Assessing the Health of Independent Bookshops

26 February 2015

From The New York Times:

In a 1936 essay, George Orwell recognized one of the main difficulties of owning an independent bookshop: turning a profit. The bookshop, he wrote, “is one of the few places where you can hang about for a long time without spending any money.” Nearly 80 years on, the business has hardly gotten easier.

More than one-third of the independent bookshops in Britain and Ireland have disappeared in the past decade, unable to compete with large retailers — chiefly Amazon — who use their superior market position to offer deep discounts on printed and digital books.

According to data released last week from the Booksellers Association, which represents independent publishers, the downward trend continued last year, with around 50 bookshops closing, including one of England’s oldest, the Ibis Bookshop in Banstead, Surrey, which was a mainstay on the town’s high street for 78 years. Tim Godfray, the Booksellers Association’s chief executive, said it had been difficult to watch one store close after the next. “The last few years have been really tough,” he added.

. . . .

 In the United States, independent bookstores have rebounded strongly from the financial crisis, increasing their numbers by 27 percent since 2009, according to data from the American Booksellers Association. The group’s chief executive, Oren Teicher, said American indie bookshops have filled the vacuum left by big box bookstores like Borders (which went out of business in 2011) and Barnes & Noble (which has closed hundreds of stores). They have also capitalized on a spirit of localism and urban renewal that is coursing through some American cities. “The enthusiasm and optimism is pretty staggering,” Mr. Teicher said. “Despite all the quantum leaps in technology, the fact is nothing beats a physical, bricks-and-mortar store to discover books that you didn’t know about.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times

If most writers are honest

26 February 2015

If most writers are honest with themselves, this is the difference they want to make: before, they were not noticed; now they are.

Tom Wolfe

28 (Better) Things No One Tells You About Publishing

26 February 2015

From author Scott Berkun:

The recent Buzzfeed post by Curtis Sittenfeld called 24 Things No One Tells You about Publishing was fun to read. I’ve written 6 books with two publishers and I agreed with much of what she said. But having been an author for a decade and hearing every question and myth, here’s my own list of things I wish more  people knew about writing and publishing.

1. Selling books is harder than writing them. There are 300k books published in the U.S. every year. And 30% of Americans read only 1 to 5 books in 2014. Writing a book is purely up to you. But getting other people to buy and read you book is another matter.

2. Everyone obsesses about titles and covers but it’s hard to prove their impact beyond above a basic level of quality. It’s easy to find popular books with lousy titles and covers, and unpopular books with great titles and covers. There are too many variables for magic answers. Publishers exert more control over titles and covers than you’d expect: often authors have little say.

. . . .

5. Fame will likely ruin your writing or your life. Study the history of famous writers if you doubt me. Fast fame is a curse, or a trap, as everyone wants you to repeat exactly what you did before.

6. The publishing industry is slow to realize authors need them less than ever. Unlike 20 years ago, you can do much of what a publisher does yourself, perhaps not as well, but that depends on how entrepreneurial and self aware you are. Learn about self-publishing simply to be informed about your business end to end. Some publishers do great work, but many are stuck in an antiquated notion of their value.

. . . .

9. A great editor at a mediocre publisher can be a better situation than a mediocre editor at a great publisher. Editors represent you for dozens of decisions the publisher makes for your book that you can’t participate in.

. . . .

14. Publishers only invest in big PR for famous authors. For new authors there’s little reason to believe the investment will pay off. Would you spend 50% of your annual marketing budget on an unknown? Neither would a publisher. Publishers do love authors who invest their own time and money in marketing, and will help with and add to your investment.

Link to the rest at Scott Berkun and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

Here’s a link to Scott Berkun’s books

The 10% Rule: How to Read More Than 42+ Books a Year

26 February 2015

From HighExistence:

When asked his secret to success, Warren Buffett – the most successful investor of all time – held up a stack of papers and replied: “[You] read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge builds up, like compound interest”.

500 pages a day? That’s a lot to ask for, right? As valuable as that knowledge would be, most of us don’t have the time nor the patience to perform a daily feat like that.

However, if you’re an artist, an entrepreneur, or any kind of a creative for that matter, you’ll understand how important reading is as a daily habit.

Reading is learning and if you’re not learning, you’re not improving in your craft.

. . . .

With Amazon Kindles, Nooks, smart phone apps and tablets available to us, books have never been more accessible – nor easier to read. No longer do you have to lug a heavy hard/paperback book around with you or wait for a book order to arrive at your local book store. You can have them with you at all times without it being burdensome.

. . . .

Like most people, I used to avoid reading: “I don’t have time” was my go to excuse. Truth be told, I did have time to read, but like everyone else who uses that excuse, I simply mismanaged my time.

I would check my Facebook and Twitter accounts on my commute; I would stream movies in bed, and I’d mindlessly browse online when I could’ve been reading… When I should’ve been reading.

Eventually, I invested in an Amazon Kindle in the hope it would encourage me to read more.

And it did.

Soon, I found myself reading more than I had ever done before. Not just because I’d bought a Kindle, but because I stumbled upon a new system for reading. That approach is a simple formula I decided to commit to:

Read 10% of a book every day.

Link to the rest at HighExistence

I Google You

26 February 2015

‘Mein Kampf’: A historical tool, or Hitler’s voice from beyond the grave?

