Category Archives: future of publishing

Honeymoon’s over. Can this marriage be saved?

So, the talk lately (around here at least) is that e-book sales are slowing down—significantly enough that doomsday prophecies about the health of the format are being bandied about by the ever-unflappable* publishing community. Through several Amazon initiatives that are too complicated and, well, tedious to go into here, that monolithic company has undermined the Indie publishing world it mostly created as well as undercut sales of  traditionally published books.  Then, there are the studies that say that print reading gets absorbed more efficiently into your bloodstream.  And, finally, there’s the “Hipster Effect” which makes anything retro cool again—so the youngsters are all reading paperbacks on the subway instead of Nooks–combined with the “Geezer Effect” which makes all this newfangled technology suspect and terrifying.Kindle and Book

All of these things really add up to just this:  there’s been a correction in the digital book market.  The quick growth of the last few years has slowed down as consumers have gotten used to the idea of a new product, road tested it, and decided that, while nifty, it’s not the be-all, end-all.  Does that mean e-books are over.  Uh…no.  This format has legs, in my opinion.  But, it does mean that it is going to have to get creative about competing against its print counterpart and all the other media we’re collectively obsessed with.   And, that means that publishers, e-publishers, and e-tailers as well as authors are going to need to come up with ideas on how to make this a category that works on its own terms but also complements the underlying publishing rights—i.e., the copyrighted content.

For my part, I’ll just keep doing what I usually do—read both my Kindle and the thousands of print books cluttering my house and office—and wait to see how sales actually look once the dust finally settles. 

What do you guys think about the long-term health of the e-book market?  Is the slowdown a good thing or bad, in your opinion?

 

 

*sarcasm

 

6

Book Shower

I have a long and well-blogged history of buying books for the littles in my life – and that task is about to be even more exciting. I am getting my very own nephew, the first little one to come into our family! I am so excited to shower the little mister with books throughout his life, so when I planned last weekend’s trip to Michigan for his shower, I knew I would be bringing a stack of books as his gift.

Then the stakes got raised: The invitation asked that everyone bring a book to the baby shower instead of a card. Flying in from NYC as a representative of the publishing industry – to say nothing of being a former kids’ bookseller – I felt a lot of pressure. I couldn’t trot in there with the most obvious favorites, the same books everyone else will think to bring – Goodnight Moon, Where the Wild Things Are, and god forbid The Giving Tree! So I carefully chose my books and settled on a good mix of beloved classics and newer favorites.



0002974_ds-go-dog-go_300 GoDogGo2

This was one of my first favorite books, the one I was most eager to learn to read on my own. I remember thinking “This is my favorite book. It’s so funny.”

The Little Enging that Could

 

Everyone knows its famous mantra that sticks with me to this day I think I can I think I can I think I can, but did you realize the real message of this book? Take the time to help others and you’ll accomplish more than you expect!

I am a bunny

Everyone loves Richard Scarry, and this beautiful story doesn’t get as much recognition as the delightful Busy Town gang.

Giraffes

 A discovery from my B&N days – the art is poppin’, the rhymes are rockin’, and – most importantly – it’s never too soon to teach the little guy that he shouldn’t be limited by the expectations of others!!!

On the day of the shower, I was pleasantly surprised to find that no guest brought the same book – impressive considering that there were nearly fifty ladies there eager to set up with enough onesies, binkies, and booties to fill a Babies R Us.

Help me make my next baby book shopping list! What books absolutely MUST go on my nephew’s bookshelf?

 

 

 

1

Gonzo innovation

Anyone else out there excited for football this Sunday? Sure, I wish the Giants were playing, but we all knew that wasn’t going to happen this year. However, I’m pleased to have legitimate rooting interests in both games. One of my college roommates grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin, right next to Green Bay, so when the Giants are out, I’m willing to get on the Packer bandwagon. And in the AFC, I just root for whoever’s playing against the Patriots, of course…

Anyway, in reading up on the match-ups this weekend, especially Packers/Seahawks, I stumbled on this article, which, despite the title, talks about how basketball, baseball, and football are going to see some wildly inventive coaching in the next few years, spurred on by advances in statistics and Moneyball-style analysis. A lot of food for thought here, especially if the Patriots make it past the Colts—as much as I hate Belichick, the man is nothing if not inventive. The trick he pulled last week with the four O-line set seems like “gonzo” coaching personified.

