Monthly Archives: August 2013

Is Customization the Answer for Boosting D2C Publisher Sales?

31 August 2013

From Publishing Perspectives:

Nearly every publisher is chasing the direct-to-consumer market. But the question for consumers has always been, “why should I buy a book direct from a publisher at full price when I can buy the same book from an online retailer, such as Amazon or Overstock, at a deep discount?” The answer is likely to be this: personalization and customization.

This can take a variety of forms. To cite just one example, Illinois-based Sourcebooks offers the Put Me in the Story app, which allows parents to personalize a selection of Sourcebooks titles, as well as licensed material from Sesame Street and The Berenstein Bears, by making their child a character within the text.

. . . .

The question remains “what happens when publishers begin offering even more radical personalization and customization?” Imagine the potential of a Big Five trade house offering you the opportunity to choose your binding (leather, cloth or paperback), typeface, font size, trim size, even color of the book, adding whatever options you want, and having it POD drop-shipped to your house in a day or two (see: Nike ID). Maybe you want the entire run of Penguin Classics in pocket-sized editions made to look like Moleskine notebooks? The technology already exists, but the question is how to leverage it on a large enough scale that it becomes a disruptive force. (Want to steal back customers from Amazon, this may be the way to get it done.)

. . . .

Raccah says that Sourcebooks expects by the end of 2014 at least 20% of the firm’s sales will be the result of direct-to-consumer transactions. That said, she counterintuitively adds, rather than perceiving so many sales shifting to D2C as a problem for her retail partners, who might view those transactions as lost sales, it’s really an “advantage.”

“The stuff we’re selling online is not typically stuff that could be sold in a retail environment,” she says. “For example, we might sell complementary materials that are exclusively available via our retail partners, which would bring them new customers that the didn’t have before because they were only buying online.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives and thanks to Eric for the tip.

PG says the last part of the article raises an interesting issue for publishers despite the hand-waving by Sourcebooks’ CEO. Going direct-to-consumer doesn’t just cut Amazon out of the sale. It also cuts physical bookstores out of the sale.

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Great Literature

31 August 2013

Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.

Ezra Pound

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Free Dragon Charm for Pre-Ordering

31 August 2013

From agent Kristin Nelson:

In the changing landscape of publishing, it’s all about pre-orders these days. The actual sales racked up before release day can seriously make a difference on whether a book will land on the NYT or USA Today list or not. So publishers are getting creative in tempting readers to buy early. And Sourcebooks is going all out for SCORCHED.

A Gift for You, for Pre-Ordering SCORCHED by Mari Mancusi

We have a special offer for U.S. and Canada YA fans for the release of SCORCHED by Mari Mancusi in stores in a little over three weeks! If you pre-order the book, we will send you an exclusive dragon charm—perfect to wear as jewelry or to decorate an accessory. You have until September 2 or until quantities run out.

Link to the rest at Pub Rants and thanks to Eric for the tip.

PG likes the idea, but doesn’t think many teen-aged boys will find it compelling. The book is a 12-and-up YA fantasy with a female protagonist, so promoting to the female market may make sense.

Maybe the most important value of this promotion is that the publisher can capture email and physical addresses of readers for future book promotions.

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Long Odds for Authors Newly Published

31 August 2013

From The New York Times:

“The Cuckoo’s Calling” became the publishing sensation of the summer when word leaked that its first-time author, Robert Galbraith, was none other than J. K. Rowling, the mega-best-selling creator of Harry Potter.

. . . .

“It makes me sad,” Roxanne Coady, founder of R. J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, Conn., and the online retailer JustTheRightBook.com, told me last week from Maine, where she said she was sitting near a stack of unread new books. “Because not everyone turns out to be a J. K. Rowling. It reminds me how difficult it is for even good books to succeed.”

. . . .

Ms. Rowling’s last book, “The Casual Vacancy,” an adult comedy of manners published under her name and the first since the end of the Potter series, was met with high expectations and withering reviews from prominent critics. Michiko Kakutani wrote in The New York Times, “the real-life world she has limned in these pages is so willfully banal, so depressingly clichéd that ‘The Casual Vacancy’ is not only disappointing — it’s dull.” The Los Angeles Times faulted “Rowling’s inability to engage us, to invest us sufficiently in her characters.”

Still, with hardcover sales of just over 1.3 million copies, it was the No. 1 hardcover fiction title of 2012, according to Publishers Weekly’s annual ranking, outselling John Grisham, James Patterson and Danielle Steel.

