Big Publishing

James Patterson scraps The Murder of Stephen King novel

27 September 2016

From the BBC:

Author James Patterson has scrapped the publication of a new novel titled The Murder of Stephen King because he does not want to cause “discomfort” to King.

The book is about a fictional obsessed fan hunting down King, the author of Misery, The Shining and Carrie.

But Patterson said he had learned in the run-up to the planned November publication that fans had “disrupted” King’s home in real life.

King has had nothing to do with the novel, Patterson has stressed.

. . . .

However, in a statement released by his publisher on Thursday, Patterson – who co-wrote the book with Derek Nikitas – said: “My book is a positive portrayal of a fictional character, and, spoiler alert, the main character is not actually murdered.

“Nevertheless, I do not want to cause Stephen King or his family any discomfort. Out of respect for them, I have decided not to publish The Murder of Stephen King.”

Link to the rest at the BBC and thanks to T.E. for the tip.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt CEO Resigns

23 September 2016

From The Wall Street Journal:

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Co. said Thursday that Chief Executive Linda K. Zecher has resigned after five years on the job and that it has started a search for her replacement.

The education and publishing company said that while it conducts the search, board member L. Gordon Crovitz will serve as interim CEO. Mr. Crovitz, who has been part of the board since 2012, is a former publisher of The Wall Street Journal and a continued contributor to the newspaper.

“The board decided this was a good time to begin a search for the next CEO,” saidLawrence K. Fish, chairmen of the board, in a prepared statement.

Reached by phone, Ms. Zecher, who was named CEO in September 2011, declined to address the reasons for her departure. However, she said she is “confident about the direction of the company and the leadership team I put in place. This is the best education company in the country, one focused on finding technological solutions that will result in better learning outcomes for children.”

One observer said that Ms. Zecher’s departure was tied to Houghton’s recent disappointing financial performance. “It’s not more complicated than that,” said this person. “It’s the overall financial picture, which should be better.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

Philip Pullman calls for UK to adopt EU plans to protect authors’ royalties

23 September 2016

From The Guardian:

His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman has welcomed a “badly need[ed]” new proposal from the European Commission that would protect authors who achieve unexpected success from missing out on royalties.

Pullman was speaking as president of the Society of Authors, which is pressing the UK government to adopt clauses from the new EU draft directive on the digital single market in order to “avoid unfair practices that currently prevent authors making a living from writing”. The Society highlighted the case of Horrid Henry author Francesca Simon, who has not received any royalties from the television and film adaptations of her Horrid Henry books, despite the series being broadcast in 44 countries with more than 1.5m DVDs sold.

In an article last December, Simon revealed that she was missing out on the royalties because when she sold Orion her first Horrid Henry book in 1993, the book deal included film and television rights. A deal with Novel Entertainment for those rights was subsequently negotiated by Orion. “They did a poor deal. They did not use a lawyer,” wrote Simon in the Author magazine. “Not understanding their proper value led to the worst mistake of my career.”

The new draft directive, released last week, states that authors “often have a weak bargaining position in their contractual relationships, when licensing their rights”, and that “transparency on the revenues generated by the use of their works or performances often remains limited”, with this affecting their remuneration.

It proposes two safeguards, which the Society of Authors says are particularly important for writers. The so-called “bestseller clause” would give authors the right to claim additional and appropriate remuneration if the returns in their contracts are disproportionately low compared to the subsequent profits from exploitation of the works. The transparency safeguard, meanwhile, would give writers a right to regular and adequate information on the exploitation of their works.

“I welcome this draft directive, especially for its emphasis on transparency and the bestseller clause. Authors badly need the sort of natural justice that these clauses embody, not least because our work contributes substantially to the wealth of the nation,” said Pullman. “I hope that our government will see the rightness of these proposals and embody them firmly in the law of our land to ensure that they continue when we leave the EU.”

