Jan 312015
 
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By Suz deMello

Amazon is known for its ruthless business practices—it doesn’t merely squeeze competition, it strangles it until it dies.

Amazon currently sells 40% of all new books sold in the USA. Their percentage of the market in ebooks is even larger—perhaps 66% according to the above-cited Salon.com article.

Amazon is not only a bookseller, but a publisher, and it favors its own imprints and minimizes the ability for readers to find its competitors. The most famous example is that of Hachette. Check out Stephen Colbert’s clips on the issue.

Well-known is Amazon’s dislike of sexy covers, adult-oriented books and erotica; it seems to especially target purveyors of steamy books. Though Amazon touts its independent publishing program as a boon for writers, many indie published authors, especially in erotic romance, complain that Amazon’s search engine has made it difficult if not impossible for readers to find their books. The Kindle Unlimited program has cut further into their book revenues. Ellora’s Cave, one of the most prominent publishers of steamy and erotic romance on the web, has downsized radically, citing a massive drop in Amazon sales of its books as the reason.

Well-known erotic romance author Selena Kitt had this to say (and a lot more):

If you’re an erotica writer, you know that Amazon has a double standard. If you publish a title and put it into the “erotica” category, there are certain things that aren’t allowed in the title or on blurb. But if you put that same title and blurb into the “romance” category, it’s fine. Half-naked couples in a hot, torrid embrace are just fine in romance, but strangely, in the erotica category, they’re often filtered and sometimes even blocked.

The loyalty of many customers to Amazon is misplaced. For example, Amazon often does not feature the best online price for a book or other item. A couple of cases in point:

On 30 Sept 14, the price of one of my shorties, Highland Vampire, on Amazon was $2.51. The price at Harlequin’s site was $2.39.

Being the daughter of Brits, I’m a tea drinker and lately have been into using loose teas (they really do make a better cuppa). Initially I had been purchasing from Amazon—isn’t that the place we’ve all become accustomed to checking first? Then I went to the Twinings Tea site and found that I’d been grotesquely overpaying.  My fave Darjeeling at Amazon costs $8.24 and it’s an “add-on item,” which is some sort of irritating practice at Amazon—I couldn’t get the tea without buying other stuff, and I couldn’t find a work-around for that bit of Amazonian weirdness.

The same tea is almost half the price—$4.49—at Twinings.

Like many, I have come to rely on Amazon for so much! I listen to music on my Amazon music player on both laptop and cellphone, and download music from Amazon as well. I’m an Amazon affiliate. I also buy books for my Kindle Paperwhite, which I love, from Amazon.

But maybe it’s time to cut the cord. Why should I fund an entity that seeks to exploit me, maybe even put me out of business?

I’ve taken down my Amazon affiliate ads—that won’t hurt, as they’ve never earned me a penny. I’ve changed my email signature line, which used to direct folks to my Amazon author pages, to instead include my website and blog. Other changes will be harder.

I’m an Ellora’s Cave author. I also have books placed with two other publishers that have disappointed me in myriad ways—see these links:

www.harlequinlawsuit.com  and scroll down to #9 at

absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=194729–scroll.

So I’m going indie. But Createspace and KDP are fabulous platforms for self-publishing. How ethical is it, given my concerns, to use those platforms?

And beyond my personal worries, there’s the greater problem. Amazon sells a huge number of books, films, music and other creative and factual works.

Should one entity control so much of what goes into our minds and thoughts?

Will Amazon destroy erotic literature with its changing algorithms and prejudices? Will Amazon make it impossible for some books to flourish?

Does Amazon threaten our freedom of speech and thought?

***

About the Author:

Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written nineteen books in several genres, including nonfiction, memoir, erotica, comedy, historical, paranormal, mystery and suspense, plus a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing. A freelance editor, she’s held the positions of managing editor and senior editor, working for such firms Totally Bound, Liquid Silver Books and Ai Press. She also takes private clients.

Her books have been favorably reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, won a contest or two, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several bestseller lists.

A former trial attorney, her passion is world travel. She’s left the US over a dozen times, including lengthy stints working overseas. She’s now writing a vampire tale and planning her next trip.

Find her books at http://www.suzdemello.com

–For editing services, email her at suzdemello@gmail.com

–Befriend her on Facebook, and visit her group page.

–She tweets @Suzdemello

–and posts to Pinterest

–and Goodreads.

