Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss

THE STORY GARDEN: I Got a Humungous Bookshelf For Christmas!

January 27, 2012

Would it surprise you to know that it’s been 18 years since the birth of the e-book forced the RWA Board of Directors to decide what the organization meant by “book”? You aren’t a published author unless you’ve published a book. As it turns out, not only do writers refuse to be boxed in by paper or even covers, but so do readers. Who knows what a book is anymore, never mind a cover? And a publisher? Can’t anyone be a publisher?

One thing the writers at The Story Garden know for sure is that we grow stories. And we’re going to draw readers into our garden, come rock, paper, scissors or android. Writers and readers are all in the throes of change together. Question is, what have you learned so far?

Let’s ask Gardeners Judith Arnold, Teresa Hill, and April Kihlstrom before we throw the discussion open to the WWW.

What’s your experience with digital publishing?

Judith ArnoldJudith Arnold: I’ve gotten the rights back to a lot of my out-of-print books, and about a year ago, I started reissuing them as independently published e-books. I currently have ten indie-published e-books for sale at Amazon, B&N, Smashwords and other e-book retailers, and I’ll be uploading another batch of my out-of-print novels as e-books in 2012. My new novel, GOOD-BYE TO ALL THAT, will be published in March by Bell Bridge Books, which will release the book in a digital and a paper edition simultaneously.

Teresa Hill: My first backlist title, UNBREAK MY HEART, went on sale right after Thanksgiving, and the second, TWELVE DAYS, in mid-December. So I’m new to this. I resisted e-readers because I love books, and it seemed like giving up a dear friend. The way a book feels in my hands, the way it smells and how they look all lined up on the shelves in my office. But I gave in and got a Kindle DX, and now I’m sorry I waited so long to join in the revolution. I love being able to download a first chapter for free, finding new authors inexpensively, and traveling with the Kindle. Never have to worry about running out of books, and I love pre-ordering a book I can’t wait to read and having it automatically pop into my Kindle the minute it’s available.

April Kihlstrom: I’ve brought out 3 of my back title Regencies through the Regency Reads website and my publisher, Signet, is going to bring out 3. In addition, I’ve put up WRITING TIPS FOR KIDS (AND ADULTS) on Amazon for Kindle.

What do you like about it so far?

Judith Arnold: There’s lots to like about indie-publishing my backlist books as e-books. For one thing, it makes some fine old novels available to new readers. For another, I can control the cover art, the marketing, and the pricing–which I try to keep low, so readers can buy more books. For another, I can update the books a little. All those references to pay phones don’t make sense in the 21st century, when everyone has a cell phone. I can tweak the books to make them more relevant, and I can remedy some of the revisions editors forced upon me when the books were originally published, changing them back so they are truly MY books.

Teresa HillTeresa Hill: I love that I’m completely in control. I get to pick exactly what I want for the cover. I get to write the back cover copy I want and emphasize what I think the most important aspects of the story are. I set the price. There’s no publisher to say, “We’re not sure a book about (fill in the blank) is a good idea.” Or, “It seems a little too (fill in the blank) for our readers.” Or, “We think it would be better to tone this part down and play this part up. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had some great editors over the years, loved them dearly. But at times, publishers want to play it safe, and I’ve seen them steer great writers in wrong directions. With digital publishing of my own titles, I can do exactly what I want.

April Kihlstrom: I love that my Regencies can be available to readers again. And I love that I could put up WRITING TIPS FOR KIDS myself because it’s so short that no publisher would want to bother with it but it contains material that kids (and adults) have found really useful in workshops I’ve given. I also like that my books can stay available indefinitely.

What’s the down side?

Judith Arnold: Being an independent publisher is a lot of work! Especially for someone like me, who is technophobic. But I’m learning and gaining some confidence. Fortunately, I’ve found a community of indie publishers with whom I can share information. Together we figure out what works and what doesn’t work, and we cheer each other on. There’s also the problem of my mother: she doesn’t own an e-reader and never will. So she’s unable to read any of my books in e-book format. And you know, she’s my MOTHER. My biggest fan. I’m glad Bell Bridge Books will be publishing a trade paperback edition of my new book so my mother will be able to read it.

Teresa Hill: It’s all up to me. I’ll admit, sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming.

April KihlstromApril Kihlstrom: Some readers only want physical books. Even with those who read e-books, the challenge is visibility–or rather, lack of it. How do I get out word about my e-books? One reason I decided to let Signet bring out some of my Regencies is that they have the clout to promote them in ways I can’t with the launch of the backlist e-book Regency line. The trade off is lower royalties for me from each sale.

What are your career plans for the near future?

Judith Arnold: As I mentioned, I plan to continue publishing my backlist novels–I’ve got a huge backlist, and I’ve regained the rights to about half of those books so far, most of which I hope to publish as e-books eventually. I also hope to continue working with my publisher on new books. I’d like to have one foot in each world–indie publishing and traditional publishing. Either that will keep me balanced or it will make me schizophrenic. But it won’t be boring!

Teresa Hill: In addition to publishing with Harlequin Special Edition, I have two more backlist books featuring the family from TWELVE DAYS being published digitally in January and February. Best part of all, there was to be a fourth book in the series–the youngest daughter’s story–but my editor left the publishing house, and her replacement didn’t want to publish that final book. That character was left hanging in limbo! But thanks to digital publishing, I am finally writing Grace’s story, and it’s been an absolute joy. I hope to have this book ready for publication in April 2012. After that, the possibilities are limitless!

April Kihlstrom: I’m working on a new full length Regency as well as a Regency short story. The short story goes along with the Regency series I already have available in e-book format and tells how the eldest Langford brother met his wife Athenia.

And how does our garden grow this month? BAREFOOT IN THE GRASS by Judith Arnold; THE EDGE OF HEAVEN by Teresa Hill; THE AMBITIOUS BARONET by April Kihlstrom; SMALL TOWN SWEETHEARTS by Jean C. Gordon; STUCK WITH YOU by Trish Jensen; BESIDE A WINDSWEPT SEA BY Vicki Hinze.

So what is a book, and what is it not? What difference does it make to you whether a book comes in paper or Cloud formation? What’s a good way for a writer get the word out about a book, and how does a reader discover it?


Barnes & Noble



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Beside A Dreamswept Sea

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