Monday, December 6, 2010

Guest: Robin Spano on eBooks

I am pleased to have Robin Spano as a guest blogger. Robin recently published Dead Politician Society, her first book in the Clare Vengel series. Book two will be in stores before you know it! Here's what Robin has to say about ebooks and pricing:

I love my publisher – a Canadian house called ECW Press. They're smart, supportive, and seriously cutting edge. We see eye-to-eye on most things.

But we've been having this little discussion lately:

ECW's List Price for the Dead Politician Society ebook: $10.99

Me: Hey, can we lower the price, to maybe $4.99?

ECW: No. People don't buy books because they're cheap – they buy them because they want that book.

Me: Sure, but you can buy the paperback from Amazon for $10.79. No one's going to say, Oh, I'll buy the ebook for 20 cents more. Are they?

ECW: We think they'll buy the format that works best for their lifestyle – as long as it's affordably priced, which it is in both cases. We worry that slashing the price devalues literature. If the ebook is under $5, it means the work of that writer is worth under $5.

Me: Really? So it's a moral argument?

ECW: Kind of. We love books, and we love writers. We don't want to devalue either. Until the market shows us what the accepted valuation of an ebook is, we'll keep them priced on a par with paperbacks.

Me: So you're interested in what the market says?

ECW: Of course. But what we've found so far is that if someone wants a book – if they think it looks cool or interesting – they're willing to pay $10 or more, just like they would for a movie or a couple of cocktails. If they don't want a book, they won't buy it for $1.99, or any price.

Me: But an ebook isn't a movie or a cocktail – those have exciting, fast payoffs, which people are happy to pay for. I think the price should be relative to a print book – its closest competition. Since ebooks can't be loaned or shared as easily as print books can, and they can't be autographed, I put their valuation at about half what a paperback is worth. And come on – ebooks are way cheaper to produce, right?

ECW: Okay, Hot Shot. We'll try this experiment: For one week – Tues. Dec. 7–Mon. Dec.13 – we'll make Dead Politician Society available from iBooks, Kindle, and Kobo for $1.99. We'll see if sales jump – but we're pretty sure they won't.

Me: I'm pretty sure they will. Hey, how about a challenge – if x number of ebooks sell that week – say 100 or more – you'll concede the point and lower the price permanently. To, say, $4.99.

ECW: Ha ha. We don't make our business plans based on online gambling games with writers. And there's still that moral dilemma – the valuation of the writer's work. But our minds are open. We'll talk when the experiment's done.

Me: Awesome – let's see what the book-buying community has to say.

What this week's results will tell us:

If Dead Politician Society sales jump dramatically: it will show that price does matter. It may or may not convince ECW to lower the e-book price permanently, but their minds are open – they're interested in what the public has to say.

If sales don't increase, I'll concede their point: Price is not a primary factor in e-book sales.

How to make your voice heard:

If you agree with ECW that price is not an issue, do nothing. (Or better yet - buy the book at full price when the promotion is over.)

If price is important – and you think ebooks should cost dramatically less than print books – there are 2 ways you can help get that message to my publisher (and ultimately the publishing industry):

1. Buy the Dead Politician Society ebook from Kobo, Kindle, or iBooks (or anywhere else that it's $1.99 this week)
2. Share a link to this challenge on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, or anywhere you think mystery-lovers will see it.

I'll keep results updated at Facebook and Goodreads – come by and say hello!

About the Book

Dead Politician Society is lighthearted crime fiction - think Charlie's Angels meets Janet Evanovich. A young female cop poses as a university student to penetrate a secret student society that's been claiming credit for the deaths of local politicians. Most readers so far find this a good, fun read.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Self Pub?

Hey Everyone,

Just curious if any of you know of any authors who shifted from "traditional" publishing to self publishing?

It seems like there are several advantages to self publishing, yet, there is a bit of a stigma to it. As well, with self publishing, it can be difficult to have the book reviewed or carried in libraries.

However, if you self publish, you retain control.

Can you mention any authors who moved away from a publisher to go out on their own?


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Christmas Mysteries and Gifts

Hey Folks,

With the holidays fast approaching, we're all busy shopping these days. What are your thoughts on mystery fiction as a gift? Are there some favourite authors that you regularly buy as gifts for people on your list?

I often give Inspector Morse novels to people that I know like to read, but aren't necessarily mystery fans. The writing is high quality and the plots are tightly woven together. I've turned on more than one person to Colin Dexter's writing... and they've gone back for more.

Another favourite to give - actually three favourite mystery fiction gift ideas - is Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown (Brown is my fave of the three). I love getting a kid turned onto reading!

