Female Authors Dominating Smashwords Ebook Bestseller Lists

14 April 2014

From the Smashwords blog:

Each month, Publishers Weekly publishes the Smashwords Self-Published Ebook Bestseller List.  We report our bestsellers based on dollar sales aggregated across the Smashwords distribution network which includes retailers such as iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, the Smashwords store and others.

The other day I was browsing our February 2014 Smashwords bestseller list at Publishers Weekly and realized that all the top 25 bestsellers were written by women.  Cool beans.

Wondering if this was a fluke, I looked at our December 2013 Smashwords bestseller list at PWand bingo, same thing.  All 25 books were written by women.

Then I looked at the bestseller list for November 2013.   Same thing again.  100% women.

Our ebook bestsellers for October 2013?  You guessed it, 100% women.

. . . .

Why are women dominating the Smashwords bestseller lists, other than the fact that these women are all super-awesome writers?  One likely factor is that romance is the #1 bestselling genre at Smashwords, and romance is overwhelmingly written by women.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  I’m constantly blown away the smarts, savvy and sophistication of romance authors.  These ladies have pioneered many of the ebook publishing and distribution best practices that so many indies take for granted today.

Link to the rest at Smashwords

Maggie Shayne joins the ranks of top authors going indie

8 April 2014

From USA Today:

There’s lots of change afoot with USA TODAY and New York Times best-selling author Maggie Shayne. In February, she got married. And now she’s announcing that she’s going the indie route. She still has two Brown & De Luca novels coming out this fall through the traditionally published route. But her other novels, going forward, will be put out by her new company, Thunderfoot Publishing.

. . . .

“Over the past two years, I’ve re-published 15 of my early novels and six novellas whose rights reverted back to me. At the same time, I’ve been continuing to write and publish front list (new) titles for the largest publisher in the world. What I have learned is that I love having complete creative control over every part of my stories, from concept to completion, from title to cover art, from pricing to marketing. Even more, I enjoy having the power to change the packaging, pricing, and promo plans if they aren’t working as well as I’d like. And I relish having a team entirely devoted to making my books successful. In my 22 years as an author, I’ve never had this much fun with my career.

. . . .

Maggie adds, “This is the most exciting and exhilarating shift my career has taken since I sold my very first novel in August 1992. I cannot wait to see how far we can soar.”

Link to the rest at USA Today and thanks to Niki for the tip.

A little something for Jackie Barbosa

24 March 2014

From Courtney Milan:

Author Jackie Barbosa recently lost her teenage son in a terrible car accident. No parent should ever have to live through this, and you can imagine how devastating this has been for her. Online, there’s no way to make someone a casserole or take her flowers, but there is something we can do to help ease her burdens and to send her the message that she is supported in this time: that is, for a short space of time, to take over the burden of talking about her books.

Between March 21st through Monday, March 31st, we’re asking people to talk about Jackie’s books. You can find a list of her books here: Your support can be as simple as a post to your Facebook page or twitter stream, or as long as a lengthy discussion of a particular book on a site. You can blog about a specific book, or just choose one to mention. Let us know about the post by e-mailing me at We’ll update this post with links on a nightly basis.

Link to the rest at Courtney Milan and thanks to Anthea for the tip.

In addition to talking about Jackie’s books, PG says you might want to help out her sales rank by buying or downloading (some are free) one or more of her books. You can find all of them at Jackie’s Amazon Author Page.

Lessons Publishers Can Learn From Harlequin’s Annual Results

15 March 2014

From Digital Book World:

Harlequin announced their annual results last week and it was another disappointing year for the world’s leading romance book publisher.

Harlequin is an interesting case study review about how the disruption of digital has affected traditional publishing. Harlequin has sold direct to consumer (D2C) for decades and has one of the few publishing brands that carry weight with the consumer. They are one of the strongest brands in the industry.

Harlequin’s annual revenues have dropped by almost $100-million over the past five years.

