Christmas Giveaway Results and Thanks

According to my website stats, 85 lovely people stopped by my blog between Christmas Eve and the morning of Boxing Day to download a copy of THE LESSON PLAN. Thank you all for taking some time away from your families to come and visit me. I hope you all enjoy the book and are having a wonderful holiday season. And know that if you downloaded a book, you fed three people, as yesterday I donated a dollar for every book to the San Diego Food Bank.

One More Cover+Cover Copy Reveal

I have one last Lords of Lancashire cover and cover copy to reveal. And since the novella is set during the Christmas season of 1804, it seems as good a time as any to do so :).

A Matter of Indiscretion

With his facility for languages and gift for diplomacy, Thomas Pearce is perfectly suited for his recent position in the Foreign Office. Or so he imagines until he receives his first assignment. Instead of a safe consular post in a friendly European capital, Thomas is going straight into the eye of the continental storm: France. On the eve of Napoleon’s crowning as emperor, no less. There is, it seems, a small matter of indiscretion just outside Paris that requires immediate attention. An indiscretion by the name of Sabine Rousseau, who happens to be the illegitimate daughter of Britain’s prime minister.

When a handsome gentleman arrives at her family’s home right before Christmas, claiming to be a long-lost cousin, Sabine is suspicious for reasons she can’t articulate. Perhaps it’s just that he’s far too attractive for her to think of him as a blood relation. She is, therefore, not entirely displeased when he sneaks into her bedroom and announces they aren’t kin. Her pleasure dissipates, however, when she learns he has come to smuggle her out of France…and why.

Now, Sabine and Thomas have a week to make their escape, and it won’t be easy. Her uncle considers her a ticket to win favor with Napoleon, and the French military has been alerted to the presence of a British “spy” on their soil. To avoid detection, the couple must pretend to be amorous newlyweds…and this proves the most difficult task of all. Because it isn’t long before neither of them is pretending, and a small matter of indiscretion may become large indeed.

Want to see all three novella covers next to each other? (Because I know I do!) Here you/I go:

So, now I’m sure you’re asking (well, I hope you are), “Jackie, when will I be able to read this fabulous-sounding novella?” The answer is…probably in November or December of next year. My planned release schedule for 2012 looks something like this:

April/May
Hot Under the Collar

June/July
Wrong Side of the Grave (free prequel to Incarnate)

August/September
Incarnate

November/December
A Matter of Indiscretion

I’m going to have to write my little tail off to meet this schedule, especially since I have a 2/3rds written contemporary targeted at Harlequin Blaze that I would like to finish in the first quarter. But I really do think I can meet it as long as I stay on track and have these goals to keep me honest.

Also, remember that you’ll be able to download The Lesson Plan here free on Christmas Day. (I’ve scheduled the post to come up at 8:00 EST on Christmas Eve so it’ll be a little before Christmas begins for some folks and after it began for others.) And for every copy downloaded up to 300, I’ll be giving a dollar to the San Diego Food Bank. So come one, come all, come download.

Major Publishers and the No-Advance Digital Model: Thanks, but No Thanks

It can’t have escaped too many authors’ notice that most of the major publishers are opening digital-first/only romance lines. Harlequin was first out of the gate with Carina Press, but now we have Avon jumping into the game with Avon Impulse and Random House with Loveswept. I’m sure the other major houses can’t be far behind. There’s a lot to be said for the digital first/only publishing model in this age of shrinking shelf space and expanding digital book sales. Why shell out for a print run when orders for print books are declining and you may even take a bath on the book if one of the big boxes (Walmart or Target) decides not to stock it? Better to test the waters in digital first and, if the book does really well, cross the author over into print when you’re more certain of the return on investment. And romance readers have clearly been the early adopters on this front. Digital books and romance readers are a match made in heaven because we like to read a lot of books and we want them yesterday.

But there’s a catch, and it’s a big one, in my opinion. With the exception of Carina, it appears that these new digital lines being created by the major publishers are picking up books and authors for these new lines with no advances and a royalty rate of 25% of net. (The royalty rate sometimes steps up to as much as 50% of net after a certain number of sales, but these sales numbers are usually in the 10,000+ range.)

Now, 25% of net is pretty standard when you sign with a major publishing house, but usually, you’re getting that lower rate in exchange for print exposure AND an advance. The publisher is making a significant upfront investment and taking the lion’s share of the risk in traditional print deals, both because they’re giving the author a guaranteed minimum royalty payment in the form of the advance and investing in the print run and print distribution, not to mention the possibility of returns. From a business perspective, it’s reasonable for an author to take relatively low royalties in exchange for a guarantee that, even if the book tanks, he/she will never receive less in payment than the advance.

