Thursday, December 27, 2012

What's In the Wind for 2013? Some Thoughts

Via Morning Media news feed (the daily industry news feed provided by MediaBistro; the complete story appeared in TechCrunch by East Coast Editor, John Biggs) - Excerpts of Mr. Biggs' thoughts on what may the publishing biz may see in 2013:

"Add in the merger of Penguin and Random House – a Napster-esque move designed to stave off the vagaries of a non-collusive market – and you’ve got an even bleaker picture.

In short, after centuries of progress, the old method of transmitting information via the printed page – not to mention the publisher’s tendency to control content with an iron fist – is crumbling. In its place we have an entirely new system and regime, one ruled less by a central authority – the editors, publishers, and printers of yore – and now ruled by the mob.

That’s not a bad thing. It lets people publish books that would have never seen a printing press and it gives an organization with seemingly bottomless resources – Amazon – the ability to define the rules to which all others must cleave. This new media has laid a book store chain low, bleeding publishers nearly dry in the process, and it has changed the way we consume media from a slow meal savored over time to an experience more akin to grazing or, more precisely, a bit of sushi on the go."

and more thoughts from Mr. Biggs:

"Goodbye, Barnes & Noble stores. Barnes & Noble stores will see a massive contraction while smaller booksellers will thrive. B&N knows what’s up. They recently split their company into two and now one company sells paper books and the other one sells digital. In fact, Microsoft invested in the digital side, leaving the print side to fend for itself. And fend it must. Although this year saw brisk sales at small mom & pops, B&N saw a minor dip in retail sales due to store closings and slow sales in stores and on Even the college business is slowing.

A major writer will go digital. I doubt Stephen King will make the jump, but one of the lesser mystery folks will probably go all digital. Why not? It gets them more cash for their efforts and places them at the helm of their business – and blockbuster writing is a business. Going indie no longer has a stigma attached."

Not sure if the last is much of a prediction since it seems that the J. A. Konrath motivated self-pub/digital move is one being taken by any numer of authors, from unpubbed to multi-pubbed authors reissuing their back list either via a self-publishing forum or making deals for those back list books to be reissued in digital via digital house other than their current pub houses.

But will there be a new E L James in town? A new J. A. Konrath? Waiting with bated breath!!!

What are you predicting for the 2013 year in publishing - What trends, writers, digital changes, books-to-film do you foresee?

Arriving on 12/26, my February 2013 issue of RT Magazine arrived yesterday and had some interesting bits and tids in it, that may offer some insight into what's up and coming in the romance pub game - reports & predictions from an industry leader that's been watching the romance game for decades.

There's an article on the new genre of "New Adult", geared to college and early 20's readers that will be a new trend to watch. For those 20-somethings who aren't interested in YA, who are looking for more mature subject matter and possibly more in the way of the physical relationship between the couples.

Additionally, there's a brief discussion on the issue of Harlequin's category line changes.

Harlequin Blaze line has dropped from 6 titles per mont to 4 (which begs the question regarding erotic/steamy romance - does HQ know something about a waning appetite for hot love stories that no other publisher seems to have noticed????).

Harlequin Presents Extra imprint has been closed. From the Harlequin website listing for guidelines for each line, this is what it says about the HP Extra:

"They offer all the international glamour, passion and alpha male heroes you expect from Harlequin Presents, with a flirty young voice and a whole load of sass!

Written by talented, original authors such as Heidi Rice, Natalie Anderson, Kelly Hunter, Kimberly Lang, Anne Oliver, Anna Cleary and Lucy King, these entertaining romances reflect the life experiences of today's young women, within a chic, upmarket, and usually urban setting. The heroines are often your twenty-something girls-about-town but there's no compromising on the Presents Extra/Riva hero: he must be very alpha and absolutely to die for. There'll be sparks flying when these two meet—and nothing short of fireworks once they get to the bedroom!"

But HQ has also launched a new imprint, KISS, which, if you've heard anything about it, sounds like a blend of higher-aged NA, rom-com and chick lit. According to the RT report, author Kimberly Lang (one of whose books is in the inaugural quartet) says, "KISS is very contemporary and smart with a young and vibrant urban feel. "We're taking some of our favorite romance books and giving them a little twist to deliver fun, flirty and sizzling stories for our readers. We're also updating the alpha hero - he's a little younger, a bit flirty, a little less damaged and broody..."

