Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

10/06/2013

A Dreadful Year for Publishers? NOT!


A funny thing happened on the way to the new publishing industry maturing and understanding — All the publishing doomsday forecasters and naysayers have been proven wrong due to unforeseen fallouts resulting from the onslaught of digital and tech changes redefining the old traditional publishing (TP) business models.

Damn, I like that sentence — It sort of says publishing is as complicated and unpredictable as Homo sapiens, themselves — And I DON’T mean ‘complicated’ in the confined, restricted, smoke & mirrors sense that TP defenders use to defend why the old TP model was so slow or inefficient (Pssst, actually it sucked to the Nth degree – especially for writers/authors).

But, I can understand why those who grew up in the TP system (actually the only viable system existing at the time), learned how to survive in it and made a living through it, would defend it to the death.

Hot excerpts from tonight’s researched source:

“A flood of self-published books washes ashore. Bestseller prices are down significantly. Bad grammar speeds through the ether at a faster pace than ever before.  This should be a dreadful year for publishers.  Only it’s not.”

“Self-publishing is a huge and disruptive force in the publishing industry, but contrary to popular belief, it’s largely benefiting publishers.”

Note from John: I don’t agree with the word ‘disruptive’ in describing self-publishing – I prefer the word ‘redefining’.

Why Did Self-Publishing Tip?

Fifty Shades lit a fire under everybody. No matter what you think of the book, the numbers were so phenomenal that it made everyone rethink things – Meg Kuhn, COO Kirkus Media”

“The question is: why has all of this chaos helped publishing instead of hurt it?

The short answer is that robust competition has done what it nearly always does – improve market efficiency.  Readers, authors and publishers all see benefits.  Here are the four surprising trends from the past year:”

To get the four surprising publishing trends continue to read the following Forbes article by David Vinjamuri:

 

Is Publishing Still Broken? The Surprising Year In Books

 

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05/10/2013

A New Way of Dealing with a Changing Publishing World


International Publishing is finding new ways

Whenever technology has been embraced in the past by the international community it has resulted in the world getting almost immediately smaller and closer together — little by little. It’s like the world has been melding into one country with the existing countries becoming  more like cities in the new international country.

Result: barriers of all kinds have been falling away. Barriers in publishing are also falling away.

Example: Instead of foreign publishers selling the international rights to U.S. publishers to sell their books in this country, they are translating and releasing the books directly to U.S. consumers and saving the associated costs.

This interesting little ditty comes from Publishers’ Weekly:

Dutch Publisher Goes DIY

Marking yet another example of an international publisher releasing titles direclty in the U.S.,Netherlands house Arbeiderspers/A.W. Bruna Publishers’ is releasing the book and iPad appEarned Attention.

“This a huge project,” said The Arbeiderspers/A.W. Bruna Publishers’ digital publisher Timo Boezeman. “It is also a new way of dealing with a changing publishing world. Instead of trying to sell the rights to international publishers, we decided to do it ourselves.”

Boezeman called Earned Attention a “very practical marketing book.” Along with the print title, consumers will also be able to access an iPhone app (free, it contains 50 audio interviews); a blog (it features new stories that are complementary to the book); and an iPad app (which costs $4.99 and combines all the aforementioned elements). The iPad app also includes hundreds of interactive links, the possibility to add post-it notes on every page and more.

Read and learn more

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03/24/2013

The Publishing Industry Will Never Be The Same – What Say We Make It Better! – Or Seeking Literature’s True Business


Make Publishing Better Than It Ever Was

Excellent idea! And one also fostered by +Jon Evans — an author (whose novels have been praised by The Times, The Economist and Washington Post), journalist, software engineer and TechCrunch weekly columnist — whom I recently discovered and, must say, admire. I admire his wit and intelligence — and especially for introducing me to +Richard Nash — another deeply accomplished,  independent publishing entrepreneur, VP of Community and Content of Small Demons, founder of Cursor, and Publisher of Red Lemonade plus much more.