Meanwhile, I had drinks last night with a client who was in town for the Digital Book World conference, which focused heavily on data and statistics. And from his description of the presentations, I think there might be a parallel to what’s going on in sports. After all, both sports and publishing at some level start with talent. And then the team/publishing house develops the talent of the athlete/writer, which these days typically involves data analysis, in order to generate wins/book sales.

So, does that mean we’re in for some gonzo innovation on the publishing side? Well, time will tell, though one could argue the PRH merger was pretty gonzo in its audacity. I’ll certainly be watching to see if publishers start pulling some Belichick-style stunts in the coming months—or not, especially if Tom Brady loses yet another Super Bowl. One can only hope…

2

When friends succeed

1746-v1-150x.PNGThe Publishers Weekly edition which was published right before I left on vacation featured Flatiron Books on the cover and I was so pleased to see that.

I have known the founder and publisher, Bob Miller for a lot of years starting when he was an editor at St. Martin’s way back when, through his tenure at Warner Books (now Grand Central) , then Delacorte and then on to establishing Hyperion which, in its day, was a huge success.

Bob is now well on his way to another thrilling achievement with this new imprint of Macmillan Publishing.  After being in business for a little over a year they already have a number one New York Times bestseller: WHAT I KNOW FOR SURE by Oprah Winfrey.  I’m sure this is only the beginning and I am so pleased for my good friend and his super team, which includes the brilliant Amy Einhorn who recently relocated from Penguin .

Over the last several years we in publishing have watched numerous companies consolidate and our colleagues lose their jobs as a result. Many have left the business altogether; others are just getting by or trying to create new careers for themselves within the publishing world.  This isn’t easy, which is why it is always encouraging to see an old colleague’s new success.

We should all be rooting for their success, in fact.  I for one am hoping that we as an agency can contribute to that.  Congratulations to Bob and John Sargent, Macmillan’s CEO, and your talented crew for your courage in starting something new during a perilous time.

2

Coming Not-So-Soon

There’s nothing like the excitement when your favorite author announces the pub date of their next book. You can hardly wait! A year, or a year and a half, sounds so far away! You imagine yourself springing out of bed on pub date, running to the local bookstore, seeing the long-awaited cover sitting there on the NEW RELEASES table. Or maybe you set a pre-order alert online and then you’re crouched over your e-reader at midnight, eager for the new file to blip onto your screen.

Well, for Margaret Atwood fans, and the fans of other to-be-announced authors, that excitement is not to be. A library in Norway has announced a new, carefully curated collection of books affiliated with a newly planted forest. The books in this collection will be published on paper coming from the trees in the forest…starting in 2114. That’s right – a hundred years from now!

trees Margaret Atwood, always adventurous in her fiction, is excited to be a part of this experiment, loving the idea of the distance of time between her and the critical reception of the book. She noted, “When you write any book you do not know who’s going to read it, and you do not know when they’re going to read it. You don’t know who they will be, you don’t know their age, or gender, or nationality, or anything else about them. So books, anyway, really are like the message in the bottle.”

But this is most provocative part of this program to me: Its funding grant includes provision for the library to invest in a printing press, to be sure they’ll have the technology to print the books when the pub date finally arrives, next century. Which struck me as a little bit odd – isn’t the important part of a book the story itself? The words, the plot, the characters? If, (a BIG if) in a century, printing presses don’t even exist, and books don’t even use paper…but people are still reading, and still excited for a collection of books from last century’s great authors…isn’t that just fine?!

