Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

07/24/2011

Books Are Morphing into Fluid Concepts in Cyberspace


Books As Fluid Concepts - The Old Meets The New

“Instead of being a discrete object, the book is becoming much more of a fluid concept, and there is opportunity in that transformation for those who want to discover it.”

This information is presented by Mathew Ingram through gigaom.com. The text sputters mucho links and references to drilled down background info that will bestow a PhD level of knowledge! Enjoy the post: 

What’s a book? It’s whatever you want it to be

As we’ve mentioned a number of times, the evolution of the book-publishing business has been accelerating recently, with more authors doing an end run around the traditional industry by self-publishing — or even setting up their own e-book stores, as Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling has done with her new Pottermore site. Now media companies seem to be showing an increasing interest in publishing their own e-books using content that they have already created, moves that are taking them into the growing market in between full-length books and magazine-style pieces.

The latest move in that direction comes from Ars Technica, which is part of the Conde Nast magazine empire that includes Wired magazine and The New Yorker. The technology blog, which has become well known for its exhaustive reviews of new Apple hardware and software by author and programmer John Siracusa, is offering its latest review — an in-depth look at Apple’s new operating system, code-named OS X “Lion” — as an e-book using the Kindle Single program. The book (which is really just a long magazine article) costs $5, and is more or less identical to the version that is on the Ars website.

Paying for convenience?

So why would someone want to pay $5 to read something that they could read for free on a website, or download via their browser and read offline via Read It Later or some other service? That’s a good question (Fortune tried something similar with a recent feature on Apple, but it wasn’t available online at all). Whatever the answer might be, Ars Technica editor Ken Fisher told the Nieman Journalism Lab on Friday that more than 3,000 people had decided to do just that within 24 hours of the review being available online. Said Fisher:

I was surprised by how many people told us they read the review online and they just wanted their own copy to go back to. Or they just bought it as a tip-jar kind of thing.

It may have helped that Siracusa’s review is a lot closer to being a book than it is just a regular review in an online magazine — it is more than 27,000 words in length, which is split up over 19 pages. That’s a lot of text to read on a website, and some readers said that they downloaded the Kindle single just to save themselves from having to read all those pages on a computer. Fisher said the magazine also saw some new users sign up for its $5-a-month premium subscription plan, which disables advertising and lets users download any of the magazine’s articles as PDFs.

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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:

Read and learn more

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05/15/2011

‘Go the F— to Sleep’ the Children’s Book for Adults


AND, how piracy helped propel a short, humorous, honest story into the stratosphere of Amazon best-seller success…Even before it’s release date!

This from FastCompany.com by David Zax

How Viral PDFs Of A Naughty Bedtime Book Exploded The Old Publishing Model

The party line on piracy is that it’s bad for business. But what to make of the case of “Go the Fuck to Sleep,” the “children’s book for adults” whose viral-pirate PDF launched the book to the number-one spot on Amazon.com a month before its release?
 

Something remarkable happened today. A children’s book hit the No. 1 spot on Amazon.com’s best-seller list. And it did so a month before the book is even slated for release.

You may have heard of the book–it’s a best-seller after all. Go the Fuck to Sleep by Adam Mansbach, began its life as a joke Facebook post in June. It was a particularly trying instance of bedtime with his 2-year-old daughter, and Mansbach let off some steam in the form of a humorous status update to his friends: “Look out for my forthcoming children’s book, ‘Go the — to Sleep.’ ”

The response from his friends was so fierce that Mansbach decided to make his joke book a real one. Go the Fuck to Sleep, which he bills as a “children’s book for adults,” will hit stores on June 14, published by the Brooklyn press Akashic. If it’s not even due for a month, though, how did a little 32-page book already snag a film option deal with Fox 2000 and, today, reach the pinnacle of online publishing commerce world?

The answer appears to be piracy.

Read and learn more


05/12/2011

E-Book Self Publishing Rains Money for Some


In the last several months a few authors have self-published into monetary success (and fame)…You all have probably read something about them…You know, Amanda Hocking, Barry Eisler, J. A. Konrath and such.

