In Internet World – especially the weird section that we inhabit called The Blogosphere – it’s all about the new. New things are **shiny** and **exciting.** And we definitely feel that! We were super excited when we got approved for our first book on NetGalley, because it meant that we got to read the new, shiny, exciting stuff too. We had made it!
Even as we jump into this world, however, we also want to keep reading and reviewing and promoting older books. And not just the truly Old School romances (so we can see how far we’ve come), even though they’re fun, but also books that were written five or ten years ago. Books that we are just now discovering at the library or at book sales, or old favorites that we just want to share with all of our delightful readers. Or even oldies that stuck with us that we want to try on again now that we’re older and wiser to see if they really were that special.
Because here’s the thing – the publishing world right now is a weird place, and some troubling trends are at work making it harder to make a living as an author. (Not that it was ever easy, let’s be real here.)
Let’s back up and delve into some background. You might remember, back in February, a reader alerted author Courtney Milan to a romance novel plagiarizing her work. After some investigation, it turned out that the plagiarist in question stole from a whole bunch of people and had ghostwriters cobble together books from snippets of a bunch of different books – fellow book blogger Caffeinated Fae has compiled a complete list, and it’s pretty mind-boggling. Nora Roberts is now suing the plagiarist (who doesn’t get named because why give her another google hit, amirite?), because she does not mess around with this nonsense. You’re probably thinking – “Why are you guys talking about this? That happened approximately a million years ago in internet time!” Bear with us, all this has a point. Probably.
This whole plagiarism hullabaloo also sparked some side conversations on publishing practices, especially in the world of independent publishing and e-books. Things like book stuffing and book churning (for more details on this, and tips for spotting book churning, author Shiloh Walker has a great write-up)and ghostwriting. Nora Roberts wrote a series of posts on her position on the various ways people churn books – she sums up a lot of info here.
The bottom line in all of this is that, like the broader world of the internet, Amazon – and because Amazon is a behemoth in the publishing world, especially in independent publishing of e-books, the world of e-books more generally – rewards people who can churn out books, which in turn rewards people who can hire others to help them churn out books at an astounding rate (whether those helpers are ghostwriters or people to swap books with or click farms or whatever). And, shocker, this happens a lot in Romancelandia (insert stupid joke that we’ve DEFINITELY never heard before about how all romance novels are the same etc etc etc). There’s a lot of technical algorithm stuff going on – but basically, if you can throw up a bunch of content, you are more likely to get sales, which means that Amazon starts promoting you, so you get even more sales. But in order to keep making money that way, you have to be able to maintain a fast pace, especially if you’re selling on Kindle Unlimited; as one author confided to Ilona Andrews, she has to write a book a month to break even.
Now, we are not saying that people who are able to write a book a month for Kindle Unlimited (yes, that is a sponsored link to sign up for KU, because WE ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM!) do not deserve love and attention if they write good stuff. After all, this is how Ingrid discovered the awesomeness that is Pippa Grant. However, because of the way the whole self-fulfilling reward loop goes down, there are plenty of authors out there who get crowded out because they are not the new it thing, but write really excellent books. And online or in print, those excellent books become hard to find because of all the noise. (Kelly Bowen comes to mind, whom Holly only discovered by accident while wandering around in the public library.)
All of this is a really long-winded way to say: reading older books and backlists and books without buzz is our small way of trying to balance things out.
After all, it’s not like books go bad. They don’t have an expiration date. And that weirdo gem from the library or the used book store or the local indie press or whatever might just lead you to a whole new tiny sub-world of romance.