Jon’s outlook as excerpted: “For the last five years, in the face of this spreading transformation, the publishing industry has been caught in a tawdry and depressing spiral of denial and decay, constantly attempting to reject new media, new technologies, and new business models until they can fight back no more…That’s why Nash’s essay is such a breath of revolutionary air. The publishing industry will never be the same, but why can’t it be better? Why can’t a whole new model of publishing be created, rather than this false dichotomy between “published” and “self-published”?”

Richard’s outlook as excerpted: “You begin to realize that the business of literature is the business of making culture, not just the business of manufacturing bound books. This, in turn, means that the increased difficulty of selling bound books in a traditional manner (and the lower price point in selling digital books) is not going to be a significant challenge over the long run, except to free the business of literature from the limitations imposed when one is producing things rather than ideas and stories.

A business born out of the invention of mechanical reproduction transforms and transcends the very circumstances of its inception, and again has the potential to continue to transform and transcend itself—to disrupt industries like education, to drive the movie industry, to empower the gaming industry. Book culture is in far less peril than many choose to assume, for the notion of an imperiled book culture assumes that book culture is a beast far more refined, rarified, and fragile than it actually is. By defining books as against technology, we deny our true selves, we deny the power of the book. Let’s restore to publishing its true reputation—not as a hedge against the future, not as a bulwark against radical change, not as a citadel amidst the barbarians, but rather as the future at hand, as the radical agent of change, as the barbarian. The business of literature is blowing shit up.”

“The business of literature is blowing shit up.” — I like this thesis and it bears repeating.

I know the theme of my post tonight will make some of my past commenters happy 🙂

Let’s explore this issue more (and be introduced to numerous cool links as a byproduct) in this dissecting TechCrunch article by Jon Evans:

 

“The Business Of Literature Is Blowing Shit Up”

If you love books–heck, if you even like ‘em–run, don’t walk, and read this magnificent, magisterial essay by Richard Nash on their past, present and future. It’s long. Don’t be frightened. But even if the Internet has shredded your attention span, at least scroll down to its epic final paragraph. Go on. I’ll wait.

It’s been a rotten decade for book publishers, newspapers, and anyone else clinging to that 15th century technology called the printing press. Marc Andreessen has advised the mighty New York Times to “burn the boats” and shut down their presses. His partner Ben Horowitz claimed last year that “babies born today will probably never read anything in print.”

Meanwhile, Borders is deadthe tablet is killing the e-reader, and Barnes & Noble’s Nook has gone from investor darling to dead-weight albatross. The “Big Six” publishers may seem to be surviving nicely, but check out this graph:

Read and learn more

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09/22/2012

A New Publishing Model — Result of the E-Book Revolution


Interested in a new publishing model? One that will give you advance indications of quality and interest? With the avalanche of new, available, digital material out there — one can get confused as to which to invest time and money in.

Damn — warp speed, digital tech and the internet has overwhelmed us (me, at least) with information overload that translates into decision overload and breakdown

Anthony Horvath, the founder of Bard and Book Publishing, has come up with an interesting (but not entirely new) idea. His model focuses on building a community of readers around a small group of authors. He made an insightful statement :

“The future of publishing can be summed up in one word: community.”

Now, the need for building a following (community) and relationships on today’s NET for successful business is not really new — but, as Anthony is applying this concept to a publishing venture versus individual writers, say, seeking sales for their books may indeed be kind of new. Especially if he has established somewhat of a follow-on distribution system for those books that get a passing grade from the initial community.

Details provided by PR Web on Equities.com:

New Publishing Company Turns Gutenberg Press on its Head in Ebook Revolution

Bard and Book Publishing announced the launch of a new publishing model that is only possible because of the ebook revolution but is poised to take that revolution even further. Instead of trying to sell as many copies of a book before it is even released, Bard and Book focuses on building a community of readers around a small group of authors.

Bard and Book’s website is http://www.bardandbook.com. The community receives free access to short stories, poems, and other created pieces. Community favorites will be considered for print distribution, taking some risk out of the equation for the publisher by ensuring that a book has appeal before investing in it.

“If Gutenberg had invented the ebook and print-on-demand technology instead of the printing press, the current publishing model would have never arisen,” says Anthony Horvath, the founder of Bard and Book publishing. But the digital revolution, while giving publishers a headache and opening doors for creators, has complicated things for readers.

