Monthly Archives: September 2011

But Why Would You…Ever Hire Your Agent as Your Publisher?

27 September 2011

Dean Wesley Smith knows the answer to this question:

For any of you who missed my last post about agents, just remember I told you to wait two years before hiring any agent. Imagine last week when I did that post you had hired an agent at Trident Agency. Then you woke up this morning and realized that the Trident Agency had just this morning (Monday morning, September 26th, 2011) stepped over the ethical line and became a publisher.

Now Trident has never been known for ethical behavior in publishing, but they are large, which is why this is surprising.

My handy Oxford American Dictionary defines publisher as “A person or firm that issues copies of a book to the public.”

Yet Trident is claiming they will not be a publisher, even though they will, for their clients, both front list and backlist, issue books to the public by launching them on Kindle, B&N, Smashwords, and into print form. Also, they will handle all the money.

Not a publisher? Uhh, how stupid do they think writers are?

Actually, they think and know for a fact that as a class, writers are as stupid as it goes.

Which is why they can become a publisher, do all the things a publisher will do, exactly, and yet say to their writers, “Oh, we are not a publisher.”

And writers will believe them.

Why? Because, as a class, a writer can’t open the dictionary and look up the word. And then think.

So now writers will be hiring a stranger to sell their books to publishers, get all the money and the paperwork, and at the same time be hiring a stranger to publisher their book, get all the money and the paperwork.

So a writer has a book, gives the book to their agent to sell.

Agent has two options: 1) Agent can make 15% by selling book to Pocket Books. Or 2) agent firm can make 15% PLUS publishing fees by publishing it themselves and make a ton more money (and have more opportunity to keep some of the money that the author doesn’t pay attention to). Hmmmmmm……… Which way will the agent go????

Oh, yeah, to the money. Duh….

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith

Amazon: Shoddy-On-Demand

27 September 2011

From the Publishers Weekly Blog:

Last week, I finally got around to ordering Nick Catalano’s biography of the great jazz trumpeter, Clifford Brown, which I had been meaning to read for several years. I checked with Amazon to find out its availability. Oxford published the book in hardcover in 2000, but the hardcover was out-of-print. I checked the nearby Strand Bookstore, and they had no copies; I checked at McNally Jackson in Prince Street on a stroll home from work, and they did not have the book either; so I decided to order the trade paperback version, published in 2001, from Amazon. It was still in print, for $16.95. I considered for a moment buying one of the many used copies offered on Amazon—both in hardcover and paper—with some priced as low as $2. But then decided, why not have a new book and support  a university press that had seen fit to keep an important book available.

I ordered the book on Monday, Sept. 19. I got an email two days later that it had shipped. On Saturday morning, Sept. 24, there it was in the distinctive Amazon box. I immediately set to reading. The book was smaller than I had expected, for a biography. The cover was a muted, two-color black-and-blue on white—cheap but perhaps tasteful for a book about a trailblazing musician who died tragically at age 25. The paper was a very bright white. And then I got to the photo section—a horror show: terribly greyed out, low-quality, perhaps galley quality (at best). They were like photocopies of photocopies of very old photographs. I thought—this must be a terrible production mistake. As I looked around in the book, I found 12 completely blank pages at the end, but for a bar code on the last page and the words “Made in the U.S.A. Lexington, KY, September 21, 2011.” That is, my book had been printed three days earlier.

Link to the rest, with photos, at Publishers Weekly

Mrs. PG’s experience with CreateSpace’s POD versions of her books is that the quality is better than some of the books her publishers released during the last few years. Paper quality is much nicer for one thing.

One point the blog post didn’t make completely clear – this isn’t an indie book nor is it an Amazon Publishing book. It’s published by Oxford University Press, USA. The shoddy book wasn’t Amazon’s fault, it was Oxford’s.

So, Passive Guy has a special offer for Oxford: Ordinarily, PG only designs POD books for Mrs. PG, but in honor of his ancestors who attended BraseNose College for a couple of hundred years before they hightailed it to the colonies, PG will design a POD version of one of your books that looks terrific.

PG was going to end by quoting some words from the BraseNose fight song, but he doesn’t think they have one.

This probably means that, instead of seeking religious freedom, PG’s ancestors really came to the colonies for the football.


Four years into the ebook revolution: things we know and things we don’t know

26 September 2011

Publishing veteran Mike Shatzkin talks about where we are in the disruption of traditional publishing:

As ebook sales in the US now appear to have reached the 20% of revenue threshold at some publishers already (so it is there or will be for everybody very soon), there are some things we can say we know about the shape of the future, but some very important other things that we don’t know yet.

We know that most people will adjust pretty readily to reading straight text narrative books on a screen rather than paper.

We know that parents will hand their iPad, iPhone, or Nook Color device to a kid so that they can enjoy children’s books on the device.

