18 February 2010

I don't check Fictionwise stats often but...

BRIDE BALL (a Phaze release, urbanized fairy tale erom, first in the series of the same name) is #1 for Phaze and #7 bestselling in erotic romance on Fictionwise overall! ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU (a LooseId release, contemp romance) is #3 for LooseId on Fictionwise and #36 for erotic romance site wide. And FAIRY DREAMS (a Mundania release, fantasy sensual romance, first in the dan Aidan Fairies series) is back in the top 10 for Mundania at Fictionwise. Maybe I should check more often!


12 February 2010

Polling on e-book pricing!

As you might have guessed, I'm a little tired of the journalists doing two things: dismissing the foundation of e-publishing built by indie press and the completely baseless fear-mongering about how e-book prices are going to skyrocket, because NY conglomerates have jumped into the game.

I've found that the NY types are often unwilling to accept that indie presses have already done their market testing and found their balance, so I'm going to act like I'm from a NY conglomerate publisher for a moment. I'm going to act like indie press is completely clueless about what the market will tolerate and ask readers to respond to a very simple polling about the issue.

People who read e-books only, please... There is no response of "I don't read e-books," because this is a polling about e-book pricing, which non-readers would have little interest in.

The question is simple. What would you pay for a novel-length (NOT category length...think a 300 or more page mass market book with at least a sale price of $6 on Amazon and a list price of at least $8) fiction e-book? One question.

I have the polling set up to run for more than a month, and the results will be posted in a message from EPIC. You can find the polling at my blog.

Feel free to pass this polling along to as many e-book readers as you choose to. Readers feel that the big boys in the game don't listen to them. That's largely true. So, let's get this polling into the thousands and show them what readers really think.

I think I know what the readers will reply, but it will be an interesting experiment to go directly to the readers.

At the very least, I can debunk what Madeline McIntosh (President of Sales, Operations, and Digital...does anyone else see a bias in that title?...for Random House) said at the American Bookseller Association meeting. She said that publishers "have no real experience at setting retail prices." I fully disagree. To be accurate, NY conglomerate publishers may well have no experience at it, but indie publishers (especially indie/e publishers) do. That's the way our system works.

Choosing Titles

New author question paraphrased: Every time I think I find a great title, it has already been taken...sometimes many times over and recently. How do you choose titles without confusing readers?

Titles cannot be copyright. They can...in some cases...be trademarked. But you're right, it's nearly impossible to find a title that has never been used before and won't be in the near future. Assume that literary references (written in the stars, body electric, and so forth) are all taken. Assume common associations (bonds for mating or marriage, blood or night or dark for vampires, heart for romance, etc.) are all taken. If you use it too... Oh, well. But...I have some cautions about that below.

There are ways to make your title stand out.

1. If you're writing spec fic of some sort, use a world word. If someone comes up with Schente Night, I'm going to want to know how they did that, since "schente" is a word I created for my alien world. Up side? It's unique. Down side? It MAY be hard for readers to remember or spell.

2. Use a character name as part of the title, especially if it's an unusual name. Same up side and down side. Again, if someone comes up with Fion's Daughters, I'm going to want to know how. Fiona...sure...but Fion?

Nightmare situations?

1. Always avoid using a title that has an author name similar to yours. I could choke this author that came along after me with a similar pen name to mine and has chosen (so far) to copy not one but TWO of my titles. I'd almost swear she's trying to cause confusion. That annoys me to death. You never intentionally cause confusion with a more established author. You just hack off readers that way.

2. Make it clear to your publisher that you will change your title rather than chance two books from the same publisher with the same title. This is one I could choke one of my old publishers for. I had a book called WRITTEN IN THE STARS...yes, taken many times over. They never told me it was a problem, but I found out just before release day that they had a reprint from a NY author with the same title...coming out within a month of mine. Had I KNOWN, I would have changed mine...hers being a reprint and all.

If the other titles aren't with your publisher, by another author with a similar name, and don't have a similar blurb, go for it. If those things clash, pick something else, IMO.

