Newsweek has a story featuring the guy many consider equal parts literary pioneer and devil, Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com and his new ebook reader, the Kindle. It’s worth a glance-through (but if you want an in-depth review of Amazon’s Kindle, I point you to Dear Author’s detailed opinion/review of the device.) There were a few things in the Newsweek article that stood out to me.
Jeff Bezos’ wife is a novelist. You’d think she’d influence him somewhat about those used book sales, but maybe she makes enough money to not care.
This also caught my eye:
Amazon has worked hard to get publishers to step up efforts to release digital versions of new books and backlists, and more than 88,000 will be on sale at the Kindle store on launch. (Though Bezos won’t get terribly specific, Amazon itself is also involved in scanning books, many of which it captured as part of its groundbreaking Search Inside the Book program. But most are done by the publishers themselves, at a cost of about $200 for each book converted to digital. New titles routinely go through the process, but many backlist titles are still waiting. “It’s a real chokepoint,” says Penguin CEO David Shanks.) Amazon prices Kindle editions of New York Times best sellers and new releases in hardback at $9.99.
This is important news to writers with backlists, especially if they have books out of print. Especially when you consider that Amazon’s goal is to make every book ever created available for it’s reader, even books out of print. Any writer who knows the struggle of trying to get their rights reverted back when their books go out of print should be concerned about this and check their contracts. When you hit a certain level in your career, your backlist becomes. Bottom line: check your contract for electronic format “and any format hereinafter invented” clauses and get them to be at least mutually beneficial, even if your publisher doesn’t do ebooks. Because you don’t know what will happen five years from now.
This is also important to readers. Who pays $10 for an ebook? Why would I, when I can get a hardcover through my bookclub for the same price? The majority of my fiction books, particularly new writers I’m trying, I buy in mass market or trade. I also don’t follow authors into hardcover–if I started a series in MM, I’m gonna wait for that book to be released in MM. In my pinion, an ebook should be comparable in price to a mass market.
One of the things they talked about was trying to figure out how to get advertising into electronic books. I have issues with this on multiple levels. One, would the author get a cut of that advertising dollar? It’s her story after all. Would she be able to approve who gets to advertise in her book? Two, as a consumer, I don’t like getting advertised to in something that I own, which is why I rarely buy DVDs, especially since you can’t skip through the ads to get to the start of the movie. Same with seeing movies in theaters. I pay my $9.50, show me previews, but don’t advertise golden arches.
The article wraps up with the future of ebooks, and it doesn’t sound all that beneficial to writers. One of the future visions is that the author becomes more of a “superuser” directing the creative process but no longer the sole progenitor of the work. I can see this in non-fiction, but fiction by its very nature, is the product of a person with the ability to visualize a concept and translate it into words for others to consume. I could imagine doing a “fan fest” book as a one-time event, especially if I had a beloved series with hundreds of thousands of fans. (Hey, I could dream.)
Finally, Newsweek’s Steven Levy had a live discussion on the state of the book on Tuesday. You can read the transcript here.
A comment-laden post on Dear Author that started as a dissertation on opinion vs. actual defamation quickly became a discussion on race, veered closely to defamation on someone else’s blog (no, I’m not going to link to the blog, but saying that an author is breaking the law by exchanging sexual favors for money sounds a lot like defamation to me) then finally became a somewhat ordered discussion on racism in romance and racism in general.
So, I’d like to continue that discussion. And I’d like to thank Monica, because if she hadn’t come out guns blazing, and throwing herself on the grenade so to speak we wouldn’t even be having this discussion (and really, I can’t blame her for reacting/responding to the post, especially when a commenter called her out). And thanks to Dear Author for letting the post be hijacked and not closing the comments or moderating them. I learned a lot about a lot of people because of it, and not what many of them wanted to share, I’m sure.
Please note: I’m specifically dealing with romance. I may veer off from time to time, but I do want the focus to be on romance in general and blacks in romance in particular.
Some points of reference:
- Karen Scott’s Great Racism in Romance Survey in which a number of non-white authors participated with varying opinions.
