Discovery Challenges Mount in a Reader-Driven World

28 May 2015

From Digital Book World:

Editors and imprints are steadily losing the ability to dictate how their content is curated and discovered, says Canelo co-founder Michael Bhaskar, speaking at the International Digital Publishing Forum’s Digital Book 2015 conference at BookExpo America in New York City this morning.

That power, as Bhasksar sees it, has devolved to readers.

Or, at least, that’s the impression that many within the publishing industry seem increasingly keen to convey. “That the customer holds all of the power is clearer than ever today,” Tom Chalmers of IPR License wrote yesterday, “thanks to the Internet and the various forms of social media. No longer does our or any industry control the main filters through which information about what to buy reaches customers.”

. . . .

Get used to swapping “or” with “and.” Far from being mutually exclusive, print and digital are now increasingly complementary formats, and more readers are comfortable switching back and forth between them. 60% of Goodreads users read in both formats, Chandler says, while 48% read on their mobile devices and about a third of those use mobile as “a backup device” to fill in on-the-go for a primary one that stays more at home. No discovery effort, in other words, can afford not to pay heed to those many, interconnected use cases.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Writing is the only profession

28 May 2015

Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money.

Jules Renard

What Marketing Support Looks Like at a Big 5 Publisher

28 May 2015

From author Todd Moss via Jane Friedman:

One of the unexpected surprises of being a new author is how much goes into promoting your books. I was lucky to be published by Penguin’s Putnam imprint for my debut novel, The Golden Hour. Yet even with the backing of a hefty Big Five publisher, I discovered that delivering the manuscript is just the beginning.

In 2013, Putnam offered me a generous multi-book contract for a thriller series.

. . . .

During the sixteen (long!) months between signing the contract and the actual release of the first book in September 2014, Penguin provided an enthusiastic marketing team and two professional publicists. I couldn’t have asked for more support from Putnam, and I’m exceedingly grateful for all they did to help propelThe Golden Hour to the Washington Post bestseller list.

The book’s success helped turn a fun, mostly weekend project into a second career.

. . . .

Putnam helps me by crafting graphics and giving advice when I ask, but I built and manage my own website, created a Facebook author page, and was already fairly active on Twitter. I’m on Twitter nearly every day in short bursts and try to post on Facebook about once per week. I’m taking the long view on social media, as I’m not yet convinced the hours I spend on it greatly impact sales.

. . . .

I also created an email database of some five hundred friends and colleagues who want to know the latest and support my writing life.

. . . .

Putnam’s publicists created a press kit and helped me to place articles in USA Today, the Daily Beast, and on NPR’sGoats and Soda. They booked me on MSNBC’s The Cycle and the Diane Rehm Show on NPR, and arranged nearly fifty (!) back-to-back radio interviews over two days. This was tremendous. Yet I’m still tapping my own networks toget in the newspapers or on radio and TV, especially outside of the immediate weeks surrounding a launch.

. . . .

I’d heard that traditional book tours are becoming a thing of the past, so I wasn’t expecting much. Still, Putnam arranged a book launch at Politics & Prose (a humbling rite of passage for any Washington DC author) and a brief but exhilarating tour to bookshops in Phoenix and Houston. Turnout at each was mostly friends (and friends of friends!) since, by definition, no one knows debut authors.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman and thanks to Michael for the tip.

Here’s a link to books by books by Todd Moss

Half of UK households now own a tablet

28 May 2015

From Broadband Choices:

The popularity of portable slates has surged since 2011, when just 2% of UK adults owned one. Now, 54% of the population regularly use a tablet and that figure is set to increase to 63% by 2016 – driven by the success of devices including the Apple iPad, Google Nexus and Amazon Fire.

Tablets are the most popular amongst 35 to 54 year olds where take up now stands at 64%. Comparatively, 60% of young adults aged between 16 and 34 use one, and only 37% of over 55s do. Kids are also increasingly tech savvy as 71% of them have now had access to a tablet with a third owning one of their own.

Link to the rest at Broadband Choices

Considering the very wide range of digital change topics that should be candidates for discussion at DBW 2016

28 May 2015

From veteran publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin:

The challenge for the book business for the past decade has been rapid and less-than-predictable changes in the ecosystem because of digital. There are two underlying shifts that fundamentally alter the ecosystem: people substituting ebook consumption for print book consumption and people substituting online purchase of printed books for buying them in stores.

. . . .

1. Data. This is a wide-ranging topic. We look for original data about what’s going on in the ecosystem wherever we can find it and we have done sessions in the past (and could again) about “Big Data” and what publishers need to understand about it. With pricing of ebooks becoming an increasingly important financial consideration for publishers and data being such a crucial component of doing that well, this is bound to remain a top-of-mind subject.

. . . .

4. Authors and self-publishing. Authors didn’t used to have much alternative to publishers; now they do. As a result, authors have developed marketing capabilities and support services have grown up to help them. This all raises a host of issues for publishers. They have to learn how to capitalize effectively on what authors can do on their own, but they also need to provide great marketing support to authors and be seen as collaborative and as adding real marketing value.

