Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Kindle Sales Skyrocketing

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has announced "[W]hile our hardcover sales continue to grow, the Kindle format has now overtaken the hardcover format. Amazon.com customers now purchase more Kindle books than hardcover books -- astonishing when you consider that we've been selling hardcover books for 15 years, and Kindle books for 33 months." In the past three months average, they’ve sold 143 Kindle ebooks for every 100 hardcovers. In the last month, it was 180 ebooks for every 100 hardcovers. The company has not released any specific figures about total Kindle sales or total ebooks sold.

Amazon also announced that five authors have already sold more than 500,000 Kindle books each. They are: Charlaine Harris, Stieg Larsson, Stephanie Meyer, James Patterson and Nora Roberts.

From the GalleyCat article at:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Ooh, those eeevil editors

by Raelene Gorlinsky

Yes, indeed, the goal of all editors is to gut your book of individuality and uniqueness, force it into some predetermined mold, and rip your words out of your control.

And there is this bridge I'd like to sell you...

The amazing, incomprehensible thing is that some writers actually believe this nonsense. Are they so ego-driven that they think their writing is perfect and any editing is an attack? Or are they embittered people whose writing has not been yet accepted by publishers, and so they have to justify this with some reason not related to the quality of their work?

Reality: The purpose and goal of any good, professional editor is to help a writer take that gemstone they've produced and polish all the facets to the highest sparkle, turn it into a shining jewel. And thereby ensure the best sales potential for the story, for the profit of both author and publisher (who pays the editor's salary).

Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware has an excellent post on this attitude, which seems to be popping up now as a justification for self-publishing of questionable-quality work. After all, you wouldn't want one of those eeevil editors to get their hands on your precious, perfect words and--gasp--actually have suggestions for improvement!

The Myth of the Evil Editor

Do read the whole article, but the gist of it is this:
At its best, the author-editor relationship is a partnership. The editor doesn't want to turn your book into a cookie; she wants it to be as good as it can possibly be so it will sell robustly and make money for everyone. To that end, she suggests ways in which your manuscript could be strengthened and improved, and leaves it to you to make those changes in the best way you can. You're well-advised to take her comments seriously--she's a professional, after all, and writers who believe they don't need an editorial eye are letting their egos run away with their good sense. But it is still your book, and if you disagree with your editor you're free to say so, and to make a case for keeping things as they are, or for making a different change.

That's what it comes down to--this is a professional partnership, with author and editor each contributing their specific skills in a cooperative effort to make the story the best it can be.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Waddaya Wanna Call It?

by Raelene Gorlinsky

I'm looking for ideas and suggestions. I'm conducting a reader focus group at our RomantiCon convention in October. The topic will be book titles - specifically, romance fiction titles.

A reader focus group is not for us to provide information to readers - it is for readers to tell us their opinions. So we can ask questions, but we don't express opinions ourselves or try to "lead" the discussion to a presupposed conclusion. The goal is to solicit reader ideas and suggestions and opinions that will be helpful to our editors and authors.

So what would you ask readers about book titles and how or if titles affect their purchase/reading decisions? Besides the generic "What words do you like or not like in a romance title?" and "What title words are you tired of, feel are overused?" Please, give me some ideas of questions to ask.

Monday, July 12, 2010

E-Reader Love

by Raelene Gorlinsky

I'm in love - I can't stop fondling and stroking and admiring and touching...my new e-reader.

An Entourage Edge - a high-end e-reader/tablet with internet, email, and a bunch of other stuff I haven't figured out yet. But I've got the e-reader part working and books loaded into the library! Hey, I know my priorities.

It's beautiful - two huge dual screens. Not the best choice for those who want something small to carry in their purse or pocket--this weighs about three pounds and is a whopping 8-1/2 x 11 inches in size, an inch thick. But I love the large reading screen and separate screen for applications. Heck, if I eventually want something small and light to carry in my purse just for reading, the way the e-reader price wars are going hot right now, I could eventually get a nice basic reader for around $100.

This also turned into an example of generational differences in dealing with technology. I took the gadget home last week, squealing in excitement to my 25-year-old son, "Look, look at my new toy!" He, of course, asked what it was and what it did. I said, "Well, I haven't tried it yet. I printed out the 87-page user manual and I need to read that first." "Oh, for god's sake, Mom!" he sputtered as he ripped it out of my hands. Three minutes later he had a bunch of windows open, applications running, was annotating a document...and I was still saying "Wait, where is the On button?" My generation started using computer-based technology when it was extremely easy to break, when you needed to know what you were doing or you'd screw it up. My son's generation grew up with more user-friendly and bullet-proof tech toys, where you can indeed just jump in and start pushing buttons and clicking on things to figure out how it works. I'm trying to learn this attitude , but it's scary--what if I break my toy?!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Bang That Wall

by Raelene Gorlinsky

The second half of our RomantiCon workshop on Taboos in Romances was about what readers consider unacceptable elements in erotic romance novels. Thirty-five erotic romance fans gave us their opinions.

