Summer Devon, author of Her Outlandish Stranger

12 Mar

Today we are pleased to have Summer Devon visiting Passionate Reads…

A while back I almost sold a book called Her Outlandish Stranger to a New York publisher. The editor finally turned it down because she was uncertain how to sell it. Was it a futuristic? Would she label it as a Regency-set romance? She explained that the publisher didn’t sell books to the reader. They had to pitch all their products to the bookseller. And the fact is bookstore buyers like books they know are easy to shelve—books will sell only if they’re put on the right shelf. They’d found that books that are hard to place will languish on the shelves because they don’t get discovered by the right readers.

Fast forward a few years. I sold that same book to Ellora’s Cave and it came out last week. Like most of my other books that didn’t sell to NYC , the book doesn’t fit easily on a single shelf. But that’s okay because these days, the shelves are gone.

Ebooks are in huge and ever-growing piles known as Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble and all those other venues. It can look like an overwhelming muddle of books, lists of them, but there are ways for the books to get sorted.

I just got back from a conference where I saw Jon Fine from Amazon and Mark Coker from Smashwords and someone from Barnes and Noble whose name I forgot to write down. Whoops!). And according to these guys, the systems are always getting boosted and improved. It’s a priority for them. After all, it’s in booksellers’ best interest for the readers to click the buy button.

The easiest way to find a book you haven’t read before is to search by the author’s names, of course. But there are all sorts metadata things to help readers find a book (metadata was one of the buzzwords from that conference. So was “discoverability”)  

Metadata turns out to fit all sorts of things. The little description of the book –on paper books the back-cover copy – is a source for the search engines to pick out words that match your favorite types of book and throw them onto your screen.

There are other places for little tags too. You can usually find them about half-way down a book’s page on Amazon. They usually include words that refer to the book’s setting, themes, the author’s name—that sort of thing. The label is “Tags Customers Associate with This Product.”

If you read a book and think hey, there’s no tag for a dragon even though one of the main characters breathes fire and goes by draco, that’s where you add the word in the little tag box. Adding tags will help the book end up in other readers’ hands. Apparently strange tags like “hotty man-child” can help get a book out there because readers search for very odd things.

If you click “agree” on the tags other people have left, that improves chances the book will rise to the top of the huge-and-growing pile I mentioned.

Someday soon, the process of finding books in ebook stores should be almost as easy as walking through a store. The ebook people say the virtual shelf is already more visually interesting.

I’m not sure ebook-shopping could ever be as tactilely fun—I love flipping through pages of a book or sitting in the corner of a store with a new book on my lap. But when I think of all the stories that wouldn’t have found homes in the old world, I guess it’s a trade I’m willing to make.

Her Outlandish Stranger Blurb:

In 2310, Jazz White is one of few surviving soldiers of a hated regime. Now “reprogrammed”, stripped of many of his memories and killing skills, Jazz is an outcast until he’s summoned by the government’s elite time-travel agency and told he must journey to the 1800s. His mission—to protect Eliza Wickman, an English woman trapped in war-torn Spain. Once he arrives in the dreadful place, it becomes clear he’s been tricked. His real mission—Jazz must father her child, who will prove important to the future of civilization.

Guilt-ridden by his deception, Jazz must keep Eliza safe while he escorts her to England, all the while fighting his attraction to her innocent eroticism. But an agent from his time has other plans, and does his best to sabotage Jazz’s efforts. As the connection between him and Eliza grows, the agent could be the least of Jazz’s worries. His biggest fear is far more personal—what will happen once Eliza learns the truth?

Excerpt & Buy Link:

14 Responses to “Summer Devon, author of Her Outlandish Stranger”

  1. Patti P March 12, 2012 at 6:39 am #

    I love those little tags on bookseller sites. I have found books that way I would never have come across otherwise. I’ve always wondered why the bookstores had to pick one area to shelve a book. Some books “fit” into 3 or 4 catagories. Why limit it’s exposure to one section of the store? They have multiple copies to sell…put them in multiple that too hard a concept to grasp? I guess so. Anyway I use those tags and encourage other people to use them too. They can help a reader find that book/author you love and I am sure the author and the publishers would love you right back.
    musicalfrog at
    oops during my rant I forgot to say that this book is on my list. 🙂

  2. Marilyn Campbell March 12, 2012 at 6:53 am #

    Welcome to PR Summer! I was a wee bit surprised that publishers are still using the same “booksellers don’t know where to shelve it” excuse about futuristic romance as when I was submitting it 20 years ago! Her Outlandish Stranger sounds like my kind of read! Good luck.

