Tess Gerritsen protests

I was intrigued by this post: Tess Gerritsen’s Blog » And the opposite of fan mail…. Tess Gerritsen is a bestselling crime-fiction novelist. I have read all of her current series of novels, but was not impressed by the most recent, which seemed to me mechanical.

Putting that to one side, in the post to which I link above, Tess is outraged to receive a letter from a reader who is upset to have picked up a book by Tess, only to find it a reissue of one of her earlier romance novels. I did not know Tess Gerritsen wrote romance novels, but I certainly identify with her reader’s frustration at buying a book and finding it to be very different from her expecations.

I have had a similar experience with Tami Hoag, whose publishers reissue her old books now that she has made the "big time" in such a way that it is rather hard to work out whether the book is new or not. Tess herself is furious with her reader, though, stating in her post that she takes no responsibility for the reissue of her earlier books. I was not convinced by her indignance. After all, she did write them, and no doubt was thrilled when they were published.

This is what she writes on her blog: "I am not, repeat NOT responsible for the re-release of my old romance novels.  And any reader who knows how the real world of publishing works should understand that. It still just flabbergasts me that readers can hate the romance novels so much that they will boycott an author for EVER IN HER LIFE having written the genre." So we have an indignant reader and an equally indignant author. What’s the way forward, though?

Publishing news of the decade

Amazon has launched CreateSpace Books on Demand, which allows authors to upload content and publish direct. CreateSpace is Amazon’s new name for CustomFlix Labs, Inc., which it acquired in 2005. Until 2006, Amazon used a company called Lightning Source for its print on demand service: now, Lightning Source, along with plenty of other print-on-demand services, is a competitor. 
CreateSpace has been offering customers single CDs and DVDs on demand since 2002, and it is envisaged that its new service will provide books in just the same way, aiming to ship titles within 24 hours from when they are ordered. Customers pay the standard paperback price for a book, set by the author, with no setup fees or minimum orders. For authors, books must be uploaded to CreateSpace as PDFs; an author must then purchase and approve a proof copy of the book before titles can be produced on demand.
Amazon’s share of each sale is calculated by taking a fixed charge of $3.15 per copy, plus a charge per page ($0.02 or $0.12 per black and white or colour page, respectively), plus a percentage of the list price (30% for sales through Amazon.com). So a 100-page black and white book sold on Amazon with a list price of $25.00 would earn an author a royalty of $12.35 per sale.
Is this "the publishing news of the decade"? Or is it some way off reality? As Timo Hannay (see link) puts it: "For books, of course, Amazon is the owner of that precious data set. They know more than any other organisation about my reading habits — heck, they probably know more than I do about my reading habits. In contrast, Waterstones knows nothing at all about my preferences even though I must have bought at least as many books there over the years as I have at Amazon. The other players in the current publishing chain know even less………Amazon becomes the ultimate clearing house for books of all kinds (and much else besides), with none of the traditional middlemen getting a look in. Genius."

Agatha Christie comic strip

My friend James Long sent me this link: BBC NEWS | In Pictures | In pictures: Agatha Christie Comic Strip. As the BBC says, "Agatha Christie’s crime novels, already immortalised on television, on film, on stage and in audio books, have been adapted as comic strip editions." The idea is to make the books appeal to "new and younger" readers.

There’s a longer article about the project here. It seems to be a combination of cosiness and period detail that is the appeal to the publisher to use the comic book format in this case. "We like harmony and shape, and that’s what a good crime novel gives you – a lovely story arc with a beginning, middle and end – and a morally acceptable outcome, which a lot of post-modern literature will not give you. It can also give you humour, absolute horror, romance, a puzzle. Crime fiction is only going to get bigger."

Still waiting for wisdom of the crowds

According to an article on TechCrunch, USAToday’s Social Network Experiment May Not Be Paying Off. Michael Arrington writes that when USAToday relaunched its site in March as a social network around news, he and others thought it was big news. Despite investing in social media technology, monthly visitors have dropped from 14 million in March to 10 million in July (graph at TechCrunch posting) — perhaps news and networking don’t mix, wonders Mr Arrington. These figures did not stop USAToday issuing a press release saying that traffic is way up, mainly due to a feature on The Simpsons movie and an interview with J K Rowling. So it is up to you whether to believe the Comscore data used by TechCrunch, or the press release issued by USAToday quoting Nielsen ratings.

There are 42 comments to the "figures are down" TechCrunch post at time of writing. Everyone concurs about the lack of success, and there are several explanations put forward. One is that USAToday is under pressure from Google, Yahoo and co for news coverage, and cannot meet the competition from local papers. Another is that the big media such as USAToday aren’t trying to meet a real need or build an audience, but are just copycatting (Digg et al). As a commenter to the TechCrunch post says: "My comments on USA Today are meaningless. They add nothing, are seen by very few people, and don’t produce any movement in the earth’s gravitational shift. People want to participate because it makes a difference. If that is not the case, well then who really cares. It’s a novelty that soon wears off." Another view is that USAToday content isn’t good enough for anyone to want to read or comment on it. "I think this was a valiant effort to provide a more interactive user experience to a website whose users have no interest in it."

Reviews during my absence

Although I am unable to blog just now, I see I have been busy reading and reviewing in my literal and virtual absence. Here are some of the books I’ve reviewed for Eurocrime in the past few weeks, with a link to the review in each case. I can manage stars, so I’ve rated the books with stars here:

The Midnight Choir by Gene Kerrigan (brilliant)****

The Death List by Paul Johnson (OK)*

The Shadow Walker by Michael Walters (very good)***

The Bone Garden by Kate Ellis (good)**

The Princess of Burundi by Kjell Ericksson (very good)***

You can read more of my reviews, and reviews by lots of other people, on the excellent Eurocrime website (and associated blog), which also provides competitions, news, author information and more about fictional crime — with a European accent.

Cellular top trumps

It is extremely hard to remain unamazed by life. Today I found out that you can buy a card game called "cell trumps" , based on the Top Trumps game whose permutations (in this house alone) run through Harry Potters 1 to 5, Dr Who, Lord of the Rings 1 to 3, Simpsons, Narnia, Movie Stars, Pop Stars 1 and 2, etc.

If you don’t want to pay £5 for a pack of cell trumps, you can win a set if you can tell Matt Brown how many other neurons a brain neuron typically connects to. As Matt says, the game is great, for example, before you discovered it, would you have known that the average adult makes 430 million gut-lining cells every minute?