Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Assumption of Agents

31 March 2013

From Dean Wesley Smith:

Over the past few weeks I’ve been seeing a lot of posts about and by agents in different forums. For example, the White Glove Program Amazon has started, or a post about “Hybrid” agents.

. . . .

What struck me clearly is the belief, the solid belief, in these articles and many others, that agents are just here and a part of the new book world. It seems to radiate through every word.

It’s like you bought a house and someone is living in the basement and you believe without ever a question that you must feed that person, pay their expenses, and let them live in your basement because they were there when you bought the house.


. . . .

99% of all agents are buggy whip manufactures who are trying to convince everyone who buys a car you need a whip to keep the engine going.

Yeah, in most cases, it really is that silly. Not only do writers continue to believe you need a whip to start a car, at the same time they give agents all their money and all the paperwork with that money. And never once bother to even check the background of the agent they are giving all their money to.

. . . .

2… Fiction publishing contracts have become far, far too advanced for a normal English graduate to handle. (Which most agents are.) Very few agents are lawyers, let alone modern IP lawyers, let alone publishing IP lawyers. In this modern world you must have a publishing IP lawyer look over your contract, even if you have an agent. You get what you deserve if you don’t, I’m afraid.

. . . .

5… Most agents now work indirectly for publishers and the idea that agents work for writers is something left in the last century. There are exceptions to this rule, still, but not many, sadly. Now agents do everything in their power to take a lifetime percentage of an author’s work and many have set up their own publishing companies in the guise of helping their clients who could do the same thing for a ton less than a lifetime 15%.

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith

Sometimes I lie awake

31 March 2013

Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, “Where have I gone wrong?”
Then a voice says to me, “This is going to take more than one night.”

Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schulz

How Kickstarter is replacing the traditional publisher

31 March 2013

From author Michael J. Sullivan on A Dribble of Ink:

I’m a huge supporter of the hybrid model. Traditional publishing opened doors for me that I couldn’t get when I was self-published. Now that my books are in libraries and bookstore, my audience broadened. I received more foreign deals, and the advances on those were probably larger than they would have been without Orbit. There was even book club and audio versions produced, which paved the way so to Theft of Swords being named a finalist for an Audie (the audio book equivalent of the Grammy). These are all good things, but there are also aspects that I miss from my self-publishing days.

. . . .

Cash flow is one of the biggest. Money in traditional publishing comes in chunks separated by vast amounts of time. An advance is sometimes split over three or four payments. For instance, I receive a third when the contract is signed, another third when the manuscript is accepted, and the last third when the book is released. Multiple books deals are common in speculative fiction so that “big advance” is often stretched over several years. Also, eighty percent of titles never earn out, so the advance is the only money the author will ever receive. Even for those that do, royalty checks only come twice a year. With self-publishing, income comes every month like clockwork. It makes managing your life much easier.

Control is another obvious perk. I don’t dislike the covers that Orbit has produced, and as I said they sell well, but I do have my own “vision” for the package of my books and it’s incredibly satisfying to be able to produce Hollow World exactly the way I want…right down to the fonts used and the teaser copy on the back cover.

. . . .

I do know the incredible income potential of self-publishing. At my height I was earning more than $45,000 a month and I know hundreds of self-published authors who are earning more than comfortable incomes. In fact, I know more self-published authors who have quit their day jobs and earn a living wage than I do traditionally published ones.

. . . .

Hybrid authors, and particularly those that utilize Kickstarter as I and Brad have done, solved all of these problems. The Kickstarter provides the author with production capital, and if it goes well, will also receive an advance. Readers can buy with confidence because the author has previously received that all important “stamp of approval” from the publishers, and also validation from prior readers (the highest contributors to the Kickstarter) because they are willing to put down money to get more of what that author produces. Authors, who know firsthand the importance of editors and the value that they provide, will hire professionals from the money the Kickstarter raises.

Link to the rest at A Dribble of Ink

10 mind-blowing facts about

31 March 2013

From The Financial Post: was almost called “Cadabra” as in “Abracadabra”. That idea was struck down because CEO Jeff Bezos’ lawyer misheard the word as “cadaver”.

. . . .

Amazon’s warehouses have more square footage than 700 Madison Square Gardens and could hold more water than 10,000 Olympic Pools.

. . . .

Amazon owns 10 percent of North American E-Commerce. Office Depot, Stapes, Apple, Dell, WalMart, Sears, and Liberty all own another 10 percent of the market, the same size as Amazon. That leaves 1,000+ retailers to all fight for the remaining 80 percent.

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

Passive Guy would comment that etailers fight for their sales position every day. Amazon doesn’t “own” 10% of North American e-commerce, it fights for and wins that 10% because it knows a competitor is a mouse-click away.

Stephen King and his wife pledge $3m to Maine library

31 March 2013

From The Guardian:

Libraries can be scary places in Stephen King novels – such as the terrifying appearance of Pennywise the clown in Derry’s library in his novel It – but they appear to hold a special spot in the horror writer’s heart, after he and his wife Tabitha pledged to donate $3m (£1.9m) to their local branch in Bangor, Maine.

Barbara McDade, director of Bangor Public Library, told the Bangor Daily News that Stephen and Tabitha King had offered to pay one third of the $9m (£5.9m) the library is looking to raise for refurbishment, as long as the remaining $6m (£3.9m) is raised. “They have just been wonderful supporters of the library,” said McDade.

The Kings previously donated $2.5m (£1.6m) towards a new wing for the library in the 90s, said McDade, and “also replaced our front marble steps [six or seven years ago], which were worn to the point where they were dangerous”.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Brendan for the tip.

