Monthly Archives: May 2013

In search of a happy ending

28 May 2013

From Futurebook:

Recent news and analysis of publishing has made me wonder if the book business is hoping for its own ‘happy ending’. This happy ending looks something like this: Whilst a few die-hard geeks use their Kindles and iPads to read ebooks, ‘proper’ readers wander around bookshops and libraries sniffing the pages as their children sit outside under a tree reading a book of poetry (printed book obviously).

In the face of all the evidence, some in the industry seem to be pursuing their own narrative, namely ebook sales are declining or at best ‘plateauing’, people still love print books (which will ensure their survival for many years) and that we’ve got digital licked. Nothing to see here, please move along.

In an Amazon/iTunes world – where the digital gatekeepers deny us access to the actual sales data – as an industry we seem to be allowing wishful thinking and some (at best) dodgy maths to write the ending ‘we’ seem to want. An ending that is an emotional response to changing times rather than based on the stark light of commercial reality.

This piece in USA Today is a great example. E-book sales are up 43%, but that’s still a ‘slowdown’.

. . . .

• “We’ve just reached a point of natural resistance — there are people who really prefer to read on paper even if it is cheaper, faster and easier to read on a device,” says Mike Shatzkin, a publishing consultant and organizer of the annual Digital Book World conference.

• “Consumers have settled into their book formats of choice,” says Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch. “Physical book sales will have a longer tail than previously anticipated.”

. . . .

1.     Can we tell how $$ revenue relates to units of ebooks? 

Yes, we can. We know that unit  $$ for ebooks has been decreasing year on year. If we look at these particular stats from Publishers Weekly, for this segment, sales of e-books rose to $2.07 billion from $869 million as units increased 210% to 388 million.

Based on these figures we can see that the average ebook unit price has fallen from $5.34 to $4.72. With the unit $$ for each ebook decreasing then an increase in revenue represents significant larger increases in units sold.

. . . .

In these various articles, Barnes & Noble have revealed that 25% of their unit ebook sales are for self-pubbed books. Kobo’s CEO Mike Serbinis revealed the following; ‘In some countries, our ebook units sold from Writing Life are on par with one of the big-six publishers. In one of our countries, self-published books [as a category] is beating the largest publishers.’

With Amazon taking by far the largest chunk of the market and being the strongest performing ebook sales channel for self-pubbed authors. (Anecdotally taking between 30 & 40% of sales).

We could conservatively say that 30% of ebooks sold across the major platforms are to self-pubbed authors.

Link to the rest at Futurebook

Amazon’s New SciFi, Fantasy, and Romance Subcategories

28 May 2013

From author India Drummond on The Writer’s Guide to E-Publishing:

Funny thing happened when I went to Amazon last week to browse for something new to read. I noticed that there is a whole new mess of categories, subcategories, and what they’re calling “character categories” and even “theme categories”.

How exciting! It’s always good to have more specific and better categories. The question was how to get in them.These categories are not available via KDP. A fellow fantasy author told me she wrote to Amazon to ask them to put her books into the one of the new categories. They rather inexplicably told her that they couldn’t, that the books in the categories must be non-KDP books, because they didn’t show those choices in their control panel.

After some experimentation, I think I may have found the secret.

Here are the new categories for fantasy:

. . . .

One thing you may notice if you’re a fantasy author is that they’ve now dumped “contemporary” and “paranormal” together into one category called “Paranormal and Urban”. So if you used Contemporary Fantasy as a category before as well as Paranormal Fantasy, you’ll want to choose another.

. . . .

Here are the genre / character /theme categories:

Fantasy:

Sci-Fi:

Romance:

Now, how do indie authors get into these categories if those choices aren’t shown in KDP?

. . . .

I did some experimenting with my keywords inside the KDP for Ordinary Angels. (They used to show up as ‘tags’, but as you’ve probably noticed, Amazon has stopped readers from being able to view and use tags on its main website.)

Here’s where I mean:

(The categories I chose for this book are Romance > Paranormal and Fantasy > Paranormal, which is why it shows up as Paranormal / Paranormal above.) I chose the first four tags aiming at those character lists, the next one as a generic search term, and the last two aiming at theMystery genre category.

A few days later, this shows up on the book’s page:

AA

 

Link to a lot more at The Writer’s Guide to E-Publishing

A word is not the same

28 May 2013

A word is not the same with one writer as with another.  One tears it from his guts.  The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket.

Charles Peguy

The World Cannot Survive Without the Publishing Industry

28 May 2013

From Digital Book World:

When it came to getting a book published and distributed to a wide audience, it used to be that publishing houses with editorial, production, marketing and distribution operations were in the driver’s seat. All but a select few authors could dictate where the relationship went, how fast and under what terms.

With the emergence of self-publishing as a viable option for wide distribution of books, things have changed. The number of authors who can plan their own route has increased and many authors who may have been at the mercy of agents and publishers had they been working decades ago are now selling hundreds of thousands of books on their own and making headlines with unprecedented publishing deals.

