changing times

Will "Fifty Shades of Grey" Change the Internet in Some Ways?


I’ve already explained how I discovered “Fifty Shades of Grey,” here in this post. I’ve discovered many books I love by doing this…reading a bad review on what’s considered a professional online review site and checking the book out for myself. With this particular web site where books are reviewed, nine times out of ten I wind up loving the book and wondering why the reviewer hated it. If it happened once I’d think it was me. But when it happens dozens and dozens of times I start to think that maybe the review site I’m checking out is catering to a smaller more elite crowd of readers. Or, maybe I DO have horseshit taste (smile).

I think it’s important to state first that I do respect ALL reviewers, and I believe everyone has the right to an opinion, especially when it comes to books. I’ve also found some of the most wonderful books I’ve ever read by going to review sites and reading the good reviews. The theme of this post is not to bash ANY reviewers or even question them. It’s to examine the disconnect I’ve been seeing lately between what’s discussed online and what’s discussed in the mainstream. For example, when “Bridges of Madison County,” was released it was a huge mainstream success, and yet there are still people bashing the book online to this day. The same thing happened with “Twilight.” We all know how some so-called online “experts” feel about Amanda Hocking. And now I’m seeing the same with with “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

I read FSoG and loved it (thanks to that scathing review on that one particular web site where books are reviewed). I also read BoMC and “Twilight” and loved them, too. I haven’t read Amanda Hocking yet, but the odds are I’ll like her work at the very least. I don’t think anyone would have guessed that FSoG would every become as big a book as it is right now. When I bought it I would never have guessed this. But now I read something about it everywhere I go. And here’s the interesting thing. If you go to any mall in any suburban town in the USA and you ask people at random if they’ve ever heard of the review site where I read the review that slammed FSoG before it went mainstream, I’d bet money no one in the mall would know who you were talking about. But go to the same mall and ask them if they’ve heard of FSoG. I’ll bet at least half would know the book you are talking about. This proves one thing: the Internet has come a long way, but still has a long way to go. Most people, in the real world, don’t know half of what’s going on in online publishing communities. And they don’t care either.

The most interesting thing is that FSoG started out as an online book and did the impossible by crossing into the mainstream. I’ve read allegations about it being fanfic and I don’t think that’s even significant at this point. FSoG has sparked interest and people are reading it and liking it. If you don’t believe me, check out Amazon reviews where 580 people have reviewed and rated the first book and it has a four star average. If a fanfic author managed to get a big book and cross into the mainstream, I couldn’t be more thrilled for her. That’s all I care about. And though I can’t say the book’s worst online critics have been proven wrong because reviewing books is subjective (no one can be wrong when they review a book and that’s important to state), I can say that the book’s most serious critics have proven that their personal taste in books can now be questioned in a very big way. At the very least their taste can be questioned with regard to what the mainstream public wants to read.

As more people in the mainstream discover more about the Interwebs, through iPads and tablets and devices that connect them to online information, I can’t help but wonder whether or not the credibility of web sites like the one where I read the scathing review of FSoG will diminish in time. In the past they’ve attracted an elite set of readers that tend to think the same way they do (or they are terrified to disagree with them). In their small online world they’ve been very popular. But will the mainstream find web sites like this too elite, and will the content they’ve been putting out in the last decade begin to look less trustworthy because their taste is so off with regard to the mainstream. I don’t mean to say they aren’t telling the truth. I believe they are passionate and they believe in what they are doing. I’m only wondering about whether or not their own personal truth is something the mainstream public will take seriously…or even care about. And will they remain relevant? Evidently, FSoG is a good example of how strongly the mainstream disagrees with what’s considered credible online.

Lori Perkins Talks About E-publishing

I’ve been following Lori’s blog for at least six years now…might be longer. We’ve worked together in a strictly author/editor/publisher relationship many times, and she’s been responsible for having the final say with a few of my titles at Ravenous Romance. She also helped brainstorm the concept of the Virgin Billionaire series when I wasn’t even sure I wanted to write the first book in the series. I’ve posted about how that book freaked me out many times.

