO of American Booksellers Association, speaking at BEA 5/25/10

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Will You Pay for "Enhanced"?

by Raelene Gorlinsky

"Enhanced ebooks" has been a hot topic for some months now. It generally means the text of the book plus various bells and whistles added to the digital file. Things like an interview (text or video) with the author, embedded links to websites of places or things mentioned in the book, more graphics besides just the cover, possibly embedded audio (they sing a song in the story--click here to listen).

But this is not new with ebooks, it's been around forever in print books, especially hardcovers. Limited editions, special editions, collector editions. Take the basic print book and "enhance" it by adding extra material, print it on high-quality paper with a special cover. Maybe include a CD or poster or fancy bookmark or other trinket.

And it seems like most DVD movies we buy have extra material added on.

Of course, all those enhancements, whether for digital or print, take time and money. Which means a higher price for the book. It's worked for some print books where there is a following for that author, enough people who will pay to get the special version. But that is only a very tiny percentage of printed books. And we have yet to see if consumers will pay a higher price for an enhanced ebook. Are all those little extras added onto the story worth a couple extra bucks?

So my questions to you: Would you be willing to pay extra for an enhanced ebook? How much extra--25% more, double the price, what? So if the normal ebook is 9.99, what would you pay for the enhanced version? What factors go into your decision--author, genre, subject matter, what?

Edited to add:
Is there anything that could be added to an ebook that would make you willing to pay more?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Outstanding Openers

by Raelene Gorlinsky

The night I died, I was wrestling a garbage can to the curb.

The face of the dead medium was a ghostly blur beneath the bloodstained wedding veil.

Prince Henrik was a frog. It wasn’t his idea, but he was one.

When Lorcan O’Halloran, four-thousand-year-old vampire and professed Druid, fell at my feet, it wasn’t to beg forgiveness for killing me three months ago.

“Watch out for the elves, Simon.”

I hate raising the dead on a work night.

“Oh, look, a crop circle. Let’s stop and see if we will be abducted by aliens.”

Will the opening line of your story catch my attention as much as the ones above, make me eager to read on? If not, rewrite your first line! First impressions do count, especially with “strangers”—like acquiring editors, agents, and readers not already your fans. You can kill a sale by a lackluster beginning. Make the first sentence—and then the whole first page—something that reaches out and grabs the reader by the throat, dragging them into the story.

Oh, and don’t neglect the potential of short and catchy front matter, if it fits your story.

“WARNING: This is a bawdy tale. Herein you will find gratuitous shagging, murder, spanking, maiming, treason, and heretofore unexplored heights of vulgarity and profanity, as well as non-traditional grammar, split infinitives, and the odd wank.”

Want to share with us a fantastic opening sentence from a book you’ve read?

(Points to anyone who can identify the stories above. And if you’re the author of one of them—see, it worked, I read your book.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Generation Language Gap

by Raelene Gorlinsky

I was laughing about the innuendo of a radio ad for "protection"--it was for insurance, but sure sounded to me like something else! My 24-year-old son didn't get it at all, and I had to explain. "Mom," he insisted, "I've never heard any guy use the term 'protection' for that." Which led to other words. Rubber? "Nope, only older women use that." (I refrained from hitting him, as I am what he meant by "older women".) So what do young men and women call it? "It's a condom, Mom." He sounded so patronizing, like maybe he thought I didn't know the real word. I decided at that point I didn't want to pursue the discussion with other sex words. Plus, it just seems "ick" to discuss cock and pussy with one's son.

So, are you a twenty-something, or parent to one? Have close friends in that age group? What sex words do they really use? It would be interesting to see how the language in romance novels (typically written by more-than-twenty-year-old women) compares to the reality of young adults today.

BTW, to my grandfather's generation, "rubbers" were those things men pulled on over their good shoes to keep them from being ruined on rain days.

