Monthly Archives: December 2011

A woman’s nature is like a great house

31 December 2011
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But I have sometimes thought that a woman’s nature is like a great house full of rooms: there is the hall, through which everyone passes in going in and out; the drawing-room, where one receives formal visits; the sitting-room, where the members of the family come and go as they list; but beyond that, far beyond, are other rooms, the handles of whose doors perhaps are never turned; no one knows the way to them, no one knows whither they lead; and in the innermost room, the holy of holies, the soul sits alone and waits for a footstep that never comes.

Edith Wharton

The Great Digitization Or The Great Betrayal?

31 December 2011

From TechDirt:

One of the great tasks facing humanity today is digitizing the world’s books and liberating the huge stores of knowledge they contain. The technology is there – scanners are now relatively fast and cheap – but the legal framework is struggling to keep up. That can be seen in the continuing uncertainty hovering over Google’s massive book scanning project. It can also be observed in some recent digitization projects like Cambridge University’s Digital Library:

Over the course of six centuries Cambridge University Library’s collections have grown from a few dozen volumes into one of the world’s great libraries, with an extraordinary accumulation of books, maps, manuscripts and journals. These cover every conceivable aspect of human endeavour, spanning most of the world’s cultural traditions. While parts of the Library’s manuscript collections have already been published in print, microfilm and digital formats, we are now building a substantial online resource so that our collections can be much more accessible to students, researchers and the wider public.

That’s obviously a highly laudable aim. But the strict terms and conditions are not so praiseworthy:

Subject to statutory allowances, extracts of the Content and University Material from the site may be accessed, downloaded and printed for your personal and non-commercial use and you may draw the attention of others within your organisation to material posted on the site. Unless explicitly licensed or permitted by us, you may not:

use any part of the Content or University Material on the site for direct or indirect commercial purposes or advantage without obtaining a licence to do so from the University or its licensors

modify or alter the paper or digital copies of any Content or University Material printed off or downloaded in any way

sell, resell, license, transfer, transmit, display in any form, perform, hire, lease or loan any Content or University Material in whole or in part printed or downloaded from the site

systematically extract and/or re-utilise substantial parts of the Content or University Material from the site

create and/or publish your own database that features substantial parts of this site.

If you print, copy, download or use any part of the site in breach of these terms of use, your right to use the site will cease immediately and you must at the option of the University return or destroy any copies of the material you have made.

. . . .

Assuming that copyright dates from the “fixing” of the work, or from the date of the Statute of Anne, they would clearly have passed into the public domain long ago. One technique that libraries have tried to employ in order to maintain their control is to claim that the act of digitizing creates a new copyright, although this seems dubious. After all, the whole point of digitization is to capture as faithfully as possible the physical appearance of a text: an artistic interpretation of that physical appearance would defeat the object of the exercise. But without that artistic element there seems to be no grounds for claiming copyright.

. . . .

And to those who say that digitization costs money, and that those costs must be recouped in some way, consider this: holding books in a library, and making them available to the public, costs money too, but that did not prevent the great libraries of the past from providing access to their holdings for free. Those trail-blazing institutions knew that charging people to read would have been a negation of their central role in making knowledge freely available to all. And so it is today: a key part of the modern library ought to be making digital knowledge available to all, without charge, and without limitations.

This current trend to limit access to digitized versions of public domain materials is a real betrayal of the original mission of public libraries like the British Library. These made possible the opening up knowledge to huge numbers of ordinary people who otherwise would never been able to access these materials. Today’s massive digitization projects, which ought to be building on and extending that great tradition, are actually reversing it by seeking to take texts out of the public domain and charge for access to them. That’s not just a shame, it’s a scandal.

Link to the rest at TechDirt

Passive Guy is most definitely not an expert on British copyright, but US law requires some degree of originality on the part of the creator of a work for the work to qualify for copyright protection.

