Tuesday, June 28, 2011

E-books on the march in a new blog, at a new press

One sign that e-books have arrived, or at least that they have their seat backs and tray tables in their full upright and locked positions, is a newish (since March) blog devoted to them.

The blog, Allan Guthrie's Criminal-E, offers short interviews with crime writers whose work is available as e-books. In addition to his own work as an author, Guthrie is an agent and an editor. He knows the business side of books, and the discussions on the blog reflect that knowledge. So, in addition to "Sum up your book in 25 words," "How important is a good title?" and James Henderson on his own strengths and weaknesses, you'll get Roger Smith on e-book pricing,  Christa Faust on "reviews" in the Amazon age, Guthrie himself on pricing and self-publishing, and many, many more.

Looks like a good chance for readers to get authors' perspectives on some important questions — and to learn about some good books.
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Also in the e-world, there's a new outlet for dark fiction. It's called Snubnose Press ("Compact. Powerful. Classic."), it's brought to you by the folks from Spinetingler Magazine, and it's devoted to publishing stories of 20,000 to 60,000 words that "that could, within the broadest definitions of genre possible, be categorized as crime and horror."
***
FLASH: From Bitter Lemon Press, June 30, 2011:
E-books now have their own page on our site. The eBook catalogue has 20 titles and is growing quickly. The books are available on most platforms, Apple, Sony, Nook, etc. and, via our site or directly, on Kindle. Click here for our list.
© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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34 Comments:

Blogger Dana King said...

I was pointed to this blog early on. Lots of good stuff there, highly recommended.

June 28, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Guthrie knows his stuff, which may make the blog especially interesting for those of us not in the publishing trade.

June 28, 2011  
Blogger Michael Malone said...

Agreed. The man's a walking encyclopaedia of crime writing.

June 29, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

He knows -- and thinks with intelligence -- about the business, he knows his crime fiction, and he's pretty good at writing the stuff, too. Some of the genre's finest minds are in Scotland.

June 29, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Glad to hear about it. I'm deeply involved in this experiment myself.

June 29, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Hmm. Seems to be mostly British. Very little on the e-publishing. The interviews are pretty much the sort of questions and answers that any author gives on his work in general. Covers do not have that much impact for an electronic book because they only appear as a tiny thumbprint of a thing on the listing page. So, I see nothing new on electronic books. Go to Joe Konrath's blog instead.

June 29, 2011  
Blogger Allan Guthrie said...

Thanks for the incredibly kind words, folks. I'm enormously excited by the opportunities ebooks present to writers and readers and to those publishers (like Snubnose Press) prepared to embrace digital. Interesting times.

June 29, 2011  
Blogger Allan Guthrie said...

Mostly British, Ingrid? Excuse me while I pick myself off the floor.

June 29, 2011  
Blogger Allan Guthrie said...

Ok, so I'm back on my feet and able to count the interviews I've done so far. Criminal-E has featured 49 US interviews, 16 English, 11 Scottish, and the rest are Australian, Irish, Canadian and South African.

June 29, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., from my outsider's perspective, there appear to be a number of experiments in e-book publishing involving e-book-only editions, electronic editions being released well before print versions (as with Roger Smith's Dust< Devils, and, possibly most beneficial to writers and readers, the release in electronic form of novellas and short stories. These last might not otherwise see the light of day.

I also think that Guthrie's blog and Joe Konrath's cater to different audiences. Konrath's is nuts-and-bolts how-to for authors figuring out how to make their way in the world of e-books. Guthrie's is for a general readership, and what interested me, as a general reader, is that e-books find a comfortable place amid the traditional questions (or, as Konrath might put it, the "legacy questions.")

June 29, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J. I forgot to ask this: What's your involvement with e-books?

June 29, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., I forgot to include self-publishing on that list of experients -- self-publishing by people like Konrath and Guthrie, the sort of thing that will give self-publishing a good name.

June 29, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Allan, if U.S. authors can be counted as British, why not Australian, Canadian and Scottish? South African and Irish might be a little more problematic.

Your survey of nationalities emphasizes an interesting point. The French, for example, have been slow to embrace electronic publishing.

June 29, 2011  
Blogger Allan Guthrie said...

Peter, I think Konrath's has an amazing ability to get things right. I don't, necessarily, and I wouldn't want to steer people in the wrong direction. So one of the big differences between his blog and mine is that I'd much rather let the blog readers make up their own minds. Personally, I'm just curious about how other writers are dealing with the changing publishing landscape and how they're adapting to digital. That isn't going to interest everyone, of course, and that's fine.

Well, Scottish writers are of course British. Technically. Unlike the Americans who dominate the blog (unsurprisngly, given my fondness for American crime fiction).

The French don't have Kindle. Neither do the Italians. Germany does but only very recently. Watch Germany this Christmas. I imagine Amazon will hit it hard just as they did the UK this year. When Amazon introduce the Kindle to France and Italy, ebooks will most likely take off there too. But, yes, at the moment, there's virtually no market. Amazon are players. They'll create a market.