When digital publishing first started catching on, one of the things that made the no-advance model work was that, although there was no advance, the royalty rate was much higher. The publisher was taking much less risk by giving no advance, but there was no cost to the author to produce the book and the potential earnings if the book did well were much greater. Even so, back in the day, there was a LOT of skepticism about the no-advance digital model. RWA and many authors looked askance, viewing it as a too-risky proposition because there was absolutely no guarantee that the author would ever earn any money at all. For quite a while, RWA refused to “recognize” digital publishers like Samhain and Ellora’s Cave because there was so much uncertainty associated with earnings.

That uncertainty in digital publishing hasn’t gone away. There’s still no guarantee that a digital book will sell enough copies to earn the author a decent amount of money, even at the higher royalty rates offered by small digital presses. Which is why I’m baffled by the insistence of the major houses on maintaining that 25% of net on royalty rate for these digital-first lines. (Again, I’m not including Carina in this rant, as their rates have always been more on a par with the other digital presses, and from what I understand, they recently raised those rates.)

Let’s see if I have this straight, shall we? You are not going to pay me an advance for my book, so you are not going to guarantee me a minimum payment. In addition, you won’t be investing in a print run or physical distribution for my book, thereby significantly cutting your production costs. But, because you are (Insert Big 6 Publisher Name Here), I should be happy to accept the exact same royalty rate for my books as authors who are getting both of the benefits? Hmmmm, forgive me if I’m not impressed.

And here’s the real kicker–the way I see it, within five years, most romance will be published as digital first. If print is available, it will probably be POD. And this will be true of books put out by the Big 6 publishers. Unless a book is “big enough” to be stocked in Walmart/Target, it’s not going to HAVE a print run. That’s just the reality of what’s happening to the book market. With Borders gone, B&N committed to the Nook+Nookbooks as its primary source of revenue growth, and more and more people getting ereaders/tablets/smart phones, print is fast becoming an inefficient and not even particularly desirable method of delivering book content. If I want a print book now, I have to go to a store and buy it or buy it from an online retailer and have it shipped. If I want a digital book now, I can have it. NOW. (Well, unless it’s only available for pre-order, but details, details.)

So, what I foresee is that publishers will start pushing their current midlist authors into these digital lines in addition to attempting to acquire new authors for these lines. It remains to be seen whether they’ll be successful at keeping authors on, though, if they offer such poor royalty rates and no advance.

All I can say is that, if I were a Big 6 publishing house and I planned to launch a digital line, I’d be thinking about offering either a royalty rate to match the digital small presses or a modest advance. But I wouldn’t count on my big name to convince authors to take it on the chin when they have other options.

Hot Off the Presses: Hot New Cover Art!

So, I have two cover reveals to do today. The first is a cover you’ve seen before but in a slightly reworked form. Carrie over at Seductive Musings took the cover I created with my limited GIMP skills (er, maybe I ought to say “complete lack of GIMP skills”) for Wrong Side of the Grave and made a few modifications to it that really make it look more like it belongs with the cover of Incarnate. I think she did a lovely job and, as she’s starting up a cover art business, I’m happy to recommend her work.

Without further ado, here’s the new version next to its sister cover:

Next up, I have another gorgeous design from Kim over at Hot Damn Designs for an as-yet unwritten novella. (Hey, I find cover art motivating. What can I say?) As I was finishing up The Lesson Plan, it dawned on me that I had two characters who really needed happily-ever-after’s of their own. It also occurred to me that if I had two more related novellas, I’d be able to package them in print. I get the occasional request from readers who don’t read digital books for my work, but it doesn’t make sense to print a 25,000 word novella as a standalone. But three novellas…yeah, that starts to pencil out.

I’ve already got titles for both sequels and the cover art and cover copy for the second, which I hereby reveal (ETA with a few tweaks from yesterday’s version):


Hot Under the Collar

Despite the old saw about third sons being destined for the church, no one ever expected the rakish, irresponsible Walter Langston to take up the collar, least of all himself. After an accident renders him unfit for military service, however, he has few other options. When he’s given the post of vicar of a parish in a sleepy, coastal village, he’s convinced he’ll molder in obscurity. Instead, his arrival brings a sudden resurgence in church attendance…or at least, the attendance of female parishioners. As word of the eligible young vicar spreads, every well-heeled family for miles with a marriageable daughter fills his pews, aiming to catch his eye. Unfortunately for these hopeful members of his flock, Walter’s eye has already been caught—by the one woman who doesn’t come to church on Sundays.

