Hollywood Is Working Hard to Make You Cry

22 August 2014

From The Wall Street Journal:

These are happy days for people who like to cry at movies.

Opening this weekend is “If I Stay,” about a cello-playing teenager who falls into a coma after a car accident. In the hospital, Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz) has flashbacks about winning the heart of Adam (Jamie Blackley), a super-cool boy given to impossibly romantic lines.

At one point, timid Mia goes to a party dressed like punk-rocker Deborah Harry in hopes that Adam, who plays in a band, will like her more. It’s hard not to choke up when he tells her that the clothes don’t matter: “Don’t you get it? The you you are now is the same you I was in love with yesterday, the same you I’ll be in love with tomorrow.”

. . . .

Over the summer, viewers teared up at “The Fault in Our Stars,” the story of terminally ill teenagers Hazel and Gus (Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort). “Fault,” which opened in June, has brought in $124 million in the U.S., making it the highest-earning teen-romance flick not powered by vampires.

“I have people coming up to me on the street and crying,” Mr. Elgort says. The 20-year-old actor is following up his role of star-crossed lover in “Fault” by playing an anxious teenager in “Men, Women & Children.”

. . . .

Audiences love tearjerkers, but why? How do they work? Horror movies have their clichéd “jump scares” that can get us every time—the demonic face in the bathroom mirror, the knife-wielding maniac suddenly in the doorway. Tearjerkers have triggers, too, but they are more complex, wrapped up in how characters make us feel, with their awkward attempts to connect with each other, their bravery and fears, regrets and unspoken burdens. Other hot-button themes are faith redeemed, struggles rewarded and love requited.

. . . .

Crafting a scene that touches emotions is “not about putting the sugar in the sauce. It’s about every ingredient and decision that you make,” says R.J. Cutler, who directed “If I Stay.” The movie, like “The Fault in Our Stars,” was adapted from a young-adult novel. Before shooting “If I Stay,” Mr. Cutler says, “I read the book again to identify the moments that moved me, and I made a list of those moments.”

. . . .

One such moment unfolds when Mia’s normally stoic and critical grandfather breaks down at the comatose girl’s bedside, saying how proud he is of her. It works, Mr. Cutler says, thanks to a mix of story context, dialogue and the casting of Stacy Keach in the role of Gramps. All those factors help the viewer relate and feel moved.

“The power of the emotion comes from the fact that Gramps is fighting the emotion as much as possible,” the director says. “We know Gramps, in the parenting of his own child, was unable to connect emotionally. Not a man of many words. You want to cast a man for whom that seems to be true.”

Then technique comes in. “Part of the strength of the scene is that there’s no music in it,” Mr. Cutler says. “What the moment needed was no embellishment. And there’s a camera movement that is done there and nowhere else in the film, which is this extremely slow push in that gets tighter than we are pretty much in any other moment—a sustained, single shot that pushes in on Gramps to a very tight close-up.”

That shot with no cuts builds the tension and the reality—the audience doesn’t get a break.

. . . .

Mr. Levy says it is crucial not to overdo the sentimentality. “I remember as a theater student at Yale, the teacher once said if you cry for yourself too much the audience won’t cry for you,” he says. “The character can’t be too self-pitying because then we don’t pity that character. That character is doing our job for us.”

. . . .

In emotion-research labs, one clip that has become standard is the death scene in the 1979 boxing film “The Champ,” a remake of the 1931 movie. A young Ricky Schroder weeps inconsolably over the body of his father Jon Voight, wailing “Wake up, Champ!” Viewers cry, too. The film has been cited in hundreds of scientific papers.

Scholars also have studied why some scenes strike a chord with women and others affect men more. In “Sleepless in Seattle,” Rita Wilson gets misty describing “An Affair to Remember,” while Tom Hanks counters that he cried at the end of “The Dirty Dozen.” Mary Beth Oliver, a Penn State professor who has studied tearjerkers, asked students to propose movie ideas designed to make men cry. “There were a lot of father-son kind of things,” she says. “There were a lot of athletes. There were a lot of war films.”