–Her current blog is TheVelvetLair.com

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Jan 232015
 
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By billierosie

Most mornings I watch a television talk show called The Wright Stuff. It’s hosted by Matthew Wright, a journalist. It’s the usual sort of format; Matthew has three guests and they talk about various topical issues. Then, viewers are invited to phone in. To coincide with World Aids Day, the topic was HIV: Is Complacency Killing Us?

Here’s how Matthew introduced the issue.

Following a sharp rise in the number of men infected with HIV I’m asking if we’ve become too complacent for our good? Do we need more billboards warning us not to die of ignorance, as we had in the 80s? Or is the problem more complicated: maybe medical advances mean we no longer perceive HIV infection as a death sentence? Either way, is our complacency bad news?

Part of our complacency seems to arise from the treatments that are available in 2015. To be HIV positive is generally no longer a death sentence. Even with such a diagnosis, people with the virus can live well into their 70s. Thousands of men and women with HIV in the UK, US and across the world are heading into an old age they never expected to see.

There are record numbers of Gay men being diagnosed with HIV. Plus which, 1 in 4 men don’t even know they’ve got the virus. There are over 100,000 people in the UK with HIV.

Some cases were diagnosed years ago. Some people have been diagnosed late, having lived for years without knowing they were infected. And many people are now becoming infected later in life. So people are still being diagnosed as HIV Positive and not only the people in high risk groups.

“Laura is a white, heterosexual, divorced mother of two. At the age of 52 she started a new relationship and then suddenly became ill. Because her symptoms were similar to those of a friend who had been diagnosed with HIV, she took a test. When she was told it was positive, she felt numbness and shock, she said. She cannot believe, as a person who understood the guidelines of safer sex, that she stopped using condoms with her partner and allowed it to happen.”

And on The Wright Stuff show, Julie phoned in. She is a woman in her 40s, and some years previously, she had been date-raped. She started to experience illnesses—some severe, some not so problematic. Julie was misdiagnosed for 7 years, until finally, she was told that she was HIV Positive. Julie had many blood tests, but was never screened for HIV. She had passed the virus on to a previous male partner, who in turn has passed the virus on to a female partner. I believe that Julia has also infected her current partner. Julie says that ordinary doctors, GP’s in the UK, are clueless about HIV and need to be more aware. Had she been diagnosed earlier, her immune system would be stronger.

This point was picked up by Genevieve Edwards, who was in Matthew Wright’s audience representing the Terrence Higgins Trust.

“Every day someone dies because they didn’t get diagnosed early enough. Their immune systems are damaged and weakened. Their immune systems pull back but never fully recover.”

Genevieve says that we are missing opportunities. The young should be taught that safer sex isn’t just about pregnancy.

Penny Smith, a TV presenter and journalist, was on Matthew Wright’s panel, said:

“It is simply that men don’t like using condoms.”

Perhaps she has a point, but women have to take responsibility too. Presuming the situation is consensual to begin with, how about telling the guy “No, not without protection!” Difficult in the heady arousal of the moment, but it’s better than dying—isn’t it?

The figures quoted always seem to be about Gay and Bisexual men and some communities of color, the risk factors are the same for everyone regardless of whether you fall into those demographic profiles or not. No one is magically absolved from the need to have safer sex.

Genevieve Edwards, from Terrence Higgins, says that we all need to be more aware of what we are doing. Sound advice.

***

billierosie has been writing erotica for about three years. She has been published by Oysters and Chocolate, in The Wedding Dress. Logical Lust accepted her story “Retribution” for Best S&M 3. She has also been published by Sizzler, in Pirate Booty and in their Sherlock Holmes anthology, My Love of all that is Bizarre, as well as Hunger: A Feast of Sensual Tales of Sex and Gastronomy and Sex in London: Tales of Pleasure and Perversity in the English Capital. She also has a collection of short, erotic stories, Fetish Worship, as well as novellas Memoirs of a Sex Slave and Enslaving Eli, both published by Sizzler Editions in 2012 and available for purchase at Amazon.
billierosie can be found at Twitter, @jojojojude and at her blog.

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Jan 172015
 
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By Nobilis

This week, I collected the fifth draft of the Monster Whisperer novel into one manuscript and sent it off to an editor at Circlet Press to consider for publication. My feelings are, as I’m sure you can understand, complicated. I’m relieved to be done with this phase of the story, anxious about starting the next, puzzled about what to work on afterward, and eager to get rolling on it. All at the same time, or in any combination. But I’ve been through this enough to know that the relief will fade, the anxiety is temporary, the puzzlement is natural, and the eagerness will, in time, need to be nurtured.

