Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

05/24/2014

11/13/2012

Do Book Publishers Really Hate Authors?


It would seem so. Publishers have been fucking writers since time began. Rejections without due consideration, chump change percentages for wages (even with established authors), piss ant marketing and many other dictatorial, disrespectful practices.

At times authors are also hard asses to deal with — So, it’s a very tenuous relationship.

 explains Why Book Publishers Hate Authors in his blog contribution on HuffPost

It seems so… unliterary. But publishing houses despise authors and are doing everything they can to make their lives miserable. Here’s why.

Authors are admittedly a strange lot. There’s something antisocial about retreating from life for months or years at a time, to perform the solitary act of writing a book.

On top of that, authors are flaky. They promise to deliver a manuscript in April and it doesn’t come in until October. Or the following April. Or the April after that. This leaves publishers with several options, all of them bad: revise publishing schedules at the last minute; demand that authors turn in projects on time, regardless of quality; cancel books altogether; or sue the authors (as Penguin has begun to do) for undelivered or poor quality work.

Authors are also prickly about their work. There are few jobs on the planet in which people are utterly free to ignore the guidance, or even mandates, from their bosses. Yet book authors are notoriously dismissive of their editors’ advice. When I was writing novels for Simon & Schuster back in the late 1980s, my editor, Bob Asahina, used to tell me, “You’re the only writer who ever lets me do my job.”

Also, annoyingly, writers expect to be paid. Maybe not much, but something. The Authors Guild produced a survey in the 1970s indicating that writers earned only slightly more, on an hourly basis, than did the fry cooks at McDonald’s. Publishers were still responsible for paying advances to authors, hoping that the authors would turn in a publishable manuscript — which doesn’t happen all of the time.

So it’s understandable that publishers might feel churlish and uncharitable toward authors, on whom their entire publishing model depends. But since the 2008 economic meltdown hit Publishers Row, the enmity has turned into outright warfare.

The three R’s of the publishing industry, the strategy for survival, quickly became “Reduce royalties and returns.” Returns are books that come back unsold from bookstores. Printing fewer copies typically ensures fewer returns. Reducing advances and royalties — money publishers pay writers — was the other main cost that publishers sought to slash.

And slash they did. More and more publishers moved to a minimal or even zero advance business model. They said to authors, “We’ll give you more of a back end on the book, and we’ll promote the heck out of your book. We’ll be partners.”

Some partners. Zero advance combined with zero marketing to produce… that’s right. Zero sales.

Read and learn more

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07/17/2011

Columbia Publishing Course Slow to Respond to Current Realities


I didn't know digital was the coming new wave

Who said the Ivy League colleges are the first with innovation and other learning prowess? A very debatable point, indeed (always has been since their birth, truth be known).

A case in point is illustrated in this article from the New York Times by Julie Bosman

E-Book Revolution Upends a Publishing Course

FOR decades, even after it was renamed and relocated from its original home at Radcliffe, the Columbia Publishing Course seemed unchanging, a genteel summer tradition in the book business, a white-glove six-week course in which ambitious college graduates were educated in the time-honored basics of book editing, sales, cover design and publicity. Not this summer.

With the e-book revolution upending the publishing business, Madeline McIntosh, the president of sales, operations and digital for Random House, stood at the lectern on the opening day in June, projecting a slide depicting the industry as a roller coaster, its occupants frozen in motion at the top of a steep loop.

“You might be wondering if this is the moment where we’re at,” Ms. McIntosh, a tall figure in a slim navy dress, said with a smile, as dozens of students with plastic name tags hanging around their necks watched raptly.

So the summer session began with a focus on “The Digital Future.” Students were schooled in “Reinventing the Reading Experience: From Print to Digital” by Nicholas Callaway, the chairman of a company that produces book apps for children. Managers from Penguin Group USA explained how to master “e-marketing,” and a panel of digital experts talked about short-form electronic publishing — not quite a magazine article, not quite a book — which is so new, the genre doesn’t really have a name.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” Carolyn Pittis, the senior vice president of global author services at HarperCollins, told a packed room of students several days into the course. “So it’s very exciting for those of us who spent many years when a lot of things didn’t happen.”

As the students scribbled in notebooks and clicked on laptops, Ms. Pittis recounted some of the biggest developments in the industry so far in 2011. The proliferation of e-readers and the growing digital market share of Barnes & Noble. Amanda Hocking, a formerly self-published author, making a book deal with a traditional publisher. J. K. Rowling’s selling her own “Harry Potter” e-books online. Even the surprise success of “Go the — to Sleep,” a hilariously vulgar children’s book parody that rose to the top of best-seller lists after being widely pirated via e-mail for months.

