Monthly Archives: January 2012

Publishers Sour on Tablet as Reading Platform

31 January 2012

From Digital Book World:

As tablet sales surge and put downward pressure on dedicated e-reader ownership growth, publishers are pessimistic that tablets will provide readers with an enticing reading platform.

According to a recent Digital Book World survey, conducted by Forrester Research, 31% of publishers think iPads and other tablets computers are the ideal e-book reading platform, down from 46% a year ago. Only 30% of publishers think reading tablets like the Nook Color and Kindle Fire are an ideal reading platform. This question was not asked in the previous year’s survey.

. . . .

“The devices [tablet computers] are capable of so many more distracting things,” said James L. McQuivey, Ph.D., vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, who conducted the survey. “If you have an iPad and 15 minutes to kill, are you going to do something more cognitively difficult like reading, or something brain-dead simple like going on Facebook or watching a YouTube video?”

. . . .

Kindle Fire owners read e-books on the device more than any other activity. A recent survey of 216 Kindle Fire owners by RBC Financial Group found that 71% list reading e-books as one of the two activities they do the most on the device. “Brose the Web” came in distant second at 39%.

These data about crossover devices contrast greatly with data about the iPad – only 53% of iPad users read books at all on the device, according to a September 2011 survey by Forrester.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

When he awakened again he could stand

31 January 2012

When he awakened again he could stand, and did. He doused his head in cold water and drank four glasses of water. The water made him sick and after that he began to shake with a chill. He went into the bedroom and lay down on the bare blood-stained mattress, but got up almost immediately to go stumbling and staggering in haste back to the bathroom, where he got down on hands and knees and searched the floor until he had found the rusty razor-blade. He sat on the floor and put the razor-blade into his vest-pocket. Putting it in, his fingers touched his lighter. He took the lighter out and looked at it. A cunning gleam came into his one open eye as he looked at the lighter. The gleam was not sane.

Dashiell Hammett

How Much Does an Ebook Cost a Traditional Publisher?

31 January 2012

From author and regular commenter Lily White LeFevre:

I was talking to my husband about publishing over dinner the other night, trying to explain to him why I’m not going to be pursuing a traditional publisher any time soon and what it would take for me to do so. He listened to my description of the rights grabs and the eternal shelf-life of digital and the low royalty rates, and said, “Well, when a business is failing from being outcompeted, sometimes it trims the fat and fixes the problem and sometimes it just grabs everything it can before it goes under.”  Obviously big publishing is doing the latter.

I told him that what I would require to even consider a publisher is a 50% split on cover price for digital, and that even then the publisher would have to work to convince me they are worth 50% of my book forever.  If they really focus on “distribution and promotion” as he called it, then maybe.

Anyway, I thought it might be fun to think about what the actual cost to a publisher would be to put an ebook together, therefore how many copies they would need to sell in order for the book to become profitable.

. . . .

A few key assumptions:

  • There is no editorial tinkering involved–the editor acquired the manuscript as-is with just a few polishing and tightening edits.
  • The author is a careful writer who has good grammar, a readable prose style, and didn’t leave a ton of typos.
  • The book is 80-90K, so it will take an editor about four hours to read if they just read it.
  • I am working with a no advance, 50% of cover price split for digital royalties.
  • The entire cost of production is being put on the ebook, because the print book has become the ancillary format.

I know from my own editing work that I need about three passes after the initial read-through to make a substantive macro- and line-edit. We’ll double the amount of time to allow for marking up and making notes. So…4 hours for base read + 3 passes x 4 reading hours x 2 double the reading time for editing = 28 hours of editing before it gets sent back to me.

The next round of edits only needs 2 passes, so 2 x 4 x 2 = 16 hours.

Then a round with the copyeditor, 2 x 4 x 2 = 16 hours.

Then a round with a proofreader, 2 x 4 x 2 = 16 hours.

Then it goes to the formatter. For a novel-length ebook that will take about four hours (basing this on my experience of two hours for a novella, but only some of that time would be increased by a longer work) = 4 hours.

The copywriter spends an hour coming up with the back matter = 1 hour.

Upload to various sales channels = 1 hour.