A US Supreme Court case, Feist Publications, Inc., v. Rural Telephone Service Co., 499 U.S. 340 (1991), involved Feist copying a phone book created by Rural Telephone. The Court held that Rural had no copyright to its white pages.

Black letter copyright law says that, while facts cannot be copyrighted, a collection of facts can be copyrighted. However, for any copyright, there must be some component of creativity or originality. In the Feist case, the court found an alphabetic listing of the names and phone numbers involved no creative expression. Even if it had, Feist would have been free to take the information in the phone book and organize it in a different way without violating the copyright.

While the organization of digitized versions of out-of-copyright works might qualify for copyright protection, picture-perfect copies of the the works themselves almost certainly include no originality giving rise to copyright protection.

The fact that putting together a collection of information is expensive or labor-intensive makes no difference in the analysis of whether the results are a proper subject for copyright protection.

Again, this is US copyright law. The law of other countries may differ.

Self-Publishing and Plagiarism – A New Place to Hide?

31 December 2011

From Self-Publishing Review:

Having reviewed as much non-fiction as I have, you are bound to come across those who have “borrowed” other people’s work and not given them credit for it. It doesn’t happen often in traditionally-published works, but it does happen. As a green reviewer early on, I missed one that was a direct rip-off of another authors work. It was embarrassing, to say the least.

. . . .

My own recent experience with some plagiarized material turned up an author who, when discovered and rejected by a mainstream publishing house, turned to self-publishing their work to circumvent the process. They skimmed off the Internet and produce e-books of gleaned material, and are selling it to the unsuspecting public. And while we can point it out, there isn’t much else we can do.

When the self-publishing firm was made aware that the material was indeed plagiarized, it was removed. But the works reappeared at the same publisher. It probably would continue even if it was mentioned to the publisher again. And, of course, with all the various self-publishers out there, this material could continue in publication regardless of how often it is identified and removed. All the plagiarist does is move on to another self-publisher.

. . . .

There are some real questions that are going to rise in the self-publishing industry. As these incidents are brought to the surface, and eventually make the front page of the New York Times book section, how is self-publishing going to stand up to accusations of fraud and/or plagiarism? We want this field to open doors for authors who would never have been given a chance to present their work to the public because the publishing houses don’t see enough money in sales or do not have enough funding to publish all the really great books out there. And we have the ultimate question of how is the public going to know if the work is just a rip off of another person’s work?

. . . .

Having discovered plagiarized work and exposed it in the past, I also know what dishonorable authors (read: con-artists) will do when they have their backs against the wall. Some of them lash out and attack viciously. Others just take the money and run. Someone has to say something, and there is never a “polite” way of saying “the material in this book is copied from other copyrighted sources [insert sources here] and therefore is plagiarized.”

. . . .

What is needed is a service that will check all books issued (notice I said ALL books) and report these plagiarized works. What we also need are self-publishers that will use this service and remove titles that have been so indicated. Where would the funding come from? Well, I would suggest all the publishers involved, including big houses, would also benefit from this. It would probably boil down to pennies per book, but in the long run, it would protect the copyrights of legitimate authors, it would protect both publishers, self-publishers and vendors from issues with plagiarized work, and it would discourage plagiarism and copyright theft. And in the long run, give the public honest work.

Link to the rest at Self-Publishing Review

Creative writers can be difficult to detect during job interviews

31 December 2011

From author coach and editor Mary W. Walters:

Until now, one entire class of worker has been overlooked in these analyses [of how to successfully manage employees]: the undercover writers—to be specific, those poets, dramatists and creators of literary fiction and non-fiction who have for one reason or another eschewed careers in academe, and whose parents and/or spouses and/or children are no longer willing to support them. Unable to make a living from creative enterprise, they have been forced to conceal their true vocations in order to seek employment among the rank and file.

The men and women who make up this segment of the workplace population are intelligent and crafty, and they have very little to lose. Indeed they could be dangerous if they worked together—but fortunately it is not their disposition to operate in groups.

. . . .