I’m enjoying the relief of being done with this novel. Finishing any novel is not easy, and the fact that this is my third hasn’t really made it any easier. But I can’t afford the urge to sit back and rest. There’s more writing to be done, and I know from experience that if I go even just one day without writing, it can easily stretch into two, or three, or a week, and I don’t want that. So I’ve set a goal for myself—to write at least five hundred words a day, every day, in the year 2015. No excuses, no exceptions.

Monster Whisperer is now at a stage where there is nothing I can do about it. It’s out of my hands. Anxiety won’t do me any good, so it’s really best to let it go. Dwelling on it will only lead me to do stupid things like check in with the editor daily on whether she’s reading it. So I need to let it go. The best way I know how to do that is to let myself feel it, acknowledge it, thank my subconscious for its opinion, then go about my day.

I don’t need to work very hard on the decision of what to work on next. I have a story I really need to finish, a novella for a box-set that I’ve been invited to participate in, but it’s not an immediate one and I can afford to spread my efforts around a little. I can’t afford to do that very much though, especially writing only five hundred words a day, so I need to maintain focus. Distractions need to be kept at a minimum. Monster Whisperer took a year to finish; I’d rather not have the next project take that long.

That eagerness to be writing, that desire to feel the intense satisfaction on finishing a manuscript, will need to be preserved and nurtured. Luckily, that gets easier with each finished story. My confidence improves every time, especially when I get positive feedback from people whose writing I admire. But the time will come, somewhere around the late middle of the next story, when I want to just give up. I know it will happen. So I need to fix this feeling in my mind, remember it, come back to it again and again to maintain my enthusiasm. I need to hold onto it the way some people hold onto grudges.

Essentially, my emotional state is very important to my success as a writer—and therefore I need to be able to manage that state, control it, shape it so that it serves my purposes. That may sound like a strange idea. Much of modern culture portrays people as helpless to control their feelings, even victims of them; or else that our feelings should be respected over other modes of thinking instead of in concert with them. I disagree. Our feelings are ultimately under our control, though sometimes only with great difficulty, and only if we maintain a respectful relationship with them rather than pitting them against our rational thought processes or trying to “fight” them. When understood and managed, these feelings can help us achieve our goals.

***

Stories that don’t stop at the bedroom door—or the castle gate—or the airlock.
http://www.nobiliserotica.com
Podcast: nobilis.libsyn.com
Twitter: @nobilis

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Jan 112015
 
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By M.Christian (Guest Blogger)

Currently I’m involved in a very special publishing endeavor – sorry for the tease; I’ll come to it shortly – that has gotten me thinking quite a bit about writing, especially about what it could meant to be a successful writer.

An odd word, that: success.  In some cases it can be a very clear-cut.  Getting from point A to point B?  Success is just making the trip.  Balancing your checkbook?  Success is making it all add up (and, one hopes, remaining in the black).  But for writers … well, it can be rather, shall I say, slippery.

For example: finishing a book or a story.  That can be a form of success – though too often it feels like there’s always more that could have been done.  Selling a book or a story?  That can be successful – though many times there’s the nagging doubt that it could have gone for more money, higher status, etc.

Then there’s the big form of that word.  What does it mean to be a successful author?  Excuse me for evoking my inner Cranky Old Pro, but far too many authors seem to think that being a successful author is not just finishing books and stories, selling books or stories, winning awards, making money – but making sure everyone, everywhere, knows about it.

In other words, the world of professional writing – or creating anything, it seems like – has become about who you are and not what you do.

Okay, that’s a broad statement, but bear with me.  This new endeavor – which I still won’t talk too much about … yet – involves a lot of looking backwards.  I’ve never been a fan of nostalgia … my childhood wasn’t exactly a pleasant one … but it has been a real eye-opener when it comes to reevaluating what, for me at least, success actually means.

Let’s talk about science fiction for a moment – but, rest assured, the message is the pretty much the same not only for every genre but every form of artistic creation as well.  Right now being a science fiction writer is a big deal: one story, one sale, one award, and everyone’s awash in self-congratulatory promotion.

