Saturday, February 18, 2012

Roll the Presses

It must be a weird convergence of planets or colliding stars or something, but in the past couple of weeks I've had three or four readers pointedly asking about print. One guy suggested I hated Capitalism and one gal seemed to think I'm the one who stuck the knife in the unsuspecting back of legacy publishing. Why are people trying to kill books? she asked in (judging by the frowny face emoticon) all seriousness.

So, for the record, despite my youthful Socialist ideals, I'm pretty much as big a Capitalist as the next successfully self-supporting writer AND I am not trying to kill books. I'm not even trying to wound books. I love books. I love ebooks and print books and picture books and graphic novels and I even have fond memories of a weird little cloth book I had as a toddler. Which I think I loved so much I may have actually eaten.

But I digress.

I respect the passion for stories and reading that leads people to get riled because they can't find the books they want to read in the medium they prefer. That is indeed annoying, and I am sympathetic because I remember quite well how frustrating it was to find stories I wanted to read only available digitally in the days before I had an ebook reader.

I understand and I sympathize and obviously the more books I can sell, the more money I make, and I like that. (See cap·i·tal·ism. noun \ˈka-pə-tə-ˌliz-əm above.)

So we're kind of all on the same side here.

The thing is, I don't always control whether a book goes to print or not. Some -- actually most -- of my publishers retain the print rights on the titles I sell and that means it's up to them whether the book goes to print. I don't have any objection to any of my stories going to print. And most of my stories ARE in print.

And of the ones not currently in print, most of those will be in print as the rights revert back to me and I republish the books myself. Pretty much the only titles that won't be in print are the ones through Carina Press. And even those will eventually be in print although it will be a few years before I get those particular rights back.

So hopefully that answers that. Pretty much everything is eventually going to be in print. The fact that all my titles are not currently in print is not because I have anything against print publishing.

Now the fact that all my work will eventually be in print doesn't mean that you'll be able to walk into your local bookstore and find Fatal Shadows on the shelves. It doesn't work like that. In order to publish in print I'll be using print on demand technology (POD) and those books are rarely carried by bookstores. You'll be able to special order them usually -- just as you do now -- or you'll be able to get them through various online retailers.

The other thing to be aware of is that POD books are almost universally trade paperbacks, and those don't come cheap. They're usually ten bucks and up. Again, that isn't something I can completely control. I have to be able to make some modest profit on print books. I'd at least like to break even.

Anyway, hopefully that answers that and we can now return to the previously scheduled complaints about why authors choose to write short stories.


  1. Just a suggestion, when the print rights revert back to you, you may want to consider putting your books in audio format also. I have the few that are out there and I love them. (This really is not meant to be a complaint, again just a suggestion.)

  2. Avid reader here, but I don't think I've ever emailed or commented.

    I find this interesting... my guess is that its likely that a large portion of your readership mirrors my demographic: 20-something who's grown up with instant access to the internet, has been used to reading anything and everything on a computer screen including news, fiction (and fan-fiction), college textbooks, articles, journals and you name it. Your publishers have figured out that digital is how they're going to get us to cough up money. I've spent more money on books in the last 3 years since more and more of them have become available in digital format. I love books; I just like them better when they're available in the cloud. You can't tote 20 of your favorite books around with you in print, you can't pull up a book you've suddenly felt compelled to reread while you're in another country in 30 seconds (its happened to me on more than one occasion), you can't buy a book same day and read it 10 seconds later unless you get your butt to a bookstore (and I never go unless I'm buying a cup of coffee), you can't look up words you don't know just by putting your finger on it, and most importantly you can't read your favorite romance novel with a guy's naked torso on the cover surreptitiously while on your lunch break at work unless your boss is a Josh Lanyon fan too (unfortunately, she's not). If most your books were only available in print, I would have only read about 5% of them. What's really important to me is not necessarily to have a book in hand, but rather to have the content of the _story_ in hand. The truth is books are probably going the way of the Compact Disc. Remember how hard the RIAA fought the mp3? Why fight it?

    Anyway, I didn't mean to be long winded. My point is simply that I would not be a Josh Lanyon fan at all if not for digital books, so thank Capitalism for that.

