Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

11/14/2011

Publishers Are Going To Loose Not Only Their Retailers But Their Authors In The Future


"Where have all the authors gone???

How you ask? Let’s get to it.

It’s no secret Amazon has been selling digital books at a loss to gain more sales for its Kindle family. The strategy is simple enough … they need product (books or written content) to sell on their hardware e-readers which is where they make their profit. And they will give the product away, if necessary, to provide the widest selection available on its Kindle r-readers. 

Amazon wants the biggest catalog available to choose from.  And for those who are premium members (own Kindles and not some other product with a Kindle app … plus belong to the $79/yr Amazon Prime service ) they are indeed offering books for free from their library. You can borrow one book free a month and keep it as long as you want. 

Virginia Postrel tells all about it in Bloomberg Businessweek:

Amazon E-Library Is Publishing’s Profit Model

Nov. 14 (Bloomberg) — Amazon.com Inc. is at it again. To the consternation of much of the book industry, the online giant is again offering digital titles for less than major publishers think books are worth. And this time, the price is zero.

If you own an Amazon Kindle, as opposed to just using the Kindle app on another device, and you also belong to the company’s $79-a-year Amazon Prime service, you can now “borrow” one digital book a month from the new Amazon Lending Library for free. You can keep the book as long as you want, but you can have only one at a time.

The new service worries Wall Street, too, because it increases Amazon’s out-of-pocket costs. The company is paying wholesale prices for some of the books in the lending library. For others, such as the titles from Lonely Planet travel guides, it is paying a flat fee for a group of books over a period of time. (It will report sales figures on individual titles back to those publishers.)

Beyond short-term earnings, however, the lending library is just the latest innovation to raise big questions about the whole publishing ecosystem. In an environment where books are increasingly digital, what’s the most effective way to create value for readers, for authors and for intermediaries? And — the biggest question — which intermediaries will survive the transition?

Big Six Balk

The lending library doesn’t include any books from the Big Six U.S. publishers — Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., Penguin Books Ltd. and Hachette — because Amazon can’t control what it charges for their digital books. They are undoubtedly relieved to be excluded. But the pricing control they value so highly reflects rigid arrangements they may come to regret.

Amazon used to pay publishers a wholesale price for e- books, just as it does for physical copies. It set whatever price it thought best for its overall business, even if that meant losing money on an individual title in order to boost traffic or sell more Kindles. It could adjust prices up or down to reflect new information or offer special promotions. Its standard price was $9.99, which was often less than it paid for each copy. Major publishers thought that was too low, but most couldn’t do anything about it.

Then came the iPad and the accompanying iBooks store. Apple Inc. struck a different deal with publishers, known in the business as the “agency model.” Publishers set the retail prices, with Apple taking a percentage for its services. The Big Six liked that deal and wanted it to be the industry standard.

Amazon resisted, going so far as to remove all the physical books from Macmillan off its site in hopes of forcing the company to continue the wholesale arrangement. But that sales strike alienated Amazon customers, who were angry when they went to the site and couldn’t buy the books they wanted. Amazon blinked.

As a result, most of the big-publisher titles in the Kindle store now sell for $12.99 to $14.99 each — a range Amazon called “needlessly high” when it capitulated.

I should say at this point that I am not an entirely disinterested observer. I’m an author, with two books available in digital form. And I agree with Amazon that, at $14.99, my 1998 book “The Future and Its Enemies” was priced needlessly high when its Kindle edition was released last spring. You have to either love me or your Kindle a lot to pay that much for a 13-year-old book you can get in paperback for $6. But, like Amazon, I have no say over how my e-book is priced.

Publishers, for the most part, don’t believe customers care much about the difference between Amazon’s old price and their new, higher ones. They’re skeptical that consumers respond to small price differences. A former publishing executive recently told me he simply didn’t believe that “if I really want a book for $9.95 I don’t also want it for $10.95 or $12.95.”

Look at Research

People in publishing say things like that all the time. While they admit that charging $100 for the typical hardback would be foolish, they don’t believe that changing the price of a book by a dollar or two will significantly change the number of copies sold.

The economic research suggests the opposite. In a 2009 paper that looked at consumers using computer price-comparison systems, or shopbots, to buy physical books online, economists Erik Brynjolfsson, Astrid Andrea Dick and Michael D. Smith found that a 1 percent drop in price — a mere 25 cents on a $25 book — increased the number of units sold by 7 percent to 10 percent. Shopbot users tend to be more price-sensitive than most consumers, but that’s a huge difference.

Publishers resist such evidence. The standard response is that it’s hard to know anything about pricing because “every book is different.” Every title is a unique good, and every customer values each book a little differently. So you might as well trust your gut.

