Monthly Archives: July 2014

Kindle Unlimited Titles Off the DBW Ebook Best-Seller List

30 July 2014

From Digital Book World:

Kindle Unlimited’s effect on the best-seller list has indeed grown.

Kindle Unlimited titles have been removed from the Digital Book World Ebook Best-Seller list due to an inability to sort out retail purchases from Kindle Unlimited “reads” when creating the list.

After discussing several possibilities with Amazon as to how to include titles that had robust sales but also had reads on the new ebook subscription platform counted toward Amazon Kindle sales ranking, no solution was found.

. . . .

If “reads,” where the user isn’t paying to purchase a book each time, are counted toward best-seller rankings on the Kindle list and they are unable to be separated out from regular purchases, then it would be unfair to include those titles on the list.

Had those titles been included, they would have elevated several Amazon Publishing, self-published and back-list ebooks onto the best-seller list, including MockingjayThe GiverRhett by J.S. Cooper,Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and more.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World and thanks to Richard for the tip.

 

You can’t say that civilization don’t advance

30 July 2014

You can’t say that civilization don’t advance, however, for in every war they kill you in a new way.

Will Rogers

Amazon’s Latest Volley

30 July 2014

From John Scalzi:

Another day, another volley in the Amazon-Hachette battle, this time from Amazon, in which it explains what it wants (all ebooks to be $9.99 or less, for starters) and lays out some math that it alleges shows that everyone wins when Amazon gets its way.

. . . .

I think Amazon’s math checks out quite well, as long as you have the ground assumption that Amazon is the only distributor of books that publishers or authors (or consumers, for that matter) should ever have to consider. If you entertain the notion that Amazon is just 30% of the market and that publishers have other retailers to consider — and that authors have other income streams than Amazon — then the math falls apart. Amazon’s assumptions don’t include, for example, that publishers and authors might have a legitimate reason for not wanting the gulf between eBook and physical hardcover pricing to be so large that brick and mortar retailers suffer, narrowing the number of venues into which books can sell. Killing off Amazon’s competitors is good for Amazon; there’s rather less of an argument that it’s good for anyone else.

. . . .

Amazon’s math of “you will sell 1.74 times as many books at $9.99 than at $14.99″ is also suspect, because it appears to come with the ground assumption that books are interchangable units of entertainment, each equally as salable as the next, and that pricing is the only thing consumers react to. They’re not, and it’s not. Someone who wants the latest John Ringo novel on the day of release will not likely find the latest Jodi Picoult book a satisfactory replacement, or vice versa; likewise, someone who wants a eBook now may be perfectly happy to pay $14.99 to get it now, in which case the publisher and author should be able to charge what the market will bear, and adjust the prices down (or up! But most likely down) as demand moves about.

Link to the rest at Whatever and thanks to Ben for the tip.

PG will quote himself in a comment he posted last night:

Does Barnes & Noble have a say in the prices it charges for books?

Amazon’s a retailer. Retailers set prices.

If Hachette wants to set prices, it should open its own store.

But, of course, Hachette experimented with price-fixing. Now it’s hooked. Let that be a lesson to all of you young people – just say no to price-fixing.

Conspiracy Theories

30 July 2014

Ever since PG posted the latest Amazon comment on the Hachette negotiations last night, The Passive Voice has been hit hard with attempts to hack the site. One of the site’s plugins reports all attempts to access the admin functions of TPV and includes the IP address and other information about the would-be hacker.

PG doesn’t think these have slowed site performance, but let him know if you’ve had problems.

Some of the hacking attempts have come from France.

He’s not starting any rumors, but . . . .

Amazon Calls for Hachette to Cut E-Book Prices

30 July 2014

From The Wall Street Journal:

Amazon.com Inc. on Tuesday described its dispute with the Hachette Book Group as a battle for lower consumer prices on digital titles and a bigger payday for writers.

In a posting on its website, Amazon said that it would be willing to accept 30% of digital book revenue, the same percentage it currently receives from Hachette, if the publisher agreed to lower digital prices on many of its titles to $9.99 from between $12.99 and $14.99.

. . . .

In the blog post, Amazon said that its internal data showed that when a book is priced at $9.99, it sells nearly twice as many copies as when it is priced at $14.99. It argued that, as a result, total revenue at $9.99 is more than when the book is priced higher. “At $9.99, the total pie is bigger,” stated Amazon.

A spokeswoman for Hachette didn’t respond to requests for comment.

. . . .

In its Tuesday posting, Amazon suggested authors should receive 35% of the e-book retail price. Many authors today receive 25% of net revenue on e-book sales, a point of contention for some who consider it too small.