Creative writers can be difficult to detect during job interviews. Over time, many of them have built entire careers as fallback positions for their art, some even having acquired degrees in interesting areas of specialization like astrophysics or early-Victorian stage design. As result, they can be found not only in writing-related occupations, but in fields that range from railway maintenance to health care. However, they have learned that it does not suit their short-term goals to explain to job-selection committees that they intend to support a highly time-consuming writing vocation, quite aside from themselves and any dependents they may have, on the proceeds of the position for which they are applying.

If you suspect, perhaps through a particularly insightful or well phrased passage in the cover letter, or a rhymed couplet tucked into the resume itself, that you have a writer on your short-list, there is, admittedly, a fairly easy way to find out: you can Google the candidate.

. . . .

Here is the dilemma: if you do discover that you have a writer on your short-list, what do you do with that information? Do you share it with your fellow selection-committee members and run the risk of predisposing the outcome of the job-search process in favor of the writer? For despite the overwhelming evidence that no one is reading literature any more, there is still a cachet to having a literary writer on one’s staff; consequently the imaginations of many of your employees, including perhaps those on your selection committee (perhaps—admit it—even yours?) will be caught by the thought of hiring a “real writer.”

. . . .

Human-relations managers are generally relieved to hear that although poets are very different from fiction writers, and playwrights from nonfiction writers, literary artists of all genres do share certain basic characteristics that can be used to identify them in employment settings. Here are the most essential:

1. Writers are grateful: Particularly in the first few weeks and months after you have hired them, you will find them almost inordinately appreciative that you have given them a job, This is partly because after what has typically been an extended but futile period of full-time writing, they really do believe that they want to hang out with other people rather than doing battle every day with their solitary nightmares. Primarily, however, they are grateful for your company’s dental plan and optical coverage, and for the opportunity to buy orthotics;

. . . .

3. Writers suffer from attacks of inspiration. The first suspicion that a writer may be present in a workplace frequently occurs when such individuals leap to their feet in the middle of meetings and rush off to a washroom with expressions that suggest they have been possessed. Supervisors unused to working with writers frequently assume that such employees are displaying symptoms of alcohol abuse or drug dependency (which may also be the case, but that is not the subject of this article). However, follow-up often reveals these individuals to be crouched in toilet stalls not for the purpose of tipping back or shooting up, but in order to scribble messages to themselves. These are not mere “notes” – not grocery lists: they may in fact be outlines of award-winning short stories or scenes from future Broadway hits—or, indeed, entire sonnets;

4. Writers are subject to mood swings: Varying from mild to intense, these episodes are similar to the clinical descriptions of bipolar disorder or other pathological conditions (which may also be a problem, but are not covered in this article). Normally writer-related mood swings can be distinguished from treatable syndromes by the brevity of the highs (usually occasioned by having mailed off a story to a magazine, producer or publisher) followed by the protraction of the lows;

. . . .

The Fiction Writer

Writers of fiction who are in the grip of a creative project can seem absent-minded and even at times downright demented. They will come into the office after a weekend of writing or at the end of a creatively productive lunch-hour with no idea of the names of the people with whom they work (nor, indeed, at times, those to whom they are married or have given birth), and also uncertain of the month, the year, and especially the time of day. They may be unclear as to what city they are in, or even which country—and, in the case of speculative-fiction writers, what planet they are on. It is important for their co-workers and managers to realize that this phenomenon results from the fact that the world inside the writer’s head has temporarily become more real to him or her than you are. Please be assured that fiction writers do know the difference between the fictional world and the real one. Given a little nudge or a long, mystified look, they will return in an instant from an icy December day in 18th-century Croatia, take off their several sweaters, and be ready to add their two cents’ worth to the afternoon’s budget meeting.

. . . .

The managers who are most successful with writers on their staffs are those who recognize that 1) the writers do not want to be there and think they will be leaving at any moment, and 2) the writers are not going anywhere. The careful containment of managerial aspirations in regard to writer-employee advancement, combined with tactful accommodation of employee-writers’ dreams regarding their imminent fame and fortune, can lead to symbiotic relationships that will benefit everyone.