Kill That Character

There were very strong and vocal opinions on what was always and ever irredeemable in a hero or heroine, whether in current actions or in past: rape, pedophilia, child or spouse abuse, or animal cruelty/torture. These were viewed as permanent "he needs killin'" characteristics, not something that a person can correct or be "cured" of or ever redeem themselves from.

Having committed murder in the past was iffy - was there some justification, a reason the reader could empathize with? And importantly, did the character feel remorse, work toward redemption, and show emotional growth? This "wounded hero" (or heroine) has to be believably developed and well-written, but can make a compelling story.

Some story elements that were verboten in past are more acceptable now and are showing up in stories. Two mentioned were abortion, and prostitution in the heroine's past. Again, it depended on the character's motivation and attitude and circumstances.

Incestuous relationships: I was rather surprised at the universal agreement that any blood relationship up through and including first cousins was incest (considering that first-cousin marriage is legal in some states). Step siblings who had met when young was clearly incest in all eyes, even if the romantic/sexual relationship did not start until they were adults. It was fine for most readers in stories where the hero/heroine did not meet until they were both independent adults.

Wallbangers: "I stopped reading immediately and threw the book in the trash." And, in some cases, "I'll never buy another book by that author."

Ick, Ick: Toilet play (scat, urine).

Fisting or footing, except in clearly labeled BDSM or kink stories.

"Oh, daddy" - Incest, implied incest, incest play, characters who get turned on by imagining sex with a parent or parent substitute. Heroines who display any interest in their father's sexuality or compare other men sexually or physically to their father.

Heavenly HEA - The h/h die (either at the same time, or one now and one many years later) and their happily-ever-after occurs when they meet in the afterlife. Everyone wanted the relationship to be resolved in "real life".

Doormats - The heroine who's a total weeping wimp. Also the heroine who gets her only value from the hero, rather than developing her own self-esteem and competence.

One of the milder no-nos, but pointed out as a flawed or weak plot: Inserting a big age difference between hero/heroine when there is no reason for it.

Terrible research - Very noticeable errors in facts: history, science and natural science, national or cultural attributes (especially perpetuating offensive stereotypes and inaccurate generalities).

Too much use of coincidences or forced circumstances to make the action go where the author wants it to go - Would the character really act like or say that, how often would that really happen?

Too much descriptive "tell" instead of "showing" the reader.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Language of Lust

by Raelene Gorlinsky

Gather thirty-five women, all fanatical readers of erotic romance, and ask them about "the words". That's what we did in a workshop at last year's RomantiCon convention. We asked what sex-related terms turned them on or off. Of course there was no unanimous vote - everyone's preferences differed. But here are the things that were very consistent.

Talking about HIM (yes, that part of him): Cock, penis and erection were preferred (and are what is most common in books). Dick, his sex, balls, sac were all fine with most. The women generally said that they felt a female character would not refer to a man's testicles as his nuts, but that male characters could realistically do so. No silly or "fruit" terms for the penis, nothing that sounded like teenage boys.

Talking about HER (up top): "Why not just call them breasts?" was the general consensus. But tits was okay with many of the women, as long as not used in a nasty or derogatory manner. They thought female characters could use fun terms like "the girls" or "the twins", but that it wasn't believable to have men say that. (We've all been influenced by the TV show What Not To Wear, I guess.) Definite NO on jugs, boobies, bubbies.

And down there on HER: The group was divided on cunt, although it seems to have become much more acceptable than it was five or ten years ago, possibly because it is used more in erotic romances now and everyone's gotten used to it. (As a description of the female genitals - it was NOT acceptable, was considered a nasty insult, if used to refer to a woman herself.) Pussy was fine. In historicals, quim or cunny (but everyone was clear that those would sound really odd and fake in a contemporary story). No one liked the abbreviation "vaj"; most were fine with just vagina, although a few commented that it could come across as sounding too clinical and cold. Va-jay-jay or any other silly words like that were generally put down. Absolute no-nos were hole or gaping hole. Several mentioned that hole was fine when referring to anal sex, but not to the vagina.

What comes out of the vagina when a woman is aroused? Cream or honey! "Squirt" was an icky word to everyone, when applied to either the woman's or man's act of emission.

And the act of sex itself? Hey, very few seemed to have any problem with good old fucking. Of course, making love was pointed out as far more romantic, but not always applicable to the scene or characters.

Then we got onto terms of endearment.

Almost everyone in the room said they had a strong ICK reaction to a woman calling her love interest or sex partner "Daddy"; it turned them right off the story. And a number of the women didn't like the man calling the woman "babydoll".

