Sunday, December 30, 2012

Top Crime Fiction of 2012

If you haven’t read the online publication, January Magazine, edited by Linda L. Richards, you should really give this publication a try. They always have insightful articles about books and news in the writing/publishing world. At the end of each year they also produce their Best Of lists in a number of different categories. This week’s entry is crime fiction. Long-time reviewer and contributor J. Kingston Pierce has compiled a list that includes comments from various reviewers.

Unfortunately, I haven’t read any of these books, but I now have a great start to my 2013 reading list. Here’s the list, with brief excerpts of reviewers’ comments or the setting description:

Absolute Zero Cool by Declan Burke (described as a wild, zany read)
Big Maria by Johnny Shaw (an exciting young writer)
The Blackhouse by Peter May (the first of a trilogy set in Scotland’s Hebrides archipelago)
Black Skies by Arnaldur Indridason (set in Iceland, and translated by Victoria Cribb)
Broken Harbor by Tanya French (a compelling and finely crafted tale)
Confined Space by Deryn Collier (might put Canadian crime writing into the spotlight)
Creole Belle by James Lee Burke (a Dave Robicheaux mystery)
Dare Me by Megan Abbott (a possibly breakout book by a writer at the top of her game)
Dark Room by Steve Mosby (a superb thriller)
Dominion by C.J. Sansom (a what-if spy adventure set in 1952)
The Double Game by Dan Fesperman (a brilliant tribute to spy literature in general)
El Gavilan by Craig McDonald (his most compelling work to date)
The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye (set in New York in 1845)
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (prepare to be disturbed in this disquieting tale)
House of the Hunted by Mark Mills (a refreshing change from rapid-clip adventures)

You can

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Are Dedicated E-Readers Becoming Obsolete?

An article in states that tablet sales are now surpassing e-readers and that Kindle sales are falling to Kindle Fire. A research firm anticipates that 15 million Kindles will be shipped this year, which is down by 40% from the previous year. As the article indicates, consumers apparently want more from their devices than the ability to read.

Amazon seems to be undermining itself by offering a tablet version of its product. The article suggests there isn’t room for both devices, and that tablets will apparently win the battle. You can find more in the article at

Speaking of battles, it appears that Wal-Mart and Amazon are in a battle for sales. Wal-Mart has stopped carrying Kindle products, and has stepped up its efforts to sell Apple tablets. They’re offering iPads at discounted prices and offering a $30 iTunes gift card in the bargain. According to a piece in The Motley Fool, Wal-Mart and Amazon have been on a collision course for some time, as Wal-Mart believes Amazon has encroached on its territory. It’s estimated that Amazon sales will reach $22 billion this season. Online sales growth has exceeded that of physical stores, and with the development of tablets, Amazon seems intent on grabbing an even larger share of the pie. It’s a strategy Wal-Mart doesn’t want to support. Neither does Target as they too pulled Kindle devices from their stores back in May. The tablet war is on! To read more, go to

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Why Miss Marple Knitted

Is "knitted" the past tense for "knit"? Shouldn't it be "knat"? No, knitted is correct.

I've recently taken up knitting, and I highly recommend it for writers.

If you're stuck in your story, you can knit and think about it. The repetitive task of knitting might just fool your inner editor into paying attention to the handwork so your subconscious can create without interference.

If you're stalling on working on a story, knitting can make you feel productive.

If your family doesn't understand that you're WORKING when you look like you're just sitting there staring into space, knitting can fool them into letting you alone.

A knitting project underway is almost as good for starting conversations as a puppy. Strangers -- male as well as female -- ask you what you're making. They can easily be led into talking about themselves.

Depending on how poor a job one does, one can be a source of sympathy and gentle amusement to one's companions. Or comfort. The fifth time I dropped one of my knitting needles in the waiting room, one woman said, "I'm in the early stages of Parkinson's, but I don't do that."

There's something so cozy about knitting. I'm sure Miss Marple used it to put people at ease and off guard, the shifty old sly-boots!

I may teach one of my characters to knit. I wonder who it will be....

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Publisher Not Asking for Ebook Rights?