When asked which films choke them up, many men cite depictions of against-the-odds valor or understated affection, like “Rudy,” “Brian’s Song” and “Saving Private Ryan.” Women name relationship dramas like “Steel Magnolias” or “Beaches” or “When a Man Loves a Woman,” in which Andy Garcia tries to preserve his marriage to an alcoholic Meg Ryan.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

Changes at Ellora’s Cave

19 August 2014

From Dear Author:

To All Ellora’s Cave authors:

You are probably aware of the quick, sharp decline of ebook sales via Amazon in recent months. EC is not the only publisher experiencing this sudden decrease, and interestingly, we are not seeing the same drastic dip from other vendors. But Amazon is our largest vendor, so we are having to make some fairly large changes quickly to deal with the situation until we can understand it and turn it around.

We have already cut staff, special EC projects and other expenses, but the drastic drop in sales has resulted in large net short-term variable production losses and slow and often negative return on investment for EC on almost every new book we publish, with the exception of a handful of the highest sellers. For that reason, for the foreseeable future almost all manuscripts will be edited by in-house editors, and covers designed by in-house artists.

We know that many of you love your current editors and covers, and we are very sorry to lose this dedicated group of talented people (and hope to be able to offer them other opportunities in future). The good news is that our staff editors and designers are highly skilled and deeply experienced, and will bring new perspectives to your books. We are looking forward to this creating a more direct relationship with our authors so we can be more aware of and thus more quickly responsive to your needs, questions and concerns.

If you have a book currently in edits or awaiting edits with a freelance editor, Managing Editor Whitney Mihalik will contact you within the next few weeks about its status.

Ellora’s Cave has weathered storms before and we will this one as well. We are aggressively adjusting our business to the current publishing environment. We will fill you in with our endeavors as they are unveiled­hopefully with the first exciting news later this week.

In the meantime, since these declines are primarily related to Amazon, it is a good idea to encourage your readers to purchase ebooks from the Ellora’s Cave site because it benefits you and your readers. Prices of books on our site are often lower, your royalty rate is higher and you get paid faster for books purchased through our site. You and your books are also much easier to find on our site.

Even readers with Kindles and Nooks can purchase on our site and load onto their devices. The process is not difficult. Our site has instructions on how to do it: We are also working on some fun videos to show people how to do it and will put them on YouTube so you can link to them when they are done.

It is also important to support and promote Barnes & Noble and All Romance Ebooks as well until we are able to determine the reasons for Amazon’s declining sales. Hopefully we will be able to work with Amazon to correct the inconsistencies quickly. However, in the short run your net royalties per book are consistently higher in the following order: 1) Ellora’s Cave, 2) Barnes and Noble, AllRomance, and probably Kobo 3) Amazon, and 4) Google. It would certainly make fiscal sense for you to send your fans to those first venues.

This is by no means meant to be a statement about Amazon. We are not at this time coming to any conclusions regarding the many negative rumors and articles about Amazon­ the Gazelle Project, their disputes with Disney and Hachette, and the 900 authors’ open letter in the New York Times­ which we have been made aware of over and over again. For many years we have had a reasonable business relationship with Amazon, up until this drastic drop in sales, and we are certainly hoping that it will all be resolved as we present discrepancies that we are identifying. We have not completed our analysis at this point and therefore have not had any direct communication with Amazon regarding these issues. We are just saying in the meantime that it makes sense for you to promote your books to be purchased through the venues that are most profitable to you on a per-copy basis (and of course to Ellora’s Cave). This benefits all of us. That way you will make more per sale and, in the unthinkable event that the sales at Amazon continue to decline, your fans will be aware of other venues that are out there for them. Hopefully though, this is temporary and not a continuing trend and Amazon will go back to being as profitable for us as it has been in the past.

I know that there has been some discussion and concern about a new project announced by Jaid Black. We will make an announcement soon with details, but please be assured that no EC funds are being invested in this venture, that it is in no way a publishing company, and that my full attention and loyalty remain to Ellora’s Cave and its authors. We are looking at the new venture as a means to enhance the opportunities and options that are available to our authors­not to take away funds from Ellora’s Cave ­and are very excited about releasing the news to you soon. We are always looking at new projects and interests as they present themselves to us­some connected to the publishing industry and some not. Please be assured, however, that EC always has been and remains our main focus. With the help of our fantastic staff and authors, we are working very hard to adjust to the current publishing environment and remain the premier publisher of erotic romance.

