Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

10/05/2012

The Intra-Publishing Civil War


Print and Digital Media “Going At It”

What is the intra-publishing civil war, you ask?

It is the stress, fighting and positioning going on between the newer digital publishing aficionados and their legacy print publishing brethren. 

E-book authors still often hear “So, you don’t write real books?”  And money? The majority is still being brought in through print medium.

But, the e-books are pulling in more and more money and increasing their percentages in all areas — resulting in the newcomers brashly asserting that old publishing is dead. More importantly, digital publishing has opened the door to new very successful genres thought unprofitable before by traditional publishers.

This publishing intrigue has been in play in varying degrees for a while, lets watch some of the latest progress as reported by Aleksandr Voinov  in USA TODAY:

Publishing is dead — long live publishing

No day passes without yet another skirmish in what could be seen as a kind of intra-publishing civil war, where the newcomers brashly assert that old publishing is dead and traditional publishing refuses to die. Meanwhile, old publishing continues to account for the majority of all books sold in brick-and-mortar stores, and e-book authors still face the “So you don’t write real books?” questions when they go to conventions and interact with friends and family, most of whom were exposed to e-books only when they received an e-reader last Christmas.

We are in flux. I’m saying “civil war” because here, too, the lines are messy, sides change all the time, and so do positions. Thankfully, there’s less bloodshed, but the implications for the publishing industry and how we write, read, market and interact with each other are enormous. It’s not tidy, it is at times exasperating, and nobody can predict where it’s going — only that e-books are growing, authors are making a good living off e-books, the books on offer are often more colorful and sometimes weirder and “uncommercial” when compared with legacy publishing, and e-books are heralding the creation of whole new genres that legacy publishing, in its necessities of scale, had never truly been able to support.

For example, 10 years ago, I was told that gay romance was unsellable, and was strongly advised by several agents and print acquiring editors to not waste my talent in a niche without a future or financial viability.

Ten years later, I’m not only a writer of gay/bi/trans fiction, but I also part-own Riptide Publishing, a hot young start-up selling GBLTQ stories with a focus on romance. A gay historical romance, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, recently won the 2012 Orange Prize for fiction (and, predictably, faced the critical derision our genre seems doomed to). One of Riptide’s own titles, Stars & Stripes, recently made it into the Barnes & Noble sitewide Top 100. Riptide Publishing is celebrating its first anniversary this month, and already, half a dozen or more of our authors are earning a living off their royalties. So much for gay romance being “unsellable.”

Where many see dangers and change, and some large players are frankly still in denial or trying to turn back the wheel by deliberately making e-books unattractive or too expensive or too hard to find in worldwide markets, other authors and start-ups are creating facts. Being more nimble and more in tune with our readership, small e-book-first presses such as Riptide back genres and books that others find unviable. Overhead is lower, processes are less entrenched, and staff are often younger and steeped more thoroughly in the digital culture. They follow their passions, even when those passions are unlikely to appeal to a mass market. They take risks.

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04/28/2012

Amazon vs. Publishers – Round Two


Amazon vs. Publishers STILL

Amazon still has mucho shelves full of print books for sale. And they want desperately to clean up that stock with their print on demand capability. But, the publishers are reluctant to allow Amazon to use POD.

Do you know the reason ? Can you guess ?

, Business Week, explains :  

Amazon vs. Publishers: The Book Battle Continues

There’s a glaring anachronism at the center of most Amazon.com (AMZN) fulfillment centers: aisle after aisle of old-fashioned books. Amazon stocks these volumes for the many customers who still favor the tangible pleasures of reading on paper. Yet the company is relentless about increasing efficiency and has at the ready an easy way to remove some of those bookshelves: on-demand printing. With an industrial-strength printer and a digital book file from the publisher, Amazon could easily wait to print a book until after a customer clicks the yellow “place your order” button. The technology is championed by those who want to streamline the book business—and it might turn out to be a flash point in the hypertense world of publishing.

The book industry isn’t eager to embrace any more wrenching changes. The introduction of the Kindle in 2007, and Amazon’s insistence on a customer-friendly $9.99 price for new releases, has set off a multifront fracas. Efforts by the largest publishers to sidestep Amazon’s pricing strategy attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice, which recently filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple (AAPL) and five book publishers over their alleged collusion to raise e-book prices. (Three publishers have settled the lawsuit.) The issue of print on demand has taken a backseat as this e-book drama plays out.

