Category Archives: Abby

Book Discovery

When I’m talking about eBooks with authors, something that always comes up is the idea of discoverability– how to get readers to actually find and purchase one of your titles. With so many titles out there, which is especially true on sites like Amazon, how do you get a reader to find your book?

So I was particularly interested in this survey posted by Digital Book World earlier in the week. What is fascinating about the findings is that people are using more and more ways to discover new works. According to Kelly Gallagher, who presented the results, readers use 44 different techniques to discover new titles. That’s a lot of ground to cover for an author.

The author of the DBW article puts it best when he says, “Imagine the complexity: a 27-year-old female romance reader from suburban Indianapolis who reads on a tablet computer but spends most of her time browsing the Web on her laptop versus a 43-year-old female romance reader living in Los Angeles who reads and buys exclusively on her e-reader. They’re both romance readers and female, but couldn’t be more different otherwise when it comes to how they discover and read books — and reaching them takes different marketing tactics.”

Something that also caught my eye: the #1 way people discover books, no matter what kind of reader they are? Either in person or through personal recommendations.

So where does an author begin? And do you find yourself discovering books in new ways?

 

5

Man haters?

I love Junot Diaz. I think he is an amazing and imaginative writer and I like to read everything of his that I can get my hands on, so it is no surprise that I read the interview he gave to NPR this week. And what really caught my attention was his characterization of men through the eyes of women. Diaz says

But look, bro, are you telling me that if I get all the women of the United States and gather them all together and then say, ‘Do you highly recommend American men?’ that you’re going to get, like, a sterling recommendation? That these women are going to be like, ‘Oh, yes, American men are fantastic! These dudes have done so well by us.’ I think that every culture, if you got all the women of that culture together and said, ‘Grade your men,’ I don’t think any country — even a place like Denmark, which has this famous sort of gender equality — would give their men anything higher than F as a collective. And that’s a reality.

If you’re familiar with any of Diaz’s work, you’ll be able to see a parallel between the above quote and the characters in his stories—basically, his male characters are always jerks because that’s what he believes women see. Author Craig Nova comes to a similar conclusion about the characterization of men in fiction, except he laments it. Nova complains that male characters are rarely the good guys anymore, and are more often characterized as dead-beats and dogs. But in his own life, Nova can think of plenty of great male role models.

And as I think about Nova’s words, I am hard pressed to find a completely stand up, great guy in any of my recent reading. But the world isn’t full of men who are just jerks, so why aren’t our fictional men more diverse? How did we get here? Why do you think these two men portray their gender so differently in their fiction? And which do you think is more truthful of men in real life?

Lessons from History

I don’t know if you heard, but eBooks are changing the way people read and the way books are published. The digital revolution is turning the publishing industry on its head and forcing everyone—from readers to publishers to authors—to change and evolve.

But what is interesting to note is that a little more than 80 years ago, publishers and readers were experiencing the same thing. Mental Floss has this pithy history of the paperback book and how it transformed the publishing industry during the late 30’s and 40’s.

Basically, in 1939, a company called Pocket Books began releasing paperback books for $0.25 while the best-selling hardcover books were going for around $2.75. The low cost of paperback books was enabled by their cheaper production costs. (Sound familiar?) Publishers and authors originally scoffed at such cheap products, but when nine million paperback books sold in six months, authors and publishers jumped at the opportunity. (Notice any parallels?)

Needless to say, paperback books have become a mainstay of the publishing industry. And looking at their very similar history to eBooks, I wonder if a lot of the naysaying about the digital revolution is wrong. Do you think eBooks are just the next evolution of reading? Or are we really headed for the end of the publishing industry as we know it?

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Judging an eBook by its Cover

 

With an increasingly digital marketplace for books, is cover art no longer a priority? According to Chip Kidd, Associate Art Director for Alfred A. Knopf, cover design is a dying art.

This recent piece from NPR explores the idea that as eBooks increase in popularity, the importance of a great cover is waning. (As a side note, Chip Kidd is responsible for some iconic book covers, including JURASSIC PARK and NAKED.) Kidd says that people often check out a specific eBook because of a great review or a recommendation—not because of the cover design. So in a rapidly digitizing world, a great cover is no longer a priority. (And there are some really, really bad ones out there.)

A bad cover leaves me with a bad impression about the book—if you can’t bother to put the effort into making sure your book looks good then why would I want to read it? And that is something I always emphasize to authors in our eBook program—a bad cover will never help your sales and even turn readers away. So I find Kidd’s words kind of surprising. Do you think eBook covers are still important? How do they influence your ultimate decision to buy (or not)?