Link to the rest at The Militant Writer

 

KDP Select Free Book Results

30 December 2011

Indie book marketer Rose Andrade has researched author reactions to Amazon’s KDP Select program that allows authors to sign up for the Amazon Prime lending program and offer their ebook at no charge for up to 5 days during each 90-day period:

For the past weeks I’ve obsessively searched author boards and blogs for information about results on KDP Select. I must have read every post about it. Okay, maybe not all of them, but most of them.

I wanted to answer the question: How is KDP Select working for indie authors? While I didn’t find a definite answer, I observed a wide range of opinions on the subject, and I saw consistent patterns, which I share below.

Indie author’s perceptions of their KDP Select’s “free promotion”results

Author’s responses fall into three main groups:

  • Outstanding performance group: These are the authors who reported excellent results. KDP Select’s free promotion propelled their e-books to the top of Amazon’s charts. They’ve seen thousands of downloads. They’ve also seen sales trickling to their other items. They know they’re part of an exclusive group who achieved something outstanding and are astonished by their results. A good example in this group is author David Wisehart, who’s currently blogging his amazing free promotion success (spoiler alert: almost 10K downloads!) and his sales volume after his promotion ended.
. . . .
  • Pleased majority group: Authors in this group are pleased with their results, even if those results are more modest than the group above. Most authors are in this category. These authors reported a wide range of downloads achieved by the promotion, ranging anywhere from 50 to 600. What binds such a wide range together is the fact that all of these authors reported they made the top 100 charts in their specific genres/categories, or even the Top 100 on Amazon’s Free on Kindle Store ranking.
. . . .
  • Unimpressed few group: A few authors are unimpressed (and even disappointed) with low download numbers. I encountered reports of downloads as little as nine, eleven, and fourteen after their promotions ended. (One post was all I could find where the author claims to have zero downloads. It wasn’t clear in the post if the free promotion was over or ongoing.)

. . . .

Genre matters: Just like with e-books, the likelihood of getting thousands of downloads and becoming part of the Outstanding performance group is higher if your title falls in one of the popular genres. I recall reading a post from an author whose literary title download volume was about 1/5 of her science fiction one.

. . . .

Your self-pub age matters: Many authors in the Outstanding performance groupappear to have (what I will call for a lack of better word) seniority. They’ve been at e-publishing for a while and usually have a number of selling e-books under their belts (and perhaps solid networking platforms).

. . . .

As you may have noticed, I didn’t address the number of “borrows” that indie authors are receiving, for a number of reasons, which includes the fact that not everyone is reporting them. Conversely, those who reported are getting very few borrows. It seems that overall authors are less interested in making money from KDP Select’s fund than having the five free promotion days to gain exposure. Therefore, the real value of KDP Select for indie authors seems to be the five days of free promotion and the opportunities those can create.

Link to the rest at EPub World and thanks to husband Curtis for the tip.

You can include Passive Guy in Rose’s “Pleased Majority” category.

About three weeks ago, PG self-pubbed a fantasy manuscript that had been sitting on his hard drive forever. He just slapped it up with no marketing support. Sales were minimal. Don’t be like PG with your book!

On December 27, PG signed the book up for KDP Select and started a five day free promo. As of this morning, he’s had 375 downloads and the book has climbed as high as #37 on Amazon’s epic fantasy list. No one has borrowed the book so far.

The Titanboar Touchstone is free through December 31 (and worth every penny).

PG had not planned to mention the titanboars on this blog, in part because of the frequent presence of far more skilled authors than he, but decided adding his experience to Rose’s research might be helpful to others.

Based on his own experience, PG consulted with Mrs. PG and one of her books, Cankered Roots, started a free promotion today. Unlike her husband, Mrs. PG is a real author and this is the first in a series of mysteries featuring two genealogists who manage to find murder clues in the family histories of the victims.

