Scandal is Free!

October 9th, 2014

I have set my RITA finalist historical romance Scandal to free:

Here are vendor links:

Amazon | iBooks | Nook | Google Play | Kobo | All Romance eBooks

 

Cover of Scandal by Carolyn Jewel

Cover of Scandal

If you haven’t read Scandal yet or don’t own a copy, here’s your chance… I hope you enjoy the book.

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The Flush Pile – An Author’s Perspective

September 29th, 2014

Some of you may know the current situation with Ellora’s Cave. If not, this post at Dear Author should get you to the information you need.

The TL;DR is that several authors who write for Ellora’s Cave have said they are not being paid money due them. The rumblings began at least a year ago. Recently, EC laid off all of its freelance staff. Jane at Dear Author recently wrote a post in which she discussed the ongoing situation at EC. The owner of EC has now sued Jane for defamation. Do head over to DA if you want to know more about this situation.

I am an author who was with a publishing company that was heading toward bankruptcy. (Dorchester Publishing) This post is about what the experience was like for me. My situation ended up with a silver lining, but the outcome I had was never certain, just as it is not certain for any of the EC authors who are wondering if they’ll ever get paid or if they are going to lose their books.

If you have books with a publisher in the Flush Pile, here’s what’s quite likely:
1. No, you are never going to be paid money owed to you.
2. Yes, you could well lose your books. Gone.

Every publishing contract I’ve ever signed has had a bankruptcy clause. The clause means nothing. Zero. Zlich. It might as well not be there. If your publisher declares bankruptcy, your book is an asset of the company to be liquidated and turned into cash to pay to creditors. Authors are dead last on the list of creditors.

At Dorchester, authors talked amongst themselves. Advances and royalties due to authors were paid slowly. Some of use waited months for advances to be paid. More and more often, authors just weren’t paid. Foreign rights got sold and authors were never told. Those monies never appeared on royalty statements. I was surprised, for example, to find that one of my books had a Dutch translation. Toward the end, I also learned about other translations I was never told about and never paid for. One of them did not even have a signed contract despite being on sale. As royalties continued to be paid in haphazard fashion, there were consolidations and reductions in books, imprints and staff, and sales of rights to backlist titles of prominent authors to other publishers. (Marjorie M. Liu’s titles were sold to Avon, for example.)

None of this is legal advice. I’m not a lawyer. But if you’re an EC author, I do have some non-legal advice. In fact, I have advice for ALL authors with traditional contracts.

In 2010, my agent, who did not represent me at the time of my Dorchester contracts, was working hard to get reversions for me. I wanted them anyway, because the books were out of print and/or I was not being paid the money due to me. Dorchester had not filed for bankruptcy, but there was wide speculation that they could not recover from their difficulties and a filing was felt by some to be inevitable. I was advised that it was possible that rights reversions made within the year prior to a bankruptcy filing could be deemed fraudulent and any reversions negated. I was horrified to learn there was case law to that effect.

Even before the non-payment issue was a severe problem, it was clear to me that at long last, there was a good reason (ie, self-publishing) for an author to vigorously pursue reversions for all books that met the criteria of the out of print clauses. I’d read all those clauses and had begun that process with all my titles well before this. And by the way, I was roundly ignored everywhere except for Harper-Collins, who noted the request and put it on their schedule for a decision 6 months later. Literally. The meeting was in 6 months. Let that sink in.

My reversions from Dorchester came through at the end of 2010. Other publishers were an even harder nut to crack. St. Martin’s Press was spectacularly uncooperative. Hachette — I don’t even have words. And I have loads of hind-sight advice about what reversion clauses should say.

Eventually, quite late in the game, and months after I had my Dorchester reversions, Amazon bought the Dorchester backlist. Authors were given the option of a reversion or publishing with their Romance or Horror imprint. I don’t recall if Amazon agreed to pay outstanding royalties to those authors or not. By then, I was thousands and thousands of dollars ahead of the money Dorchester owed me, and more than happy with my own outcome.

