Monday, August 30, 2010

Newsworthy Notes

Some articles to check out.

Is Print Dead? By J.A. Konrath (Huffington Post)

Highly entertaining – and thought-provoking – conversation at “Obsolete Anonymous” meeting. Print Industry is a new member being given a dose of reality by old members like VHS Tapes, LP Records, TV Antennas, Typewriter, Arcades, and even Buggy Whip Industry.
(Note that I personally don't think print is dead or ever will be - print books will continue to exist for a long time, just in much smaller volume.)

New Thriller Sells More E-Books Than Hardcovers (Wall Street Journal)

HarperCollins announced that Laura Lippman's new thriller, I'd Know You Anywhere, sold more ebooks than hardcovers in the first five days after release on August 17. This is the first book of theirs to do this--they even provide exact numbers of 4739 ebooks to 4000 hardcovers.

Some of the big publishers say that ebooks, which last year accounted for about 4% of sales, are up to 8% of total revenue now.

Reading in a Whole New Way By Kevin Kelly (Smithsonian Magazine, August 2010)

The author worries that reading on-screen "nurtures action over contemplation". But he also sees benefits to dynamic, instantly available and always available information.

"Today some 4.5 billion digital screens illuminate our lives. Words have migrated from wood pulp to pixels on computers, phones, laptops, game consoles, televisions, billboards and tablets. Letters are no longer fixed in black ink on paper, but flitter on a glass surface in a rainbow of colors as fast as our eyes can blink. Screens fill our pockets, briefcases, dashboards, living room walls and the sides of buildings. They sit in front of us when we work—regardless of what we do. We are now people of the screen. And of course, these newly ubiquitous screens have changed how we read and write."
"We live on screens of all sizes—from the IMAX to the iPhone. In the near future we will never be far from one. Screens will be the first place we’ll look for answers, for friends, for news, for meaning, for our sense of who we are and who we can be."

What eReader Price Point Needs to be Reached for the Next eBook Sea Change? By Todd Ogasawara on Aug 10, 2010

"It wouldn't surprise me if eBook reading devices drop below $100 by the 2010 holiday buying season and approaches $79.99 or even $49.99 by the 2011 holiday buying season."

Friday, August 27, 2010

RomantiCon 2009: Paranormal Readers Speak Up

by Raelene Gorlinsky

At the RomantiCon 2009 conference last October, we held a number of Reader Focus Groups on different genres, to ask our fans what they liked or disliked, were tired of or wanted to read more of. "Paranormal" is a very broad genre and most people read at least some aspect of it. We had a packed house for this, over fifty people crammed into every available spot in the room. The discussion was lively and diverse opinions expressed.

What types of shifters, were-creatures, do you like and why?
~ Predators! Dominant animals. Ones who can be convincing as an alpha male, may be dangerous or violent--but have a vulnerability.
~ Werewolves or the various wild cats work, raptors (hawks, etc.) work. Small, "cute" animals don't work as hero or heroine.

Are readers still interested in time-travel stories?
~ Too many are just historicals with an intro that throws character into the past--that's cheating.
~ Needs a believable--or "can suspend disbelief"--mechanism for the time travel.
~ It's a problem if the character's life overlaps in the two time periods.
~ The fun is the "fish out of water" element--the character trying to adjust to very different culture or society, clothes, food, speech.

What do you feel has been overdone, and what don't you like in paranormal stories?
~ Too many vampires that are too alike. More vampire stories are fine IF there is a unique twist on the vampire worldbuilding.
~ Why is it always a male vampire converting a human woman? Let's have more of the opposite.
~ Avoid graphic gore. Paranormal should not be the same as horror.
~ Dislike it when she is dependent on him to come into her powers.
~ Some readers are tired of the "one fated mate" theme, other readers love it.
~ Mythology-based stories had a mixed reaction; again, some love them, others are uninterested.

What do you want to see more of in paranormal romances?
~ Urban fantasy romance!
~ Sexy and spooky ghost stories.
~ Demons with interesting/unique world-building.
~ Anti-hero: the guy who fights his evil side, reforms from his past.
~ Hero who starts out unsure, but then rises to the occasion to become alpha.
~ More humor as a secondary element.

One thing that came up again and again was the importance of detailed and consistent and "logical" world-building. Where did the creatures come from or how are they created, what is their culture like, what is their history?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

You Keep Using That Word - Incorrectly

Oh, if all writers would just memorize this list, editors and copy editors would have a much easier life!

The Inigo Montoya Guide to 27 Commonly Misused Words
by Brian Clark

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. ~Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

Adverse / Averse
Adverse means unfavorable. Averse means reluctant.

Afterwards is wrong in American English. It’s afterward.