We don’t know whether adult illustrated book content will be equally well accepted by book consumers on devices, even though there are more and more devices capable of displaying pretty much what publishers deliver on a printed page.

We don’t know what parents will pay for a brief illustrated children’s book delivered for a device, but it appears it might be much less than they’re willing to pay for paper.

We know that consumers will pay paperback prices and more for plain vanilla ebooks, or “verbatim” ebooks.

. . . .

We know that ebook uptake, as measured in sales or their percentage of publishers’ revenues, has doubled or more than doubled every year since 2007.

We know that rate of growth is mathematically prevented from continuing for even three more years (because it would put ebooks at 160% of publishers’ revenues if it did!)

We know from announcements about new devices and a recent Harris poll predicting increased device purchasing that there are no expectations for a slowdown in ebook adoption anytime soon.

We don’t know if we’re going to find a barrier of resistance, or perhaps we should call it the barrier of “paper-insistence”, at some sales level over the next two years (at the end of which ebooks would be 80% of publishers’ revenues at the growth rates we’ve seen over the past four years).

. . . .

We don’t know what the loss of brick store merchandising will mean to the ability of publishers and authors to introduce new talent to readers, or even just to introduce a new work by established talent.

We don’t know if improved book discovery and merchandising is amenable to the application of “scale” by publishers outside of vertical niches, be they topics or genres.

We know that agents and authors will accept an ebook royalty of 25% of net receipts in today’s environment, where 70% or more of the sales are still made in print.

We don’t know if the threat of the alternative publishing options will force that royalty rate up if sales fall below 50% print or 30% print.

We don’t know if sales falling below 50% print or 30% print is several years away or much less.

. . . .

We know that content-creating brands that are not book publishers are using the relative ease of publication of ebooks to deliver their own content to the ebook marketplace.

We don’t know if book publishers will develop an ebook publishing expertise that will make them able to persuade those brands in time to go through them, the way they have in the print book world, rather than disintermediating them.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

Yet Another Agent Becomes a Publisher Without Becoming a Publisher

26 September 2011

From The Bookseller:

Trident Media Group, a New York-based literary agency, has launched Trident E-Book Operations, which will create, manage and implement e-book strategies for its authors.

The scheme will offer services including digital conversion, digital jacket design, marketing and social media consultation. The type of books to be made available will include out-of-print, backlist, frontlist and original titles as well as special short-form non-fiction and fiction works, enhanced e-books and print-on-demand options. The scheme could also set up relationships with both traditional and non-traditional publishers once an author’s books have been released digitally through Operations.

. . . .

“Trident will not become a publisher, but will instead continue in its e-book operations to have itself aligned with its clients whose interests we serve as an agent and manager.”

Speaking to The Bookseller, Gottleib said the service will be offered to all Trident’s clients. He said: “As agents, our clients are always in control of their properties. We are very good at holding back rights and managing our clients’ work. It is a whole new solar system we are entering into here . . .

“We are not a publisher. Publishers can’t offer a contact for every book, we are in a position to make sure their books are available. There are opportunities and we are positioning ourselves at Trident to make the most of the opportunities. It is bringing authors into the marketplace and re-engineering the situation.”

UK agent Ed Victor, who launched his own e-book and print-on-demand venture, Bedford Square Books, in May this year, questioned why Gottlieb had said Trident was not becoming a publisher. He said: “Why don’t you just call a spade a spade? It’s like a girl saying she’s ‘slightly pregnant’.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

UPDATE: Here’s what Trident Media CEO Robert Gottlieb said about agents as publishers two months before the announcement.


Down These Mean Streets

26 September 2011

Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor.

Raymond Chandler, The Simple Art of Murder

The Blog Ate My Book

26 September 2011

Don’t say historical fiction author Sophie Perinot didn’t warn you:

Once upon a time it would have been, “The dog ate my homework.” But today when something goes missing (or misses a deadline) the culprit is more likely sitting on an author’s desk (NO, not the cat) and the only growling it makes is the hum of that little fan inside that keeps it from overheating. The culprit is the computer, or more precisely the many things—facebook, twitter, blogging, games—we can do with it other than write our novels.

In this age of digital distractions it might seem sensible for a writer—especially one working on a draft that really should be further along—to “log out” completely for days or even weeks. Assuming for a moment that a writer had the self-discipline to do that (I am not certain I do), it may not be as prudent as it sounds at first blush.

Long absences from the virtual world are not in an author’s best interest. Being an active member of the on-line world is an enormous part of what generates buzz for books and recognition for their authors these days. It is hard to imagine a book or a writer being successful without being a genuine and active part of several social media and/or on-line writing communities.