June 29, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Again from an outsider's perspective, this is a good time to let a hundred flowers bloom in publishing. With your approach to blogging and Konrath's, there are room for at least ninety-eight more.

A friend who was trying to sell me on a Kindle touted its instant-word-look-up feature. Such a feature in French would be a decided help to my shaky ability to read fiction in that language. I soon found my way to articles in which various sectors of the French book trades worried about the potential impact of e-books on their industry.

Hmm, so, Germany will be the first country outside the English-speaking world to jump in the e-book bandwagon? I'll have to start following the German crime-fiction blogs a little more carefully. And I suppose that the next generation of Kindles will have to include a diaresis on their keyboards.

June 29, 2011  
Blogger Allan Guthrie said...

I wouldn't say that, exactly. Japan's up there with the US. And there's a massive market in China for what are called web novels. Not ebooks exactly, but digital fiction posted on websites as serial novels. There are several very rich web novel authors.

June 29, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

How digitally savvy is India? That country has a massive tradition of cheap, popular writing that seems much like the old American pulps.

June 29, 2011  
Anonymous Rakesh Khanna said...

Very few people here in India have e-readers yet, and there's some skepticism about how fast it will grow. But illegal downloading/reading EPUBs on computers is getting fairly rampant among English speakers. (See Kuzhali Manickavel's awesome defense of the practice here: http://thirdworldghettovampire.blogspot.com/2011/01/well-again-you-have-had-wonderful.html)

As for regional languages, digital readership in Malayalam and Tamil is pretty big (blogs at least). Hindi and other languages seem to be lagging but I'm not an expert. Would be interested to know more about what's going on in Bengali, the stereotype is that it's a very bookish culture, but that they also tend to be slow technology adopters.

June 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Here's that link in handy, one-click form. Thanks.

I wonder if one can draw analogies between Bengali reading habits and Irish. Ireland has a wonderful literary tradition but only relatively recently has embraced such a "low" form as crime fiction.

June 30, 2011  
Anonymous Rakesh Khanna said...

Hmm... I haven't read many Irish writers, but Bengalis seem to be refreshingly unsnobby about genre fiction. Have you read Satyajit Ray's Feluda stories?

June 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That's good news about Bengali readers. I have not read Ray's stories. It's only in the last couple of years that I've learned he was a writer of detective stories as well as a filmmaker.

June 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Declan Burke, an author and chronicler of Irish crime fiction who generally likes his crime writing on the harder-boiled side, nonetheless credits chick-lit for opening the Irish reading public to genre fiction.

June 30, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

OK. Apologies to Alan first.I've been rushed lately and just took a brief look via Peter's link. So, good for you for roaming far and wide with interviews, but I did miss the nuts and bolts of e-publishing in that particular write-up.

Peter, I'm a midlist author with all the disillusionment with traditional publishing that that implies. I've spent the past ten years getting angrier and angrier at my publishers. So naturally, I embraced Konrath's prophecies eagerly, much to the dismay of my agents. :) It's been an uphill battle for nearly a year, but I'm finally getting started with self-publishing titles where I have electronic rights and also publishing previously unpublished novels both for Kindle and as print editions. I love the fact that I have control now.
It's still an experiment, and I haven't given up on traditional publishing altogether (maybe my experiences were not typical), but so far I have at least an alternative option, and that is a very good thing.

June 30, 2011  
Blogger Allan Guthrie said...

No worries, Ingrid. You got a very nice shout out from Steven Torres in one of my blog interviews, btw.

"IJ Parker writes the Akitada series. This is set in 10th century Japan. Aside from being well written with a great cast of sympathetic characters and wonderful plots, there is also a completely foreign historical background that is really fascinating to me. RASHOMON GATE is a smash."

If you're not too busy for an interview yourself, and you're feeling a little better disposed towards the blog than you were initially, then I'd be very interested in your own ebook experience if you'd care to answer some questions. Your take on ebook covers, for instance, is somewhat against the trend. It's one of the four key selling tools according to Konrath and most people I know (me included) agree with him. If you don't think covers make any difference, why have one at all? They're not mandatory. I think that's the strategy the agent for Catherine Cookson should have adopted (check out Catherine Cookson in the Kindle store and tell me those covers wouldn't make you think twice about buying one of those books). My contact details are on the blog, so drop me a line if you'd like to talk further. Look forward to hearing from you.

June 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., like Allan, I'd be interested in how you make your way in the world of e-books. Your titles always seemed to get nice displays in bookstores, so I suppose your disillusionment originates elsewhere.

With respect to covers, I have found in my brief experience with e-books that I crave them, even in the small, black-and-white form that most e-readers allow. Without them, I'd be reading an undifferentiated lump of text. E-books will often open up on the first content page; I always scroll back to the cover.

I think Japanese art has emphasized line, anyhow, so you should have a wide choice of covers that work well.

June 30, 2011  
Anonymous Kyle MacRae said...