Laura Hazard Owen, writing for PaidContent.org, delves into the first of a developing A-List of  successful E-Book Self Publishing authors…with a little background and earnings info thrown in:

Meet The A-List Authors Of E-Book Self Publishing

Authors who self-published their books have traditionally done it out of desperation—it was the result of being ignored or rejected by publishing houses. And without the marketing muscle of a publishing house, most of those self-published books were doomed commercially.

But the world of self-publishing is changing fast in the digital era. A growing number of authors are making a nice living selling their own e-books, often at $0.99 a pop. Below is a list of four that are at the top of that heap. One of them earned between $1.5 million and $2 million last year from sales of her ebooks; another walked away from a $500,000 advance after calculating he could do better on his own; a third bypassed traditional publishers to sign an exclusive deal with Amazon; (NSDQ: AMZN) and the fourth sold over 360,000 ebooks in March alone.

In 2009 (the latest figures available), nearly 765,000 titles were self-published in the U.S., an increase of 181 percent over the previous year. The self-publishing business is heating up in other ways too. Just last week, Smashwords, which publishes and distributes about 45,000 ebooks, signed a deal with ScrollMotion to create mobile apps for all its 18,000 author clients. To be sure, the vast majority of self-published books never come close to a bestseller list and their authors aren’t exactly raking it in. But as the self-publishing business matures, more authors are carving out audiences—in some cases, in sizable numbers. Some of them now even have agents handling their foreign and movie rights, and big publishers knocking on their doors.

Amanda Hocking

Backstory: The 26-year-old from Austin, Minn., writes in a genre known as paranormal romance (romance with elements of fantasy and horror)—think Twilight. She has self-published a total of nine books in three series, with the tenth, Virtue, to be released on Memorial Day. Her Trylle Trilogy made the USA Today bestseller list and was optioned by Media Rights Capital, with District 9 screenwriter Terri Tachell adapting.

Agent: Stephen Axelrod, The Axelrod Agency

Revenues: Hocking says she sold over 1 million copies of her books on Amazon between March 2010 and March 2011, making somewhere between $1.5 and $2 million.

Trying Out Traditional Publishing: On the strength of her success at self-publishing, Hocking sold her four-book series Watersong to St. Martin’s Press in March for an estimated $2 million-plus at auction. St. Martin’s beat HarperCollins, Random House, Simon & Schuster—and Amazon, in what is believed to be the first time the company went up against major book publishers in an new-book auction. Amazon had partnered with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to handle the print side and to ensure that Barnes & Noble would carry the books, but insisted on the exclusive rights to publish the e-book; though Amazon’s bid was actually the highest offered, Hocking and Axelrod rejected it because they believed its terms would lead to lost e-book sales.

Since the auction, Hocking has gotten even deeper into the traditional publishing world: Last week, she announced that St. Martin’s will republish her Trylle Trilogy in both digital and print formats next year. On her blog, she suggested that fans buy the Trylle e-books at their current $0.99-$2.99 prices, noting that St. Martin’s will likely raise the price when its version of the book comes out and replaces the self-published editions.

Barry Eisler

Backstory: Eisler’s bestselling John Rain thriller series was originally published by Penguin Putnam and Ballantine. But in March, the 48-year-old author and former CIA agent and technology lawyer, shocked the publishing world by announcing he’d turned down a $500,000, two-book deal with St. Martin’s Press to self-publish the next Rain novels. Eisler splits his time between San Francisco and Japan.

Agent: None

Why the self-publishing math works better: Eisler did the math and concluded that he could do better self publishing than going with St. Martin’s. With traditional publishing contracts, a 25-percent royalty on e-book net revenue is standard. In the case of a book sold on the Kindle Store, Amazon would take 30 percent of that royalty and the agent would take another 15 percent. That leaves the author with just 14.9 percent of ebook revenues. And authors have to earn out their advances—in Eisler’s case, that would have been $500,000—before they even see a royalty payment.