The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards

30 March 2013

And here’s a link to The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards


30 March 2013

Yesterday I was a dog. Today I’m a dog. Tomorrow I’ll probably still be a dog. Sigh! There’s so little hope for advancement.

Snoopy by Charles M. Schulz

Turow on Amazon/Goodreads

30 March 2013

From The Authors Guild:

Amazon’s garden walls are about to grow much higher. In a truly devastating act of vertical integration, Amazon is buying Goodreads, its only sizable competitor for reader reviews and a site known for the depth and breadth of its users’ book recommendations. Recommendations from like-minded readers appear to be the Holy Grail of online book marketing. By combining Goodreads’ recommendation database with Amazon’s own vast databases of readers’ purchase histories, Amazon’s control of online bookselling approaches the insurmountable.

“Amazon’s acquisition of Goodreads is a textbook example of how modern Internet monopolies can be built,” said Scott Turow, Authors Guild president. “The key is to eliminate or absorb competitors before they pose a serious threat. With its 16 million subscribers, Goodreads could easily have become a competing on-line bookseller, or played a role in directing buyers to a site other than Amazon. Instead, Amazon has scuttled that potential and also squelched what was fast becoming the go-to venue for on-line reviews, attracting far more attention than Amazon for those seeking independent assessment and discussion of books. As those in advertising have long known, the key to driving sales is controlling information.”

Link to the rest at The Authors Guild

You heard it from Scott, so it must be true.

Barnes & Noble is toast. Traditional publishers are toast. Indie bookstores are toast. Nobody there should come to work any more.

Expect the first Turow self-pubbed novel to appear on KDP in a month or so.


Why Didn’t Someone Else Buy Goodreads Before Amazon?

30 March 2013

From James McQuivey on Forbes Blogs:

I fell asleep on a train yesterday and missed one of the most noteworthy events of the week: Amazon acquired Goodreads.

. . . .

I’ll do my best to be objective in answering all the anger being expressed on Twitter and in the trades when I point out that Goodreads was not saving itself for Amazon like some virginal tribute. It has been sitting there, all along, waiting for the right offer to come along. That’s how venture capital works, people.

. . . .

I have an important question to ask, one that I am stealing from author Nick Harkaway (@Harkaway) who wrote this on Twitter the morning after:

The point isn’t that Amazon bought GoodReads. The point is why GoodReads wasn’t snapped up by a publisher years ago.

The obvious reason is that based on the rumors of a purchase price in the “low eight-figures” as some are confidently whispering, most publishers weren’t really in a position to buy Goodreads. Unless they had seen this coming and had bought it many years ago. Let’s say back in 2010, when I first urged one of the Big Five (are there five now?) publishers to buy it.

. . . .

Digital disruption is built on — and therefore requires — direct digital customer relationships. Publishers haven’t had direct relationships of any kind historically — in fact, they are the first to admit that their customer was the book buyer at Barnes & Noble. This used to be a good thing until digital disruption came in and made it not so much a bad thing as an old thing. In the race to grab a customer relationship publishers have worked hard to build pages on Facebook, they’ve tried to reinject energy into their genre portal sites (, anyone?). But none of them have managed to create anything as powerful and as useful to both themselves and to readers as Goodreads.

Only with a direct digital customer relationship can you learn from the customer in real-time, rapidly expand your total product experience, and easily offer new benefits to your customer.

. . . .

In each case, the solution to keeping up with digital disruption is to have a customer relationship, one that digital tools and platforms make incredibly cheap and increasingly powerful. Goodreads is one such tool. It still is, by the way, even now that publishers will be wary of it. And so I’ll offer this one piece of advice to publishers who may now feel like they should back away from Goodreads for fear that they are sleeping with the enemy: Don’t do it.

Link to the rest at Forbes Blogs

Neelie Kroes Wants to Make Europe the Home of eBooks

30 March 2013
Comments Off on Neelie Kroes Wants to Make Europe the Home of eBooks

From Good EReader:

In 2010, Neelie Kroes became the Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe. She has been a staunch advocate of eBooks and their accessibility for all citizens. She gave a talk in Salon du Livre, yesterday on the future of publishing in Europe.

Publishing in Europe has a long and storied history, for hundreds of years many companies have been in business producing some of the great literary works. Modern companies are facing a crisis because they are failing to adapt to the digital landscape that is starting to catch on in a big way. She mentioned “I know some see the advent of digital as a threat to the sector. But for me the biggest risk is that we fail to take advantage of new possibilities. Unless we embrace the future, the sector will for sure fall behind, overtaken by more forward-looking and dynamic parts of the world; overtaken by those who can look ahead and grasp the future. Then we will let down our economy, our people, and our cultural heritage. And as it stands we are not sufficiently taking advantage. We are not taking enough risks. In the US, eBooks are about one quarter of book sales; in only one European country does that figure go above 2%.”

. . . .

Neelie thinks that publishers have to think bigger then they are.”When competing with the American giants, piecemeal national initiatives won’t cut it. We need to think European to compete globally. Specifications and standards can help: for example, by supporting interoperability and portable eBooks. ePub is just one example. Most readers expect to be able to access their books in whichever country they are, and on whatever device they choose; if European publishers can’t meet those expectations, consumers will vote with their wallets; or go to the big American companies who can offer that kind of scale.”

European licensing remains a murky issue, for hundreds of years publishers have been printing books in their own countries and seldom exporting. Most scenes in France, Spain and Germany don’t translate that well to other countries and seldom do they see localization for your average title. Being able to market your books and gain the necessary permissions of the publishers to sell digital content to any country in Europe is something the industry has to strongly consider to develop a cohesive solution. There is also many different variations of VAT.

Link to the rest at Good EReader

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