Yes, PR is more important than ever, what with the evolution of ebooks and self-publishing and all. Going from (yeah I know I might be exaggerating) 1,000 books published a month to 10,000 books a day means that getting your name out there is crucial … but there’s a big difference between trying not to vanish, trampled under the hordes of other writers, and losing sight of the what being a writer is all about.

Part of this project I alluded to in the first paragraph is stepping into a wayback machine to look at many early SF authors and their works.  Back in the 1940s and 50s, and up to the 60s or so, was when many of the SF legends began their writing lives.  If you haven’t, you should definitely pick up a few old SF digests or pulps or cruise a few select sites and check them out.

Sure, far too often their covers were beyond pulpy (half-naked women, Green Men from Mars, stalwart heroes firing blasters, Green Men from Mars holding half-naked women high in the air while stalwart heroes fired blasters at them, etc.), but look at who was slowly making their way up the mastheads of those tawdry pages: Arthur C. Clarke, Alfred Bester, Philip K. Dick, Edmond Hamilton, Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, and (later) James Tiptree, Jr.
 (AKA Alice Bradley Sheldon), Octavia Butler, and so many others. 

Oh, sure, it’s worth a giggle or two seeing authors that we now consider to be legendary on these covers – but doing so is what changed the way I, personally, consider a measure of success … and, perhaps, will change the way you think about it, too.

Back into the wayback machine: no internet, damned few bookstores that would carry digests or paperbacks (they were mostly sold on newsstands), almost no reviews (except in other SF magazines), and pretty much zero, nada, zilch in the way of respect.

Being a science fiction writer back then was a low-paying, quasi-shameful, writer’s life.  You were lucky to get your name spelled right on the cover, let alone have that cover depict anything to do with the book you wrote.  Adding insult to injury, how much you got for your next book had everything to do with how much your last book sold: if it didn’t … well, then you took what you could get.

But these authors kept on writing.  They didn’t have even the possibility of attracting anything but scorn from big publishing houses, let alone movie deals.  They didn’t have a way of reaching out to fans – or even fellow authors – other than writing actual letters or attending what few early conventions existed back then.

So … no money, no fame, only a small cadre of fans, humiliated and the source of almost constant derision from authors in other genres … sure, we know them now, after 50+ years, but what kept them going then?

They were writers: they loved – beyond all else – to tell stories.  Sure, for many of them churning out stories and books was a way of making at least some money but, let’s be honest, there were better ways of doing that.

This is what I mean by success.  Now we look back at these authors as being successful because their names – even beyond science fiction fandom – are well known and even respected, and even a few of their properties are valued in the millions.  But it wasn’t always that way.

Yes, that was then and this is now, but they got from where they started to where they are now because they lived to write stories … and managed to keep at it long enough for the rest of the world to finally catch up and take interest in those stories.

No, it’s not a guarantee – those same pulp pages are full of authors who didn’t last long enough – but the point is still pretty much valid: these celebrated authors began their writing lives not because of winning awards, raking in the cash, or the adoration of legions of fans, but because they lived to write.

And that is what I’ve come to consider to be a personal definition of success: to live for the writing, to remain passionate and dedicated … while the rest, as they say, is gravy.

***

About M. Christian
Calling M.Christian versatile is a tremendous understatement. Extensively published in science fiction, fantasy, horror, thrillers, and even non-fiction, it is in erotica that M.Christian has become an acknowledged master, with more than 400 stories, 10 novels (including The Very Bloody Marys, Brushes and The Painted Doll). Nearly a dozen collections of his own work (Technorotica, In Control, Lambda nominee Dirty Words, The Bachelor Machine), more than two dozen anthologies (Best S/M Erotica series, My Love for All That is Bizarre: Sherlock Holmes Erotica, The Burning Pen, and with Maxim Jakubowksi The Mammoth Book of Tales from the Road).  His work is regularly selected for Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and others. His extensive knowledge of erotica as writer, editor, anthologist and publisher resulted in the bestselling guide How To Write And Sell Erotica.

In addition, he is a prolific and respected anthologist, having edited twenty five anthologies to date. He is also responsible for several non-fiction books, notably How to Write and Sell Erotica.

M.Christian is also the Associate Publisher for Renaissance eBooks, where he strives to be the publisher he’d want to have as a writer, and to help bring quality books (erotica, noir, science fiction, and more) and authors out into the world.

He can be found in a number of places online, not least of which is mchristian.com.

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