Using Famous Names

New author question paraphrased: I have a character and want to give him a famous person's name (or first name). Can I get in trouble for this?

Go for it! Parents name kids after famous people all the time...or nickname them after famous people. Most characters either like it or hate it. Build that into the character. As long as you make it clear you're not talking about the famous person but a character who is named or nicknamed after that person, you are perfectly safe doing it. It sets a cultural backdrop for the story, which may date it, but it's not illegal.

Beyond that, you technically can have a character meet a famous person in the book, but if you say something negative about the real person (or Heavens forbid, libel the person) in the book, you have other legal issues to deal with. Even if you use someone who has been dead for centuries, living descendants can and will file injunctions and lawsuits if their ancestor is represented in a book in a way they feel is not "proper" or "right." Even if you don't see it as a negative connotation, if the family does, they can sue.

Worse, when you're dealing with laws other than US laws, it gets complicated. Some countries do not have "freedom of speech." If you write something negative, even if it's simply personal opinion, the law in some countries will call that defamation of character, even if what you said is completely true and you have proof of it.

But what about Copyright? The person hasn't been dead for 70 years.

Names cannot be copyright (in the US, at least). They can be trademarked, in some cases. For instance, a character name or stage name can be trademarked. But here's what you have to understand about trademark.

Trademark is protection of that name in a very specific industry and for a very specific use. If Action Joe is trademarked as a child's action figure, you can still talk about your 6-year-old character playing with an Action Joe doll. Superman is trademarked, but you can still have one character call another "a real Superman." Evel (thank you, Rowena for the correction...no editor on blogs) Knievel may well be trademarked as his stage name, but if parents in your novel nickname their daredevil son Evel Knievel, you are in the clear.

A prime example here... Harry Potter, the boy wizard, is trademarked. If you want to write a boy wizard, you cannot name him Harry Potter. However, if you write a teen or twenty-something character named Harry Potter, who is heartily sick of the crap he takes because JKR decided to name her character with his name...that's perfectly legal. For it to be illegal, you'd have to infringe on the character, as JKR invented him, a similar background or storyline or something more than just the name. Remember, fan fic (while common) is not legal to distribute or publish without the original creator's permission.

Now, you may run into other complications with naming...not illegalities but technical difficulties. For instance, in Spain, names have to be approved by a judge to avoid the child being embarrassed by the name later in life. This has caused some upheaval of late, since a certain judge blocked an immigrant family from using a name he didn't recognize (but which was common in their home country and was made famous by a Spanish author, no less).

In the same way, in some countries with a royal family, it is illegal to name a child (on the birth certificate) Prince or Princess. Now, you can certainly use it as a nickname, but you can't name a child that.

Names cannot be copyright. There is no public domain, when talking about names. Moreover, there are 6 BILLION people in the world and still more character names. Names will overlap. Just make sure the name is all that overlaps, if you can. Remember the case about the author that wrote the fictitious scumbag music exec and there really was a music exec 20 or 30 years ago with that name, and he sued? And won? That is a major problem.

At the same time, you can parody someone else's character, even if it's not public domain (for US law, death of author plus 70 years). Usually, you change the character name a bit when you parody. Think of things like EPIC MOVIE and work from there. One of my favorite parody novellas was based on the Justice League characters.

Remember that you have to make sure what country's laws something is covered by. What happens in other countries does not always match US copyright law, and the US respects many other countries' laws, via the Berne. My favorite example is the original Peter Pan stories. By UK law, the author was permitted to deed them to a children's hospital. Though, by US law, they would be public domain, they are not. Until the children's hospital ceases to exist...if that ever happens, it will not pass into public domain, and the US respects that legal decision.

What Happens Now-The Struggling Middle

Request from a new author paraphrased: The beginning of my novel is great, but now I've hit the middle and I know roughly where I'm headed (major plot points) but have no idea how I need to get there! Help!

I personally don't plot, but it sounds as if we have someone that does a modicum of plotting here. My first instinct (which she later said was sound) was that she needed more structure in her process. If you're a pantser, how you get to that next point you're sure of isn't usually an issue. So, she needs a little more plotting in the mix.