Digital has fundamentally changed all of book publishing, but the romance category has been affected more than any other.

. . . .

Self-publishing increases competition – Romance is one of the biggest published categories in self-publishing. The onslaught of titles has crowded the marketplace and made it harder for traditionally published titles to be discovered. Plus, some of Harlequin’s authors have chosen to self-publish. “The proliferation of less expensive, and free, self-published works could negatively impact Harlequin’s revenues in the future.”

. . . .
Direct to Consumer has changed – Harlequin has a much more developed D2C business than most publishers. The shift of this business from mail-order and print catalogues to the internet has opened up competition. “The decrease in North American revenues was the result of declines in the retail print and direct-to-consumer channels.”

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

PG will add that Harlequin has some of the most unfair contracts in the book business and does not pay its authors well.

Romance authors include a lot of business-savvy people and many have done quite well in both the art and the business of self-publishing.

HQ is learning that what goes around comes around. They mistook pragmatic allegiance for love and a lot of smart authors headed for the exits as soon as there was a reasonable alternative to publishing with HQ.

There is nothing like a dreary royalty report to motivate an author to search for a better way and HQ certainly delivers a lot of dreary royalty reports.

When Strong is a Stereotype

10 March 2014

From All About Romance:

I recently came across this wonderful piece by Sophia McDougall called “I hate Strong Female Characters.” McDougall is not referring to female characters with physical and emotional strength (for instance, she likes Buffy and Jane Eyre). Rather, she means the archetypal Strong Female Character, who establishes her “tough” cred through arbitrary rudeness, punching, slapping, kung fu, gunshots, etc. (McDougall calls it “behaviour that, in a male character, would rightly be seen as abusive (or outright murderous)”).

. . . .

Authors may also show Strength by having their characters endure physical, mental, emotional, or sexual torture. This is starting to happen to females as well as males (see the AAR blog post on rape survivor heroines in New Adult, but it is the rare woman who suffers like the men of paranormals.

. . . .

But maybe Strength isn’t the analogous trait in men. The Strength of Strong Female Characters is lip service to breaking stereotypes (she may know kung fu, but she still needs to be rescued). Maybe the stereotypical male character is already strong. In that case, what would be his token trait? Weakness!

I do think I’ve seen this Vulnerable Male Character. He’s Strong for four hundred pages, then justifies his jerkitude by explaining that his parents had an unhappy marriage, or his ex-wife never loved him, or his girlfriend left him, or all three.

Link to the rest at All About Romance

Harlequin CEO Talks About Harlequin Results, Book Pricing and Self-Publishing

7 March 2014

From Digital Book World:

For the fourth straight year, romance book publisher Harlequin has posted revenue declines despite gains made by other large publishers. Romance readers have been early and enthusiastic adopters of ebooks, yet the company’s digital advances haven’t outpaced its print retreat.

So I took some time to talk with Harlequin CEO Craig Swinwood about the company’s results, how it has adapted to the rise of ebooks and self-publishing, and what the future holds for the publisher.

. . . .

Jeremy Greenfield: Has the rise of ebooks hurt your business?

Craig Swinwood: The market is dynamic, so things are connected. For us there’s a couple of issues around digital that were certainly advantageous for us early on but have become a variance in the past couple of years.

Romance readers were really the early risers on the digital adoption curve. They were the first to get excited about digital reading. So we had a pretty big uptick pretty quickly, particularly in back-list. We have thousands and thousands of titles that weren’t available to most readers because there was no space in physical retail for them. Digital allowed us to offer those titles.

. . . .

JG: One of the issues Harlequin is having that the company mentioned in its 2013 earnings report is pricing.

CS: E-tailers can discount whatever they want to discount, and they can discount all of our books and none of our books. It’s up to them. We’ve done everything we could to keep a level playing field for all of our stakeholders. When we look at the pricing of mass market paperbacks in the digital space compared to the discounting of new release hardcovers, obviously as a choice the mass market paperbacks didn’t seem to stand up very well when you can buy a new hardcover at the same price or lower. Because we are primarily mass market we didn’t fare as well as the competition during the holiday season and we lost share in the fourth quarter.

