Big Publishing

In solidarity with those who understand what is happening with eBook sales

28 April 2017

From Talking New Media:

This post is about blogger solidarity… that is, it is response to the frustration expressed by Nate Hoffelder over at The Digital Reader concerning the ongoing debate about eBook sales. He was reacting the recurring misreporting that eBook sales are down, when actually they are only down for the major publishers represented by the various trade associations.

Nate points to articles in some of the The Guardian, and The Telegraph, in particular, that can’t seem to get it through their heads that not all eBook sales are represented by the publishers that are members of these associations. There are other publishers, and self-publishers, that sell through other channels, and these sales won’t be included in the reports put out by the associations.

But there is another problem, that some media reporters are invested in believing that print is having a resurgence. There is, of course, no evidence for this, but faith is a powerful thing.

Now Nate covers the digital book field, but what is happening on that side of the business is happening on the magazine and newspaper side, as well. Despite falling print circulation and print advertising levels, there are those who simply want to believe that digital media may not be all its cracked up to be.

Link to the rest at Talking New Media and thanks to The Digital Reader for the tip.

PG wonders if the reporters and publications disseminating the ebooks are dead/print is back meme believe they can actually change the behavior of their readers. Or if the authors first developed sentience 15 minutes ago.

“Printed books are the new black.”

“All the right people will be carrying hardcovers this summer.”

“Look for more beautiful covers on Kim Kardashian’s Instagram account.”

“Headless body in topless bar . . . with a book!!!”

.

‘Screen fatigue’ sees UK ebook sales plunge 17% as readers return to print

27 April 2017

From The Guardian:

Britons are abandoning the ebook at an alarming rate with sales of consumer titles down almost a fifth last year, as “screen fatigue” helped fuel a five-year high in printed book sales.

Sales of consumer ebooks plunged 17% to £204m last year, the lowest level since 2011 – the year the ebook craze took off as Jeff Bezos’ market-dominating Amazon Kindle took the UK by storm.

It is the second year running that sales of consumer ebooks – the biggest segment of the £538m ebook market, which fell 3% last year – have slumped as commuters, holidaymakers and leisure readers shelve digital editions in favour of good old fashioned print novels.

“I wouldn’t say that the ebook dream is over but people are clearly making decisions on when they want to spend time with their screens,” says Stephen Lotinga, chief exeutive of the Publishers Association, which published its annual yearbook on Thursday.

“There is generally a sense that people are now getting screen tiredness, or fatigue, from so many devices being used, watched or looked at in their week. [Printed] books provide an opportunity to step away from that.”

. . . .

The issue with consumer ebooks aside the UK book industry is in fine fettle. Total sales of print and digital books and journals climbed 7% to £4.8bn last year, the largest growth since 2007 when digital sales were first included.

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

PG didn’t see any reference to how many ebooks were sold by publishers and authors who don’t report their sales to the Publishers Association. He also didn’t see Amazon’s name on the list of members on the Publishers Association website.

“Screen fatigue” sounds like something the marketing department invented. PG wonders if they considered “bookstore fatigue” or “high prices fatigue” while they were brainstorming.

Here’s a link to an interesting analysis of last year’s Publisher’s Association Yearbook at Publishing Perspectives, ‘As We Trade Less Neurotically’: A Nice Chat About Those UK Publishing Numbers.

The Publishing Perspectives article raises an issue PG would like to address more directly: Absent Amazon Derangement Syndrome, a decline in ebook sales of traditional publishers is hardly something the traditional publishing business should be celebrating.

Ebooks are a great business for traditional publishers – send an ebook file to Amazon and check once a month thereafter to see how much money Amazon sends back. No printing and shipping bills to pay, no inventory to manage (or to pay someone else to manage), no returns to deal with.

If Amazon hadn’t opened the gates to the unwashed horde of self-published authors, demonstrated that lower ebook prices resulted in much larger sales and then started its own imprints when the first ADS plague hit traditional publishing, the Publishing Association would be giving Amazon an award each year at its annual meeting for improving the profitability of UK publishers.

A pound (or dollar) of profit from an ebook licensed to a reader by Amazon counts for just as much as a pound of profit from a printed book sold by Blackwell’s.