She is currently at C and needs to reach the next plot turn at G. That means figuring out logically how the characters would try to reach G and what roadblocks or complications might be in the way. Depending on what happens in that brainstorming session, she might have to tweak the perceived future plot points. IOW, something that happens getting from C to G might slightly change what she thinks should happen at M.

11 February 2010

An Answer to the NY Times


As usual, the NY Times acts as if NY conglomerate publishing is the only game in town. Sure, that's the only books tracked and put on NYT's bestseller list. Sure, those lists aren't even based on sales but rather on orders of books. But...let's look beyond that.

Will NY conglomerate publishers raise their prices? Some will. I can't help that. But all the hysterics and hype about how e-book prices are going up is just that...useless fear mongering. Why?

Because NY conglomerate publishing is not the only game in town, and indie's prices aren't budging. In fact, conglomerate is not the originating game in town for e-books. The e-publishing community was built by indie presses and pioneer distribution channels, like Fictionwise and ARe. Some of the forerunners in the e-publishing industry have been around for between 10 and 15 years. All told, both Amazon and the NY conglomerates are new to the game.

NY talks about testing the market. I laugh. Why do I laugh? Because that testing was done by indie press long ago. While prices that people are willing to pay for an e-book vary from reader to reader and further from author to author or publisher to publisher, when considering a single reader, we have a pretty safe ballpark that the indies tend to stick to, these days. Why? Becauase it's already been tested and found solid. Worst case scenario, someone comes in at the higher range for a novel-length e-book (a range that is about $5-7 in indie) and finds that a dollar or so lower works better for them.

Some NY conglomerates talk about their "progressive" or "revolutionary" new e-book programs. When they do, I laugh. Why now? Becuase their revolutionary new programs often involve copying what indie press already does. Too bad they aren't smart enough to copy pricing, but they are so worried about their print books, they are undermining the e-books they are putting out...and hacking off readers, in the process.

I don't begrudge them the right to experiment and find their own pricing balance but...clue arriving guys...it's HIGHLY unlikely to be $15 per book. In the meantime, pirates are using this as an excuse not only to pirate you, but also to pirate me, and I'm selling e-books for half of what you do...sometimes a third of that. But hey...one excuse is as good as another to a pirate.

03 February 2010


Marked cover art by Debi Lewis (c) 2009.
MARKED- Money clips and microchips...that’s what little boys are made of. Lace and flair and grave malware...that’s what little girls are made of. Who knew a fatal crash could feel so good? Houston Lawton's sons are every woman's dream men: successful, intelligent, rich. There's just one little problem; they can't feel love. A jaded woman might claim that's typical of the breed, but they're not clueless; rather cybernetic inhibitors suppress the emotion to stabilize their neuro-processors. They've never lost control...until now.

Available in e-book from Phaze!

01 February 2010


Bride Ball- #8 bestseller for Phaze in January!- Welcome to Lenvia, where the young prince has been given a year to choose a wife or have one chosen for him. Hoping for a desperate family to send an innocent into the fray, Edward arranges a series of Bride Balls--outrageous sexual events--and a willing decoy in his bid to find someone who loves him for himself and not his crown. Enter Amber, daughter of a dead lord on his beloved mistress, a servant in her own household. When her irrepressible grandmother pushes her to find a husband or lover to protect her from the wrath of her step-mother, Amber loses more than her virginity...but it’s not a glass slipper that the prince has to track her with. The race is on. Before these two are through, more than one couple may find their way through the traps of poison, lies, and no-win choices forged at a long ago Bride Ball and left to fester through two generations of the royal family.

HEA-yes, VIOLENCE-mild, LANGUAGE-moderate, SEX-erotic

To purchase Bride Ball from Phaze...in e-book...

Cover Art by Debi Lewis

The results are in!

The results are in!

I've taken #3 best non-fiction article for
Working From Calls: Six Degrees of Separation...

And #6 poet of the year!