The contract between the author and the reader

30 December 2011

The contract between the author and the reader is a game. And the game . . . is one of the greatest inventions of Western civilization: the game of telling stories, inventing characters, and creating the imaginary paradise of the individual, from whence no one can be expelled because, in a novel, no one owns the truth and everyone has the right to be heard and understood.

Carlos Fuentes

Who Controls eBook Rights?

30 December 2011

IP, publishing and entertainment lawyer Lloyd J. Jassin comments on the HarperCollins suit:

This article looks at HarperCollins’ recently filed lawsuit against eBook publisher Open Road, and the role legacy publishing contracts, and contract ambiguity, plays in the battle over lucrative eBook rights.

Let us consider HarperCollins’ legal position that the term “in book form” in a pre-Internet age contract includes eBook rights that were not expressly granted.

. . . .

In its complaint for copyright infringement, HarperCollins argues that its contract for Julie of the Wolves, a book first published in 1972, gives it the sole right to publish George’s novel in eBook form. It bases its argument on its interpretation of the term “in book form,” which it argues encompasses eBook rights.

. . . .

When a contract is ambiguous, the job of ascertaining the parties’ intent is left to the courts. To determine the parties’ intent, a court will consider the precise language of the grant (e.g., the existence of any “future technologies” clause, the inclusion or exclusion of a “reserved rights” clause), whether the parties contemplated “new uses” when the contract was entered into, and the sophistication of the parties. Since contracts are not drafted in a vacuum, courts may also look at industry practice. What this case makes very clear is that a contract is a private body of law between two parties.

. . . .

Most likely, the court will ask whether the distribution of books in digital form were recognized by knowledgeable people in the publishing industry in 1972.  The court will also analyze the contract to see if there are any provisions that tend to limit the “exclusive right to publish . . . in book form.” If the court finds there is no clear intent – which is often the case in dealing with a later developed technology — the court may decide the matter based on social policy considerations.

. . . .

New York courts have adopted one rule of contract interpretation that favors large entertainment companies.  The rule states that if there’s a broad and general grant of rights, an ambiguous grant will be interpreted to apply to technologies that were known at the time of the grant.

. . . .

Where things get interesting, is the impact of HarperCollin’s “future technologies” or “now known or hereinafter” clause.   Here the book publisher’s claim is much stronger, although, not all courts have enforced these provisions. For example, in Tele-Pac, Inc. v. Grainger, the court held that the license to distribute films for “broadcasting by television or any similar device now known or hereinafter to be made known” did not encompass videocassette rights. The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court, rejecting the lower court’s attempt to equate broadcasting with the grant of videocassette rights, held that distribution of a film by videocassettes was not analogous to broadcasting by television.

If the Southern District of New York adopts the Tele-Pac analysis, it could determine that “in book form” does not encompass eBooks.  Just as broadcasting by television is not analogous to the sale of videocassettes, distribution of physical books is not analogous to the sale of downloadable eBooks.  That is, a plausible argument can be made to suggest eBooks and bound books are two distinct media. If the batteries run low on your Kindle, Nook, or smart phone, the screen goes black.  Unlike an ad supported Kindle, or Nook you can synch with various electronic devices, bound books are low tech, and can survive trial by fire and water.  For example, legible writing on papyrus over two thousand years old has been rescued from the fiery ruins of Pompeii. By contrast, the shelf life of a portable e-book reader is probably three to five years, and no eBook can survive a dip in the lake or fire.

. . . .

