Friday, June 27, 2008

Caveats and Confetti


So we're coming home from lunch and hubby turns to me and asks, "What are you buying from Passport Tofu for $15 each month?"

My husband is like that. One minute everything will be fine and the next he's instilled panic in my heart. He's type of person who, as you are lying together in bed on the cusp of sleep, will nudge you awake and ask what you did with that fifty dollars profit from the garage sale that he gave you for safekeeping.

I had no idea what Passport Tofu was, or that I was shelling out monthly payments for it. He informs me for the past several months this charge has showed on our checking statement. Past. Several. Months. And he's now asking about it ("Well, you travel a lot, thought it was for Phaze, yada yada.").

Turns out, at a time I can't recall now, I must have placed an order with VistaPrint for postcards with the bank card (which I normally don't do - I never use that card online, but remember we're going back eight months here) and somehow opted-in (or was tricked into opting in) to a Passport For Fun membership. This allegedly is an Entertainment Book type deal where you're supposed to get discounts on fun parks and restaurants and whatnot, only I never received a Passport to Fun. Not even a Passport to Mediocrity. So, a phone call later, I canceled a membership I didn't realize I'd joined. All this after having just placed a VistaPrint order the same morning.

I do take some responsibility for this goof, but I shake my head a bit that hubby let it go for so long without saying anything. You realize how much tofu that is a month? We have no tofu in the house, he didn't find that odd? I mention this here because I know authors use VP a lot for their promo materials. Just let this be a note to you all, be vigilant when you order so you don't accidentally opt-in to something that starts draining your accounts.

Sowing Seeds or Throwing Confetti?

I try to steer clear of the eBook gossip, because I definitely do not need to be a participant. I'm reminded of Judy Blume's book Blubber, where Jill easily goes along with the mob mentality and their gleeful hatchet jobs on poor Linda...until the tables turn. Yes, it's all fun until somebody loses an eye, and I need both of mine. They are handy to have, anyway, when you are keeping an eye out for yourself and your house.

Well, it's difficult to distance yourself completely. I learned from a message board about shenanigans involving an ePub of questionable standing, and curiosity got the better of me. On a popular romance blog, I spotted a remarked by a bestselling print author, questioning why it seems predominantly electronically published authors appear to be with so many ePubs at once. It's a good question. In the music industry for example, musicians tend to stay with one label...maybe you might see reissues of old stuff through a place like Rhino Records, otherwise groups are associated with one place until they leave. Why not, the comment posed, keep the bulk of your work in one place and establish yourself as prime author there rather than spread yourself like peanut butter on bread?

Perhaps with an established print romance author, you might find they keep books with one or two houses. Maybe they offer category stories at Harlequin and longer works somewhere else, like Avon or Kensington. Spot check some eBook authors, and you could find they have pretty much covered the spread. Is it a wise move? Hard to say, but if I had to provide an answer I would offer the following theory:

Safety in numbers.

Take a look at this list:

Mardi Gras Publishing
Venus Press
Dark Eden Press
Silk's Vault Publishing
Chippewa Publishing
Aphrodite's Apples
Aphrodite Unlaced
Tiger Publications
Coyote Moon Publications
Heatwave Romance
Stardust Press

All of the above small or eBook presses closed in the last 2-3 years. If you had the bulk of your material with one or more of the above, chances are you were left scrambling to find new homes for your books. Then you hear about the 3-4 other ePubs that have gained bad reputations. You check out other prospects, you ask for referrals from other authors and they may tell you to try:

Harlequin Spice
Red eSage
Ellora's Cave
Samhain Publishing
Liquid Silver Books
Phaze (Laugh all you want, we're still here. You may want to make a screenshot of that last sentence.)
Red Rose Publishing
Wild Rose Press

So you investigate, query, and maybe you learn going into a new press isn't so easy when you have nothing new. I can't speak for all of the above, but there are ePubs who have closed submissions to reprints UNLESS they are from an in-house author. So you write something new and get into a new house, then cross your fingers that they'll let you bring in some older furniture.

As you wait for the moving van, you think to yourself, Wait a minute, what if THIS place shuts down? Then what? So you write another new work, place it with another house - now you have anchors on which to rely in case of a storm, and one rope gives way. That some authors may be weighed down with three or four ropes is their choice - they find security in having a number of choices to place work, if the houses will have it.

Look at me. I am placed with several places, each for a different reason:

Mundania Press - I went there because I satisfied their word length for my mystery, and I didn't wish to place it with another press I was with at the time.

Samhain Publishing - I went there when they were newer, and before I became a publisher, hoping to establish a long-term relationship there, and because they also considered non-erotic work. Hasn't quite worked yet, but I do intend to send them more work for consideration.

Phaze - I was there from the beginning, and chose them over Heatwave (lucky me) because of their association with Mundania, where I had an established relationship.

Liquid Silver Books - They came on the recommendation of a fellow author. Had I not become a publisher, I would have worked to continue that relationship. I still do my best to promote the work I have with them.

Now some authors may argue that spreading work among many houses helps to attract a larger readership. If I place work with House A, then House B, maybe I can get the A readers to buy my B books, and vice versa. This may work with some authors. I can't say for certain it's worked for me. I do a bang-up job with two of my presses, and not so well with the others. Of course, my erotic romance is well-divided into the Dareville work and the M/M, both of which are my bread and butter. My standalones don't do as well, but I do enjoy writing them.

My situation is different from other authors, of course. But I think one reason some authors place work with several houses is because the Big Bad Wolf can't blow them all down at the same time. I wish it didn't have to be this way, hopefully there will come a time where the small ePress finds the stability it needs to gain respect in the industry.

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