Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Interesting Article on E-Publishers who also Do Print

Okay, interesting to me. I like to take things apart and see how they work. Anway, read it here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Someone sent me a private e-mail in response to my post about e-books. The question was basically: Wait, so you write romance?

Sorry I gave that impression. The short answer is that I don't write romance.

The long answer:
I write erotica and speculative fiction(science fiction). One of these days I'll write a mystery. Or I'll just slipstream it and combine all those genres in one story. I already have the story. I just need time to write it.

I talk about the romance industry a lot for several reasons. The major one is that represents 50% of the sales of printed books, and probably more like 75% - 80% of the e-publishing world, but that's just a guess based on what I'm see e-publishers offering. Any genre that big can't be ignored, because the readers of romance will ultimately determine where publishing goes and how it fares. (Much as porn chose VHS tapes at the expense of Beta, and also drove the big switch over to DVDs)

Another reason I watch the romance industry with so much interest is, as I've mentioned many times before, they know how to promote. I don't see any other genre reaching out to its core of readers the way that romance does. One of the biggest romance conventions in this country is for the fans, not the writers (although the writers attend in droves). Only science fiction reaches out for its audience the same way, and even then it's mostly about television and movies, not books. I'd love to see queer writers work at being accessible to fans and promoting more, because I think the niche is slowly dying. (I have a few theories on that, but I'm trying to keep this post on track)

One of the other things I admire a lot about the romance industry is the sense of community. I'm not saying that they're all angels, but as a group, romance and erotica writers are generous with information and their time. Comparatively, science fiction writers are rather stingy with advice and information. Mystery writers range the full spectrum. Don't get me started on the paranoia of literary writers I've met. Part of this difference between the genres might be because so many of the writers of romance and erotica are female, and women tend to understand the benefits of cooperation. It also might be that with 50% of the book sales, they can afford to be generous.

So that's the long answer. I don't write romance, but I pay a great deal of attention to what the writers do to boost sales and try to figure out what part of that can be translated successfully into other genres. Some of the culture of romance is unique. It can't be duplicated. But the rest? We'll see.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Analysing My Characters

I spent some time on the phone with DL King today to discuss my latest novel. This is one of the things I love about having writer friends. (Especially the ones who are so generous with their time). It's hard to talk to a non-writer about the construction and purpose of scenes. Readers tend to accept what's there as just the way it is. Other writers, however, know that scenes don't simply exist. They always serve a purpose (or they should be edited out) Either the scene moves the plot along, or it reveals something about the character(s). Ideally, it does both.

One of the hardest things to know is if I've gone far enough with a scene or if it's okay where it stops. I have a character who never apologizes for what he's done, but he will try to set things right. The discussion I had with DL was - should I have him apologize? That led to a long discussion about where the character was mentally. It's so fun to pick apart a character and analyze their motivations and actions. I want so much for him to apologize, because deep down I know he's a good guy. (I wrote him that way, after all) DL feels that he's not to that point of self-realization yet. She's right, of course. In the third book, I'll not-so-gently push him in that direction, and finally get him there, but as usual, it's going to take a lot of angst.

Once upon a time, in a management class, I saw a series that explained where your employees and customers were in terms of needs and wants, and how those motivations had a lot to do with when they grew up. Some of that is common sense, and some of it is buzzword bingo, but it's an idea that I return to when creating characters. People can change, but it takes a lot to overcome that inertia. The emotional levers have to be strong. People have to want to change. And they almost always have to face a major life event that makes change possible. What this means for characters is, of course, duh-rah-ma. It has to be powerful enough to shake them to their core and make them question what were givens in their life, and it has to give them a reason to want to change, which brings me back to my character. Poor guy. The next novel is going to be rough on him. But it's for his own good. Really. I'm not poking him with the calamity stick just for the hell of it.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday

Today is Black Friday, the day when all good little consumers rush out to the stores to spend money they don't have on things they don't need in an orgy of full-contact shopping. Thankfully, I was born without the shopping gene. The harder stores push me to spend, the more I dig in my heels. I can't remember ever having taken part in this charming little ritual and don't plan to start now. There aren't a whole lot of material things I need now, and if it's a "must have" gadget, I'm even less likely to truly need it.