Gotta agree that eBooks opening on the first page of text rather than the cover is disconcerting. I too flip back. The reading experience starts with the cover, for me. And the purchasing experience too, for that matter. I think covers are tremendously important at the point of buying, impulse-purchase or otherwise.

There is a way to make the cover the default first page in an eBook, so the Kindle opens on it, but it involves embedding the image in the text document rather than bolting it on afterwards. I haven't seen this practice adopted very widely. Possibly not at all, come to think about it.

(Fyi, I've just started (three days ago) a blog about authors using self-promotion and social media to build personal brands. Got a great series of author interviews lined up, kick-started by Allan Guthrie himself. It's at http://www.audaciousauthor.com , if of interest)

June 30, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

My God, Allan turns out to be a real sweetheart. I feel even more apologetic now. Will drop him a line.
Peter, you surprise me. My books are in the bookstores?
Oh, I crave covers, too, but they always get mine wrong and when I try to help, publishers can turn quite nasty (one example of being angry with them). I've turned to learning how to design my own. My electronic books Rashomon Gate, Hell Screen, Masuda Affair, and Fires of the Gods are my own designs, though clearly they don't show up that well on the tiny listing. I'm thinking about changes already. And, oh yes. I go to Japanese art, but I make sure the images are not completely anachronistic for eleventh century. Cover designers for big houses don't bother with such details.

June 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the comment, Kyle, and here's the link to your blog in handy, one-click form: http://www.audaciousauthor.com.

I wonder what the thinking is behind including a cover in an e-book but not as the opening page. My guess is that this is because e-books are formatted by engineers rather than readers. For fiction, at least, I'll always want the cover first.

Not that e-books should be set up the same regular books are. I suspect that most readers will not need or want to scroll through pages screens full of click-on chapter headings before getting to the beginning of a novel -- but they might well want to do so with a textbook or other nonfiction. Perhaps e-book publishers could adopt the French practice of putting the table of contents at the back of the book rather than in front.

June 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., your books are noticeable on bookstore shelves, at least in the Penguin editions, with the bright green spines and the splashes of solid, bold color on the Japanese-style covers.

The question of anachronism might be a bit more complicated for books set in your period. The most famous work of Japanese literature from the Heian is The Tale of Genji, but I think the most famous illustrations of the tale in Japanese art come from many centuries later. That means readers' visual associations with the 11th century might in fact be art from the 16th. So, would a cover in the style of a 16th-century illustration be anachronistic for your books set in the 11th? Maybe not.

June 30, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Not quite, Peter. The Japanese artists were very much aware of clothing and hair styles, as well as of customs. Those late illustrations for GENJI (beautiful, aren't they?) are very close to accurate. Much of this sort of thing has been copied over and over again, century after century. I have no problem using the Genji illustrations for my books, or, for that matter, woodblock prints by Yoshitoshi that depict characters from that time period.
What my cover artists (both on U.S. and foreign editions) have given me are woodblock prints called Ukiyoe, that is depictions of 18th century actors and prostitutes.

June 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

OK, I get it. You may have noticed from the occasional comment here that I'm a Hiroshige fan. I suppose publishers figure that since ukiyo-e is Japanese art for many people, that's what they put on the the covers. Your covers do look like the actor prints, come to think of it.

It's one of the cliches of Chinese art that artists have paid more attention to tradition than innovation, unlike artists in the west. So we uninitiated Westerners are not being racist if we think all Chinese painting looks the same. Interesting to learn that Japanese artists may have had a similar attitude.

June 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Here are some Genji illustrations, and here’s an actor print from around 1800 — very different in mood.

June 30, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Just some thoughts on the importance of covers...

I'm a librarian and have always enjoyed reading in the professional literature about reading habits and readers. Why people read what they do, why they pick one book over another to check out, etc.

Library readers' decisions can be markedly different from those of book buyers for the obvious reason--you can return a library book that you didn't like, and didn't purchase. This is usually problematic at bookstores.

The purchase of low-cost e-book downloads is seen as a transitional behavior between library book checkout and book buying. And, of course, many of us do all three and will continue to do so. But for infrequent or reluctant readers the e-book is just the ticket.

Library reader studies over time repeatedly show that male readers are more likely than female readers to check out or spurn a book based on its cover. (Don't blame me, I'm only the messenger.)

For myself, the cover is not a deal maker. I know that even best-selling authors often don't have a lot of say on what the covers of their books look like and like IJ am sometimes amused or appalled when historical fiction (which I read a lot of) covers contain anachronisms and worse errors. (Horse harness, bridles, etc. are very often wrong for the novel's period setting, for ex.)

When it comes to crime fiction, I don't suppose I'd read very many books of this genre if I refused to read books with covers that include shadowy male figures running towards or away from the viewer. This visual cliché is beyond boring.

I also buy some books for their beautiful covers alone, even if the books' contents are of limited interest to me--paper jackets; embossed, tooled, and gilded cloth covers. But that's my buying behavior as a collector, not a reader.

June 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

ABE will often feature books of a particular type of binding, say, in its periodical e-mail notices. A recent notice highlighted white-vellum covers.

June 30, 2011  

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