From a pricing standpoint, we were seeing digital pricing for new release hardcover and trade paperbooks at or below digital list price for mass market publications. Pricing is having an effect as far as choice goes. In the physical world, mass market paperback as a segment is half the size it was in 2008. Harlequin was overindexed in that segment.

. . . .

JG: One of the things that has impacted the publishing business as a whole but particularly the romance segment is the rise of self-publishing. How has Harlequin fared now that there is increased competition for content?

CS: The best way to respond to any amount of competition is to provide more value and better quality and I think we do that every day.

One of the things that self-publishing has had is a nimbleness to get to the market very quickly versus a traditional publishing cycle that we’re in. Because of that we started Carina Press five years ago which is our digital-first imprint and we’ve done incredibly well with that. It allows us to expand into different genres and test some things out. Self-publishing is an incubator for creativity. Some of those authors who favor self-publishing probably favor a certain amount of freedom of experimentation that they may not have had with a traditional publisher.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

PG says three cheers for freedom of experimentation and barf to overindexed buzzwords in any segment.

Revenue Declines Continue at Harlequin

6 March 2014

From Digital Book World:

Sales and income at Harlequin were down again in the fourth quarter and for all of fiscal 2013. The company has seen revenues decline steadily for the past five years as both ebook sales and the rise of indie authors have affected Harlequin’s business.

. . . .

In its report, Harlequin blamed ebook prices in North America, specifically, “increased discounts being offered on digital sales of other publishers’ bestselling titles.” Outside of North America, “growth in digital revenue was insufficient to offset print declines.”

. . . .

Romance and erotica are particularly strong segments for indie authors, meaning increased competition for readers as well as for authors. Harlequin has taken steps to engage indie authors and find new ways to attract author talent.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World and thanks to David for the tip.

Harlequin and #1 NYT Bestseller Author Stephanie Laurens strike unusual hybrid

25 February 2014

From Dear Author:

Back in January it was a fairly open secret that Stephanie Laurens was poised to leave Avon and pursue self publishing with the hope of signing a print only distribution deal. When I dug deeper for confirmation, I was told to wait and see.

. . . .

Many publishing houses are leery of print only deals. Most indie acquisitions have translated into poor print sales and the few print only deals that have been struck have been, for the most part, disappointing. There’s a definite divide between what sells in print and what sells in digital (although the Venn Diagram definitely has its overlapping areas where authors sell buckets in both such as Nora Roberts). But for many indie authors with no history of print sales, publishers are reluctant to buy print only rights.

Last week it was shared with me that Ms. Laurens had struck an innovative deal with Harlequin, a deal brokered between Nancy Yost, Laurens’ agent, and Tara Parsons, Editorial Director of Harlequin Mira.

The deal is as close to a controlled experiment that either the publishing house and the author could ever hope to achieve in this crazy market.  The deal is for seven books in total. One hardcover and six mass markets.  For three of the titles, Ms. Laurens will release the digital format under her own banner with Harlequin releasing the print format simultaneously. For the other four titles, Harlequin will be charged with releasing both the digital and print simultaneously.

Link to the rest at Dear Author and thanks to Amy for the tip.

2013: A Learning Year: Managing Expectations

14 February 2014

From author Jessica Spotswood:

I saw Rachel Hawkins tweet earlier today about how 2012 was a Learning Year for her, but 2013 has been awesome, and I decided to adopt the term. It sounds better than saying that even though some good stuff happened and some really hard stuff happened to me and The Playwright in 2013, in my heart of hearts, this year feels like it sucked and I can’t wait for it to be over.

But then I thought – if I’m calling it a Learning Year, what exactly did I learn? What am I taking away from this?