So where do we draw the line? How do we stay “connected” but still manage the most important task facing us—producing polished and marketable manuscripts? If there were an easy answer I’d bottle it and sell it. The situation demands a balancing act worthy of a high-wire artist and I am currently perilously close to losing my footing and falling into the net (dear GOD I hope there is a net down there—I don’t see one).

. . . .

After I signed my book deal I started blogging here. Next came my personal blog. I like blogging because basically, I am VERY opinionated (something tells me you are NOT surprised). I also love reading dozens of writing-related blogs. They’ve taught me much of what I know about this business so I know blogs serve a valuable purpose. But blogging takes an enormous amount of time compared to most on-line community participation. A tweet is a quip; a facebook post can be a couple of sentences or a useful link. A blog requires topic selection, thoughtful analysis and a couple of hundred solid words in support of your argument.

So if blogging is such a huge time-suck, why do we do it?

I know why I started—conventional wisdom (and some publishers) says that a writer HAS to blog. It’s considered part of self-marketing and builds audience (aka sales).

I am beginning to consider this assertion more critically. Is it possible (*gasp*) that the amount of time writers lose to blogging is not counterbalanced by the number of new readers that our blogs deliver to us?

. . . .

Me, I know something’s got to give in the next weeks and months if I want to finish this manuscript on deadline (and I have never missed a deadline in my life). I am not certain that “something” is blogging but I have my priorities—I am not going to let my blog eat my book. The book is my job. The blog may or may not be an effective part of developing an audience for my books. I am not certain. But there is one thing I AM certain of—no new book, no audience needed.

Link to the rest at From the Write Angle

5 Elements of a Riveting First Line

26 September 2011

Passive Guy appreciates good opening lines, but author and editor K.M. Weiland says they don’t have to be memorable to work:

One of the most surprising discoveries is that very few opening lines are memorable.

Say what?

Before you start quoting the likes of such classic (and highly memorable first lines) as “Call me Ishmael” and “It is a truth universally acknowledged…”, take a moment to think about the last few books you read and loved. Can you remember the opening lines?

The very fact that these unremembered lines convinced us to keep reading until we loved the books means they did their jobs to sparkly perfection. I looked up the first lines of five of my favorite reads from the last year:

 “When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.”—The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

 “From a little after two oclock [sic] until almost sundown of the long still hot weary dead September afternoon they sat in what Miss Coldfield still called the office because her father had called it that—a dim hot airless room with the blinds all closed and fastened for forty-three summers because when she was a girl someone had believed that light and moving air carried heat and the dark was always cooler, and which (as the sun shone fuller and fuller on that side of the house) became latticed with yellow slashes full of dust motes which Quentin thought of as being flecks of the dead old dried paint itself blown inward from the scaling blinds as wind might have blown them.”—Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

 “It was night again. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.”—The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

 “They used to hang men at Four Turnings in the old days.”—My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

 “On the night he had appointed his last among the living, Dr. Ben Givens did not dream, for his sleep was restless and visited by phantoms who guarded the portal to the world of dreams by speaking relentlessly of this world.”—East of the Mountains by David Guterson

. . . .

Inherent Question: To begin with, they all end with an invisible question mark. Why is the other side of the bed cold? Why are these characters sitting in a hot, dark room? How can silence be divided into three separate parts? Who did they hang in the old days—and why don’t they hang them anymore? And why and how has Ben Givens appointed the time of his death? It’s not enough to tell readers what’s going on in your story; you have to give them just enough information to make them ask the questions, so you can answer them.

. . . .

Voice: Finally, in every one of our examples we find the introduction of voice. Your authorial voice in general, and the voice of this story in particular, is your reader’s introduction to you. Your first line is your “hello.” Don’t waste it. Is your book funny, snarky, wistful, sad, or poetic? Make sure we find that core element in your opening line. Don’t hand readers a joke at the beginning if your story is a lyrical tragedy.

Link to the rest at K.M. Weiland

The Bloated eBook File

26 September 2011

From Dear Author:

In the past, I’ve advocated for various things to be included in the ebook file, mostly in an effort to convince publishers that digital format was something that readers actually did want. (yes, dear readers, we had to fight for books to be digitized in the not so distant past).  Some publishers (and self published authors) have taken this to extremes.

. . . .

How much is left in a book can affect the reader experience.  Paper readers know how far they are from the end of the book by a glance at the physical pages left.  When a reader is reading a digital book, she usually can tell how far she is, either by page number or percentage, or both.   More and more often, the reader experience is being impinged upon because of additives, mostly excerpts from other books, that are giving a false expectation of when the book is to be completed.

For instance, Lightning That Lingers from Sharon and Tom Curtis ends at the 56% mark.  The remainder of the contents of the file are excerpts from other Loveswept titles.  Legends by Deborah Smith ends at the 60% mark.  The remainder of the contents of the file are excerpts.  Every Loveswept title that is being re-released in digital format has the same problem.  The percentage or page indicator leads the reader to believe that they are only a little more than half way through the book and the end is upon you.

