Hey, spell my name right when you diss me, okay?

I’ve caused an uproar. An “uproar?” I’m sitting here listening to digital crickets chirp. Where is this uproar? The breadth and width of my Twitter and Facebook and blogging universe is far, far bigger than I ever imagined, since the only posts I can launch further than a long spit out a high window are pictures of my cats licking themselves.

Anyhow, today I’m one of the subjects in Digital Book World’s column by Dana Beth Weinberg.

Empowering Writers With Data

Not to belabor the points, smack a dead horse, etc. so I’m just posting the same answer I’ve posted at DBW. As follows:

One correction up front: my company’s name is spelled Bell Bridge Books, thanks.

As I think I’ve made clear in my blog posts and in private correspondence to Dr. Weinberg, I support her data and have followed her reports here at DBW in the past. My beef, as I’ve stated repeatedly, is with Romance Writers of America using her data in a disingenuous way at the upcoming national conference. When a topic is titled “Is there still a case to be made for traditional publishing?” and the program notes tell attendees that Dr. Weinberg will present “for and against” research about publishers, those who don’t know anything about her work will assume a negative slant. RWA has produced a dramatically skewed workshop schedule this year, in my opinion, overwhelmingly aimed at self-publishing authors and flavored with a bias against traditional publishing. The only other workshop dedicated to traditional publishing topics is titled “What good are agents?” So — with all due respect to Dr. Weinberg and her best intentions, statistics alone are often used as propaganda. Especially when presented out of context, at a workshop that does not include the publishers and agents about which she is offering conclusions. My concerns are about context and fairness. I wish Dr. Weinberg the best.

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Free Book Palooza Today!!!

Today is the first annual Digital Book Day, organized by bestselling author C.J. Lyons. Authors from around the world are giving away ebook editions of their novels. Yours Truly has put my novella, Forever Yesterday, up for free grabs. The project is a promotion for authors and a gift to fans, no strings attached. Just go to digitalbookday.com.

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Why the messenger is not the problem at RWA

Put down yer flame throwers, troops. This is not the (Harvard PhD Sociologist and Queen’s College-CUNY Professor of Sociology) droid you’re looking for.

To further clarify my point from RWA Takes My Money
Then Asks If I Deserve To Exist
, my beef is with RWA’s 2014 workshop schedule, which I feel has an ugly bias against traditional publishing. With only two workshops specifically targeted to trad pub topics (I don’t count the publisher spotlights) let’s review the titles of those workshops:

“What good is an agent?” (Holy creepers, Batman, that’s rude.)
And: “Can a case still still be made for traditional publishers and agents?” (Geez, Batman, now publishers are cast in a negative light, and agents get dissed a second time.)

I took exception to the negative titles, and to the fact that the publisher topic will feature sociologist Dr. Dana Beth Weinberg.

I think it’s inappropriate for a non-industry voice to be the only speaker on a topic that has only one narrow window of coverage at a conference where all the major sponsors are publishers and where a substantial number of the published attendees write for traditional publishers.

But let me be clear: this is not a personal slap at Dr. Weinberg or her presentation, about which I do know quite a bit, actually.

Analyzing the Author Earnings Data

Earlier this year Dr. Weinberg took on the daunting task of vetting indie author Hugh Howey’s popular statistics on self-publishing. Her conclusions were not overwhelmingly supportive of Howey’s conclusions, a fact that earned her a whole bunch of flaming spitballs from his followers.

I expect she’ll present the core of that same report at RWA, and it will be fair to publishers as well as to agents. I also suspect that she’ll get grilled by self-published authors in the room. In my experience, that won’t be pretty.

I don’t want anyone in the trad pub posse going in there with crazy flaming spitballs ready to heave at her. She’ll have enough trouble, as it is.

So once again, let me be perfectly, Nixonianly clear:
RWA needs to get its act together.
But Dr. Weinberg is not the scapegoat for RWA’s poor judgment.

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I’m getting an eyepatch–and minions!

The response to my little blog post: “RWA Took My Money Then Told Me I Don’t Deserve To Exist” has been great! And by “Great!” I mean “Sunny with a Chance of Flaming, Frothing Spitballs.” Seriously, thanks to all the thoughtful posters, whether you agreed or disagreed. And to the others . . . well . . . don’t run with scissors, look both ways crossing the street, and I hope you don’t use that mouth to kiss your mama. I wasn’t going to publish some of the remarks, especially when the poster wouldn’t give a real name, then I shrugged and decided to let the sun shine down into that cave.

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Is RWA deserting all but a few romance genres?

The workshop and main speaker schedules for the upcoming Romance Writers of America conference in San Antonio reveals the organization’s full transformation from a traditional publishing conduit into a voice almost solely for self-published authors, with a side dressing of open animosity toward traditional publishing and thus, toward its traditionally published members.

So the question that faces not only traditionally published authors but also hybrids and even many self-pubs may be: is the organization kicking us out? Warts and all, (I joined in 1984) RWA has always been relatively inclusive of a broad range of romance genres. Despite flame wars over adding awards and workshops dedicated to emerging sub-genres, RWA had, until recently, trended toward *expanding* its definition of the romance novel.

But then, two years ago, women’s fiction and YA romances were dropped from the awards. New berths were made for erotic romances but at the loss of those two substantial sub-genres–which didn’t need to be eliminated in order to accommodate erotic romance.

