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New Titles are now available!

Despite rain and hail and a couple of technical issues, we now have five new titles available at our website.

The first, Flight of the Phoenix by Chris McMahon, is a prequel to The Jakirian Cycle which begins with The Calvanni, due out next month.

Belin has earned a comfortable retirement after years as a general in the service of the Bulvuran Empire.  But, as is often the case with warriors, it isn’t to be.  Beset by visions of the demise of the Emperor,Belin strikes off across the leagues from the Delta province to the capital Raynor to save Empress Evelyn and her newborn child from death at the hands of the Eathal  shapechanger and Sorcerer Geisel. The general’s legendary greatscythe skills will be put to the test against overwhelming opposition. He must overcome the treachery of those Suul who seek to profit from the fall of the Empire – and confront his own fears of Sorcery as he comes face-to-face with Geisel.

The second title is The Last Voiceby Robert A. Hoyt.   Science rushes headlong into a conflict with morality, love with duty.  An asteroid, a “planet killer”, threatens all life. Scientists rush to build the ships necessary to carry their people to the safety of the stars.  But at what cost?  Is it demanding too much when the removal of sentience is involved in the building process?  Robert takes these questions and looks at them in his own unique way. . . which means along with spaceships, there are dinosaurs and a love that may just be enough to justify the ultimate sacrifice.

Next up is Pam Uphoff’s novella, Lawyers of Mars.  It started simply enough.  Thanks to an over-confident prosecutor and easily twisted scientific theory, Xaero L’svages managed to get her client off on charges he’d been part of a terroristic plot.  Oh, she had no doubt Blozolli was part of the Red Ever Mars conspiracy.  But that wasn’t her concern.  She’d done her job and now it was time to move on to the next case, hopefully one that wouldn’t be quite so politically explosive.  Of course, that was before her nephew managed to get himself kidnapped by supporters of Red Ever Mars.  Now it’s up to Xaero to rescue him and, along the way, rescue a prince or two as well.  No one said practicing law on Mars would be dull.

Here There Be Faeries is Stephen Simmons’ take on what might happen if the United Nations one day found itself confronted by a delegation of the fantastical kind.  International relations take a strange twist when the U.N. finds a number of new delegates demanding recognition.  Faeries and elves, goblins and ents, and even Death himself make an appearance in this game of wits not only to save all Faeriekind but, quite possibly, humankind as well.

Finally we have Leslie Fish’s Revocare.  A lovers’ triangle leads to a life-and-death struggle deep beneath the Earth’s surface in a world of nightmares.  Will human determination and ingenuity be enough to defeat not only hunger and thirst but also creatures that should never exist?

Of course, these titles, like all our others, are DRM-free.

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Friday Morning Links

I’m up to my elbows today in reviewing edits and such, so today’s post is going to be short.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to get back this afternoon and do a longer post.  Until then, here are a couple of links that caught my eye this morning:

Harper, Donnelley in Wide Ranging Supply Chain Deal — what this means in the long term for authors has yet to be explained.  However, I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t another way to prevent a title from going out-of-print.  If so, authors, you need to make sure your agents are taking that into account in your contracts.

Borders is once again in the news — twice.  The first is this call from the CEO Mike Edwards once more telling publishers to “trust me” and start sending stock under reasonable terms.  In other words, we’ll pay when we’re good and ready.  And he doesn’t understand why they aren’t willing to run the risk.

The second is this article from PW where it is speculated that there has been an offer for Borders.  Note, however, that in the link in the previous paragraph, Edwards does his best to downplay that possibility.

Finally, there has been an e-mail sent by Edwards to the Borders Reward customers.  In the same metaphorical breath as he tells everyone he is confident Borders will emerge from bankruptcy as a “best-in-class” bookseller, he also says they are expanding children’s games as well as their stationary and gift offerings.  Hmm…bookseller….riiiiight.  And in what I’m sure is a great cost-cutting measure — yes, I’m being sarcastic here — they are offering, for a limited time, free priority shipping to the customer’s home any title not in stock.  All you have to do is come into your friendly neighborhood Borders to take advantage of the deal.  Well, I checked.  My friendly neighborhood Borders is at least half an hour away, without running into traffic delays.  I’d pass at least two Barnes & Noble stores.  Hmm….why am I going to Borders?

Okay, more later.

–Amanda

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The blogging will happen

but it will be later today.  So check back.  We should have an announcement or to to make by then.

In the meantime, check out what Dave Freer has to say over on Mad Genius Club today.

Be back later.

— Amanda

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Borders CEO Speaks

Approximately three months have passed since Borders filed for bankruptcy.  In that time, we’ve seen the bookseller announce the closure of more than 200 stores.  Other stores are figuratively holding their breath as they wait to see if the axe will fall on them.  Booksellers and other vendors suspended deliveries to Borders for a time before going to a cash only business.  I’ve shaken my head as reports came in that, amid all the closures and employees losing their jobs, Borders wanted to pay their senior execs millions in bonuses.  And still there has been no business plan released to the court or creditors and no reorganization plan pulled together.

