Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

01/14/2010

Publishing E-pocalypse or a New Age?


2009 has just staggered out the door…but left behind a massive footprint of electronic publishing inroads and positioning for future inevitable victories.

M. J. Rose, a successful author of numerous books, including The Memorist and The Reincarnationist, discusses this New Age of E-Publishing in an insightful article for Publishing Perspectives. She relates her own experiences in and prognostications for the publishing industry. M. J. Rose was the first author to use the Internet to release an e-book that was picked up by traditional publishers. She is also the owner of the ad agency, Authorbuzz.com. Past Life, a dramatic series based on her bestselling novel The Reincarnationist, debuts February 11, 2010 on FoxTV.

By M. J. Rose:

As we come to the end of 2009 there’s only one thing we know about the future of publishing—it’s going to keep changing. Like it or not, no matter what industry you’re in and how hard you try to hold onto the past, fighting change is not only futile, it’s often what kills you.

When Change is Pain

The changes we’re in the middle of are cause for alarm for many people:

Kirkus is gone.

Fifty-four percent of people now find out about books via online ads. (Yes ads! Not reviews.) Sixty-seven percent of people buying a book didn’t know what they were going to buy before they walked in the store.

There are millions of readers who post about what they’re reading on their blogs and social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.

People can read e-books on their iPhones on line in the supermarket, go home, turn on their Kindles and be instantly synced up.

HarperCollins has an online slush pile called Authonomy. Harlequin has a similar testing ground called Carina.

And Steven Covey, author of the perennial backlist bestseller Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, just gave exclusive rights to his e-books to Amazon and not his publisher.

Bookstores are publishers and authors are publishers and publishers are bookstores.

And yet, the one thing everyone seems to fear the most is Amazon’s slashing e-book prices and selling them at a loss.

Last week almost all the major publishers announced they would be holding back e-book releases on select titles until three to four months after the hardcover release.

Now? The time to have gotten involved in timing and pricing was two years ago before when the Kindle came on the market. When experimentation would have made sense. When there were no precedents set. But to do it now?

Kassia Krozser, at Book Square, blogged that the way some agents and publishers are reacting is fetishistic: “We must worship the all-mighty hardcover,” she wrote, “without worrying about the actual impact to overall sales. Without even considering the reader. Of course, why would publishing ever consider the reader?”

Why indeed?

As someone who has spent her life in advertising doing endless research about the end user, I’m continually shocked by the lack of information publishers have about readers. And even worse their lack of concern about the info they don’t have.

E-books vs. Hardcovers

There is a lot of information about readers that is key to what the future holds and how it’s going to play out. And we need to be paying attention to it.

For instance, 40% of hardcovers are either resold online two or three times or lent to friend and family two to three times. Or swapped two or three or more times.

None of those transactions pay a penny to the publisher or the author.

But e-books can’t be resold. Or borrowed. (Barnes & Noble’s Nook offers publishers the option to lend once, but few allow it.)

Read the rest of the article here: http://publishingperspectives.com/?p=9346

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01/05/2010

A Response To: Changing the Way Authors Get Paid


Robert Miller, president and publisher of HarperStudio, responds to author M. J. Rose’s article published here yesterday…A publisher’s point of view next to a writer’s point of view…Maybe if the two can be meshed together we can produce a good and fair compensation model.

Publisher’s Note: However, I, John R. Austin, feel that the marketing (therefore the success) of any book should be the primary responsibility of the publisher with a marketing plan that includes the author in traditional roles such as book signings, readings, public appearances, interviews, etc…But, a plan, indeed, funded by the publisher.

Response by Robert Miller:

NEW YORK: I’ve just read M.J. Rose’s editorial from last Friday, “Publishers Must Change the Way Authors Get Paid,” and I couldn’t agree more that it’s time to re-think the publisher/author relationship. M.J. deserves credit for moving this conversation forward; indeed, for years M.J. has shown by her own example how authors can and should be full partners in the marketing of their books. If anyone has earned the right to question author compensation, it’s M.J. Rose.

However, I don’t think that the solution is to have authors paid a higher royalty in exchange for their marketing efforts.

First of all, how would this be judged? What amount of marketing effort should be expected of the author before their royalty changes? Shouldn’t author and publisher alike be doing everything possible to make a book succeed, without needing to count up who has gone beyond the call of duty and who hasn’t and trying to calculate how that should translate into how they share the proceeds of their success? What if the author and the publisher have both made herculean marketing efforts, but the book has lost money? Should the author get a higher royalty, even as the publisher is taking a loss? (Similarly, I don’t see how publishers and authors would know how to apply the author’s marketing expenses to their advances, as M.J. suggests here.)

This approach reminds me of those group housing experiences we all had just after college, when inevitably the refrigerator would get divided up into separate grocery bags with cranky “this is mine, don’t eat it” notes on them. When that happens, the household stops being a fun place to live…and I don’t think it’s a good basis for sustainable publisher/author relationships, either.

I don’t think that this solution goes far enough. I believe that publishers and authors should be equal partners, sharing profits fifty-fifty, as we are doing in all of our deals at HarperStudio. The author brings their creative work to this partnership, and their commitment to do everything in their power to help their book succeed. The publisher brings their financial risk (under our model, the publisher puts up the publishing costs, including the advance to the author, from which the author can decide to help the marketing effort if they’d like, or not), their passion for the project, and their staff time (we don’t charge any overhead to the profit split; the authors don’t charge for their time spent marketing the book either).

This financial structure requires both parties to think responsibly about costs, since both parties will be charged for those costs at the end of the day. The result is that the relationship is much less adversarial.

The question each day is, “What should we be doing for this book?” not “What have you done for me lately?” It feels healthier to me.

So, M.J., got a book for HarperStudio? If so, we have a structure that I believe would reward you fairly for your impressive efforts, without turning us all into dueling accountants. The new chapter has begun.

VISIT: The HarperStudio Web site.

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