By contrast, when Eisler self publishes, he earns 70 percent of each Amazon sale—forever. And though he doesn’t get an advance, he starts earning sooner. If Eisler had gone with St. Martin’s, his book wouldn’t have been available until next spring. By self-publishing, he says, he can make it available earlier and gain an extra year of sales.

Revenues: Eisler has started his self-publishing career by publishing short stories on the Kindle Store. He says that between Amazon, the Nook Store and Smashwords, which both publishes and distributes ebooks, his short stories generally make $1,500 apiece in the first month and $1,000 per month thereafter. “I’ll keep dropping the price of previous shorts as new ones go up,” he says. Each story contains an excerpt of Eisler’s next John Rain novel, The Detachment, which he plans to release this summer.

Read and learn more

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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.

Read and learn more

03/25/2011

A Growing Love Affair: Authors and Ebooks


“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…” Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote these immortal words and I’m going to borrow them to introduce a counting of the ways authors are loving ebooks more and more!

One of my favorite mentors and writing-publishing-advice-givers is Joanna Penn from that great country “down under”…Australia.

Joanna has put together a comprehensive list of 10 reasons why authors love ebooks and it is so clear and concise that I want to repeat it here. A real eye-opener:

10 Reasons Why Authors Love Ebooks 

You might have noticed that ebooks are being talked about a lot at the moment. The growth of ebook readers and ebook sales plus the success of Kindle authors have made headline news in even the most traditional press. A few days ago, bestselling thriller author Barry Eisler announced that he was turning down a half million traditional publishing deal to self-publish, primarily because of the potential of ebook sales. And do I need to mention Amanda Hocking’s Kindle millionare status?

If you’re not convinced yet, here are ten reasons authors love ebooks and at the bottom, introducing my new multi-media course on ebook publishing if you’re ready to poke your toe into the water.

1) Ebook sales are growing which means the number of readers is growing. I’ve certainly been noticing more ebook readers on the train and also people in my office are buying the new Kindles and loving them. Ebook sales have been reported to be up 115% this year, and even though that’s growing from a small base, the pace of adoption is speeding up. Your book can be available to this growing market.

2) You can reach readers globally. This is amazingly exciting when you think hard about it. Anyone can now publish their book on Amazon.com, the biggest bookstore in the world, or on a site like Smashwords, also open to all.  Anyone can buy your book as long as they have some kind of digital device to read it on. Since Kindle app, Stanza and other apps are now on the majority of smart cellphones, it won’t be long before even the developing world can be reading your books (since cellphones have a much larger penetration than computers). I’m in Australia and yet my major market is in the US, thousands of miles away. Some US authors I’ve spoken to have said how well their books sell in Europe. It’s a small world when our work is digital. Brilliant!

3) You can publish your book within 24 hours – and for free. Speed to market has to be one of the most annoying factors of traditional publishing. It can take 18 months – 2 years to reach bookstores after you’ve finished writing a book. Perhaps that can be chopped down to as little as 6 months but with ebooks, you can publish to the Kindle store within 24 hours. You should absolutely be using professional editing, cover design and formatting but once the book is ready for the market, you can publish fast and easily. Oh yes, and it’s free to publish on Amazon and Smashwords. They just keep a small % of sales.

4) Ebook readers buy more books. I know this from experience as I read at least 3x more books now than I did before because the price enables it. My husband just bought 5 novels over the rainy weekend which he devoured. They were indie priced at $2.99 and so there’s not even a question that’s a bargain. New books in Australia are around $30 each. The price alone means that people will read more books electronically. There are also studies out that show this too, so it’s not just my opinion!

Read and learn more

06/27/2010

Current Rapid and Predicted E-books Growth Will Force Publishing Changes


The eBook explosion will indeed force “big publishing” industry changes…and at the forefront will be the expulsion of entrenched bad leadership…which I feel has gotten worse over the past 30 years or so…

As reported by Reuters and published in the Economic Times:

Stieg Larsson copycats take note: The slow rise of electronic books is paving the way for more safe-bet fiction blockbusters and serial-type books, at least in the short term, according to some book experts.