That is 82 staff hours. We’ll assume they get $20 per hour on average (obviously the big editor gets more, but I bet the copyeditor, proofreader, and formatter all get less, so it averages out). I am using $40 as my multiplier to account for business taxes.  The total cost in staff time needed to get my manuscript converted to an ebook and uploaded is therefore 82 x $40 = $3280.

The only other fixed expense is the cover art, which can probably be gotten for $300, but we’ll say they are really concerned and pay more. We’ll make it an even $1000 to add in the five minutes it takes somone to slap on the title and author.

Total bill is $4280.

Let’s round it up to an even $5000 for easy math.

. . . .

We’ll assume the publisher uses the mmpb price of $7.99 as their cover price.

Retailers take 30% of that, leaving $5.59 per copy coming back to the publisher. If they pay me 50% royalty on every copy sold, then we need to sell 1790 for the publisher to break even.

. . . .

My prediction is: this kind of split is how publishing houses have to go in order to survive the digital revolution. If they can add a legitimizing value to consumers who don’t want to have to vet for quality, only content, and can get immediate access to promotion avenues a self-publisher can’t or has to be very lucky to hit, then they might remain worthwhile business partners.  But right now, an author demanding 50% of cover on digital would get laughed out the door, unless their last name is Rowling or Meyer or King or McCarthy…and possibly even then.

Link to the rest at Lily White LeFevre

Passive Guy will note that it’s never taken him anything close to four hours to format a manuscript for an ebook. If he did it every day, it would probably be less than 30 minutes.

The Last Bastion For Books

31 January 2012

From author Shawn Lamb:

Everyone knows the turmoil Amazon caused in December 2011 with its Amazon App Day and then starting the Kindle Select Program and putting out a blanket invitation to self-published authors to join. But what may have slipped noticed is an article in from the UK on the Mail Online. The article shows that Amazon’s cutthroat pricing practices are crossing the Pond.  Around the same time Amazon was putting pressure on American Retailers and causing outrage here among U.S. Senators and the DOJ, it sent out emails to its Amazon Affiliates in the UK about matching Amazon’s prices or else be dropped.  It caused such a stir that the British Government is launching an investigation into predator practices of Amazon.

Now, this might sound like some company overreaching – except for the next article, which gives insight into why Amazon is suddenly on the move and more aggressive in pushing for dominance.  This article found in Business Week is titled “Amazon’s Hit-Man“.  Amazon hired one of the most influential publishing insiders in the business, Larry Kishbaum, and did so with one goal, to take down the Big Six!

. . . .

This leads to the third article from the NY Times, The Bookstore’s Last Stand, with the subtitle, Barnes & Noble is in the fight of its life – with Amazon!

. . . .

Can you image life without a bookstore? Every aspiring writer and published authors’ aim is to get into the brick-and-mortar stores; to be asked for a book signing, to hold the final paperback or hardcover edition of their labor of love. Borders, B. Dalton and others have already closed. Barnes & Noble has over 700 stores nationwide, if it falls, game, set and match to Amazon. What then? Where will Amazon go to have its paperback and hardcover books put on the shelf? Wal-Mart, Costco? Not likely. Books-A-Million is hiding behind B&N’s shield, once B&N is gone, BAM won’t stand a chance. This makes B&N the Last Bastion for Books.

The implications from these 3 articles is staggering when one stops to consider where the future of publishing is heading. Yes, the current system and Big Six need to clean up their act, but do we – authors and readers – need them to be totally wiped out and only 1 left standing?

. . . .

What are you doing to help B&N – or any bookstore – to stay in business? Do you frequent a bookstore for purchases (not just comparing prices) or go straight to Amazon for all your reading and publishing needs via e-books?

Link to the rest at All-on Writing

Can Passive Guy imagine life without a bookstore? No. That’s why he’s happy to have Amazon.

Barnes & Noble? You mean the puzzle/game/toy store? You mean the Barnes & Noble all the literati were trashing when it was putting Meg Ryan and all the other perky indie bookstore owners out of business a few years ago? Why has Barnes & Noble all of a sudden become the bookstore-that-must-be-saved? Did Meg Ryan buy one?