Yet executives at major New York-based book publishers, who requested anonymity because of the legal scrutiny of their business, say Amazon regularly asks them to allow print on demand for their slower-selling backlist titles. So far they’ve declined, suspecting that Amazon will use its print-on-demand ability to further tilt the economics of book publishing in its favor. Asking publishers to move to print on demand “is largely about taking control of the business,” says Mike Shatzkin, founder of Idea Logical, a consultant to book publishers on digital issues. “It adds some profit margin, but it also weakens the rest of the publishing universe.”

Print on demand has been around for more than a decade. In 1997, the largest book wholesaler in the U.S., now known as Ingram Content Group, started a division called Lightning Source to serve publishers who wanted to print limited copies of certain books. In 2005, Amazon acquired a rival print-on-demand provider, BookSurge, and began offering publishers the option of supplementing inventory with print-on-demand copies when physical volumes of a title sell out. Now called CreateSpace, the Amazon subsidiary mostly caters to small publishers and self-published authors. The technology has gotten better over time, and print-on-demand books are now indistinguishable from most paperbacks.

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06/11/2011

How To Contract the New Opportunities for Print Buyers


A little RE what should be included in publishers’ contracts in today’s world of multi-platform publishing.

You see, as I always suspected and posted in previous posts, the growing popularity of digital publishing would produce a tail long enough to also pull print publishing into a new more streamlined, cost-effective era that would synergize its popularity with that of digital…

You can get print fast and cheap today…If you know what to include in the print bid contract.

Interesting stuff!

Details by Bert N. Langford in FOLIO magazine through Writers Welcome Blog:

Multi-Platform Publishing Offers New Opportunities for “Print” Buyers

If you have not bid out your work to the printing marketplace in the past three or more years, you are likely missing out on a great opportunity, not only in your print deal, but also the growing synergies between digital and print that printers now offer.

Within the following I’ll offer some tips (but not all, due to limited space) on how to conduct printing negotiations in a manner that maximizes your company’s benefits and opportunities.

Your first step is to form an aggressive yet adaptable strategy for how to conduct negotiations and track the comparative results. In all cases, create the comparative

printing analysis based on the same issue makeup found on your printer’s invoice (and reported by the same fiscal month) for the most recently completed fiscal year.

Then below the line, adjust the basic pricing results to consider all costs of doing business with each printer that can occur over the contract term.

This includes each printer’s ROI-proven digital/print Value-Added Program (VAP) of interest to your company. Consider each as another “adjustment” category (as the printer’s pricing is offset by savings/income). But contractually require that your company retains ownership of the data and can move to another printer later, without losing the program’s benefits.

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05/28/2011

Espresso Printed Books…Instantly at Point of Sale!


I have posted many times RE my belief that the rapid developing new digital publishing technology would also spur new streamlined print technology tangentially.

One aspect of the new print tech is here and sold by On Demand Books.

Customers enter a brick-and-mortar store, or in some cases a library, and purchase any book from On Demand’s massive catalog of public domain and copyrighted titles, pay for the title, and walk out with a fully-bound, professional-quality paperback print copy of the book.”

You like printed books? Get yours here…And now…At your command.

This from Good eReader by Mercy Pilkington:

OnDemand Books Provides the Technology to Run Digital Publishing

Dane Neller, CEO of On Demand Books, which produces the software and machinery for the Espresso Book Machine, had a specific goal in mind for the BookExpo America 2011 event: to convince publishers that giving customers and book retailers the power to print any of its almost 7 million titles directly at the point of sale was a good idea.

“BookExpo was everything we hoped, it was a very promising three days. We met with a lot of publishers who are now on board with the idea of releasing their titles to our catalog for immediate sale to customers,” says Neller of On Demand’s presence at BookExpo.

It shouldn’t have been a hard sell. Customers enter a brick-and-mortar store, or in some cases a library, and purchase any book from On Demand’s massive catalog of public domain and copyrighted titles, pay for the title, and walk out with a fully-bound, professional-quality paperback print copy of the book. Yet there have been publishers who are reluctant to release their titles to print-on-demand technology, largely due to the relationships they maintain with their printing houses. Another hurdle to leap is the fact that publishers set a suggested retail price for books and the booksellers set the actual price’ On Demand simply makes the technology available without getting involved in the politics of setting price points.

