Who am I: Writer or Bookseller?

25 August 2016

From Lit Hub:

I work at a bookstore, and I wrote a book: The Sadness. I see who buys it. Sometimes people order it online, and as a bookseller, it is my job to pick up the phone and call those people when the book arrives. But as an author, what’s my job? I don’t know.

. . . .

When Unnamed Press agreed to publish The Sadness in the summer of 2015, I was two years removed from [the university] community of writers. Instead, I was in a community of booksellers, no longer talking to people about writing but talking to people about books, mostly new releases. I hadn’t written new fiction in some time, but the people at Unnamed were very smart, and in their smartness they understood that publishing a bookseller could have its perks.

Booksellers have been responsible for pushing several recent books to prominence. Their blurbs appear on many successful small press titles, including those by Yuri Herrera, Valeria Luiselli, and Martin Seay. Even big publishers understand the power of bookstore support: readers of Lit Hub surely saw the advance copy of Garth Risk Hallberg’s two-million-dollar-behemoth drowning in bookseller blurbs.

. . . .

Michele Filgate has become one of social media’s most vocal writers, but if you search for her on YouTube, you find, toward the top, an interview she conducted with Paul Harding as part of a literary event. The description of the video identifies her as a bookseller, but the video itself identifies her, with superimposed text, as an author. To me, the suggestion here is that you are one or the other—that even if you want to be both, they cannot exist in the same space.

Yet I wonder which label she prefers—and I wonder which label I prefer, because, sometimes, it seems like being a bookseller/author is a novelty act. Everyone walks around with something superimposed over his or her face. Is there room for two labels?

. . . .

In the month that my colleagues featured The Sadness—a new release by a fellow employee!—I kept walking into the store and thinking like a bookseller; that is, after all, the label superimposed over my face most of the time. So, let’s think like a bookseller walking into my store: there’s this book by some guy named Rybeck sitting at the counter, with no shelf-talker on it, except one that mentions he works there. A couple people on staff have read The Sadness: the first works mostly in the back and liked the book; the second, if told that selling my book was the only way to keep the store open, would suggest closing the store (workplace politics ain’t always pretty). But no matter, who has read it and who hasn’t: anyone you ask about the book (at my store, at least) will happily recommend it—they are sweet people, after all—and will tell you, with pride, that a fellow bookseller wrote it.

Link to the rest at Lit Hub

To suggest a book written for young adults has any less merit than the classics is sheer snobbery

25 August 2016

From Tes:

Award-winning young adult fiction author, Juno Dawson writes a response to Joe Nutt’s 19 August article: Why young-adult fiction is a dangerous fantasy

I wouldn’t usually enter into internet debates, because they’re usually just a case of rudeness versus reason, but I didn’t want to let Joe Nutt’s earlier piece go unchallenged for a number of reasons.

Let’s first tackle the deeply offensive first paragraph in which he suggests modern young adult fiction is a mealy-mouthed liberal cardigan made up of transgender and autistic wool. Firstly, I read a lot of YA, and I can assure him the vast, vast majority of characters are still white, heterosexual and cisgender. This is something I’ve been campaigning against my whole career.

Moreover, don’t minority characters belong in fiction? Is that really what he wants to be saying? Real life features both transgender and autistic characters – so should books. Also, he does rather seem to be suggesting that readers (particularly young men) wouldn’t be interested in exploring characters dissimilar to them. I think that’s utter garbage. What is reading for if not to walk around in someone else’s shoes for a few days?

. . . .

I can’t even get into the “boys’ books” argument, because it assumes there is one way to be a boy. There is not. Boys like all kinds of books, featuring all kinds of characters. Some boys, unfortunately, hate reading. Some girls hate reading too. At school, I hated football. I still hate football. There isn’t a football, or indeed footballer, out there that would get me into football. Such is life.

. . . .

Modern YA provides a link from the safety of children’s fiction to the unpredictable content of adult novels. Sure, authors like Melvin Burgess, Kevin Brooks and Louise O’ Neill have explored some very adult issues, but the key word is “explored”. Younger readers are introduced to how awful it can be to be human within parameters.

Link to the rest at Tes and thanks to Nate for the tip.

Spotify Seeks to Fine-Tune Music Rights as It Gears Up for IPO

25 August 2016

From The Wall Street Journal:

As Spotify AB gears up for a potential initial public offering next year, the music-streaming service is missing one key component in its pitch to investors: rights to play the music in years to come, according to people familiar with the matter.

Spotify is now operating on short-term extensions of its old contracts with all three major record companies, having been on a month-to-month basis with at least one of the labels for nearly a year. It is negotiating new deals that would make its finances more attractive to investors.