Horvath explains, “The ‘digital press’ puts thousands of new works into the marketplace monthly, forcing readers to find new ways to identify quality content. For better or for worse, the fact that a publisher was willing to take on an author used to serve as a ‘short cut’ for readers trying to determine if a new book was worth their time. This sorting mechanism is no longer available for them.”

He asserts: “The future of publishing can be summed up in one word: community.”

In that spirit, Bard and Book has gathered together seven authors and is building a community of readers around them.

The community allows subscribers to read free ebooks, although free members can only read new titles for a short time after they are released. A small monthly fee lifts that limitation. This fee is the primary way the authors are compensated.

Horvath argues that the old model emerged naturally from the steep costs related to printing and distributing books. Publishers were not willing to pay those costs unless they had a reasonable expectation that they would get a return on their investment. However, just because something sells, he says, that doesn’t mean the book was worth reading.

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08/06/2012

Agile Publishing Concept Emphasizes Process Over Perfection


Agile Publishing – Direct from writer to reader

There are pros and cons to the “agile” publishing concept. And there are a lot of discussion and opinions floating around RE streamlining for fast feedback . But, I feel this is a process in evolution and will morph out of major drawbacks. 

The major pro is speed/fast results — elimination of the multi-layered bureaucracy between writer and reader. The major con is possibly lower quality lit.

 Gabe Habash gives insight and a good definition of ‘agile’ publishing in this piece for Publishers Weekly:

Is Publishing Ready for Agile? 

“Agile” is becoming more of a buzzword in publishing circles as companies look to harness the new possibilities digital is providing, but many are still unsure whether the agile model is right, and others still aren’t sure exactly what “agile” means for publishing. To tackle these concerns and more, BISG hosted a webcast with featured speaker Kristen McLean, the founder and CEO of Bookigee. (John’s Note: BISG = Book Industry Study Group)

So—what exactly is “agile” publishing? “It’s a philosophy that is grounded in the customer, getting a lot of good feedback, and not necessarily assuming you know the answer without communication,” said McLean. “It’s for learners, not knowers.”
 
McLean laid out the key concepts of agile: quick cycles (as quick as a week), self-organizing working groups (as opposed to traditional hierarchical working interactions), and iteration (agile publishers assume that there are going to be changes along the way), among many other key principles. One of the more radical differences between agile and traditional publishing, McLean noted, is that it emphasizes process over perfection. “It’s more important to get it out than to get it perfect, because when you get it out you can test it.” This focus on process (which leads neatly into agile’s tenet of customer feedback and interaction) is difficult for publishers to accept. “We don’t like typos; we don’t like half-finished books,” McLean said.
 
But early evidence, McLean reported, is showing that agile creates a much higher sense of job satisfaction. This is due in part because of the emphasis on transparency and accountability with agile’s self-organizing working groups—the structure naturally highlights those who are pulling their weight, and those who aren’t.
 
Read and learn more 
 
Related article on agile publishing: Entering the Shift Age
 
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06/04/2012

Need Funds to Write/Publish a Book? More on Crowd-Funding


Crowdsourcing

I have previously posted on the crowd-funding or crowdsourcing phenomenon on both The Writers Welcome Blog and more recently on this blog

 A commenter to one of the above posts (that appeared on one of my Linkedin groups) said he did not want to give up any writers’ rights to use the Kickstarter crowd-funding site. To answer his concern, users of any of these crowdsourcing sites do not give up any copyrights.

Crowdsourcing sites usually charge between 3 to 5 percent of the successful amount funded. This is how they make their money.

RocketHub, Kickstarter, PledgeMusic, Funding4Learning, ArtistShare, FundRazr are just a few of the hundreds of these type sites that are popping up worldwide.

About 450 crowd-funding sites raised 1.5 billion dollars last year. 

“The gradual success of many projects has validated this as a real option, a real way to make things,” says Yancey Strickler, co-founder of Kickstarter. “The Internet is incredible for harnessing organizational power.”