While HarperCollins pleads one count of copyright infringement, its complaint often reads like a complaint for breach of contract and state law unfair competition.  Reference is made to a provision in George’s contract that requires HarperCollins to ask George to consent to the license of “computer, computer-stored, mechanical or other electronic” rights.  It’s unclear if this provision supports the publisher or Open Road.  The drafter of the complaint makes a point of stating that George’s ability to withhold consent, does not give her the ability to grant any third party the right to publish an eBook edition.   While the original advance paid to Ms. George, the royalty structure of the publishing contract, and publisher’s P&L for the book, did not value non-volume eBook rights, the exploding market for e-books, and the very real danger Open Road poses, is recognized in several places in the complaint, but no more poignantly than in paragraph 29:

Open Road’s unlawful exploitation of those rights is directly competitive with sales of the Work in paper format and HarperCollins’ own plans to publish June of the Wolves as an e-book.  Open Road is understandably content to allow HarperCollins to have made its considerable investments in the Work, only now to reap where Open Road has not sown, by seeking to divert sales of the Work from HarperCollins in the rapidly expanding e-books market.

HarperCollins’ attorneys may be accused of trying to stretch the definition of “in book form,” but, it is hard to take issue with the proposition that a publisher should be able to protect its investment in an author’s work. While the grant of primary rights does not mention eBook rights, the court may find it unfair for Ms. George to collect royalties from her print publisher, while, at the same, time enjoying a royalty stream for the same work from Open Road.  However, there’s scant case law on the enforceability of non-compete clauses found in publishing contracts.  Even in the absence of a non-compete clause, there is an implicit duty in every publishing agreement that neither party will do anything that will destroy or injure the right of the other party to enjoy the benefits of the contract. While this doctrine is riddled with exceptions, is not without force.

Link to the rest at CopyLaw

Passive Guy doesn’t completely agree with Mr. Jassin’s analysis, but neither of us have seen the entire underlying publishing contract.

PG is surprised a copy of the contract wasn’t attached to the Complaint. He is also surprised the Complaint didn’t quote the entire paragraph under which HC is pursuing its claim. PG speculates that the remainder of the paragraph may be unhelpful to HC’s contentions.

If everything is on sale, then the sales price doesn’t look that enticing

30 December 2011

Some excellent perspective on holiday sales from Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

 Amazon UK announced that the Kindle was their top-selling item this Christmas season. Not only that, it was the top gift-wrapped item this season—a detail I love. (How many brick-and-mortar retailers can tell you that statistic?)  More than 2.1 million Kindles sold from the end of November through Christmas in the United Kingdom alone.

This is fantastic news for writers with a digital presence, whether through their traditional publisher or through their own indie publishing program. The UK has been relatively slow to adapt to e-readers, partly because of pricing barriers.

In fact, all of the European Union has pricing issues, which I’m not going to go into here. But suffice to say what it has done is slow the e-book sales in Europe, so that only the hardcore reader and/or computer user adapted to the new format.

Those pricing issues are fading, especially in England. So that, plus the low-end Kindle being offered at 89 pounds (about $138) will lead to a significant rise in e-book sales.

I already noticed it in my UK sales this morning. My US Kindle sales aren’t that different than usual, but there was a flurry of buying on the UK site on Christmas night and into the day after.

Still, I don’t expect much difference for my books in the next month or two, and neither should any other writer with books at the usual price.  Right now, every traditional publisher on the planet is offering a deal to catch the new readers.

. . . .

The new readers will learn how their Kindles work. They will realize that they won’t have to buy everything they want immediately in case it goes away, like they did in a brick-and-mortar store. The new readers will learn about sampling, and they’ll learn that they can set up a wish list to keep track of titles that will remain available. And eventually, they’ll become as jaded as the rest of us.

But all this planning, all these hopes, all of these attempts to manipulate the new post-Christmas sales season will go awry.

Why?

Because everyone is doing it.

I’ve already seen some backlash. Indie authors on Christmas night wondering why they didn’t have a magical miraculous huge uptick in sales. Indie authors expected it immediately.

Traditional publishers did too. They’re going to want to know the effect of their promotions—how many new readers did the promotions bring in? And they probably won’t bring in nearly  as expected.  Because—think about it—if everything is on sale, then the sales price doesn’t look that enticing.

The sale isn’t special.