For PG, Amazon is a far better bookstore than his local Barnes & Noble or the carbon copy that’s 15 miles away or 25 miles away.

Why?

1. Prices are better on Amazon.

2. Recommendations and reviews are far better on Amazon. At Barnes & Noble, you walk in the door and see advertisements – tables that big publishers paid Barnes & Noble to cover with books the publisher specified. At Amazon, you see books that are selling well in their genre, including books by indie authors. (Did PG mention prices?) At Amazon, PG sees intelligent recommendations based on what he’s purchased recently. The last time PG received an intelligent recommendation in Barnes & Noble was 1999 or maybe 1997. (He doesn’t actually remember but thinks there was an intelligent recommendation some time during that decade. Meg Ryan looked much better back then too, before all that plastic surgery gone bad.)

3. Amazon actually has books PG wants in stock. If he likes one book by an author, he can find lots of other books by the same author, even if they were published more than a year ago.

4. Ebooks. PG is pretty much done reading physical books. This isn’t a big dogmatic attitude. Herds of physical books still occupy Casa PG. But PG just enjoys the reading experience more on his Kindle. The last time PG checked, Barnes & Noble doesn’t carry Kindle ebooks.

A couple of random points:

“Yes, the current system and Big Six need to clean up their act.”

The Sinaloa Cartel and Los Zetas need to clean up their act, too. PG isn’t sure whether they’ll beat Los Big Publishing to the cleaning up stage or not.

“Every aspiring writer and published authors’ aim is to get into the brick-and-mortar stores; to be asked for a book signing.”

Of the published authors PG knows on a face-to-face basis and has seen at book signings in brick-and-mortar stores, approximately 99% hate the experience and find it a huge waste of time.

When PG and Mrs. PG show up in the bookstore for a mercy visit, the expression on the friend/author’s face is about what it would be if they were serving hard time in Leavenworth and we appeared with cookies and an escape plan.

When Nothing Sells for Full Price

31 January 2012

The Bookseller had an article behind its paywall yesterday concerning agents’ complaints about high discount clauses. The proposed solution was to move to a royalty base of net revenues.

Following is a reprise of a post Passive Guy first released several months ago that discusses how high discount clauses can screw authors out of royalties. The high discount paragraphs are one of those publishing contract clauses that most authors seldom read.

Long-time publishing pro Mike Shatzkin talks about pricing books and dividing the sales revenue:

The division of the consumer’s dollar across the publishing value chain has a history of change. When I came into the business 50 years ago, discounts from publishers to retailers often topped out at 44% and even wholesalers seldom got more than 48% off the retail price on hardcover books. Today discounts into the mid-50s for big retailers and for wholesalers are common.

The top royalty for authors was, as it is now, 15% of the retail price, but there were fewer exceptions allowing the royalty to be cut, contractually or in practice. Today “high discount” clauses, calling for a royalty of something less that 15% of retail (and sometimes a lot less than 15% of retail) will often apply to more than half of the sales the publisher makes. (It is also true that in those days the agent’s standard cut was 10%. The 50% increase they’ve achieved to 15% is the single biggest change in share in the past 50 years.)

Lower royalties subsidize higher discounts and higher discounts have subsidized price cuts to the consumer. Discounting off the publishers’ suggested price by the retailer was rare until the Crown Books chain, which had a meteoric tenure as a major retailer from the mid-1980s until the mid-1990s, made it a core component of their offering. The Barnes & Noble and Borders chains, which rose to prominence during the Crown decade, used the tactic, although less aggressively than Crown.

All of these numbers: the discount determining what the retailer will pay; the royalty calculated either as a percentage of the stated retail price (usually printed on the book) or of the net paid by the retailer on a high-discount sale; and the ultimate consumer price (whether what the publisher printed or lower if the retailer wants it lower) are based on the price the publisher sets and prints on the book in the first place. The informal internal formulas for setting the price have changed over the years too and, although it is a bit hard to really compare, it would appear that the markup over manufacturing cost has also risen steadily over the past 50 years.

