Monday, 23 November 2009

Carina Digital Publishing

In case anyone took yesterday's post as criticism of Harlequin - this is to redress the balance as I feel this is a company who appears to be doing its best to move with the times and provide opprtunities for new authors, which cannot be a bad thing.

Carina Press, is a new digital publisher dealing in Category Romance, hoping to produce its first titles in Spring 2010. The main differences between them, and Harlequin's traditional publishing, are:

* They don't give advances or DRM, [Digital Rights Management] but authors receive a higher royalty.
* There is no guaranteed series distribution and books are sold direct to the consumer through the website, plus 3rd party distribution on other websites.

You still need to be accepted for publication with Carina, who assist with editing and cover design to produce digital copies of their books. [There are no print runs or PoD] The promotional/marketing aspect are down to the author. They call it 'controlling your own brand' - which means they won't do anything to promote your book other than feature it on theirs and certain 3rd party websites.

Very few books get the whole 'Promotional Machine' treatment by publishers, so maybe this is a good option for some authors. A certain amount of traffic will be attracted to their website for the name alone. Digital publishing is becoming more acceptable, and younger romance title buyers don't have the same prejudices about reading from a screen as older readers, so perhaps this is a vehicle to get the lesser-known authors' work out there.

Many digitally published authors suffer the stigma of not being 'properly published' because their books aren't available in bookshops. Maybe Carina will achieve 'respectability' due to its links with Harlequin and bring about change in publishing?

I suspect though, that without a heavy marketing budget - there isn't much money in it for the author. However, it seems accepted amongst most writers I know that no one writes for the financial rewards. No one ever did!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Harlequin Vanity Press

My critique groups are buzzing with the Harlequin Enterprises announcement that they are going into vanity press, where an author pays for everything that a publisher should do for you if your work is accepted.

Harlequin is partnering with Author Solutions, who own other vanity presses eg. iUniverse, AuthorHouse. Vanity publishing isn't new, Random House owns 49% of Xlibris. Amazon owns CreateSpace, and Smashwords is a self publishing company partnered with Barnes and Noble, and keep 20% of an author’s sales.

Horizons charges - sorry 'Packages' are as high as $1,599 – and that doesn’t include editing, marketing, publicity, etc. They send you five author copies, or more depending on how much you pay, and then - not only do they own the ISBN, they also charge 50% of the proceeds of sales of the book you have paid to have published.

It's hardly surprising that the advent of personal computers and the internet have created more authors than ever before, and agents have their work cut out sifting through the slush pile mountain to get to the gems hidden inside.

I cannot help feeling this undermines Harelquin's existing authors who have gone through a rigorous selection process and run the gamut of re-writes, edits and revisions to get published by Harlequin? Now it seems you don't have to do all that to be a Harlequin author - you simply write out a cheque.

Does this also mean Harlequin will monitor sales and move Horizon authors who are selling well to one of its print lines? That would be an interesting, and fair assumption, but don't sales depend upon marketing? Will rejection e-mails from Harlequin now be accompanied by a sales pitch?

What does the RWA say? Go and take a look here: with a thank you to Ginger Simpson for the link.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Unfashionable Writing?

Queen Henrietta Maria

I have been asked to review a new novel for the Historical Novel Review Blog that is about to be published by a UK company. This is a second novel and a sequel to the author's first - an historical family saga. It's a great story, beautifully written and the kind of thing I love reading, and writing. However, I am told that publishers, in particular UK ones, won't accept family sagas, especially historical ones as they are considered 'unfashionable?'

So we are back to the old question, do authors write for the market, or simply what appeals and hope publishers will like it enough to buck the trends?

On a personal level, I have found that publishers often say they like my story/writing style/author voice etc, but still don't feel my novel 'fits with what they are publishing at the moment'.

According to agent blogs I have read lately, publishers are looking for short, [80k to 95k wordcount] romantically centred works. Writers should avoid taboo subjects like, rape, incest, kidnap, an evil hero, terminal illnesses, and terrorism. The guidelines state stories should include: 'wonderful characters, a strong plot, high levels of tension, and an ending that will make the reader swoon and wish she were in the heroine's place.'

Hmm.. easier said than done when you are trying to fit that in with historical events and real people - it makes me masochistic to say the least! That doesn't mean I won't keep trying though.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Sailing Away......

I'm feeling somewhat nervous today, and the writing is taking a back seat, due to the fact my daughter has arrived in Mindelo, in the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa to take part in an 'Atlantic Challenge'.

Joining a crew of fifteen on a 65ft yacht, they will sail to Barbados in the South Atlantic. The journey should take two weeks, barring storms, sharks, 45ft waves and pirates, after which she'll spend a week in the Bahamas before flying back to the UK.

An adrenalin-fuelled working holiday in fact, though from what it has cost her, she could have booked a first class cabin on the Queen Mary II and been served margeritas by hot hunks in uniform all the way!

Instead, she chose to sleep in a cramped crew quarters, or on deck if it's hot and do a four-hour-on, four-hours-off watch! Splicing the mainbrace and running up the mainsail isn't my idea of a holiday. But as they say, 'There's 'Nowt so Queer as Folk'

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

It's That Time Again

My inbox has filled up with messages over the last week from authors announcing that they will be 'unavailable' or in some cases, 'completely out of it', due to their participation in NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writers Month which falls each November. I'm sure I don't have to explain the rules, but authors 'win' the challenge by producing a 50k draft manuscript in 30 days.

I tried it last year, [and won with 60k] because I had an idea in my head and needed a good kick to get me started. There was lots of rewriting to do, which is accepted, but that manuscript is now ready to be submitted.

Fellow Author Emily Bryan has a different take on NaNoWriMo which really made me think. For instance, she says the NaNoWriMo website says:
"Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing." and she asks:
'Why is that a good thing?' Good point, I have never thought to question that statement.

Emily says she prefers to 'only go forward', and to do re-writes in small, manageable increments. '50,000 words of mess would totally overwhelm me.' Her goal is to have a manuscript that, at a pinch, she could send out.

I admit I cannot do that - so NaNoWriMo was good for me to 'get the story down'. I'm a 'snowflaker' in that I build the bones of a story together with the basic dialogue, then I go back and add emotions and inner thoughts, then sprinkle with witty remarks and then the 'fairy dust' , the nuances that give the characters their individuality.

I need to know where my story is going and like Ms Bryan I do historical research first to get a feel for the era, then while I am writing I research again for specifics: like 'What happens at a 17th century Twelfth Night Party'?

We are all different, and there are as many authors as books - so I would be interested to know how many NaNoWriMo winners finally get those embryo manuscripts polished and published.