. . . .

For the most part, readers did not like promotional material and most admitted to not reading it, although Holly from Bookbinge admitted that she ordinarily didn’t like it but occasionally would be lured into buying a book from an excerpt at the end (which is, of course, why publishers include them). One of the problems is that the inclusion of excerpts is scattershot. Oftentimes you will get 5-6 excerpts with no discernable relation to the book you just read. Another person said that the publishers should only promote 1 or 2 books at the end instead of several by all different authors. The goal is that the promotional items should be targeted rather than scattershot. An “if you like X, you’ll like Y” sort of listing. A small inclusion with links to more excerpts makes sense or even an additional download. Robin shared that with Big Fish Games, you can be invited to download more content as you move through the game. A book should work like that as well, downloading additional content with the reader’s permission.

Link to the rest at Dear Author

Amazon Kindle Tablet Could Shake Up Tablet Wars

26 September 2011
Comments Off on Amazon Kindle Tablet Could Shake Up Tablet Wars

Passive Guy promises not to become obnoxious about Amazon’s tablet, but he thinks it could have major implications for indie authors.

From a PC Magazine blog:

The iPad is still expected to maintain its dominance, as it will account for nearly 75 percent of the tablets sold this year. But the Kindle tablet could start a new era that beckons a major slugfest between not just Amazon and Apple, but also with other big players like Samsung and Motorola.

Amazon has brand recognition, a bevy of existing loyal Kindle e-reader owners, and a Web-based e-commerce platform that includes one-click access to buying e-books, movies, digital music downloads, its own Android app store, and streaming media catalog. That adds up to Amazon being uniquely suited to go head-to-head with Apple in the tablet market and become a formidable competitor across the industry.

. . . .

If the $250 price tag includes membership in Amazon Prime, as rumored, that price becomes a bargain. Membership in the service is a $79 value — effectively bringing the cost of the tablet itself to only $171, and providing additional value unique to the Kindle tablet. Amazon Prime provides free two-day shipping on eligible Amazon purchases, and has its own Netflix-like movie streaming service. For example, there are also rumors that Amazon is preparing a subscription model for e-books, similar to what Netflix offers for movies; the book subscription would also be included as part of Amazon Prime.

Amazon has already launched its own Android app store. The Amazon app store for Android integrates Android into the Amazon ecosystem, and the Kindle tablet will integrate Amazon into the Android ecosystem. The combination of the capabilities of Android and the brand recognition andrespect of Amazon will make the Kindle tablet a formidable competitor.

. . . .

For all of its potential advantages, the Amazon Kindle tablet also faces challenges.

First, just as there are those who prefer the 7-inch form factor, there are those who do not. At 7 inches, the display has significantly less real estate than a 9- or 10-inch tablet, yet it is still too big to fit comfortably in a pocket. It is possible that Amazon chose 7 inches to intentionally avoid direct iPad comparisons, or to make the device more appealing to the Kindle e-reader fan base.

Customizing Android could be brilliant, or it could end up being Amazon’s Achilles heel. Customizing Android enables Amazon to create a tablet experience that is unique to Amazon — setting it apart from the array of rival Android tablets and putting Amazon in control of updates rather than waiting around for Google. But, the burden will be on Amazon to continue to develop and maintain its custom OS, and splitting off from the Android pack could lead to app compatibility issues — especially as Android moves to its next-generation operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich, later this year.

Link to the rest at PC Magazine

Apple Cuts iPad Orders 25%

26 September 2011

From Bloomberg:

Several supply-chain vendors indicated in the past two weeks that Apple lowered fourth-quarter iPad orders 25 percent, the first such cut that analysts at JPMorgan’s electronic manufacturing services team in Hong Kong said they have ever seen.

. . . .

Reduced orders from Apple to iPad suppliers could reflect both weakening demand in Europe due to economic conditions there as well as a strategy by Apple, the world’s biggest company by market value, to operate with reduced inventory, Wanli Wang, a Taipei-based industry analyst at RBS Asia Ltd., said today.

“It’s back to reality,” Wang said. “Now it seems even for Apple, due to the market situation, we need to be conservative.”

. . . .

Apple’s iPad may account for 73 percent of tablet computer sales this year, according to research firm Gartner Inc. Products that run on Google Inc.’s Android operating system, including Samsung Electronics Co.’s Galaxy tablets, will probably have about 17 percent of the market, Gartner said in a Sept. 22 note.

Link to the rest at Bloomberg

Passive Guy is not sure what this might mean, but found it interesting in the face of Amazon’s almost-certain tablet announcement in a couple of days.


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