My Advice to Authors with A Publisher in the Flush Pile

My advice is going to sound harsh. But, assume you will never be paid. The risk of waiting to see if your publisher rights their ship is the complete loss of your rights in your books. This is your career and you must not fail to take steps to protect your back list and front list.

You should take steps now to get your rights back. Read the reversion clause of your contract(s) and for all books where you meet the criteria follow the requirements for requesting a reversion and get it in now. Right now. If you have titles for which you have not been paid, then request a reversion on the grounds of non-payment. Get a lawyer to help you, if you can afford it. This is your professional writing career on the line, and this is not the time to be nice.

If you elect to wait it out, then make sure you understand the nature of the risk you’re taking. It cannot be that you hope everything works out. You must be sure that you can accept the worst case outcome — you lose control of your books and will never recoup your losses and never make another penny from those titles. The books will disappear from the market and you lose all benefit that accrues to your author brand when you have multiple titles on sale to the public.

In the current environment, every title you control is a title that can be earning you money right now every month. This is NOT a “I don’t know if my book is good enough situation.” A publisher bought your book. Therefore, that book can be making you money right now and you only have to worry about the vendor paying you.

This is also not a situation where you need to find another publisher. That might have been true in 2009 but it’s not true now. An author with reverted backlist can decide whether she wants to self-publish on her own or find another publisher or something in between.

My Advice to Authors With Traditional Publishers or Considering The Traditional Route

For future contracts, negotiate the fuck out of your reversion clause. If the publisher is making you both money, that is awesome. But the minute you’re not both making money or you’re below a mutually satisfactory threshold, then you should be able to ask for and timely receive a reversion. There is no nice girl here. This is your business and you should be in control of its operations. Therefore, you need to stand firm on reversion clauses.

Do not assume a publisher has an interest in your book selling well. They should, but they don’t. Their interest is in seeing which books unexpectedly hit. That’s it. If it’s not you, you’re screwed.

I have 5 books still with traditional publishers and I know for a fact that if those books were in my control, I would be making more money and more effectively controlling my author brand and, therefore, my writing career. That was not the reality of publishing prior to 2010, but it’s the reality now.

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General Update

September 28th, 2014

General Update is a fine military man. I like him lots. I would share pictures with you, but I don’t want to get in trouble.

In other news, I will soon have the new covers for Passion’s Song, Not Wicked Enough, and Not Proper Enough.

I have the final print cover for A Notorious Ruin and hope to have a print proof pretty soon . . .

We’re zeroing in on the final cover for Christmas in The Duke’s Arms.

I’m hoping to see a sample for Dead Drop.

My son is back at college. The house is too quiet.

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Decisions, Decisions

September 25th, 2014

I can’t decide if this is the funniest tweet in the history of the universe or the saddest.

Thank You For Giving Us A Choice

But, I like a world where women have choice. You know?

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Seven Wicked Nights is a Bestseller

September 24th, 2014

Today I found out the the boxed set I’m in, Seven Wicked Nights, debuted on the US Today Bestseller List at #126.

So. I am officially a USA Today Bestselling author. And that is gosh darned exciting for all the authors in the set. It’s a great collection of stories by some pretty wonderful authors. So if you didn’t pick up your copy yet, you should.

Amazon

iBooks

Nook

Kobo

Google Play

Cover of Boxed Set: Seven Wicked Nights

Seven Wicked Nights

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Seven Wicked Nights

September 20th, 2014
Image of eReader with cover of 7 Wicked Nights and a cup of coffee

Seven Wicked Nights With Coffee

You should get this now. It’s $0.99 for a limited time. When else can you get a combination of stories like this? Answer: Right now. That’s it. Go.

Amazon

iBooks

Nook

Kobo

Google Play

Excerpt Links

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Covers and Branding

September 11th, 2014

I’ve been working toward getting new covers for my books, with the idea that they would essentially be branded, that is, they’d have a recognizable look and feel.

I uploaded the ones that are final to my Pinterest Board. You can see, I hope, the developing look and feel. I haven’t finished updating everything on my website yet. Soon. Very soon.