So we had reached a point, somewhat before we had the Internet and Amazon.com, where, on big books at least, the publisher would charge a price higher than they expected the consumer to be charged, give the retailer a discount larger than many retailers would keep as margin, and state a percentage as the per-copy royalty in the main body of the contract that didn’t apply to most of the sales. One could say there was a “virtual” world in trade book publishing’s value chain before the term was applied to our new digital reality.

The core underlying point here — obvious but often ignored — is that the division of revenue across the value chain is never fixed. That’s important to remember as we consider how the ebook chain is shaping up. One hears authors and publishers arguing about what is the “fair” division of the ebook consumer’s dollar (as if “fair” had anything to do with it, which it doesn’t) and we have a very unsettled picture of what the retailer’s share of that dollar will be (even though Apple is doing its best to be definitive about it.)

. . . .

Another value chain segment the industry is still trying to value and price is the percentage a distributor can charge in the digital world. There’s wide variation here already, as there is in the print world, where the same bundle of services (sales, warehousing, shipping and returns processing, collecting receivables) can cost anywhere from around 20% to around 33% (fully loaded.) In ebook distribution, we see BookBaby willing to set up for a fixed fee (with no percentage deducted), BookMasters and Smashwords and some agent services like Knight charging about 15% of the revenue, and then offers from various publishers, distributors, and literary agents that go as high as 30% of the revenue.

Usually those offers are framed as “we pay 70% of revenue” which, I think, some hope will be confused with the 70% the agency retailer pays of the consumer dollar. Of course, if they are paying 70% of the revenue on a wholesale account buying at 50% off and the account doesn’t discount to the consumer, the distributor is actually paying 35% of the consumer dollar to its client.

The challenge for distributors is to offer services which don’t commoditize. Many authors already manage their own digital publishing affairs and sneer at the idea that a distributor or publisher has anything to offer that is worth even a token payment, let alone a substantial share. Over time, one can imagine information dashboards, metadata enhancement, dynamic pricing, and marketing assistance capabilities that will give ample justification for a distributor’s presence in the value chain for many authors and small publishers. It would be premature to predict how much value can be added and how much margin it could command. Most of these roads aren’t paved yet. What the distributors are offering at the moment is their ability to navigate unpaved roads and constant marketplace change which, despite the skeptics, is service many of us can see the need for.

What gets perhaps the most attention in the industry’s conversation about dividing the digital swag, but which is dependent on the upstream divisions of revenue, is the author’s royalty from the publisher. The majors have held the line for a year or two at 25% royalty, which means 25% of the 70% they get from the retailer, or 17.5% of the consumer’s dollar. That’s a quarter of what the author can get from Amazon or Kobo, and just a bit more than a quarter of what they can get from Barnes & Noble. Aside from publishers’ significant efforts to build marketing capabilities that will grow sales and their ability to charge a retail price often four times higher than an author would on his/her own, the publishers are offering guaranteed payments (advances against royalties) and a print revenue stream to sugar-coat the 25% digital royalty. Still, as the percentage of books sold digitally rises, it is likely to pull up the percentage of the sale authors will get along with it.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

Passive Guy will emphasize one of Mike’s points on printed books. An author needs to pay close attention to the royalties payable for discounted books, inexpensive hardcovers, etc.

A typical royalty clause in a publishing contract will lead with a 15% royalty based on the retail price of a hardcover book, followed by trade and/or mass market paperback royalties. Somewhere down the page will be a royalty for discounted books. Sometimes, this royalty is half the royalty payable for full-priced hardcover, trade paperbacks, etc. Sometimes the royalty is calculated on the net amount received by the publisher instead of the cover price.

It’s important for an author to understand that a large percentage of sales will typically come from discounted books. Sometimes the definition of a discounted book means that all or virtually all sales will be “discounted” books. Instead of 8% trade paperback royalties, an author will receive 4% discounted trade paperback royalties, sometimes calculated on a lower royalty base than list price.

PG has seen royalty statements in which 98% of all books sold during a six month period were discount books with a teeny per-book royalty. In some cases, these statements included books that were newly-released during the royalty period – 98% of which were immediately discounted.

