A Banned Sorcery Review: Nameless, by Dawn Napier

Bryce Anderson likes to swim the vast and deep seas of Amazon’s self-published sci-fi and fantasy, occasionally bringing back sunken treasure. Find his reviews and fiction at Banned Sorcery.

By Dawn Napier
Genre: modern-day dark fantasy
Length: 67,000 words
Words per penny: 336
Available on Amazon.

Rating: +5 Awesome

Plot summary (spoiler-free):

A young woman named Sharon finds a strange little girl on her doorstep, and takes her in. The stubbornly nameless child is one of the fairyfolk, and is being hunted by dark powers, both fairy and mortal. When the child is kidnapped, she must go to the fairy world and rescue her with the help of her slacker brother, a sexy Catholic priest, and a magical granny with mad embroidering skillz.


It would be difficult to recommend this book highly enough. Writing, characters, plot, and dialogue are all top-notch, better than most traditionally published fiction. The story kept me hooked from beginning to end.

The book is full of adventure, with a good love story, and enough theological musings to keep your brain occupied, without ever slowing down the main story. Napier’s Underhill (the fairy world) is a strange place with a logic of its own, a place where everything is beautiful and anything can be deadly. The fairy kingdom is populated with beautiful, dangerous spirits who use magic and wiles to lure unsuspecting mortals to … well, everyone has their own deadly and/or sexy agendas.

It was with a heavy heart that I discovered that this is Dawn Napier’s only published work. Fear not, though. She’s working on another.

Write faster, you! Also, use more bigger words. Be obfuscatory, dammit! (Sorry. Inside joke. My first contact with her was during a brief online argument over whether Fifty Shades used inappropriately large vocabulary.)


The book deserves better cover art. A few stick-in-the-muds … er, I mean gentle souls … might find some parts blasphemous or disrespectful towards Catholicism. Jesus is pro-gay marriage, and he swears.

New Yorker Article

1) I let my subscription to The New Yorker lapse some years ago because I was buried in New Yorkers. Monthly, it’d be great. Weekly? Gah!

2) There was exactly one source of higher-brow periodicals in the 70,000-person town I’m living in right now. It was a Borders.

1 + 2 = I can’t read the interesting-looking article on the anti-trust suit by Ken Aulette in this week’s issue of The New Yorker. But if you’re a subscriber, you can. The rest of us will have to catch up next week.

Thanks to The Passive Voice for the link.

Mass-Market Paperbacks: Ubi Sunt, and All That?

Yesterday, The Passive Voice  linked to these Association of American Publishers figures via GalleyCat:

2012 vs 2011 YTD revenuesGalleyCat’s comments highlight the fact that ebook revenue ($282.3 million) has surpassed hardcover revenue ($229.6 million), but also gives paper its due by quoting the AAP report: “Trade Paperback remained a clear #1 in net sales revenue despite some erosion” (accessed 6/18/12). Yeah, I guess: $299.8 million is bigger than $282.3 million. Another way to look at it is that ebook revenue is less than 6% lower than trade paper revenue. Is that a “clear” lead? Well, it depends. In a U.S. presidential election, 6% is a blow-out. In a horse race, you’d better have a camera.

At any rate, what I find striking, here, is the almost 21% decline in mass-market paperback sales in just one year.

The days of the mass-market paperback are, perhaps, numbered. I say this because, as I understand it, profit margins on mass-market paperbacks are very low. They make money because they move en masse. How much mass can you lose before mass-markets are just not profitable any more — at least not at their current low price points? And once that $7.99 price point becomes a thing of the past, ebooks will look even more attractive in comparison. Vicious cycle ensues.

And notice the 10+% decline in trade paperbacks.

I imagine larger-format, higher-quality paperbacks will hang on a lot more tenaciously than mass-markets, since the genre-fiction categories that are ebooks’ bread-and-butter (romance, mystery, etc.) represent less of the total. In fact, I think they’ll “hang on” permanently, since there will always be people who want to read on paper. Still, I wonder just how small that niche might get and what percentage of larger-format paperbacks will be POD books, ten years from now.

Dean Wesley Smith on the Biggest Myth of Traditional Publishing

The Passive Voice showcased this great article by traditionally published “old-timer” Dean Wesley Smith on the many ways traditional publishing is claimed to be superior but actually isn’t. The biggest myth of all? The selling a book to a publisher means you’ll end up a published author. Just because you sell a book to a publisher and get paid your advance for it doesn’t mean that book will ever see print. The publisher might just say, “You know what? Never mind.” How many times has that happened to DWS? S-E-V-E-N-T-E-E-N.

