Monday, March 28, 2016

What Do Libraries Have to Offer?: Ebooks, Audiobooks, and How to Get Your Books into Libraries.

These days, there is much more to the library than traditional paper books. In addition to the print and  audio books you’re used to seeing on our shelves, public libraries also offer downloadable versions through a variety of platforms, streaming services, and even circulating electronic devices, most of which are available to patrons around the clock—even when we librarians are not.  While offerings differ in the digital sphere (even within a single library system like we have in the Birmingham area) there are a few big names that you’ll see consistently on library websites around the country:  Overdrive, Axis 360, 3M Cloud Library, One Click Digital, Audiobook Cloud, and Hoopla.

  • Overdrive is probably the most widely used service for digital books in libraries. It offers downloadable ebooks and audiobooks, apps for desktop computers, tablets, and smartphones, and it is compatible with most major devices, including Kindle. The set-up is analogous to the traditional print book-buying system: libraries buy titles that patrons can check out, one at a time. Just like the paper copy, if someone has the digital copy checked out, you’ll have to wait until it is returned before you get access. Depending on the publisher, libraries may have to re-purchase content once it has circulated a certain number of times or after a set period of time has lapsed (eg: 24 check-outs or 2 years).

  • Axis 360 is similar to Overdive, but is a service provided by Baker & Taylor, a traditional library book vendor.  They also offer ebooks and downloadable audiobooks, and library patrons download the Blio Reader app onto their own devices in order to read or listen to them. Like Overdrive, librarians select and purchase the content that is available to patrons, based on the limitations set by publishers.

  • 3M Cloud Library is another similar service; however, it only offers ebooks. Like the others, librarians select and purchase content while patrons browse an online catalog using the website or a mobile app and download content onto their own devices.  

  • OneClick Digital and AudioBook Cloud are subscription services that offer a set catalog of downloadable audiobooks to patrons (no ebooks).  OneClick Digital is operated by Recorded Books and predominately offers their own content (though they now claim to offer more), while Audiobook Cloud offers content from multiple publishers/production companies. Libraries subscribe to the service as a whole,  and the same set of content is provided to patrons. The library is charged for the service based on their population size.  Like the other services discussed, both offer apps that allow patrons to checkout and download materials that expire after a set period of time; however, both allow for multiple people to checkout the same titles at the same time—this means no more pesky waiting lists!

  • Hoopla, operated by Midwest Tape, is a streaming service that also allows simultaneous access to patrons. Their entire catalog of movies, music, audiobooks, ebooks and graphic novels is available to subscribing libraries.  Instead of selecting content, libraries pay by use, each time a patron checks out a title. Libraries can choose which formats that their subscription will offer and set limits on the amount of content a patron can access per month, based on their budget and their population size. 

Well fantastic, you may be thinking. How do I get in on that?
Step one is: make your book available on one of these platforms.  I know that Smashwords and Ingram CoreSource distribute to Overdrive and probably some of the others, but unfortunately, as a librarian, I don’t have more advice to offer on how to make this happen.  (Perhaps one of you can shed more light on that process in the comments section?) Hopefully, knowing a little more about each service and how they operate will give you a better idea about which ones are the most worthwhile to pursue.

Step two is for those services where titles are purchased individually: You’ll have to request that your library buy your book. Because digital content is much more expensive to libraries than it is to the public, a lot of libraries are limited in terms of what they can buy. At the mercy of government mandated budgets, this can differ widely by location and population. Unlike print books, donating a digital copy can be messy, if not downright impossible thanks to the many different proprietary formats and applications.

Genuine patron requests are another great way to get a librarian’s attention; however, spamming the library’s request form is not. We can tell the difference; I promise [winks].  Many libraries also have some kind of official author submission form on their website. These allow you, the author, to tell us about your book and give us the information we need to know to make a decision.

The best information you can give us to get your book into the library is also probably one of the most difficult to accomplish, especially for self and indie published authors: the professional review.  Romantic Times now has a supplement to their monthly issues that offers reviews on indie books as does Publishers Weekly Select and sometimes Library Journal Xpress (e-only); however, what they review and print is a tiny sliver of what is out there.  Most collection development policies require professional reviews from journals like that, though some *might* give weight to significant online buzz on Goodreads or Amazon, or mention on big-name blogs.  Appearing on bestseller lists like NYT or USA Today (no matter what the ranking) is also noteworthy to librarians as we evaluate titles for purchase.  When you make a request to your library, be sure to include information like this up front--if we have to search for a reason to justify adding a book to a collection, we are less likely to do it.
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Believe me, were it possible, we librarians would delight in buying every book presented to us. Sadly, in an era of diminishing budgets and an explosion of available content and formats to choose from, we're forced to make some tough choices. Take heart, though: In my library, at least, the most popular books in our digital collection are--you guessed it--romance.