Challenges

There were two major challenges. Good artwork and the fact that I write historical and paranormal under the same name. Cost was another. Setting up a custom shoot with professional models is more or less far outside my budget. Otherwise, I’d be taking to John Marron and guys like that.

That cost issue : with sufficient budget, I could get the models I want and the clothing required, and the models would know how sell the poses. ::dreaming:: I’ll circle back to that.

Regarding covers and design, first, I recognize my lack of design talent. I do understand the principles of typography and design, since in my web development days I worked closely with the graphic designers. It was in their interest to educate me since I was more or less in charge of the website. Having been schooled, I am very very aware of my shortcomings. That is why I don’t do my own covers.

Why our Gender Problem Makes The image Challenge Worse

At the moment, we live in a culture that uses women’s bodies to sell products. The female body is sexual (as if a man’s isn’t, too.) The cliche is “Sex Sells” But what they really mean is “Women Imaged as Sexually Available Sell.”

And that is a problem because, contrary to popular notions about Romance, A romance novel cover image (excluding erotica) isn’t about sex. It’s about the promise of love. If you go look at stock images and search for Romantic Couple you see pages and pages and pages of women who look like they’re auditioning for a porno movie. Virtually none of them look like they’re falling in love or about to fall in love.

It’s a disgrace. It’s offensive. Probably those Royalty Free sites have the dregs of a photoshoot where the excellent shots went elsewhere.

The clinch cover is not, as that idiot from Vox implied, all about ::giggle:: she wrote a word that has a naughty meaning so let’s read EVERYTHING as if it has that meaning!!! It’s damn near impossible to find a couple who look like there’s love somewhere in there.

And, 99% of the time, someone’s idea of a “historical” gown comes from a $4.99 Halloween costume.

Fortunately, there are now some additional sites dedicated to Romance Novel cover images that have good to great models. There are fashion experts who will loan their historically accurate clothing to the cause of a photoshoot. So, it’s easier than it used to be. As in, instead of impossible, it’s almost impossible.

The image Challenge

My first covers were severely hampered by two main things: the image problems, my talent problem. For some time I could get away with mediocre to good covers because there were others that were so bad … The bar was low and lots of authors benefited from that, whether they knew it or not. The fact that so many NY Romance covers were also just as terrible or worse also contributed to that low bar. I quickly realized that NY was using the same stock image sites as the rest of us. Some of my early covers were pre-made but with some custom typography work.

So, my goal then was to get my reverted titles on sale with the best cover I could manage given all the handicaps around that, and then to bring out front-list, too.

In early 2013, the cover bar got higher, or I got less tolerant of the shortcomings of my covers. I had good cover artists, but I wasn’t letting them do their job. I did have to learn to get out of the way. Early on, I wasn’t able to also get print covers made …. see lack of talent from me. The person I was working with at the time didn’t do print covers and I was not able to do them myself and be happy with the result and the time spent.

This was a problem for me. I ended up having almost no print presence, and that got to be a worse and worse situation, to the point where I had to find another artist. Ultimately, to get all the covers done, I ended up using two different people.

The 100% Improvement Dilemma

Here is a true fact. For ease of discussion, let’s pretend there’s the following spectrum of ability:

  1. Worst ever in history
  2. Horrible
  3. Never should see the light of day
  4. sucks
  5. Not bad
  6. Almost good, if you squint
  7. Mediocre
  8. Huh
  9. I like it
  10. Nice
  11. Ooh
  12. OMG that’s amazing
  13. Off the charts genius

Suppose you start out at horrible in the “Cover Ability” area. You get Photoshop or Gimp and learn a few things and voila! You have a cover that never should see the light of day. You have improved a lot. You work some more and now your cover merely sucks. You have improved 100% in ability, you can see that because look at the difference between where you started and where you are now! You can use the tools! Eyedropper! Oh, hey, fonts. That I did not buy.

But your covers are still terrible.