For the last three years I have been able to write for a living, to support my family with my words. That’s not what I set out to do. When BORN WICKED went out on submission, after my first manuscript had to be shelved, I just wanted someone to buy it. I wanted to see it on bookstore shelves, all book-shaped. I hoped that, maybe, after a few books, I’d be able to work part-time at my admin assistant job at the university where I’d been working for almost 10 years.

Then it sold in less than a week, in a pre-empt, in a major deal. I got to quit my day job entirely. There were a bunch of foreign sales and Penguin rushed bound galleys for reps at BEA and sent out a fancy ARC mailing. It got published 11 months after it sold. There was a pre-publication bookseller dinner tour and a 12-day Breathless Reads tour. It was in Walmart and grocery stores and airports. I’ve blogged a little about the weight of all that expectation. I haven’t written about what happens when the expectations come crashing down.

What happens when you get all those things for a first book….and then the book doesn’t perform to expectations, and that stuff stops? I suspect this happens more often than I think, because publishing is often a total gamble, and people understandably don’t talk about their failures as much as their successes. Possibly I shouldn’t, either. But I’m tired of feeling sad and embarrassed about it, so here we go…

What happens when you get a big book deal, and then your sales are good – really good for a debut, totally solid, with a starred review and good reviews overall – but they are not good enough? They are not bestseller numbers?

. . . .

You begin the hard work of adjusting your expectations, which got wildly inflated by all that lovely optimistic talk at the beginning. But once you get certain things – even if they aren’t even things you wanted at first! – you want to keep having them. It hurts your feelings when they stop happening, even though you tell yourself that this is a business and feelings should not matter. There isn’t really anyone to be angry with – you do not feel entitled to these things, exactly – but it is hard not to conflate your books’ sales with your own self worth. It’s easy to go from your sales are not good enough (What would be good enough? You do not actually know) to your writing is not good enough to you are not good enough.

. . . .

When you don’t get reviewed, or get the marketing that you took for granted on the first book, or sent anywhere, or end up on end-of-year lists – you feel like a disappointment. A failure. Your family and non-writing friends only know about publishing from your experience, and they ask you all the time when you’re going on tour for your next book and where you are doing events and how are your sales and why the new book isn’t in Walmart. You try to explain that most authors don’t do that and most books don’t get that and you were really lucky that first time.

. . . .

The craft – the writing itself – is the only part that is still all mine. The finished product belongs to my readers. The business worries belong to my publisher. But when you’re happy with the writing, no one can take that away from you.

Link to the rest at Jessica Spotswood and thanks to Bill for the tip.

Romance was reviewed in the NYT

9 February 2014

From All About Romance:

In December I interviewed historical romance author Sarah MacLean. I had contacted her because of a letter she had sent to the New York Times taking them to task for excluding romance authors and their works from a “Sex” issue published in the Sunday Book Review.

Here is a quote from Sarah’s letter to the New York Times:

“I was dismayed to see that of the 15 authors asked to discuss writing about sex in the “Naughty Bits” roundup, none write romance novels —the genre best known for its naughty bits.

“Romance holds a huge share of the consumer market, with more than $1.4 billion in sales in 2012*, so the omission is surprising. The lack of romance authors is especially glaring when one considers that each week, the mass-market, e-book and combined best-seller lists compiled by The New York Times include dozens of books from this far-reaching genre: historical, contemporary, paranormal, erotic and new adult.”

. . . .

This week the Times did something even more shocking. In theSunday Book Review, which is available online beginning the Friday of that week, they reviewed romance. It makes me so happy; I’m going to say it again. The Sunday New York Times Book Review, read by millions, published a review of romance novels.

The review is a feature called The Shortlist. The Shortlist was introduced in the fall of 2013. The Times wrote, “Our second new feature is The Shortlist — close-ups of new books of interest grouped each week according to subject, theme or genre. One week might look at new science fiction or horror, the next, the latest essay anthologies of note.”

Link to the rest at All About Romance

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