A 17% drop in ebook sales is a disaster for the UK publishing business. Any assumption that each ebook not acquired is offset by a printed version that is purchased instead doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny.

For one thing, obtaining an ebook by touching an iPad screen is a much more effortless transaction than going to a physical bookstore to locate and buy a printed book. The alternative to an iPad ebook transaction may well be tapping on the Amazon Video app to watch a show.

 

HMH Makes Another Round of Layoffs

26 April 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt ramped up its cost cutting initiatives yesterday, a process that involved laying off approximately 20 people in its trade division, according to sources. There was no word on the number of jobs eliminated in the much bigger educational publishing business.

An HMH spokesperson would not comment on the number of jobs terminated at the company, but did acknowledge that the publisher is “taking steps to improve our operational efficiency and right-size our cost-structure.” The spokesperson continued: “We have initiated a series of organizational changes that will help simplify our business, better serve our customers and enable us to reinvest for growth. Such changes always require difficult decisions regarding roles and responsibilities of our talented colleagues.”

The layoffs come one week after HMH said, in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, that it would be cutting 8-10% of its workforce as part of a corporate overhaul. At the end of 2016, HMH had about 4,500 employees.

In March, HMH began laying off staff; in that round of layoffs, five jobs in its trade division were cut. The most recent cuts came across all trade departments with half of the reductions taking place in the adult group and the other half in the children’s group.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Alexis for the tip.

PG says all corporate announcements of cost-cutting layoffs sound the same. You could cut and paste language from one press release to another and nobody would notice.

Operational efficiency has always gone to pot, but will hugely improve after some people are fired. While nobody was paying attention, the company became the wrong size, but now it will be the right size and won’t ever be the wrong size again. None of the people who allowed the company to become the wrong size will be fired. The company was weaker before, but now it’s going to be stronger because it has fewer people to do the work.

And customers . . . customers will be much better off after a bunch of people are given the hook. Customers will inundate the company email system with letters of thanks and surround the corporate offices singing hymns of praise.

How did Cuomo make $783,000 on memoir that sold 3,200 copies?

20 April 2017

From The Buffalo News:

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo reported his income last year more than doubled from the previous year, thanks to another round of royalty payments on a 2014 HarperCollins memoir that saw lackluster sales.

In all, Cuomo has made $783,000 from HarperCollins for his book. The book sold 3,200 copies since it was published in the fall of 2014, according to tracking company NPD BookScan.

That works out to royalty payments to Cuomo of $245 per book.

“All Things Possible: Setbacks and Success in Politics and Life’’ had an original list price of $29.99. New copies of the hardcover book were being sold Monday on Amazon for $13.05.

. . . .

Cuomo previously reported – for tax years 2013 and 2014 – approximately $565,000 in income from his memoir deal with the Manhattan-based publisher.

In 2015, he reported no income from the book.

In his 2016 tax filings made public Monday, the book royalty income was listed at $218,100.

. . . .

The Wall Street Journal, which like HarperCollins is owned by News Corp., in 2014 – under the headline “Betting Big on Cuomo’s Memoir” – first reported that the publisher was having an initial print run of 200,000 copies of the Cuomo book.

Link to the rest at The Buffalo News and thanks to Karl for the tip.

PRH UK to pay work experience participants in diversity drive

20 April 2017

From The Bookseller:

Penguin Random House UK will now pay its work experience participants the National Living Wage in a bid to make the publishing industry more accessible and diverse. The initiative will make it the first publishing house in the UK to offer fully paid work experience placements, the company has claimed.

Every year, 450 work experience placements will be offered at PRH UK to give people a taste of what it’s like to work for the trade publisher as part of a two-week structured learning programme. The new pledge means that all participants will now receive a salary of £262.50 per week. Previously they would have received only travel and food expenses.

. . . .

Unpaid internships and work experience placements have been a hot topic in the publishing industry for years, with numerous people calling for them to be abolished.