“Publishers too often fail to give their authors full information on sales and exploitation of their work. Many more gain an unfair windfall when a work is an unexpected success but do not share any of that gain with authors. This unfairness leads to many authors no longer being able to make a living from writing and, if unchecked, threatens the creative excellence of our publishing industries,” she said.

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

PG is always in favor of authors being paid more, but this strikes him as strange and a little pathetic.

Why are UK authors so powerless? PG has known some good British lawyers and finds it difficult to believe they could not do an excellent job of protecting authors in contract negotiations.

PG is no expert on UK laws, but if the publishers are colluding, doesn’t the Competition Law provide a remedy for complaints?

Laws have their place, but they certainly have the potential to freeze a 2016 solution in place for many years to the detriment of new and useful business and technical developments. Plus, legislators and bureaucrats everywhere seem to be highly pervious to the lobbying of moneyed interests, including large publishers.

The reality of publishing economics has changed for the big players

19 September 2016

From veteran publishing consultant, Mike Shatzkin:

A veteran agent who was formerly a publisher confirmed a point for me about how trade publishing has changed over the past two decades, particularly for the big houses. This challenges a fundamental tenet of my father’s understanding of the business. (And that’s the still the source of most of mine.) I had long suspected this gap had opened up between “then” and “now”; it was really great to have it confirmed by a smart and experienced industry player.

One of the things that I took from my father’s experience — he was active in publishing starting in the late 1940s — was that just about every book issued by a major publisher recovered its direct costs and contributed some margin. There were really only two ways a book could fail to recover its costs:

1. if the advance paid to the author was excessive, or

2. if the quantity of the first printing far exceeded the advance copy laydown.

In other words, books near the bottom of the list didn’t actually “lose” money; they just didn’t make much as long as the publisher avoided being too generous with the advance or overly optimistic about what they printed.

. . . .

In the 1970s, the two big chains (Walden and B. Dalton) accounted for about 20 percent of the book trade. The other 80 percent was comprised of nearly as many decision-makers as there were outlets. So while it took a really concerted effort (or a very high-profile book or author) to get a title in every possible store location, just about every book went into quite a few. With five thousand individuals making the decision about which books to take, even a small minority of the buyers could put a book into 500 or 1000 stores.

But two big things have conspired to change that reality. The larger one is the consolidation of the retail trade. Now there are substantially fewer than 1000 decision-makers that matter. Amazon is half the sales. Barnes & Noble is probably in the teens. Publishers tell us that there are about 500 independent stores that are significant and that all the indies combined add up to 6 to 8 percent of the retail potential. The balance of the trade — about 25 percent — is the wholesalers, libraries, and specialty accounts.

. . . .

The other thing that has happened is that the houses are much better organized about which books they are “getting behind”. This has the beneficial effect of making sure the books seen to have the biggest potential get full distribution. But it also has the impact of reducing the chances that the “other” books will get full attention from Barnes & Noble (able to deliver more outlets with a single buyer than one would customarily get from the entire indie store network). And, without that, it takes a lot of luck or online discovery to rescue a book from oblivion.

The agent who was confirming my sense of these things agreed that the big houses used to be able to count on a sale of 1500 or 2000 copies for just about any title they published. Now it is not uncommon for books to sell in the very low triple digits, even on a big publisher’s list.

Even before any overhead charge and with a paltry advance, that isn’t going to cover a house’s cost of publication. So there definitely are books today — lots of books — coming from major houses that are not recovering even their direct costs.

This is a fundamental change in big publisher economics from what it was two decades ago. While the potential wins have become exponentially bigger than they were in bygone days, the losses have become increasingly common.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files and thanks to William for the tip.

The Best Way to Keep Your Job in Book Publishing

19 September 2016

From Digital Book World:

Very early in my career in book publishing, I worked under the direction of an individual who was a ferocious and diligent networker. It was a terrifying experience.

