Reading and Goodreads

Though I haven’t been updating here about my reading, and actually took those widgets off my sidebar because they were populated by LibraryThing and I’ve been using Goodreads instead (link to my Goodreads account), I have been reading what I think is an impressive amount (for me). Considering that I’ve still been reading submissions, and that I’ve taken two trips in 2010 already (and I read very little when traveling), I’ve still managed to read 34 books to date in 2010.

As I said, I’ve been tracking my reads on Goodreads. I did a fairly decent job of it in 2009, but right around the time all of the upheavel happened in my professional life last fall, I also stopped updating Goodreads. However, since I read mostly digital, I was able to browse my Fictionwise, Kindle and Calibre records and fill in most of the gaps from September to December. When I was done, and knowing there were books missing because I hadn’t been diligant about keeping up my Goodreads records, I discovered I’d read at least 220 books in 2009.I was happy with not only that, but the variety of genres I’d read. I felt like I pushed myself last year to read a little more outside my comfort zones and I managed to do that. This year I’m also going to be specifically tracking the genres I read.

So what have I read so far in 2010? A lot of Charlaine Harris, apparently. Not the Sookie books, I’ve already read all of those several times, but I read the Lily Bard and Harper Connolly series. Neither of which I actually liked that much, but I found something oddly compelling about them. Weird when that happens. Also, true to form, I’ve read a lot of urban fantasy. Last fall I discovered Karen Chance’s Dorini Basarab series but had not read her Cassandra Palmer series, so I got to catch up on that these past few weeks. Also read Eileen Wilks’ and Nalini Singhs’ new books. Two of my favorite authors, and I loved these offerings.Oh, and I bought some Amanda Quick and Jayne Ann Krentz digital backlist titles from Fictionwise, so I’ve been indulging in those. I’m a little disappointed in the quality of the Amanda Quick books (they were obviously scanned from print and not proofread for scanning errors) but the stories remain good for me!

Now I’m patiently waiting for the next JD Robb book to release in 2 weeks. And the Patricia Briggs book in March. Another two of my favorite authors.

Right now I’m in between books (I was catching up on back episodes of Chuck last night). I have a significant list of books TBR but I can’t decide what to read. What are you reading?

Let’s talk digital…live

Well, kind of live. This weekend I’m at the Lori Foster Get Together in Cincinnati, which brings together just over 300 readers, authors and various industry professionals. Since I’m so stellar at blogging from conferences (ha ha) I thought I’d try something different with some short clips from various attendees showing their thoughts on digital.

I’ll be asking each person just one question each, and it might be anything from “what do you use to read your digital books” to “why don’t you read digital?” and hopefully covering some questions in between. If you have any specific questions you’d like me to ask about digital, shout them out in the comments and I’ll add them into the mix (I’m always happy for something different).

I’ll post a mix of the interviews at various times, Vimeo and my internet connection permitting (trying to upload the videos has almost defeated me). Since this is the first time I’ve used the Flip for this purpose, if you have any feedback, please share it!

(please ignore the silly still shot of me that holds the video. Ack!)

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Shopping small press epublishers

This weekend, I asked in both a post here and at Romance Divas for recommendations of books from small press. I didn’t limit by genre, but I did specify that people couldn’t recommend their own book, they had to have read the book (no recommending your friend’s book just because :P) and that it had to be over 12,000 words. No genre restrictions, since I’ll read pretty much anything. Maybe it was the holiday weekend, but this seemed to be harder than I thought it would be (with the number of people on Romance Divas who write and read small press, I expected more recommendations from there, actually).

I ended up buying about 11 books, ranging in genre and from 8 different small presses.

It was interesting, though, the things I learned about buying/reading small press as a result of this.

1) Distribution is important. I ruled out any press/book that I couldn’t buy at an online bookstore (I didn’t want to enter my credit card number 7 times, so I didn’t want to shop direct from publishers this time, though I often do for certain presses). So any publisher/book that wasn’t available at Fictionwise, AllRomanceEbooks or BooksOnBoard I didn’t even consider. I think one stop shopping is important because most customers are not going to be like me, and hunt 3 different places for all the books they want. They’re going to buy what’s available where it’s convenient for them. Also, a publisher without distribution isn’t catching the “browsers” at the online bookstores.

2) Price to word count is also important. There were a few books that I would have bought based on the blurb, but when I checked the word count versus the price, I quickly changed my mind. I’m sorry, but $5-$6 for a 25-30k book is obscene. To give you an idea, a book that length is about half the length of a normal Harlequin Desire or Presents (category). Half.