More details such as how to apply, how much they cost, etc. are provided by Roger Yu, USA TODAY:

Need cash? Ask a crowd

While studying abroad in Ghana in 2006, Meghan Sebold often roamed local textile markets and marveled at the surplus of colorfully patterned fabrics that were left unwanted.

After she returned home to San Francisco, her thoughts kept drifting back to the faint but enduring idea of producing a clothing line that used textiles and talent from the West African country. She had few concrete plans on how to start a business — and even less money.

Then, a chance encounter at a seminar in New York with the founders of start-up RocketHub, a crowd-funding website, stirred her hopes. At the urging and guidance of Brian Meece and Vladimir Vukicevic, Sebold wrote at length about the business idea on RocketHub.com, accompanied by a video, and asked for direct financial contributions from family, friends, and friends of friends.

Her modest goal of raising $4,000 was achieved in about two weeks. Her first set of dresses, funded by the donations and made in Ghana with local labor, sold out online and at local pop-up stores. “It gives you more credibility than saying ‘Hey, Uncle, can you lend me $20?'”

Entrepreneurs and dreamers such as Sebold are flocking to crowd funding, an emerging field of finance that, by using the Internet as an efficient middleman, often manages to be both more intimate and more high-tech than traditional means of raising seed money. The idea has existed for years but is receiving renewed attention now that social media, online networks and payment technologies increasingly strip away legal, psychological and logistical barriers for money solicitations.

RocketHub, Kickstarter, PledgeMusic, Funding4Learning, ArtistShare, FundRazr and hundreds of other sites call on individuals to pool their money, by way of the Internet, and support others’ artistic, educational and business efforts, as well as charities and disaster relief. Some sites, like Kiva, specialize in small loans.

“The gradual success of many projects has validated this as a real option, a real way to make things,” says Yancey Strickler, co-founder of Kickstarter. “The Internet is incredible for harnessing organizational power.”

While they get a sense of fulfillment at seeing the campaigns they support continue, donors typically receive neither a stake nor artistic/operational input. That could eventually change. President Obama recently signed a law, the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, that would allow individuals to buy equity stakes in companies via crowd-funding sites under certain rules, likely effective next year.

A few dollars here and a couple of hundred bucks there can add up quickly. About $1.5 billion was raised in 2011 by about 450 crowd-sourcing Internet sites worldwide, says a report by Crowdsourcing.org, a site tracking the industry. That’s expected to double this year, the report forecasts.

“This expands on the angel investor model” in which a wealthy individual puts up money in return for equity, says David Rubenstein, partner at accounting firm WeiserMazars. “There is some good to this. This will ultimately result in growth of companies and additional jobs.”

The business is also good for those who operate successful crowd-funding sites. They make money by taking a percentage of the money raised — typically about 3% to 5% — and a per-transaction fee.

Kickstarter, one of the largest crowd-funding sites, has so far counted $200 million of pledged contributions, though not all were given to fund seekers. Fund seekers on Kickstarter get their hands on the money only if they can meet their goal. If a campaign fails, money is returned to donors. About 20,000 Kickstarter campaigns have met the goal, or about 44% of all campaigns.

Rival RocketHub sees about 1,000 campaigns a month launched on its site, Meece says. RocketHub allows campaign creators to keep the funds they raise even if they fall short of the goal.

Many campaigns, such as for Sebold’s Ghana-inspired dresses, are quirky, artistic or creative, but modest in their financial goal. Successful Kickstarter campaigns average about $5,000 in funds raised. “Kickstarter changes the question of funding from ‘Is this a good investment?’ to ‘Do I want this to exist?’ And that’s a much lower bar,” Strickler says.

Read and learn more

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11/11/2011

Is New York’s Hold on Publishing Smothering It?


Oh, New York, New York!

No denying, New York is the publishing center of America … And, it might even have been a good concept at one time under older business models that were more horizontal and where grouping tangental businesses in close proximity was desirable for expediency.

But, todays publishing landscape is everywhere, instantly … So, why does New York still have such a hold over the publishing industry? 

Good question … Reluctance to change. Old habits are hard to break. Old power brokers don’t want to give up power (although it’s been steadily seeping away), etc., etc.