I can still vividly recall how thoroughly impressed (and dismayed) I was by her skills. This was my second job in subsidiary rights, as an associate at one of the larger New York trade houses. I sat outside the door of the department director, and every day she would return from lunch with a trove of gossip, news and insights into recent book deals. She would then spend the next hour or so on the phone sharing what she knew and gathering more snippets of information along the way.

It was really just basic market intelligence—who was paying how much for which properties—the kind of thing that’s essential for making accurate forecasts and getting the best deals for her own properties. The success of the strategy was clear to me, but also deeply troubling. How could I ever build out that network and, more importantly, find the energy and desire to spend so much of my time relentlessly collecting and sharing scraps of information?

. . . .

Michael Cader launched his now famous newsletter Publishers Lunch, where he reported for all to see the kinds of deal terms that my former director had diligently collected on her own. It was not lost on me that the formidable information gathering skills I had found so intimidating were suddenly going to be worth a little less in the future, and that the new computer skills I was bringing to my job were going to increase my own value in the marketplace.

These days, I talk to a lot of people in book publishing, and one common refrain is that many of them feel as if the future of their work will be a growing struggle to try to roll a bigger rock up a steeper hill every year. And to a great extent, they’re right. Cutbacks, layoffs, restructurings—they all seem to involve pushing more work back on to the ones who remain, in what is sometimes referred to as the “whip the slaves harder” school of management.

. . . .

Very few of us feel that we have the time to keep up with the many changes in our industry, let alone find the clarity and energy required to learn the new skills that will help us get ahead.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Is literature better at coming up with complex women protagonists than Hollywood?

19 September 2016

From The Atlantic:

Last year, I was working as a publicity associate at Simon & Schuster when Jessica Knoll’s debut thriller Luckiest Girl Alive was optioned for film. The novel, which would go on to sell over 450,000 copies, was still months from publication, but the option was a solid indicator that it would be the commercial success everyone at the publishing house was hoping for. While movie deals always bring some financial security to authors and perpetually-in-the-red book publishers, this one had the added benefit of being with Reese Witherspoon’s Pacific Standard, a production company with a record of turning would-be bestsellers into high-grossing, Oscar-nominated films—as it did with Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wildand Gillian Flynn’s thriller Gone Girl. A Pacific Standard deal is the kind of thing that could extend the buying life and cultural relevance of a new book tenfold.

It’s no coincidence that most of Pacific Standard’s current projects are book adaptations. As Witherspoon told the Wall Street Journal in April, she founded the company in part so that she could bring her favorite novels and memoirs to life. These books, she said, featured complex women in ways the scripts that landed on her desk did not. Witherspoon’s comments, and her decision to turn to books as material for the majority of the films she produces, illuminate an interesting parallel between two industries for which “strong female lead” has become a heated topic of discussion. In the world of commercial publishing, books written by and about women receive few prestigious literary awards, and reviewers are mostly men. Meanwhile, the film industry has been widely criticized for its lack of substantial roles for women, both onscreen and behind the camera, as well as a huge gender wage gap.

But the publishing industry is 78 percent female and, accolades or no, recent books from commercial publishers have offered up a bevy of leading women who are complex, unconventional, wholly human, and even triumphantly “unlikeable,” as Koa Beck wrote for The Atlantic last year. Many of them are  getting a second life in film, and not just at the hands of Witherspoon. Rachel from Paula Hawkins’ thriller Girl On The Train, Ifemelu from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, and the two sisters from Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale will all soon grace the silver screen.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic and thanks to Will for the tip.

Digitization Is Not Necessarily Evil

17 September 2016

From Publishing Perspectives:

Sweden’s Jacob Dalborg is CEO of Bonnier Books.

. . . .

Ahead of his CEO Talk interview at Frankfurt Book Fair’s Business Club on October 19, Publishing Perspectives asked for his views on the industry from where he sits in Bonnier’s top management in Stockholm.