The solution discussed in The Bookseller article – calculating royalties as a percentage of net revenues – is also fraught with pitfalls for hardcopy books. If you think it’s hard to audit royalties based on a percentage of cover price, it’s a walk in the park compared to auditing deductions and charges that happen before you arrive at net revenue.

The simple fact is that Big Publishing is not going to agree to a new  widely-used royalty structure that results in an increase in overall royalty rates for authors. And, for all their good intentions, agents are not in a position to either force this on publishers or deal with the inevitable cooked accounting records that net-revenue royalties will unleash.

Kobo exec bemoans ‘unlevel playing field’

31 January 2012

From the Montreal Gazette:

If Canadians can buy digital books without paying sales taxes, Canadian e-book providers face a slippery slope, a Kobo Inc. executive says.

Daniel Budlovsky, Kobo’s vice-president of finance, was responding to an observation that Quebecers who buy e-books from his company pay about 15 per cent in taxes, while their neighbours, who buy through industry giant Amazon.com Inc., pay no taxes.

“That should be atrociously viewed by the Canadian public,” Budlovsky said from his Toronto office.

“And the Canadian government should look really closely, I think, at how resident taxpaying companies that employ Canadians … have to compete on an unlevel playing field.”

Then there is the different tax treatment within Canada of digital books and paper books, whereby provincial taxes are applied to the former but not to the latter.

. . . .

Strictly speaking, Canadians should pony up federal and provincial sales tax even if they are not billed for them by out-of-country companies, said John Bain, a partner in KPMG’s Indirect Tax Group in Canada.

“There is a mechanism to do it, but I would suggest to you that the compliance would be rather low,” he said.

No kidding. The taxing question of how to deal with digital books is a global issue, Budlovsky and Bain noted.

After signalling its intentions well in advance, France defied the European Union position by slashing its value added tax rate on e-books. That measure took effect Jan. 1.

Luxembourg followed France, also allowing e-books the same preferential rate accorded print books.

Link to the rest at the Montreal Gazette

Passive Guy is sick of all sorts of people who want to increase the price of books – electronic or paper.

Does Kobo Guy think Amazon will pay Canadian sales taxes? Of course not. Amazon’s customers will pay sales taxes, just like they do in those jurisdictions where Amazon has to collect sales taxes and just like they pay VAT where Amazon has to charge that.

PG can’t get on board the “books are too cheap” bandwagon of all the people who can’t wait for Amazon to start charging higher prices.

PG has no problem whatsoever looking for the lowest prices for books or, for that matter, anything else. If no sales taxation results in 15% lower prices, PG thinks that’s fine.

The idea that it’s a patriotic duty to pay as many different taxes as you possibly can doesn’t compute for PG.

If Kobo Guy wants to be patriotic, PG suggests he write a check to the Canadian Finance Ministry. $1,000,000 (Canadian) would help PG feel much better about Kobo Guy’s personal commitment to paying higher taxes.

I Heard a Disturbing Rumor – Part 2

31 January 2012

A few days ago, Passive Guy discussed a blog post at edittorrent about one or more agents reportedly asking for 15% of royalties from self-published books.

Author, lawyer and musician Pete Morin posted the following comment:

PG – there is a slight chance that this rumor might actually refer to me and my agent, because I have written something about it previously.

When my agent and I together made the decision that I would self-publish Diary of a Small Fish (the manuscript she had under contract – we’d waited 9 months for 6 editors to not respond), we discussed a strategy to pursue and how it would change the nature of the working relationship we had. Essentially, I had a second manuscript on the way, and we both wanted to continue to work together. She is a big believer in the idea of “building the author’s career” (the – ahem – “garbage”), she’s sold a lot of work for her authors, several of whom have both traddy and SP works in the market, and she works harder than any human being I’ve ever met.

My point in the post was that if we rewrote her job description to include activity outside of the typical agent’s (e.g., promote the book and the author in professional circles, help obtain panel/speaking assignments at conferences, raise profile, etc.), there should be a means of compensating her. In short, I proposed to compensate her, and she declined. So, we continue to work together anyway, and she awaits my second manuscript.

So if this is indeed referring to my situation, the rumor has turned the truth on its head. The agent did NOT demand or even ask for her commission, and when offered it, she declined.