Artemisia Finch left a lucrative career as a celebrated member of London’s demimondaine to care for her ailing father. Returning home hasn’t been easy, though, as her past isn’t even a poorly kept secret in the village. When the new vicar arrives on her doorstep, Artemisia is determined to send him on his merry, pious way. But Walter Langston is nothing like any man of the cloth she’s ever known—he’s funny, irreverent, handsome, and tempting as sin. Falling in love with a vicar would be a very bad idea for a former courtesan. Why does this one have to be so hot under the collar?

Music Monday: Love at the Five and Dime by Nanci Griffith

I don’t remember how I discovered Nanci Griffith. I know I was in graduate school at The University of Chicago at the time and the proud owner of my first CD player, and that Griffith’s live album, One Fair Summer Evening, was one of the first CDs I purchased. But I can’t for the life of me recall who told me about her or how I first heard her music.

This is one of my absolute favorite songs from that album, and it feel appropriate to post it this week, as I shared this song with my husband shortly after we met 23 years ago Saturday (our 22nd wedding anniversary was 22 years ago Friday). He says, “That’s when I knew this was serious.”

Love At The Five And Dime
Copyright Nanci Griffith, 1986

Rita was sixteen years… hazel eyes and chestnut hair
She made the Woolworth counter shine
Eddie was a sweet romancer, and a darn good dancer
They’d waltz the aisles of the five and dime

[Chorus:]
They’d sing, “Dance a little closer to me… dance a little closer now
Dance a little closer tonight
Dance a little closer to me… it’s closing time
And love’s on sale tonight at this five and dime

Eddie played the steel guitar and his mama cried ‘cuz he played in the bars
And kept young Rita out late at night
So, they married up in Abilene… lost a child in Tennessee
Still, that love survived

[Chorus]

One of the boys in Eddie’s band… took a shine to Rita’s hands
So, Eddie ran off with the bass man’s wife
Oh’ but he was back by June… singin’ a different tune
And sportin’ Miss Rita back by his side

[Chorus]

Eddie traveled with the barroom bands… till arthritis took his hands
Now he sells insurance on the side
Rita’s got a house to keep… dime store novels and a love so sweet
They dance to the radio late at night

[Chorus]

[Repeat 1st verse]

They’d waltz the aisles of the five and dime
They’d waltz the aisles of the five and dime

I also lucked out and found the video recording of the performance she did of this song at the concert where One Fair Summer Evening was recorded. This has a pretty long introduction about Woolworth stores that I simply adore, and it’s well worth listening to the whole thing. Trust me on this, Griffith is wonderful!

The 12 Days of Christmas–A Mini-Rant

If all goes according to plan, we’ll be getting our Christmas tree this afternoon. As usual, however, my kids have been pestering me to get one for three weeks solid, despite the fact that every year, we are always among the last of our friends and neighbors to get one. Despite the fact that I’ve told them repeatedly that I like to wait to get the tree until fairly close to Christmas Day so that it will last until Epiphany (January 6).

And it’s because I like to maintain this tradition that the misunderstanding I see of the concept of the “12 Days of Christmas” during this time of year tends to drive me a little batty. A lot of people (not to mention businesses) seem to think that the 12 Days of Christmas are the 12 days before Christmas, but the 12 days actually start with Christmas and end on January 5th, the day before Epiphany (which, according to tradition, is when the wise men arrived in Bethlehem). It’s not Christmas yet, folks. It’s Advent. We’re supposed to be ANTICIPATING Christmas now, not CELEBRATING it :)!

Now, I don’t know quite WHY I’m so adamant about this point of Christian tradition, seeing as how I don’t identify religiously as a Christian. Although we celebrate Christmas, the holiday is decidedly secular in our household, more solstice-related than anything else. I do have to admit, however, to a fondness for nativity scenes (I made one myself in the 6th grade as an art project), unabashedly religious Christmas carols, and for the whole story of Jesus’s birth. I guess I’m a sucker for music and babies, lol.

Anyway, as I say, this is a mini-rant not a major one, so I’m not going to browbeat you if you started the Twelve Days of Christmas on the 13th. But hey, maybe next year, you can try starting on the 25th instead ;).

A Special Gift for Christmas

The official release date for The Lesson Plan has been December 25 for a few weeks now. Although I’ll actually be uploading it to various retailers on the 23rd in the hopes of having it available for purchase by the 25th, I still consider the 25th to be the book’s true release date. And I’ve decided that, because the novella is coming out on Christmas Day, I wanted to do something special to launch it into the world. So, here’s what I’m doing:

On Christmas Day, if you come here to the blog, post will give you links to download a FREE copy of The Lesson Plan in whichever format you prefer: epub, mobi (Kindle) or PDF. Or even in all three, if you like :). That’s my gift to you, my readers. I’ll probably run the post for closer to 36 hours to give folks on both sides of the International date line the opportunity to do their downloading on Christmas Day in their part of the world.