Many times, I prefer to want something than to have it. For example, for years I've lusted over orrerys. I look at them on websites, in museums, and in antique stores. Do I need an orrery? No. No one needs an orrery. If I have a sudden, desperate need to know where a planet is, I can go to a million different websites and track it down. But I do enjoy looking at the orrerys, and I can admire them equally. I can like one for the detail on the planets and another one for the gleaming brass gears. If I were to buy one though, I'd have to pick just one (if no one needs an orrery, absolutely no one needs two), and the model I'd settle on would never be everything I wanted it to be. Ownership = lingering dissatisfaction. Lusting from afar = being able to enjoy them all.

I've been slowly gathering presents for the SO and family since September. I have a nice little stash at the back of my closet. The SO buys himself whatever he wants when he wants it, so he's very hard to shop for. I'm no easier. We're about at the point where we give each other experiences rather than tangible objects. That's fine with me. I'd much rather go on a trip than have another thing I have to find room for in the hovel's rather limited storage space. Family is tricky too. Since I have no idea what they want or need, even though it seems impersonal, I buy gift cards for all the nieces and nephews. I hope they use it unwisely to obtain their hearts' desires instead of buying something practical. That's what their parents' gifts are for.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Print versus E-Publishing

In my conversations with other writers about the state of publishing, one of the topics that always comes up is print versus e-pub.

Since Amazon just launched it's new e-book reader, I thought this would be a good subject. Early reviews of the Amazon product basically say that 1) it's way too expensive, 2) people want integrated devices instead of something dedicated to one function, and 3) it's bulky and heavy. Like the Sony reader, I've heard - but have not verified - that the Amazon product only takes the files you download through them and in their format, which means fans of e-books can't get books from all their favorite publishers. Looks like a swing and a miss, but it's nice that they're trying.

I've also heard that several of the big box book stores are looking into installing e-book kiosks in their stores so that people can download books while in the store. This seems awfully counter-intuitive to me. Anyone who is already buying e-books knows where to find them online. These are internet shopping savvy people. Why get dressed, drive to a store, deal with parking, shopping,etc. when you can stay home in your bunny slippers and accomplish the same thing? Book stores obviously want a cut of the e-book revenue stream but do e-publishers want to give the stores that cut (especially since those same stores refuse to give shelf space to the print versions of these same books)? Right now, the publishers have an audience that buys directly from them. Why would an e-publisher want to encourage a practice that will only cut into their profits? (book stores, including Amazon, take a huge cut of the cover price. So when Amazon offers a book for 40% off cover, you can imagine how deeply they publisher had to discount it to get Amazon to take it.)

Speaking of publishers... From various sources, I get two very different pictures of e-books.

Print publishers say there's no money in e-publishing. And yet, they're beginning to offer e-books and include e-publishing wording in their contracts.

E-publishers, on the other hand, say that there's no money in print. Some e-books sell for 1/3 of the price of printed books. That should tell you something about the cost of printing, shipping, and storing printed copies of books. (print runs versus print-on-demand is a whole other ball of wax that I don't want to get into right now) Printed books currently have more prestige than e-books, so some e-publishers do limited print runs of popular books. One publisher says that print is break even at best for them, but it makes their writers happy, so they offer it as a bonus to their best-selling authors.

So what's the truth? Is the money in print or e-publishing for publishers? It actually might be a bit of both. Print and e-publishing are two different business models (something a few publishers are finding out the hard way).

I think that a lot of it has to do with the audience. Many people who buy e-books are voracious readers. They can consume many books a week. (And man oh man, is this a dream slice of the market.) Being rather sharp, these readers are opting for e-books for three reasons 1) cost, and 2) storage (I'll get into #3 below). When they are done reading the story, it only takes up memory space on a computer. Storage gets to be a problem after a while with printed books (glances at my teetering piles of unread books around the house.)