To me that sounds like the "rom com is dead", and "chick lit" is dead adages may be waning as well, and some "fun and flirty" romance is on the way!

Further, the popularity of the tortured hero may have left readers in the cold who are looking for a kinder, gentler, less angst-ridden hero type and HQ is seeking to fill that gap.

(But it also sounds awfully similar to HP Extra, doesn't it? I'd love to discover if the changes are merely cosmetic, perhaps length and a kickier imprint name than the rather stodgy Extra one?)

But ultimately it sounds like a perfect example of genre blending - taking all the best aspects of 3 genres (or more?) and turning them into a new, hybrid romance that looks to satisfy as many tastes as possible!

HQ is often on the forefront of romance changes, so maybe we'll see more coming our way.

Definitely appears that a KISS title or two should be in your TBR pile so you can check out this latest trend, no?

Taking the opportunity here now to proslytize a teeny weeny bit, too. Trend watching in romance publishing, keeping abreast of industry changes in the romance genre are something we all pretty much do as a matter of course, right? But how much time do you spend casting your eye across the entertainment landscape as a whole? Trends are not isolated in books - TV and film are usually in sync to a certain degree as well (can you count the vampire and paranormal TV shows? I can't!). Sex plot lines in films and in theatre continue apace with the hunger for erotic romance between the covers. Cowboys - historical and contemporary are hot on screens large and small - as they are in romance.

As someone once said in connection with the railroad magnates who found their empires crumbling in the face of transportation advances (i.e., THE AUTOMOBILE), "They thought they were in the railroad business. They didn't realize they were in the transportation business."

We in publishing (be we authors, agents, publishers or any other sort) are not simply in the publishing business - we are in the entertainment business. Competing for time and dollars and being as aware of the entire industry cannot help but give you an interesting perspective.

So go forth in 2013 - armed with your crystal ball and a wealth of industry knowlege that makes you a force to be reckoned with!

"If the artist does not fling himself, without reflecting, into his work, as Curtis flung himself into the yawning gulf, as the soldier flings himself into the enemy's trenches, and if, once in this crater, he does not work like a miner on whom the walls of his gallery have fallen in; if he contemplates difficulties instead of overcoming them one by one...he is simply looking on at the suicide of his own talent." Honore de Balzac

Friday, December 21, 2012

Wrapping Up 2012: Lawsuits & Silk Ties That Bind

by Lise Horton

While the #1 headline in our neck of the woods would have to be E L James and Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, there was an overall theme to the year that can be summed up in one word: Litigation. And here’s just a sampling:

The eons long (okay, 7 years) Google Settlement case finally gave its last gasp as Judge Denny Chin refused the settlement proposal and the weary parties went their separate ways, with Google’s “a digital copy of every book in the world” plan falling apart. There’ve been some arrangements and understandings between Google and publishers that will lead to money changing hands, though authors are prominently missing from the discussion. The Authors Guild is attempting to pursue the matter on its own, on behalf of authors, but certain points in Chin’s Opinion make the Guild’s chances of success slim.

The concept of digital scans of every book? Didn’t die, though it is in stasis in the case of the Authors Guild v. Hathi Trust, an academic endeavor that grew out of the Google book scan project and likewise had the same goal. While the Authors Guild, with fair use arguments and the first ever use of Section 108 of the Copyright Act in a suit, did not prevail, the decision is being appealed. And just because the Hathi Trust started with academic and archaic texts? They didn’t stop there….unless Harry Potter’s being studied at the collegiate level!

The other massive lawsuit that hit in 2012, and one which will have far reaching implications for every party involved, but particularly authors who are basically left out of all of these equations, including settlements (in addition to the customer herself) is the Department of Justice price fixing suit against the Big 6 houses. Naturally, we can all commiserate with poor, weak, innocent Amazon ….who has now been handed the freedom to play with pricing at their whim and for their benefit. Meanwhile the publishers who’ve settled (Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and hot off the press, Penguin) (the courts approved the settlement agreement with the first 3, which includes among other things, $62 million in payments, and the Penguin settlement approval is pending) must now comply with a number of restrictions and oversight. The remaining publisher, Macmillan, and Apple, are set to battle it out in court. Macmillan continues to hold that they did not collude. They’ve got their legal work cut out for them, however as, along with the DOJ, numerous individual states have launched their own suits against Macmillan and Apple.