Spotify, which saw its net loss increase to roughly $200 million last year even as revenue doubled to more than $2 billion, wants to pay a smaller share than the nearly 55% of its revenue that it currently pays to record labels and artists, according to people familiar with the matter.

It pays roughly an additional 15% to music publishers and songwriters.

But some major label executives want Spotify to pay them as much as 58% of revenue from both its free and paid tiers. That is what Apple Inc. pays for Apple Music subscribers who aren’t on free trials, people familiar with the matter said. Apple has more than 5 million users on free trials, they said.

. . . .

The licensing disagreement highlights the tricky relationship between Spotify and the major record labels, which all took minority stakes in the Swedish outfit as part of their initial licensing deals. As investors, the labels have a direct interest in seeing Spotify succeed, while they are also counting on subscription streaming in general to make up for a long decline in record sales. Paid services yield far more per user than ad-supported ones, and Spotify is the world’s biggest subscription service, with double the 15 million paying subscribers that one-year-old Apple Music has.

But the labels and Spotify don’t see eye to eye on some fundamental issues. In addition to what Spotify should pay for the music, record companies and their artists have also butted heads with Spotify over its practice of making its entire 40 million-song catalog available to both free and paid users at the same time. Pop star Taylor Swift, British singer Adele and rocker Gwen Stefani are among the artists that have withheld albums from Spotify because they didn’t want to make them available on the free tier, where users can listen to entire albums, playlists or artist catalogs in a random order they can’t control.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

Frank Ocean’s release of Blonde marks the start of a major fight in the music industry

25 August 2016

From The Verge:

It was only a matter of time.

The release of Blonde marked much more than Frank Ocean’s musical return after four years away. After satisfying his Def Jam deal with the release of Endless, Ocean released Blonde independently in a move that marks the first shot in an inevitable fight between music labels and streaming services.

The relationship between an artist and a music label has been a notoriously fraught one, but until recently, there was nowhere an artist could run to when they tired of their label besides the next label down the street. Now, in a race to get more subscribers for their streaming services, the biggest company in the world and one run by an artist have positioned themselves as a friendly alternative for musicians. Meanwhile the labels, in a bid to avoid a future they may not be able to survive, may ultimately end up on the side of some fans who want music available through every viable medium.

. . . .

This is the nightmare scenario for music labels. For years, labels have feared that as streaming services grew in power and scope, there could come a time when some artists could choose to forego working with the labels and engage directly with a streaming service to reach their fans.

Up until now this hasn’t been the case with an artist of consequence, for a few reasons. Younger artists need the structure and nurturing that a music label can provide, and established superstars have usually built up a rapport and are loyal to the group of people — most of whom work for the label — that have helped them become stars and simply choose to stay, after getting a big payday.

. . . .

But what Frank Ocean has done is different. This isn’t going independent while still using a major label for distribution, like Jay Z has done in the past. This is a complete avoidance of the traditional musical hierarchy. Ocean has a young, rabid fanbase that primarily interacts with him online; he doesn’t need to distribute physical copies of albums to thousands of stores like Adele or Taylor Swift. He is part of a small club of superstars who don’t need the label system, and who have the leverage to do deals with streaming services instead of re-signing their contracts. And that’s scary for music labels.

Link to the rest at The Verge and thanks to Will for the tip.

Music Publishing and Book Publishing, different coasts, same story.

Amazon outstripped Flipkart as India’s biggest online retailer

24 August 2016

From Mashable:

India’s local poster boy of online retail, Flipkart, has a big problem. A $5 billion big problem to be precise.

. . . .

Amazon India may have surpassed Flipkart to become the biggest online retailer in the country last month. This comes weeks after Seattle-based company’s boss announced that he will be investing an additional $3 billion in India, making the total investment in the country to $5 billion dollars in three years.

Amazon India had better gross sales in the month of July, reports Livemint citing five people with knowledge of financial numbers. The American company’s Indian subsidiary had gross sales (value of goods sold) of over Rs 2,000 crores, a figure that Flipkart missed.

. . . .