But On Demand’s Espresso Book Machine is a win-win for publishers, booksellers, authors, and readers. The publisher chalks up another sale, the book store can push high-interest product without losing valuable shelf space to stagnant inventory, the author comes away with another happy member of his fan base, and the reader gets a great book.

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05/19/2011

Despite E-Book Popularity, Traditional U.S. Print Title Output Increases


Traditional Print Publishing is Not Going Anywhere...Just Yet

I have touched on this subject several times in the past…Who the hell said print is dead? Because the figures damn sure don’t back up that postulation!

 
This even fresher evidence comes by way of the Bowker bibliographic information database as reported via press release in the Sacramento Bee:
 
Print Isn’t Dead, Says Bowker’s Annual Book Production Report
Traditional publishing grows a modest 5%, while POD sends print total over a record 3 million 

Bowker, the global leader in bibliographic information, released its annual report on U.S. print book publishing, compiled from its Books In Print® database.  Based on preliminary figures from U.S. publishers, Bowker is projecting that despite the popularity of e-books, traditional U.S. print title output in 2010 increased 5%.  Output of new titles and editions increased from 302,410 in 2009 to a projected 316,480 in 2010. The 5% increase comes on the heels of a 4% increase the previous year based on the final 2008-2009 figures.

The non-traditional sector continues its explosive growth, increasing 169% from 1,033,065 in 2009 to an amazing 2,776,260 in 2010.  These books, marketed almost exclusively on the web, are largely on-demand titles produced by reprint houses specializing in public domain works and by presses catering to self-publishers and “micro-niche” publications.   

“These publication figures from both traditional and non-traditional publishers confirm that print production is alive and well, and can still be supported in this highly dynamic marketplace,” said Kelly Gallagher, vice president of publishing services for Bowker. “Especially on the non-traditional side, we’re seeing the reprint business’ internet-driven business model expand dramatically. It will be interesting to see in the coming years how well it succeeds in the long-term.”

In traditional publishing, SciTech continues to drive growth

Continuing the trend seen last year, science and technology were the leading areas of growth as consumers purchased information for business and careers.  Major increases were seen in Computers (51% over 2009, with an average five-year growth rate of 8%), Science (37% over 2009, with an average five-year growth rate of 12%) and Technology (35% over 2009, with an average five-year growth rate of 11%).  Categories subject to discretionary spending were the top losers, perhaps still feeling the effects of a sluggish economy.  Literature (-29%), Poetry (-15%), History (-12), and Biography (-12%) all recorded double digit declines.  Fiction, which is still the largest category (nearly 15% of the total) dropped 3% from 2009, continuing a decline from peak output in 2007.  Religion (-4%) fell to 4th place behind Science among the largest categories.

Top book production categories:

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02/04/2011

Publishing Pother Makes No Dent in Professional Book Publishing


Professional book publishing; which includes the legal, medical, business, scientific and technical fields; has weathered the chaotic publishing field  transformation of late and has pretty much maintained a steady flow of publishing flurry…to the tune of approximately 13 billion in 2010!

New professional books have busily occupied actual shelf space in bookstores and libraries as well as staked out new real estate in the e-book and digital online world.

Simba Information, the leading authority for market intelligence in the media and publishing industry, spills some data from it’s “Global Professional Publishing 2009-2010” report that I picked up from a MarketWire press release:

Professional books, still a foundational reference source for most working professionals, grew 1.1% to $13.9 billion in 2010, an initial step toward a full recovery. Media and publishing forecast firm Simba Information’s latest report, “Global Professional Publishing 2009-2010,” details the resilience of professional books through the recession and the explosive adoption of electronic models.

After losing sales in 2009 due to contracted library budgets and decreased exports, professional book publishing, which includes the legal, medical, business, scientific and technical fields, has nearly regained its 2008 position. Although largely due to a recovering economy, new e-book strategies and products from large commercial publishers have helped libraries make the most of their budgets and shelf space. 

“Although publishers have dealt with electronic journals for years, producing electronic books as a viable publishing product is slowly taking hold,” said Dan Strempel, lead author of the report. “E-books are now gaining a prominent foothold within the professional and academic world at large.”

Historically vilified by the scholarly publishing world, search giants, such as Google and Yahoo!, have proven to be a boon to the industry, as added exposure has increased book sales. The report finds publishers are especially excited about Google Books, which allows users to browse sample pages before purchasing the full text or designated sections.