Internships at the publishing house are already fully paid. The difference between work experience and internships, as PRH defines it, is that the latter offers interns “the opportunity to immerse themselves in the company for a longer period of time and deliver a specific work project”. As such, interns undergo an application and interview process, similar to applying for a job at the company. Work experience candidates, by contrast, are “randomly selected”, without any pre-requisite skills or experience necessary, and are referred to as “students” in so much as they are there to learn rather than to work.

As part of the “random selection” process, all personal referrals for work experience were banned last year when it “professionalised” the programme, which also intended to ensure selection was fairer and more transparent. As the result of the changes, PRH says its work experience applicant pool now reflects the ethnic diversity both of London and the UK, reaching and appealing to more young people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities, while two thirds of its applicants have grown up outside of London or the South East.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Now if they would pay a National Living Wage to their authors.

John Grisham Returns to the Road for His First Book Tour in 25 Years

19 April 2017

From John Grisham’s blog:

Celebrate John Grisham’s 30th novel–CAMINO ISLAND–and his first bookstore tour in 25 years!  Seating is extremely limited–see full tour schedule and event guidelines below.

EVENT GUIDELINES (Please check each individual store listing)

•  Events are ticketed – 1 ticket per person, which will include a copy of CAMINO ISLAND.

•  Ticket costs vary.  Check store listings.

•  Events will be strictly limited to 200 people only.

•  Mr. Grisham will personalize and sign up to 2 copies of CAMINO ISLAND (1 copy included with event ticket, 1 copy purchased on-site only).

•  NO BACKLIST WILL BE SIGNED.

•  Photos will be permitted.

•  The event will be structured into two parts: book signing and discussion/Q&A.

•  Your ticket will gain admittance to both the book signing line AND in-store discussion UNLESS space is limited – check in-store seating guidelines below.

•  The book signing portion of the event will be from either 1 to 5pm or 2 to 6pm only – check timing of each venue.  You must have your ticket on-hand to join the line, which will be first-come, first-serve.

•  All books MUST be signed during the signing window – there will NOT be an autographing after the event.

•  Mr. Grisham’s in-store discussion will begin at either 5 or 6pm – check timing of each venue.  You must keep your ticket on-hand to join the discussion portion of the event.

•  Seating at the discussion will be first-come, first-serve. There will not be assigned seating.

Link to the rest at John Grisham’s blog

Authors need help with their digital presence that they still are not getting

13 April 2017

From veteran publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin:

A major difference between book publishing today and book publishing 25 years ago is the practical power of the author brand in marketing. Multi-book authors can not only build their own followings in ways that can be usefully exploited, they now have an unprecedented capability to help each other.

Of course, they can do that best if they’re “organized” in some way. But both of the most obvious potential organizers who deal with many authors — the publishers and the agents — have commercial and structural impediments to being as helpful as they could be, or as authors need them to be, at either of the new needs: helping authors be better marketers of themselves or getting them to act in a coordinated way to help each other.

Building an individual author’s digital marketing footprint is an important component of career development. And, in fact, the foundation of the author’s “brand” footprint has strong influence on the success of the title marketing publishers would see as their principal objective.

But the publisher has a book-by-book relationship, not an assured ongoing relationship, with authors so investing for a longer-term gain is not structurally encouraged. And agents live with pretty strict ethics rules limiting their compensation to a share of the author contracts they negotiate, so they also have a structural impediment against investing money and time in the author’s general welfare beyond getting the best possible deal they can for every book they represent.

. . . .

When you discuss author marketing with literary agents you find that many of them already think of themselves as career consultants for their authors. Many of them build it into their own job description. But, frankly, the skill and expertise agents have to advise on financial management or digital marketing is highly variable. There could be even less consistency to what agents know about digital marketing than there is across publishers.

One agent, expressing what I think is appropriate humility, said she thought of herself as a “coach” for authors on career and digital marketing matters, not a “manager”. It seems likely to me that most agents with a multitude of clients will have some that know much more about digital marketing than they do!

. . . .

But organizing authors to help each other in this way is also touchy for both agents and publishers. For agents, there are two obvious problems. One is that the best marketing partners for any particular author might be represented by a different agency. That makes things complicated. But the other is that the agent’s “job” is to get an author deals. Getting authors engaged in a perhaps-complex marketing consortium requires another level of understanding and persuasion that agents could rightly see as a distraction to what pays the bills: developing proposals and getting offers from publishers. From a publisher’s perspective, organizing the house’s writers and having them communicate directly is a bit like asking big-company management to organize the union. There might be good arguments to do it but for many it would provoke a visceral negative reaction.