This shouldn't come as a shock since 50% of the US market for print books is romance novels, but generally e-book readers seem to like romance. Ah, but not just any romance. Because these women are computer literate, they tend to be a younger crowd, and this younger crowd generally wants something more than her mother's regency romance that ends in a chaste kiss. Today's reader wants sex. So what you see in the e-book word is a huge representation of erotic romance novels. This is point 3 of why these readers opt for e-books. Print publishers lagged far behind on the demand for erotic romance books, maybe because they thought that sex was icky, but their readers sure don't feel that way. The big romance publishers are getting into the erotic romance market now, but the audience has already been shown a different product that's cheaper, faster, and available for them whenever they feel like buying.

The last thing I'd like to mention about print versus e-books is what it means for writers. Print traditionally paid an advance, printed the book, and did a little publicity, but they don't do publicity anymore, and advances are shrinking down to nothing. E-books typically don't offer advances, but most have generous royalty sharing contracts. Many e-book publishers offer chat rooms, lists, and other vehicles to help their writers promote books. And e-publishers can produce books much quicker than print publishers can. Many e-publishers are very hands-on with their writers and offer great communication, something print publishers notoriously lack. One added bonus - with e-books, you're never out of print. Your backlist is always there, so when someone discovers you and wants to go back and read everything you've written, they can get it. The earning life of a book is vastly extended in e-publishing.

So what will win in the end? I don't think printed books will ever go away, but when 50% of the market for books is romance, and the romance readers are buying e-books, and the writers are getting tired of the way print publishers treat them, well.... I'm sure you can do the math.

What's Happening Here?

One of the other big topics of discussion last Saturday night when I was out with Trebor was the state of publishing. Lately, this seems to be the major topic whenever I sit down with other writers. At lunch with M. Chrisitian and Sage Vivant, we sighed over the state of the erotica publishing world. DL King, Lisabet Sarai, and a few other writers are involved in what has been (so far) a disheartening conversation about print, e-publishing, backlists and shelf space. Add to that all the recent small press closures, and you've got a lot of writers sitting around asking, "What am I going to do with this MS?"

The picture is even worse in GLBT than it is in erotica. On one hand, I'm watching Saints and Sinners GLBT Literary conference grow every year, on the other hand, the number of viable presses is shrinking. I expect a panel this coming year at Saints and Sinners to address this crossroads for GLBT publishing. Has it's time come and gone? Do queer writers still need GLBT presses, or do they have a shot at the big houses? And if you do sell to a big name publisher, is yours their token GLBT book? Do they help you reach a wider audience? Do they get you out of the GLBT ghetto at the back of the store and into the literature or genre shelves like all the hetero writers? Do you want to be in with the hetero writers?

So what's happening here? Are erotica and GLBT books stepping into the mainstream? Or are our audiences going into mainstream genres and leaving us behind? Who are the crossover writers? Where did they get their start? And perhaps most important for hopeful authors out there, will those same first opportunities be around for them?

I wish I had an answer.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Trebor and Felice Reading

Saturday night, I went to a reading at Skylight books for Trebor Healey's A Perfect Scar and Felice Picano's Art and Sex In Greenwich Village.

It's always a pleasure to see Trebor (he even wore the cheesy rosary I gave him) and to hear his work. He read from his short story collection A Perfect Scar, but I love his poetry (Sweet Son of Pan) and his novel (Through It Came Bright Colors). We went out afterwards for drinks with a couple other friends and talked for hours, something I don't get to do often enough. We talked about where we'd run away to live if we could. I think we all want a remote cabin surrounded by pristine nature that's within walking distance of shops and entertainment so we never have to use a car again and we won't feel islolated, has a low cost of living, is in an artist's community full of intellectually stimulating people but that's free from all that attendant art diva nonsense, and we'd like for the weather to be perfect because we're weather whimps. If you know of such a place, let us know.

After my rather sassy introduction to Felice at the West Hollywood book fair, I was glad that he seemed to forgive me. He read from his new book Art and Sex in Greenwich Village. His reading was fascinating, so of course I had to pick up the book. I could have listened to him talk for another hour.

