Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

01/19/2013

Publishers Outclassed by Digitally Savvy Writers


Digitally S a v v y Writer

Digitally S a v v y Writer

Actually, publishers have ALWAYS been outclassed by writers — who created the very content (product) that made publishers their living in the first place.

Publishers, as discussed in this post, are traditional publishers, OK? I make this clarification because today more and more writers are publishing their own works through self-publishing platforms — and are, therefore, publishers themselves 🙂

Michael Drew writes this nice piece in Huffpost, Books, that further details the slowness of TP’s to take full advantage of the new digital publishing landscape:

As E-Books Rise, Publishing Still Waivers

(John’s Note: I think Michael means publishing TP decision-making waivers – not the publishing business as a whole)

There’s probably no going back: e-books are going to be the dominant form for publishing pretty soon.

Consider that 23 percent of Americans now read e-books, up from 16 percent in 2011, and that the number of people reading “traditional” books is declining. On top of that, according to a study released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, “the number of owners of either a tablet computer or e-book reading device such as a Kindle or Nook grew from 18 percent in late 2011 to 33 percent in late 2012.”

Okay — and tablets are likely even to overtake e-readers, as tablets grow smaller and more comfortable to hold and still more versatile than many models of e-reader.

And publishers may be embracing e-books more than they had in the past. They have, for one thing, the ability to change prices. As Dominique Raccah, president of Sourcebooks said in an piece on NPR, “The exciting thing about digital books is that we actually get to test and price differently,” Raccah says. “We can even price on a weekly basis.”

On top of that, too, publishers can release books more quickly. Although in traditional publishing, you still have to wait a good year for a book to appear on shelves once it’s been accepted for publication, with e-publishing, of course, those delays — brought about by distribution, printing schedules, etc. — no longer exist.

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03/28/2012

Association of American Publishers: Book Sales Up in January :) Get the Numbers


Book Industry Growing Today

The AAP (Association of American Publishers) has some good news for the book industry. Random House sales were up in 2011 and overall book sales jumped in January 2012.

The two main reasons for this profit growth were cost-cutting and increased sales of e-books.

Matthew Flamm , Crain’s New York Business, reports these inside numbers:

Good news for the book industry

The book industry got good news on two fronts on Wednesday. Profits were up in 2011 at Random House Inc., parent company Bertelsmann reported. And book sales spiked in January, according to the Association of American Publishers.

At Random House, the world’s largest trade publisher, earnings before interest and taxes rose 7%, compared to the prior year, to $246 million. The gains came from cost-cutting and increased sales of e-books, which have better margins than physical books. Revenue for the year fell 4%, to $2.3 billion.

George R. R. Martin’s five-volume fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire also helped, selling 8 million copies in North America.

For the industry, overall trade book sales in January spiked 27%, to $504 million, compared to the same month in 2011. Among the fastest growing categories were children’s hardcover books, which were up 69% to $57 million; adult hardcover, which increased 22% to $70 million, and e-books, which grew 49% to $100 million.

The January figures marked the debut of a new methodology for the Association of American Publishers, which is now tracking 1,149 publishers, up from an average of 75 to 90 in the past. The newly added publishers have contributed year-ago numbers so that the comparisons are on a like to like basis.

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03/18/2012

An Example of the Convergence of the Old and New Publishing Models


One of the main advantages of the new digital age publishing model is being able to streamline your work directly to publication without the months, years and forever waiting periods to even an interest nod from a traditional publisher 😦
 
In good old Downunder Territory, Linda Morris writes this revealing and incisive piece for The Canberra Times that details how the latest romance e-book bestseller, Fifty Shades of Grey, made it big digitally but never would have gotten off the ground under the old TP publishing model: 
 
Steamy yet discreet: an e-book revolution
 
If the future of books looks like a horror story, electronic publishing may help provide a happy ending.
 

There is an internet meme called Rule 34 which states: ”If you can think of it, there is a fetish for it.” Rule 35 follows: ”If no such porn exists, it will be made.”

The publishers of the electronic-book arm of Harlequin, that grand dame of the paperback romance, understand these immutable laws better than most. Carina Press sells e-book romance in 11 categories and 17 spin-off niches – including Amish, dragon, angel and demons, space opera, paranormal, fantasy and time travel – reaching to the edges of cyberspace to corral a readership of the most eclectic kind.

The personal tastes of Carina’s chief executive, Angela James, run to steampunk, cyberpunk and a discreet touch of BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism) and she jokes online she’s still looking for the author who will write her a space cowboy book in the vein of Joss Whedon’s Firefly.

But love stories laced with buffed blokes and sexually game heroines are the genre’s current hot ticket.