I hope that rather than boring you to tears, some of this will help you on your quest to see your books on a library shelf--be it a physical or a digital one.

Friday, March 25, 2016

#FridayFeatures Celebrating Southern Magic Authors #Romance #MakingMagic

Today is Retro Friday. We're showcasing past releases of some of our historical authors.

Author: Katherine Bone

Title: My Lady Rogue

Series: A Nelson's Tea Novella

Genre: Historical Romance


Baroness Gillian Chauncey thought she'd seen
everything during her years of devotion to England. But as war escalates and political bonds are severed, a 
devastating betrayal forces Gillian to make a life or death decision to save the man she loves.  Lord Simon Danbury's loyalty to the crown has never been questioned--until now. As death's darkening veil cascades over London, a hostile mole inside Nelson's Tea tries to assassinate him. Surrounded by the greatest spies in England, only one thing stands to defeat him--losing the one woman who has made life worth living.

Everything Simon and Gillian have done has led to this moment... Will it be too late?

Connect with Katherine online at Website   Facebook   Pinterest

Author: Julie Johnston

Title: Conspiring with a Rogue

Series: A Whisper of Scandal Novel

Genre: Historical Romance

In order to save the man she loves from the enemy bent on destroying her, Lady Whitney Ruthrford sheds her identity and escapes her past, making a new life for herself as Mr. Roger Wentworth, missingn person locator extraordinaire. But when Whitney's best friend from her old life comes up missing and there is every indication the girl was taken by the debauched members of a secret club, Whitney dons anew disguise and infiltrates the club, determined to unravel the mystery and save her friend. She never expects to encounter Drake Sutherland--the man who still has her heart. In the dark world of pleasure and sin, Whitney must play a dangerous game and one wrong move could mean the death of her friend or the destruction of the man she loves.

Connect with Julie online at Website   Facebook   Twitter

Author: Debra Glass

Title: A Duke to Die For

Genre: Historical Romance

Series: Stand Alone

She knew she was playing with fire...and was eager to burn.

Desperate and on the run from an arranged marriage, Erika von Ecker disguises herself as a cadet and joins the Prussian Army.  At the very least, she hopes the scandal will condemn her in the eyes of the nobility.  The last thing she expects is sharing very close quarters with a man forbidded to her the devastatingly handsome heir to a vast duchy, Alaric Martens von Breidenbach.

All his life, Alaric has been groomed to take his place and title as Duke von Breidenbach.  But first he must serve as a soldier for his king. He's shocked when he realizes the coltish lad assigned to billet with him is, in fact, an alluring woman.  Revealing her identity could bring dire consequences for them both.  But, as war looms, keeping the intrepid beauty's secret threatens everything Alaric hold dear, including his heart.  He must do anything in his power to get Erika out of harm's way--even if it means making her more than his mistress...

Connect with Debra at Website   Facebook   Twitter

Monday, March 21, 2016

First Comes Love, Then Comes...Contraception

Contraception has been around for as long as people have been having babies. Despite the machinations of Mother Nature, humans have always wanted to control their own reproduction.

So to begin this post on contraception and its place in the romance genre, I thought a brief history might be in order. The oldest written record of contraception is from 1500 BCE in Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt where women placed homemade spermicides/barriers of honey, acacia leaves, lint and even crocodile dung inside themselves to block sperm from getting to their womb. Even more dangerous were the potions concocted by ancient physicians often containing poisonous plants like penny royal and rue, or even more poisonous elements like mercury that they encouraged women and men to drink to prevent pregnancy. Even the Christian Bible has a case of a man pulling out to "spill his seed" upon the ground to prevent fathering children by his brother's wife. As history progressed, barrier methods like the condom (once used only to prevent sexually transmitted diseases) also became known as birth control. Even Casanova used condoms to prevent his mistresses from conceiving--thank goodness!