And now, Lori just wrote a great post about e-publishing you should check out. This isn’t someone just blowing smoke up your butts either. There’s a lot of that going around these days. This post is based on personal experience and facts that I know Lori has learned first hand through a great deal of hard work, not to mention hard knocks.

You can get there from here.

Here’s an excerpt:

Ebooks now outsell mass market titles, practically putting paperbacks out of commission. Borders went out of business completely. But more and more people are reading, and that includes a whole new generation of readers who now consider reading entertainment again.

Do All Authors Need Literary Agents Nowadays?

I honestly don’t know the answer to this question. Other than for a brief period in my career, I’ve never had an agent. And the short time I had one it didn’t work out well (but that’s another post), especially when I was making the deals, contacting the publishers, signing the contracts, and sending her checks .

Part of the reason I’ve never had an agent is that I’m not fond of the query system and never have been. It’s a set up for failure and the basic concept frustrates me. A lot has to do with luck, too, and I believe we make our own luck.

Another reason why I never queried agents often is that most literary agents don’t rep LGBT fiction…at least not until recently. In the past, a few agents repped what they referred to (and are still referring to, sadly)as “gay/lesbian.” And the handful that did rep gay/lesbian, usually either despised erotica or laughed at it.

It’s not that I didn’t want an agent. I’ve made more than a few business mistakes and I’ve had to learn everything the hard way over the years. An agent would have been extremely handy. But it didn’t work out that way and I don’t have any regrets so far.

I’m reading Julia Child’s bio right now, and I learned she never had an agent either. She had excellent attorney’s represent her. But for the most part, up until she got older, she and her husband controlled the money, the book deals, and everything that had to do with her career as an author.

I have one last non-fiction editorial client left. I only keep him on because I love what he writes and I’m the only one who can read his manuscripts…he writes everything in long hand. His books are spiritual/self-help and his name is Curtis von Dornheim. He already has published books on amazon…he was publishing his own books long before it became popular. He’s recently begun a new venture of his own to self-publish Kindle e-books, and he’s not even thinking about querying agents.

I’ve also written several pg rated hetero romances for publishers under a pen name that have sold well. I didn’t need an agent to get those deals either. I shopped the books myself, and took advantage of every opportunity there was.

In the past, the publishing system worked this way: You wrote a book, you started querying agents, and you waited to hear back from the agents. Most publishers didn’t take unagented material…or queries. So the literary agents were, in fact, the gatekeepers, and they’ve been coveting this title for many, many years.

The only problem is that the books chosen by the gatekeepers were subjected to their own personal taste. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a million times, “We have to love a book in order to sell it,” is what most agents will say. And this subjectivity may have worked before people became enlightened and knew they had choices, thanks to technology. We don’t have to read what literary agents “love.” As readers we can spend hours on our own now shopping for e-books by many unagented authors who are working with e-publishers…or self-publishing their own books.

Like I said, having a good agent can’t hurt an author’s career. It can be one of the best relationships in an author or agent’s life. In a way, it’s almost like a marriage-friendship-partnership. But I’m not so sure authors need agents in the same way they needed them before. They need the expertise, the ability to negotiate, and the good common sense to remain objective when it comes to important business matters. And I’m not sure exactly how things will work in the future as far as author agent relationships go. They may remain the same, and agents might continue as the gatekeepers. But these new authors I’m seeing out there who are self-publishing and making their own deals are talented, full of energy, and extremely aggressive. And they aren’t sitting around writing queries and waiting for rejection.

Summer Fridays in Publishing Nowadays?

For those who don’t know, the publishing industry has always been considered the slowest industry in the world. Up until recently, a “traditional” print publisher would take anywhere from six months to over a year to publish a book. And I’m not just talking about big books.

In some cases it still works this way. When I submit a short story for an anthology to a “traditional” print publisher, the anthology usually isn’t published for at least a year. Why it always took so long…and still does…passes me by. I don’t get it and I never did. For almost twenty years, I always went with the flow, never asked too many questions, and did what I was told to do.