. . . .

8. Agents and editors, how they relate in a mutually-supportive way. They share ownership of each author’s personal loyalty, they both might shape the book editorially, and they both will hear the author’s career ambitions and influence him or her about self-publishing and their publishers’ efforts. If publishers are going to start collaborating meaningfully with authors about marketing, that suggests agents and editors are going to be working together differently.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

Indigo Books returns to ‘growth mode’ with eye on new store openings

28 May 2015

From The Financial Post:

After several years of what Indigo Books and Music Inc.’s chief executive called the retailer’s “transformation” — a hard drive to bump up sales of non-book items as its core bricks-and-mortar business grappled with the rise of online sales — the company is ready to expand again.

“We are pretty much in growth mode — looking for opportunities to open new stores,” Heather Reisman told analysts on a conference call Wednesday to discuss the company’s improved fourth-quarter results.

Indigo operates eight fewer stores than it did a year ago and has been increasing its offering of electronics, gifts, paper and home décor items to its lineup over the past five years in an effort to diversify its business as the music and book industries made shifts into digital formats and online sales.

Link to the rest at The Financial Post and thanks to Tudor for the tip.

Books Fighting Back In Battle With E-Readers

28 May 2015

From SkyNews:

After years of being under threat from the growing popularity of e-readers, sales figures show the printed book now appears to be holding its own.

The latest statistics from the Publishing Association show that although physical book sales are slightly down, the two mediums are co-existing – with digital revenues accounting for 35% of a sector worth £4.3bn.

At The Hay Literary Festival in Wales, thousands of book lovers flock to read, discuss and dissect their favourite works.

John Boyne, the author of best-selling novel The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, believes the digital danger has passed.

“I think the novelty of e-book has worn off, people have their Kindles, I have a Kindle and I use it when I’m travelling,” he said.

. . . .

“It’s easier than putting books in a bag but people who like books tend to like books as a physical object, so I think the moment when e-books could have superseded books is gone.”

. . . .

“It’s not just about thinking ‘Oh I want to read this important book so I’m going to download it on my kindle’. I want to have the thing; it’s like a badge of identity.”

Link to the rest at SkyNews and thanks to C. for the tip.

Digging Deeper Into Author Earnings

27 May 2015

From Phoenix Sullivan via David Gaughran:

The Author Earnings team are attempting to do something which hasn’t been done before, and their work can’t be refined and improved unless there is some intelligent criticism of their approach and findings.

Today I’ve invited Phoenix Sullivan to blog on the topic. I’ve known Phoenix for a few years now, and if there’s a smarter person in publishing, I haven’t heard of them.

KBoards regulars will already know that Phoenix understands the inner workings of the Kindle Store better than anyone outside Amazon.

. . . .

I set aside some time recently to dive into the Author Earnings raw data for the May 1, 2015 Report. The irksome thing about the scraped data is how much of the puzzle that is Amazon’s ebook sales is missing and/or open to interpretative analysis. It isn’t the data’s fault or even the fault of the collection method. It’s simply that the data made public is limited, which in turn means a lot of creative interpretation goes into even so simple a task as coming up with the number of ebooks sold in a day. While the raw data itself isn’t changeable, different tools and assumptions applied to the data can yield different results, thereby opening up the analysis to differing interpretations.

My goal was to apply a set of tools and assumptions that update and possibly correct those being used by the Author Earnings team. The environment has changed dramatically in the 15 months since the first report came out, yet the analytical tools, in my opinion, haven’t necessarily kept up with the times. That in itself does not mean the results are wrong, but without a challenge to them, we’ll never know, right?

. . . .

By far the biggest assumptive correction I’ve made is two-fold: The first part is applying a new set of sales:rank calculations to the dataset and the second part is applying calculations to maintain ranks rather than using the multipliers needed to hit a rank. Let’s be clear that these multipliers are observed only, and best guesses across a lot of observations. However, I do believe the multipliers currently being used by AE are 1) outdated, and 2) don’t reflect the actual number of sales happening for the majority of books that are maintaining rank in the store and not seeing huge rank swings on a day-to-day basis.

. . . .

Amazon’s algorithms take historical sales – among other variables, such as velocity – into consideration when calculating rank. The longer a title remains around a given rank, the fewer sales it takes to maintain that rank. Observably, anywhere from 10-50% fewer sales. That means the multipliers for hitting ranks are not good indicators of unit sales numbers for the majority of books in the dataset. Here is my observed chart for average sales to maintain rank, along with the old and new numbers for hitting rank. More work needs to be done to fill in the upper brackets on the maintain side. I used the same numbers from my Sales to Hit chart when I felt I didn’t have enough data points on the Maintain side to chart new numbers in, but the safe assertion is that the Top 500 in my own data is over-reporting by a conservative 10%.

. . . .