From a recent New York Times piece, it is pretty clear that Amazon was not the one having sand kicked in their face by the alleged bullies with their behind-closed-door pricing discussions:

“For Amazon, whose share of the e-book market has eroded to close to 60 percent from about 90 percent since 2010, the Justice Department action is a major victory over one of its top rivals, Apple. In anticipation of the announcement, Amazon already appeared poised to drop prices on e-books.
“This is a big win for Kindle owners, and we look forward to being allowed to lower prices on more Kindle books,” Andrew Herdener, a spokesman for Amazon, said in a statement.”

Numerous amicus briefs filed from nearly every quarter in the industry, objecting to the DOJ position and outraged that Amazon was being given basically their own playing field, were given short shrift.

If you look at the numbers, it’s rather hard to see how much damage folks were doing to Amazon. Even at a low, they had 60% of the digital sales market. Barnes & Noble had 25% and Apple – a defendant in the case – had a piddling 15%.

In a smaller arena, fast on the heels of a lawsuit brought by authors against another of the Big 6 publishers in connection with foreign sales royalties, a like case has now been brought against Harlequin. From the plaintiffs’ site, the general description:

“A class action lawsuit was filed today against Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd., the world's leading publisher of romance fiction, as well as Harlequin Books S.A., a Swiss corporation, and Harlequin Enterprises B.V., a Dutch corporation, on behalf of authors who entered into contracts with the company.

This lawsuit results from Defendant Harlequin Enterprises Limited, the world’s leading publisher of romance fiction, depriving Plaintiffs and the other authors in the class, of e-book royalties due to them under publishing agreements entered into between 1990 and 2004. Harlequin required the authors to enter into those agreements with a Swiss entity that it created for tax purposes, and that it dominates and controls. However, Harlequin, before and after the signing of these agreements, performed all the publishing functions related to the agreements, including exercising, selling, licensing, or sublicensing the e-book rights granted by the authors. Instead of paying the authors a royalty of 50% of its net receipts as required by the agreements, an intercompany license was created by Harlequin with its Swiss entity resulting in authors receiving 3% to 4% of the e-books' cover price as their 50% share instead of 50% of Harlequin Enterprises' receipts.”

This case bears similarities to the one involving a Big 6 house. Royalties are a morass in and of themselves, and these machinations make it nearly impossible for an author to get a clear grasp of the issue. It is a complicated world out there that an author has to deal with, so this is just another example of how important it is to really have as solid an understanding as possible on contracts and the publishing industry’s current practices.

A number of lingering issues arose from the demise of Dorchester as authors sought to get back their rights as the publisher’s assets were being gobbled up by Amazon, get payment for royalties owed, and in general slog through the mudslide that was the end of the publishing house.

But wait! It’s not just folks suing the publishers. They’re doing some suing of their own. Case in point, Penguin suing a number of its authors to get back approximately $577,000 in advances paid for books the authors (allegedly) failed to produce as contractually required. Sourcebooks sued an author for breach of contract for the same issue: refusing to turn in the 3rd contracted book.

Then there’s author Bill Bryson. No, he’s not suing his publisher – he’s suing his old agent for a variety of nefarious oversights, underreporting, and such.

Fortunately, t wasn’t just the lawyers having a grand year, however.

A number of authors in romance made killings of their own. There were major book deals being made for a number of self-published authors of erotic romance as they rode the wave called E L James and Fifty Shades of Grey. While 50 has sold 40 million copies worldwide (and is still going strong as foreign translations continue), a number of well-known, already bestselling erotic romance authors are vying for supremacy on the bestseller lists. From Bella Andre to Maya Banks, Eden Bradley/Eve Berlin and the lady chasing James, RWA’s own President, Sylvia Day, they have caught the industry’s notice and their titles have been satisfying the cravings that James’ books inspired.

Hollywood’s keeping a close watch on these titles, too, as they seek out authors with a solid brand and more product to feed the passions stoked by Christian and Anastasia. The Shades film is in the works and additional options have been made, including on The Marriage Trap by Jennifer Probst (and Probst’s latest 3-book “major” deal has just been announced as well).