If you’re in the business of selling books, your covers need at minimum to be at least Nice. At least there. If you’re not an actual artist, chances are very very slim that the cover you think is Nice actually is.

Typography

It’s a skill. And it’s a separate skill from design. Courtney Milan wrote a post about this. Go read it. FYI, I Googled “Courtney Milan and the Duke’s Cock” to find and link to that post. It was more fun than it should have been. But I’m not even ashamed.

What I did, several several several months ago, was find someone good at typography and commission a custom name font. Anthony Piraino as it happens. It was a chunk of change but a more than acceptable business expense. I wanted a font that would work across genres, so it couldn’t look too historical or too paranormal. It’s not just a font with letters that spell my name. (grin) He made pixel level customizations to the shapes of some letters for me.

The first time I used it on a cover, I could see it looked — as it did. The effectiveness of the name font isn’t apparent until you see it on several covers. Then you can see the branding and how it pulls the books together.

Color and Contrast

What I know from my work on websites and from studying the hell out of my cover situation while I pondered solutions, was that in the digital space, thumbnails matter a lot. You need colors that contrast. There are a lot of things wrong with the current trend in historical covers, not the least of which is how bad they look at thumbnail size.

On a purely personal level, I don’t care for the pastel trend, in historicals particularly. I wanted vivid, vibrant jewel tones over a year ago and I wish I’d been in a position to get all my covers done then. I wasn’t able to make it happen, alas. I would have been WAY ahead of the curve. I’m sure that will change at some point and I’ll be looking for another composition and color effect.

A Key Difference

Here’s the thing. Across all the books I ever published traditionally, my covers were always branded to the publisher and/or imprint. Not to me. I got one cover and that was it. There were no do-overs, or huh. It’s not working, let’s try something else.

What I have done is replace covers that stopped working or were too divergent from the look I was trying to hit. What I’ve done or am in the middle of developing, is a look that says, this is a book by Carolyn Jewel. And that never happened when I was traditionally publishing. I got some fantastic covers. Several of them were distinctive enough to build off of … There was nothing cohesive across my name even at the same publisher.

I am shallow. Very shallow

I have spent a lot of time looking at images of men, women, and couples. Here’s a list of the things I began ruthlessly saying:

  • She’s not pretty enough.
  • He’s not handsome enough.
  • Great body. Meh face.
  • They look like they hate each other.
  • That guy is SUPER DUPER cute but he isn’t ripped enough.
  • Please, dude. You are not that good looking. Just stop it.
  • Lady, could you at least TRY to look happy?
  • Holy shit, he’s hot.
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About A Notorious Ruin

September 7th, 2014

Today, I uploaded the final, final files for A Notorious Ruin at all the sites where I could do a pre-order. The print file is off to the person who does my interior formatting. So, this book is done. You can start buying it Sept 23, 2014.

Now, of course, I keep hearing all these terrible stories about vendors delivering the wrong file … So. If you pre-ordered, and the change log at the very end does not say 2014.09.07: Version 1, then you didn’t get the correct file and you should let me know so I can either send you the correct file or see if the vendor can fix the issue.

I want to say thank you to everyone who has waited patiently, impatiently, and even not-waiting-anymore. All of you reminded me how much people wanted to read the sequels to Lord Ruin. This book is over a year late, and boy. I think it would have been late even if it had been traditionally published, because I spent most of 2013 so sleep deprived I could barely think straight. A worse outcome than late, though, would have been a book that was on time but not as good as it should have been — because when you’re sleep deprived, you think you’re coping OK when you’re not.

This book kicked my ass, but I think that was in part because I was sleep deprived from late 2012 through just about all of 2013. I’m the only source of income for my family. I could not afford to just quit the day job, even though I considered it and kept hoping I’d get fired. I knew if I took a job with a commute– and I was interviewing– I would have lost most of my writing time, and I would have had to give up one of my promises to myself about being home when my son was home.

I literally do not know how I would have made sure he got to and from school with his zero-hour classes if I took a different job and had to commute into the City. But things did get better enough at the job that at last I wasn’t getting up in the middle of the night most nights, ofte several times, dealing with emergencies.