Holy moly.

Fifty Percent of Book Market Electronic by 2016

This prediction is being reported by paidContent, which was given access to Pricewaterhouse Cooper data and forecasting. Since, according to this prediction, “total book spending in North America” will remain “relatively flat, ‘1.1 percent compound annual rate’ of increase between 2011 and 2016” accessed 6/13/12), almost all the growth in ebook  sales will come at the expense of print sales. I’d say brick-and-mortar book stores are in real trouble.

MM: Eggcorns

Ah, they’re tricky little buggers!

An eggcorn is a word or phrase that speakers and writers tend to get wrong because the wrong version (which always sounds a lot like the right version) sort of makes sense. “Eggcorn” is the eggcorn for “acorn.” You can see the sense of it, right? An acorn is a tree’s seed, and a seed is a tree’s equivalent of an egg. Perfectly reasonable.

Some eggcorns show up a lot. It’s not “intensive purposes”; it’s “intents and purposes.” It’s not “tender hooks”; it’s “tenterhooks.” It’s not “a tough road to hoe”; it’s “a tough row to hoe.” And so forth.

Unfortunately, there’s no general rule for fixing eggcorns. They have to be hunted down individually. Your best bet may to find a long list of eggcorns and read it through. Maybe you’ll discover you’ve been eggcorning something. I thought it was “in like flint” for the longest time (it’s “in like Flynn”).

The main thing, I think, is to maintain your sense of caution, never assuming that what you think is right must, in fact, be right. If you have the slightest doubt, just feed the questionable phrase into Google with the word “eggcorn.” If you Google “doggy-dog world” and “eggcorn,” you’ll get your answer right away (it’s “dog-eat-dog world”).

A final thought: sometimes no one really knows which is the acorn and which the eggcorn. Is it “hone in on” or “home in on”? The mystery remains.

The Agency Model: Not So Bad for Indie Authors?

Today paidContent is reporting on Barnes & Noble’s letter to the Department of Justice on the price-fixing suit against Apple and five large traditional publishers. The points B&N makes aren’t new, I don’t think, but they did get me thinking about another way in which the agency model may not be a bad thing for indie authors (an idea I blogged about  a few weeks back).

As was illustrated during the PayPal fiasco (when PayPal tried to pressure online book retailers, such as Smashwords, into cutting certain erotica titles out of their offerings), indie authors aren’t really independent. We’re actually highly reliant on a few major companies: those that process payments and those that make our books readily available to readers. Any one of those entities can make things very difficult for us at the drop of a hat.

Our biggest dependency is probably on Amazon. So far, Amazon has been a good partner for indie authors. In response to what they were hearing from their author-clients, they made the 70% royalty available. They also made it possible to publish without DRM. They’re also innovative, experimenting with new programs, such as KDP Select. Their publishing platform is relatively user-friendly, and if you write to them with a problem or concern, they write back.

But Amazon doesn’t have to do any of these things, and we should be careful not to get lulled into a false sense of security, not to start believing that Amazon is a morally driven proponent of the indie movement, not to think of Amazon as being “on our side.” Amazon is on Amazon’s side, and we’d do well to remember it.

(Please note that I’m not criticizing Amazon for being on Amazon’s side. It’s a business: where else would it be? I suspect most successful companies become and remain successful by focusing, you know, on success.)

The presence of plausible competition could encourage Amazon to continue being good to its indie authors, and there’s no doubt that Amazon’s competition has grown under the agency model. The figures I commonly see reported are that Amazon controlled about 95% of the ebook market before the advent of the agency model and now control about 60%. Much of the lost market has moved to B&N, and some to Apple. Was this growth caused by the agency model, or does it just correlate? It seems to me the link is probably causal, since the agency model ended Amazon’s loss-leading price advantage.

The presence of B&N and iTunes (and others) as workable indie-publishing alternatives is a good thing for indie authors because they give us an opportunity to jump ship, should Amazon’s policies or behavior become less satisfactory. If the agency model is what has allowed the alternatives to emerge, maybe it’s not a bad thing for us.

I’m not pondering whether what Apple and the big publishers did was legal. I doubt it was, thought smarter people than I will have to make the real decision. The question I’m asking is, Was it good for us indies? If it kept the prices of traditionally published ebooks inflated and it encouraged the growth of indie publishing alternatives, maybe it was.

Now if only PayPal had some competition.