. . . .

In any event, a publishing contract is hardly a guarantee of critical or commercial success. Much depends on how a new manuscript is treated by the publisher. Morgan Entrekin, the president and publisher of Grove Atlantic, is widely viewed as a master at introducing new literary talent to the marketplace. He published “Cold Mountain” by then first-time novelist Charles Frazier, which went on to win the National Book Award and sell over 11 million copies.

“There’s no question, if a publisher decides to get behind a book, to invest its publishing capital, to use its traction with the chains, with Amazon, fight for the promotion money to get the book into the front of stores, you can do a lot to bring attention to a worthy first novel,” he said.

. . . .

 “I invested tens of thousands of dollars and a lot of publishing capital over nine months because I believed in that book,” Mr. Entrekin said. “This is what publishers can do to add value. It’s not slapping on a name like J. K. Rowling.”

. . . .

Of course, most new books don’t get that kind of support. Suffice it to say that “The Cuckoo’s Calling” didn’t, even though Ms. Dewey told me it “was treated like any new novel by a first-time writer. Little, Brown sent out bound galleys and talked it up to retailers, as they do with all new titles. We aim for all of our books to reach the widest possible audience and make every effort to market and publicize each title in a way that connects it with that audience.”

I spoke to several book retailers, at both large chains and independent stores, and not one could recall seeing an advance reading copy, or hearing anything from the Little, Brown sales representatives.

“There was absolutely no buzz,” Ms. Coady said. “There was no direct correspondence from the editor or a publicist. We didn’t hear anything from the sales representatives. They’ll usually tell us that there are five to 10 books on their list that we want to make sure you read. They know our customers and what they like, so we trust them. This book wasn’t one of them. I don’t know if we bought any copies. Maybe one.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times

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Picture Book Templates Arrive for Kindle Authors

31 August 2013

From book designer Joel Friedlander:

Although we’ve been able to wrangle Microsoft Word into producing great-looking print and ebooks, authors have faced quite a challenge if they want to produce picture books for the Kindle and other ereaders.

Taking all the experience gained this year from producing the 14 book templates available on the site—for fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books—Tracy has now managed to create a template that will make this possible with a minimum of fuss.

We call this template design Fable. I asked Tracy to explain just how big a breakthrough this is for do-it-yourself authors, and to explain how it works.

. . . .

Until now, picture eBooks have generally fallen into two distinct formats: fixed or free-flowing. Most eBooks today are formatted with a free-flowing layout, where text and images run from page to page with only marginal control of how the pictures and text mingle on the page.

This works great for fiction and non-fiction books alike, but it falls short when an author needs precise control of the page layout for a picture book. Free-flowing eBooks have also become a self-published author’s standby because they work on the widest variety of devices and are easy to make since you don’t have to do a lot of programming.

. . . .

With strict limitations on style and compatibility, most picture book authors resign themselves to hiring professionals to develop several versions of their picture eBook in fixed formats. Other authors simply give up and release free-flowing picture eBooks and hope that readers understand which pictures and text are supposed to go together.

. . . .

With Fable, we have created a new hybrid format that combines the best of both fixed-layout and free-flowing eBook layout styles in one template.

. . . .

Your picture book’s layout in Word translates safely to the screen of your favorite eReader device.  Pictures and text stick together and what you see in Word looks similar to the output of what you will get on the eReader’s screen, giving you much better control over how the book will look in final eBook form.

. . . .

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Link to the rest at The Book Designer

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Kobo stops using the Amazon-owned Goodreads API

30 August 2013

From GigaOm:

Kobo is no longer using the Goodreads API to provide book ratings and reviews on its websites and apps. Maybe that’s not surprising, since Goodreads was acquired by Amazon in March.

. . . .

That means no more Goodreads ratings and reviews on Kobo book pages. It sounds as if the decision was driven by Kobo, not Amazon: The company’s chief content officer Michael Tamblyn tells Good E-reader that Kobo might re-add the Goodreads API in the future. And back in March when Amazon acquired Goodreads, the companies told me they would leave the Goodreads API open and would not shut off the Kobo feed.

Link to the rest at GigaOm and thanks to JR for the tip.

Since PG was not that familiar with the Kobo site, he went there and looked at several books. In the absence of any reviews, the only information about the book’s content was the publisher’s summary. Not a compelling sales environment without some sort of third-party comment on the book’s quality.