  3. How ironic that the 40-something "old lady" is posting after the 20-something digital kid!

    I, for one, am thrilled by the idea of your whole catalog in print. You know me; I love my physical books! And I do not mind one bit paying $10 or more for a trade paperback. It's my way of supporting my artist friends, and I love the permanence of the media (yes, I know it's not really permanent, but it will be for *my* lifetime).

    Josh, you are a fabulous writer, and trust me when I tell you that fans are just happy that you're here. Actually, I think we're also happy that you are so kind and generous - and accessible! There are so many authors I admire that just don't have the time to reach out to fans individually on the level that you do. You inspire new writers, and new readers.

    Good lord, you ARE Superman, aren't you? lol! Or Batman, or one of the other super-hero studs :D

    Take care, and just know that I'll be saving my pennies for the day that print versions are available. Oh happy day for me!

  4. Hi there, Tiffany!

    Thanks for commenting -- I am definitely looking into audio books, though I haven't so far had a lot of luck. But that's certainly a goal of mine.

  5. Anonymous, one of the most interesting things I've read were the recent PW stats that indicated people who own ebook readers read more overall (and continue to buy books in print) than their print only counterparts.

    As a reader I'm thrilled by access to hundreds of thousands of titles I formerly had no access to. Titles in public domain, for example.

    As a writer, I have zero complaints. I would not be able to earn a living on my print sales. Which means I would be writing a lot less because I'd still be working 60+ hours a week at my old day job.

    I see ebooks as supplemental to our overall reading experience. It doesn't -- and shouldn't -- have to be a case of either/or.

  6. Oh, thank you, Traci. You're very kind!

    I love print books and I do absolutely want all my work eventually in print. When I really love a book, I want to hold it and see it on my shelf, and flip back and forth between the pages.

    And I also totally agree with anonymous that it is fabulous to be able to grab any book whenever you want it, whatever your mood.

    This is just a wonderful time to be a reader. We're spoiled for choice.

    And it's an equally wonderful time to be a writer, because we are also spoiled for choice.

  7. Wise words, Josh. Not just the ones on your post, but on your replies.
    I can't tell you emotional I got when I saw a lot of your books in print format sitting on a prominent shelf at one of your other reader's house recently, but I must concur that ebooks are a great opportunity for both writers and readers, not just in niche genres but overall.
    I also agree having your books in audio format one day would be the cherry on the cake :)

    All the best,

  8. I too am an avid paperbook fan and collector, I own all of your books in paperback (sometimes double because of the different covers). I have yet to buy an e-reader, but plan to get one in the future. I also agree that the only way to get access to a larger audience is thru e-publication, if you can't reach the audience you can't survive.
    I am glad to hear all of your stories will eventually be in print, we readers are just happy to have your writing any which way we can!

  9. Dear Josh,

    You are one of my favourite m/m authors and I have quite a lot of your work in e-format. But despite belonging to the 20something demographic I'm really glad to hear that most of your work will be advaible in print at some time.

    I view my e-reader as an easy way to read while travelling and to test new novels, since e-formats are usually quite a bit cheaper than their print versions. But I really like to have my favourites in a paperback version. Paperbacks just feel more real and permenant. Plus nothing beats curly up on your sofa with a warm drink and a good paperback. I really don't feel that curling up with your e-reader generates the same feeling. I also miss that you can't stick post-its on your favourite pages or write notes next to your favourite lines.

    I would definitely spend between 10 to 15 euro - sorry, I'm European and always forget how to convert that to dollars - for a paperback version of a 200 to 300 page novel. Maybe even a bit more if I really, really wanted it. But I can't really work out how that POD works. How to people know when they can demand for a print version? Do you then advertise it on your own site and sites such as Amazon? Because I have been trying to find the Adrien English Mysteries in a print version, but so far I've only managed to track down a few - so not a complete set. Plus they were the ones with the cartoon covers and I don't really like those, espicially when compared to the absolutely gorgeous e-book covers. And I have to admit that my liking of a cover plays a part in whether or not I'll by the print version.

