Best Books of 2016 Lists

The Washington Post has published its lists of the best books from 2016. They created one list of the top 10 books along with separate lists for fiction, nonfiction, audiobooks, science fiction and fantasy, mystery and thrillers, poetry, romance, memoirs, childrens and YA, and graphic novels.

I have actually not read any of the books on any of these lists but I do have a couple of them on my TBR. It also seems a little early to be making these lists considering that quite a few books will be published between when the list came out and the end of 2016 but I think this is an attempt to help people with holiday shopping for book lovers.

Have you read any of the books on these lists? What ‘best of’ lists do you follow?

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Bouchercon Redux

I’m nearly two months late with this post but I did want to give everyone a chance to read about Bouchercon. Rather than re-invent the wheel, I’m going to link to a bunch of posts from others who attended and posted immediately following the conference.

Christine DeSmet for Wisconsin RWA

Annette Dashofy for Club Hen House

Lisa Alber at Inkspot

Lesa’s Book Critiques

J. Kingston Pierce for Kirkus

Barb Goffman at SleuthSayers

This is certainly not a comprehensive list of posts about the conference but these should give a pretty good overview of the conference from a number of points of view.

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I am heading to New Orleans to combine a holiday with attendance at my first Bouchercon – an annual mystery book conference – next week. There are a lot of great authors in the lineup and too many sessions to attend everything I’d like but I’ll do my best and post a recap once I’m back home. However, this means the blog will be silent for the next couple of weeks as I’m traveling and soaking up the atmosphere of both NOLA and a great book conference!

Never heard of Bouchercon? Read about the conference and see the program for this year here.

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New Copyright Provisions Possible

Copyright infringement cases, like all court cases, can be very expensive and time consuming. Because so many authors, particularly self-published authors, make very little money on their work, a “small copyright claims” bill is being supported by the Authors Guild.

The legislation, H.R. 5757, introduced in the House of Representatives “establishes in the U.S. Copyright Office a small claims board to serve as an alternative forum for parties to voluntarily seek to resolve certain copyright claims”  and would consist of two attorneys and three claims officers. The bill is now with the Committee on the Judiciary where it will either be the subject of hearings and markup or it will “time out” at the end of the Congressional session.

The Authors Guild stated, “The costs of obtaining counsel and maintaining a copyright cause of action in federal court effectively preclude most individual copyright owners whose works are clearly infringed from being able to vindicate their rights and deter continuing violations. Moreover, sometimes authors want to put an end to infringements that are causing a relatively small amount of economic damage. In such cases, the prospect of a small recovery dissuades some copyright holders from filing a suit that costs more to file than the potential recovery.”

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Most Disliked English Word


Given it is the height of the political season here in the US, I thought this post particularly timely. The Oxford Dictionaries launched a global survey – or vote if you will – for the least liked word in the English language. According to this Guardian article, the word moist was a front runner for the title. It is winning in the US, Australia, and Britain. New Zealand is voting for phlegm and Spain dislikes hello.

Unfortunately, it looks like Oxford Dictionaries had to close down the voting earlier than they planned because of what they termed abuse on their site.

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Are Chain Bookstores Good or Bad for Bibliophiles?

There has been a good deal of press about Barnes and Noble this summer. First, reports came out that first quarter revenue fell by over 3%. Then, the stock fell almost 40% when the college bookstore division was spun off. Most recently, the CEO of less than a year has been fired. None of this is good news for the only large national physical bookstore chain left in the US.

Some people see Barnes and Noble’s downfall as a good thing, as it was Barnes and Noble – along with other large chain bookstores that no longer exist – that drove many of the small, independent bookstores out of business. Now that Amazon is doing the same to Barnes and Noble, it is hard not to see it as a nearly karmic sense of irony.

However, the loss of Barnes and Noble – should it not be able to survive – creates two pretty significant problems for bibliophiles. The first is that it leaves Amazon as the sole major national outlet for books. While I certainly patronize Amazon, this would be fairly catastrophic in terms of publishing. Amazon would use that power with little regard to the ecosystem of publishing which would inevitably lead to far fewer traditionally published books. I have nothing against self-publishing but Amazon doesn’t actually treat authors very well and it’s very hard to make money by self-publishing unless you are already a big name.