Anyway, here is a good insight on this subject by Edward Nawotka in PublishingPerspectives.com:

Is Publishing Too New York-centric?

New York’s outsized influence on publishing is felt across the US, but is it good for the other 99%?

The outsized influence New York, and Brooklyn in particular, has on the current literary scene is undeniable.  It is the center of publishing in the United States.

But is it good for the other 99% of the country?

New York publishers have been accused of publishing books for each other – and the writers, for writing for each other. Has a kind of group-think has set in where people — consciously or not — are perhaps working to impress each other rather than a wider audience?

You often hear publishing personalities and literary journalists on the coasts moan that “the rest of America” doesn’t read books. To this I say, the rest of America does read, they just don’t necessarily want to read the books New York sometimes publishes. How many novels can someone in, say, Chicago or Atlanta, read about a twenty-something Manhattan editorial assistant, junior Wall Street trader, or cupcake shop owner in Cobble Hill looking for love?

But isn’t some of this our own fault. After all, with the end of the year lists, how is it that book critics in Denver, Minneapolis, Kansas City and San Diego all manage to come up with basically the same “top ten” book lists? Shouldn’t they be looking at more worthy regional titles? Nah, cause if they don’t weigh in on the big important books of the year, they won’t be taken seriously by their more-influential colleagues in New York.

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09/10/2011

Publishers’ Why’s and Wherefore’s When Migrating to Digital (are all the damn apostrophes correct?)


Karina Mikhil - Publishing Executive

Indeed, when the current publishing upheaval began (it seems  just a little while ago in the scheme of things) and the conqueror ‘Digital’ came swaggering into the publishing world, publishers were at first completely devastated; then were bombarded by all kinds of options and questions for their very survival!

You can just imagine publishers’ mental angst deciding “Should I get out of this rapidly changing fireball of an industry or should I admit that the old ways are going down the drain and commit to learning a whole new process … dealing, perhaps, with an entirely new and separate tech industry?”

Karina Mikhil , a publishing executive with a Master’s in Publishing from New York University, has some excellent questions and analyses that will help these publishing execs and their firms reach a viable decision.

From Karina Mikhil in Publishing Perspectives:

Migrating to Digital Publishing? The Six Key Questions to Ask

Here are the six “Ws” you need to ask yourself before transitioning from the old to the new: why, who, what, when, which, and where.
 

The publishing industry is not generally known for being agile or quick to change, yet it is facing one of its biggest times of change probably since the invention of the printing press. At the heart of this is the migration to digital.

Prior to this migration, a time-tested process and structure existed for getting books printed: from acquisition, copyediting and typesetting, to author reviews and proofreading, to print. Although hiccups occurred and no two companies had the exact same workflow, the foundations were the same and ensured quality products got released in expected time frames.

Whether publishers are dealing with online content or e-books, digital only or both print and digital, publishers are now faced with more questions than answers as to how to incorporate the new with the old. Below I provide a framework for those questions, using the traditional 6 Ws: why, who, what, when, which, and where.

Why?

Of the six questions, this is the easiest to answer. No publisher can afford to ignore the digital any longer: the tipping point has come and gone; more and more e-books and e-readers are being sold weekly; and authors will begin demanding this, if they haven’t already. And traditional publishers need to offer all things digital to compete with the emerging “digital publishers.”

Who?

Even prior to the migration to digital, publishers would do one of two things to keep costs down: outsource as much as possible, keeping headcount down, or the reverse, which is hire talent to keep all services and costs internal. With digital, publishers have to make this decision anew. Should they invest in new talent from other industries (e.g., technology) or in educating existing talent, those who are eager to learn and have a background in publishing? Or should they turn to one of the many conversion and content solutions providers that exist in the market?

What?

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07/28/2011

A New Way to Reinvent Book Publishing?


Unbound Publishing, the Kickstarter for books

How about getting the public’s opinion on the viability of a book story … AND THEN get them to contribute to its funding, story input and advance? Pretty cool, huh?

Well this business model is being fine-tuned, tweaked and used by Unbound Publishing in the United Kingdom.