26 February 2015

From The Washington Post:

Old copies of the offending tome are kept in a secure “poison cabinet,” a literary danger zone in the dark recesses of the vast Bavarian State Library. A team of experts vets every request to see one, keeping the toxic text away from the prying eyes of the idly curious or those who might seek to exalt it.

“This book is too dangerous for the general public,” library historian Florian Sepp warned as he carefully laid a first edition of “Mein Kampf” — Adolf Hitler’s autobiographical manifesto of hate — on a table in a restricted reading room.

Nevertheless, the book that once served as a kind of Nazi bible, banned from domestic reprints since the end of World War II, will soon be returning to German bookstores from the Alps to the Baltic Sea.

The prohibition on reissue for years was upheld by the state of Bavaria, which owns the German copyright and legally blocked attempts to duplicate it. But those rights expire in December, and the first new print run here since Hitler’s death is due out early next year. The new edition is a heavily annotated volume in its original German that is stirring an impassioned debate over history, anti-Semitism and the latent power of the written word.

. . . .

[O]pponents are aghast, in part because the book is coming out at a time of rising anti-Semitism in Europe and as the English and other foreign-language versions of “Mein Kampf” — unhindered by the German copyrights — are in the midst of a global renaissance.

Although authorities here struck deals with online sellers such as to prohibit sales in Germany, new copies of “Mein Kampf” have become widely available via the Internet around the globe. In retail stores in India, it is enjoying strong popularity as a self-help book for Hindu nationalists. A comic-book edition was issued in Japan.

. . . .

“This book is most evil; it is the worst anti-Semitic pamphlet and a guidebook for the Holocaust,” she said. “It is a Pandora’s box that, once opened again, cannot be closed.”

Link to the rest at The Washington Post

When Characters Take Over

26 February 2015


The Top 10 Things All Authors Should Know About Amazon

26 February 2015

From The Huffington Post:

1. Your Amazon ranking has nothing to do with sales. Although many authors are obsessed with it and like to send out mass e-mails to friends and family when the number drops, unfortunately, all your ranking means is that people are looking at your page. While it might be argued that sales will inevitably rise due to more page views, the direct connection between ranking and actual sales is zero. It’s not that your ranking is meaningless; it just doesn’t mean your book is on its way to bestseller status.

. . . .

5. Publishers cannot control the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” feature, but you can. This feature is another of Amazon’s logarithms, and it’s all about the shopping cart. You can encourage your readers to buy a book you want to be associated along with yours, and that can get you linked up with a heavier-hitting author. There are workarounds to a lot of Amazon’s formulas. Use them to your advantage.

. . . .

10. Amazon is more author-friendly than they are publisher-friendly. This means that if you’re an author, you’re likely to get great customer service from Amazon, especially on the KDP side of the company. However, Amazon seems not to understand the limitations authors who are publishing with publishing houses face where their data is concerned. I’ve witnessed them make suggestions and recommendations to authors that simply cannot be accommodated by the author’s publishing house. This can be frustrating to authors (and publishers), but Amazon is its own organism, not too concerned about needing to understand how other systems work because its own is so dominant. They have an Amazon-centric view of the book world, and expect authors to conform to how Amazon does things. The note here for you, authors, is to take advantage of this by using and exploiting Amazon’s resources, but work with your publisher; don’t work around them. And don’t for one second buy into the idea that Amazon is “it.” Yes, it’s the number one online space for retail sales; but for most publishers, Amazon accounts for only about 30%-40% of total sales.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post

The Princess Author Syndrome

25 February 2015

From author and editor Judith Briles via The Book Designer:

In front of me was a new fiction manuscript. I had read the first three chapters to get a feel for the book beforehand. It needed editing, but so do all books to some degree. The opening chapter had legs and moved me to the next, always a good sign.

Could it move to the editing stage? My recommendation was to make it so at the joint meeting with the author and editor in my offices who had already done a pre-screening of the manuscript and felt that it was ready to start formal editing.

The author was shocked that I could make that decision without reading all 100,000 words of his masterpiece. Those of us who do content editing can tell quickly if we have a mess on our hands or something that needs what I call tweaking. It can be time consuming, but not massive re-writes. I didn’t see the need in front of me, again recommending that the book be moved to a full edit and proceeded to talk game plan and book strategy with him.

What evolved was something else; something that started my internal author alarms positioning for warning, warning.

My warning signal was buzzing … warning, warning … in front of me was a Princess Author.

Princess Authors have no gender. They want others to inundate them with words of praise about their books (or selves) … crave to be told that their words melt like butter on hot bread and that everyone will rush to buy the book … and believe that presence on social media and marketing is for others … never them. Their books never stink.

In other words, Princess Authors want to be “kept” … thinking/believing that there is no work involved after a book is written.

. . . .

To avoid drifting into the Princess Author Syndrome, authors today must be as proactive as any have even been. It’s a competitive world out there—a book-eat-book world.

To avoid being sucked into the Princess Author Syndrome, today’s author quickly learns: if author and book success is to be, it is clearly up to me.

. . . .

My time is not free. As he got out his checkbook to pay my fee for the two-hour consult, I told him to stop and keep his money. I wasn’t going to work with him to develop all of the above and more. He wanted to be taken care of; to be told that his words were golden; and that the world would knock down bookstore doors to get copies of his book. It was not going to happen.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer and thanks to James for the tip.

Here’s a link to Judith Briles’ books

I’d rather

25 February 2015

I’d rather be a lightning rod than a seismograph.

Ken Kesey

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