What more could happen to drive my sense of disbelief higher?

Simple, the CEO of Borders, Mike Edwards, could give another interview.

The article starts by noting that Edwards, while optimistic that Borders will successfully emerge from bankruptcy, is placing the burden on publishers.  Without publishers agreeing to new terms under which they will ship books to Borders, the company will fail.  While he doesn’t say it, I can’t help but wonder if these new terms are actually the old ones — deliver books to us without us having to pay for them.  Trust us, we’ll pay you sometime down the road.  Trust us, we’re your friend.

February 16th saw Borders filing for bankruptcy.  Since then it has closed — or announced upcoming closures — of approximately 230 stores.  As the article says, Borders “continues to bleed cash” to the tune of a $52.6 million loss from January 1 – March 26.

My disbelief at Edwards’ disconnect grew when he commented about his disappointment at how the Ann Arbor community hasn’t rallied around to support Borders.  A community already hard hit by the struggling economy, a community that had been so proud of its ties with Borders until the company morphed into something the founders probably could never have imagined, and he is disappointed it hadn’t rallied around to support it.  I have friends in the area who probably asked themselves what Borders had done to help the community in recent years.

And let’s not forget that in the same metaphorical breath, Edwards said that Borders corporate HQ could be leaving Ann Arbor.  That’s really giving them a reason to support the troubled company, isn’t it?

I guess what baffles me the most is Edwards’ attitude that publishers, vendors, landlords and employees must make concessions to save his company.  He wants publishers and vendors to forget the past non-payments and start supplying him with products on a wink and a handshake.  He wants landlords to redo lease terms to lower Borders’ payments.  Employees by the thousands have lost their jobs.  The ripple effect of all this goes into each community — and he doesn’t seem to want to consider this.

I guess that’s why I’m not impressed when he responds to a question about executive bonuses by saying these probably won’t be paid.  In other words, he doesn’t think they can meet the goals required for the bonuses to kick in.  If they can’t meet these goals, is there any real chance Borders can come out of bankruptcy?

Oh yeah, these goals also hinge on concessions from landlords, creditors, etc.

Edwards did say in the interview that Borders has come up with a business plan it will be sharing with publishers in the coming days.  This plan includes terms Edwards described as a “shared risk scenario”.  Am I the only one who sees big problems with publishers taking on any more risks right now?  Especially with the rumbling storm off their metaphorical coast as authors start looking more closely at their sales figures and royalty reports?

Another indication that Borders refused to see the writing on the wall and then, when the wall smacked them in the face still wanted to put the responsibility on others is the comment from Edwards that they only reason they closed the almost 230 stores is because publishers wouldn’t agree to concession in January.  If these concessions had been agreed to then, only 110 stores would have been closed.

Maybe I’m slow here, but Borders initially announced that these stores were closed because they weren’t profitable.  Is Edwards saying he’d have kept unprofitable stores open — and continue an even larger cash bleed than it is experiencing now — if publishers had agreed to continue supplying books without payment?  The mind boggles.

Then comes his disconnect, or at least putting on of blinders, about the future of e-books.  He notes that, when he joined Borders a year and a half ago, e-book sales were approximately 1% of the market.  According to him, at that time the Kindle didn’t have “any traction”.  And he is oh so surprised by the increasing popularity of e-books and the increase in their sales numbers.

I’m sorry.  All he had to do was look at the sales figures for the last ten years.  They’re available.  A simple google search will find them.  If he didn’t want to do that, just look at what was happening from his competitors at the time.  Amazon had brought out the Kindle 2 by then.  The Nook was coming out.  Sony had a dedicated e-reader.  Baen Books had been successfully publishing and marketing e-books for years, as had other publishers.

Edwards is disappointed publishers haven’t been more supportive of them during these first few months of bankruptcy.  But there is one word he uses that everyone should note and remember — especially if you happen to be one of the publishers he’s asking for concessions from.  According to Edwards, “If all the pieces have to come together, the terms commitment then drives the financial sponsorship.”  Note the last word — sponsorship.  That really is the crux of what they are wanting.  They want publishers — who are facing their own financial crises right now — and other vendors to SPONSOR their debt.

After reading this interview, my confidence in Borders is even lower than it had been and that saddens me.  I love bookstores.  I think they are a vital part of a community.  But this sense of entitlement, of trying to put the responsibility on others instead of where it belongs bothers me a great deal.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t surprise me from a corporation that has shown more concern about rewarding execs who didn’t read the writing on the wall, or who at least ignored it, than about the employees who have suffered as a result.

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International Day Against DRM & Irony

Today is the third annual International Day Against DRM.  This is one “cause” everyone at NRP can get behind.  When you buy an e-book, you should be able to read it on any device you own and it shouldn’t be tethered to one type of device or another.  Nor should there be a limit to the number of devices you can download it to.  We’ve all suffered that fatal hard drive crash and find we can’t read an e-book we bought because the new hard drive has a different version of Adobe DE on it, etc.  So, if you agree with those supporting the call for no more DRM, let the publishers still demanding it know.  Email them your concerns and vote with your pocket book because, let’s face it, money is all they will listen to.

