Bookmarks: News and views from the publishing industry

US Authors Guild wants 50% ebook royalty rate

As part of its fair contract initiative, the US Authors Guild is campaigning for publishers to pay net ebook royalty rates of up to 50%. The Guild says some bestselling authors are already receiving 50% but only on condition that they sign a non-disclosure document about the terms of their agreement. Most publishers currently pay ebook royalty rates of 25% of net receipts. Some publishers have initiated such a policy, but at the expense of lower advances.

In the UK, new digital publisher Canelo is offering authors 50% – 60% royalty rates although they do not pay advances. Canelo is signing titles on a five-year licence period, offering authors the opportunity to take back their titles at that point if they wish to. Industry veteran Michael Bhaskar launched Canelo last week, publishing two thrillers.

Kensington to publish Swedish romance author in English

Kensinton has acquired the rights to Swedish romance novelist Simona Ahrnstedt’s three book series in what it says will be the first time a Swedish romance author will be published in English. They will publish the first book Only One Night in Summer 2016. The series has already sold over 70,000 copies in Sweden, where it is published by Forum. Literary agent Anna Frankl has sold rights in eight other countries as well, including France and Spain. The books’ heroine is Natalia De La Grip, a young woman born into wealth who has a budding career in finance. She is expected to marry someone of equal social status but falls in love with a venture capitalist who has been plotting against her family.

Ella Finalists announced!

We are delighted to announce the finalists in the 2015 Ella, RWA’s reader-judged contest for published novellas.

Drumroll for and congratulations to:

Her Christmas Earl by Anna Campbell

Home for Christmas by Fiona Greene

Beneath a Trojan Moon by Anna Hackett

Sympathy for the Devil by Kelly Hunter

The competition for a spot on this list was fierce, with 40 entries in a range of genres.

The winner will be announced at RWA’s national conference in Melbourne in August.

Thanks to all who entered, our judges, and contest manager Raewyn McGill.

ROMA Finalists!

The finalists for the ROMA Award 2015 have been decided. They are (alphabetically):

Danielle Binks  “Things No-one Tells you About Romance Readers”   (

Evana Ho “Interviews at the 2015 ARRA Convention” (ArtSound FM /

Stephanie Pegler Romance Novel Explores FIFO Love  (The West Australian Newspaper/

The ROMA is an award to recognise professional, positive media coverage of the romance industry. It was launched by Romance Writers of Australia (Inc) (RWA) to help recognise and acknowledge those members of the media who reach beyond the cliché in their reporting on romance writers, releases or industry. In determining the winner, the award selection panel look at the angle of the article, the quality of research, the representation of romance and the ‘reach’ of the piece.  Any RWA member can nominate a media piece that they feel stands out as particularly worthy. The winner will be announced during the Gala Dinner at the 2015 RWA Conference in August.

July New Releases

I don’t know what the weather is like in your part of the country, but here in Sydney it is cold and wet, the sun rises late and sets early. Uggh! The only good news is that all the extra hours indoors mean more reading time.

Here are the new books from our members. As always, there is something for everyone. New books from our membersBrowse and enjoy.

More Upheaval For EBook Subscription Suppliers

Current Scribd model unsustainable; changes punish romance writers for popularity

Publishers Weekly, The Bookseller and the Weekly Book Newsletter have all reported that the ebook subscription service Scribd has cut its romance catalogue to drastically reduce the number of romance and erotica titles it carries.

In a letter to publishers, Scribd said that it needed to ‘adjust the proportion of titles across genres to ensure that we can continue to expand the overall size and variety of our service … We will be making some adjustments, particularly to romance, and as a result some previously available titles may no longer be available.’

Smashwords CEO Mark Coker, the first publisher to comment on Scribd’s decision and strategy, said he anticipated that 80-90% of Smashwords romance titles will be dropped by Scribd. He said that Scribd is dropping most of their popular romance and erotica titles priced at $3.99 and above. He is of the opinion that the Scribd plan is to eliminate the longest and most popular titles, which are the most expensive to acquire, since the service pays publishers based on a ‘qualified read’.

‘Bottom line, romance readers are reading Scribd out of house and home. Scribd’s business model, as it is set up now, simply can’t sustain the high readership of romance readers. They’re not facing the same problem with readers of other genres,’ Coker said in a Smashwords blog post.

The cuts in romance titles will happen across the board and affect all romance publishers, traditional and indie alike. Romance titles offered for free will remain, particularly free first titles in a series.

Scribd did not explain their actions. However, Coker believes that romance readers, who are high volume consumers of books, are undermining the company’s profits. eBook subscription models, like health club membership models, are based on a presumption of moderate use. Romance readers buck that trend by borrowing more than the ‘average’ allowed in the business model.