- Gwynne Forster’s commentary on AA romance for Affaire de Coeur
- Monica has had several blogs on the subject, but she made this one came after the Dear Author one, and she references great links you should click through
- Even Romancing the Blog had a post on it back in May
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I think books should be shelved by genre. In some chains, this is not the case. In some chains, if the author is black and writing fiction, that book will be mixed in with all the other books written by black people. Romance, scifi, fantasy, horror, mystery, poetry, street lit, it’s all jumbled in there together. Sometimes AA romance isn’t represented at all, or it’s represented by one or two “name” authors.
The problem with this is many-fold. First of all, it assumes that black people only read books written by other black people. Second, it assumes that black people will pick up any book, no matter the genre, just because it’s written by a black person. Third, it assumes that only black people want to read books by black authors.
Note that I said authors, not characters. Because the segregation isn’t based on the race of the characters, but instead is determined by the race of the authors. Therefore, lots of fiction featuring black characters written by non black authors or even romances by non-black authors that feature a black heroine are not shelved in the AA section. (I think this kinda put holes in the niche marketing theory some mention.)
I’m sure there will be some people who will say, “See, she’s only doing this because she wants more readers.” Yes I want more readers. I want to be able to be a full-time fiction writer like so many of my counterparts. What is wrong with that? Woo in this business doesn’t want that? But more than that, I completely believe that shelving books based on the race of the author is not only wrong, but a disservice to the author.
Inspired by the comments in the Dear Author post and from other blogs, I’m going to make several other posts on this subject. Among other things I want to discuss/address are:
- African-American imprints
- Is black romance different?
- Is niche marketing nice?
- Next steps
I don’t know if I can do this, or even should. Maybe I’m killing my New York career as Seressia Glass before it can even start. Still, the important things aren’t easy, are they?
Now I’d like to hear from others. I truly think it is important to talk about this, to build awareness. But more than that, I think we need to reach consensus on what we should do next. If you know anyone, regardless of their color or affiliation, who is a reader or writer of romance, please ask them to stop by and give their two cents.
Some random tidbits from around the web today:
Liquid Story Binder XE is available for free today only at http://www.giveawayoftheday.com/
Here’s the blurb from the website:
Liquid Story Binder XE is a uniquely designed word processor for professional and aspiring authors, poets, and novelists. Writing software for those who require the editing ability of a commercial text editor as well as a document tracking system.
It is for those who want the freedom to create, outline and revise but are tired of losing track of their work.
Liquid Story Binder features: Multi-Window Display, Spell Checking, Thesaurus, Reference Notes, Timelines, Story Boards, Plot Outlines, Dossiers, Audio Recorder, Image Gallery, Reader, Manuscript Formatting, Time and Word Count Tracking, Chapter and Book Backups, Paragraph and Punctuation Cleaning, Toolbars, Templates, Portable Drive Install, Universal Search, Repetition Visualizer, External Editing, Project Goals, Playlists.
Also, if you’re interested in winning $1500 to cover your expenses for RWA San Francisco, check this out!
***PERMISSION TO FORWARD GRANTED***
Valley Forge Romance Writers
The 1st Annual VFRW
Sheila A. Conway Memorial Fund
To Defray Your Costs For.
-2008 RWA Nat’l Conference Fee
Held In San Francisco, CA
July 30 – August 2, 2008
-4 Nights Hotel Accommodations
-Roundtrip Air To San Francisco
Rules and entry information at www.VFRW.com
I went to your concert at the Fox Theater on Thursday night. It had been almost a decade since your last studio album and at least that long since you toured, so it was my first time seeing you. The Fox, a National Historic Landmark and originally the Yaarab Temple Shrine Mosque, was designed in the late 1920’s as headquarters for the Shriners organization. It looks like a your just outside a Bedouin tent or a Moroccan market at nightfall, complete with twinkling stars, a tent, minarets, everything but camels.