Now, the irony of this is that two of the so-called Big 6 publishers who not only add DRM to their ebooks but also have adopted the Agency Model of pricing have announced their first quarter earnings for this year.  Guess what, digital sales for them are up.  Hatchett UK’s digital sales were more than four times what they had been and now comprise approximately 5% of their total sales.  That said, it is still important to note that the company’s overall publishing sales were down 10% — something they attribute to the fact there are no more Twilight books.  Which also shows a potentially fatal weakness.  No company the size of Hatchett should rely on a single franchise of novels to make a profit.

Simon & Schuster reported that digital sales comprised 18% of their worldwide sales the first quarter of this year.  This helped lift profits, before debt and amortization, due to the decrease in shipping and return costs.

How much more of an increase these companies would have seen if they didn’t load their books with DRM and didn’t price them higher than most e-book purchasers are willing to pay is anyone’s guess.  Just as it’s anyone’s guess if they will actually read the writing on the wall and realize that e-books aren’t the poor second cousin anymore but are, in fact, a viable and vibrant part of their product line.

As I said earlier, if you support doing away with DRM, want the freedom to be able to buy an e-book at competitive prices and be able to read it on any device, let the publishers know.  Send them feedback and vote with your pocketbooks.  And pass the word to your friends to support International Day Against DRM.

–Amanda

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Monday morning

One of the rules here has been to stay away from politics.  But today has to be an exception.  Here is a hat tip and a big THANK YOU to those spec ops who executed the rate and finally dealt with Bin Ladin.  Here’s to every man and woman in uniform now, in the past and those who will come in the future.  Your sacrifices, and those of your friends and families, are what help keep this country strong.  But the death of Bin Ladin doesn’t necessarily mean the danger is gone.  The snake that is al Qaeda may grow a new head.

But for now, I shall carry with me the images of the people gathering at Ground Zero not to mourn this time but to celebrate finally getting a bit of closure, perhaps even vengeance.  And again, thank you to our military past, present and future.

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No, I’m not blogging on the royal wedding

But I do want to revisit briefly the “outing” of high school English teacher Judy Buranich as the author Judy Mays.  I first wrote about this Wednesday afternoon when one of our authors sent me a link to the story and told me to check twitter because it was ablaze with outrage over how Buranich was being treated.  I joined a number of others in wondering exactly where along the line WNEP and its reporters and editors forgot the meaning of the words “ethics” and “journalistic integrity”.

Since then, I’m still shaking my head in wonder and applauding those students and former students and their parents who have come out in support of Ms. Buranich.  I also took the time to watch the video of the original story as well as the follow-up.

The original story opens with the newsreader sitting at the anchor desk.  Behind him on the screen is a cover from one of Mays’ novels with the graphic “Hot for Teacher” overlaid like a title.  When they cut to video, we see a group of four women sitting on a bench swing and a couple of chairs.  It’s the sort of scene you’d expect from middle America — all wholesome and good.  And then they start talking.  One of the mothers expresses her outrage that anyone would write “such stuff”.  She doesn’t read it you see.  So I guess that means no one else should either.  I almost fell out of my chair when she worried that her son might be sitting in class, wondering if Ms. Buranich is “looking at him a certain way?”  Okay, number one, that comes awfully close to saying Buranich is a pedophile.  My only response to that is a resounding “WTF?!?”

Another mother is concerned about doing what’s best for the “children in school right now.”  Of course, she conveniently forgets about the First Amendment.  She forgets about the fact that this teacher had done nothing to promote her books in the classroom.  There has been no allegation that she spoke with her students in, or out, of class about what she did away from school.  No, all that matters is that she writes novels these few women don’t approve of.

After outrage hit their facebook page, and what appeared to be —  at least to me and a number of others — an attempt to censor the negative responses, WNEP did a follow-up to the story.  No, it isn’t an apology, far from it.  But it does show a group of Ms.  Buranich’s supporters.  These include not only parents but former students.  According to the story, some 20 supporters turned out (and there are not more than 5,000 supporters on the Buranich/Mays facebook page).  I was impressed by what the former students had to say.  One of them commented that “everyone” has known about Ms. Buranich’s writing career for quite some time.  Another called her one of the best teachers in the district.   Still, the WNEP had to add its touch of salaciousness to the story  by continuing to use terms like “racy novelist”.  So much for even-handed reporting.

As far as I’m concerned, if Ms. Buranich didn’t promote her books in the classroom and didn’t do anything to violate her contract, then this is nothing more than a non-news item a station has used in the worst way to drum up ratings without giving a damn about how it impacts Buranich, her career or her students.

If you want to read more, or find out how you can best support Buranich, I recommend you check out S. V. Rowle’s blog here.

–Amanda

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