The import of the success of these authors to my mind is that the romance genre is now front and center. As we all know, there’s something for everyone in the genre, and with the popularity of Shades, with millions of new readers discovering the joys of romance, they’ll be looking for more great reads and they’ll find them. Romance continues to drive digital, and is the bestselling genre in print, as well. While there are the communities who will continue to denigrate the genre, money talks, and that’s the true sign of success.

Shades even provoked discussion of book banning and censorship, which on a national stage is another plus.

Economically, the publishing industry began a slow climb back after wallowing for a while. The demise of Borders changed the landscape, Wal-Mart emerged as a book-selling powerhouse and sales there will be, for the first time, included in reports from all the traditional outlets. And the tablet and digital wars continue to drive an evolving business that even insiders cannot predict from day to day.

As digital (now at an estimated possible 20% or more of the market of book sales overall) continues to grow and gain importance, the print landscape will be undergoing yet another major upheaval with the merger (not approved as yet as the deal requires international approval in a number of countries that experts expect will keep the final deal held up until later in 2013) of Penguin and Random House. The prior Big 6 will become the Big 5 and while placating press statements give assurances that there won’t be any elimination of redundant imprints, from an author’s perspective, I gotta say – not buying it. Will it mean fewer titles released? Fewer purchases of new works? Definitely a possibility and we all must keep an eye out as I am sure the digital publishers are doing as they carve out their niche.

Some traditional topics, as well as some new matters, continued to hold sway in the discussion this year. Piracy, the rise of ebook popularity and availability via the B&N/Amazon reader wars, copyright issues, trad houses hanging out digital only imprint shingles, contract changes, royalty rates, subsidiary rights, the rise of self-publishing, Amazon’s continued pursuit of control of the publishing industry along with the e-reader and tablet markets, the evolution of the literary agent’s role in a digital arena, shrinking mid-list opportunities, and the ever hearty appetite for YA paranormal titles were all issues visited routinely in the industry.

But ultimately, the biggest story of the year was E L James and Fifty Shades of Grey. Not only has it spawned a demand for more erotic romance – a demand already established romance authors have been able to fill, and newer authors can aspire to fill – but it undoubtedly has created a whole new audience of readers for books offering an HEA in this tumultuous world. It’s made romance a serious contender in the entertainment game. Don’t forget after all – we’re not just in the publishing business. We’re in the entertainment business. The books’ popularity is shining the light on women’s sexuality, on physical relationships and the discourse of same which is clearly a timely matter, as evidenced by the fact that our genre is now sharing the stage with: Creative works in film focused on the subjects of sexuality, love and relationships (Sessions, A Dangerous Method, and Hysteria), television (Girls) and theatre (Venus In Fur, Sex With Strangers).

Love her books, or hate them, E L James’ success has made romance fiction a force to be acknowledged – and reckoned with.

And in the year to come that fact will add another layer of complexity to the already wild and crazy world we writers inhabit.

Here's to all you achieved in 2012 - and to New Goals & Challenges in 2013!

Happy Solstice!
Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

12/6/12: Hot Updates & Titillating Tidbits for a Cold NYC Day

(From PR Newswire; GalleyCat) Harlequin, ever the innovating operation, has joined forces with Cosmo to launch novella length erotic romance, Cosmo Red Hot Reads. A joint endeavor, the series launches with two original ebook titles a month, in May, 2013 by “some of Harlequin’s bestselling authors”. No surprise, the Cosmo release references “if you picked up Fifty Shades of Grey then this is the book series for you.” I’m just wondering if HQ is now rethinking their abandonment of their print Spice line of erotica. Could be they jumped the gun and may reanimate it? Time certainly seems ripe.

As a New Yawka, I get and religiously read the NY Times, including the Sunday Book Section. After a series of changes, half the section now consists of a plethora of convoluted and confusing bestseller lists. But wait! They’re not done yet! Publishers Lunch reports today that they’re divvying up the children’s bestseller lists. There’ll now be at least 2 – one list each for middle-grade and YA. Seeing how YA is one of the hottest (the hottest?) genres going these days, I can see the impetus. Still. One needs a degree in actuarial type stuff to figure it out.

Bill Bryson discovered some (alleged) heinous skullduggery (is there any other kind?) by a former agent and is dragging the guy to court. Here’s to your victory Bill. It’s tough enough being an author without having to don a mask and cape to fight for truth, justice and royalties. Let’s hear it for all those terrific agents, too, who do great work and don’t rob their clients.