Basically the perfect setting for a composer who mixes Celtic and Middle Eastern influences in her works.
What I’d forgotten is that there are a couple of McKennitt’s songs make me cry. I was just blithely enjoying the hurdy-gurdy, the oud and every other amazing instruments when I realized that if a certain song was performed, I’d be in trouble.
Then it started.
The Highwayman is based on a poem by Alfred Noyes, about…a highwayman who visited his sweetheart Bess, the innkeeper’s daughter. Then the redcoats come, tie her up at her bed with a musket beside her, waiting for the highwayman to come back. She warns him away the only way she can–by pulling the trigger. It’s not until morning that he realizes what happened and races back, only to be shot himself. The poem is dramatic all by itself and so’s the recording, but to hear it live–did I mention I was in the fifth row from the orchestra pit?–was an emotional sucker punch.
Yep, I was blubbering by the emotional climax of the story. I hurriedly wiped my eyes and applauded along with everyone else, thinking I’d get a reprieve. But no, she launched into the other song guaranteed to reduce me to tears: Dante’s Prayer.
There were other songs that were just as moving, but really, the whole concert was just amazing. The Old Ways, The Lady of Shalott, I could go on, but at the end–which came much too quickly, I and four thousand other people were just grateful that she’d decided to record and tour again.
It was simply an amazing concert experience. Damn you Loreena, and I have to get the live CD just to experience it again.
I’m giving away multiple copies of Dream of Shadows…to people who might like to read it and possibly even enjoy it.
So, if you think you’d might like to give my latest a try, please read the first chapter here, then comment here. I’ll draw names at the end of the week and send out five copies.
That’s it. Game on!
<a href=”http://www.joyfullyreviewed.com/”>Joyfully Reviewed</a> is offering up a slew of chats this month in honor of their second anniversary. This past Friday was the chat for vampires, werewolves, and cat-shifters, but there are several more chats to go:
10/05 Vamps, Wolfies and Cat-Shifters
10/08 All other Paranormal – Dragons/Witches/Fantasy,etc
10/10 Interracial, Multi-Cultural & African /American
10/12 Menage a Trois & Quad’s
10/22 Contemporary , Romantic Comedies & Suspense
10/26 Voluptuous & Loving It
10/29 Sweet / Inspirational
10/31 M/M – F/F
I’ll be participating in the African-American chat, and I’ll be giving away several copies of Dream of Shadows. Please <a href=”http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Chatting_with_Joyfully_Reviewed/”>join the discussion</a>.
Dream of Shadows is FINALLY out!
This book has gone through more obstacles than B-Listers on those old <em>Battle of the Network Stars</em> programs. But yeah for it finally being available on Amazon–with the right cover!
If youre curious, I will be signing copies at Georgia Romance Writers’ Moonlight and Magnolias conference THIS SATURDAY at 3 PM. We’ll be at the <a href=”http://www1.hilton.com/en_US/hi/hotel/ATLHPHF-Hilton-Atlanta-Northeast-Georgia/directions.do”>Hilton Atlanta Northeast</a>, 5993 Peachtree Industrial Blvd. Come check us out!
It’s been a while since I’ve done a real post, so here you go to start your Monday off right:
I finished the edits on my contribution to the sequel to the Vegas Bites anthology. My story in Vegas Bites Back (catchy, ain’t it?) is called Channeling Moonlight. I had so much fun writing it that I went over, and had to cut 35 pages from the story. Now, cutting 35 pages from a novella is no easy task, and I must admit, it was hard. Damned hard. And not damned hard in a good way, either. But I finally succeeded–sorta. I managed to cut 29 pages, and the lovely ladies at Parker let me keep the other something. (Something about dogs and sympathetic wailing on the other side of the country, but I’m not so sure.) You can read an excerpt here. Vegas Bites Back will be out this winter.
Then I had to complete another novella for Parker. Let me say that I love novellas. It’s great to have the discipline of the shorter format, you get projects done faster, and you can try your hand at something that you may not necessarily do normally. For instance, Vegas Bites enabled me to dip my toe into the paranormal pool, something that I’ve wanted to do for a while. I found the waters quite welcoming indeed. But that’s not the project that I just finished.