Also, please note that almost all the royalty checks have been mailed, with the exception of a handful that should be out by end of week. We are not bankrupt (rumors) and are not in any kind of shape to even file bankruptcy. While we have had some issues getting the royalty checks out as quickly as we have in the past, we are still within our contracts. We certainly understand why you are concerned and appreciate those of you who have asked questions rather than spreading conspiracy theories and propagating rumors that are only detrimental to fellow authors. We hope all of this does not detract from what all of you do best­WRITING. Rumors are distracting and disconcerting and all of you deserve better.

Thanks for your support and understanding. We do appreciate all of you and respect your talents, your pride in your work and your concern for your careers. Please do not EVER sell yourselves short! What you do is valuable to everyone who comes in contact with you through your stories.

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

Let’s count the red flags:

the quick, sharp decline of ebook sales via Amazon in recent months

the drastic drop in sales has resulted in large net short-term variable production losses and slow and often negative return on investment for EC on almost every new book we publish

Amazon is our largest vendor, so we are having to make some fairly large changes quickly to deal with the situation until we can understand it and turn it around.

we have had a reasonable business relationship with Amazon, up until this drastic drop in sales, and we are certainly hoping that it will all be resolved as we present discrepancies that we are identifying

We are not bankrupt

[We] are not in any kind of shape to even file bankruptcy

we have had some issues getting the royalty checks out as quickly as we have in the past 

PG has no inside information about what’s going on at EC and he doesn’t deal in rumors.

That said, PG has not not heard of any other publisher or any significant number of indie authors who have experienced a sharp decline in ebook sales via Amazon in recent months.

As a general proposition, a small business person doesn’t want to be involved with a business that is experiencing financial problems.

News Corp. closes $416-million deal for romance publisher Harlequin

4 August 2014

From The Los Angeles Times:

Rupert Murdoch’s publishing company, News Corp., has completed its $416-million purchase of Harlequin Enterprises from Torstar Corp. of Canada.

Harlequin, the world-famous publisher of romance novels, will operate as a separate unit within HarperCollins Publishers and remain headquartered in Toronto.

News Corp. in May announced that it was acquiring Harlequin. It was attracted to Harlequin, in part, because it reaches an audience of voracious readers. Harlequin also has a growing business of digital book sales.

. . . .

The romance publisher has a large overseas presence: Its books are translated into as many as 33 languages and sold in more than 100 international markets. Harlequin has offices in more than a dozen countries.

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Times 

Writer Inspiration: Climbing Over The Brick Wall

2 August 2014

From author Laura Drake via Writers in the Storm:

If you’ve read this blog for long, you know a bit of my publishing story:

  • 15 years
  • 413 rejections
  • 3 books written before I got an agent and sold.

Last Saturday, I received Romance Writers of America® highest award – A RITA®for my first published book, The Sweet Spot. I don’t even have words to describe that experience, but for me it was the pinnacle.

. . . .

Suddenly, I saw my paths clearly. I could stay and die, or leave and live. I guess I needed to hit bottom, because it gave me something to push off of. I decided to live.

. . . .

Over the years, I’ve come to cherish the lessons I learned in that cabin. I’ve kept the vow to never again let things ‘just happen’ to me. The experience showed me that no matter how many mistakes I made, I knew how to pick myself up and start over. That time in the cabin taught me to meet life, head on.

Five, ten, even fifteen years isn’t so long to wait for something you want. If it’s something you really want – don’t let the walls get in your way.

Link to the rest at Writers in the Storm

Here’s a link to Laura Drake’s books

These romance writers ditched their publishers for ebooks — and made millions

2 August 2014

From Yahoo Finance:

In early 2010, things weren’t going very well for San Francisco-based romance novelist Bella Andre. Brick-and-mortar bookstores were shutting down in large numbers, and after seven years, eight books and two publishers, she learned she had been axed from her latest contract.