Although Coker understands the need for Scribd to tinker with its model, he is critical of the title-elimination approach. He believes a tiered subscription model with different fee structures based on a subscriber’s reading habits would still allow Scribd to offer value to heavy volume readers, but ‘wouldn’t break the bank to the detriment of all authors.’ Coker anticipates that further changes will happen before eBook subscription companies will find a sustainable model.

The Scribd approach would seem in many ways to be the opposite approach to that taken by Kindle Unlimited. Amazon has changed its payment structure to authors in a move apparently designed to ensure that authors of longer works get a greater share of the combined author royalty pool. It remains to be seen which model, if either, will prosper to the benefit of both readers and authors.

Are any of our members signed up to Scribd, directly or through Smashwords? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the changes.

Valerie Parv Award Finalists announced!

We are delighted to announce and congratulate the finalists in the 2015 Valerie Parv Award (VPA).  They are:

Anne Prince

Carly Main

Dave Sinclair

Dee Scully

Kat Colmer

Laura Boon


Their entries are now with Valerie Parv for final judging. The contest received 64 entries, and many judges commented on the high standard, so competition was fierce as usual. Well done to all who entered, and thanks to all our volunteer judges and contest co-ordinators for their great work.


First Kiss Results!

The results are in for our 2015 First Kiss competition!

As judged by editor Kate Byrne at Headline Eternal, our First Kiss placegetters are:


1st           Tamar Sloan

2nd          Rosie Miles

3rd           Emma Hoole

4th           Jo Harris

5th           Annabelle Rose

6th           Gayle Ash


Congratulations to all who entered!  Thanks to all our judges, and contest manager Deb Cox.

The Self Pub Hub is coming to RWA’s Get Fresh Conference!

Demystifying Self Publishing

Do you have a publishable story in your bottom drawer? Perhaps it’s time to pull it out, blow the dust off, polish it up and offer it to the world. You could be one of ninety authors who will self publish original works of romantic fiction as part of a new innovation to the Get Fresh in ’15 RWA annual conference.

The Scarlett Rugers Self-Pub Hub is designed to help step authors through the self publishing process to successfully publish a manuscript (short story, novella, or novel) over the conference weekend.

The Scarlett Rugers Self-Pub Hub will operate for three sessions daily over the core conference days. For a small fee you will be guided through each step, live and online, with the hopeful result that your work will be successfully published and available for sale during the conference.

Your guide is award winning book designer and director of srugers picthe Scarlett Rugers Book Design Agency, Scarlett Rugers. Scarlett has worked with both traditional publishing houses and self-published authors, and has been recognized for providing the best website for self-published authors. Her goal is to help authors, through service and design, be the best they can be and to drive the self-publishing industry to grow into one of great quality. Empowerment, support and creativity are her tools to connecting with writers and helping them reach the heights of success scarlettrugers_logo2_s_2015they have dreamed of.

Mystified? Nervous? Don’t be. We asked Scarlett who should join in:

Who should give the Self Pub Hub a try?

Any author, from new to established, who is ready and willing to send their first book into the hands of readers. The Scarlett Rugers Self Pub Hub works with authors who are unfamiliar with the self publishing process and want a walk through for their first time, and want to learn so that they can do it themselves next time, as well as author’s who have confidently prepared their files ready for publishing. The aim is to keep the process easy and effortless. 

What skills will people take away from the Self Pub Hub?

They’ll get experience wielding awesome Kindle publishing power, understand how the system works, learn the potential trip ups and how to prepare their files so they can minimise errors or mishaps next time around.

Do people have to publish at the end, or can they just join in and walk through the process with the group?

While the Self Pub Hub is set up for you to push the button and go live with your new work, there is no obligation to do so. If pushing the final PUBLISH button is a bit too frightening, you can stop there, knowing you have the tools to go away and do it in your own time at your own desk.

Can you guarantee my work will publish successfully?

Self publishing can be a tricky business and sometimes there are hidden problems or errors in files which prevent them from being successfully published. All participants will receive a detailed checklist with links to websites providing advice on how to best prepare their material and optimise their chances of successfully publishing on the day. For first timers, we recommend you start with shorter works to minimise any potential formatting problems with the files. Even if you don’t manage to successfully self publish, you will still gain the hands on experience of working directly with the system and have your many questions answered by an experienced self publishing expert.


Registrations are via and will open 6 – 24 July 2015.

Cost: $15

Days: Saturday 22nd August & Sunday 23rd August

Times:   9.15am – 10.45am | 11.15am – 12.45pm | 1.45pm – 3.15pm

Venue: The Library, Park Hyatt Hotel, Melbourne

For more information on Scarlett Rugers Self Pub Hub check the conference website:


Privacy AND payment issues raised in response to ebook retailer data mining

I feel it is only fair to say upfront that, in my personal capacity, I have to this point been an Amazon supporter. They’re wonderful for customers, which is the sphere in which all my interaction with them has been to date. However, I have to ask if they have finally come up with a plan intended to antagonise traditional publishers, indie authors and readers alike?