PG doesn’t think he would have cut off Goodreads reviews (as little as he likes some of them) without having a substitute ready to plug into the site. Sending a potential purchaser elsewhere to learn more about a book’s quality risks that purchaser never returning to actually buy a book.

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An upheaval in the author’s soul

30 August 2013

Great literature must spring from an upheaval in the author’s soul. If that upheaval is not present then it must come from the works of any other author which happens to be handy and easily adapted.

Robert Benchley

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9 Scientific Breakthroughs That Killed Science Fiction Subgenres

30 August 2013

From io9:

Science fiction looks to the future — but sometimes the future catches up to you. Sometimes, an idea generates tons of great science fiction stories — until science reveals the truth, and kills it dead. Or technology surpasses it. Here are nine scientific breakthroughs that destroyed science fiction subgenres.

. . . .

1) No Martian Civilization

Just over 100 years ago, many people still believed there might be intelligent life on Mars — with Percival Lowell claiming there were “canals” on Mars that were created by intelligent creatures, based on a mis-translation of the Italian word “canali” in astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli’s writing. Soon, H.G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs and a ton of other authors were writing about Martian civilizations.

The discovery: We figured out by the late 19th century that the atmosphere of Mars probably couldn’t support life, and the “canals” were debunked roughly a century ago. But it wasn’t until we were sending space probes to Mars and getting really good images of the surface, around1971, that the “Mars invades Earth” and “Mars has civilizations on it” stories just dried up.

Link to the rest at io9 and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

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Self-Publishing on a Shoestring

30 August 2013

From The Huffington Post blog:

When you first enter the world of indie-publishing, things can get confusing, fast. The learning curve is steep. And now that companies have realized how lucrative it can be, self-publishing and vanity imprints are springing up like wild mushrooms, working hard to convince people to spend between $1,000 and $25,000 with them, to publish their book.

. . . .

I’m a big believer in not spending more than you absolutely have to, to publish your book. Especially when you’re starting out. You never know if the book is going to take off or completely bomb. And the more you spend in up-front costs, the more sales you’ll need to turn a profit.

When I looked into indie-publishing, I kept an eye towards being frugal. I had no idea my book would become an Amazon bestseller, and be downloaded over 150,000 times. All I knew was that I needed to find a happy medium between going broke and putting out a professional product.

So, I published my first book for a grand total of… want to guess?

I’ll give you a hint: Not $25,000.

Not $1,000.

Not even $500.

I published Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead for a grand total of $125. Yes, my hopeful indie author, it is possible to publish a book for next to nothing.

. . . .

I quickly realized that if I took it the traditional route, I would be looking at years of submitting and submitting and hoping before I ever saw a penny. Unfortunately, I couldn’t fry up hopes and dreams and serve them to my kid for dinner. I tried, but they kept floating off the plate. Hopes and dreams are the original empty calorie meal. All fluff, no substance.

. . . .

One of the moms at my daughter’s preschool was an illustrator who worked for traditional publishing houses. Unfortunately, she was way too expensive. And when I tried to do my own cover, it looked amateurish. So I started researching and found a whole world of artists and cover designers who specialized in creating low-cost covers for indie authors.

Then I downloaded free formatting and marketing guides from Smashwords and learned how to format and market e-books, on my own.

. . . .

I hired a low-cost cover designer and downloaded stock art for her to use. It cost me $75 for stock art and $25 for the cover designer.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post

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U.S. judge wants external monitor for Apple in e-books case

30 August 2013

From Reuters:

A U.S. judge weighing remedies to assure that Apple Inc does not fix prices again in the e-books market said on Tuesday that she plans to require it to hire an external monitor, something the company considers unnecessary.

But U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan suggested a final injunction would be narrower than what the U.S. Department of Justice has been seeking, and would not restrict Apple’s agreements with suppliers of other types of content such as movies, music and TV shows.

. . . .

She said a monitor would be necessary, after Apple had failed to show it learned its lesson from its “blatant” violations of antitrust law.

The monitor, she said, would likely be installed to review Apple’s internal antitrust compliance program and procedures and recommend changes, and also required annual antitrust training for employees in Apple’s e-books and content businesses.

Apple had vigorously contested hiring of a monitor, saying in court papers it would be “extremely costly and burdensome.”

The Justice Department had earlier also sought to force Apple to hire an internal antitrust compliance officer, but has since backed off that demand.

Link to the rest at Reuters

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