Fifty Shades of Grey is an erotic romance novel written by an obscure British author and mother of two, featuring college student Anastasia and her millionaire beau who hides a secret sexual predilection for whips and floggers.

This month the trilogy made the jump from underground fan-based fiction to mass market, landing a seven-figure advance for the US rights from Vintage/Random House, and a six-figure sum for the British and Commonwealth rights.

”I certainly see why readers find it compelling,” James says, ”though it’s certainly not the most well-written or original book, especially given its start as Twilight fan fiction.

“But clearly there’s a perfect storm of story elements that make it attractive to a commercial fiction audience, and anything that increases the profile of romance, books and publishing is a win for all of us.”

While fans argue over the ethics of a storyline spun from the Twilight franchise and critics dispute its literary merit, Fifty Shades stands as a remarkable example of the convergence between old and new publishing models. Its author, E.L. James, started without a major publisher and marketing machine behind her, her re-imagined tale of the Bella and Edward love affair being published by an unknown Sydney amateur fiction publisher.

A US fan base loyal to Twilight promoted the books on Facebook, Twitter and book review sites such as goodreads.com, generating a word-of-mouth buzz that eventually went viral.

Without the changes brought by the digital age, Fifty Shades would probably never have made its way out of a publisher’s pile of rejected manuscripts, a Macquarie University media studies academic, Associate Professor Sherman Young, says.

Digital proved itself the perfect low-cost vehicle for bringing the experimental, risky story to market while social media substituted for the literary critic and the publicist.

It was Young who in 2007 wrote The Book is Dead, Long Live the Book, a prescient prediction of the migration of the physical book from page to screen. Young’s observations were made before the advent of the Kindle and iPad.

Publishing is not dying but it is in the midst of enormous upheaval not seen since the invention of the Gutenberg press.

The arrival of the internet retailer Amazon and its aggressive strategy to sell e-books at a loss to build market share has benefited consumers but undermined the very business model of the big publishers. In some eyes, its platforms for self-publishing have rendered the entire author-agent-publisher relationship obsolete.

Publishers are making e-books available simultaneously with p-books and are converting backlists. Only one big Australian publisher, Pan Macmillan, has established its own straight-to-digital imprint although others are soon to follow.

The agency model, the means by which the six major US publishers have effectively limited Amazon’s deep discounting, is under investigation by the US Justice Department and the European Union.

The effect of publishers setting a cover price for e-books is more expensive books, but authors such as Salman Rushdie argue that to break this system would be to ”destroy the world of books”, denying a fair return to story creators and their editors.

The digital world is a riotous jungle, publisher Henry Rosenbloom of Scribe concedes, posing all sorts of technical and practical challenges for traditional publishers. But the structural changes under way may be the least of the publishers’ problems.

Rosenbloom has warned of a precipitous drop in the value of Australian bookshops’ print-book sales, as measured by BookScan. Down 17.5 per cent in December last year, compared with the same period in 2010, the sales trend is accelerating.

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12/30/2011

Did the Book Industry Take it on the Chin in 2011? Inside Some Numbers


Print or digital, books are still books

It’s really hard to tell by the analytical parameters that the old book industry trackers (such as Nielsen BookScan) has set up to take the measurements. BookScan doesn’t even track e-books yet! What the hell are they waiting for? You have to get e-book numbers through other sources such as the Association of American Publishers (AAP).  

Let me say now that books are books …  regardless of the media they are presented in. And they should be included in any analysis of the overall health of the book publishing industry.
But, this bit of industry analytical dabbling in the following article from Crain’s New York Business by Matthew Flamm does provide an interesting insight:
 
No happy ending for book industry
 
Book sales in 2011 dropped 9% overall, with mass market paperbacks seeing the biggest declines. Adult hardcovers—the industry’s biggest moneymaker—saw a 10% drop.
 
The book industry took it on the chin in 2011, though e-book sales continue to offer the promise of better times to come.

Through Dec. 25, total unit sales of physical books fell 9% to 640.6 million, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks 75% of the market. That compares to a drop of 4% in 2010, and 3% in 2009.

Some categories were hit particularly hard. Sales of mass market paperbacks, a category that has been hurting for years, fell 23% to 82.2 million copies. More troubling, perhaps, was the 10% drop, to 164.1 million units, in the adult hardcover category, which is the industry’s biggest moneymaker. Trade paperbacks proved the most resilient of the major formats, with a 6% sales decline, to 351 million copies.

Among subject groups, adult fiction suffered the most, with an 18% plunge to sales of 160.3 million copies. Commercial fiction tends to sell particularly well as e-books. Adult non-fiction was down 10%, to 263 million copies.

(John’s Note: By the way, how many know the definitions of (or differences between) the following categories: adult fiction, commercial fiction, mass market paperbacks, trade paperbacks, adult hardcover?)     

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