Their latest scheme is a pay-as-you-read plan as reported in papers such as The New Zealand Herald and the UK Telegraph. If a reader doesn’t read a book in full, the author will only be paid a percentage of their royalties. So Amazon keeps all the subscription money but gets to give a smaller percentage back in royalties to the author/s.

Amazon is implementing the system on 1 July, initially only with authors who self-publish their books via the Kindle Direct Publishing Select program that makes books available to borrow from the Kindle Library and to Amazon Prime customers. Amazon’s ‘logic’ is that this is a ‘fair’ way to reward authors who write lengthy books but have previously picked up the same royalties as someone who writes a 100-page novella. Length is not the primary factor in determining whether a book is popular or well written. In fact,  it is a very poor determinant of either popularity or quality. Besides that difference in length should be reflected in the book’s price and then authors will be rewarded accordingly.

Of  course, all books in the Kindle Unlimited program are priced the same ($0), so why should  certain authors who have chosen to give Kindle Unlimited a go be penalised? Books that are more popular will be ‘borrowed’ more often and their authors will (or should) be rewarded accordingly. An author whose book is borrowed from a library – presumably the model for Kindle Unlimited – does not receive payment based on the length of their book or on how many pages the borrower read. The pay-as-you-read concept borders on farcical. Why not just pay authors on their reader review rating? No rating, no royalty. Then you really could ensure that all authors starve in garrets.

I have to ask the question: has this come about because the Kindle Unlimited borrowing program has not worked as Amazon anticipated, especially from a company income perspective? Or is it simply that Amazon wish to promote the business models of their rivals? Smashwords, for example, could benefit if self-publishing indie authors moved their business across to them. You can download a mobi (Kindle) file from Smashwords to your reader. It’s not quite as convenient as buying direct from Amazon because books bought from Smashwords don’t seem to sync to all devices, but hey, I can live with that. It’s a bit indulgent to carry my library on more than one device anyway.

One of my pleasures as a reader is to know that when I buy a book the author I am supporting earns income. Sometimes (erm, okay, let’s make that ‘quite often’ … okay, ‘very often’) I buy books that I know are going to go to the very bottom of my TBR pile because I want to read them in the future, or I want to support a promising new author or a friend, or because I am looking for something different I may or may not like, or just … because.

I intensely dislike the thought that Amazon may use my buying patterns to penalise authors, especially when one of the reasons I am a big ebook and Amazon supporter is the price factor. eBooks are much cheaper than paperbacks. I’ll take a chance on a new author and stack my virtual bookshop with appealing reads because we’re talking a price range that averages $0.99 to $6.99. I can easily get anywhere from two to seven ebooks for the price of one paperback and spread the love. But my love is intended for the author. I don’t want Amazon or any other retailer gorging on it.

And, on a creepy note, I am starting to feel stalked. Both Amazon and Kobo have openly admitted to accessing reader data on how many pages of a book on average are read; how long it takes between purchase and reading etc etc. If they are doing it, presumably other eretailers are too. My request to ebook eretailers is to kindly stick to your business, selling, in your shop and stay out of my living room and my bedroom. I didn’t invite you in. I didn’t respond to a survey. If my local bookseller came and peered through my window every day to check on my reading habits, I would have them arrested. I’m wondering why you don’t suffer the same fate? I certainly don’t buy the ‘anonymous’ line. It doesn’t work for the Peeping Tom spying on a woman he doesn’t know, and it shouldn’t work for Big Business either.

What are your thoughts as a reader, author or publisher? It would be particularly interesting to hear back from authors who use the Kindle Direct Publishing Select program.



Call to action to RWA members and other supporters of romance

A new organisation called Women in Literary Arts Australia (WILAA) has been launched to support women working in the literary industry. It was founded by writer and producer Lefa Singleton Norton. Other founding members include Lisa Dempster, the Melbourne Writers Festival CEO, and Kate Callingham, the Emerging Writers Festival General Manager.

Lefa said that a 2014 roundtable of women in writing and publishing industries found that there was ‘a lack of centralised information and formal networks of support for women writers’. She added that WILAA aimed to fix this by finding practical ways to support women to excel, such as networking opportunities, mentorships, events, workshops and marketing campaigns.

WILAA will conduct a nationwide survey over the coming months to determine what is most needed in terms of support systems. It will also research the representation of women on Australia’s ‘literary stages’.

You can find out more about WILAA and their objectives on their website. You can also fill in their initial Survey. This is where our call to action comes in. I’ve done the survey and noticed with disappointment that although our genre sister authors in crime are mentioned, romance does not get a look-in. Neither does fantasy. There is an open-ended final question that I used to address this, and in this case, as in many others, I reckon the more the merrier!


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