Let's hear it for women who read

A quote from author Katherine Govier in a National Post (Canada) column "In praise of older women":

"You do hear, in publishing circles, the occasional complaint that the audience is 'graying.' Yep, it is. It is also loyal, intelligent, informed, crazy about Canada, opinionated, and not going anywhere. These women have years of reading ahead of them. They will not be switching their allegiance to video games or social media. They will read, and discuss what they read, as long as they have eyes in their head.

Anyway, they’re not all gray. And there are a few men among them, I notice now. Also some younger people. Younger than me, I have to say. The audience is a bigger mix than it first appears to be. But yes, it is mainly older women. These are the buyers, the ones who get the ball rolling. Let’s face it, they are the mainstay and the lifeblood of books in our country. Maybe in most countries....

So let’s hear it for older women who read. Without their wisdom, curiosity and lust for life, their humour, loyalty and pride of place, we would be nowhere."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

EBook Usage Up

by Raelene Gorlinsky

The April 12, 2010, issue of Publishers Weekly magazine reported on the lastest survey by the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) on ebook reading. The survey was conducted from January 28 to February 5; they don't say how many responses are included in the results. The survey respondents were people who are reading ebooks.

~ 23% of ebook buyers said they now buy ebooks exclusively

~ 60% said they've bought an ebook from Amazon, 23% have bought from Barnes&, 9% from, 8% direct from publisher

~ 35% said the primary format they buy is Kindle

~ Device primarily used for reading ebooks:
46% - computer (desktop or laptop)
29% - Kindle
6% - Sony Reader
5% - iPod Touch
4% - iPhone
1 to 3% each for other smartphones, other devices or readers, Nook, or netbook

The BISG will be conducting the survey again, and it will be interesting to see how things may change with the proliferation of new reading devices, Google's announced plan to start selling ebooks this summer, and the iPad and move to agency model pricing.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Publishing Triangle LGBT Awards

The Publishing Triangle ( is the association of lesbians and gay men in publishing. They have announced their awards for the best LGBT books of 2010.

Lesbian Nonfiction: American Romances by Rebecca Brown (City Lights)

Gay Nonfiction: The Greeks and Greek Love by James Davidson (Random House)

Lesbian Poetry: Zero at the Bone by Stacie Cassarino (New Issues Poetry & Prose)

Gay Poetry: Poems of the Black Object by Ronaldo V. Wilson (Futurepoem Books)

Debut Fiction: The Bigness of the World by Lori Ostlund (U. of Georgia Press)

LGBT Fiction: The Hour Between by Sebastian Stuart

Sunday, May 2, 2010

2010 Edgar Winners

For all you mystery/suspense writers and fans, Mystery Writers of America has announced the winners of the 2010 Edgars.

Best Novel: The Last Child by John Hart (Minotaur Books)

Best First Novel by an American Author: In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff (Minotaur Books)

Best Paperback Original: Body Blows by Marc Strange (Dundurn Press)

Best Critical/Biographical: The Lineup: The World's Greatest Crime Writers Tell the Inside Story of Their Greatest Detectives (Hachette - Little, Brown)

Best Fact Crime: Columbine by Dave Cullen (Hachette - Twelve)

Best Short Story: "Amapola" in Phoenix Noir, by Luis Alberto Urrea (Akashic Books)

Best Young Adult: Reality Check by Peter Abrahams (HarperCollins - HarperTeen)

Best Juvenile: Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Best Television Episode Teleplay: "Place of Execution" by Patrick Harbinson (PBS/WGBH Boston)

Robert L. Fish Memorial Award: "A Dreadful Day" by Dan Warthman, in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine

The Simon & Schuster - Mary Higgins Clark Award: Awakening by S.J. Bolton (Minotaur Books)

If you are an author or aspiring author, it is always wise and informative to keep up with the major awards given out by respected bodies in your genre. Go read the list of all the nominees, take note of which publishing houses are well represented. Look at the subgenres getting the most attention.