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10/28/2011

Hyperink – A New E-Book Publishing Model


Topsy-Turvy Publishing Model

Instead of selecting books to publish from author-submitted manuscripts … how about selecting them from hot, trending topics on the internet and then contract authors to write them?

Introducing Hyperink … they do just that in their new kind of topsy-turvy publishing model. An interesting concept indeed; and one that will also redefine a shorter book as acceptable. Hyperink also distributes the books to Amazon, Nook, iBooks and other sites as well as through its own website.

Here’s more details from Tomio Geron in Forbes.com :

Hyperink’s E-Book Model Turns Publishing On Its Head

The book publishing industry has been going through a transformation as physical books move to digital.

Building on that growth, a new start-up Hyperink is a publisher of  digital books that are targeted to specific niche audiences. “We’re directly taking on Amazon and trying to disrupt how the entire book publishing industry works,” says Hyperink cofounder and CEO Kevin Gao.

In a change for the book industry Hyperink generally does not select from books that are submitted by authors. Instead, the company finds topics that are in demand through analysis of things like Google search trends. Then it seeks out authors for those topics. “It’s the reverse of the traditional book publishing industry, which is supply-driven, where you get manuscripts and pick from them,” Gao says. Does that sound like blog writing, where a bunch of similar stories all target certain hot keywords? In some ways, Gao says, but Hyperink’s books are structured, organized and written by experts in their fields. Instead of spending one or two years to publish a physical book and trying for big mega-hits, Hyperink is going the opposite direction. It focuses on fast publishing–it can churn out a book in a month at one-tenth the cost of physical books, Gao says. It’s also going after the “long tail” with topics such as “Getting Corporate Law Jobs,” “Dating For Singles Over 40,” and “Marketing Your Android App.”

Because of its model Hyperink can get much more specific with titles than typical publishers. For example, instead of a book on “How to get into College,” Hyperink has a book, “Harvard Law School Admissions.” Hyperink’s books are typically 30 to 75 pages. “Book publishers generally have generic topics that are 200 pages because it looks good on a bookshelf and because of all the overhead costs,” Gao says. “We want to get really specific and really long-tail to give consumers the books they really want to read.” While the books are largely non-fiction now, Gao says the company could do fiction as well.

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08/17/2011

Amazon Publishing – Print is Thriving – And Other Insider Information


Awesome Amazon ???

Amazon’s business makes publishers nervous because it’s finally allowing the online retailer to cut publishers out of the loop entirely. Amazon is making more of its own books, and it’s got the authors to sell them.”

Amazon is adding more writers and renowned authors to its own company’s publishing imprints to produce new books directly for the reading consumer and bypass other established ‘publishers’ entirely. 

Gaining control of the online digital book retail business just seemed to whet Amazon’s appetite to gobble up more control in the bigger publishing business (in disruption due to the new tech transition) … including print, which is doing just fine right now, thank you very much. 

These interesting details provided by Anthony John Agnello , consumer and technology writer for InvestorPlace:

Amazon Publishing Continues to Boom With New Exclusives

Traditional publishers being pushed out of the picture

Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) frightens book publishers. Not because electronic books are going to replace print by September. Far from it. Print is thriving, and while e-book sales have grown 1,300% in the past three years, they still represent only a fraction of overall revenue in the publishing industry. Amazon’s business makes publishers nervous because it’s finally allowing the online retailer to cut publishers out of the loop entirely. Amazon is making more of its own books, and it’s got the authors to sell them.

A Tuesday report in The New York Times said Amazon has made its latest promising acquisition in an ever-growing stable of authors producing original books for the company. Timothy Ferriss, the self-help author behind the bestseller The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, will release his new book The 4-Hour Chef exclusively through Amazon Publishing imprint.

4-Hour Workweek has spent 84 weeks on the Times‘ Advice bestseller list. That book was published by Crown, an imprint under the Bertelsmann-owned Random House. Ferris never entertained a counteroffer from his previous publisher after talking with Amazon because they would not have been able to match what Amazon was offering as “a technology company embracing new technology.”

This is just the latest major publishing effort from Amazon since editor Laurence Kirshbaum came on as head of Amazon Publishing in May. Imprint Montlake Romance, an all-romance branch of Amazon Publishing, opened for business in May. Connie Brockway’s The Other Guy’s Bride will be the imprint’s first book out this fall. Brockway’s previous books were distributed under the Dell Publishing mass-market imprint, another house under the Random House banner.

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Related post: Is Amazon a Danger Lurking in the Publishing Industry?