Another can't miss gift is anything by Agatha Christie. I have a freind in Toronto who is originally from Chile. She is now fluent in English, but obviously SPanish is her native tongue. I found a Spanish bookstore and got her three Agatha Christie novels for Christmas on year. She was absolutley thrilled! Again, this person was not really a mystery reader, but she loved the stories, and I'll buy her a couple more this year.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

E-Readers & Digital Books

The topic of Kindle and Kobo and all sorts of digital book platforms has been all over the news the last while. I understand that there is something of a revolution in the book world and that there are many fears (valid and reactionary and everything in between) about the future of the publishing industry.

What I am wondering about is adoption: How quickly are people picking up Kindle and other similar electronic book gadgets? Of all my friends, family and colleagues, I only know two people who have - and use - an electronic reader. As well, as I travel around the city, taking buses and subways, I often see people reading actual books (you know, the paper things). I am not yet seeing great usuage of e-readers.

I will probably get an e-reader myself, some day,, but for now, I like the look of books n a shelf and the feel of a newly released hardcover in my hands, and I suspect many other also feel that way.

Monday, April 5, 2010

$$$$$$ Budget & Self Publishing

So, if you were going to self publish, what is the maximum you would be willing to spend? Consider the fees with the printer plus promotional materials and events. How many books would you print for the first time around?

When you consider the costs involved is it worth it? I imagine may writers would say so, and I do see the beneifts of self publishing. I just wonder what the limit would be... Surly there must be a maximum or a break even point, or is self publishing a case of "in for a penny, in for a pound"?

Does the new world of digital books change the game for self publishing - in your opinion?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Conventions and Conferences

I would love to hear from mystery writers or fans who have attended conventions/conferences.

I have never been to a mystery convention, but have signed up to attend this year's "Bloody Words" event in Toronto (end of May). I am also thinking about maybe going to Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, and Killer Nashville. I likely would not be able to afford to go to all three, but I intend to check out at least one or two others.

What are your thoughts on conventions? Have you made good industry connections? Have you had a chance to meet with fans? Were you able to sell (many) books?

I'm sure the events themselves are fun, and no doubt there is much to be learned about crime fiction. But what I'd like to know is from a businees (rather than social) point of view, do you feel they are worth the price of admission (and flight and hotel and...)

Please leave comments about your experiences - I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Books to TV or Movies

A while ago, I came across an episode of a Nero Wolfe mystery on TV. It was good and I loved seeing the characters 'come to life'. Casting decisions were great - each character was as I had pictured them. The Inspector Morse series was a success. It had a loyal following in both books and in TV. Robert B. Parker's Spenser series had a good televised run with Robert Urich and Avery Brooks.

It doesn't always work this way, though (whether on TV in in movies). Some film or TV versions really disappoint readers, fail to win new fans, and flop miserably or are cancelled early on. "Burglar" (Whoopi Goldberg, based on the Bernie Rhodenbarr series by Lawrence Block) comes to mind, as does "VI Warshawski" (starring Kathleen Turner, based on the books by Sara Paretsky).

And of course, there are the mystery series we're dying to see on screen. The Janet Evanovich website has a readers' poll asking for casting choices of all the main characters. There is no word yet about production or a film release date.

As a reader, what did you think of screen versions of your favourite sleuths? In your opinion, what are the hits and what are the misses? Or what sleuth series would you love to see on TV or the silver screen? And who would you cast?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Wine and Books?

I just heard of a neat book promo/event idea!

A group of five authors teamed up with a wine bar and held a vino & livros evening. The wine steward had read each of the books beforehand and chose a wine to match each book.

The pairings were based on the tone of the book, the plot, the characters and anything else that might indicate that "this particular book is a Chablis" and "that particular novel is a Merlot", and so on.

It's a great idea for cross-marketing. A wine bar and steward would probably get a kick out of doing something like this on a quiet evening (maybe a Monday or Tuesday). And for attendees it could be a fun evening out.

What do you think? If you were going to pair your novel with a wine, what would you choose?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tips and Tools for Writers

A quick look at some useful sites & tools for writers: overall grammar a handy guide to punctuation The word of the day archive is great for building vocabulary Help figure out dates/days of the week for years past/present/future Some background about first names and their meanings

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Words to live by? Quotations on Crime.

Crime does not pay ... as well as politics.
Alfred E. Newman

Life is nothing but a competition to be the criminal rather than the victim.
Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970)

Behind every great fortune there is a crime.
Honore de Balzac (1799 - 1850)

Indeed, history is nothing more than a tableau of crimes and misfortunes.
Voltaire (1694 - 1778)

Organized crime in America takes in over forty billion dollars a year and spends very little on office supplies.
Woody Allen (1935 - )

Crime butchers innocence to secure a throne, and innocence struggles with all its might against the attempts of crime.
Maximilien Robespierre (1758 - 1794)

The judge is condemned when the criminal is absolved.
Publilius Syrus (~100 BC)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Truth versus Fiction

I've been looking for inspiration for my next work and have therefore been paying more attention to the news. I've heard many authors say they get inspiration from what they see on TV or what they read in the newspapers.