Complement / Compliment
I see this one all the time. Complement is something that adds to or supplements something else. Compliment is something nice someone says about you.

Criteria is plural, and the singular form is criterion. If someone tells you they have only one criteria, you can quickly interject and offer that it be they get a clue.

Farther / Further
Farther is talking about a physical distance.
“How much farther is Disney World, Daddy?”
Further is talking about an extension of time or degree.
“Take your business further by reading Copyblogger.”

Fewer / Less
If you can count it, use fewer. If you can’t, use less.
“James has less incentive to do what I say.”
“Tony has fewer subscribers since he stopped blogging.”

Historic / Historical
Historic means an important event. Historical means something that happened in the past.

This word is used incorrectly so much (including by me) it may be too late. But let’s make you smarter anyway. The old school rule is you use hopefully only if you’re describing the way someone spoke, appeared, or acted.
• Smart: I hope she says yes.
• Wrong: Hopefully, she says yes.
• Wrong: Hopefully, the weather will be good.
• Smart: It is hoped that the weather cooperates.
• Smart: She eyed the engagement ring hopefully.

Imply / Infer
Imply means to suggest indirectly (you’re sending a subtle message). To infer is to come to a conclusion based on information (you’re interpreting a message).

Insure / Ensure
Insure is correct only when you call up Geico or State Farm for coverage. Ensure means to guarantee, and that’s most often what you’re trying to say, right?

Irregardless is not a word. Use regardless or irrespective.

“I’m literally starving to death.”
No, odds are, you’re not.
Literally means exactly what you say is accurate, no metaphors or analogies. Everything else is figurative (relative, a figure of speech).

Premier / Premiere
Premier is the first and best in status or importance, or a prime minister. Premiere is the opening night of Star Wars 8: George Wants More Money.

Principal / Principle
Principal when used as a noun means the top dog; as an adjective, it means the most important of any set. Principle is a noun meaning a fundamental truth, a law, a rule that always applies, or a code of conduct.

Towards is wrong in American English. It’s toward. I went 41 years not being sure about this one.

Unique means (literally) one of a kind. Saying something is very or truly unique is wacked. It’s either a purple cow or it isn’t.

Who / Whom
This one is a lost cause, but let’s go down swinging. The way to deal with the who versus whom quandary is a simple substitution method.
First, a refresher on subjects and objects.
Subjects do the action:
“He/she/we like(s) to rock the house.”
Objects receive the action:
“The rock star sneered at him/her/us.”
Use who for subjects and whom for objects.
• Who wrote this blog post?
• Who is speaking at the conference?
• Who is going to clean up this mess?
• Whom are you going to write about?
• Whom did he blame for the Google Slap?
• Whom did he bait for the links?
Truth is, whom just doesn’t sound right in many situations where it’s correct, especially in the US. You now know the rule… feel free to break it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

RomantiCon 2009: LGBTQ Panel

by Meghan Conrad

The LGBTQ reader panel at RomantiCon 2009 was very well attended--way more than forty people, and we ended up with standing room only. (My thanks--and apologies--to those of you who ended up standing or sitting on the floor.) Most of the people there were already fans of M/M romance, and we had a fantastic participation rate--I think that most of the participants ended up saying something at some point, and we had quite a few shows of hands that polled everyone.

What readers don’t like:

  • Twinks (Slim, boyish men, generally without body hair, often seen as rather shallow and self-absorbed.)
  • Subby men (Men who are excessively submissive--readers were quite clear that they'd like their men to be, if not alpha males, at least able to occasionally stand up to an alpha male.)
  • Flamers—the characters should read like men, not like women with a biological strap-on.
  • Overly emotional men—weepiness and florid declarations of love don’t go over well.
  • Books that are effectively an M/F story with an M/F dynamic, only the part of the F happens to be played by a man.
  • Books that have “OMG, I’m gay!” as the plot.
  • M/M without penetration. (Readers commented that lack of penetration in an M/M makes them feel like they’ve been misled or ripped off.)
  • Demonizing women to make it more understandable that the men are interested in each other.
  • Scenes with a woman in an otherwise M/M book.

What readers like:

  • Less dominant partners who are still strong and masculine.
  • Pushy bottoms
  • Topping from the bottom.
  • “Gay for you” stories—stories in which one or both characters don’t necessarily identify as gay, but feel that they’ve found their perfect match in this person, who happens to be of the same gender.
  • A different sexual dynamic to M/M than you’d find in an M/F story—rougher and cruder.
  • Rimming
  • Fewer stereotypes—enough gay photographers, artists, and other sensitive types. They’d like to see some gay sports players, cops, and construction workers.
  • Fluid sexuality
  • Equality between partners in F/F books
  • Strong emotional ties between characters—books that are more than just sex.