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07/05/2011

Can the Average Writer Aptly Be Both Publisher and Author?


Are estributors the future of publishing?

With the newfound, direct-to-readers, publishing freedom afforded  by techy toys … writers can now become their own publishers … BUT, with a big caveat: they must assume all the peripheral business details of a one-person publishing house!

Learning and becoming proficient in all aspects of the business side of writing will be very appealing to some (I’m one), but not so appealing to others who will not want to take the time away from their writing to accomplish the new time-consuming responsibilities.

Not to worry. A new niche is developing in the ebook/digital world that will essentially handle all the non-writing details of self-publishing such as cover design, editing, advertising, marketing, etc, etc, etc.

This new niche is being called ‘estributors’ by J. A. Konrath (the king of self-publishing) and is supposedly his ‘brainchild’ … Actually, he was the first to “idea-lize” verbally this sure to come e-world concept … an idea whose time had definitely come and is simply borrowed from legacy publishing.

These details from The Next Web (dot com) by Alex Wilhelm:

By now it is common knowledge that ebooks comprise an ever-growing slice of the book market, and are quite likely to become the dominant book format in the next quarter century. Quick, simple distribution, ease of sale and purchase, and the ability for extensive continuing revision make ebooks a format that is a winner for both publishers and readers alike.

But  there is a disturbance in the book market’s dynamics. Authors have realized that the advantages of ebook publishing, in many cases, allow them to bypass their old publishers and strike out on their own, taking a much larger cut of the profits along the way. After all, if you can make more money, why not?

But despite the lure of increased royalties per copy, can the average writer competently execute the roles of both publisher and author?

It’s an interesting question, as the market forces that have allowed authors to effectively self-publish and keep a larger portion of their sales have also made it simpler for any individual to leverage sufficient resources to become a one-person publishing house. The Internet allows for authors to find, and collaborate, with excellent editors, artists, and formatting specialists to create a truly professional-grade book in both print and digital formats.

But is that for everyone? Will all authors want to take on that massive workload that they had previously passed of to their publishers? Many will, the money is simply that much better. How much better? Imagine your cut of a book sale going from 15% to 70%. It’s a revolutionary change. But not all authors are going to want to take time that they had previously spent writing and run their own personal publishing outfit. After all, every moment spent haggling with an artist over cover art is a moment spent not writing.

Then again, no savvy author wants to simply continue giving nearly all the revenue from their work to a company who they could likely replace, at least in most respects. Want proof? J.K. Rowling, of Harry Potter fame, is setting out on her own.

So for the author who doesn’t want to lose the support of a publisher, but wants a bigger cut, something that traditional publishing houses can’t afford, is there a middle-of-the-road option for them? As it turns out, not currently, but that seems to be about to change.

Enter the concept of estributors, the brainchild of J.A. Konrath, ironically one of the largest and most famous proponents of author’s striking out from their publishers and going it alone.

What is an estributor? We’ll start with Konrath’s explanation of the idea:

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04/24/2011

The Next Generation of Kindle Begins…Powered By You!


Direct Publishing to the Kindle Store

This is a cross-post from my other blog: Writers Welcome!…A John Austin Blog

How would you like to directly publish your works to the Amazon Kindle Store whenever the mood strikes? Eliminate any middleman immediately…

Pretty cool, right?

Well Amazon is introducing a ‘Direct Publishing’ model that will allow authors and publishers to independently publish their books in the Amazon.de Kindle Store that will be available in  Germany, Austria, the U.K., U.S. and over 100 countries!

Damn, they’re making publishing awfully easy! Now if they would only make the marketing just as easy…

Wonder how they will funnel the scripts into proper formats? That would be interesting to understand. I guess the only way to find out is to go ahead and direct publish something on Kindle using the new model, huh?

Anyway, these details are by Ray Willington from HotHardWare.com :

Amazon.de Allows Self-Publishing To Kindle E-Book Store

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04/17/2011

Ebook Sales Up 202% Over Last Year – Now King Format for American Publishing


Announcing King Ebook Format!

The digital revolution has caught up with, stomped and overtaken traditional publishing (TP) according to the latest report from the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

AND, this conquering of TP has occurred one year earlier than previously forecasted by industry analysts! How bout them apples?

Of course, anyone who wasn’t in denial saw this coming…the crowning of the e-book as the single bestselling format in American publishing. We just didn’t see it charging so fast!

Welcome, King “E”…how can we serve thee? Or, better yet, how will you serve us? Cheaper prices, faster delivery, more publishing opportunities, etc., etc.? 