So, just for taking a few minutes to hop on the Internet on Christmas (and you know you want to anyway, if only to avoid your crazy relatives for a few minutes ;)), you can have a free novella. Not too shabby, eh?

But wait…there’s more! I’ve also committed to donate $100 to my local food bank this year, but for each copy of The Lesson Plan that is downloaded from a different IP address while the post is up, I will donate an additional $1 up to a maximum of $400. This means that in addition to getting a free book for yourself, you’re also helping to feed three hungry people this holiday season. (I wish I could give to every food bank in every city, but that’s not really practical!)

So, remember, on Christmas Day, stop by http://www.jackiebarbosa.com, download your free copy of The Lesson Plan, and donate $1 to the San Diego Food Bank. It’s that simple :)!

Merry Christmas!

Dec 14 ONLY: Get BOTH My Spice Briefs for 38 Cents on eHarlequin!

So, I just found out that Harlequin is having a nifty ebook special today. If you use the coupon code E5DOLL11 when you check out, you’ll get $5 off your purchase. This means that, if you buy both Grace Under Fire and Taking Liberties, you’ll pay a grand total of just 38 cents.

Of course, this works for a lot of other authors’ books, too, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that with this code, you can get Courtney Milan’s Unveiled or Unclaimed for $1.29, any of Victoria Dahl’s contemporaries for between 67 cents and $1.47, and all Laurie B. London’s Sweetblood vampire books for $1.29. You could also buy TWO category novels for less than what you’d normally pay for one.

Such a deal! If you’re an eHarlequin book buyer, today is a great day to scoop up some terrific titles for next to nothing. Enjoy!

My Thoughts on KDP Select

Since Amazon announced the KDP Select program last week, there’s been a lot of discussion about whether it’s the best thing since sliced bread for self-published authors1 or a harbinger of impending doom (which will be brought about by Amazon taking over the digital bookselling world). In case you’ve missed all of this and have no idea what KDP Select is or why anyone cares one way or another, allow me to explain.

About a month ago, Amazon launched a new benefit for its “Prime” members called the Kindle Lending Library. Amazon Prime members pay an annual fee for benefits including free shipping, access to online videos, and now, the option to borrow one Kindle book a month from the Lending Library. Most of the major traditional publishers, however, refused to allow their books to be enrolled in the library (although Amazon did an end-run around them in some cases by claiming it had bought the digital books “wholesale” rather than under the Agency model, but that’s a whole different issue). This meant that when the program was rolled out, the Lending Library consisted of mostly books published by Amazon itself under imprints like Encore and Montlake, and books publishers had either chosen to opt-in or that Amazon made available under the “wholesale” model.

Everyone knew when the Lending Library was launched that Amazon would eventually give authors self-publishing through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) the option to opt their books into the program, but no one knew what the terms would be. The terms were officially announced last week. Basically, if you want to make your digital book available for borrowing by Amazon Prime members, you have to sell it exclusively at Amazon during the time it is in the program (currently, you do this at 90 day stretches). In exchange for this, you get a “share” of a pot of money ($500k for December) based on the percentage of total “borrows” for that month and the option to make your book free for a five-day period. It also appears that, if your book is in the Lending Library, “borrows” are counted toward your overall sales rank on Amazon, which means books in the program are likely to have higher rankings than they otherwise might. In theory, being in KDP Select will give your book better visibility on Amazon, with a corresponding improvement in your earnings.

There’s been plenty of hand-wringing about KDP Select (Mark Coker of Smashwords is particularly exercised about it), but a lot of self-published authors apparently see real advantages to the program. In a matter of days, the Lending Library ballooned from perhaps 5,000 titles to almost 100,000, and it may be more now.

I, however, won’t be opting in. Here’s why:

  1. Exclusivity

    I don’t want to limit my books to a single retailer, even if that retailer represents a sizable percentage of my sales. At this point, I sell more copies of Carnally Ever After at Amazon than anywhere else, but my sales at other outlets are far from negligible. In October, my sales at Apple were actually almost equal to Amazon, thanks to Apple putting my book on the front page of the Romance section under “Books Under $5″. I did nothing to get that placement, and it was gold. I don’t want to “reward” Apple for that by not listing my book with them any more.

