Books For Cheap

So bear with me as I dive off the cliff of sanity. I have an idea I want to explore. You may have heard about Oyster. It is the “Netflix for eBooks”, basically “means you pay a small monthly fee for unlimited access to the company’s e-book collection.

There are a lot of sites like this. Part of me is really drawn to this idea of book consumption. The books are licensed and your membership helps pay for that license. You then have access to all kinds of books without the wait of the library. As a reader, this is very appealing. Books are expensive and just one YA book now (in the US) is the cost of a nice work lunch. This is why I still shop at Amazon.

As a working publishing professional, I have to wonder how much things like Oyster and Scribd hurt the industry, the publisher’s bottom line, and ultimately jeopardize my job (I know Amazon is not good since it uses books as a loss leader). As publishers lose money (and trust me, publishing is not a super profitable business to be in), they cut back. That means cutting back on buying some books, and more importantly, on work personnel. This means less people to work on projects, and the ones who are there have to do more work with half the resources. It is not pretty.

But how do we balance the consumer desire for cheap books without de-valuing the art (and books are art)? Some people say digital books are cheaper to produce, but that is not true. Yes, you are not having the cost of paper, printer, shipping, and storing, but you have traded for the cost of digital work. And the people who still would be needed for a print book are still important for an eBook.

I don’t think books will ever disappear, but I do wonder about the changing nature of publishing. Consumers want cheaper books. Publishers want to make money.  How will these two desires balance out over the long run?

Side note: I found this cool document that explores new business models in publishing.


How Barnes & Noble Could Rival Amazon

The best days of my childhood were at the bookstore. My mom and I would go into town on a Saturday or Sunday, usually not on the day I played soccer, and spend several hours at the Borders Bookstore (Rest in Peace). I would browse the children’s books, she the romance. But here is the thing: in the music section there were 4 very big, very comfy couches. There were chairs through the store, and a café. But the couches…

Me defending the couches, while my mother went for books.

We would spend hours at the store reading books (I usually had at least 10 I was trying to convince my mom to buy). And then the bookstore closed. Fast forward a few years and I moved to New York.

The first day I went to a Barnes & Noble, I was shocked at the lack of seating. I get it, these are smaller buildings and all that, but REALLY? When I watched young teens try to sit and read, they were promptly told to get up, it is a fire hazard. I get it, I do. But I watched those kids put back the books they were reading, grab the latest bestseller, and leave. And I was so frustrated!

When publishers sell to bookstores, they sell the books at a reduced price: wholesale price. To turn a profit, the bookstore sells the book for the list price. This is one of the reasons Amazon is hated: they buy the books from publishers, and then mark the book down to get customers to come (it is called a loss leader; i.e. sell something for a loss in the hopes that customers will return for something else).

But Barnes & Noble could rival Amazon. Stay with me: Starbucks is in the environment of coffee. They don’t just sell coffee; they have created an atmosphere of coffee.  Barnes & Nobles is currently in the business of selling books, but they need to be in the environment of books.

Imagine if Barnes & Noble encouraged spending the day there. Some of you might argue that people would just read the books and leave without buying. There are people like that now. Heck, I have been that person. But when you create the environment of reading, people want to linger.

Children will look past the new bestseller and stumble on some middle list authors. Amazon is not a good tool to stumble upon new books. People go there when they know what they want. And the recommendation tool sometimes gurgles out the same books I bought elsewhere.

One of the problems with Barnes & Noble is price. So to play devil’s advocate: drop the price a bit. Don’t be like Amazon and use it as a loss leader, if the prices are lowered by a dollar or so, then you can pull people in and have them linger over your environment.

A lot of indie bookstores do this exact thing. It’s why they are loved.

Be in the business of books, not just selling them.

The Royal We Review

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Title: The Royal We

Authors:  Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (Hachette)

Flap Copy:

“American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune. Yet it’s Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain’s future king. And when Bex can’t resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.

Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners at Kensington Palace with him and his charming, troublesome brother, Freddie. But the relationship also comes with unimaginable baggage: hysterical tabloids, Nick’s sparkling and far more suitable ex-girlfriends, and a royal family whose private life is much thornier and more tragic than anyone on the outside knows. The pressures are almost too much to bear, as Bex struggles to reconcile the man she loves with the monarch he’s fated to become.