I sincerely hope there is an infusion of real money in there somewhere…

Now these details from T3, The Gadget Website:

Ebook sales overtake US paperbacks for the first time

US figures show huge consumer demand for e-readers 

The digital revolution continues apace in the old-tech world of publishing. In the US, the eBook has become the single bestselling format in American publishing for the first time, a year ahead of analysts forecasts.
 
The report from the Association of American Publishers, showed February’s eBook sales were $90.3m (£55.2m), compared to $81.2m (£49.8m) in paperbacks, a leap of 202.3% on the same time last year. Philip Jones, deputy editor of the Bookseller, believes that the UK is set to follow the US trend in the take-up of the technology, “the UK are a year behind but they are catching up quite fast.”

Despite the challenge of the rapidly expanding tablet market, many of which come pre-loaded with an e-reader, the figures show standalone eBook readers have carved out an important niche in a hugely competitive marketplace. Their popularity is down to choice – there are over a million free books on the Amazon Kindle – as well as a lower price-point than tablets, speedy downloads and portability.

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04/04/2011

Exactly What is E-Book Distribution?


E-Book Distribution?

Many may already know the answer to this question…but, don’t realize they know the answer. So we are going to put things into focus with this post.

I was reading a piece about the coming launch of a new, and first, e-book distribution company in Brazil. Seems they are a few years behind us in this endeavor. Anyway, the news piece raised some questions in my mind as well as giving me an insight into how publishing companies think through establishing new formats and business models to keep up with the changing technology in publishing.  

Six big Brazilian publishers: Objetiva (partially owned by Santillana), Record, Sextante, Rocco, Planeta and L&PM — teamed up to launch an e-book distribution company called Distribuidora de Livros Digitais (DLD)…Which simply means Distributor of Digital Books in English.

The main question that flew into my mind while digesting this news was: ‘Hey, what the hell is involved in digital distribution?’ There’s no old- fashioned shipping and placing physical books in various, geographically separated bookstores and other outlets through contacts and contracts, etc…All that is involved is uploading your digital book for download to buyers, right?

Well, there is a little more involved, but not much. For instance, these e-book distributors must develop a platform to protect your e-book from piracy downloads, etc.

Go Publish Yourself gives a good initial definition of e-book distribution.

Now, just who are the e-book distributors in the good old U.S.A.? Anybody know off-hand? Again…many may already know the answer to this question…but, don’t realize they know the answer.

Author Wallace Wang, whose site’s mission is ‘meant to help potential authors understand how to self-publish, market, and ultimately profit from their books while avoiding traditional book publishers, stores, and distributors altogether’, has the answer…PLUS additional information and resources. 

Onward to the news article in Publishing Perspectives by Carlo Carrenho that churned all this in my mind (including an interview with Roberto Feith, Objetiva’s CEO and Chairman of DLD’s board):

Brazil’s DLD E-book Distribution Platform Opens For Business

A year after six Brazilian publishers launched the DLD e-book distribution platform, it opens for business today.
 
In March 2010, six Brazilian publishers –- Objetiva (partially owned by Santillana), Record, Sextante, Rocco, Planeta and L&PM — teamed up to launch an e-book distribution company called Distribuidora de Livros Digitais (DLD). The business model has several similarities with that of Libranda , in Spain –- though it’s a distinctly Brazilian enterprise. The company officially launched in August under the leadership of CEO Roberto Vaz Moreira. Since then the team has been working hard, albeit discretely, to launch the platform.

Still, it’s not uncommon in Brazilian publishing circles to hear the suggestion that DLD is little more than a good idea, one that is likely to remain vaporware…

In this exclusive interview, originally published in Portuguese at PublishNews, Roberto Feith, CEO of Objetiva and DLD’s chairman, openly reveals the actual plans, expectations and launch schedule of the new e-book distributor.

Please note that, at present, Brazil lags some three or four years behind the US in terms of digital development. Currently Xeriph is the only function e-book aggregator in Brazil, and Singular Digital is finding its way to becoming digital distribution hub for publishers. DLD, when it launches, will probably compete with both companies.

PublishNews Brazil: When will DLD launch its operation?

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02/14/2011

Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Sales Tax


Question: Should e-book retailers have to charge sales tax in the state where their books are sold?

Hummm, interesting point; and all readers are encouraged to chime in…

Amazon is doing everything in their power to avoid collecting sales tax…even to the point of  threatening to terminate its affiliate program in certain states that may enact e-fairness legislation that requires Amazon to collect sales tax due on purchases by residents in those states and thereby putting their online affiliates out of business. Fair or unfair?

This Amazon conundrum has caused B&N to try and recruit the probably-pissed-off Amazon affiliates.