Though Flipkart, founded in 2007, still assumes its lead in the Indian e-commerce market, it is facing more competition than ever from Amazon India, which entered the country in 2013. Flipkart had 37 percent of the market share in India as of March this year, while Amazon India’s was pegged between 21 to 24 percent during the same period. To make things worse for Flipkart, Amazon India is attracting more people on the website, according to data from several marketing research firms

Link to the rest at Mashable

The mystery story

24 August 2016

The mystery story is a kind of writing that need not dwell in the shadow of the past and owes little if any allegiance to the cult of the classics. It is a good deal more than unlikely that any writer now living will produce a better historical novel than Henry Esmond, a better tale of children than The Golden Age, a sharper social vignette than Madame Bovary, a more graceful and elegant evocation than The Spoils of Poynton, a wider and richer canvas than War and Peace or The Brothers Karamazov. But to devise a more plausible mystery than The Hound of the Baskervilles or The Purloined Letter should not be too difficult. Nowadays it would be rather more difficult not to.

Raymond Chandler

Feeling like home

24 August 2016

From Literati Bookstore:

A few days ago, a man came into the store and said that he is a librarian who once lived in Ann Arbor. He often frequented Shaman Drum Bookshop and the original Borders on State Street. (He still has their bookmarks.) He told us he is deeply embedded in books all the time, and walking around Literati has made more excited about books than he’s been in 15 years.

And then, the other day, I received a message from an international student who wrote that she’s grateful to have “a friendly, local bookstore that makes Ann Arbor feel a little less lonely and a little more like home.”

. . . .

I don’t want to interrupt your day and shout small business propaganda, but sometimes I think it’s a great reminder for all of us (myself included) to step back and remember what kinds of places make us feel “excited” and what kinds of businesses make us feel “like home.”

Whether you live in Ann Arbor or Seattle or across the big blue sea somewhere, remember those places that made you feel less lonely. As a bookstore, we know that the odds aren’t in our favor. We also know that we are here because our customers have made a choice to support us. We’re proud to be a business that makes people feel excited, and to help those visitors from far-away lands feel, at least for a little while, like they’re home.

Link to the rest at Literati Bookstore

Pictures Mean Business

24 August 2016

From illustrator and author Sarah McIntyre:

When asked, everyone I know says they love illustration and support illustrators whole-heartedly. Yet illustrators continue to suffer career setbacks when:

* Illustrator’s names are left off covers of books they’ve illustrated (even highly illustrated). Sometimes publishers even forget to put illustrators’ names inside the book. (This happens most frequently with ‘middle grade’ illustrated fiction.)

* The artwork is used as branding for a writer (for example, on the writer’s website), but the illustrator never gets mentioned, implying that the writer did the artwork.

* Publicists launch illustrated book cover artwork to great fanfare, mentioning only the writer’s name.

* Media interviews and articles talk about a picture book as ‘by’ the writer, leaving out the illustrator’s name even though the book is mostly pictures.

* Award websites list only writers of books.

* Reviewers neglect to mention illustrations in their reviews, even when the pictures tell much of the story.

* Teachers lead their classes in studying a book without mentioning the illustrator or studying the book’s illustrations.

. . . .

Why does it matter? Who loses out?

* Kids lose a hero. Not all children (or adults) come to stories and communication through words. I find in teaching writing, kids are most inspired when then can draw a character and create a visual world around it, and only then do most of them want to seek out words to help the story along. Many children who won’t pick up a novel will happily read a comic. If people are inspired by drawing, why not let them look to illustrators for inspiration? It’s awfully hard for illustrators to impress classrooms of kids with their authorship when their names aren’t even printed on book covers. And it won’t even happen if the teacher only invites writers to visit.

* Business misses a trick. Outdated, clunky book data systems can’t track career earnings of illustrators, only writers. They can tell subscribers, for example, how much money writer Julia Donaldson’s books are earning, but they can’t tell you how much money illustrator Axel Scheffler’s books are pulling in. If you search for my name in Nielsen Bookscan, the only books that will come up with be the three books I’ve both written and illustrated. Even my book I co-wrote with David O’Connell won’t appear, because you’d have to search for David and my names together. Since business people can’t easily find out how much money illustrators contribute to the economy, it’s as though they contribute nothing.

Business people cannot make concrete sales decisions based on how much earning power an illustrator has. For example, some airport bookshops only stock Julia Donaldson’s books in the picture book section because they know from the data that she’s a bestseller. (Fair enough, she’s a sound bet.) But it’s possible that Axel Scheffler’s drawings of the Gruffalo sell the books as much as Julia’s words do. The shops sell Julia’s books illustrated by other people; why couldn’t they stock other books illustrated by Axel that Julia hasn’t written? Because they don’t have the sales data to help them. Amazon has a much more searchable data system than most booksellers; and with occasional glitches, you can search by illustrator. Competing booksellers need better systems so they can up their game.

. . . .

