Saturday, February 05, 2011

Eating My Own Shannon McKelden

I admit to being pretty rigid in my thinking about writing and books over the years. For one thing, I knew I only wanted to be published in print, because, being a devote lover of books, I could never imagine reading digital books. There’s something about the feel of the paper in my hands, the smell of the ink tickling my nose. That’s what it takes to be a real book.

Plus, I admit it, I felt that digital books (at least those not simultaneously in print) must be...less well written. After all, if a big New York publisher hadn’t wanted to buy them, that had to be the reason, right? (Don’t shoot me for my stupidity! Just keep reading.)

In late 2009, when Harlequin announced their new digital-first imprint, Carina Press, I didn’t give it much thought. But I have a healthy respect for Harlequin. The more I heard about Carina Press, the more I became intrigued. They would be able to publish books print publishers wouldn’t. They would take risks in genres that print publishers couldn’t.
Most of all, though, Harlequin had a reputation to uphold, so they wouldn’t publish subpar books. It kind of shook up my closely held prejudice about the “lack of quality” of e-books.

As I read about the plans for Carina, a thought began to form. Years ago, my favorite of all the books I’ve written, The Kiss Test, had been systematically rejected by every print publisher we submitted to. Because it was Chick Lit. With a strong romantic storyline, but Chick Lit nonetheless. And I was a little late to the game. Chick Lit was dying a slow death due to overpopulation, and I had missed out.

I’d mourned when I had to desert that book. I loved the main characters, Margo and Chris, like they were my best friends. Giving up on that book meant I’d never see them in print, never share their laughter and joy with readers. It was a loss. Of course, after that, I’d gone on to publish Venus Envy and Venus Guy Trap, but The Kiss Test remained holding a big chunk of my heart.

With the creation of Carina Press, I started to wonder if perhaps The Kiss Test still had a shot. They mentioned specifically that they would accept Chick Lit submissions.

But in order to find out, I had to change my thinking about what a real book was. If I submitted The Kiss Test and they purchased it and sold it as an e-book, would it be any less of a book to me than it would if it had been in print? I really wasn’t sure I could set aside my preconceived notions, but decided to give it a chance.

They bought it.

While I was thrilled to death that my favorite book would be read by actual readers, I still had to adjust my thinking. Which meant, gasp, actually reading some e-books. And, I felt it was important to get the whole I bought a Sony eReader.

Here’s where I humbly apologize to every e-published author out there for my unfounded prejudice. You’d think I know better, since I’m often critical of people putting down the romance genre when they’ve never cracked the spine of a romance novel in their lives. I’d never read an e-book so what right did I have to be judgmental?

First of all I discovered reading on an eReader wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, the ability to enlarge the font size when I read in dim light in bed at night, had my poor old eyes sending me a thank you note. It was easy to carry multiple books and, in fact, I could borrow books from the library with my particular reader.

Since Carina Press hadn’t started publication yet, I read books that I’d wanted to get in print in e-book form instead. They felt safe...because I knew they were edited and were of great quality. After all they were also in print.

About the same time Carina Press published their first books, I got my editorial letter for The Kiss Test. Let me just say, I was put through edits as rigorously with this e-book-to-be as I was with either of my two prior print books. And copy-edits. And galleys. There was no perceivable difference in the way this book was edited compared to the “real” books I’d already published.

Now that Carina Press books were available, I started to explore. These were the first books I’d purchased that were in e-book only know, the ones I had predetermined couldn’t possibly be of as good a quality as regular books.

I was wrong. Oh, so wrong.

What I discovered was books that were creative and different -- historicals that took place during the French Revolution or within Native American communities, fun romantic comedies featuring families I wanted to belong to, urban fantasies I have no idea why weren’t in print but that I was so glad were now available for me to read. Every one of those e-book was a new joyful discovery!

Every one of those e-books was making me eat my prior words.

And when The Kiss Test came out last October, I downloaded a copy for my own eReader, just to remind myself that, yes, e-books are real books, too. Loved by readers just as much as print books. (In fact, I’ve received more praise in reviews for The Kiss Test than I ever received for either of my other books.)
I think this experience was just the beginning for me. Since then, I’ve realized I really need to be more open to new writing/publishing/reading experiences. There’s a whole world to explore out there that I might miss out on if I’m not.

Shannon McKelden is the author of three humorous women’s fiction novels, including her latest, The Kiss Test, a digital book from Carina Press. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family, where she writes and runs the website


ev said...

I am going to go download The Kiss Test for my Sony. And I'm so glad that you now see the error of your ways!!! :)

e-books have just opened a whole new world for me in finding stories that I would have missed out on. I'd love to know what ones you have found and where, cause I am always on the lookout for new stuff and places to visit to find them. Stuff I may have even bypassed and shouldn't have.

Buying my hubby an Sony brought him back to reading- he could no longer hold a book because of medical problems. Now he can, for hours. I don't think people realize how much of a boon they are to people like him. They can understand ereaders as a convenience but not as a way to help too.