With book sales stagnating in recent years, the nascent e-books market has thrown the industry into turmoil. In response, large publishers are taking fewer financial risks and betting more of their dollars on established authors, said Eileen Gittins of self-publishing company Blurb.com.

John’s Note: Hell, “big publishing” has been doing this for the past 25 years…long before the emergence of eBooks!

“In the face of these economics, publishers just cannot take the risk,” said Gittins. “They need some sure wins.”

John’s Note: The hell they do…they stacked the deck for sure wins years ago! Mostly at the expense of new writers and creators. Traditional publishers haven’t taken a risk in so long they’ve forgotten how to spell the word. Their excessive greed is why they won’t or can’t adapt to the new business models…Traditional publishing days are over and good riddance.

Similar to movie studios’ betting on well-known franchises to bring box office gold, Gittins said publishers want to market more blockbuster authors writing serial books featuring a distinctive leading character to lure repeat readers, as was seen with the success of prolific, late Swedish author Stieg Larsson, or crime fiction writers such as Michael Connelly.

With prices on the fledging e-book market still being battled over among larger publishers and makers of electronic readers, publishers still have yet to profit much from e-books, with the lower priced e-books eating into profit margins.

The e-book market has grown rapidly with wholesale revenue from e-book sales in the United States increasing to $91 million in the first quarter of 2010 from $55.9 million from the last quarter of 2009, according to International Digital Publishing Forum. But e-book sales still only account for 5-6 per cent of overall US book sales and less than 1 per cent in Britain, The Financial Times reported this week.

Contrary to popular opinion, most of publishers’ costs are developing and marketing authors, not the cost of printing and shipping books. Such costs don’t lessen with e-books even though they sell for less than paper books, Gittins said.

John’s Note: Oh, so NOW the old printing, binding and shipping costs were nothing? Pure BS…The marketing of authors has ALWAYS been a core mission of publishing, one they gave up on years ago when they put this burden on the author himself (this is why they haven’t made good money on new writers)…This single act of abdicating core mission responsibilities was, in my opinion, the beginning of the end for traditional publishing.

Remember, good writers can learn publishing (especially today with new technology) easier than publishers can learn to be good writers!

That heightens pressure “to need to do blockbuster big titles because now there is even more pressure on them,” said Gittins. “They are not really saving money with the e-book, all those costs are still there.”

Book experts predict in the e-book market, bestselling authors will remain popular in the short term. According to Amazon, all three of Stieg Larsson’s books, which include sensation “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” sit in the top five best-selling books on Amazon’s Kindle reader.

Customer favorites for e-books include “great Summer reads” such as Stephenie Meyer’s new novella.

Daily Beast book editor Lucas Wittmann said in five years e-book sales could reach levels to make up for lost paper book sales, but for now publishers are feeling the pinch.

“There is a big squeeze right now,” said Wittmann. “All the great predictions for e-books haven’t quite been realized yet. E-books are growing at an astounding rate but they are not yet making up for the lost (book) sales.”

When e-books first hit the market, some nonfiction economic and political books fared well, but now as the e-book audience had widened, more fiction is selling, he said.

“Publishers are still experimenting,” Wittmann added.

Publishers Weekly Editorial Director Jim Milliot said online sites such as Amazon.com encourage readers to buy the same author, while smaller publishers were slow on e-books.

“A lot of the independent publishers have been slower to move to put their titles on, mainly because they don’t have the resources to do it,” he said. “Fiction seems to be winning out, at least in the early going.”

As electronic readers improve, the type of e-books that sell well could change. Improving graphics could help genres like nonfiction and children’s books become more popular.

“The possibilities seem to be opening up for more graphic work, incorporating multimedia and embedding links to audio when you are reading a biography of Bach or something,” Wittmann said, predicting such advances in a year or two.

Wittmann said there will still be some “pain in the industry” but diversity and change was coming.

“Most publishers…are warming to e-books and thinking creatively about them,” he said. “The only question is the time frame … when we see a truly dramatic shift.”

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