. . . .

The Authors Guild, at least, didn’t appear to be mollified. It criticized Amazon’s suggestion for lower retail prices. “Lower e-book prices aren’t necessarily the best thing for writers,” said Roxana Robinson, president of the Authors Guild. “We get a percentage of the price as a royalty. You also have to take into consideration the price of the hardcover. Yes, it’s cheap to make a digital book but it’s expensive to present a book in hardcover.”

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

The Author’s Guild continues its never-ending quest to provide the most bewildered and unhelpful comments on the subject of Hachette/Amazon. PG wonders if they’re consciously trying to retire the Clueless Trophy.

A Marketing Pitch from Author Solutions

30 July 2014

From Writer Beware:

I’ve written before about Author Solutions’ relentless efforts to get authors to buy the company’s “marketing” services. Here’s an example that was recently passed on to me (with the author’s name and other identifying information redacted).

Note the poor quality of the English (a lot of AS’s staff are in the Philippines; English is a second language), the implied specialness of the offer (50% management discount, just for you!), the “hurry up and buy” pressure (supposedly only eight books will be able to get in on the deal; first come, first served!), and the…um…optimistic way the service that’s being sold is presented (“endorsement” implies something tailored to the product, but in fact all it means in this case is a listing in Ingram’s print and online magazines). It’s all directly out of the junk mail marketing handbook.

Note, finally, the tiny-print disclaimer at the very, very bottom, under “Paul’s” signature: “This email is an advertisement.”

Bottom line: the author is being asked to shell out over $2,000 for a couple of magazine advertisements and returnability for a book no brick-and-mortar establishment is ever likely to order.

Link to the rest at Writer Beware and thanks to AD for the tip.

So the Real Authors Guild is… Amazon?!

30 July 2014

From author Barry Eisler:

In case you missed it, today Amazon issued an update on its stalled negotiations with Hachette.  It’s a great read:  short, clear, and devastating to the meme that Hachette is in any way the good guy in this fight.  But if you want just the executive summary, it’s this:

Amazon wants most ebooks to be priced at below ten dollars; Hachette wants ebooks to be priced higher.

So far, so simple.  But what’s critical to understand is that lower ebook prices create more revenue — a lower price for the customer, and more income for the retailer, publisher, and author.

. . . .

This is what Hachette opposes.  This is what the “Authors Guild” and “Authors United” are fighting to prevent.  More money for authors.

. . . .

So why do legacy publishers insist on high prices for ebooks?

As I starting pointing out about three years ago, “The current business imperative of legacy publishing is to preserve the position of paper and retard the growth of digital.”  Why?  Because although the legacy industry offers various value-added services (at least in theory), the only critical service they’ve ever offered — the only one an author couldn’t get any other way — has always been paper distribution.  Paper distribution is the foundation on which the legacy industry built its agglomerated business model.  That is:  “You want distribution?  Then you’ll have to take all the services you could have outsourced for a flat fee elsewhere (editing, jacket design, etc) along with it, and you’ll have to pay 85% of earnings for the agglomerated package.”

But in a digital world, authors don’t need distribution services from publishers.  In digital, individual authors have exactly the same distribution reach as any corporate publishing partner, and for the same flat rate of 30%.  Digital is changing the role of publishers from something authors needed to something authors might, for reasons separate from distribution, merely want.

Having the nature of your business go from “I’m a business necessity and the only game in town” to “If I can prove my value, authors might still want me” represents a cataclysmic change for legacy players.  Remove the criticality of distribution from the equation, and the entire nature of the publishing business model dramatically changes, with services that once upon a time could only be had as part of a mandated and expensive prix fixe meal now available as low-price a la carte items authors can order from the menu however and from whomever they like.

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because it is.  Forcing someone to buy an unessential item as the price of being able to buy the essential one is called tying and it is frequently illegal, especially in the context of intellectual property.  Or, for another example of tying, recall the pre-digital-distribution era way the music industry allowed you to buy the one song you wanted:  by forcing you to buy the entire CD along with it.  There are many other examples.  What they all have in common is that in whatever context it develops, tying can only exist in the presence of disproportionate market power.

. . . .

To put it another way:

The legacy imperative of using high ebook prices in an attempt to maintain the primacy of paper costs legacy-published authors money.

. . . .

It’s going to be fascinating to see how the “Authors Guild” and “Authors United” try to spin this.  Fascinating in no small part because Amazon is taking the very position on digital royalties you would expect — indeed, you would insist on — from any organization worthy of inclusion of the word “Authors” in its marquee.  Instead we have Amazon championing authors, and “Authors” championing publishers!

