Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

04/18/2013

Digital Disruption Continues To Reshape the Publishing Market — E.G.: If an Author Self-Publishes, What Is the Role of a literary Agency?


Digital Disruption (DD) – As formidable as a DD cup 🙂

What is the role of a literary agent? Well, I’ll tell you — it’s changing, as most other publishing functions are, due to digital disruption — literary agencies are becoming self-publishing service centers in addition to representing author clients to traditional publishers.

Why? SS (simple survival).

Yes! Digital has, INDEED, caused disruption in the publishing industry. Actually ‘disruption’ is too minor, ‘rebirth’ is more apropos — It has forced a totally inefficient system to not only think, but ACT, outside the proverbial ‘box’  in order to survive — resulting in innovative, improved and more efficient publishing procedures (still in progress by the way) — AND a fairer, more level playing field for authors, with more control where it should be: with the actual creators/writers.

All the events causing the underway publishing transformation has also caused literary agencies to ‘be all they can be’ as they have adopted self-publishing options for their author clients blessed with established contacts and negotiated contracts for same.

Interesting excerpted disruptions from tonight’s discussion for your preview and titillation:

– Self-publishing becomes more attractive to established authors.

– Romance novelist Eloisa James says that published authors talked about the “self-pubs” all the time and had learned a lot from those writers’ efforts. “They treat it like a small business,” she said, “and they are geniuses at discoverability.”

– Mr. Harris, co-director of ICM’s literary department, said self-publishing “returns a degree of control to authors who have been frustrated about how their ideas for marketing and publicity fare at traditional publishers.” Both Mr. Harris and Mr. Mamet, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and author, said that the big publishers focused mostly on blockbuster books and fell short on other titles — by publishing too few copies, for instance, or limiting advertising to only a short period after a book was released — “Particularly for high-end literary fiction, their efforts too often have been very low-octane,” Mr. Harris said of the traditional publishers.

– Interesting thought: If an author self-publishes, what, then, is the role of a literary agency? Mr. Gottlieb of Trident said it made sense for his clients to self-publish through the agency, which charges a standard commission on sales, instead of going directly to Amazon themselves because the agency brought experience in marketing and jacket design. It also has relationships with the digital publishers that give their clients access to plum placement on sites that self-published authors can’t obtain on their own.

– Self-publishing now accounts for more than 235,000 books annually, according to Bowker, a book research firm. Big houses like Penguin and Harlequin have opened their own self-publishing divisions because they see it as a profit center of the future.

– “… publishing is like Hollywood — nobody ever does the marketing they promise.”

– Then there is the money. While self-published authors get no advance, they typically receive 70 percent of sales. A standard contract with a traditional house gives an author an advance, and only pays royalties — the standard is 25 percent of digital sales and 7 to 12 percent of the list price for bound books — after the advance is earned back in sales.

Enough titillating highlights 🙂 These details from The New York Times by Leslie Kaufman:

 

New Publisher Authors Trust: Themselves

When the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and author David Mamet released his last book, “The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture,” with the Sentinel publishing house in 2011, it sold well enough to make the New York Times best-seller list.

This year, when Mr. Mamet set out to publish his next one, a novella and two short stories about war, he decided to take a very different path: he will self-publish.

Mr. Mamet is taking advantage of a new service being offered by his literary agency, ICM Partners, as a way to assume more control over the way his book is promoted.

“Basically I am doing this because I am a curmudgeon,” Mr. Mamet said in a telephone interview, “and because publishing is like Hollywood — nobody ever does the marketing they promise.”

As digital disruption continues to reshape the publishing market, self-publishing — including distribution digitally or as print on demand — has become more and more popular, and more feasible, with an increasing array of options for anyone with an idea and a keyboard. Most of the attention so far has focused on unknown and unsigned authors who storm onto the best-seller lists through their own ingenuity.

The announcement by ICM and Mr. Mamet suggests that self-publishing will begin to widen its net and become attractive also to more established authors. For one thing, as traditional publishers have cut back on marketing, this route allows well-known figures like Mr. Mamet to look after their own publicity.