Publishing Perspectives: After years of noise about digital disruption, does 2016 seem quieter in publishing?

Jacob Dalborg: I think everyone has come to terms with the fact that digitization is not necessarily evil. It’s generally accepted that it carries great opportunity.

The term “disruption” itself, when used in a publishing context, is in my opinion more often just a buzzword than a statement of facts. In reality, e.g. digital commerce only represent more selling points, not something very new and different from what we have always dealt with.

I think of publishing as a storytelling business before anything else. Our job has never been to publish as many books as possible, but to find and publish exactly the right books and to develop authors and authorships.

In that sense, I am not even sure we have had any dramatic disruption in the proper sense of that word. People love to read stories, and they always have. Actually, people read and write more than they have ever done before. They read books and everything else. The format in which we publish our stories does not–and should not–matter that much to us or to our readers. I belong to those who actually believe that content is king.

. . . .

PP: Ebooks, e-readers and mobile devices, as well as large-scale retailers like Amazon have all changed the business over the last decade. Where do you think the most important innovation takes place today?

JD: Typically, it’s not in the products themselves that you’ll find the innovation. There are of course still improvements to be done and changes to be made. As a publisher, I love ebooks because once they’re produced, you have them available forever, they have no inventory. However, the core publishing activities of acquiring, editing and publishing stories remain the same. To the consumer, the reading experience is not very different.

. . . .

PP: You mentioned that people write more than they ever have. Will you share your thoughts on self-publishing?

JD: Unfortunately, self-published books don’t figure into industry statistics. That would help us estimate the actual effect of it.

As we’ve traditionally worked in a market of carefully selected ranges of titles, it’s clear that the abundant number of titles “out there” is a new kind of challenge for publishers. How can we stay top-of-mind in this significantly larger amount of content?

In addition, all publishers should definitely look into the self-published market to identify the best authors and offer them their core service of author development. I am sure that we’re missing several good authors right now.

Finally, I would recommend anybody whose book has been rejected by a publisher or an agent, to self-publish. That will give you all the tools you need to build your own brand and reader relations and it can get you both feedback and attention. A publisher might find you and contact you.

. . . .

PP: It’s often said that publishers should learn from other industries like the music industry, television or newspapers. How relevant do you find this advice? Is it just a cliché or are there major lessons there for us?

JD: To answer that question, it’s important to take the differences between the industries into account. You might say that those other industries were more truly disrupted by digitization and the advent of the Internet.

The news industry–and of course printed newspapers in particular–have been challenged by the immediacy of Internet distribution. Where distribution of news in the broadest sense followed fixed schedules and either publication or broadcast at regular intervals, they’re now distributed everywhere as soon as something happens.

. . . .

When it comes to music, film and television, their consumption were bound to stationary devices like gramophones, TVs or cinemas. The ability to carry them with you and watch or listen on a truly portable device has seriously changed the demand and behavior around those products.

But none of these phenomena has had a huge importance for books.

First, their production time can be very long and most often they don’t lose their relevance if they’re not published on a specific date.

Second, books have always been mobile. The promise of carrying “hundreds of books” with you on your Kindle is fine, but maybe not very relevant. Most people are happy with bringing a few paperbacks with them on vacation. Therefore, ebooks don’t constitute a very different experience for the readers. That may very well be the reason that the market share of ebooks isn’t growing so fast.

Only in English-speaking countries do we see the ebook market share at about 20 to 25 percent. In Germany, ebooks have about 10 percent of the market, and everywhere else, it’s below 5 percent. I believe that it’s not the medium itself but more likely Amazon’s persistent pushing of ebooks to the market that has caused the growth of market shares in the US, the UK, and Germany.

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

Abysmal Sales for New Book By New York Times CEO Mark Thompson

17 September 2016

From Heat Street:

When New York Times chief Mark Thompson published his latest book, ‘Enough Said: What’s Gone Wrong With the Language of Politics?’ this month, there must have been a part of him that worried about its negative title.