And summertime has always been notoriously slow in publishing. After Memorial Day, it feels as if everyone’s closed up shop and hit the road for Maine. My literary agent friend takes two weeks off in July and the entire month of August. He’s in his sixties and he’s worked for many years, so he deserves the time off now. However, he’s been doing this for the past thirty years. It’s not something new. And when you think about it, it makes sense. Why work when there’s no one else around?

This past week I’ve been seeing a lot of blog posts about summer Fridays. And I’m seeing these posts from those who still work in “traditional” publishing. For those who don’t know about summer Fridays, it means that many people in “traditional” publishing take Friday off all summer. My friend the lit agent takes Friday off all summer, too. And has been taking Friday off for the last thirty years. And the work week doesn’t begin until Monday afternoon.

Before I started submitting my fiction to e-publishers, I used to get extremely frustrated in the summer. Summer Friday’s drove me up the wall. I simply can’t understand why anyone would need so much time off. I will admit that I do take the work ethic to the opposite extreme sometimes. I’m lucky in the sense that I only need about four hours of sleep at night. But I also love what I do and taking too much time off is more stressful to me than not taking time off. It would be like letting readers down. And from what I hear, people who read e-books read them fast.

Once I discovered e-publishing, I forgot all about summer Fridays. And that’s because in e-publishing summer Fridays aren’t usually an option. Things move at a faster pace. If I submit a book to one of my publishers, the book goes through strenuous rounds of edits and it released in digital format within the same month. I work five days a week all the time. And many times I work six and seven days a week. It’s not uncommon for people in e-publishing to be up late at night e-mailing back and forth about edits and book covers. And it’s not uncommon for U.S. authors to rearrange their work schedules to accommodate an editor in London.

I know I’m not the only one who works this way. I know other authors who work just as hard, if not harder, than me. I recently read where Barry Eisler said one of the things in “traditional” publishing that made him unhappy was it takes so long to publish a book. And I agree with him. I know my e-publishers…all of them…work a normal work week all summer long. I’ve never heard anyone taking Friday off in the summer, at least not in e-publishing. Most of the time we’re lucky to get Saturday and Sunday off.

And I’ve never heard anyone in e-publishing complain about it either. We’re thrilled to be working and producing for our readers. We can’t wait for the next project and we’re always brainstorming about the future. I’m sure most younger authors out there who started out in e-publishing…and those who are self-publishing their own books…never even heard of summer Fridays. And, I’m also sure a lot of people in e-publishing are balancing two careers at the same time. If they aren’t working two jobs, they are home raising families, which is more than a full time job in itself.

So when I see something written about summer Fridays these days, I can’t help but wonder how long this is going to last in “traditional” publishing. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a nice concept if you can afford it. In fact, I applaud anyone who has reached a point in life where they can afford to only work three or four days a week and take months off at a time. My friend the literary agent has had many big books…not to mention some great timing and fantastic luck…over the years and he deserves his time off. But I doubt everyone in “traditional” publishing is in his position. Most of the people I know in all areas of publishing these days are working harder than ever before. And they are loving every single minute of it.

A Sign of the Times: Pay Attention Publishers and Gatekeepers

I read this on facebook earlier today and decided to post it. It’s a simple status update and I’m leaving the person who wrote it anonymous. But I think it’s important because it’s the kind of feedback I get all the time from my readers.

And I think publishers and those who seem to have all the answers about publishing, should take heed in these words. This is what it’s all about. I think Amazon gets it; I think a lot of e-publishers get it. But I’m not sure all publishers and agents get it. We’re living in hard times right now and people have re-discovered reading for pleasure. What more could a writer (or publisher) want than to read words like this:

I’m 49 yrs old and this is the first time in my life that I am experiencing “Spring Break”….. I feel like I should go somewhere, but since I’m broke, I guess I’ll just read a book and go somewhere in my head…. you authors out there….please keep writing.