These hybrid authors bounce freely between self-publishing works to signing deals with publishers, depending on where they think they can get more money or creative control or whatever they’re after. They sometimes work with agents and sometimes don’t. Many of them have started their own small publishing operations to help bring other authors’ work to market.

One of these hybrids is Sylvia Day, the best-selling author of 22 novels and 20 novellas. Day gained reader and media attention in 2012 with her blockbuster hit Crossfire series, which started out as self-published and then was sold to Penguin. Earlier this year, Day made headlines again with a seven-figure ebook deal with Harlequin and Cosmopolitan magazine for two titles.

. . . .

JG: That’s a fast introduction to the industry. So, when did you start self-publishing?

SD: I started self-publishing when I got the rights back to two stories that had previously been sold to Ellora’s Cave and Amber Quill Press. Those were seven year grants of contracts. I repackaged them [the ebooks] and put them up. I also had done shorter stories that had been part of larger collections that didn’t have exclusive rights granted. I started out by reissuing published works. I did that for a few years and found that to be very lucrative.

Then I wrote Bared to You [the first book in the Crossfire series] which was my first work of original full-length fiction that I self-published.

I was pretty disenchanted with New York [shorthand for the publishing industry writ large] when I started self-publishing – getting paid every six months and the antiquated returns and consignment system that they have going from the great depression. All of my books have earned out and still it’s a shell game as to how many returns there are going to be on this particular statement versus the last statement.

With self-publishing, I’m getting paid every 30 days. I can live off of my self-publishing income quite comfortably. Living off my royalty statements every six months was impossible. It’s ridiculous to be getting paid twice a year.

JG: And what have been the sales results – self-publishing versus traditional publishing?

SD: I’ve sold a lot more books self-publishing*. And some of it is a head-scratcher to me. I sold a contemporary Christmas story to Ellora’s Cave in 2005. It had a seven-year grant of rights on it. They had the book for sale non-stop all the way from 2005 to 2012. It was everywhere, never unavailable. I had my edition ready to go when the grant of rights expired. I sent a note to them and they took their edition down and mine went up. As soon as mine went up, it became a New York Times best-seller for weeks. It became Kobo’s best-selling [self-published] book.

. . . .

* Note: As of now, Day has sold more units through Penguin’s acquisition of Crossfire than through self-publishing. Entwined With You, the latest in the series, comes out June 4 and has already sold one million units. The series as a whole is up to nearly nine million units 

. . . .

JG: You mentioned that Kim Whalen helped you with the process. Can you talk about your relationship with agents and their value to a hybrid author like yourself?

SD: I’m on my fifth agent. I’ve had an agent with every one of my contracts.

. . . .

I never wanted to be someone who just sits down and writes just for the hell of it. This is my career. Being a long-term writer is so tremendously about strategizing and constantly switching your game and being proactive. And your agent is supposed to be a sounding board for that to hit the pavement. That’s their job. I didn’t think I was getting that. Their strategy was to sell as many books as they could while ‘She’s hot.’ They just said, ‘Crank out as many books as you can and you’ll get there.’

So I fired that agent and hired another. That agent came on board and saw everything I had on my plate and said, ‘I don’t even know what to do with this.’

. . . .

JG: What do you think publishers do well in the ebook era?

SD: I’m going to have to divide this up between paperbacks and ebooks. I don’t think publishers have any advantage whatsoever for ebooks. They’re at a huge disadvantage. They overcharge. They have complicated distribution agreements which limit them for offering ebooks in sertain areas. We have issues with ebooks being available to libraries. I honestly cannot say that it would be a wise decision for an author to sell a digital edition to a publisher unless they have some different terms in the contract to limit the disadvantages.

On the print side, publishers have a tremendous advantage. The print marketplace has not accepted self-published books. They don’t like books that are not returnable. They still go out in the system as a print-on-demand book. Distribution for self-published authors for print is abysmal. That said, it’s up to publishers to get print distribution which can be problematic. Simon & Schuster is having tremendous problems with Barnes & Noble right now.

. . . .

Publishers should use the paperback side to leverage the ebook side. They have to do a better job at distribution, marketing and promotion. Unfortunately, I’m not seeing that happen. This is still a learning curve for publishers. Some of them understand that they have to make themselves viable and relevant. Some are not.

But the world cannot survive without the publishing industry so I’m sure they’ll pull it together.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Dead Writers Perfume

28 May 2013

From Etsy:

Dead Writers Perfume/Cologne Oil 5ml Bottle - Tobacco, Heliotrope, Vetiver, Black Tea, Vanilla (Read Below if Sold Out)

The Dead Writers blend is now available in a perfume/cologne oil. This blend evokes the feeling of sitting in an old library chair paging through yellowed copies of Hemingway, Shakespeare, Fitzgerald, Poe, and more. The Dead Writers blend makes you want to put on a kettle of black tea and curl up with your favorite book.

. . . .

This bottle contains black tea, vetiver, clove, musk, vanilla, heliotrope, and tobacco. It can be worn by either sex.