. . . .

New figures obtained by Heat Street show that sales of this collection of his thoughts on the history of the public discourse have got off to a truly dreadful start.

In the UK, the book went on sale on September 1. Between then and September 10 it sold 482 copies.

In the US, it went on sale on September 6. Over the next five days it sold a mere 59 copies.

By September 10 the book had also sold 10 copies in Ireland and just one copy in Australia, making a known international total of 552 books.

. . . .

The disappointing figure is despite Thompson being given every chance to plug the book. It has been reviewed widely, including by his own newspaper.

His publicity drive has further included an interview with the Sunday Times Magazine in London and an appearance at the Edinburgh book festival.

On September 11 Thompson also used an interview on Andrew Marr’s BBC1 current affairs show to boost the book, causing some to ask whether anyone else but a former BBC director-general who’d written such a lofty tome would have been given such an opportunity.

. . . .

For a book about words and language written by a man who took a First in English from Merton College Oxford, it is surely unacceptable that he does not know how to spell the name of the former prime minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi.

Link to the rest at Heat Street and thanks to Barb for the tip.

The book was published by St. Martin’s Press and the Amazon description includes glowing reviews from several of the usual subjects.

Harlequin Lawsuit’s Happy Ending

16 September 2016

From author Patricia McLinn:

Sitting in front of me is the settlement check I received from a class action lawsuit against Harlequin. Because this Harlequin lawsuit was settled out of court, there was no winner legally. That’s not how it feels. Not at all. Let me tell you, the authors won.

. . . .

In the spring of 2011 a group of authors, shepherded by Ginger Chambers and Barbara McMahon and with me part of the flock, hired Elaine English for a legal assessment of clauses governing ebook rights in various Harlequin contracts. Under contracts that spanned several years, ebook rights were lumped under “All Other Rights.” These contracts were written and signed before ebooks became truly commercially viable, but because of the length of Harlequin contracts they were still in force. The “All Other Rights” clause said Harlequin and the author split whatever monies came in from the exercise of these rights 50-50.

However, when books under those contracts eventually were digitized, it became quite clear the authors were getting way, way, way less than 50%.

What Harlequin did was say that our contracts were signed with Harlequin Switzerland, but the ebooks were published by Harlequin Toronto, and golly, gee, Harlequin Switzerland sold the rights to Harlequin Toronto for 6% of cover price. So Harlequin Toronto sent Switzerland 6%, Switzerland kept 3%, the author received 3% … and Harlequin Toronto kept all the rest. (BTW, this agreement between these Harlequins was created well after the contracts were signed. Authors were never informed about it.)

. . . .

A word about Harlequin contracts – they are essentially not negotiable, with extremely limited exceptions. You might be stunned at the major authors Harlequin could have kept if it had been willing to negotiate a bit. It chose instead to let those authors walk. You either accept the contract as Harlequin writes it or you don’t publish with Harlequin. (The latter became my choice around 2008.) They could do this because of the structure and business climate of publishing at that time.

I had a few excellent individual editors among the 34 I had for 25 books (yes, you read that right … editor turnover might lead some to suspect Harlequin didn’t treat many of its editors well, either), but my overall experience with Harlequin was … let’s say “not good.” By the end of 19 years with them I was disheartened, depressed, and done. I didn’t think I would write for publication ever again. I didn’t even want to try.

By 2011, however, I was back on track. I was publishing backlist books as an indie, I was writing again and publishing those originals as an indie. And, thanks to Harlequin’s machinations, I got a good jolt of indignation to return me to my feisty self. My reaction to what Harlequin was doing was summed up after reading one of their missives to authors that summer when I said aloud, “How stupid do you think I am?”

. . . .