Link to the rest at Barry Eisler

Here’s a link to Barry Eisler’s books

The Creative Art of Selling a Book by Its Cover

30 July 2014

From The New York Times:

Peter Mendelsund often says that “dead authors get the best book jackets.”

Mr. Mendelsund, who has designed striking covers for departed literary giants like Kafka, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and Joyce, dreads working with picky writers who demand a particular font, color, image or visual theme. “It ends up looking like hell,” he said.

Then last year, Mr. Mendelsund, the associate art director at Alfred A. Knopf, became his own worst nightmare. He started writing a book himself. Coming up with a cover for his book, “What We See When We Read,” a playful, illustrated treatise on how words give rise to mental images, was excruciating, he said. As the author, he felt as if no single image could sum up the book’s premise. As the jacket designer, he had to put something on the front, or resign in disgrace. His first attempt was stark and off-putting: a plain black cover with small white text. “It was like stage fright,” he said. “I just seized up.”

. . . .

For much of his life, Mr. Mendelsund felt “visually illiterate,” he said. He grew up in Cambridge, Mass., the son of an architect and a high school history teacher. He started playing the piano at the age of 4. After studying philosophy and literature at Columbia University, he spent two years at a music conservatory and tried to make a living as a professional pianist. But he struggled on a classical musician’s salary, and, after several years, he found himself married with an infant daughter and no health insurance.

He decided to try graphic design, though he had no formal training. He read design books and picked up a few freelance projects, sometimes working free. A year later, he was hired as a designer at Vintage and Anchor Books.

. . . .

To come up with a cover, Mr. Mendelsund begins by scribbling notes on a manuscript and underlining key thematic sentences. He hangs the marked-up pages above his computer. Then he begins cataloging his ideas on a piece of paper covered with 16 rectangles, filling each one with a word, phrase or tiny sketch. He picks the most promising concept and creates a draft on the computer.

Once he has a rough design in place, he will often switch to illustrating by hand, drawing with an ink brush, layering on paper collage or filling in blocky shapes with gouache, a dense watercolor. Finally, he prints out a mock cover, wraps it around a hardcover and leaves it on his bookshelf for a few days. If his eye is spontaneously drawn to it a day or two later, he considers his direction on the right track. If the cover disappears into the background, he knows something is missing.

He often repeats this process dozens of times.

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Maggie for the tip.

Update re: Amazon/Hachette Business Interruption

29 July 2014

From The Amazon Books Team:

With this update, we’re providing specific information about Amazon’s objectives.

A key objective is lower e-book prices. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out-of-stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market — e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can be and should be less expensive.

It’s also important to understand that e-books are highly price-elastic. This means that when the price goes up, customers buy much less. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000.

The important thing to note here is that at the lower price, total revenue increases 16%. This is good for all the parties involved:

* The customer is paying 33% less.

* The author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. And that 74% increase in copies sold makes it much more likely that the title will make it onto the national bestseller lists. (Any author who’s trying to get on one of the national bestseller lists should insist to their publisher that their e-book be priced at $9.99 or lower.)

* Likewise, the higher total revenue generated at $9.99 is also good for the publisher and the retailer. At $9.99, even though the customer is paying less, the total pie is bigger and there is more to share amongst the parties.

Keep in mind that books don’t just compete against books. Books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

So, at $9.99, the total pie is bigger – how does Amazon propose to share that revenue pie? We believe 35% should go to the author, 35% to the publisher and 30% to Amazon. Is 30% reasonable? Yes. In fact, the 30% share of total revenue is what Hachette forced us to take in 2010 when they illegally colluded with their competitors to raise e-book prices. We had no problem with the 30% — we did have a big problem with the price increases.

Is it Amazon’s position that all e-books should be $9.99 or less? No, we accept that there will be legitimate reasons for a small number of specialized titles to be above $9.99.

One more note on our proposal for how the total revenue should be shared. While we believe 35% should go to the author and 35% to Hachette, the way this would actually work is that we would send 70% of the total revenue to Hachette, and they would decide how much to share with the author. We believe Hachette is sharing too small a portion with the author today, but ultimately that is not our call.

We hope this information on our objectives is helpful.

Thank you,

The Amazon Books Team

Link to the rest at The Amazon Books Team and thanks to lots of different people for the tip.

A couple of messages:

  1. Amazon knows more in its little finger about pricing ebooks than Big Publishing and its corporate overlords would know if they spent all year thinking about it.
  2. Speaking of math, Amazon is on the side of authors at least twice as much as Hachette is.

As we watch the responses to this message, we’ll see who really cares about the welfare of authors.

 

A Publisher’s Mission Statement

29 July 2014

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