    • Summer Devon/ Kate Rothwell March 12, 2012 at 7:04 am #

      I should have mentioned two publishers used that excuse to turn that book down and it was four years ago, which, as we know, is more like 100 years in the publishing world. Also that wasn’t my only book to get rejected for that reason.

      And before I forget–THANKS FOR HAVING ME AS A GUEST!

  3. Summer Devon/ Kate Rothwell March 12, 2012 at 7:00 am #

    Aha! Julia Coblentz! She was the Barnes and Noble person. And my notes are covered with question marks and the occasional “huh?” meaning someone — often the speakers — didn’t know the answer to the question just raised. It’s a wild and woolly world out there

  4. Riley Murphy March 12, 2012 at 8:21 am #

    Hi Summer!

    This is great information. There is a huge distinction between selling to a book seller and selling to a reader. That process kind of explains the books I’ve seen across the shelves taking up real estate as opposed to the books I’ve ordered online that should be sprawled across every available book store landscape, but aren’t. I always assumed it had something to do with the $$’s behind the book, but now you have me thinking…

    Ooh, and I have a question about tags. Should an author add his/her own tags to start off with? What’s your take on that?

    Great post! Thanks for the info and your story sounds awesome! Going on my TBR list. 🙂


  5. Rhonda Lane March 12, 2012 at 8:26 am #

    Wow. Tags and keywords and metadata – oh my! Thanks for the introductory lesson on the importance of tags, especially on the bookselling sites.

  6. shannonemmel March 12, 2012 at 8:40 am #

    GREAT info, Summer! Thanks for the “mini lesson” on e-shopping for great reads.

    And speaking of GREAT READS– Loved the Blurb and it looks like I have yet ANOTHER title to add to my reading list.

    Sigh,,,so many books. So little time. (Guess I’ll have to give up somthing, like SLEEPING to get them all in! LOL!)

    Glad you could join us today at “Passionate Reads”!


  7. mywithershins March 12, 2012 at 8:44 am #

    I don’t order books on-line often (I’m still getting used to my new e-reader & have a phobia about putting financial info into cyberspace) but knowing how important tags are to help readers find a book will help with the promotion of my own work, in the long run. Thanks for sharing the info.

    BTW, I am a huge fan of time travel and you have me totally hooked on ‘Her Outlandish Stranger’! I may push aside my phobia and look for it on-line, especially if I get a Chapters gift card for my birthday in a few days! 🙂

    • Summer Devon/ Kate Rothwell March 12, 2012 at 9:49 am #

      Thanks! If you do buy it, let me know what you think.

  8. Grace Bradley March 12, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    So glad we were able to make a home for it at EC. It is a very unique story, and I have to say I had to think about line placement before contract. It’s got a few things going on, but they work well together 🙂

  9. Lauren Fraser March 12, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

    Welcome to PR. I’m glad you found a home for your book with EC. It sounds awesome.

    I have to admit I’m often puzzled by some of the tags I see on books, but then not everyone’s mind works like mine, thank goodness. LOL

  10. Nara March 12, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

    Welcome to PR. So that’s how tags work. My last release got tagged as a video game and I wondered how that happened. I’m a big time travel fan and so glad to have another to read.

  11. Tina Vaughn March 12, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

    Great information, and you have a way of explaining “the virtual shelf” that’s much easier to understand than anything else I’ve read. : )
    You hooked me with your book blurb. I can’t wait to read this.

  12. Kaily Hart March 13, 2012 at 7:16 am #

    Welcome to PR, Summer!!! Yeah, those shelves have evolved, haven’t they? I’ve been incredibly excited by the changes in the publishing and book seller landscape. Business Analytics/Business Intelligence is my background and I can tell you, although the shopping experience may be more convenient, the online stores have a long way to go to hook the reader up with the books they’ll most likely read. That process is evolving too, but it’s fun times, right? Congratulations on your release!!

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