You might want to pick up the December 10 issue of Time Magazine. On page 44, “The Next EL James?” “The $ .99 Bestseller” article plunges into a discussion starting with the RT Conference, a J. A. Konrath presentation, and various self-publishing ins and outs. The article focuses primarily on Amazon’s self-pub arm, but touches on the pricing conundrum and DOJ suit, and details the successes and travails of a couple of authors of erotic romance, one up and comer, and another you may know well, millionaire author of ├╝ber steaming tales, Bella Andre. Definitely a must-read for any author, especially if you’re contemplating the indie pub route.

If you’re considering your New Year’s Resolutions for 2013, and they include networking at a writers’ conference, there are dozens to choose from. Digital Book World opens its doors in NYC from January 15 – 17. The Liberty States Fiction Writers one-day Create Something Magical conference in New Jersey falls on March 16, 2013 (I’m a member, so allow me to tout this group’s greatness. Definitely a great investment and here’s the link Writers Digest East Conference runs April 5-7 in NYC (no word on a WD West time or place yet). RT Book Reviews Conference gets underway in Kansas City from May 1-5. Make sure you check out regional conferences in your area, everything from Christian Writers, Comic Cons, and mystery and romance writers’ conferences. More listings coming soon!

And speaking of romance writers, the incredible ladies Leanna Renee Hieber, Hope Tarr and Maya Rodale and book blogger and all around delightful gent, Ron Hogan, several years back launched their beauteous brain child, Lady Jane’s Salon. This one-of-a-kind and only romance reading series in Manhattan, was an instant hit. So much so that there are now satellite Lady Jane’s proliferating all around the country. Check out their site to see if there’s one in your neck of the woods. The NYC group meets the first Monday of every month, at Madam X, 94 West Houston Street. The small donations go to women’s charities and the events are wonderful, fun evenings of romance readings by authors of every type.

I couldn’t let the opportunity go by to regale you all with my recent experience at the NYC BDSM Club, Paddles, where Lori Perkins, editor of 50 Writers on 50 Shades of Grey held forth with two panels of authors who’d contributed to the collection. The panels were incredibly provocative, and the speakers wonderfully erudite, funny, and gave lots of perspectives on the 50 Shades phenom (love it or hate it). And provocative wasn’t the word for the – ahem – hands on S&M demonstration by a Dom and his submissive. I’m betting everyone in the audience had a little tingle as we witnessed the flogging – and more. They were smart and gracious and gave the audience great insight into the D/s mentality and the BDSM lifestyle.

I’m wrapping up my year as President of the NYC Chapter of Romance Writers of America. It was a wonderful experience and I look forward to working as Past President with the incoming Board of Directors for 2013. Are you a writer of romantic fiction in or around NYC? Well, golly gee, how come you aren’t a member? Check out the Chapter Website (undergoing renovation as we speak, but up and running) for upcoming Chapter meetings and see what we’re all about. Don’t be afraid to depend on the kindness of strangers – we won’t be strangers for long, I guarantee it!

I had a chance recently to sit in on a CLE presentation (for lawyers to keep up with the legal eagle game; no floggers involved) on the recently decided Authors Guild v. Hathi Trust copyright case. Have you read the Copyright Act? Did you know that an author (or photographer or any rights holder) does not have absolute right to their material? Fair use is the principle that allows others to use your material under certain legally delineated guidelines – but note that many a lawsuit has been waged over how to interpret those guidelines and it is a thorny issue, my child. I gleaned fascinating information on the convoluted issues of copyright and I continue to learn a tremendous amount about intellectual property in general. This presentation followed on the heels of one concerning fair use and social media. Do you read the teeny weeny fine print on those terms of use on the various social media you are on? If you haven’t you’d better start. Learning what these sites are doing, and how to avoid putting your material in jeopardy would be a mighty smart move.

As a little cerebral tidbit for the day, in case you also haven’t given a gander to the Constitution lately, here’s from Article I, Section 8: The Constitutional Provision Respecting Copyright:

“The Congress shall have Power . . . To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Investors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

And speaking of lofty legal topics – I discovered a great blog by NYC lawyer Mark Fowler. If you’re interested in keeping abreast of legal type issues and discussions, add it to your favorites:

On that note, with a hidey-hidey-ho, here’s to a brilliant, sunny Thursday. Write happy, write smart!