Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A cache of historical fiction

So, I'm back from Spain. I had a wonderful time: for those who don't know, I'm half Spanish through my Mom and I was raised there, so it was going home for me. Madrid is so vibrant and full of life and history, I found myself staying up way past my usual bedtime, and actually not caring! I also drank too much coffee, but who cares?

I had lunch with my editor there, too, and discovered some interesting facts about the state of books in Spain. First off, books are never discounted beyond 10% off the cover price and even that is rare. I went to several bookstores while I was there, big and small stores, and nowhere do you see the rampant discounting you see here in the US or in the UK. Which is good news for publishers, who get better returns on their investment, and good news ultimately for authors, because if publishers are solvent, then they're more likely to want our next book. Also, historical fiction is booming in Europe and in Spain, in particular. I found many novels that haven't been translated into English, with wonderfully unique themes and settings, such as the Moorish time in early medieval Spain; 14th century Germany; 12th century Byzantium and France; medieval and Renaissance Italy, etc. The authors are German, Dutch, Italian - names I'd never heard of before. The romantic vein that seems so popular here in historical fiction is far less noticeable there, and some well-known authors to us were nowhere to be found.

Needless to say, my book cart overflowed. I read Spanish, though not as often as I read English, and so I decided it was time to branch out and brush up my literary reading skills and further my historical novel appetite. One book in particular that I bought - and is, in fact, published by my Spanish publisher Ediciones B. - is "The Secret of Sofonisba" about Sofonisba Anguissola, a Renaissance woman who painted at the court of Philip II of Spain and has been forgotten by history, though in her time she was considered incredibly talented. The book begins with a visit from VanDyck to her studio, where, ancient and near death, she relates to him a secret . . . I've had to set it aside to finish my current HNS review assignment, but it starts out with beautiful language and much promise. Plus, the author is a real Medici - Lorenzo de Medici, in fact.

It's sad that more books published in Europe are not being translated and marketed here. I feel our market could use an influx of this new, exciting blood. Not that I don't find enough to read here, nor do I think we lack for quality, but still . . . what devoted fan wouldn't like to see down more historical novels?

Monday, October 15, 2007

On vacation!

Hi everyone,
I'm off to Spain for a week to see family and meet my Spanish editor (a first for me, and, I must admit, very exciting!) I'm waiting on two authors to get back to me regarding interviews, and hopefully will have affirmative responses by the time I return. For the moment, Tom Quinn, author of The Venetians series (LION OF ST MARK and the upcoming SWORD OF VENICE) has confirmed for December. I also sent an interview request to a woman author I really admire, as well, but thus far no reply. I've got fingers crossed!

If there are any authors you'd like me to interview, please leave a comment letting me know. In the meantime, keep writing!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Amazon launches undiscovered writer contest

Okay, maybe the book sale this past week addled my brain and I didn't hear about this until now, but here it is, straight from PW's mouth:

Amazon is getting into the author-writing contest arena, launching the first Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award today in cooperation with Penguin and Hewlett-Packard. Amazon will accept submissions through November 5 and the winner will have his or her novel published by Penguin, which is also offering a $25,000 advance. PW will serve as preliminary judges of the material as well. The contest is free and open to unpublished authors in 20 countries who have English-language manuscripts (complete contest rules and requirements are available at Amazon, which will accept up to 5,000 entries, is assembling a panel of customers who have posted the most, and best, reviews on its site to serve as the judges for the first round. After the submissions have been cut to 1,000, a team put together by PW will give a full review to each manuscript, and the review and excerpt will be posted on the Amazon Web site where customers can read, rate and review the offerings. The PW team -- of existing and new reviewers -- will be paid to administer the reviews, and reviewers will remain anonymous. Amazon is paying PW's administrative costs only.Penguin will pare the 1,000 manuscripts down to 100 and those will undergo "a full editorial review process," said Penguin director of online sales and marketing Tim McCall. Once Penguin cuts the submissions to 10, excerpts will again be posted on the Amazon site where customers will vote for the winner. Voting will close March 31 and the winner announced April 7. McCall said Penguin will release the book, "in the appropriate format," and he hopes to have at least a galley of the book on hand at BEA. -- Publishers Weekly, 10/1/2007 3:00:00 AM

Now, my first inclination is to say, Hurrah! Any opportunity for the unpublished writer in the notoriously difficult publishing climate is terrific. But then the cynic in me went to the amazon site where the contest is featured and I saw that the runners-up from the contest (i.e., all those but one that fail to win the coveted Penguin contract) will receive:

The winner of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award will receive a full publishing contract from Penguin Group, including promotional support for their novel on, and a media suite from Hewlett-Packard. The nine remaining finalists will receive a free Total Design Freedom self-publishing package from BookSurge and a media suite from Hewlett-Packard. Semi-finalists will receive a review of their manuscript by Publishers Weekly. Upon conclusion of the contest all entrants will be eligible to make their books available for sale to customers via the CreateSpace self-publishing service at no charge. In addition, all entrants will receive discounted self-publishing services from BookSurge for custom cover design, formatting, and editing.

Is this is a great opportunity for some lucky writer, a massive propaganda campaign to sell services, or both? And could it be the beginning of Get Published: The Reality Show?

I'd love to hear what you think.