What readers would like to see more of:
  • Straight men crossdressing
  • Drag performers
  • More emotional build to F/F stories--while most readers had no problem believing that two men would just fall into bed, they'd like to have a slower, more emotional connection between two women.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Literary Agents - Do You Need One?

by A.C. Crispin

On the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) website

If you're an aspiring author or an unagented pubbed author, have you wondered whether it's true that you really need an agent? And what an agent would do for you and your career?

This is an informative and detailed article, if you're thinking about an agent I suggest you read the whole thing. It has a lot of warnings and tips to help you avoid a bad agent.

The author starts by pointing out when you DON'T need an agent:
~ If you write poetry, short stories, articles or essays.
~ If you are aiming at e-book, POD, niche, specialty, or regional publication. These publishers take unagented work.
~ Some non-fiction publishers take unagented work; check the publisher guidelines.

The article covers:
• Introduction
• Agents – When Do You Need One?
• Getting Started – Compiling a List, Researching Agent Listings, and Following Submission Guidelines
• How to Recognize Real Agents
• Writing the Synopsis
• Writing the Query Letter
• Sending Out Your Query Letters
• Playing the Waiting Game
• Make Sure Your Manuscript Lives Up to Your Query
• The Psychology of Querying

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Book Consumer Study Statistics

by Raelene Gorlinsky

Bowker just released its "2009 Book Consumer Annual Review: U.S. Demographics & Buying Behavior" study. Yeah, I know, not the most enticing title! But the report is full of information of use to publishers - and to authors. The full report can be obtained for $999 (in case you were wondering what to get me for my birthday), but Publishers Weekly has an article with the highlights (8/16/10 issue; volume 257, number 32).

Although the report does have statistics on e-books, I'd pretty much discount those now. The digital book world has changed--and grown--dramatically in 2010, data from 2009 just doesn't seem relevant anymore except as an historical comparison.

So here are the highlights:
(Note that "unit sales" mean number of books sold, versus "dollar sales", which is money spent. For example, mass market paperbacks would have a higher unit sales versus lower dollar sales, since individual units are less costly.)

Consumer Demographics
This was the most interesting section for me.

Buyers by Age
16% - age 63+
30% - age to 44 to 62
22% - Gen X
20% - Gen Y
11% - Gen Z

Education is a primary trait of book buyers--81% of books (dollars and units) are purchased by people with at least some college education.

Top Reasons for selecting a book, Nonfiction:

Top Reason for selecting a book, Fiction:

Unit Sales by Channel (vendor type)
27% - bookstore chains
21% - e-tailers (online vendors)
11% - book clubs
8% - mass merchandisers
5% - independent bookstores

Dollar Sales by Channel
37% - bookstore chains
19% - e-tailers

Print title sales, units
15% - Barnes&Noble
13% - Amazon
10% - Borders
6% - Wal-Mart

Unit sales by category
40% - adult fiction
[8% - YA
8% - general fiction
6% - romance
6% - thriller/espionage]

20% - children's
16% - nonfiction
13% - academic/professional
8% - religion
3% - scientific/technical/medical

Dollar sales by category
28% - adult fiction
14% - children's
19% - nonfiction
21% - academic/professional
9% - religion
9% - scientific/technical/medical

(See the difference in unit versus dollars? The various types of nonfiction accounted for 40% of books sold, but earned 58% of the dollars, because they are generally higher priced individual books.)

The study is based on 43,000 online survey responses. That's a big enough segment to give the numbers credibility.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ten Reasons to Come to RomantiCon 2010

by Susan Edwards

1. It is literally the Party of the Decade in erotic romance publishing. The woman who started it all is throwing a bash to celebrate the 10th anniversary of her first book and the birth of her publishing company. And, sister, the Queen of Steam is doing it up! Saturday night's party will whisk you away to Trek Mi Qan, the setting of Jaid Black's irresistibly sexy, funny and romantic book: The Empress' New Clothes, which took the internet by storm and launched a publishing revolution. Fierce, gorgeous Trek warriors and beautiful slave girls made of sand will perform for your pleasure. You will dine like royalty and dance the night away in a distant galaxy of wild imagination.

2. You deserve it. You work hard and you should treat yourself like an Empress once in a while. If you don't, who will?

3. Did we say Party of the Decade? We meant Parties of the Decade. The opening act for the Saturday night Trek Birthday Bash is Friday night's Roaring Twenties costume ball. Dust off your glad rags, break out the beads and boas, and brush up your Charleston, dollies, we're gonna party likes it's 1926! Fun is the password to get you into the EC speakeasy, where you can, drink a little bootleg brew, enjoy a floorshow from the EC Cavemen, take your chances with a one-armed bandit, and cut a rug to your favorite songs.