So what should she call him? "His name!" shouted everyone - it really is romantic to purr your man's name to him. The old standards were acceptable: babe, baby, honey, sweetheart, darling, love. For historicals, sweeting or dearling are commonly accepted.

For male/male relationships, these women didn't care for the men calling each other baby or love.

Someone brought up the term "cougar" to refer to an older, experienced woman who is looking for a much younger lover. It used to be considered negative by some, but seems more acceptable and common now, not so predatory.

Next up: What these readers had to say about unacceptable topics in romance, irredeemable characteristics of a character, what elements make a book a wallbanger.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Conference Etiquette

by Raelene Gorlinsky

We’re halfway through the annual writer conference season, perhaps time for some reminders about how to present yourself at your best, as a professional writer, when interacting with publishing industry people at these conferences. The RWA magazine, RWR, just ran two articles about what to do and not do at conferences. We've had previous posts on this blog about conferences, if you haven't read them then check out:

Conference Vignettes

The Great Hunt

Some tips on presenting yourself as a professional when meeting (or trying to meet) editors and agents:

• Dress appropriately. This does not mean a full business suit, unless that is the standard dress for the conference as a whole. But it certainly also does not mean t-shirt and jeans. “Business casual” is what you should be wearing – nice slacks and top or a casual day dress for women, pants and collared shirt (button-down or polo) for men.

• Have your business card handy to give out. The editors and agents talk to hundreds of people at large conferences, don’t expect them to be able to easily recall your name and email address. Make it easy for them with a business card. And you can jot down your book title on the back!

• Wear your name badge. Let us discreetly peek at your name when talking to you.

• Be ready with a quick pitch at any time.

• Do NOT ever try to hand over a manuscript. If the person is interested, they’ll tell you how and where to send it.

• Do not interrupt an editor/agent when they are in conversation with someone else. Wait your turn.

• Do not try to snag their attention when they are obviously not “available”. If the person is dashing away, or about to start a presentation, or otherwise clearly occupied (and that includes in the restroom—a little privacy, please!), you won’t make a good impression by putting yourself in their way.

• Stay sober! Yep, the bar is a great place for casual conversation, for meeting people, for industry gossip. But the smart people are drinking soda or making one glass of wine last an hour. You want to be remembered, but not as a drunken asshole. Again, this is a business event, not your vacation or a “Let’s get smashed and stupid” night out with friends.

• Attend publisher spotlights. You need to know what each publisher is looking for, and it also provides an opportunity to meet the publishing staff.

Have a productive and pleasant conference experience!

Friday, July 2, 2010

"Damn you, Nicholas Sparks"

Amazon Reader Reviews, created by author Amy Kathleen Ryan

Typical author reaction to reader reviews posted on Amazon.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Worst First Line Bulwer-Lytton Contest

"Where WWW means 'Wretched Writers Welcome' "

San Jose State University has sponsored the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest since 1982, for creating the opening sentence to the worst possible novel. The contest has gone from 3 entries the first year to over 10,000 now, international attention, and expanded to several categories.

Here are some of the worst of the worst; check out the website for all the winners and runners-up (if you can do so without ripping out your eyes at such exorbitant prose).

2010 Winner
Molly Ringle: For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity's affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss--a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity's mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world's thirstiest gerbil.

Tom Wallace: Through the verdant plains of North Umbria walked Waylon Ogglethorpe and, as he walked, the clouds whispered his name, the birds of the air sang his praises, and the beasts of the fields from smallest to greatest said, "There goes the most noble among men" -- in other words, a typical stroll for a schizophrenic ventriloquist with delusions of grandeur.

Adventure Runner-Up
Greg Homer: When Hru-Kar, the alpha-ranking male of the silver-backed gorilla tribe finished unleashing simian hell on Lt. Cavendish, the once handsome young soldier from Her Majesty’s 47th Regiment resembled nothing so much as a crumpled up piece of khaki-colored construction paper that had been dipped in La Victoria chunky salsa.

Detective Winner
Steve Lynch: She walked into my office wearing a body that would make a man write bad checks, but in this paperless age you would first have to obtain her ABA Routing Transit Number and Account Number and then disable your own Overdraft Protection in order to do so.

Romance Winner
Paul Chafe: "Trent, I love you," Fiona murmered, and her nostrils flared at the faint trace of her lover's masculine scent, sending her heart racing and her mind dreaming of the life they would live together, alternating sumptuous world cruises with long, romantic interludes in the mansion on his private island, alone together except for the maids, the cook, the butler, and Dirk and Rafael, the hard-bodied pool boys.

Western Winner
Linda Boatright: He walked into the bar and bristled when all eyes fell upon him -- perhaps because his build was so short and so wide, or maybe it was the odor that lingered about him from so many days and nights spent in the wilds, but it may just have been because no one had ever seen a porcupine in a bar before.