And I was so pleased to get to talk with Malcolm Boyd again. If you know me, you know my deep interest in spirituality despite my disgust with religion. Malcolm has been exploring gay spirituality for years and has a number of books out. Such a gracious gentleman. And his partner (I can never remember his name) is so sweet, and obviously also has a very spiritual core. I adore people like that, and talking to them is such a thrill for me.

Also in the audience (the reading was well attended. I was lucky to get a seat) - Stuart Timmons of Gay L.A. fame. He always makes me smile.

On a sad note, when I walked into Skylight Books, I saw a notice that Lucy the Store Cat had passed away. She's a character in a short ghost story I just sold (not as a ghost cat though). I guess I'll have to dedicate it to her memory. (The ghost in the story disrupts a reading, just like I'd seen Lucy do countless times.)

Monday, November 12, 2007

One Beta Reader Reports

My novel's been in the hands of two readers, and I've been pacing my
brains out waiting to hear their opinions (No pressure, darlings) and
one handed me comments last night.

Except one chapter to chapter transition, he said everything flowed well. Yay! And made sense. Double Yay! And he said, "Um, yeah, you had to show the bad guys get their asses kicked." Well, sure that's obvious now. Why it wasn't before, I have no idea. According to him it was a satisfying scene of devine retribution raining down on the two villains. That's what we want to see, isn't it? We don't often get jusstice in real life, so it's nice to see someone pay for their evil ways.

Oh, and I got this one little bit of side commentary that I loved: "That Sam is one messed up guy."

Sure he is. I wrote him that way. Poor baby. Every time his life seems
settled, I poke him with the calamity stick. Writers have to be
sadistic to their characters or nothing happens. But I guess I
shouldn't enjoy it so much....

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Trebor Healey reading in LA

Next Saturday, Trebor Healey and Felice Picano will be reading at Skylight books in LA.
Trebor's book was one of the last to be printed by Haworth Press, so the ones that are available now are it. After that, it's a collector's item.

Trebor is serving wine and snacks. I'll be there. Come by and say hello.

Saturday, November 17th @ 7:30 pm

Trebor Healey reading with Felice Picano, author of the recently-released Art & Sex in Greenwich Village: Literary Life After Stonewall

Skylight Books

1818 N. Vermont Ave.

Los Feliz District/Los Angeles



Sunday, November 04, 2007

Duh *smacks forehead*

The last two chapters of Love Runes have been giving me fits. Part of
it is what I call the downhill slide. I can see the end, I'm galloping
towards it at top speed, butsometimes I'm going so fast that instead of
taking the individual steps, I gloss over things. Anyone who has ever
walked down the steep slope of a sand dune or a mountainside knows what
it's like when suddenly you slip downhill a couple feet. Sure, you
moved faster, but you lost your sense of balance. Realizing that I was
in that precariousposition, I went back and forced myself to slow down and do it step by step.

The other problem I had was my Duh! moment. It would seem like a no brainier
that you have to show the bad guy getting an ass kicking for a
satisfying conclusion, but someone that huge obvious point escaped me
as I wondered why my last few chaptersdidn't work. Some things can
happen off-stage in a novel. The big confrontation isn't one of them.
Duh! In my defense though, I'd like to point out that there are two big
confrontations at the end of this story, and the one that I felt was
more important eclipsed the other one. Now that I have both, everything
else fell into place and I'm happy with the way it worked out. I'm a
little late with this, but I couldn't have turned it in the way it

Oh - and another little piece of satisfaction - I
estimated that this story would come in at 70,000 words. Final count is

Thursday, November 01, 2007

November Reviews at Erotica Revealed

The new reviews are up at Erotica Revealed .

I've been waiting impatiently to read Jeff Mann's A History of Barbed Wire ever since I heard him read from it at the Lambda Literary Awards panel at Saints and Sinners (THE must-attend writer's conference of the year) last May. It was worth the wait. This is what Erotica should aspire to.