In the past year, e-books have skyrocketed in popularity, especially in genre fiction like romance and thrillers. For some new releases, the first week has brought more sales of electronic copies than of print copies.

Read and learn more

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.

Read and learn more

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07/11/2010

The End of a Publishing Giant’s Edifice



Todays post is about a slice of publishing history…Remember the very popular Collier’s Magazine (a weekly), Woman’s Home Companion, Country Home, etc., etc. I do! Damn, I’m getting old!

These magazines, and others, were published by the Crowell-Collier Publishing Co. that folded in 1956 after becoming one of the world’s largest. Crowell-Collier operated (separately and merged) from approx. 1880 to 1956 and published 20 million periodical monthly in it’s heyday!

Now, the 917,000 SF, city block building that was built by and housed this publishing giant on High Street in Springfield, Ohio is also on it’s deathbed.

This report is from Jessica Holbrook, Staff Writer for the Springfield News-Sun:

Last week, a structural engineering report said the continued deterioration of the Crowell-Collier building posed a “serious and ongoing concern,” but the local landmark wasn’t always an eyesore.

Until 1956, the 917,000-square-foot complex housed the Crowell-Collier Publishing Co. The publishing house was best known for their magazines — “Collier’s Weekly,” “Woman’s Home Companion,” “Farm and Fireside” (later “Country Home”) and “The American Magazine” — and during its heyday in the 1940s was producing about 20 million periodicals every month.

The structure, which today fills a downtown city block, started in 1880 as a three-story building on the corner of High Street. The company continued growing in size and circulation throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, becoming one of the biggest publishing companies in the world. In 1938, a $1.5 million expansion brought the structure to its current size.

The company laid off 2,275 local workers when it folded in December 1956.

The building changed hands several times following the company’s closure and was bought by its current owner, Harry Denune, in December 1972. Denune has since used the building for his company, Dixie Distributing, a motorcycle-parts distribution business. While there have been suggestions on how to use the building — like a 1999 plan to convert it into low-income housing apartments — they have all fallen through.

About three-fourths of the building is currently being used for personal storage by Denune, said Nick Heimlich, assistant chief and fire marshal for the Springfield Fire Rescue Division.

On May 10, 1999, a large fire struck the building, burning for more than seven hours. The fire caused little structural damage to the building, but Denune was required to update the building’s sprinkler system.

The sprinkler system remains a concern for the fire department, which continues to check on the building, Heimlich said.

According to a structural engineer’s report from Jezerinac Geers & Associates, the building’s deterioration is significant but not unexpected in an old building. The outside walls of the building are made of brick and limestone, two materials that are negatively affected by weather and moisture over time. The structure was also constructed using now outdated building methods, which has contributed to cracking and shifting on the outside walls, the report said.

The report suggested razing the buildings, because repairs to bring the structure in line with Ohio Building Code and allow it to be used in another capacity, would be more expensive than just demolishing the complex and building new structures.

The city does not have an estimate of how much it would cost to demolish the building, because the structure is filled with Denune’s personal items said Shannon Meadows, Community Development director.

Any estimate would have to include the cost of removing the building’s contents, she said.

The building also holds significance for many people in the community, so making a decision about its future can be difficult, Heimlich said.

“I know a lot of folks with memories of that building, but those folks are fading as time moves forward,” he said. “I think our connection with the building is changing as time goes on.”

05/24/2010

Great Peek Into the Old Publishing World Workings!


As I have alluded to in past posts on this blog, I admire and respect the “in-the-trenches” experience of Mike Shatzkin of The IdeaLogical Blog and the Shatzkin Files.

His 23 May 2010 post on the Shatzkin Files Losing the secondary business can kill you gives a rather detailed insight into how publishers published and distributed, how indie booksellers sold and made margin above and beyond street traffic and how authors were treated…A wonderful post I wanted to promote here…

Mike Shatzkin says:

Before the Internet deconstructed the publishing value chain and enabled new models, both publishers and booksellers benefited from a lot of what I’d call “secondary business”. Secondary business was not what they were set up or primarily intending to do, but which they easily could accommodate to earn easy margin that supported their primary operations.


Publishers controlled an apparatus that could make bound books out of manuscripts and put them on bookstore shelves for patrons to buy. These were not trivial capabilities and they were much in demand. Although the principal business model for a commercial publisher was to select what to publish, develop it editorially in collaboration with the author, and then take the risk of printing inventory and distributing it in hopes that it would sell, sometimes opportunities arose that were less risky ways to employ their skills.

Read more at http://alturl.com/akwa

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

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