Then there is the money. While self-published authors get no advance, they typically receive 70 percent of sales. A standard contract with a traditional house gives an author an advance, and only pays royalties — the standard is 25 percent of digital sales and 7 to 12 percent of the list price for bound books — after the advance is earned back in sales.

ICM, which will announce its new self-publishing service on Wednesday, is one of the biggest and most powerful agencies to offer the option. But others are doing the same as they seek to provide additional value to their writers while also extending their reach in the industry.

Since last fall, Trident Media Group, which represents 800 authors, has been offering its clients self-publishing possibilities through deals negotiated though online publishers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, in a system very similar to the one ICM is setting up. Robert Gottlieb, chairman of Trident, says that 200 authors have taken advantage of the service, though mostly for reissuing older titles, the backlist.

Another literary agency, InkWell Management, has helped the romance novelist Eloisa James reissue many of her backlist titles, as well as her newer books overseas, this way. She usually turns out her best sellers through HarperCollins, and in a telephone interview she said she would not leave Harper completely because she loves her editor. But she added that published authors talked about the “self-pubs” all the time and had learned a lot from those writers’ efforts.

Read and learn more

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09/29/2010

IMG Worldwide – a Literary Agency PLUS!


A little insight into the inner management and the movement of managers within the magazine, book and media industries.
For those of you who have not heard of IMG (International Management Group) Worldwide, I am introducing you now.

IMG is the world’s largest sports talent and marketing agency, operating in some 30 countries. They also are a top modeling agency…handling some of the world’s top models such as Giselle Bundchen and Liv Tyler…BUT, guess what? They are also a literary agency, represent corporate clients and are involved in real estate and golf course design, etc, etc…

What brought IMG to my attention was reading that Tom Florio, who just left Conde Nast’s Vogue magazine as Group Publisher after 25 years, was hired by IGM as senior advisor for fashion to the chairman, himself.

Nat Ives, AdAge.com, wrote this for Cain’s New York Business:

Tom Florio lands at IMG Worldwide

Former Vogue publisher will seek new ventures for IMG’s fashion operations.

It’s not the chief executive position he said he was seeking when he left his post as group publisher at Vogue last June, but Tom Florio does have a new job: IMG Worldwide, the sports and media giant, has named him to the newly created post of senior adviser for fashion to the office of the chairman.

IMG’s fashion operations include producing events such as Fashion Week in New York; publications such as The Daily, which covers Fashion Week in New York; and the modeling agency IMG Models.

In this post, Mr. Florio will be tasked with identifying new, “high-margin” products across IMG’s fashion-related businesses, according to the company. “Tom has outstanding credentials and a proven track record of taking businesses and creating high growth opportunities around them,” IMG Chief Executive Ted Forstmann said in a statement.

Read more http://alturl.com/gjimp

03/06/2010

Writers Power and Right Choices


Writers do have a lot of power. They just don’t exercise it at times, if at all, due to financial conditions (need for money) and survival in general. But, those who have sufficient means of support other than from writing can exercise this inherent power and take the higher ground in their writing careers more consistently.

Sasha White, a contributor to the Genreality Blog, posted a motivational, but slightly idealistic, segment today on not compromising your ideals and ideas just to get an agent (who may be unsuitable for you) and get published. What drew me to her piece was her marquee quote from one of my favorite performers: Janis Joplin, a very talanted but screwed up singer from the sixties who lived a hard, short life and put all her emotions into her remarkable songs.

“Don’t compromise yourself, you are all you’ve got.” ~ Janis Joplin

Sasha White:
We often talk about being true to yourself in your writing. Hone your own voice, follow your own path, write the story as you see it, not as others tell you it should be. I firmly believe in those things.

I also see plenty of blog posts or articles that put a lot of emphasis on things being all about the story. Hearing things like “As an author all you can really control is the work.” or “The best thing you can do to ensure a successful career is write a great story.” over and over again, but I don’t believe that.

Now get this straight. I am not saying that the story doesn’t matter. What I am saying is that we, as authors, control a lot more than we’re being trained to think we do. We can control more than the story.