I realize this upsets the cynical characterization of The Literary Agent these days, but there really are a few out there who actually get it, and embrace the dynamism of the marketplace. Being a battle-scarred 56 year old litigator, I can take care of myself, too.

PG is happy to heap scorn and ridicule on the seemingly endless supply of perfidious swindlers who prey on authors, but doesn’t want anyone who doesn’t fall into that class to be improperly labeled.

How Amazon’s KDP Select Saved My Book

31 January 2012

From author David Kazzie:

One week ago, my book was dead in the water. And I mean dead. After a promising start last summer, sales crashed, completely, totally and spectacularly, despite wonderful reviews (from people who didn’t even know me!). From December 1 through January 24, I sold 21 copies on Amazon. One on BN.com. And that was it. Barely enough to fund a lunch date for me and my wife. The previous couple months hadn’t been much better. To be honest, I was trying to forget the book even existed as I worked on my new manuscript, my internal doomsayer wondering how badly I’d effed my career with a self-publishing disaster.

Now, I’d first heard about Amazon’s KDP Select Program during the holidays. Here was the deal: In exchange for providing Amazon a 90-day exclusive, authors get their book(s) listed with the Lending Library, which allows Prime members to borrow books electronically. Second, authors would be able to run free promos — for each 90-day period I enroll in Select, I could make the book available for free for up to five days, divided however I liked.

At first, I wasn’t sure what to think about it, especially given the exclusivity requirement. Part of me was aghast — how dare they ask me to pull my book from the other retailers! And then something occurred to me. Between October 1 and December 31, I had sold a grand total of …. ONE book on all the non-Amazon platforms — that one sale on Barnes & Noble.

. . . .

I woke up early again Friday the 27th and checked to see what was going on. The book was back in Paid status, and it had been borrowed through the Lending Library for the first time. I noted a few sales hit as I got ready for work. This was pretty awesome, as I hadn’t been sure what to expect — remember, I’d only had nine sales in January, and I was set to top that while eating breakfast. Now I had heard that the big sales bump for Free-to-Paid came about three days after it came off of Free status, but I didn’t know how accurate that was. Regardless, I didn’t want to get my hopes up on the first day.

Then sales started to pick up. It went from 225,000 to 38,000 to 10,000 on the bestseller list in short order. Then it hit 4,573 (the best ranking the book had ever had), and although sales continued to pick up, it only rose a few hundred spots in the afternoon. I pictured the book doing mighty battle with other books in the 1,000 to 5,000 range, and I wondered if this was the Wall. Was this the place where my book would have to make its stand?

And then it broke through. It hit No. 549 by late afternoon, and No. 151 by dinnertime. It settled at No. 76 by the end of the night, but the sales kept rolling in, even late on a Friday night. It’s currently ranked No. 1 among all Kindle legal thrillers, No. 2 among ALL legal thrillers, and even No. 44 in Fiction and Literature, which I really like because it sounds very official.

. . . .

Early Friday morning, the book continued to appear on the Free bestseller list, even though it switched back to Paid. There was a little bubble above the price marked “Why is This Not Free?”, and if you scrolled over it, you got Amazon’s explanation about it (although I can’t quite remember what the explanation is) — regardless, the now-$2.99 book was getting bestseller exposure even though it wasn’t really a Paid bestseller. This only lasted for a couple of hours, but I think it helped get the ball rolling.

Also, I had so many free downloads, the book began to appear in other books’ “Customer Also Bought” pages. Amazon doesn’t seem to care if these books mix together on the Also-Bought lists, so many more people were seeing the book once it switched back to Paid status, even though all its prior traffic was due to free downloads.

. . . .

The thing that bummed me out the most, though, was the complete disconnect between hits on my viral animated videos and book sales. The videos continue to draw about 1,000 hits per day — amazing, right? But my research suggests that this translated into no more than a few dozen sales — a couple hundred at the very most.

Link to the rest at The Corner and thanks to Greg for the tip.

All Romance and DRM

31 January 2012

From publishing expert Mike Shatzkin:

All Romance is a specialized ebook retailer. To serve the romance reader community more effectively, they’ve built out the BISAC taxonomy for romance, adding more categories. And they’ve added a metadata element called “flames” which basically measure the frequency and explicitness of the sex scenes in any particular book.