Two of the most intriguing authors of 2012 are E.L. James and Hugh Howey, for good reason. As you likely already know, James is the author of the phenomenally popular Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. All three books in the series were published in 2011 by a print on demand company in Australia. Word of mouth boosted ebooks sales to 250,000, while the trade paperback copy lagged behind at about 7,000. When one of the big six publishers, Random House/Vintage came along and offered Ms. James and her agent a contract, the stipulation was that Vintage also keep all ebook rights or there would be no deal. Needless to say, they went for it.

According to a fascinating blog by Steven Pressfield, although Ms. James has made a great deal of money from her books, she likely would have made millions more if she’d turned the contract down and kept her rights. He estimates that the publisher made $72 million from paperback sales alone, which was why Random House gave each employees a $5,000 bonus this year. Pressfield goes into a number of calculations to prove his point, which you can find in the link below.

Now, here’s the really interesting bit. Simon & Schuster also bid on the Grey trilogy and lost. Pressfield says they too did the math on paperback profits, so when another opportunity arose they changed tactics. S & S offered a contract to Hugh Howey, author of a popular series called Wool, (which had already sold 300,000 ebooks before the offer) and allowed them to keep the ebook rights! As Pressfield says, the decision to publish Howey’s books in hard cover and trade paperback only is a game changer. It will be interesting to see if more deals like this occur in future. It appears that Howey could soon become a very rich man, if he isn't already.

I urge you to read the whole piece, as there plenty more good observations in there, at

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Amazon Clarifies Review Policies

I’ve written before about the number of reviewers who have had their reviews pulled from Amazon for various reasons. I’ve heard that some people have reposted them with success, but perhaps those reviews will be pulled again, who knows? If it’s any help, I found a link to Amazon’s latest review policies. You’ll note that Amazon clearly says they haven’t changed their policies. They don’t and never have accepted promotional content. There are other reasons for pulling a review, which includes:
  • product manufacturer posts a review of their own product, posing as an unbiased shopper
  • A shopper, unhappy with her purchase, posts multiple negative reviews for the same product
  • A customer posts a review in exchange for $5
  • A customer posts a review of a game, in exchange for bonus in-game credits
  • A family member of the product creator posts a five-star customer review to help boost sales
  • A shopper posts a review of the product, after being promised a refund in exchange.
  • A seller posts negative reviews on his competitor's product
  • An artist posts a positive review on a peer's album in exchange for receiving a positive review from them

Sunday, December 02, 2012

This Legal Battle has Huge Ramifications for Authors & Publishers

I came across a really interesting blog called Legal Minimum by Don McGowan which discusses at length a class action lawsuit launched by several Harlequin authors against their publisher. In this day and age, lawsuits are nothing new, yet the outcome of this one could have huge ramifications for all authors and their publishers.

I encourage you to read the blog post for details, but it boils down to the fact that Harlequin allegedly is giving their authors only 3 to 4% royalties on their ebooks due to a strange (and possibly prejudicial) arrangement between Harlequin Enterprises (HE) and Harlequin Switzerland (HS) Authors originally signed contracts through HS, however Harlequin Canada administered those contracts. With ebooks, licensing rights were issued back to HE.  Original publishing contracts with HS gave authors 50% royalties on ebooks, however, the license with HE gave HS only 6 to 8% of the cover price, which meant that authors only got 50% of that! Yikes! The authors came this was an unlawful tax dodge. Needless to say, Harlequin disagrees.

As you’ll note in the blog, there are other legal issues at play here, but McGowan notes that the ramifications could be as huge as it was in the music industry when Eminem sued his record label for treating digital music like physical goods when, in fact, consumers were making a digital purchase under the licensing agreement  with iTunes. Eminem was supposed to have received 50% of digital sales, however, he was paid 12 to 20%, the same he received for the physical product. He sued and won, which improved the royalty situation for other musicians. McGowan says the same outcome could happen for authors.

He also points out, though, that publishers are entitled to produce whatever tax plan and advantage they can, provided it doesn’t prejudice authors, and this is the heart of the issue. It will be interesting to see how this turns out. To read more of McGowan’s interesting blog and related links, go to