I wasn’t back up to snuff sleep-wise until about March or April this year, and looking back, I can see that’s about when A Notorious Ruin finally had a spark or two. I had a couple of other writing commitments, too, so twice I had to put A Notorious Ruin mostly on hold for about 4 weeks while I wrote a novella. I wrote the other novella while ANR was in beta.

When I sent the book out to beta, I figured, well, it’s done if by done you mean, there are 80K words that seem to have a progression of sorts. When it came back, I was shocked to realize the book was in far better shape than I thought. (which isn’t saying much) I revised in my usual fugue state and filled in the couple of chapters that said “X will happen in this chapter. Probably” and also wrote the ending. Off to my editor it went.

I revised again when it came back from my editor, added about 15K in polishing up complexifying words, and by then, I said, quite literally, “Holy shit, this book is good.”

And it is. It’s really, really good.

I hope you love it as much as I do.

 

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About That Other Thing — Running for Stuff

September 4th, 2014

So, I’m looking at my Google and Talkwalker Alerts and there are more of them than usual. So I look in case it’s something more exciting than another pirate site, and Oh! Yes! There is! !! for good measure.

I am running for the RWA Board, for a director at large spot. I knew Tessa Dare and Courtney Milan were running. In fact, when I saw Courtney at RWA this past July we chatted about that, and I did think it would be pretty awesome to have the two of them on the Board since they have my utter respect in all things business of writing related. Anyway, I don’t know exactly what happened, but I walked away from that chat having decided to run for the Board, too.

It’s not a decision totally out of the blue. It’s been mentioned to me more than once over the years, mostly because I have no shortage of opinions, and an often appropriate response to someone’s strong opinions about stuff is to say, well, why don’t you do something about it?

Over the last two years, the issues facing RWA have been both important and contentious. I think contentious is good — it means people are paying attention. RWA is, in my opinion, currently an organization of writers who hold a unique position in the business of being authors. There is no other organization ahead of RWA and its members with he issues facing publishers and writers today. Not one. Other organizations are behind RWA members. What has happened to and because of authors in RWA is very likely on its way to other writers.

It’s also true that the current publishing environment is one driven by technology. We are potentially looking at a future where the big publishers are not companies like the Big 5 but technology companies. Amazon, Google, and Apple are tech companies, they are not book publishing companies …. except now they are.

I have spent something like 20 years working in tech. I currently work in software development, as a data architect. That’s a job that touches lots and lots of technical areas. I feel strongly that RWA needs at least some Board members who have a strong grasp of what this technology transformation of publishing could/does mean for writers. I’m not the only one with expertise, not by any means. But I am one of them.

This is a crucial time for RWA. So go look at the slate of really, truly, fine candidates and then vote for people you feel should on the board, representing you.

Consider this:


Everyone says publishing is dead. Nobody reads. Three of the biggest companies in the world — Apple, Amazon, and Google — are all recently and aggressively in the book publishing business.

Whatever your take away on that, go vote. It’s important.

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Oh, Hey About That Thing You Did 5 Times

September 4th, 2014

I’m going to whine.

I have put A Notorious Ruin through five rounds of proofreading. Five. Today I finished round five, and I updated my files etc etc etc., and then I uploaded the updated files to the places I have preorders just in case, you know, even though I have another week before bake-in, as it were, and I did Amazon last, and their spell checker, which has never ever before found an actual typo, found a typo that was an actual typo.

O_O

So I went back and fixed that, and then did one last check and I found another one (that Amazon missed. I don’t think “afer” is a word so what the hell, Amazon?) So I fixed that too.

Seriously.
::sigh::

The good news is that I have the final new cover for Stolen Love, and it’s pretty, pretty, pretty, and I’ve uploaded that most places. And, the Print on Demand cover for Scandal is gorgeous. I got that today. So, as soon as I have a final interior, there will at last, be a paper copy for Scandal.

Yay!!

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