Saturday, July 16, 2011

Authors of the 80s and 90s: Where are they now and why aren't they here?

Yes, it's the week-end and I should be working on a novel, either formatting another for uploading to Amazon Kindle or writing a new one.  But something nagged at my little brain last night and I couldn't let it alone.

I know that some of the authors who were writing when I was back in the 1980s and 1990s are still going strong in their careers and have embraced the move into digital publishing:  Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverly, Connie Brockway to name a few.  Even midlist authors like myself have done it; I credit Alexis Harrington with being part of the inspiration for my great leap of faith.

But what about the others?  What about some of the women I socialized with at RWA conferences or corresponded with in the early days of AOL and Prodigy and GEnie?

Using my book inventory spreadsheet, I started down the list of authors -- big-name as well as midlist -- and checked it against just Amazon's Kindle listing.  Very very few Rebecca Brandewyne titles in e-print.  Virtually no Rosalyn Alsobrook.  And then I got to Margaret Brownley.  Dear Margaret Brownley, so active in PAN and PASIC, dear goddess I admired Margaret so much in her high-heeled sneakers!

One of Margaret's Topaz Titles, The Kissing Bandit, is available on Kindle via Hard Shell Word Factory.  The Hard Shell edition was produced and/or put on Amazon in 2000, so Margaret must have had the rights reverted a loooooong time ago and decided .  But I was completely appalled at the presentation.  I mean, the cover art is HORRIBLE!!


Now, I see by Margaret's Facebook information that she has become an "inspirational" writer and she is publicizing her Christian beliefs.  That's fine for Margaret, and maybe she has disavowed her Topaz historical romances, much as Robin Lee Hatcher did when she switched to Christian Inspirational writing.  It's possible Margaret doesn't care whether The Kissing Bandit, which didn't have exactly the greatest Topaz cover in history (Mario Lanza, anyone?),  sells another digital copy or not.

So then I looked for a few of my other old buddies.  Evelyn Rogers was one of the first Zebra authors I met at the RWA conference in San Francisco in 1991.  One of her later (1997) Leisure titles Hot Temper is available in a Kindle edition, but given Leisure's chronic payment problems, one has to wonder if Evelyn is getting even minimal royalties from or any of the other titles she published with them.   However, Texas Kiss appears to be self-e-republished (is that a word?) by Evelyn, but the cover is . . . . just a yellow rectangle with a title???  Even more sad to report, even her name is misspelled on the Amazon listing.

Thea Devine went on to make a name for herself in erotic romance, but only one of her many titles for Zebra, Pocket, and Harlequin is in a digital version on Amazon, and that's an anthology.

When I went through the first 1200 or so Kindle "best-sellers," I didn't see any of these names. 

Harlequin is dumping (and I use that word intentionally) approximately 10,000 titles from their voluminous backlist into the digital bookstore this year.  One has to assume that they expect to sell at least a few of these titles, most of which are contemporary category romances from the 1980s and 1990s and before, so possibly quite dated in details as well as social attitudes.  Then why aren't the authors of historical romances jumping on the digital bandwagon?  The publishers are still putting out digital editions of the classic "bodice-ripper" titles of Kathleen E. Woodiwiss and Jude Deveraux. 

The rest of us need to get out there, too.

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