I’ve been agent hunting for about a year now, and I’ve queried many many agents. Some passed on my ideas, some wanted to know more. Some told me what to do, and some talked with me about my choices and options and left it to me decide what to do. However, I’ve yet to connect with an agent enough to seriously pursue a business relationship. I’m being very picky, and I know it. I think that’s okay because I know what I want, and I’ve decided if I can’t get what I want then I’m not willing to settle for less. Instead of settling with an agent I don’t believe in my heart will be my final agent just so I can get some proposals out there, I’ve decided to submit them myself, and use a literary lawyer for the contract work if I need to.

A short time ago an author friend of mine emailed and announced a book sale. She was super excited because it was to a new publisher, and it seemed like a great move. Not only was it a sale, (which is always good), but it was one that would get her more exposure and help her move in the direction she wanted to take her career. Then, a couple weeks after her announcement, she walked away from the deal. It wasn’t an easy choice, but it was one she made because she was smart enough to think ahead and know that she’d regret it later if she didn’t make her stand.

Those are just a couple of examples of the power we have. Power that has nothing to do with the story, but everything to do with building a career. Sometimes we concentrate so hard on being writers that we forget that if we want to make a career out of this that we have to be businesspeople too, and that means that we have to make tough choices at times. Sometimes it’s about more than the story. Sometimes it’s about knowing that the choices you make and the path you follow is ultimately your own responsibility.

John’s Note To Sasha: Don’t hunt for the perfect agent…They don’t exist. Get one that will meet most needs for your present project. Good agents DO have extensive contacts and, if your work is really good enough, they will get you much more money and better future rights, residuals and benefits than just a legal type. If one agent doesn’t like your idea…keep looking for one who does…If you are totally unsuccessful at this, then, by all means, use alternative publishing sources.

01/18/2010

E-books Spark Battle Inside the Publishing Industry


Publishers want to maintain their disproportionate profit margins, writers want a larger share of revenue and readers want plentiful books at cheaper prices! A large order but one that is being brought into focus by the coming of the digital age and e-books.

Washington Post Staff Writer, Marion Maneker, nailed the archaic publishing industry in her article on 27 Dec 2009:

The evolution of publishing from print to digital has caused a schism in the reading world. There are now two constituencies: readers (and writers) on the one hand, and the publishing world on the other. And they don’t want to hear each other.

Readers want books that are plentiful and cheap, publishers want to preserve their profit, and authors want a larger share of revenue. The conflict has created a strident internecine battle inside the publishing industry. At issue are the price and timing of e-books, and who owns the rights to backlist titles. While publishers, agents and Amazon.com bicker, there is little time for conceiving new content that satisfies customer demand. If the book business doesn’t tune in to that demand, it could wind up as a transitional source for the e-readers.

We know that readers want content, because it’s clear they’re not dazzled by the device. Consumers have made Amazon’s limited and rudimentary device a hit, which speaks to their desire for books that are cheaper and easier to obtain. It surely isn’t the device’s design or functionality. Both are closer to the computer aesthetic of the 1980s than today’s digital world. The Kindle may have lots of titles available — but good luck using the device to decide what to read next.

But publishers have ignored this demand. In response, several conglomerates have aggressively moved to protect their legacy. Macmillan recently announced a plan to delay the publication of e-books and offer enhancements that will justify a higher price. This tactic is aimed at Amazon’s policy of trying to set $9.99 as the expected price for an e-book. Most are priced much higher — but that’s beside the point. Amazon and publishers are fighting over this fiction, not the reality. Because Amazon’s customers have made it clear that $9.99 is still too high for their taste. Most titles in the company’s list of top 100 Kindle bestsellers are priced below $9.99, and the most popular price point is $0.00. But publishers can’t hear this, because they’re a little distracted right now.

The New York Times recently played up friction between publishers and agents over the electronic rights to backlist books. Random House has sent a letter to literary agents claiming to hold these rights even though it lost a court case on the subject. But agent, e-book publisher and blogger Richard Curtis puts the issue in perspective when he points out that few books are actually at stake here, because electronic rights became a contractual standard in 1990.