    More to the point, I don’t want to cut out readers who don’t have a Kindle/Kindle app and who want to read/buy their books elsewhere. Even if they are a small percentage of my total readership, they are readers, and I respect and appreciate them too much to treat them that way. Even for 90 days. Even for a theoretical increase in income.

  2. Hassle

    Call me lazy, but taking my book down from other retailers’ sites in order to give Amazon the exclusive is WAY too much work. It can take weeks for Smashwords, which distributes to outlets like Kobo, Sony, and Apple, to get my books out to those other vendors. I can’t imagine how long it would take to get them taken down. In the meantime, I’d be losing sales from the vendors who did respond quickly but unable to enroll in Select until it’s down everywhere. Why would I do that?

    In theory, enrolling a brand new release in Select for 90 days and then making it available elsewhere would be relatively easy. At least I wouldn’t have to hassle with removing it from the other sites. But, see above about readers. I’m just not doing that to them. When I release a book, my goal is to have it in as many retail outlets as possible. Self-publishing already restricts me to some extent; I won’t deliberately restrict myself, even for a potential increase in sales.

  3. Uncertain Reward

    In addition to the above issues, I think there’s a real question as to how much any individual stands to gain from participation in the program. Since payment of royalties for borrows is based on percentages rather than per unit borrowed, unless your book is very popular, you’re not likely to see a whole lot of money.

    Add to this the fact that my self-published books thus far are all short stories or novellas and therefore priced very reasonably (The Reiver is currently free), it’s hard for me to imagine that I’d see any significant number of borrows. Why would people who can only borrow one book per month choose to borrow something that costs only 99 cents, or even 1.99? If I had such a limited benefit, I’d only use it to borrow books I considered too expensive to buy. Now, I have heard on the Kindleboards that authors are seeing borrows of books priced under $2.99, but I’m still having a hard time imagining my books would benefit much from that.

    In other words, I think I’d be giving up a lot in exchange for a very limited payoff. I could be wrong about that, but I’ll also never know.

As to the other retailers like B&N and Smashwords, who fear self-published authors will be fleeing them in droves, I had a suggestion: Make yourself more attractive to self-publishing authors in the first place. For example, B&N offers 40% on books priced from 99 cents to $2.98 to Amazon’s 35%, but only 65% on books priced $2.99 to $9.99 to Amazon’s 70%. If B&N wants to keep authors from pulling their books, maybe they should consider at least matching Amazon’s royalties on higher priced books, if not exceeding them. As for Smashwords, they could consider allowing you to upload formatted files, instead of forcing you to upload a Word document that gets run through their “MeatGrinder”, with often less-than-pleasing results. And they could improve the speed at which they distribute your books to third parties. Both B&N and Smashwords could improve their search algorithms and the overall customer experience to make self-published books more discoverable.

All in all, while I won’t be opting into KDP Select, I’m not sorry Amazon introduced it. If the prospect of losing a large number of books from their catalogs induces other retailers to improve what they’re doing, it may just be as big a win for those who opt out as those who opt in.
__________
1I refuse to use the term “indie author.” I’ve sometimes used it in the past, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the main reason for saying you are an independent or indie author, as opposed to a self-published author, is that you feel there’s a certain “taint” associated with the act of self-publishing. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed to be publishing myself (I have the world’s BEST publisher, lol, and she always meets my expectations), so I feel no need to obscure or soft-pedal that fact by using another term.

Music Monday: Not Enough Time by INXS

Side note: I must be in the mood for music by artists who met tragic ends. This song is my absolute favorite by INXS, a band whose every album I bought as a teeneager and whose HAWT frontman, Michael Hutchence, was the Jim Morrison of my generation, right up to the premature death. (And did I mention he was HAWT?) I love this song both for its painfully romantic lyrics and for its prescience.

And I was lost for words
In your arms
Attempting to make sense
Of my aching heart
If I could just be
Everything and everyone to you
This life would just be so easy

Not enough time for all
That I want for you
Not enough time for every kiss
And every touch and all the nights
I wanna be inside you

We will make time stop
For the two of us
Make time stop
And listen for our sighs

Not enough time for all
That I want for you
Not enough time for every kiss
And every touch and all the nights
I wanna be inside you

In our fight against the end
Making love we are immortal
We are the last two left on earth
And I was lost for words
In your arms
Attempting to make sense of
My aching heart
If I could just be everything
And everyone to you

Not enough time for all
That I want for you
Not enough time for every kiss
Not enough time for all my love
Not enough time for every touch

Not enough time for all
That I want for you
Not enough time for every kiss
And every touch and all the nights
I wanna be inside you