Which is how she gets into trouble.

Now, on the eve of the wedding of the century, Bex is faced with whether everything she’s sacrificed for love-her career, her home, her family, maybe even herself-will have been for nothing.”

YAY for Crossover books! When you love YA, there is some natural crossover appeal in the adult world. Romance and women’s fiction is one of them. As readers may know, I have been looking forward to this book. The Royal We did not disappoint, though I think I would have edited a bit differently.

To be frank, this book was fun. There were some funny lines that made me chuckle, there was a character I loved, and I thought the story was cute. Truth: I am a sucker for books like this, so some people might disagree.

That being said, I wish the authors had showed some everyday being together time for Bex and Nick. They spent a lot of the book apart, or fighting to be together, or whatever. I know I am a sucker for the melodramatic, and this book delivered, but I am also a sucker for establishing a base line in those relationships. The authors glossed over those quiet moments, but I think readers need to see how Bex and Nick were outside of school and the melodramatic.

Would I have acquired this? Yes, I would have. I may have done things a bit differently, but this was right up my alley and I have been pushing all my friends to read. And frankly, as an editor, that is what you do. So I would have wanted to acquire this book badly.

The Hero’s Journey

When my roommate first introduced me to the Hero’s Journey (an outline of narrative structure put tout by Joseph Campbell) three years ago, I thought, “How have I never heard of this?” I have a Bachelor in English Literature and a Masters in Publishing, and I had never heard of this.  I thought I must have been the last person to have heard about it.

No. Idea.

Until…my blog manager (who works for guacamole) was reading something I wrote and questioned it.  She said I used the term like it was known. From my perspective, it was. I had seen it used in editorial letters from internships I had worked. My roommate uses it in his daily professional life.

And I suddenly felt like I was in on this super-secret thing, when really, as a reader/student/editor I should have not just heard about this only a few years ago.

Now, I am not going on a tangent about education or any of that, but I figured, in case you, my readers, have never heard of it, I will just lay it out there for you. It might be helpful when doing reviews or crafting your own story.

So without further ado, I give you a simple outline of the Hero’s Journey:

  1. A character is in a zone of comfort.
  2. But they want something.
  3. They enter an unfamiliar situation.
  4. Adapt to it.
  5. Get what they wanted.
  6. Pay a heavy price for it.
  7. Then return to their familiar situation.
  8. Having changed.

A Wicked Thing Review

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Warning ***Minor Spoilers***

Title:  A Wicked Thing

Author: Rhiannon Thomas

Publisher: HarperTeen (HaperCollins)

Flap Copy:

“One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairy tale.

Her family is long dead. Her “true love” is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept.

As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her. With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run.”

I am not at all sure how I feel about this book. Part of me hates it, and part of me feels in was nice enough. The author has this amazing hook: what happens after Sleeping Beauty wakes up? But I spent the first part of the book bored, and the second part just annoyed that Aurora hadn’t clued into the fact that she was rightful ruler.

In the first half, she has just been kissed and woken up. Aurora is not sure how to deal with her disorientation with having been asleep for 100 years. This aspect of the story was good. I wish Thomas had actually done better world building here to showcase the difference.

As the king reveals his true colors, I wanted to scream at Aurora: “You are the rightful ruler! That is why they need you!” I just…I can’t even deal with characters that are this clueless.

Nothing gets resolved at the end of the book; yep, you guessed it, a series.

It was a nice enough book. Not something I would recommend anyone pay for, but if you need something to read in between the bestsellers, I might say try it.

Would I have acquired this? Well here is the rub: on the idea, yes. But on this story? Nope. This story was not what I would have wanted and the amount of work and edits that I would want would transform it into something completely different than the author probably wanted.

Throwback Thursday: Ella Enchanted

Ella Enchanted

Ella Enchanted is one of those books from my childhood that I adore. Ella has been given the “gift” og obedience: forced to follow ANY and EVERY command given to her.

If you have never read this book, you should do so. Gail Carson Levine is an amazing writer. The movie that they made went in a completely different direction than the book. The book is more serious and has a much better fantasy grounding.

A lot of kids today have never read this book. They know of the movie before this book. But I am telling you know, put this Cinderella retelling in their hands.