The recent, overwhelming adoption of self-publishing by some romance authors (romance far and above dominates self-publishing and most of the successes in self-publishing are romance authors) has led quickly to RWA focusing on self-pubs’ interests. Nothing wrong with serving your membership.

But self-pubs remain only a part of RWA’s membership, albeit a very vocal and visible one. Eighty-five percent of all books are still published by traditional presses (including the Amazon Montlake romance imprint, which, ironically, offers terms similar to other “evil” publisher’s).

Most of the self-pub successes are within the narrow confines of contemporary hot/sexy/erotic/NA romance, leaving a huge (perhaps majority) of other romance writers out of the scope of (likely) self-pub success.

That means what RWA has done is narrow the org’s focus to the interests and viewpoint of a very small group of authors. Maybe it’s time to rename RWA something like “A Small Group Of Romance Writers In America” for truth in advertising.

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RWA takes my money, then asks if I deserve to exist

A little hyperbole there. Actually, it’s my company’s money and my company’s right to exist, but since I’m a major co-owner of BelleBooks, and, as we know, corporations are now people, it’s me. Once again, BelleBooks is a sponsor for the Romance Writers of America conference (San Antonio, TX, later this month.) We pay thousands of dollars each year for the honor, as do other publishers, large and small.

I’ve realized for a couple of years that the organization is trending away from traditional publishing and toward the self-publishing world; it’s a simple matter of catering to changes in the membership. As a hybrid author myself, a small press publisher, and, really, a self-publishing author since 2000, I applaud the changes in our industry.

Except for the part where a very vocal minority of self-published authors have decided that traditional publishers are greedy demons, that we offer nothing of value, and that any author who signs with us is deranged, stupid, a masochist or, at the very least, not yet “converted.”

Some days it feels like that faction is running the asylum. This has been one of those days. I downloaded the RWA conference app and scrolled through it this afternoon, looking at workshop schedules. To no surprise, this year’s schedules are dominated by topics aimed at self-pubs and hybrid authors. I didn’t expect otherwise. The attending publishers, including BelleBooks, get “spotlight” sessions to talk about their books and guidelines for submissions, as usual. And there are plenty of workshops on writing craft and general business advice. Cool.

But then there is this: “Is there a case for traditional publishers and agents?”

I stopped scrolling and stared in disbelief. The organization that has existed for thirty-ish years with the generous help of publishers now reduces their importance to a topic that implies publishers may indeed be indefensible–that a question exists, and must be debated.

Alrighty, what brave publishing folk are manning this panel?

None. Instead, there is one speaker. One. A sociologist. God bless her, she’s probably a lovely person. Her name is Dana Beth Weinberg, and the program says she has access to inside stats on market research that will show how traditional publishers compare to self-publishers. A sociologist. With marketing stats. Not someone who has ever worked in publishing, who knows what publishers do behind the scenes, or what the issues are, or how the distribution works, or what the boots-on-the-ground challenges are, or how the industry is changing, or what publishers do to help authors build long term careers, or the differences between large and small presses, or the history of returnable books or what it’s like to work with major distributors such as Amazon . . . a sociologist, armed with some numbers.

She’s going to tell everyone whether my business and I deserve to be taken seriously.

This is how RWA treats its publishing sponsors. This is how RWA regards publishers. This is how, apparently, a faction that now controls the mindset and the future of RWA views its obligation to present a conference that serves the interests and respects the choices of those members who are traditionally published.

By offering an insulting workshop taught by a non-industry speaker on a topic that is set up *from the start* to marginalize traditionally published members and their careers.

Were there no publishers invited to be on the panel? No agents? Invite me, I’ll go. You won’t like me when I’m angry, but I’ll be there, you betcha. Invite some authors who are tired of being told they don’t have sense enough to hand all their books over to Amazon. Let us tell the attendees what it’s like in the evil dens of traditional publishing. We’ll try to keep our horns hidden.

And we promise not to send any more of our wickedly earned money to RWA.
At least, I do.

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Amazon vs. Hachette, By the Numbers

In the big face-off between book publisher Hachette and Everything Seller Amazon, both entities are often derisively described as “two giant corporations fighting for their own interests.”

Which is true, except that all of us in the publishing world who live downstream from their runoff have an interest in the outcome, too. It might be useful to know as many facts as possible about how much poop they can put in our water supply.

Two giants? Well . . . yes, but one is a whole lot more giant-er than the other. If this were a boxing match, they wouldn’t be allowed in the same building together, much less the same ring.

According to stats listed by Publishers Marketplace:

“Hachette is part of a $10 billion global conglomerate” — based on sales, though they have a market capitalization of about $4 billion.”

Amazon? $74 billion in annual sales, “and a market capitalization of roughly $150 billion.”

Publisher’s Marketplace opines that Amazon’s growth in the next year (estimated at $15 billion in sales) will be more than (Hachette owner) Lagardere’s *total* sales.

Hachette Book Group USA has approximately $640 million in annual sales.

Estimated annual North American media sales for Amazon? $10.8 billion.

That’s a big ol’ canyon of difference in the size of the war chests, friends.

Does money equal power? Does might make right? Does it matter that sides are being chosen in this massive kerfluffle using battle cries about “bullying” aimed at *both* players? I dunno.

I just find the numbers interesting. Thanks to Publisher’s Marketplace for this information.

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