“I was hanging on by my fingernails,” says Andre, 41, who was trying to carve out a niche in contemporary romance. Peers advised her to try a different pen name, to change genres, to write anything but love stories. With a degree in economics from Stanford University and a background in music, she wasn’t short on career options.
Then a friend suggested she look into self-publishing. At the time,’s (AMZN) direct publishing platform, which allows just about anyone to publish and sell their books online, was beginning to gain traction among professional writers. After years of bending her stories to the will and opinions of publishers, editors and literary agents, Andre found the prospect of having complete autonomy over her material very appealing.

. . . .

Her first ebook, “Love Me”, went live in the spring of 2010 for $3.99. Within a month, she had earned $20,000 — four times as much as any book contract she had ever signed. Just a few months later, her second original ebook became the first self-published title to hit Amazon’s top-25 best sellers list. She was hooked.

Today, like many independent romance authors, Andre has become a one-woman publishing house. She’s churned out more than 30 titles and sold 3.5 million books around the world, the majority in ebook format. Revenue for Oak Press LLC, the indie publishing house she created in 2011, has been in the “eight figures,” she says.

. . . .

Nearly 40% of new romance books in the first quarter of 2014 were purchased as ebooks, compared to 32% bought in paperback form, according to a recent report by Nielsen. In contrast, ebooks accounted for less than one-quarter of total new book sales during the same time period.

Say what you will about romance novels (bodice-rippers, Fabio covers and all), it’s hard to deny that some of the most exciting entrepreneurs in the U.S. today aren’t hoodie-wearing app developers — they’re women writing books for women and making millions in the process.

. . . .

As a genre, romance lends itself exceptionally well to digital publishing for a few notable reasons. Romance readers — 84% of whom are female — are a voracious bunch. Two-thirds of romance readers plow through at least two books a month, according to the RWA — twice as many as the typical American adult, Pew researchers found.

“I think ebook sales have definitely aided the romance genre,” says Erin Fry, editor and publications manager at the RWA. “And romance writers have always been at the forefront of the digital revolution. Authors can make real careers out of being self-published or combining print and digital.”

. . . .

Like Andre, Freethy got her start in print before going independent in 2011. Since then, she’s sold nearly 5 million ebook versions of her self-published titles and more than tripled the revenue she made with traditional publishers. She pockets 70% of her Amazon ebook sales, versus the 25% cut she would get from a traditional publisher, which she would then have to split with her agent.

“It’s a lot more work than it was when I just wrote the books, but the reward is so much greater,” Freethy says. “I’m basically running my own multimillion-dollar business.”

. . . .

“I have an economics background and I’ve always been entrepreneurial,” Andre says. “This is the perfect sweet spot for me, someone who understands how to run a business, really enjoys building a brand and marketing but also has a deep creative strain.”

Link to the rest at Yahoo Finance and thanks to Mike for the tip.

Laurie Kellogg: Portrait of a Self-Published Romance Writer

29 July 2014

From Publishing Perspectives:

Laurie Kellogg has published nine books since February 2012. The tenth book is scheduled for publication “sometime this year, if I can find the time to write.” The book has a title, cover, and business card. Once Kellogg finishes the manuscript and an editor has reviewed it, she will start the production process to get the book formatted and onto the digital marketplaces; Amazon, B&N, iTunes, Kobo, and Smashwords. Kellogg doesn’t just write her books, she designs them, works on the cover art, produces the book files, and manages all of the marketing and publicity.

Kellogg, who I met at last weeks Romance Writers of America Conference, is a quintessential (and self-proclaimed) Romance Writers of America (RWA) success story. She started writing seriously in 1999, joining RWA the same year. She wrote several novels and submitted them to publishing houses, which was also the start of her collection of rejection notices. At the same time she began entering these manuscripts in the Golden Heart contest, RWA’s award for manuscripts by unpublished authors, eventually becoming a finalist seven times and winning twice.

. . . .

In 2011 she received an offer to publish a series she’d written from a New York publisher but turned them down, deciding to self-publish instead because “They had their chance for all those years!” The first two books she published, The Memory of You and A Little Bit of Déjà Vu, were her Golden Heart winners.