3) Word count matters. I found that I very much appreciated Fictionwise putting the exact word count on the books. Most small presses have a word count range for each book, some a large spread, so you don’t know if you’re buying and getting the low end of 30k or the high end of 60k at that price. I based a lot of my purchasing decisions on Fictionwise’s provided word count. It made for easier shopping and I appreciated that.

4) Sales sell books (at least to me). I ended up doing almost all of my shopping at Fictionwise because of their great anniversary sale. I bought more than I would have otherwise, but the psychology of it also hit me, because when I went to look at other sites, I found myself more reluctant to buy a “full price” book.

The reading experience. At the end of the weekend, I had read 7 books from 6 different presses (still have two presses unread from my weekend purchases):

1) I appreciate good metadata. I put all of my books into Calibre for two reasons: Cataloging and transfer to my Sony. Since most of the books came from Fictionwise, and were multi-format, I believe that means that Fictionwise actually formatted them. And Fictionwise doesn’t have the best metadata. It’s okay, but not great. I know I work for Samhain, but I have to tell you, the metadata kicked ass when I put the books into Calibre. (Yes, Samhain was one of the presses I read this weekend). The Samhain metadata includes title, author name, publisher, release date AND the book blurb. It was beautiful. Now, to be fair, since I didn’t buy direct from the other publishers, I don’t know what their own metadata is like, but for a digital book, metadata is important!

2) The blurb at the front of the book (after the cover) is convenient. Once I’d put the 11 books on my Sony, I didn’t necessarily remember what each was about and I appreciated those publishers who put the blurb at the front of the book. It made it easy for me to decide if that was the book I wanted to read right then.

3) Editing matters. And not all small presses are created equal in editing. I am not critical of small errors that slip in. Boy, wouldn’t that be hypocritical? And I have actually gotten pretty good at turning my internal editor off when needed for pleasure reading. But there were some books where it wasn’t possible to do that and I found myself thinking that I would be reluctant to buy 1) from that press again and 2) that author again. Editing matters and small press needs to do better than traditional press at this, unfortunately, because we come under greater scrutiny. People expect small press epublished books to be badly edited and that’s unfortunate for all of us!

4) A good premise can’t trump bad editing/execution. For me, at least, and I think maybe other readers, I realized that though I appreciated the idea of the story/plot, even the freshness of a good premise was overcome by poor editing and execution. Awkward dialogue, stilted narrative, inconsistent plot threads…those things matter.

5) Explicit words and descriptions don’t make a scene sexy. The eroticism of a scene depends on more than the words/acts the author uses and has her characters engaging in. It depends on the intimacy of the setting, the sensuality of the moment and the connection the characters have to each other, and I have to them. Some authors have an amazing talent writing this.

6) I appreciate small press for its diversity. One thing about the recommendations I got and the books I read, is that they were diverse, not just in genre, but also in length. It was nice to be able to choose a shorter book to read just before bed, but a longer book to indulge in during the day, and to be able to get everything from a m/m/f BDSM romance to sweet contemporary.

Recommend me a book, please

I’m ready to load some new books on my Sony (really, I have 100s of unread books on there, but what does that matter?)

Here are the parameters:

It has to be from a digital publisher, not from a large press publisher. I want to support small presses this weekend.

It cannot be your own book (sorry!).

It has to be longer than 12,000 words (I can’t bring myself to spend money on anything shorter).

You have to have actually read the book.

Genre doesn’t matter.

Who’s got something amazing for me to read?

(and yes, I am alive. I’m just taking some time off from blogging. I’ll be back!)

Smart women talking digital

Look what I found last night that’s now available online! It’s the video of my presentation with Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Malle Vallik of Harlequin and Kassia Krozser of Booksquare, Smart Bitches Women Read Ebooks. I’ve only watched the first few minutes, but I do plan on watching it again, to agonize over what I wish I’d said differently, how I looked and how awesomely smart and savvy my panel-mates sound. I was so impressed with how polished they sounded!

You can watch it here if the embedded video below doesn’t work. Oh, and I love how the video is frozen with me in the midst of drinking from the bottle. Lovely.

ETA: After setting up this post last night, I ended up watching the entire 45 minute video because it was like hearing the conversation for the first time, and it was quite interesting. We’re smart women! I think the presentation goes much like a blog post on the topic might, very conversational, with some disagreement, but lots of information. Not too boring at all 😛

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