What do you think?

Is it important for libraries or literary organizations to preserve the technology of physical books printed on paper if society is outgrowing it?

How would you feel if your favorite author were selected for this collection – excited that they were so honored, or upset that you would never get to read this particular work?

How would you feel if you were invited to participate as an author?

 

3

Speed Limits

Writerly corners of the internet have been abuzz this week about this little piece in the New York Times: Impatience Has Its Reward: Books Are Rolled Out Faster:

The practice of spacing an author’s books at least one year apart is gradually being discarded as publishers appeal to the same “must-know-now” impulse that drives binge viewing of shows like “

House of Cards” and “Breaking Bad.”

While 24-7 internet culture may be shifting our entertainment expectations, digital publishing is surely of influence as well, with its quicker production schedules and near-instant distribution options. Digitally published authors often hope to capitalize on the binge impulse by including sell pages in the back of their e-books with links to their other titles. As the article quotes,

“It’s so much easier to buy books online,” Ms. Weis said. “The temptation is right at your fingertips because you don’t have to go to the bookstore. We have to play to that.”

As with any new innovation, an accelerated pub schedule is not going to be one-size-fits-all success for every book. As traditional publishers experiment with some of the speedy strategies that have served self-pubbers well, they’re accepting some risks alongside the advantages:

But for many writers out there, all this talk of release dates and market trends is still ahead of you, in the tantalizing future when your book is published. It’s a dream come true for readers to discover your work at all! Don’t be impatient as you pursue this dream – the most important place to slow down is before your project even gets to the market. Not just writing a great book, but revising and re-writing, polling beta readers, incorporating professional editorial input. Digital publishing can seem like a quicker path to the finish line, but it’s still more of a marathon, even a relay, than a sprint.

What do you think? Is the binge-watching spirit of Netflix spreading to the book business?

Do authors need plenty of time to hone their work and build anticipation, or should they shift their focus to publishing schedule that feeds a (hopefully) hungry market?

1

Kickin’ It Old School

Over the past month we’ve had some scheduled upgrades and maintenance take place on our server. Sometimes this means that we haven’t had access to our email or –horrors!- the Internet for as much as three hours at a time! Work screeches to a halt, thumbs are twiddled, hair is pulled. How can we get any work done without WiFi?

Oh yeah. People used to work like this every single day. And I’m not even talking about prehistoric hunters and gatherers, or even hardy homesteaders proving out their land in the Ozarks. I’m thinking of the not-so-distant days before e-books and Kindles, before Outlook and Firefox, before Post-Its and Keurigs. The good old days of penciled manuscripts and ink-penned contracts! Ernest Hemingway scrawling in a Paris café, Margaret Mitchell pounding away on this typewriter and using her finished pages to prop up her wobbly couch (or so Wikipedia assures me).

I don’t know that the DGLM office will be investing in typewriters or quills any time soon, but we did find worthwhile ways to spend our analog time. Some of us caught up on reading submissions (on pre-loaded Kindles, natch). Some of us went through the ominous to-file stack that we’ve been ignoring since Thanksgiving. Some of us thought about blog posts we could write when the Internet returns…

What are your tips for non-digital productivity?