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11/29/2009

The Keys to a Barnes and Noble Book Signing


Getting book signings at major bookstore chains is a real plus in marketing and selling your book. However, if you are self-published or have a print-on-demand (POD) book, it is more difficult to arrange these type of book signings.

But, do not despair! There are ways around the obstacles to obtain major bookstore signings AND other means available to you: independent bookstore signings and speaking engagements with backroom sales that allow you to keep more of the retail price, to name two.

Sallie Goetsch, a writer and small business consultant, has written an insightful article on ezinearticles.com explaining how to best obtain book signings, what the major chain book stores have to go through to provide you with one and what you need to have in place to land a major signing. I present her article here for your information:

Dan Poynter wrote in Successful Nonfiction that authors should never host autograph parties. Instead of merely signing their books, the thing to do was offer “mini-seminars.” In an August 27th, 2006 interview with Tee Morris for “The Survival Guide to Writing Fantasy,” Annie Hololob, Community Relations Manager for the Harrisonburg, VA Barnes & Noble, confirms the value of making your book signing into an event. (Tee himself apparently has a habit of staging sword fights during his book signings, which definitely livens things up.) If you want to have an event at a Barnes & Noble, the Community Relations Manager is the person to talk to. This is the person who knows whether the store’s customers are the right market for your book, or whether you’d do better at a store in a different city. (My local Barnes & Noble, for instance, doesn’t even have author events, just a children’s story time.) This is the person whose good side you want to get on.

There are two important things you need before you start assembling your press kit and cultivating the CRM at your local Barnes & Noble, however. Without them, there’s no way the store can carry your books. Large chain bookstores have to operate by certain rules in order to stay in business, and those rules may exclude you and your book for reasons that have nothing to do with your merits as a writer.

Distribution

In order for BN to order, stock, and sell your books, they have to be available through a wholesaler or distributor such as Ingram or Baker & Taylor–one BN already has a relationship with. That means BN can buy the book at a wholesale price, usually 40-60% off the cover price, without going to extra trouble to special-order it. If your book is traditionally published, there should be no problem with this. One of the reasons for choosing to go with a major publisher or established small press is that they are already BN Vendors of Record. The traditionally self-published, those like Dan Poynter who start their own publishing companies, can become Vendors of Record by filling out the BN Publisher Information Form.

The authors who run into real trouble in the distribution department are those with POD books. These books may be good-looking and high quality. They may even be available through Baker & Taylor or Ingram. But unless ordered in very high quantities, they are offered only for the retail price. BN’s standard order when dealing with a new publisher is two copies of every title. Even an order of 30-50 books for a signing isn’t going to provide enough of a profit margin to make it worth the bookstore’s while. And because Print on Demand books are literally printed only when ordered, each copy is much more expensive to produce than a comparable mass-produced book.

Returns

The other thing that keeps POD books-and their authors-out of chain stores like Barnes & Noble is the lack of a returns policy. Bookstores expect to be able to return all unsold books to a publisher, and not to pay the publisher for any of the books until after they sell. Unsold books aren’t even returned intact: the covers get ripped off and they’re sent away to be pulped. (I kid you not. I was horrified to learn this, even after reading all those warnings about not buying books without covers.)

POD houses don’t warehouse books and can’t provide that kind of returns policy, and very few self-published authors are going to want to. But no matter how barbaric a practice pulping is, it’s a fact of life at all major book outlets, and Barnes & Noble didn’t invent it. Nor does a Community Relations Manager have the power to bend the rules about this, however flexible s/he may be about the form your signing takes if you can meet the store’s requirements.

Alternatives

If you’re a self-published or POD author and touring the major chain bookstores is something you can’t live without, you can try to interest a traditional publisher in your book, though you need to make sure that you really own the book in its current form before you do this. (Most POD houses lay claim to the final, formatted version of your book, though the content remains yours.)

Or you can skip Barnes & Noble altogether and hold your book events elsewhere. Independent bookstores are often in a better position than large chains to take a chance on an author, though they, too, need to be able to buy the books at a low enough price to make a profit. Public libraries are almost always willing to accept the donation of a book or two and host a reading.

And, of course, if you make your living as a speaker, back-of-room sales may be your best bet and an opportunity to take advantage of the plus side of self-publishing and POD: getting to keep a far greater percentage of the book’s retail price.


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