Do you think there are any limits to real life as inspiration for fiction works?

I have two crime novels in mind as I write this post. The fist was a blatant rip-off of a particularly ghastly crime, and I hated the book. I could hardly finish it, and my feeling toward the work was partly based on the lack of originality, and partly a reaction to the ickiness of the crime (which disgusted me when I had read news versions of the story in the press a year or two earlier).

The other book did it right. It had elements of a well known crime, but was adapted and revised in so many ways that it worked and worked well. The story was original, the real life events were far from obvious.

I think if one were to write in such a way as to pretty much mirror the real crime, then it may be best to call it creative nonfiction and then to proceed in the manner of Truman Capote in "In Cold Blood".

What are your thoughts on truth versus fiction?

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Question for Writers

There are all kinds of writers's groups and organizations out there, some new, some well-established; some have just a few members, while others have upwards of one thousand.

What do you look for when you join a writers' group? I'm sure I can guess at many reasons, such as networking, making new friends, getting feedback, and so on.

What is MOST important to you as a writer? What do you hope to gain and/or how do you expect/hope to benefit from membership?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Criticising the Critiques

This may be at the top of the Ten Crankiest Things I've Ever Written (or said...)

Without mentioning names or book titles, there are a few authors I have been keeping my eye on. I catch the reviews when they come out, I notice if they have done events, or interviews, etc. etc. etc.

It pains me to say that I have seen a number of reviews that were positive, praises the book(s) and complimented the author, but but but ... Some of the reviews are so poorly written, they almost aren't worth bragging about!!!

Now, I don't mean a typo or a sloppy bit of punctuation (I'm probably guilty of both of those crimes in this very posting). I mean poorly chosen words, repetition, awkwards (or incorrect) sentence structure, spelling mistakes that are not simple typos. And one more time: awkward, clumsy sentence structure, vague word choices, and so on.

Furthermore, I have noticed in many cases the reviewer gets the author's name wrong and/or misspells the name of the main character(s).

I'd like to think that reviewers took pride in their work and that they took the time to revise and proofread and revise again. Sadly, this does not seem to be the case, at least not all the time.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Deadlines & Reminders

Hey GTA Writers:

Reminder that the deadline for the current Work In Progress grant from the Ontario Arts council is February 16th. Applications must arrive at 151 Bloor Street West (5th Floor) by 5:00 p.m. (8:00 pm if you drop it off in person).

Also, from February 15th until May 1st, you should sign up for Public Lending Rights. It's well worth your while to participate in this - the average earnings per author for last year were $600.

Also, for books set in Toronto, the deadline for consideration for the Toronto Book Awards is March 31st.

Cheers and good luck!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Workshops and Seminars

Just a general query to mystery writers, whether published or aspiring...

What kinds of professional development/seminars/speakers would you be interested in? I'm NOT talking about writing itself (and workshops on things like character development, dialogue, etc.)

What I am thinking about is speakers who can talk about tools of the trade, such as a cop who has worked the beat, a lawyer well-versed in court procedures, a firefighter talking about arson, a parole officer, a gun expert, a computer whiz, a mortician, or....?

What sorts of things would be of interest to you? I remember a panel discussion I once attended where there was a Historian talking about autopsies circa 1900; and a different event with a guest speaker who told us all about poisonous plants (right in our own backyards!!); and there was also an interesting speaker once who was a retired cop - who had spent many years working undercover in organized crime.

So, if you could write up a mystery writer's wish-list, what kinds of learning opportunities would be on it?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Enoch in April

So, it looks good for April! The dates and details are still being confirmed, but the Msytery Event will take place.

The event will spread over two evenings (probably Wednesdays), and will feature three authors on each evening. The authors will each read from their Toronto based whodunits.

Should be fun and I look forward to planning the event!

ALSO: This next event is for charity - the Literacy Council of Durham Region. A 24 hour Read-A-Thon. See details here:

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Possible Event - for Mystery Writers and Fans

Hey Folks,

A colleague suggested a good idea to me the other day. She's on the board of the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse and her idea is to run a series of Mystery Readings by local authors (preferable ones whose books are set in the GTA).

The idea would be a weekly series, perhaps for 6 weeks.

It would be on a weeknight (maybe Tuesday) and would run from roughly 7:00 to 9:00.

What do you think? Would you or your author friends (traditionally published authors) be interested in attending and/or speaking and reading?

Yes, of course books could be sold at the events.

Let me know what you think. Thanks, Jill