Monday, July 02, 2012

What readers may not know about book publishing

I get emails from time to time asking me why I haven't released my books in audio yet. I also get strident emails that complain about things like the font in my books being too small - or that the e-versions of books aren't lendable. In almost every situation, the email-writers angrily inform me that they will *never* buy one of my books again. Reading these hurts.

I answer every email, no matter how furious the writer appears to be. Why? Because I get it. When I'm used to a certain font size, or price point, or availability, and that changes (and not for the better), I get cranky.

I totally get it.

The thing is - and this is what I tell every single person who tells me why they're disappointed in me - is that these decisions aren't mine. The minute I sign a contract to write x amount of books for either the White House Chef or Grace (Manor House) series, I give up certain control. For instance, I have no sayso on my covers. Believe me when I tell you I LOVE them. Every single one. I've been very lucky to see excellent covers for everyone of my Penguin/Berkley books. That's cause for celebration right there.

Look at this one, for instance  ---->
It's got lots of the story, right there. And it's beautiful!

But back to my point: I have no sayso on price, whether it be for a physical book or an ebook. I have no sayso on font size or format either. Right now my books come out as mass market paperbacks and ebooks. They're also (usually) released in large print, mostly to libraries. I've signed the rights to allow Berkley to do this. If some audio company were to approach us because they want to produce any of my books on CD or whatever, I'll start doing a happy dance around the room. But it's not up to me. Boy, do I wish it was!

That brings me to a new problem that one of my good friends is facing. Lorna Barrett (whose real name is Lorraine Bartlett and who writes tons of great books under the Bartlett name, btw), has the sixth book in her wildly popular Booktown Mystery series coming out tomorrow, Tuesday July 3rd. The title is MURDER ON THE HALF SHELF. The cover is below, but I'd like you to take a look at its Amazon link - HERE. What do you notice?

If you said that it's in hardcover, you're right. This is the first book in the series to go into hardcover. Lorraine is nervous about it. Can you blame her? That's a big jump in price and we all know how tough it is to stay within a book budget.

The Booktown Mysteries and Lorraine's other wonderful series, the Victoria Square mysteries (A CRAFTY KILLING is the first there) have tons of readers who wait impatiently for the next installment of the story.

But some people (quite a few in recent weeks, and even more chiming in today) have been writing to Lorraine, complaining bitterly that *she* has betrayed her readers by moving to hardcover. They accuse her of being greedy. Of "hooking" them with her wonderful stories and then raising prices by changing the format to hardcover.

As an author, I can tell you that the one thing that stays uppermost in my mind is keeping my readers happy. While that doesn't mean I always take readers' advice about my characters' romantic choices, I do care deeply that the reading experience isn't ever ruined for them. Lorraine, and all my cozy author friends, feel the same way. What do we want most of all? We want to be read and enjoyed. It's that simple.

Lorraine didn't betray her readers. Far from it. The publisher made the decision to move into hardcover. We can debate whether that was a good decision or not, but the point is moot. Lorraine's books are fabulous and deserve a wider audience. The publisher believes this is the way to achieve that end. We authors don't decide these things and when readers write to accuse, it hurts.

Authors at my level don't make a lot of money. This isn't a complaint. Far from it. My point is that we don't do this because we think we're going to suddenly get rich. LOL That would be nice, but I don't see it happening anytime soon. I'm doing what I love - what I've always wanted to do -  and I wouldn't give up a minute. Not even after the worst writing day. Nope. This is my passion, my love, my enjoyment. I'm lucky - so lucky - to be able to write and have people read my stories. It's bliss.

My point (in this very long post) today is to inform. You may have already known all this about the publishing world, but there are many, many people who don't. Please share this with them. I think it will help us all. I hope it will lead to less negativity. I tend to be Pollyanna-ish, but hey... that's how I'm wired.

And FYI, when a reader brings a problem to my attention (thank you, readers, for alerting me to Nook problems one of my titles), I tell my editor right away.

It's when the problems are deeper - when they involve format, or distribution, or pricing - I have no say whatsoever. You, as a reader, have a much stronger voice.

Please, if you want a book in audio, write to the publisher. Or write to a company that produces audio versions and tell them what stories you want to hear. If your bookstore doesn't carry the titles you want, ask for them. Same at libraries.

If the font is too small or the price is too high, please don't leave a negative review on Amazon or threaten to stop reading an author. He or she will be hurt - both personally and professionally - which is unfair considering those decisions are completely out of his or her control. If you feel strongly enough, write to the publisher. A thousand (polite) voices saying the same thing can make a difference.

Thank you. For reading this lengthy post and, even more, for reading my books. All authors ever want is for you to enjoy the stories we tell. Our characters are real to us, they've become some of our best friends, and there's nothing more satisfying than sharing their lives with you.

I'll go back to writing Grace #4, now...
Thanks for listening.


If you found any of the above interesting and you'd like to read more about what goes on behind the scenes, please read Lucy Burdette's recent Jungle Reds post about "The Care and Feeding of Authors"
as well as Lorraine's article about how readers can help, here.