David Wolf, bless his heart, took the case on as a potential class action lawsuit, which he and Michael Boni and John Sindoni of Boni & Zack, LLC, filed in July 2012. The lawsuit is Keiler v. Harlequin. The three named plaintiffs on whose behalf the suit was filed are authors Barbara Keiler (who writes asJudith Arnold), Linda Barrett, and Gay Wilson (who publishes as Gayle Wilson.)

Harlequin’s reaction? “This is the first we’ve heard of it.” That is what’s known in writing as A Big Fat Lie.

Remember, David Wolf had been talking to them for the better part of a year at that point.

The Harlequin lawsuit had plenty of twists and turns. It was completely dismissed at one point in 2013. The lawyers decided to appeal.  Mind you, they were Not Paid a Cent all this time. Once they started down the class action road it was all on contingency. (Yes, they’ve been paid out of the settlement now – getting nowhere near what they could have earned through ordinary billable hours for the years of work they put in on this.)

The appeals court upheld the most important element of the case in spring 2014 … and the next day, the sale of Harlequin to Harper Collins was announced. How would that affect things? We had no idea.

On top of that, the appeals court sent the case back to the same judge. Who hadn’t, to my unlegal eye, seemed to grasp much of anything about the issues. So how could we hope to fare better than the first time round with him?

Then that judge died unexpectedly as the result of a fall. I am not kidding you.

. . . .

The new judge took a different approach. In October 2014, the 1,200 authors affected by the contract clause were certified as a class. We were, truly, a class action lawsuit. There was champagne that day.

The work wasn’t over. There was discovery. There were depositions. Harlequin subpoenaed at least two authors groups, demanding from one all communication among its members. So much for privacy. It was an onerous effort for a volunteer-run organization to gather all the information and, as expected, it got Harlequin nowhere.

If I were writing this in a novel, I’d let the reader know that the big corporation had done it just because it could – to punish those upstart authors any way possible.

Finally, in June 2016, a settlement of the Harlequin lawsuit was announced.  While maintaining it never did anything wrong, Harlequin agreed to pay $4.1 million.

The settlement checks from the Harlequin lawsuit began arriving in authors’ mailboxes Monday, Sept. 12.

The checks are nice. Very nice.

. . . .

Most vividly, I remember tears from some of the communications from these authors. They were risking their livelihoods, but had to join the group because what Harlequin was doing was simply wrong. They had written for Harlequin for 30 years and felt betrayed and would never write for them again. They had just achieved their dream of selling their first book to Harlequin and they were scared, but this was too important to ignore. They were from all over the United States and Canada, from the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. They couldn’t afford the $35 each of us put in to start, but would send me $5 a month until they had paid their share. They wrote a check for well over their share to help cover those who struggled to pay.

And the subgroup that first hired David Wolf became warriors. They collected, organized, and dug through contracts and correspondence. They taught themselves legal concepts. They searched corporate reports. They asked brilliant questions. They did what needed to be done.

Link to the rest at Patricia McLinn

Here’s a link to Patricia McLinn’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

PG can’t go into detail, but he will say that HQ is not the only publisher that is not living up to its contracts.

Amazon has cornered the future of book publishing

15 September 2016

From Quartz:

As traditional publishers struggle with sales, Amazon is quietly cornering a powerful new trend in books.

A recent report (pdf) from Bowker, the US company that issues International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN), shows that self-publishing is growing rapidly. Between 2010 and 2015, the number of ISBNs from self-published books grew by 375%. From 2014 and 2015 alone, the number grew by 21%. And perfectly positioned to take advantage of the growth is Amazon, whose DIY print business CreateSpace has become far and away the biggest self-publishing platform in the United States.

. . . .

Amazon’s dominance in self-publishing is probably even greater than Bowker shows. The e-commerce giant’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform lets authors publish ebooks without ISBNs, which means a big chunk of data is not captured by the report.

 Self-publishing is getting bigger and bigger. By some accounts, self-published authors are overtaking the big five publishing houses, at least when it comes to ebooks.

Link to the rest at Quartz and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Next Page »