The real battle here is not over who controls the backlist rights but what royalties the publisher will pay. Stephen Covey caused a lot of consternation at Simon & Schuster last week when it was announced that he was taking his best backlist titles and publishing them with RosettaBooks, the e-book publisher that tangled with Random House on the issue and won. RosettaBooks is offering Covey half of the publishing proceeds, not the 25 percent or less he’d get from Simon. Publishers want these backlist books to add dollars to their bottom line; authors want to get a higher royalty for the backlist titles because the publisher doesn’t need to make any further investment to generate sales. There’s not a lot of room here to meet in the middle.

The stalemate ignores an important shift that digital publishing accelerates. The success of the book business over the past two decades was about expanding the supply of books. Growth came through increased volume, more titles and more title availability. That’s the story of the six big conglomerates and the growth of the superstores. But digital publishing inverts that formula — its magic is in the way it meets demand efficiently.

Barnes & Noble discovered that recently when the first of its Nook devices landed in the hands of reviewers. David Pogue and Walt Mossberg have both judged it a dud. The device seems to be a great packaging concept (dual-screen reader) marred by sloppy execution (slow navigation and refresh rates) that may leave them forever playing catch-up. Just building a device is not enough to capture sales. Amazon’s advantage is its customer base and brand loyalty. BN’s was going to be better functionality. If the books-and-mortar giant cannot make the breakthrough, more devices are coming to market — and one of them will make a meaningful move forward.

This doesn’t need to mean the end of book publishing. Publishers can no longer be vast containers of intellectual property distributed in paper form to bookstores, supermarkets and warehouse clubs. But they don’t have to be: They can become highly selective distributors to bookstores, supermarkets and price clubs. That’s the lesson of the television, music and movie businesses.

But if the publishers want a role in the e-books business, they’ll need to get over it and get on with it, embracing lower-priced e-books with higher author royalties. That seems unlikely. Because it’s now clear that publishers just don’t want to listen to what their customers are telling them.

12/23/2009

Seven Things I’ve Learned So Far: A Series For Writers By Writers


This post gives a link to a new series being posted on A Guide To Literary Agents Blog that gives good advice to writers from other writers:

There is a new recurring column they’re calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers at any stage of their career can talk about seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning. This installment is from Debbie Fuhry, inspirational fiction writer.

Debbie Fuhry is a writer of inspirational fiction. She has a website and runs
the blog Grace is Sufficient. Her seven points are:

1. Look before you leap. Don’t immediately sit down and start typing as soon as you realize the story in your head might be turned into a novel. Go ahead and make notes so you don’t lose your train of thought, but then take time to study a few of the books on the art of fiction writing.

2. Don’t be cheap. The old saying is still valid, “You have to spend money to make money.” Be willing to spend money—think of it as an investment—on books, magazine subscriptions, memberships to professional associations, and writers’ conferences.

3. Find a writing group. In addition to joining a professional association, look for a smaller group that meets locally. You will be encouraged by spending time with others who share your goals and interests, and you can often learn a lot, too. Such groups often include critique sessions. You will gain from having your own writing critiqued as well as from listening to the members comment on others’ work.

4. Make the best use of writers’ conferences. Attend a conference with the primary goal of listening and learning. Many writers attend their first conference with purposes of pitching their novel and making contacts. You will miss some of the best opportunities a conference affords that way.

5. Don’t bypass the agent. It’s natural to think, “If I sell directly to a publisher, I won’t have to hand over 15% of my earnings.” Setting aside the fact that plenty of publishers will not accept unsolicited submissions directly from writers, a good agent knows the legal and practical end of the business and most writers do not. Also, an agent can offer a layer of quality control between you and the publisher.

6. Cheer on other writers. It’s easy to be envious of others’ success, and if you feel that way, acknowledge it and move on. It’s something else entirely to be resentful about it, and usually indicates that you feel as though another writer’s success somehow diminishes your chances. It doesn’t.