The romance world, particularly among the cognescenti in it, is a very anti-DRM environment. And an outfit like All Romance, which has no “device lock-in” working for them — essentially everything they sell gets “side-loaded” somehow, and DRM can often make that more challenging — is right in step with their community sentiment. So the survey contained questions trying to get at the audience attitude about DRM.

There were two relevant stats that I recall. One is that only about 20% of even All Romance’s readers really resist books with DRM. That is to say: 80% don’t. But the factoid that grabbed me is that 96% (that’s not a typo: ninety-six percent) of the ebooks they sell do not have DRM.

All Romance also reports that 91% of the titles they have available are protected by DRM. That makes sense, since all the titles from all the Big Six publishers and all the titles from Harlequin except those from their new digital-first imprint, Carina, have DRM.

What this means is that the nine percent of All Romance’s offerings that do not have DRM are selling 96% of their units overall. And since only 20% of their customers find DRM as a strong deterrent to sales, that means those fledglings are outselling all the majors for other reasons.

This provokes two very important lines of inquiry to me, and neither of them have anything to do with DRM.

The first one would be top of mind to me if I were a major publisher. What are these books that are selling like hotcakes? Why are these books selling like hotcakes? Why can’t we publish these books that are selling like hotcakes?

. . . .

They’ve obviously aggregated an audience that is buying a lot of books that major publishers are missing. Some of this is due to price, undoubtedly, since the All Romance stats also showed robust sales at price points below where the majors are usually most comfortable. Some of it could be attributed to a raunchier title selection being compiled by the smaller upstart title selection (remember All Romance’s “flame” ratings.) Some of it might be loyalty to authors who could be signed up by majors with the right offers.

But if 24 out of every 25 books being sold by a pretty damn big specialist retailer to the biggest ebook genre that I competed in were outside of my immediate competitive set (which, for the Big Six, is basically each other and Harlequin), I’d want to know more about the details of that.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

Our Enduring Love/Hate Relationship With Linked Books

31 January 2012

From Dear Author:

Some conversations in romancelandia never go away: accuracy and authenticity in historical romance, whether Jamie Fraser of Outlander is a great hero or the greatest, and whether series books are wonderful or maddening or both. Coincidentally, I was about to finish the last book of an eight-book series when I saw a column lamenting the lack of stand-alone books in romance. I was nodding my head in agreement when I suddenly stopped and thought, wait a minute. I’ve been reading series and linked books in the romance genre as long as I’ve been reading romance, and these include some that were written before I was born. Are there really more series books and less stand-alone novels? Is it that we notice series more because we talk about them as a community? Are they publicized more, by authors and publishers? Or is it just something we have mixed feelings about so the conversation never really goes away?

There are a number of ways books can be linked to each other in a series.

(1) They can feature the same characters over a number of novels, like Eve and Roarke in J.D. Robb’s In Death series, and the relationship develops over the installments. Among non-genre books, the development of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane’s romance by Dorothy Sayers is one of my favorites.

(2) They can feature a shared world, with different main characters in each books; previous characters make quick or more extended appearances, the way strangers and friends do in real life. Meljean Brooks’ Guardian and Iron Seas series are contemporary examples of these; Mary Burchell’s Warrender Saga books and Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire novels are blasts from the past.

(3) They can revolve around a family or set of friends, with each member of the group starring in his or her own book. They can be single-authored or multiple-authored. The Bridgertons, the Cynsters, the Mallorens, the Bedwyns and the Black Dagger Brotherhood come to mind immediately when I think family/friends series, and I don’t even read Laurens or Ward.

When I stop and think about it, romance is the only genre among the ones I read regularly where readers complain about too many series. The SFF and mystery genres are dominated by series, and the debate usually rages around issues of quality (Wheel of Time) or time between books (I know, George RR Martin is not my bitch), rather than whether they should exist at all. Characters can grow and change (Rebus, Dalziel, Spenser), or they can remain almost cartoonishly static (James Bond, Mickey Spillane, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys).

Link to the rest at Dear Author

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