Kellogg said about the financial aspect of self-publishing “I’m making more money now than I ever made from any job I’ve had.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Here’s a link to Laurie Kellogg’s books

How Nora Roberts became America’s most popular novelist

24 July 2014

From The New Yorker:

Roberts, who, as J. D. Robb, also writes futuristic police procedurals, has written a hundred and eighty-two novels, in addition to short stories and novellas. In a typical year, she publishes five “new Noras”: two installments of a paperback original trilogy; two J. D. Robb books; and, each summer, what her editor, Leslie Gelbman, refers to as the “big Nora”—a hardcover stand-alone romance novel. To keep track of Roberts’s output, Amy Berkower, her agent, maintains a dry-erase board in her office, along with a running catalogue of factoids. Twenty-seven Nora Roberts books are sold every minute. There are enough Nora Roberts books in print to fill Giants Stadium four thousand times. Since 2004, the cover of each Roberts release has featured a monogram in the upper-right corner—“the official Nora Roberts seal guarantees that this is a new work by Nora Roberts.” Her books outnumber her intimates. Only one J. D. Robb novel features a dedication—to a friend whose brother is a priest, and who promised, in exchange for the mention, to get him to grant Roberts perpetual absolution.

According to Publishers Weekly, Roberts wrote three of the ten best-selling mass-market paperbacks of 2008: “The Hollow,” the second book of the “Sign of Seven” trilogy (three blood brothers find love and fight a demon); “High Noon,” a reprint of her hardcover romance from 2007 (a hostage negotiator in Savannah meets a cute sports-bar owner while talking down a suicidal bartender); and “The Pagan Stone,” the third book of her “Sign of Seven” trilogy. “The Hollow” sold 1,912,349 copies, exceeded only by “The Appeal,” by John Grisham. Penguin, Roberts’s publisher, shipped six hundred and thirty-seven thousand copies of last year’s hardback release alone, for a total of more than eight million books in 2008. In addition, Roberts sold five and a half million copies of backlist titles, and J. D. Robb sold four and a half million books.

. . . .

Smart-alecks make bad pupils but excellent students of human nature: Roberts is good at what she does not only because she is prolific but also because she can write zingy dialogue and portray scrappy but sincere characters. She is known for her particularly believable heroes—according to Wendell, “100% real dudes.” Her female characters frequently possess an entrepreneurial streak, and they are more independent than many of their peers, and certainly their predecessors, even if some among them still have a propensity for crumpling like tissues at the sight of bodily fluids. “ ‘Oh. Oh my,’ was all she managed before her eyes rolled back,” Roberts writes, of Faith Lavelle, who, in “Carolina Moon,” has agreed to help the bachelor veterinarian Wade Mooney perform an operation on an injured sheepdog. Roberts’s colloquial style can be inelegant, but it deflates the more vaporous of her scenes—Wade revives Faith, and, in a few sentences, they are back to talking about “dog poop.”

A self-taught writer, and an irreverent one, Roberts was not, at first, an easy sell. Amy Berkower said, “I remember Nancy”—Nancy Jackson, the editor who acquired Roberts’s first novel, in 1980—“standing on her head to get Nora’s books because they didn’t follow the formula as strictly as others.” In violation of Lubbock’s Law, a genre convention stating that, for reasons of reader identification, romances should be written from only the heroine’s point of view, Roberts sometimes adopted the hero’s perspective.

. . . .

Roberts’s predominance is a feat of marketing as much as of style. At one point, Roberts had delivered a trilogy to Penguin, the installments of which were scheduled to run a year apart. “I went nuts,” Berkower recalled. “They said they didn’t want to overexpose Nora. And I said, ‘Well, she’s not Mickey Mouse yet.’ ” The parties compromised on a book every six months, a publishing schedule that they have adhered to since. Berkower and Roberts conceived of J. D. Robb in 1995, as a way to capitalize upon Roberts’s rate of production. The effect of the ploy was not only to turn up the pace of the treadmill for the publishing industry but also to conjoin the genres of romance and crime, along with their readerships. John Lennard, a professor of literature at the University of the West Indies, wrote, in an essay on Roberts, “Roberts has in some ways done for Romance what the hypercelebrity of Harry Potter has done for Children’s Literature, making it acceptable fare for reading adults in general.” To project mainstream appeal, Roberts’s books typically feature her name, in big letters, and some sort of inanimate, totemic object (cattails, a lighthouse, a shrimp trawler)

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

What Jane Austen Looked Like According to Forensic Science

15 July 2014

From Electric Lit:

In the nearly 200 years since the beloved author’s death, readers have been unsure what Jane Austen actually looked like. The only portrait available was a watercolor by her sister Cassandra that Austen’s niece claimed was “hideously unlike” the author.