    So, sorry for this long comment. But main question was: How does one actually know when one can order a specific book when an author uses the POD method to print his novels?

    Thank you

  10. Thank you, radafan7!

    It's always very flattering when I hear that someone has bought my book in a couple of different formats. It's what I do when I love a book, so it makes sense to me!

    Since this topic came up I've been thinking a lot about print. I don't know if I'll re-do the current collections when the rights revert of if I'll do the print books by theme or story line. Like a collection of the Dangerous Ground books. Or a pairing of the two Dark Horse stories.

    So much to think about -- and I'll certainly try to get reader input before I do anything.

  11. Hi Niekebieke!

    In answer to your main question -- or what I think is your question -- the easiest way would be to check the author website and see if the book is offered for print there. If the author has self-pbulished the book will generally be print on demand. Almost no author -- and increasingly few micro-presses -- will do an actual print run now days. (Though some indie presses still do -- Blind Eye Books does, for one.)

    Print on demand is kind of a misleading term because the author has to have submitted the files so that book is available for digital printing. It's both the author and the reader who end up "demanding" the book. :-)

    I will probably end up using Createspace or a similiar provider when I get around to putting books into print.

    You can order the Adrien English books through MLR Press right now -- they're available (through POD technology) at Amazon, etc.

    When the rights revert, I'll take my files with a new cover to a new vendor like Createspace and then (using POD again) publish the books myself.

    Does that make sense?

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  13. (This is a late, and long, response that I drafted earlier. It took me awhile to figure out blogging identities. I usually feel reasonably tech adept, then find otherwise...)

    The planets have been interestingly aligned above our western horizon.

    The possible demise of print books and bookstores is an emotional issue for many people, and they look for someone to fix it or someone to blame. There's a long-time independent bookstore in our wider neighborhood, charming and funky, with a long-established niche, but that doesn't make it invulnerable by any means. Traditional bookstores could cease to exist in our lifetimes. Heartbreaking, but this will be determined by issues of economics, convenience, and reader's choice — not by writers who opt for
    e-publishing and self-publishing.

    While looking over my book-buying records, I was a bit surprised to see how much I've been spending. At least 80% was spent on e-books. I wouldn't have spent that amount otherwise (with the advantages of instant access, cross-referencing online reviews and recommendations, etc.) And I wouldn't have discovered your books or most of the others I've been reading in local bookstores. I could special order those titles available in print from my local — supporting them, but trading-out immediacy and privacy.

    I love print books, but find the portability of e-readers to be a major plus. Aging eyes are also accommodated by choice in font sizes. With print books, I'm a stickler for beautiful design. If the cover, or the textual design isn't beautifully done, I tend not to buy. With e-books, it's often necessary to be more forgiving. I certainly appreciate your new covers.

    I'm happy to buy print versions of books I've read online or as e-books, providing that the design is beautiful. The POD print books Casperian did for the Manna Francis series (initially read free online) are very well done.

    1. Thanks for commented, Karen.

      There does seem to be a lot of rhetoric surrounding the topic, doesn't there? I look at ebooks as supplemental to my general reading habits. I love my Kindle but I love print too.

      And I still love the experience of going to a bookstore and browsing.

      Nothing stays the same and it's inevitable that publishing is changing -- which means a different world for readers and writers both. I expect that there will be good things ahead -- but some losses too. But either way, the change is coming.

  14. I don't deny that I'd love to see your books in print. But I have to say, since I'm Indian (east Indian, that is), the only reason I've got access to half the books I do, including yours, is that they're available online - it isn't likely that I'll see your books in print here anytime soon :(
    The fact that your books are digitally available means they're accessible to readers who would never have been able to get their hands on them otherwise - which, profit potential aside, is a definite pro - you've expanded my mental horizons for sure!
    Anyway, I couldn't resist leaving a comment, though it's 2:30 a.m. here and I'd better get to bed.
    Keep writing!

    1. I can't deny that when I see torrent sites and those endless, shameless requests for my work, I do fantasize about restricting my work to print. Not that it would stop these miscreants, but it would make it more irritating for them. :-D

      But I could never punish the legitimate paying reader like that, so my work will continue to be available in every format I can manage.