Sure, why not?

This blurb from Publishers Weekly: 

Barnes & Noble Courts Amazon Affiliates 

With Amazon determined to avoid collecting sales tax in as many states as possible for as long as possible, Barnes & Noble issued an open letter to Amazon affiliates urging them to sign on to its affiliate program, which it says has over 13,000 members. As part of its strategy to limit the states where it collects sales tax, Amazon has ended affiliate programs in a few states that have passed legislation calling for all online retailers to collect sales tax from out-of-state e-tailers. 
 
“We understand that Amazon.com has threatened to terminate its affiliate program in certain states that may enact e-fairness legislation that requires Amazon to collect sales tax due on purchases by residents in those states.” the letter begins.”Barnes & Noble is disappointed to hear that Amazon would threaten small businesses’ livelihood rather than comply with state law.” In large part because its stores gives it “nexus” in all states, B&N already collects sales tax for both its bricks-and-mortar stores as well as its online business. “Barnes & Noble wants Amazon.com affiliates who have been terminated to know that you are welcome to join the Barnes & Noble affiliate family. If Amazon doesn’t want you, we do! And, we will take care of collecting and remitting all sales taxes due on BN.com sales to its customers so you and our customers don’t have to worry about being hassled or prosecuted by state tax auditors,” the letter, signed by John Foley, president of BN.com, said.
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07/15/2010

Big-Name Authors Sign Directly with E-book Retailers


Is big publishing getting the boot ?

At first, lesser-known and newbie authors were signing with E-book retailers; but now big-name authors are joining the trend and by-passing the middleman traditional publishers and signing directly with eBook retailers like Amazon, Smashwords and other companies !
More and more established authors are signing on the digital, multi-media publishing bandwagon…The latest is Ryu Murakami, author of Coin Locker Babies among others.

This report from the Wall Street Journal by Yoree Koh goes into more detail:

Ever since the arrival of the slim and snazzy electronic book devices, the magnates of the traditional publishing industry have feared the worst: that precious big-name authors might sign directly with e-book retailers, relegating the old-school publishers as the dispensable middleman.

Let the nightmare begin. Novelist Ryu Murakami plans to release his latest novel exclusively for digital bookworms through Apple Inc.’s iPad ahead of the print version. Mr. Murakami, the acclaimed author of over 15 novels including “Coin Locker Babies” and “In the Miso Soup”, replaced the publishers with a software company to help develop the e-book titled “A Singing Whale,” or “Utau Kujira” in Japanese. The digital package will include video content and set to music composed by Academy Award winning composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, according to the Japanese business daily Nikkei. The newspaper reports the e-book will cost 1,500 yen ($17) and will be ready to download pending Apple’s approval. Apple Japan and Mr. Murakami did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.

Mr. Murakami’s decision is the latest step taken by well known authors in re-writing the business model of the publishing industry – but it’s a step beyond what others have done. In April, the master penman of suspense, Stephen King, released the e-book edition of his newest work “Blockade Billy” one month before the hardcover version published by Scribner, an imprint of New York publishing giant Simon and Schuster, hit retail outlets in the U.S. and Canada. Mr. King also published a story, UR, exclusively for Kindle, the popular e-book reader produced by Amazon, around the time a newer version of the device was released in February 2009.

In December of last year, Amazon scored another success when business guru Steven Covey granted the online retailer exclusive e-book rights for two of his best-selling books for one year. Until recently, Mr. Covey’s move to shift older titles, also known as backlist titles – the warehouse of past best-selling books with strong staying power that provide publishers a steady revenue stream each year – to the digital sphere has been the more common rebellion among successful wordsmiths. Brazilian writer Paul Coehlo and the estate of the late American novelist William Styron also moved the rights to sell e-book editions of older works to Amazon.

But in offering fresh material only in an electronic format, Mr. Murakami’s plan has basically removed the traditional book publisher from the calculation entirely. Mr. Murakami’s past novels have been published by venerated Japanese companies like Kodansha. The company wasn’t immediately available for comment. The new equation, in theory, would give authors a bigger chunk of royalties. Mr. Murakami said his initial goal of 5,000 downloads would cancel out the investment costs, and if the plan is approved, Apple will receive 30% of the revenue with the rest to be parsed among Mr. Murakami, Mr. Sakamoto and the software company, according to the Nikkei.

UPDATE, 14:05 p.m. JST: Kodansha, Murakami’s publisher responds, saying it’s talking to the novelist about releasing a hard copy version of “A Singing Whale”, though nothing has been finalized.

Read this post in Japanese/日本語訳はこちら≫

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