Although one would hope the appearance of an author is irrelevant to enjoying their work, Jane Austen fans who’ve been curious about her appearance now have a life-size wax sculpture courtesy of the Jane Austen Centre. The sculpture is based on work done by FBI-trained forensic artist’ Melissa Dring. Dring used first hand accounts of Austen’s appearance of which there are several. The Guardian points out this passage from the memoir of her nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh:

“Her figure was rather tall and slender, her step light and firm, and her whole appearance expressive of health and animation. In complexion she was a clear brunette with a rich colour; she had full round cheeks, with mouth and nose small and well-formed, bright hazel eyes, and brown hair forming natural curls close round her face.”


Link to the rest at Electric Lit

Carina Press Spotlight: Why we’re not at war with self-publishing

15 July 2014

From The Carina Press blog:

In the spirit of last year, where we introduced “Carina Uncensored” in our 2013 RWA spotlight, we’re doing something a little different in our 2014 spotlight at RWA. We know that authors have a lot of choices–both in workshops at RWA and also in publishing–so we want to give attendees the best possible chance to get to know Carina Press, understand our philosophy, and ask questions not just of us, but our authors. Below is the information for our spotlight. If you have any questions you’d like to ask ahead of time, please ask them in the comments so we can get the information included in the presentation.

Link to the rest at Carina Press and thanks to Sharyn for the tip.

To be clear, this posting isn’t the expression of PG’s opinion either in favor of or against Carina Press. He did think the headline was an interesting theme for a publisher to strike during RWA, however.

Enhanced editions!

8 July 2014

From author Courtney Milan:

Hi everyone! The enhanced editions of my first five books–Unveiled, Unclaimed, This Wicked Gift, Proof by Seduction, and Trial by Desire, are now available–and they’re only 99 cents each through July 25th.

. . . .

Q. Why are you releasing enhanced editions?

A. Because I can. I know that sounds a little bit ridiculous, but let me put it to you this way–if you had a contract with a publisher for print-only releases, and the contract specifically stated that you reserved digital rights, would you put that book up as a digital edition? Of course you would.

That’s what my contract looks like with regards to enhanced editions. They specifically reserve the right to make enhanced ebooks to me. I had that right, and so I am now exercising it.

Releasing enhanced editions gives me control over pricing, covers, branding, promotion, and back matter. It also makes me more money.

. . . .

Q. Specifically what in your contract allows you to do this? Can I do this, too?

A. There are two parts to my contracts that allow me to do this. The first is the following statement in the Grant of Rights section of my contract:

(d) electronic use of the non-dramatic unenhanced verbatim text of the Work, excluding video use (whether in a now known form or hereafter discovered) … Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Agreement, electronic rights shall be limited to the display of the text in the Work and shall not include any moving images, sound or any interactive or multimedia elements.

Incidentally, give my agent, Kristin Nelson, a hand for drafting an extremely clear statement. If she’d just left it as “unenhanced verbatim text” or even limited it to “multimedia elements” we might have had to argue about what “multimedia” and “enhanced” meant. As it is, the line about “sound” gave me a really, really clear out: As long as I included audio, I was outside the rights I had granted to my publisher.

The second is something that is not in my contracts, and that is a noncompete provision of any kind.

I don’t know if you can do this. You’ll have to look at your contract. I’ve mentioned here the two things you’ll need to look at–the grant of rights section and…uh, the rest of the contract. In the grant of rights section, you need to look and see if you are only granting rights to the “unenhanced” text, or if you reserve “multimedia” rights or something along those lines. There are probably a thousand different ways to word the reservation, and so there’s no magic language I can tell you to look for.

There are also a lot of authors out there who don’t have an enhanced reservation at all. I’m pretty sure that Harlequin series boilerplate, for instance, will not allow this.

Whether you can do this will depend entirely on what you and/or your agent negotiated.

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

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