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.

Read and learn more

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11/14/2011

Publishers Are Going To Loose Not Only Their Retailers But Their Authors In The Future


"Where have all the authors gone???

How you ask? Let’s get to it.

It’s no secret Amazon has been selling digital books at a loss to gain more sales for its Kindle family. The strategy is simple enough … they need product (books or written content) to sell on their hardware e-readers which is where they make their profit. And they will give the product away, if necessary, to provide the widest selection available on its Kindle r-readers. 

Amazon wants the biggest catalog available to choose from.  And for those who are premium members (own Kindles and not some other product with a Kindle app … plus belong to the $79/yr Amazon Prime service ) they are indeed offering books for free from their library. You can borrow one book free a month and keep it as long as you want. 

Virginia Postrel tells all about it in Bloomberg Businessweek:

Amazon E-Library Is Publishing’s Profit Model

Nov. 14 (Bloomberg) — Amazon.com Inc. is at it again. To the consternation of much of the book industry, the online giant is again offering digital titles for less than major publishers think books are worth. And this time, the price is zero.

If you own an Amazon Kindle, as opposed to just using the Kindle app on another device, and you also belong to the company’s $79-a-year Amazon Prime service, you can now “borrow” one digital book a month from the new Amazon Lending Library for free. You can keep the book as long as you want, but you can have only one at a time.

The new service worries Wall Street, too, because it increases Amazon’s out-of-pocket costs. The company is paying wholesale prices for some of the books in the lending library. For others, such as the titles from Lonely Planet travel guides, it is paying a flat fee for a group of books over a period of time. (It will report sales figures on individual titles back to those publishers.)

Beyond short-term earnings, however, the lending library is just the latest innovation to raise big questions about the whole publishing ecosystem. In an environment where books are increasingly digital, what’s the most effective way to create value for readers, for authors and for intermediaries? And — the biggest question — which intermediaries will survive the transition?

Big Six Balk

The lending library doesn’t include any books from the Big Six U.S. publishers — Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., Penguin Books Ltd. and Hachette — because Amazon can’t control what it charges for their digital books. They are undoubtedly relieved to be excluded. But the pricing control they value so highly reflects rigid arrangements they may come to regret.

Amazon used to pay publishers a wholesale price for e- books, just as it does for physical copies. It set whatever price it thought best for its overall business, even if that meant losing money on an individual title in order to boost traffic or sell more Kindles. It could adjust prices up or down to reflect new information or offer special promotions. Its standard price was $9.99, which was often less than it paid for each copy. Major publishers thought that was too low, but most couldn’t do anything about it.

Then came the iPad and the accompanying iBooks store. Apple Inc. struck a different deal with publishers, known in the business as the “agency model.” Publishers set the retail prices, with Apple taking a percentage for its services. The Big Six liked that deal and wanted it to be the industry standard.

Amazon resisted, going so far as to remove all the physical books from Macmillan off its site in hopes of forcing the company to continue the wholesale arrangement. But that sales strike alienated Amazon customers, who were angry when they went to the site and couldn’t buy the books they wanted. Amazon blinked.

As a result, most of the big-publisher titles in the Kindle store now sell for $12.99 to $14.99 each — a range Amazon called “needlessly high” when it capitulated.

I should say at this point that I am not an entirely disinterested observer. I’m an author, with two books available in digital form. And I agree with Amazon that, at $14.99, my 1998 book “The Future and Its Enemies” was priced needlessly high when its Kindle edition was released last spring. You have to either love me or your Kindle a lot to pay that much for a 13-year-old book you can get in paperback for $6. But, like Amazon, I have no say over how my e-book is priced.

Publishers, for the most part, don’t believe customers care much about the difference between Amazon’s old price and their new, higher ones. They’re skeptical that consumers respond to small price differences. A former publishing executive recently told me he simply didn’t believe that “if I really want a book for $9.95 I don’t also want it for $10.95 or $12.95.”

Look at Research

People in publishing say things like that all the time. While they admit that charging $100 for the typical hardback would be foolish, they don’t believe that changing the price of a book by a dollar or two will significantly change the number of copies sold.

The economic research suggests the opposite. In a 2009 paper that looked at consumers using computer price-comparison systems, or shopbots, to buy physical books online, economists Erik Brynjolfsson, Astrid Andrea Dick and Michael D. Smith found that a 1 percent drop in price — a mere 25 cents on a $25 book — increased the number of units sold by 7 percent to 10 percent. Shopbot users tend to be more price-sensitive than most consumers, but that’s a huge difference.

Publishers resist such evidence. The standard response is that it’s hard to know anything about pricing because “every book is different.” Every title is a unique good, and every customer values each book a little differently. So you might as well trust your gut.

Read and learn more

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09/01/2011

Print’s Alive, but Publishing Still in Trouble? (Actually it’s NOT)


 

Is Publishing in Trouble or Not?