4. It's a great value. Registration price and accommodations cost a fraction of other conferences, and we have a special rate for guests and spouses to attend just the parties and dinners. Set in a lovely semi-rural area of Ohio at the height of the brilliant autumn color season, the hotel has great food, service and rooms, and yet is extremely inexpensive compared with the luxury resort hotel prices you'll pay at other conventions. Plus, there are plenty of inexpensive things nearby for guests and spouses to do, if you choose to bring them.

5. It's a fun, safe, get-away-from-it-all vacation with loads of things to do and time to hang out with people who share your interests. (And tax-deductible for authors!)

6. Cavemen. Some of our hunkiest and most popular Cavemen cover models will be on-hand all weekend to perform, autograph books and calendars, pose for pictures, and hang out at parties. Need we say more?

7. You'll meet readers, authors, models, reviewers, bloggers and other industry professionals in an informal setting and in workshops and focus groups designed to illuminate, entertain, and give you input into the future of our books.

8. You deserve it. You know you do. Think about all the things you do for other people. Now think about the last thing you did for yourself. See?

9. Big Prizes! You could win a computer worth the entire cost of your trip! We'll be giving away all sorts of fun and valuable prizes.

10. The Goldilocks Factor. Some conventions are just too big. With so many authors and readers, the lines for everything from food to books are long, and there is little opportunity for the twain to meet. Some conventions are just too small. With too few authors, readers and events, there is not much reason to travel so far and not much excitement when you arrive. RomantiCon is just right. With just the right mix of authors and readers, events and downtime, everyone has the chance to meet everyone else in quiet, conversational settings and raucous parties.

Time is running out to sign up, so if you've been on the fence, go ahead and make the leap. Because, most of all, you deserve it. So seize the day and come celebrate with us. To sign up:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Romanticon 2009: Promo Panel

by Meghan Conrad

At RomantiCon 2009, we held a discussion group about promo items. What types of items are effective in reaching readers, what just gets thrown away?

What readers wanted:
  • Booklets that had the first chapter or two of the story in them, and maybe a listing of the author's books at the end.
  • Author-specific promo as opposed to book-specific promo, which makes sense—why promote a single title when you can instead promote yourself as a brand?
  • Readings and signings were mentioned by readers as something they really liked, because it allowed them to feel that they'd made a personal connection to the author.
  • Readers appreciated authors who went out of their way to give them something that was useful.
    • Pens
    • Magnets
    • Rulers
    • Nail files
    • Note pads
    • Luggage or beach tags, especially in bright colors
    • Compact mirrors with a case—several people dug their cases out of their purses and said that they'd had them for literally years.

  • One of the things that was mentioned repeatedly was that readers wanted to feel that the author was a part of the community in which they were promoting—be an active participant, even when you're not promoting.

What readers didn't like:
  • The number one thing readers don't like is overexposure. Everyone understands that you have to promo your stuff, but when every mailing list, every message board, and every blog is covered with HEY LOOK AT MY NEW BOOK, readers get frustrated. Several people said that they'll go out of their way not to buy a book if they see an author doing this.
  • "Embarrassing" items—sure, people like to read about hot, half-naked guys, but having them plastered on your luggage tags is another thing entirely.
  • Things with too many words. Don't try to fit your whole first chapter onto a bookmark.
  • Bookmarks. They're cheap, easy, and ubiquitous, and that's exactly what people dislike about them. It's easy to get home from even a fairly small convention and realize that you've somehow ended up with enough bookmarks to mark every book you read for the next five years.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Cover Letter Hell

There are a zillion online articles and blogs and websites and classes that try to teach how to write a query letter or the cover letter for a submission. But the people who need those most are the ones who don't bother learning. (And likely are not reading this blog, I'm just preaching to the choir.) One self-described "grumpy" agent keeps us entertained with some of the worst lines from query letters.

It's especially fun for other agents and editors to read, because we've all gotten very similar stuff. (Please, please don't tell me about your goat farm, or your personal sexual hangups, or how you got the idea for this story while cleaning up after your puking child.)

It cannot be said enough - make the letter professional, write only about your story and not your personal life. And keep your ego in check.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Job Prospects in Urban Fantasy!

Okay, we all know that publishers are hot on urban fantasy right now, lots of opportunities for writers. (Send EC your erotic urban fantasy!) But what about other ways to make a living in the urban fantasy world? Well, an author and a reader have blogged on the Tor page about future job prospects.

Best & Worst Job Prospects in the Urban Fantasy Economy for 2011
Carolyn Crane and Chris Castle

Definite possibilities for anyone with medical training - there's a desperate need for people to work in the UF emergency room, morgue and blood bank.