If everything is on sale, the reader has wandered into a virtual discount store—only this discount store isn’t full of remaindered items that couldn’t sell. This discount store is filled with stuff that everyone wants.

There’s too much, and the reader won’t even get a chance to see it all. In fact, the reader will probably quit looking at some point because she’s so overwhelmed.

So guess what’s going to happen? We’ll all see analysis in the next few months on how e-book sales weren’t as big as expected.  In-house at traditional publishers, there will be an examination of the promotions, and that examination will determine that most promotions don’t work.

Of course, the sales will have improved, but everyone will be complaining because their expectations were unrealistic. Rather than seeing the improvement as a good thing, they’ll look on it with disappointment, wondering what went wrong.

Then e-book sales will plateau as the new readers actually read what’s  on their devices, instead of shop on those devices. This is what happened last year. There was a huge rush of sales in the weeks after Christmas, and then the sales dropped off.

. . . .

You can’t absorb millions of new devices into a system and not have an uptick in book sales. Mark Coker discusses this in his Smashwords blog: “If the patterns we observed last year hold true again, we’ll see a massive stepping up of the sales rates across all retailers in the first few days after Christmas, followed by a week or so of moderation, and then a new normal going forward that is significantly higher than the sales rate for the weeks and  months immediately preceding Christmas.”

But in this gotta-have-it now environment that traditional publishing (and some indies) have gotten themselves into, the drop off  (or moderation, as Coker calls it) will look catastrophic. That catastrophe, on top of yet a larger first quarter drop off in paper book sales, will have every traditional publisher reassessing everything they do.

Because their business model won’t let them wait until the second quarter. Their business model demands a huge improvement in each quarter—and since they predicted a brilliant first quarter, and they’ll probably only get a good one, they’ll see that as a failure.

And what will happen in the second quarter? We’ll see what the actual post-Christmas growth really is. We’ll know what the new plateau is. We’ll know if we’re getting ten times more readers or twenty times or three hundred times. We’ll see how the growth is actually working.

. . . .

A directive came down from Barnes & Noble corporate in the middle of December, telling all the brick-and-mortar stores that they had to prepare for an influx of books. I don’t have a link to this: several people who work at B&N in management let me know when the directive came down, partly because it had an unintentionally funny line: Apparently, B&N corporate said to its staff, “We underestimated the interest in books,” and that was why B&N was scrambling to fill its brick-and-mortar stores with paper books.

Um, der.

This was after The New Yorker put B&N on the cover in a rather nasty way—quite shocking when you consider that B&N advertises every week in The New  Yorker, and one of the cardinal rules of magazine publishing is not to piss off your advertisers in a recession. Here’s the cover:

I think B&N got the message. I hope they filled the stores with books. I didn’t get a chance to check because I got sick at that point, then Dean got sick, and then there was no leaving the house before the holidays.

Usually, however, these corporate directives do lead to action. So if B&N did increase the amount of books it stocked in the last few weeks before Christmas, then fourth quarter numbers will show that paper books sales went up more than expected.  B&N is now the largest bookstore chain in America, and as such will have a large impact on book sales whenever it remembers that it’s an actual bookstore, and not a place to sell toys or games.

People will have purchased a lot of those books at B&N as gifts. No matter how the various e-reading sites try to develop a good way to help consumers give electronic books as a present, nothing is more satisfying than wrapping a book and placing it under the tree. A lot of the B&N customers who bought books for presents only go into B&N at Christmas time, so they probably didn’t even know that for a while B&N didn’t carry many books at all. These customers bought their holiday books, ticked an item off their Christmas list, and moved on to other stores without a backwards glance.

And those folks won’t return until Christmas 2012.

. . . .

If B&N’s corporate masters are that clueless, then they will expect that uptick in paper book sales to increase in the first quarter. And like all first quarters in the paper book part of the industry, paper book sales will decrease. They might even drop off precipitously, considering that the only people who went into bookstores in January, February, and March were book lovers, all of whom have, like me, developed new ways to find their paper books.