“…with Unbound the funding for the book–as well as the fan’s approval process, which is very public–happens up front, and much more swiftly…and the marketing happens by word of mouth.”

Details by Kit Eaton in FastCompany.com :

Unbound’s Crowd-Financed, Spine-Tingling Effort To Reinvent Book Publishing

Unbound publishing, the Kickstarter for books, just had its very first success: It reached its target so that it could produce and then publish a new book by none other than Terry Jones, of Monty Python fame. Why is the tech and publishing world so excited about a single book from a lone, unheard-of, pint-sized publisher? Because the whole principle behind Unbound is to take the ancient, leather-bound business model of book publishing, rip out its crumbling pages, and replace it with crowd-funding, social interaction, and tandem digital publications and real hardback books. 

Here’s the core of Unbound’s idea: It proposes a new book on its website, and people choose to “donate” a small amount of money to it, in the hope that the book gets produced. The more money you donate, the more likely the target will be reached, and the bigger “treats” you get–right up to dinner with the author. When the target is reached, writing begins and people who’ve funded the book get special access to a back room at Unbound’s website, where they can interact in limited form with the author as the book emerges. At the end, an e-text is published and distributed, but you can also choose to get a high-quality hardback edition, printed on good paper with cloth binding for people who like their books to be weighty, well-designed, and smell like traditional books.

Unbound (tagline: “Books Are Now In Your Hands”) is most similar to Kickstarter, the crowd-sourced funding body that’s been responsible for all sorts of interesting projects from iPod Nano wristwatches to a swimming pool. “We get a little bit of gyp from purists who say we’re not opening the platform out as wide as Kickstarter,” Unbound’s cofounder John Mitchinson explained to Fast Company, “Which at the moment is definitely true.”

Unbound promotes carefully selected books–from well-known names–to see if the crowd is keen to buy a final product, and that’s definitely no Kickstarter. “We’re managing the back end in a way that Kickstarter doesn’t,” says Mitchinson. “They’re a pure fundraising platform.” In comparison, Unbound takes on more of a traditional publisher role once the funding target is raised. “We’re printing and distributing and finding the market for the books,” says Mitchinson. 

Read and learn more

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04/19/2011

Publishing Doomed? Nah, Just Growing…


Growing a New Publishing Tree

Throughout the history of publishing, every time something new (the printing press, paperbacks, chain bookstores, mergers, etc) had the audacity to trip upon the scene, the naysayers always blurted out ‘oh no, this will doom publishing!’

Turns out these things did not doom publishing…only transformed it…and mostly for the better!

Now, the new tech (eReaders, tablets, easy self-publishing software, social media advertising, free online e-book stores, etc) has turned the old crusty and rusty publishing business models on their heads.

Here is an interesting take on this subject by fantasy author Carrie Vaughn on GENREALITY:

Doomed! 

As long as I’ve been plugged into the publishing world and keeping track of the news — pretty much since 1995, when I started working in a bookstore — publishing has always been doomed.  I worked at the store when the massive round of consolidations happened — Penguin and Putnam merged, Avon and Harper Collins merged, and so on.  Everyone freaked out — imprints merged and vanished, lots of people lost jobs, and everyone worried that the diversity and range of books available, now controlled by very few companies, would suffer.  On the other hand, I’d argue that this gave a chance for small presses to really take off and fill in the gaps.

Talk to writers and publishing professionals who’ve been around even longer, and they’ll tell you about the huge crises that happened in the 80’s, the 60’s, and earlier.  The introduction of the mass market paperback, the collapse of certain genres, the price of paper. . .  Here, a former Random House editor talks about how the rise of the chain bookstores in the 80’s changed publishing forever by shifting the emphasis to bestsellers — death of the midlist, anyone?  There’s lots of doom to go around.

The last few months I’ve sensed a really huge amount of stress about publishing doom among many writers I know.  If you don’t get all your backlist into e-book form right now, you’re doomed!  If you don’t have a contract right this second, you’re doomed!  If you’re with a traditional publisher you’re doomed!  If you’re not, you’re doomed!  The noise out there has gotten intense.

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