Link to the rest at Etsy

Local Author Bestseller List

28 May 2013

From Shelf Awareness:

Every month, the Monte Cristo Bookshop, New London, Conn., which opened last December after a successful crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, compiles a top 10 local author bestseller list, an important part of the new store’s effort to create partnerships with local authors and build up its local sections. “It gets the authors jazzed up,” co-owner Chris Jones said. “And it creates some friendly competition.”

Jones and co-owner Gina Holmes keep the store’s local author display “within five feet of the door,” selling books by local authors on consignment, taking 40% of the retail price, which is set by the author. The pair keep a binder of all the local authors with whom they are partnering that contains each author’s sales data, which they use that to put together the bestseller list. “We just go through the list and look at how much they have this month, how much they had last month,” Jones said. “And we make a note if they did an author event where they sold a ton of copies.”

. . . .

Monte Cristo Bookshop usually brings in one new local author per week, and according to Jones, the store keeps nearly 100 local titles. “Without keeping the list, I could have guessed that a couple of [these local books] would be popular, but it would be very difficult to map any trends,” he said. “It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with local authors.

“And if the New York Times is allowed to have a top 10 bestseller list, then so are we,” Jones added, laughing.

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness

Tips for Shared Worlds and Collaboration Between Independent Authors

28 May 2013

From author Charlotte E. English via Lindsay Buroker:

One of the best things about digital self-publishing, in my opinion, is the flexibility it offers: there’s so much freedom to write, and subsequently publish, anything our imaginations can come up with. There is also the freedom to find new and unusual ways to produce, and present, fiction.

There are downsides, of course. One of the objections I hear the most to self-publishing is its isolated nature: there’s no one but you to get your book written, produced and published; no one to help you promote your book, or find its target market. But we’re making the rules, here. What’s to stop authors from forming collectives? Why not take the burden out of world-building by creating a team-built shared world? Why not work with a group of writers, to produce a series that never has to end? Why not create a group who’ll pool their efforts, share connections and help each other out?

. . . .

It’s probably fair to say that collaboration of this kind doesn’t necessarily come easily to writers. Most of us are used to working alone. The prospect of pouring the ideas of five complete strangers into a pot and coming out with a coherent world was a daunting one at first. Fortunately we had good leadership from our project founder, Joseph Robert Lewis – and this is the first thing I’d say any collaborative group needs. Joe got the ball rolling by taking lists of random ideas from everyone in the group and then getting us to vote on genre, theme, background and significant features in our world. What we ended up with was a steampunk/high fantasy world, a mysterious island floating in our skies, and such diverse features as talking birds, Shadowy assassins, steam-powered cars and flying machines and magical artefacts.

After that, it took a lot of emails and a lot of posts on our wiki site to hammer out the details. Was this easy? No, certainly not. It took months, and a lot of negotiating. We all had to learn to be as flexible as we could; to say “yes” as much as possible, and rarely to say no; to be both generous with sharing our ideas, and not too personally attached to them.

. . . .

Managing all this shared material isn’t as hard as it may sound. For a start, there are no co-written stories; each one of us is responsible for creating our own, separate books and for publishing them, too. That means there is no royalty sharing, and we each retain full rights to our own work and our own characters.

Everything else in our world is the joint property of the group. This, too, isn’t as difficult to manage as one might think. By this time, I struggle to remember which parts of our world were my ideas, and which came from others; we’ve spent so much time merrily digging in our sandpit that it doesn’t feel individualistic anymore. New ideas are always run by the whole group, and difficulties are rare.

Link to the rest at Lindsay Buroker and thanks to William for the tip.

Amazon’s Workers in Germany Stage Second Strike

28 May 2013

From The Wall Street Journal:

Amazon.com Inc. workers in Germany staged a second strike over wages and benefits Monday, services employees union ver.di said, highlighting a shift in the way labor agreements are negotiated.

About 250 workers, roughly half of the morning shift, went on strike at Amazon’s Leipzig distribution center, ver.di representative Joerg Lauenroth-Mago said. He expects the number to grow during the day.

This is the second strike this month by Amazon employees in Germany. On May 14, about 900 workers walked out of the Leipzig and Bad Hersfeld distribution centers, demanding Amazon adopt industry-wide wage agreements for its 9,000 employees in Germany, rather than using its own pay scale.

. . . .

In Germany, many companies belong to employers’ associations, which collectively negotiate agreements between labor and management. Several U.S. companies operating in Germany, including Ford Motor Co. (F) and General Motors (GM), are members of such associations.

Over the past decade, this system has begun to falter, said Mr. Helfen. The inability of some companies to agree on acceptable wage levels led to some leaving the associations, and since reforms of 2004, it has become easier for companies to opt out of industry agreements and negotiate directly with unions.

. . . .

Amazon Monday defended its wages saying: “Our employees earn toward the upper end of the pay scale compared to other logistics companies. The entry wage for an Amazon employee is 9.30 euros [$12.02] an hour, plus bonus, after one year more than EUR10, and after two years, employees get shares in the company.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

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