Which leads to the second problem as discussed in this New Republic article – Barnes and Noble is the only seller that currently buys very large orders of pre-publication books which publishers need in order to produce and market books. Amazon, Target, Walmart, etc. do this as well but not nearly to the extent that Barnes and Noble does and, of course, the Targets and Walmarts only order books from very well known authors who are basically guaranteed to sell. So if you get rid of Barnes and Noble, publishers will basically not be able to have midlist authors, nonfiction, literary fiction, or take a chance on an unknown author because there simply won’t be money to do so. As the article states, “…the death of Barnes & Noble would be catastrophic—not just for publishing houses and the writers they publish, but for American culture as a whole.”

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Read A Romance Month 2016


August is a Read a Romance Month so I thought I’d provide a few content links for readers looking for articles, essays, book recommendations, and interviews on romance.

Check out the feature on Alaskan author Jennifer Bernard in the Alaska Dispatch News. The article not only talks about Bernard and her books but also touches on the enduring disregard for romance. But Bernard has a great quote that readers and writers alike can agree with:

“I grew up in an academic family that disdained romance,” she said. “In order to even attempt to write my first book, I had to grapple with that ‘snobbish’ attitude. I had to figure out why I wanted to write, and who I was writing for.”

She soon realized that she had little interest in impressing the literary community.

“I wanted to write for people,” she said. “People who are looking for a laugh, or a happy sigh or the delicious satisfaction of a happy ending.”

Bustle also has a number of pieces on romance that are worth reading, including a recommended romance list for readers of classic literature. If you can only read one article in Bustle’s set, it should be “Bustle’s Romance Novel Month Celebrates A Genre Dominated By Strong, Smart Women”.

And, of course, the Read a Romance Month site has daily posts by romance writers from across the genre so look for your favorite author and maybe discover someone new to read.

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Picking Books: Editors or Data Mining?

NPR recently published a blog post on how to judge which book will sell well – editor judgment or data from ebooks. It’s an interesting 21st century problem along with the fact that traditional publishers lose money on 80% of the books they publish according to the article.

There are, of course, a lot of problems with strictly using data to determine whether a book is worth publishing – which I should note no one in the article says is a good idea. It ignores any segment of the reading population that doesn’t read ebooks – perhaps they would buy and enjoy a book that readers of ebooks didn’t like.

My other major objection is that a book that does well in terms of the data might lead publishers to publish a number of books that an algorithm says are similar. This will mean a spate of books that are all the same which history tells us readers do NOT want. Everyone should remember the Twilight publishing phenomenon where suddenly there were eight million YA paranormal romance novels and none of them were the “next Twilight” because readers had already moved on.

There is likely a place for data mining in the publishing realm but I suspect that it is a small piece of a very large puzzle of what readers want and when so that another 500 years from now it will still remain as much a mystery as it is today.

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UK Independent Bookstores As Destinations

I see a lot on social media about the resurgence of independent bookstores in the US so I was interested when I saw this article on independent bookstores in the UK. It seems the rise of the independent is not limited by geography and the reasons for it are strikingly similar.

The shop local movement and the increase in cost of ebooks by traditional publishers is not a strictly US phenomenon so it stands to reason that those are both factors in the UK as well. In fact, the article states that, “According to data group Euromonitor, the UK is now buying around half the number [of ebooks] that it was five years ago.”

Like in the US, independent bookstores in the UK are increasingly using their community knowledge and building their stores around more than the latest bestseller. Some have story times for children, some have coffee or cocktail bars, some include art classes, but all of them have become community destinations.

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Harlequin E-book Royalty Settlement

Discussions of fair royalty rates for e-books abound in book world, with different ideas of what is fair coming from authors and publishers. So I thought the Harlequin e-book royalty settlement that Publishers Weekly wrote about two weeks ago is pretty important for authors seeking a traditional publishing contract.

Back in 2012, a group of authors brought a suit against Harlequin for not paying enough in royalties on e-book sales. The problem stemmed from a clause in contracts that referred to the licensing of books and the amount that authors would receive under such licenses. Additionally, the issue involved which entity was, legally, the publisher under the terms of the contract. Without getting into all the nitty gritty on the suit, the dispute was whether authors were to receive 50% of the income which was calculated as 6-8% under one entity as publisher (which is how they were paid) or, if as the authors alleged, they should have received 50% of income calculated as 50% under a different entity as publisher.

The original suit was dismissed in 2013 but upon appeal several of the claims were reinstated in 2014 leading to mediation. An agreement was reached in early 2016 and the final settlement was approved last month and will pay the authors in the suit around $3 million.

The clause in the contract has long since been changed, of course, but it is still important to recognize that in all contracts there are clauses that can be interpreted different ways. It is up to authors to be sure that their interpretation of a clause in their contract is the same as the publisher’s interpretation.

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