One consultant I spoke with in the course of writing this piece made a long list of concerns publishers would have about what authors encouraged to trade war stories might talk about, including contract terms and how much attention they were getting for their marketing efforts. But, of course, the authors’ agents already know these things.

. . . .

Trelstad made clear that authors are talking to each other about marketing and organizing themselves to help each other. With modern digital tools, this is easy. It is also very hard to track. There is one effort that has gotten some notoriety called the Tall Poppies, a collection of writers organized and spearheaded by author Ann Garvin. Their mission statement explains that “Tall Poppy Writers is a community of writing professionals committed to growing relationships, promoting the work of its members, and connecting authors with each other and with readers. By sharing information and supporting one another’s work, we strive to stand out in the literary marketplace and to help our members do the same.”

According to Trelstad (who is herself a “Tall Poppy member”), this kind of collaboration among authors is becoming increasingly common under the radar, like with her “masterminds” groups. It makes sense. The Trump and Sanders supporters didn’t need the party apparatus to get themselves together in common cause. Using the same tools and techniques, authors can also unite in their own interest without needing a publisher or agent to facilitate it for them. And apparently they are.

. . . .

So authors talking to authors is a development we may as an industry not be as aware of as we should be.

. . . .

When I asked Trelstad if any publisher seemed to be getting this right, she said, without hesitation, “Amazon. They are very good at communicating with their authors. They help overcome fear and uncertainty. And they automatically give authors and editors a voice in their covers.”

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

PG should be smarter by now, but he continues to be constantly surprised by how clueless the pillars of traditional publishing are about what’s happening outside their small circle.

Authors are talking to each other!

Authors are helping each other!

Authors are creating websites and blogs – sometimes all by themselves! In every one-stoplight town in America, there are people who know how to build websites and blogs who are happy to be hired by authors who don’t want to do the work themselves.

And then there’s that internet thing that lets an author in Boston hire a digital designer in Anchorage to create the author’s online presence and promotion materials that an internet marketing consultant in Dallas uses to run the author’s book promotions all over the world.

The idea that authors talking to each other, sharing inside information in the process, will only happen if publishers or agents organize such gatherings is truly bizarre. Publishers and agents would be out of business without their suppliers – authors – yet they have huge gaps in their knowledge about what authors have been routinely doing for years – getting together electronically to talk shop, share information about royalties, advances, which marketing techniques work and which don’t, etc., etc., etc.

Of course, Amazon is different. Amazon is a well-managed, highly-efficient 21st century organization. Amazon is obsessively customer-focused and Amazon’s publishing arms – KDP and Amazon Publishing – view authors and readers as their customers.

As many regular TPV visitors know, one of Mrs. PG’s books was selected for publishing via Kindle Scout. For someone who had a lot of books traditionally published, the Amazon Publishing experience is extraordinary. Information is shared, emails are answered, the publisher treats the author like an intelligent human being who wants the same thing the publisher does – a high-quality book. Mrs. PG’s book is likely to be published and selling sooner than a New York publisher could manage to email her a publishing contract.

Also, Amazon knows more about selling books than any publisher and any conventional bookstore because, unlike the English majors running big publishing, Amazon understands the value of data and employs a whole lot of people who are extremely talented at mining big data for its secrets. In Jeff Bezos’ letter to shareholders, referenced in an earlier post, he talks about how much of what happens behind the scenes on Amazon’s websites relies on cutting-edge artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques.

Speaking of data, PG’s impression is that, when Data Guy speaks to a large gathering of traditional publishing folk, 99.9% of the analytical brain power in the room is up on the podium talking and running the PowerPoint presentation.

Meanwhile 99% of the audience really needs a stiff drink because Data Guy is showing them reams of information about their own industry that they didn’t know before the PowerPoint started.