We have become a family of ereader readers. Four of our 5 kids have them too.

Shannon McKelden said...

That's awesome that you got your whole family reading on them, Ev! I'm the lone e-reader in my family.

I'm afraid I don't have any interesting places to get e-books. I mainly shop the Carina Press website, the Sony website, and, most of all, my local library, where I can borrow e-books on my Sony, which I love. I have an enormous wish list I may never ever get through! :)

Hope you enjoy The Kiss Test!

Nas Dean said...

Hi Shannon,

I'm so glad you shared your story. I thought I was the only one...slightly prejudiced against eBooks, well I don't have an eReader. I spend too much time in front of the computer as it is so reading eBooks was out.

Then I read Donna Alwards eBook "BREATH" and it was a family, emotional read. So I'm now converted to eBooks. I know they are good. But still have to get an eReader.

And from the above comment made by EV, I can see that eReaders are a good buy!


Shannon McKelden said...

@Nas Dean...I hear you about being in front of the computer too much! My day job is completely computer oriented, and then I write or surf the net for fun, so I'm always on the computer. I could never read books on it. The nice thing about my Sony eReader is that it doesn't have a back-light on it. It uses the same technology as the Kindle with eInk, which is very matt finish like a book page. You need to read it in light, but it is SO easy on the eyes! Plus, I can increase the font size when my eyes are tired. I love that!

Susan Lyons/Fox said...

Hi Shannon. I was a holdout like you, and only gave in to getting an e-reader when I was traveling to Bali. There are lots of things I like about it, especially how small and light it is, and how many books I can carry around with me.

But you know, I miss covers. I miss those pretty covers on my "to be read" shelf. I miss being able to go through a dozen books, gazing at the front covers, turning them over and reading the backs, hefting them in my hands - and then deciding which book I want to read next. That tiny gray cover display on my Sony just doesn't cut it, and I can't figure out why the back cover blurbs aren't available.

So for me, it's a toss-up. Each method of reading has benefits. It's great to have the option!

Shannon McKelden said...

Susan, I agree! Especially about the back cover blurbs, which I often read when choosing a book, then again before starting it and often in the middle of reading it. I REALLY miss those. Missing the cover is a close second. I think that's why the Nook might get a lot of sales. That has the pretty covers to look at.

You're right, though, it's a give and take. I can really see the advantage of having one on a trip like yours, too!

ev said...

Shannon- when you dl from the library to the sony which format- adobe or pdf? I have been playing on the software all day and just can't figure it out. The video explaination stinks along with the help. Maybe someone who uses it can get me thru it!!

Nas Dean said...

Hi Shannon,

Thanks for the tips on eReaders. Is THE KISS TEST available on epub version to read on computers? As I said I have new respect for eBooks now and love reading them.

Shannon McKelden said...

@Nas Dean...Yes! It is available in EPUB versions. You can get it at Carina Press at

That should work for a link. If not, just go to Carina Press and search for The Kiss Test.

@ev...I read both EPUB and PDF formats depending on what is available. If your library uses Overdrive, there is an issue with only being able to download books in one format at a time, because whichever format you download last is the only one that will work. It's an Overdrive issue, not a Sony issue. So, I'll just download only EPUBs or only PDFs at one time. Hope that helps! I'm by no means an expert.

Pat Cochran said...

I've not broken down and gotten
an ebook reader as yet. I have
started an ebook library for the
day when I finally break down &
make the purchase! LOL!

I'm just old-school enough to
need the feel of a print copy in
my hot little hands! It is also
hard to break a habit of some 60 plus years, I have found!

Shannon McKelden said...

@Pat Cochran...I've done the same thing with Kindle books specifically. Amazon has free books quite often, some of which I'd love to read someday. So, even though I could read them on Kindle for PC, I've been saving them for someday when I can read them on the Android smart phone I'm dying to get my hot little hands on. :)

Wendy Delaney said...

Shannon, like you I suffered from "real book" syndrome. I like the covers, the tactile aspect of a book in my hand, but after I was given a Kindle for Christmas and realized how quick and easy it was to download books and adjust the font size for my (ahem) aging eyes, I kicked myself for waiting so long, for missing out on so many wonderful e-books! How fun (and fabulous!) is it to be able to read about the Kiss Test and buy it a minute later. I can tell you--pretty dang fun!
Congrats on the great blog. Looking forward to reading your book. It will be my reward for working all weekend on my edits!

Shannon McKelden said...

Thanks, Wendy! Yeah, that 'instantaneous' thing IS pretty nice, too. No gas wasted getting to to the bookstore. No waiting for Amazon to deliver. Totally the impatient reader's windfall!

Good luck with the edits!

ev said...

I do use the Kindle app on my Droid and actually like it.

And thanks, the format info does help!

Michele L. said...

Oh cool! I will have to go over and download THE KISS TEST onto my computer. Thanks for all the great info on E-readers. I haven't bought one yet either. I probably will one of these days. Sure beats lugging around a stack of books to read!