 

Penguin’s Big Buy

You may have heard the news that Penguin Group has bought Author Solutions—one of the larger self-publishing platforms—for $116m. Not only is that a lot of money to invest in a company, it also speaks quite a bit about how traditional publishers have started to view self-publishing.

 

There’s no doubt that the current eBook market has seen a number of self-publishers find a great deal of success and notoriety. With this investment, it looks like Penguin is betting that self-published authors are a big part of publishing’s future. It is also a step in lending credibility to the self-publishing marketplace and its authors, who were once viewed as writers as who just couldn’t hack it as professional authors. Now, with the potential backing of a Big 6 publisher, that stigma may disappear.

 

It is still unclear how Author Solutions will be integrated into Penguin, though. Will Author Solutions replace Penguin’s Book Country platform? Or, more interestingly, will Penguin open up its own self-publishng arm (like Amazon’s KDP or Barnes and Nobles PubIt!)?

 

What do you think of Penguin’s big buy? Do you think we’re likely to see similar purchases in the future?

eBook Piracy

In a digital publishing world, how do we deal with piracy? Authors and readers alike have strong opinions about piracy, DRM (a special kind of coding that is added to some eBooks so you can’t do things like copy and paste or print out an entire eBook), and how to stop eBooks from being stolen. And some have more creative solutions than others. The Guardian recently shared this piece about author Terry Goodkind and his own special brand of revenge. After finding a pirated copy of his self-published title THE FIRST CONFESSOR: THE LEGEND OF MAGDA available online, Terry took to his Facebook to out his pirate to fans and publicly shame him for stealing the eBook (including posting a photo of the alleged pirate).

And it worked.

The pirate removed all of his links to Goodkind’s book and Goodkind considers this a victory.

The question is: should we be castigating people who make pirated eBooks available? Or, as Paul Coelho believes, does piracy stir readers’ interest and sales? Goodkind believes it removes any incentive to legitimately purchase an author’s work. What do you think? Should authors put a lot of effort into combating piracy?

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Big Brother is Watching You (Read)!

A really interesting article came out in the Wall Street Journal about eBooks and how readers read, giving a realistic peek into what readers want. The article talks about how retailers can now use eBook readers to mine data about how readers interact with their books—how long they read for, when they put a book down or what they read next. This kind of data opens up a whole new world to eBook retailers and publishers—data that was previous unavailable.

 Knowing when readers lose interest in a text or how many pages they are likely to read before walking away will help authors and publishers create eBooks that keep readers hooked and hopefully coming back for more. It could also be the first step in creating a truly interactive eBook, where readers get to leave feedback and interact (via the eBook) with authors and publishers.

 However, this new data also raises questions about privacy—reading, which was once a completely individual and solitary act, is now being shared and studied by big name companies and publishers. Devices such as the Kindle or Nook can now record exactly what it is you do while using your device. This information is then sent to eBook retailers for analysis. It’s not quite spying, but it is like having someone looking over your shoulder and taking notes about your reading habits.

 What do you think? Does it worry you that companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble are now analyzing every word you read? Or does the lack of privacy get outweighed by the benefits that this data can provide? Do you think this kind of data will help publishers give readers a better experience?

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You Are What You Read

I’m something of a science nerd, so I love it when science and literacy come together. Fortunately for me, I get just that in this Jezebel article about readers emulating their favorite characters. The study reveals that readers can shift their thoughts and actions to match their favorite literary character and attempt to live vicariously through a character by taking on what we think would be his or her thoughts, actions and emotions.

I know that there have been plenty of times when I have stopped to think, “What would so-and-so do in this situation?” and this article really made me think back and reflect on my habits and reading. I love to re-read Gone with the Wind, and I feel protective of Scarlett as I imagine what life might have been like for her. Now I wonder if I’m more flirtatious or take on more of a ruthless attitude towards the world as I read and think about Miss O’Hara.

What do you think? Have you ever lived vicariously through a book character? Do you think you emulate your favorite characters?

Hello World!

It’s my very first blog entry as a full-fledged DGLM employee! However, I’m not totally new to the office and have been around for quite some time. I’ve been working in the office as the Project Manager for DGLM’s digital publishing program, and before that I was an intern in the office. Until recently, I was focused solely on developing the digital program, but I’m branching into agenting now, and I can’t wait to get started.

As a reader, some of my favorite books have been historical fiction—Les Miserables, Atonement and Gone With the Wind, to name a few. But I also love a book that challenges me, like Lolita, the His Dark Materials series or Last Exit to Brooklyn. For more about me and what I am interested in reading, check out Who We Are and What We’re Looking For.

My very first experience with a literary agency was here at DGLM, and I am so grateful to have been able to turn my internship into a position at the company. I’ve always wanted to work in publishing and I am very excited to be a part of this team.