In which the chickens are curious

Alright, y’all, I’ve had some emails lately on a few subjects so I thought I’d address them in one place. First, we’ve been talking about the Lady Julia digital novellas since May 2012–the blog entries about the digital projects are still in the archive and answers are on my FAQ page but some folks have missed those, so I’m going to address it again. To state this as plainly as I can, the decision to bring out the novellas solely as ebooks rests entirely with my publisher. NO REALLY. I HAVE NO SAY IN THIS MATTER WHATSOEVER. If you want it in print, your feelings should be communicated TO THEM. I can tell them how many readers ask for a print collection–and I do!–but that really has no impact. If every reader who complained to me personally had sent their email to the publisher instead, they’d have been rushing to get this sucker into print. And I’m DELIGHTED that so many of you want to see a print version–so would I! But emailing me is simply not the best way to get that done. And the vast majority of the emails have been genuine expressions of devotion for the Julia books which I appreciate greatly. I have noticed, however, a different tone creeping into them over the past few months as if I am deliberately and cruelly withholding print versions for some purpose of my own. I really, REALLY want to clear that one up! I would neeeeever withhold a print version from you if it was within my power to give you one.

For more thoughts, here is a portion of the May 2012 blog entry:

I get that not everyone owns or wants to own an ereader. But I’m a writer and when my publisher says, “HEY, WANT TO WRITE SOMETHING?” my reaction is usually “YES, PLEASE.” And while every reader has the right to format preferences–I myself am a trade paperback girl all the way although I use my Kindle plenty–if you are completely resistant to the ereader, you do have to understand that there will simply be some things you won’t have the opportunity to read. The industry is changing, probably more so than at any time since William Caxton said, “Hey, you guys, I have an idea…” Last year, Amazon sold more ebooks than paperback or hardcover, so there is a tremendous demand for this format. It also provides publishers–whether traditional or the authors themselves–with a format so low in overhead that projects which would NEVER get published in hard copy become viable prospects for turning a profit. The issue here is not that material is being published deliberately to exclude the people who don’t like ereaders. The issue is that it is being published in a format that can turn a profit.

Traditional publishers only have so many publication slots each year. If they have the opportunity to offer more content by widening their formats, everybody wins–the author who wants more exposure and more royalties, the publisher who wants more profits, and the readers who want more content. The only ones who take exception to it are the people who are unwilling to embrace the new format. And that’s perfectly fine–print books aren’t going anywhere. But it does seem a little odd to me that there are folks who will say, essentially, “I don’t like this technology and therefore no one else should be able to enjoy the full range of its capabilities.” It’s rather like only ever seeing movies in the theatre and then feeling left out when people who purchase DVDs get to see extra features. It isn’t that anyone is trying to leave you out. It’s that this other bit of technology offers opportunities that loads of other folks really enjoy.

Other readers have complained about the cost of ereaders. Here are some thoughts from the May 2012 blog entry on that subject:

As to reading the ebooks without your own ereader, here are some options:

1. Borrow an ereader. Some libraries are offering them for loan and this is a superb way of dipping a toe into the ereading experience. You might also have an extremely generous friend or family member willing to loan one for as long as it takes to read a novella!

2. Purchase a refurb. If shelling out full price for an ereader is not at the top of your priority list–and for many people it isn’t–consider the refurbished models you can buy at a discount. I know several people who have purchased Kindles this way and been very happy. I haven’t checked, but perhaps Nook and Kobo offer the same?

3. Take a hand-me-down. My parents and daughter all have ereaders and none of them has ever bought their own! My husband and I have been the tech guinea pigs, trying out a couple of different ones before settling down happily with our Kindle Fires. (Daughter prefers the Nook, my parents are quite content with the Kindles that have keyboards.)

4. Install the ereading app on your computer or smartphone. Before I bought an ereader this is how I did it. It’s old school, but it works just fine. The apps are FREE. You can download them in about four seconds from Amazon or Barnes and Noble and shop in their stores within a minute. If you have a tablet, it’s barely bigger than an ereader, and if you have a smartphone, it’s actually more portable. But with a wee little screen, of course…However, it is the most budget-friendly option.