2

My Year That Wasn’t

As the year winds down and folks wax retrospective about the events of the past 12 months, I’ve compiled my own list of interesting things that I failed to do/read/accomplish in 2013, and hope to remedy in the New Year.
  • I stumbled across this blog, http://ayearofreadingtheworld.com/ just a few weeks ago.  This estimable woman read a book from every independent country in the world.  That’s an example I’d dearly love to emulate, though I suspect I will just read her book about having done it. I’ll keep you posted.
  • Spin a novel out of the following  New York Times headline;  Spies Infiltrate a Fantasy Realm of Online Games. I have had no previous inclination toward fiction writing, but this story writes itself. Here’s the first line.  “Not limiting their activities to the earthly realm, American and British spies have infiltrated the fantasy worlds of World of Warcraft and Second Life, conducting surveillance and scooping up data in the online games played by millions of people across the globe, according to newly disclosed classified documents.”
  • Understand how the age of Big Data (apparently the age in which we live) will affect the way in which books are acquired. The Atlantic had a creepy article–particularly disturbing for its forced  optimism–that looks at the way companies can mine Big Data to make better hiring decisions.  If acquisition of personnel can be better left to an algorithm than a manager, will books follow…
  • Learn to caulk and grout. Because my bathroom demands it, and how hard can it be?
  • Come up with a gift idea like these “Library Candles.” http://www.amazon.com/Paddywax-Candles-Library-Collection-Tangerine/dp/B00BJ5ZAYQ/ref=pd_sim_hg_5 Believe it or not, you can buy a scented candle which, according to its creators, has been carefully created to evoke the works of such literary greats as Leo Tolstoy (Black Plum, Persimmon, Oakmoss) Edgar Alan Poe (Cardamom, Absinthe and Sandalwood) or Charles Dickens (Tangerine Juniper and Clove). Clearly, they are shooting for Dickens of A Christmas Carol, and not say, Dickens of Hard Times or Oliver Twist (Gruel, Bootblack, Coal Dust) or Great Expectations (Moldy Wedding Cake, Prison Ship, Burning Bridal Gown). Obviously certain author candles would not be legal. I’m thinking of you Thomas De Quincy.

What scented candle would you add to the collection?

2

How those publishing roles have changed

In the good ol’ days, an author would sell his or her book to a publisher (often with the help of an agent) and  expect that the material s/he delivered would be edited by his/her editor and that the publisher would then publicize, advertise  and sell the book to the best of its ability.  Up until about ten years ago, all of these things did happen in for the most part – with some editors being far more hands on and some publishers being much stronger in publicizing, advertising and promoting the books on their list.

Authors  today are discovering that all of the roles have changed, and rather dramatically.  Agents often have to act as editors, authors have to be their own publicists and promoters, editors act as the overall publishers.  It is no longer enough that an author has written a strong proposal or a terrific manuscript –s/he must have a substantial platform and very solid credentials to be published.

All of this can be fairly depressing, especially for the author.  Recently though, I discovered this very clever piece which I think says it all, and I thought, “Well, at least we can laugh about it.”

I guess in the end, as with everything else, change is inevitable.  Over this last decade, authors and everyone else involved in the publishing process seem to be adapting to these  new roles and for the most part, making them work.  And so we proceed….

I wonder how you are feeling about your new role in the publishing process?  Have you noticed the changes?  Are you affected by them?

2

Game, Set, MatchBook

Last week Amazon announced a new program, Kindle MatchBook. It’s  not, as some hoped  wondered, a dating site for book enthusiasts, nor is it something out of Fahrenheit 451, as the funny folks at Book Riot suggested. But it’s still something to get fired up about: MatchBook essentially bundles paper and digital together by offering you the e-book at a discount when you buy the print edition.

There’s a lot to love about this. Many avid readers still care about the look, feel, smell of a book as an object, but also love the ease and affordability of e-books, and have been eager for an affordable way to enjoy both formats at once. Do you like to buy books for gifts? Now you can delight your friends and family with brand new hardcovers, and snatch up the e-book for yourself for just a couple bucks more. Did you lend your favorite Neil Gaiman book to a friend who then moved to Australia? No worries, mate – replace it with the e-book for pocket change. That’s right! MatchBook applies to books you’ve purchased on Amazon.com going all the way back to 1995 when the bookstore launched. That’s quite a few lifetimes in internet years.

The titles available with MatchBook depend on publisher participation. So far HarperCollins has signed on, as well as all of Amazon Publishing’s imprint, and titles self-published through Amazon KDP. It remains to be seen which other publishers will jump on board as well. But it’s an exciting first step towards having your book and e-reading it too.

What do you think? Have you been wishing for bundling to become a thing?