Apparently, a main theme coming out of the July 2011 Yale Publishing Conference was that ‘fear’ was at the center of all the chaos in the modern publishing world.

This is true … But, duhhhh, who didn’t already understand that! Of course it’s fear of change that is holding publishing back from being all it can be.

Fear of change and the unknown (or not understood) has always been a prevalent weakness for most Homo sapiens. 

Stefanie Botelho, writing for FOLIO Magazine, covered the conference:

If Print Isn’t Dead, Why is Publishing Still in Trouble?

Reasons why explored at Yale Publishing Conference.

At the Yale Publishing Conference, which took place last month in New Haven, CT, big names in magazine publishing were in attendance, both as students and teachers.

The session began with Richard Foster, senior faculty fellow at Yale School of Management and managing partner with the Millbrook Management Group, LLC. He philosophized about the term “creative destruction”, focusing its various implications in correlation to the publishing world.

Subsequent sessions led by Michael Clinton, president and marketing/publishing director of Hearst; president of Dwell Media Michela O’Connor Abrams; and Glamour editor-in-chief Cynthia Leive ran the gamut of print, digital and staffing challenges.

But the biggest theme, prevalent in how speakers addressed the crowd and the audience pressed the presenters for immediate solutions to admittedly complex problems (the transition to digital, etc.), was not listed in the printed program.

It was fear.

And that may be the largest issue the publishing industry is facing today: fear of the present, fear of the future, fear of the audience and, perhaps the most crippling, fear of change.

While not as easily palpable in the speakers (who each provided case study after case study of success within their companies), both lecturers and audience members rippled with it. Age jokes were dropped at a noticeable rate (O’Connor Abrams quipped she and only one other staffer are over 30) and tales of staff let go because of unwillingness to convert to the digital age (and assist in the bevy of products unrelated to actual print issues) were some of the most poignant of the day. The message was clear: get onboard or get out, because there are plenty of others to take your seat at the publishing table—many of them young enough to still be crashing with Mom and Dad.

Read and learn more

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03/29/2011

Market Intelligence for the Publishing and Media Industries


 

Simba Information is a research, analysis and consulting firm for the publishing and media industries. I have posted on Simba before on my Writers Welcome Blog and you are cordially invited to read that post for more info and background.

Today I am focusing on Simba again to introduce their complete new white paper: Simba Information’s 2011 Forecast Snapshot. In this white paper they have “compiled an overview of forecasts and predictions for 2011’s markets, from the professional, yellow pages, trade and education book markets–each of which is briefly introduced to ensure at least passing familiarity with the subject at hand.”

Simba Information provides key decision-makers at more than 15,000 client companies across the globe with timely news, analysis, exclusive statistics, and proprietary industry forecasts. Simba’s extensive information network delivers valuable independent perspective on the people, events, and alliances shaping the media and information industry. Our tightly focused editorial and marketing teams meet these needs through the publication of newsletters and market research reports, while our seasoned industry experts bring Simba’s powerful information to life through consulting services.

If you REALLY want the inside intel on the STM (Scientific, Technical and Medical) publishing and other media world functionings you will want to familiarize yourself with Simba…And that’s the real mojo!

Here then is the link to Simba Information’s 2011 Forecast Snapshot . Enjoy the read and learning!

Remember, Kindle lovers, you can get this fine blog on your Kindle here  🙂

12/17/2009

115 Magazine and Media Predictions for 2010


Here are great insider, professional & industry predictions for 2010:

Jason Fell and FOLIO: has reached out yet again to a wide selection of magazine/media industry professionals—publishers, editors, chief executives, dealmakers, bloggers—to channel their inner Nostradamus and work up some predictions for 2010. Which magazines will survive? Which won’t? Which technologies will propel the industry next year? Some responses were humorous. Most, understandably, were serious. Whether or not 2010 proves to be as grim and depressing as 2009, one thing seems clear: next year should shape up to be just as volatile in terms of technology and evolving business models, if not more so, than 2009.

Put on your seat belts, folks. The roller coaster of a year that was 2009 is grinding to a halt and 2010 is getting ready to blast off.

We saw bankruptcies. Layoffs. Shuttered magazines. Shattered dreams. But it’s nearly 2010, dammit. That’s all behind us now. Right?

Well, maybe not.

Keeping with tradition, FOLIO: has reached out yet again to a wide selection of magazine/media industry professionals—publishers, editors, chief executives, dealmakers, bloggers—to channel their inner Nostradamus and work up some predictions for 2010. Which magazines will survive? Which won’t? Which technologies will propel the industry next year? What are the keys to staying in business while hopefully making a profit in the process?

Some responses were humorous. Most, understandably, were serious. Whether or not 2010proves to be as grim and depressing as 2009, one thing seems clear: next year should shape up to be just as volatile in terms of technology and evolving business models, if not more so, than 2009.

So, here you have it—115 (give or take) magazine and media predictions for 2010, mostly unedited and in no particular order. Get it here: http://alturl.com/55az

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