If B&N has a dramatic downturn in paper books, then the entire paper book industry will have a decrease. It won’t be as bad as the first quarter of 2011, when traditional publishers finally realized that Borders really and truly was going to go bankrupt and no one could stop it.  But it won’t be pretty.

Combine that with the first-quarter plateau in e-book sales, and what will you get? Incredible doom and gloom from all of the traditional industry pundits long about the first week of April. The sky will be falling yet again, even though more books will have been published than ever, more books (of all types) will have been purchased than ever, and the industry—the overall industry (not just traditional publishing)—will be healthier than it has been in decades.

. . . .

The narrowing of taste—appealing to the editor, the sales force, the bookstore—means that only certain types of books get published. And as Emily Casey points out, those folks know only what they, their friends, and others like them will enjoy. Those buyers don’t take into account the reader in Cincinnati who wants a romance set in 1850 Ohio or the reader in Japan who wants a modern version of Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book.

Those readers might not buy in bulk—they might not buy thousands of copies in the  month of a book’s release—but they’ll buy. And then they’ll convince their friends to buy and so on.

And suddenly, books that had no hope in New York publishing will sell thousands of copies. And since the writer is not making pennies on each copy but dollars, the writer will earn a living wage (or better).

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

The 10 Stages of Indie Publishing

30 December 2011

From novelist Joanna Weiss:

Last summer, I took a giant publishing-industry leap of faith and put my novel, MILKSHAKE – a satire about mommy wars, politics and breastfeeding extremists — on Kindle and Nook as an independent e-book. I thought of it as an experiment: Dead Tree Girl meets Brave New World. Months later, reviews are coming in, sales are going out, and every writer I meet wants to know how it works.

Short answer: I’m still figuring it out. Long answer: Like everything that has to do with writing, indie publishing is a strange hybrid of business transaction and emotional journey. I got my book out there and I’m thrilled every time someone reads and likes it. But I’m still experimenting with the way to drive sales and waiting for the tipping point when word of mouth starts spreading on its own. Meanwhile, I’ve taken up marketing as another full-time job. Self-publishing is a process. For those of you considering it, here’s how I’ve been working through the 10 Stages of Indie Publishing.

Stage 1: Self-loathing. After months of silence, during which you chew your fingernails to small, pathetic nubs, agent reports back that she hasn’t sold your book to a major house. Consider the possibility that the kid who teased you on the schoolbus in seventh grade was right: You are a loser.

. . . .

Stage 6: Editing. Get a fellow writer to give you the brutal, no-holds-barred edit you would have wanted a publisher to give. Suffer. Rewrite. Develop a deep-seated hatred for your book. Develop a deep-seated hatred for all books, words, letters, and squiggles that are vaguely shaped like letters. Emerge, months later, with a book that has probably improved. You’d know for sure if you could stand to read it.

. . . .

Stage 9: Terror. What do you mean, you just upload the file to Amazon and it’s on sale? That’s it? OK, I’m going to click here…now. (Pause.) Holy $%*^&(.

Stage 10: Abandon any sense of shame. It’s a scientific fact: People with shame don’t sell as many books. These days, you’d be doing a lot of marketing on your own, even if you were published by a traditional house. Send a review copy to anyone who will take one. Set up a Facebook page. Talk book up to friends, relatives, acquaintances, frenemies. Slip book title into conversation. Write notes on little cards printed with the cover of your book. Post on blogs.

Link to the rest at Beyond the Margins

HarperCollins UK Saw 100 Thousand eBook Downloads on Christmas Day

30 December 2011
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From eBookNewser:

It looks like everyone had a record number of eBook downloads on Christmas day. HarperCollins reported yesterday that their servers are just beginning to recover from the many new customers who downloaded eBooks this weekend.

Over 100,000 eBooks published by HarperCollins UK were downloaded on that single day. This was both a record high as well as over  times as high as the average daily downloads during December 2011.

Link to the rest at eBookNewser

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