Friday, December 5, 2008

When ePublishers Collide

Just heard over the wire that one of my publishers, Samhain Publishing, has acquired another eBook press, Linden Bay Romance. Samhain, of course, is the publisher of my outrageously sexy M/M sci-fi romp, Taste This. And yes, I still have that sequel planned. When time stops and people leave me alone I'll write the damn thing. But that's another blog for another day.

Since this news has literally hit the air, it's too soon for me to gauge the overall reaction in the ePub world. Already, though, I've found at least one concerned note from a Linden Bay author, and there are some valid points made there. If, as an author, you wish to be a part of a particular publisher, you submit to that publisher. Where eBooks are concerned, authors have choices. Some might choose to establish a partnership that allows them to be a big fish in a little pond - take a look at some smaller ePresses and you might find the same 4-5 authors dominate the bestseller lists. If you can set that following, you can really build a readership.

The other option, shoot for a big gun like Ellora's Cave, and if you're lucky you'll have the popularity of the brand behind you. As I see it, larger houses like this have their bestsellers and mid-listers - if you can't reach the upper echelon, then perhaps you can use the relationship as a springboard to better things.

Getting back to Samhain. They are a proven company. In a very short time they established a readership, strong sales, and an agreement to work with a NY house. It took Ellora's Cave a bit longer to achieve those same things, but as the folks from Samhain had experience with EC previously, they had an advantage over other houses. I don't much about Linden Bay, other than I know the owners and respect them, and I know a number of authors there who have been very happy so far. How they will take the news of their house moving to another house to be an imprint remains to be seen, but it will pose a number of questions:

Will having your LB book under the Samhain umbrella mean an automatic spike in sales? This is a tough one to answer. Working on the assumption that Samhain will leave Linden Bay untouched with regards to logos, Web site infrastructure, etc., these books won't necessarily be reprints. Phaze Books' parent company, Mundania Press, recently acquired Awe-Struck eBooks, and plans to keep operations there separate. If this is to be the case, there is no guarantee once this sale happens that book sales across the board will explode. In my experience with romance publishing, I have noticed a brand loyalty you don't see in other genres. Readers tend to gravitate toward specific houses for specific things. Harlequin readers know what to expect when they buy a Blaze, Spice, or other imprint. Ellora's Cave readers know to look for their alpha male novels there. Of course, these publishers will continue to massage those niches as long as sales are strong.

When I last saw Angela James at a conference in Virginia, she advised the group that menage stories were hot at Samhain. I don't know if Linden Bay has a particular genre niche - though I've noticed they have a fair amount of M/M books - but I imagine if Samhain lets Linden Bay run independently of the Samhain brand, it might just be business as usual for both houses. Readers will go to Samhain for the books they want, and readers will go to Linden Bay for the books they want there.

Is it good that Samhain is buying Linden Bay? Ultimately, I think so. This has been a rough year for all businesses, and publishing felt the heat as well. Shelf Awareness delivered grim news of the print realm with a number of layoffs, and rumors have abounded of houses closing submissions. Were I to learn one of my publishers experienced problems, I think I would prefer they be acquired by a reputable house than close altogether. With a purchase, an author is given more options - ride it out or pull away - than if a publisher folded altogether.

If I had offer any advice to authors affected by this coming transfer of power, it is this: know the advantages and disadvantages a move like this will have on your books, then take what you have learned and use it toward promoting your work. If you can reach a new audience, do it. If you feel you won't be affected, continue exploring how to get the best exposure for your books.

My best to all the Linden Bay authors, and the hope of a great sales future for your works.

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