* Writers and publishers miss a potential source of publicity. People LOVE watching illustrators draw at events! And illustrators are perfectly equipped for Internet marketing because they can make images that make potential readers more likely to share material. Why have only one person bigging up a book when there could be two? The loss of ‘branding’ income from having two names instead of one will be far less than the loss incurred by cutting out the illustrator. Besides, promoting a book by yourself can be very lonely; why not do it as a team?

Link to the rest at Sarah McIntyre

The Appeal of Girl Detectives

24 August 2016

From BookRiot:

As a young girl, my favorite thing to read about was, rather predictably, girls. The first and second books I read were A Rose For Pinkerton (about a little girl, her big dog, and a kitten) and The Secret Garden. I loved reading about Queen Elizabeth I, and girls with horses, and girls with other animal companions. The first book I was obsessed with, though, was Harriet the Spy.

When I was eight years old, I would approach adults and ask permission to spy on them. If they said yes, I would commence spying, and if they declined, I would inform them, “I guess I will have to spy without permission!” and commence spying anyway. What can I say? I was a precocious child who loved rules, but loved spying more.

. . . .

I was so busy doing so much unauthorized spying, I made my biggest discovery. We were in the local bookstore and I found a used book bin full of yellow and blue hardcover mystery stories about a certain young lady detective named Nancy Drew. I read every single Nancy Drew book I could get my hands on. When I couldn’t find a Nancy Drew book to read, I would read Trixie Beldon, or the Dana Girls. Or, most likely, I would re-read a favorite Nancy Drew. I was just never able to find another book series that captured my heart the way she did.

. . . .

Last year, I discovered Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher novels, thanks to the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries series coming to Netflix. Somehow I had never connected with Murder She Wrote, so Miss Fisher was my first TV lady amateur detective (Jessica Fletcher was my second, and I adore Rosemary & Thyme).

Link to the rest at BookRiot

Barnes and Noble faces a challenge that has not been clearly spelled out

24 August 2016

From veteran publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin:

The sudden dismissal of Ron Boire, the CEO of Barnes & Noble, follows the latest financial reporting from Barnes & Noble and has inspired yet another round of analysis about their future. When the financial results were released last month, there was a certain amount of celebrating over the fact that store closings are down compared to prior years. But Publishers Lunch makes
clear that store closings are primarily a function of lease cycles, not overall economics, and we have no guarantees that they won’t rise again this year and in the years to follow when a greater number of current leases expire.

With B&N being the only single large source of orders for most published titles for placement in retail locations, publishers see an increasing tilt to their biggest and most vexing (but also, still their most profitable) trading partner, Amazon.

Although PW reported immediate dismay from publishers over Boire’s departure, there has been plenty of second-guessing and grumbling in the trade about B&N’s strategy and execution. Indeed, getting their dot com operation to work properly is a sine qua non that they haven’t gotten right in two decades of trying. But one thing Boire did was to bring in a seasoned digital executive to address the problem. This is presumably not rocket science — it isn’t even particularly new tech — so perhaps they will soon have their online offering firing on all cylinders.

. . . .

A “bookstore” doesn’t have the power it did 25 years ago to make customers visit a retail location. Selection, which means a vast number of titles, doesn’t in and of itself pull traffic sufficient to support a vast number of large locations anymore. This changes the core assumption on which the B&N big store buildout since the late 1980s was based.

This has been true before. One hundred years ago the solution to the problem became the department store book department. Post-war prosperity grew shelf space for books, but the department stores remained the mainstays for book retail. The first big expansion of bookstores started in the 1960s when the malls were built out, which put Waldens and Daltons in every city and suburb in America. The mall substituted for the department store; it delivered the traffic. In fact, department stores “anchored” all the malls to be sure they’d get that traffic!

. . . .

By the late 1980s, it appeared that standalone bookstores outside of malls could become “destinations” if their selections were large enough, and that created the superstore expansion: B&Ns and Borders. But, only a few years later when it opened in 1995, the universal selection at Amazon mooted value of the big-selection store, especially for customers who knew before they shopped what book they wanted. Selection as a traffic magnet stopped working pretty quickly after Amazon opened in 1995 although it was not so immediately obvious to anybody.

. . . .

We are seeing book retailing become a mix of pretty small book-and-literary-centric stores and an add-on in many places: museums, gift shops, toy stores. These have always existed but they will grow. And true “bookstore” shelf space will shrink, as has space for “general” books in mass merchants. The indie bookstore share will definitely continue to grow, but whether their growth will replace what is lost at B&N and the mass merchant chains is doubtful. Every publisher I’ve asked acknowledges significant indie store growth in the past couple of years, but they are also unanimous in saying the growth has not replaced the sales and shelf space lost when Borders closed.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

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