Integrating KU into the reporting back in July dialed the difficulty of analyzing the data up into the stratosphere. Unread – and therefore unpaid – borrows influence rank across all titles. There’s no way to know how many borrows eventually become paid reads. And there’s no way to calculate how many units moved on any given title were at full price and how many were borrows, either paid or unpaid. Self-reported numbers suggest the split of paid sales to paid borrows is about 50:50 (which still doesn’t account for the unread borrows that inflate rank), which is what the AE Reports use as well. Using the Maintain chart above, I rejiggered all the numbers. The adjusted royalties may well still be inflated, but are, I think, a closer approximation. The difference for the dataset is a statistically significant 21.4% spread in dollars (or the $400 million difference between $1.81 and $1.42 billion per year):

  • $4,957,365 – original AE result for all earnings
  • $4,848,116 – AE results with the new modeling applied
  • $3,895,691 – my adjusted estimate

and for the KU amounts specifically:

  • $167,687 – AE results for borrows with the new modeling applied
  • $144,201 – my estimate
  • 252,161 – AE estimate for total number of KU units sold/borrowed using the Maintain calculations for Indies + Uncategorized
  • 216,410 – my estimate

. . . .

Since the AE Report looks at aggregated totals over individual sales and positions itself as one factor for authors to consider when deciding which path to publishing to pursue, I decided to see what each book averaged in each publishing path. There are pie charts below, but let’s also use words to be sure the picture is clear either way it’s expressed. If we look at gross sales, we see that the Big 5 had only about 50% of the number of titles available in the dataset than indies had. Big 5 books sold about 78% of the number of books indies sold and made more than twice as much. A lot of that goes into Publisher and Amazon pockets, but what does that really mean? The charts show that indie authors in aggregate earned about 25% more than Big 5 authors. In other words, it took almost 50% more available indie books to earn their authors 25% more than Big 5 authors.

. . . .

From the above, we can say that while market share may have eroded for the Big 5, gross sales plateau’d between Jan and May. Losing market share is not the same as bleeding money. Besides, the ebook market – discrete from the general publishing market – is relatively new. The Big 5 were never part of that market until it became lucrative enough to play in, and only once indies were invited into the market did it start to burgeon. Notbecause of indies, but the timing is inseparable. Big 5 never dominated the market, and a few deviation points here and there doesn’t mean it’s losing the market. And while percentage charts are pretty to look at, they don’t always describe an accurate picture. Ebooks, for instance, have lured a certain percentage of customers away from the used-books market. The Big 5 were not in the used-book market before and their models don’t include that market now.

Link to the rest at Let’s Get Digital and thanks to SFR and several others for the tip.

The Kindle Finally Gets Typography That Doesn’t Suck

27 May 2015

From Co.Design:

Amazon’s Kindle e-reader is a lovely single-purpose gadget, with an industrial design ethos that, in its singular focus on the purity of e-reading, even Dieter Rams could love. The iOS and Android apps are even great. But no matter what gadget you read on, the Kindle’s typography and typesetting has always been a bit of a disaster, with six different typefaces, that are barely suitable for reading an actual book. (Who reads books in Futura, anyways?) As for the typesetting, “hideous” is the word many type lovers would use to describe it.

But today, Amazon is making a big step towards better typography on the Kindle. Not only are they unveiling Bookerly, the first typeface designed for the Kindle for scratch, but they’re finally solving the Kindle’s typesetting problems with an all-new layout engine that introduces better text justification, kerning, drop caps, image positioning, and more.

. . . .

Replacing Caecilia as the new default font for Kindle, Bookerly is a serif that has been custom-made by Amazon to be as readable across as many different types of screens as possible. Like Google’s Literata, Bookerly is meant to address many of the aesthetic issues surrounding e-book fonts.

. . . .

On low-res devices, Baskerville’s thin, elegant lines looked crude, whereas Caecilia, a slab serif, was just a bizarre choice for Amazon’s previous default font: although it’s highly readable, it’s a type of font best used for headlines, not body text, because slab serifs often look and feel bolded, even when they’re not.

Bookerly addresses both of these issues. No matter what screen you’re on, Bookerly was designed from the ground-up to be even more readable that Caecilia. According to Amazon’s internal tests, that means it’s about 2% easier on the eye. That may seem like a small improvement, but spread that 2% across millions of Kindle users and billions of pages of e-reading, and it all starts to add up.

. . . .

But to be honest, Bookerly’s not really what has me excited. The Kindle’s new layout engine? That’s another story. After almost eight years, Amazon’s finally starting to get e-book typesetting bloody right.

Previous to today’s update, when you read an e-book on the Kindle, sentences were fully justified. In other words, no matter how big your font size, Kindle’s invisible software always laid-out the page so that the left and right margins were completely straight. And it was ugly. Words were never split across lines, so there could be as many as half-a-dozen spaces between words.

. . . .

Amazon updated the Kindle app for iOS with Bookerly and a new layout engine today this morning. Another update rolling out the new font and typesetting technology to users of Amazon’s line of e-ink readers, Android, and other devices will be available later this summer.

Link to the rest at Co.Design and thanks to Nirmala for the tip.

I always take Scotch whiskey

27 May 2015

I always take Scotch whiskey at night as a preventive of toothache. I have never had the toothache; and what is more, I never intend to have it.

Mark Twain

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