Now, onto the next prickly subject–contests. It’s odd but true that no matter how I choose to give things away, some people take exception to how they’re organized. If it were possible, I would happily give oodles of things away across every social media platform to readers all over the world. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. First, it’s hideously expensive to ship books around the world. I have a writer pal who got gigged with an $80 shipping bill for ONE book headed to South Africa. Even shipping to Canada is at least five times the cost of sending a book to a US reader. By restricting a contest to US entries, I can reach five times the readers–that’s just a better business practice. I DO open contests to international readers, but I have to consider the costs carefully and do it infrequently in order to maximize how many readers I’m able to make happy.

As far as the social media platforms, the contests vary and they will continue to vary. If I open a contest here on the blog, I have to monitor and approve EVERY SINGLE ENTRY. Comments can’t go unmoderated because there’s a spam problem here, and if I sit on the blog approving every one of the hundreds of entries we get for a contest, no writing is getting done and nobody would be happy about that, least of all me. I DO run contests through the blog, but again, I have to consider the time involved and do it infrequently. (And paying someone to moderate the comments as they come in is not cost-effective.)

Which brings me to the April Friday contests. Those are offered on Facebook only because FB is changing its algorithms CONSTANTLY and we’re attempting to improve the reach of my author page. You would expect that if you’ve liked my author page on FB, you’d get to see whatever I post there. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Now you not only have to like the page, you have to follow the page, AND you must engage with the page–Facebook’s rules, not mine. (Grrrrr, snarl.) That means to see posts regularly, you have to have commented on the page. What’s the best way to get readers to comment? Offer an inducement in the form of a contest prize. The whole point is to make sure that readers who have indicated they WANT to see updates via FB are actually seeing them in spite of FB’s attempts to throttle the page reach. They’re doing this to force people to pay to boost their reach, BTW. I have calculated, and if I wanted every person who has liked my page to see everything I post there, I would have to pay FB approximately $2000/month. With numbers like that, I’m sure you can see why I am interested in boosting the page reach WITHOUT resorting to paying FB’s rates. Those contests are being run to have some fun with readers but mostly to help ensure they’re getting regular page updates. They were not designed to punish folks without FB accounts, and for the folks who have written to tell me how much they hate FB–yeah. Right there with you. I would LOVE to leave FB, but for now it’s a necessary evil and I need to put that particular tool to the best possible use that I can so long as it’s in the toolbox. 

PHEW! I think that takes care of the bulk of the complaints we’ve had recently, and I hope that clears up any confusion. And since I’ve had to clear away some of the things that were troubling some readers, I’d like to close by sharing something AWESOME that a reader sent–her Pinterest board devoted to the Lady Julia novels. It’s FABULOUS; thanks a million, KC!

5 thoughts on “In which the chickens are curious”

  1. Christine says:

    Thanks for everything you do for us chickens. Not only are you a great writer, you’re also clearly a great and generous person. I love to read your posts and your books. Contests are just contests – if I win, great; if not, I’ll get the book some other way. So in short, keep being as awesome as you are.

  2. Pat says:

    I hear ya! Just keep writing and publishing in whatever format is available. Consider yourself the sounding board for grousing in general and don’t take it personally.

  3. Lynne says:

    Thanks for taking time for explanations, answers, etc., Deanna. I can appreciate your frustration with the publishing industry…I worked in a bookstore once and got a small tast of what you spoke about. As to contests and social media, my only comment would be: What a shame that Facebook now contols us…because some of us could care less about it. I’ll just keep reading your blog and enjoying!

  4. Pam says:

    I just wanted to say thanks for repeatedly explaining the situation with the novellas. I can imagine how frustrating it must be to continually get questions about them. I was wondering, however, if it would be useful (or appropriate) to provide readers with an email address for whatever department at Harlequin/MIRA it is that handles these decisions? I wrote to their general contact address provided on their webpage (CustomerService at Harlequin dot com) some time last year simply expressing my love of the Lady Julia series and my dismay that they had opted to restrict them to novellas for the foreseeable future and never heard back from them, so I wondered if that was still the best way to contact Harlequin if readers did, as you suggest, wish to ask them about the possibility of a print release of the novellas?

    Anyway, thank you for writing all of the wonderful things that you write and for sharing them with us. A new book of yours, in whatever format, is always the most fantastic treat.

  5. Betty Strohecker says:

    Thanks for taking the time to explain again – must write the publisher.

    Loved the Pinterest board, except for the man deemed as Brisbane. Not my idea at all – not rugged enough and appears too young. I prefer the picture I have in my mind for him!

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