7. Keep your expectations in line with reality. While it’s fine to be able to dream about writing multiple bestsellers, be realistic. Only a tiny percentage of authors are that successful. So keep dreaming and keep working toward your dreams, but don’t quit your day job yet!

07/12/2009

The Evolving Role of Literary Agents


I have discovered a VERY informative publishing and related industry website called The Idea Logical at http://alturl.com/wyb5 and am delighted to present the following extracted posting:

The Evolving Role of Agents by Mike Shatzkin

Because of a couple of panels I spoke on last spring and because of the development of FiledBy, I have had more and more conversations lately with agents. They are part of the General Trade Publishing ecosystem. So their lives are getting more difficult and more complicated, like everybody else’s in Book Valley.
The agents’ concern is frequently expressed as “what do I tell my authors?” Publishers are increasingly insistent that a prospective author have an internet platform to build on before they sign a book. Editors always wanted credentials to back up a writer’s authority on any subject; now they’d like to see that the writer has a following on that subject as well.
But agents are also concerned about themselves. The two most innovative imprint initiatives in recent memory — Bob Miller’s HarperStudio inside HarperCollins and Roger Cooper’s Vanguard inside Perseus — are built on the idea of reducing risk, paying the author a lower advance. Yes, they also promise a higher reward (higher royalty), but experienced agents know most books don’t earn anything beyond the advance.
Miller and Cooper are smart guys and it could well be that their imprints will have a higher percentage of earnouts than most. But, as smart guys, they wouldn’t be willing to pay more on the high side if they didn’t believe they were saving at least that much on the risk side…
…view rest of this post at http://alturl.com/wyb5

06/08/2009

On Publishing: John Austin Answers Jeanne Scott


Publishing a first book has never been easy is correct. Only points out the fact that the old publishing industry has never been properly manned to handle the talent workload. It’s just been an arbitrary decision by an agent or publisher…usually generated by uncontrollables such as his mood, hangovers…an eye catching lead-in that might catch his/her eye today but not tomorrow, etc,etc, ad infinitum. AND they say if you don’t dot an “i” or cross a stupid “t” OR your margins aren’t a certain friggin width…the idiots won’t even read the content that might be ingenious or wildly entertaining! These types need another job or a resetting of their priorities.

It’s nauseous and always been a stacked industry, deeply bent in favor of publishers and exploitive of the talent that made them the damn money in the first place!

AND THEN they want you (the author) to do the hard work for them by marketing your own book to make them the money…Who needs them? What good do they do in today’s atmosphere? The 30-40% split they allow you is a rip off! Should be the other way around and for what the publishers do they should be happy to get 30-40%…in fact, that’s probably too high!

In truth, publishing has never been an efficient industry and they probably deserve to die as they are now and just go away. Self-publish or get a “newer-age” publisher (that I feel has to emerge to fill the gap) that will allow the intellectual property creator to pocket the more rightful 60-70% of the earnings. Let’s get the dog wagging the tail again instead of the other way around…

06/07/2009

Thoughts on the Publishing Industry, My Novel and Other Stuff


This post is taken from my website at http://johnraustin.yolasite.com/ :

6/9/09: Although I’ve had the query letter and book proposal for my nonfiction novel written forever, I have not sent any out due to the upheaval in the publishing industry and the economic downturn.
I have been researching self-publishing as perhaps a maturing industry, coming into it’s own as a result of new technology, to get my novel published and keep more of the money in my own pocket. I have been reporting on this a little in previous posts. This throws us headlong into the necessity of then having to market our own books…but, hell, we had to do that as first-time authors with the traditional publishers anyway!

I will send out queries, however, it’s just a dream to be published by a traditional publishing house.

Good, reputable Literary agents used to be able to get you better deals, I’m not sure anymore. Some spend so much time on blogs that I don’t see how they have any time to properly agent your work…and some have just gotten a little too big for their britches…So, BEWARE of agents that have found new-found fame and followers on their own blogs!!! Could be they are positioning for new jobs in the present industry upheaval.

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