As the modern age dawned, contraception became politicized and early feminists of the 1870s took up the cause of "voluntary motherhood". Victorian women were educated both about condoms and diaphragms. Today women and men enjoy a variety of options available from the old faithful, the condom, to diaphragms, birth control pills, IUDs, and even voluntary sterilization - tied tubes and vasectomies.

But what does this mean for romance novels?

According to writers, Eliza Hunter and Karen Ray, if you don't see some kind of birth control in a novel, it is a key giveaway to a "secret baby" story. As modern audiences are now used to seeing and using contraception, its conspicuous absence might throw readers out of the story because they believe:
  1. The writer is lazy and doesn't want to address the topic of safety and pregnancy prevention.
  2. The writer is setting up a "secret baby" story line because irresponsible actions by characters always lead to consequences.
Or as author J.V. Speyer puts so colorfully: "You mean to tell me that this guy's been screwing his way across the lower 48 for how long, bare, with no doctor's visits?...I call BS."

Personally, I'd love to see a "secret chlamydia" story line. Now that's realistic conflict.

And whether a character uses contraception can say a lot about them. As writer Vanessa North points out: "As to whether my characters choose to use condoms or dams or other safe-sex practices, I usually make those choices driven by what is actually *in character* for my characters."

But that can be dangerous too, as author Deanna Wadsworth reminds us, "If you want me (the reader) to have respect for the intelligence of your protagonist in a present day setting, regardless of gender pairings, they better be using something, thinking about it, or at least discussing it." A reader could even think a hero or heroine that doesn't use contraception as TSTL--too stupid to live. There are a lot of diseases out there and they can last a lifetime.

This is especially true in same-sex romance, where birth control is not as much an issue as disease prevention. In a world where AIDS is still very much in evidence (although now thought of as a chronic disease that many people live with daily) writers of LGBTQ romance fall into two camps as outlined by writer Zarah Owens:
  1. Either you say "this is fiction" so "reality" doesn't figure into this and you don't need to calculate contamination or conception into it and you don't need protection or
  2. You want your story to depict the real world (and you take into account that stories can be educational without being preachy), so you need at least a rubber!
She even goes on to say that "literature/ fiction is possibly more educational than anything you learn in school, so our depiction of how "effortless" and "natural" safe sex can be can help save the human race *dramatic drumroll*."

And author Emjay Haze points out that in male/male romance, getting to the point where a condom is unnecessary because both characters decide to enter a monogamous relationship may be part of the romantic arc of the story: "My characters only have unprotected sex when they have been exclusive and have both been tested and they've talked about it. It's a big step for them, and seals their commitment to each other."

So using contraception helps your characters:
  • not give birth to secret babies 
  • not get dangerous diseases
  • teach readers that it takes just a few seconds to use
  • look responsible and sympathetic to readers
  • develop trust and commitment with their love interest
Looks like depicting contraception in romance novels is a Win-Win. 

AIDEE LADNIER is a writer who loves quirky characters. You can visit her website at or meet her at some of her favorite social media sites:
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Friday, March 18, 2016

#FridayFeatures Celebrating Southern Magic Authors #Romance #MakingMagic

Author: Naima Simone

Title: Sweet Surrender in The Sutherlands Anthology

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Killing the messenger is frowned upon. Okay, then... What about lying the messenger on the nearest flat surface and making her scream with pleasure?

From the moment Hayden Reynolds approaches Griffin Sutherland in the local, Florida dive bar, all he can think about is fisting her dark curls and stroking those gorgeous curves. But hell would freeze over before she allowed him to touch her because she’s the woman he left behind five years earlier. And now she’s there to deliver a message—an ultimatum—from his estranged father. Blackmail forces Griffin, black sheep of his powerful Texas family, back home to play nice. But the terms of his bargain say nothing about not satisfying his need for the woman he’s never forgotten…never stopped wanting…

Hayden is no longer the naive girl who once fiercely loved a golden Sutherland and believed he and a maid's daughter could live happily ever after. Griffin broke her all those years ago, but she forced herself to pick up the pieces and move on. Now he’s back in Texas, acting the part of the proper, dutiful son. But there’s nothing proper about the detailed--dirty--descriptions of how he wants to touch her…take her… Though her body heats every time he’s near, she refuses to surrender to his special brand of passion. Because Griffin may have returned home, but he's leaving again. But this time he won't take her heart with him…

Connect with Naima online at Website   Facebook   Twitter