The new project takes me back to my roots, but in a different way. Yes folks, I’ve got another interracial story coming out early in 2008. The whole anthology is IR, and some of the names should be familiar to fans of the category. My story is called Sex on South Beach and may be somewhat familiar to a few ladies who attended the Romance Slam Jam in Miami Beach this past March.
I get to take a break this week as I ramp up for Georgia Romance Writer’s Moonlight and Magnolia’s conference. My last contemporary, Through the Fire, is up for a Maggie Award. I’m truly excited to be a finalist in my home chapter’s contest. Wish me luck! Oh, and we’re having a major signing on Saturday at 3pm at the Hilton North on Peachtree Industrial Blvd. Come by and see us–I’ll have the last few new copies of Through the Fire for purchase!
Until next time, happy writing!
By now, you may have heard about the fallout from comments made a Glamour staffer during a presentation on dos and dont’s of corporate fashion at the law firm of Cleary Gottlieb. In case you missed them, here are a few of the gems as noted by Vivia Chen The American Lawyer onAugust 27, 2007:
First slide up: an African-American woman sporting an Afro. A real no-no, announced the Glamour editor to the 40 or so lawyers in the room. As for dreadlocks: How truly dreadful! The style maven said it was “shocking” that some people still think it “appropriate” to wear those hairstyles at the office. “No offense,” she sniffed, but those “political” hairstyles really have to go.
Some people may think this is racist, but really the staffer was stupidly clueless more than anything. Really, what’s political about dreadlocks and braids? Maybe she should try living in Atlanta during the summer with black folks’ hair and see how long she lasts! But then, we’re talking Glamour magazine. I haven’t used the magazine as a resource for my fashion, makeup, skin, and hair care in…ever. Besides the general dearth of articles relating to black hair and skin care, there’s nothing for plus size women or women not willing to spend a third of their paycheck on a skirt. Even the recent issue of the magazine that a friend left at my house, the issue with Queen Latifah on the cover with Mariska Hargitay and Claire Danes, had a stunning lack of articles helpful to women like me.
And I sure as hell ain’t giving money to a magazine that spends 200 pages telling me how my hair, clothes, weight, skin, hobbies, and sex life all suck.
But never fear, Glamour is doing damage control. From Angela, a black romance reader, comes this letter from the Editor of Glamour:
I read your post about a Glamour editor’s comments on hairstyles for work, and I’d like to share with you our thoughts. First, we regret the comments were made. The employee, a junior staffer, not a beauty editor, spoke to a small group of lawyers at a private luncheon without her supervisor’s knowledge or approval, and her comment — that Afros are not work appropriate — does not represent Glamour’s point of view.
Secondly, immediately upon learning of it, we sought to rectify the situation. The editor has been dealt with in a very serious manner, and the entire staff has been reminded of the magazine’s policies and procedures for making public appearances.
Glamour is proud of its diverse readership and celebrates the beauty of ALL women. We have responded directly and openly with readers to assure them of this fact. We have also apologized to the law firm, and we extend the same apology to you.
If you know others who were offended by this incident, To ask you to please pass along this letter. So they, too, know how sorry we are.
Wanna bet they do a whole series of articles and beauty advice for black women? More than likely it’ll appear in the February issue. You know, during Black History Month.
EDIT: For the sake of clarity and disclosure, I work in a corporate office here in Atlanta. The black women here wear their hair in all manner of ways. I’ve worn my hair straight (which it is now) in braids (which it was during the summer) and sometimes in its naturally curly form. I’m actually thinking about going to Sisterlocks but since that’s an almost forever-choice (and upfront expensive) I’m cautious about it. But I’ve never had anyone tell me I should change my hair, or that I can’t advance by wearing braids. I make a damn good living at my day job, more than I’ve seen from writing, and I appreciate the fact that they care more about my work than my hairstyle.