 

 

 

Joe and Jill Biden sign multi-book deal

6 April 2017

From the Associated Press:

Flatiron Books told The Associated Press on Wednesday that it will release two books by Joe Biden and one by Jill. Joe Biden’s first book will “explore one momentous year,” when his son Beau died in 2015 and his agonized decision against running for president. Biden has said recently that he regrets his choice and believes he could have defeated Republican Donald Trump, who pulled off a stunning upset against the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Biden’s memoir is currently untitled and no release date was announced. Flatiron, a Macmillan imprint, is calling the book “the story of not just a politician, but of a father, grandfather, friend and husband.”

. . . .

Two publishing officials with knowledge of negotiations said bidding went at least into seven figures. The officials were not authorized to discuss negotiations and asked not to be identified.

Link to the rest at the Associated Press and thanks to Karl for the tip.

Other reports claim the Biden advance was $60 million. Late in 2016, former President and Mrs. Obama signed a book deal reportedly worth $65 million.

PG will note that books written by famous politicians of either party seldom sell well and have a reputation for never earning out their advances. PG wonders whether Macmillan (the Bidens) and Penguin Random House (the Obamas) ever considered using the money to fund a host of new authors.

 

Eight reasons that even a good book is rejected by publishers

29 March 2017

From Scroll.in:

Several years ago, as an aspiring novelist with stardust in my eyes, I used to spend most of my waking hours in Yahoo’s Books and Literature chatroom in the company of fellow aspiring writers. I clearly remember how one of the main topics of conversations used to be the number of rejection slips one had received on that particular day (or the previous week), agents/publishers who had requested a synopsis or proposal, and those who had just not bothered to respond. All of us were united by the looming sense of uncertainty, suspense, and the palpable realisation that the odds were firmly stacked against us.

Today, having spent more than seven years on the other side, first as a consultant and then an agent, I think many writers have wrong notions about rejections. While most books are rejected because of poor quality and incompetence (as they should be), there are several other factors that play a role in publishing decisions. And these affect “good” books too.

A book with no market

Good books are often rejected at the acquisitions meetings at publishing companies, where people from sales and marketing factor in the target audience, potential print runs, and profit margins. Rejections are more common in case of fiction ( especially genre fiction), poetry and short story collections. Several publishers have revised their minimum print run from 2,000/3,000 copies to 5,000.

As a result, books with a dedicated readership and market no larger than 3,000 buyers are being turned down. This partly explains the palpable shift towards publishing books written or at least driven by celebrities, or mass market books like the ones by Savi Sharma and Ajay K Pandey.

A book by a writer with no network or marketing abilities

Writers are increasingly being asked to be closely involved in promotional activities for their books. While some of them might be open to the idea, others feel that it is their works that should be doing the talking. One question that writers are sometimes asked: how many books can you sell within your existing networks – both professional and personal?

Sometimes a writer is also asked about their contacts with the media and with celebrities and influencers who can be roped in for blurbs and high-profile launches. In today’s age of literary festivals, it helps to know some influential festival directors as well. Eminently publishable books are at times rejected in the absence of such contacts or commitments.

. . . .

A book evaluated by the wrong editor

Authors often end up sending their submissions to the wrong editor: a commercial novel may end up in a literary editor’s inbox, or a mind- body-spirit title, in that of the current affairs editor’s. Even when the submission may have reached the right editor, they may not be too familiar with the subject. The more conscientious among the editors will not sign up even an eminently publishable book if they feel they won’t be able to add any value to it. Such misdirected submissions are wasted opportunities, since publishing houses rarely reconsider books, even if they feel they have been read by an unsuitable editor.

Link to the rest at Scroll.in and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Sales, Earnings Fell at PRH in 2016

29 March 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

The lack of a new major bestseller was one factor in driving sales and earnings lower last year, compared to 2015, at Penguin Random House. According to PRH parent company Bertelsmann, revenue at the world’s largest trade publisher fell 9.6% in 2016, to 3.4 billion euros, while EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) declined 3.6%, to 537 million euros. Figures include results from Verlagsgruppe Random House, the German publishing group wholly owned by Bertelsmann.

The lack of a breakout smash contributed to declines in both print and e-book sales but sales of digital audiobooks remained strong, Bertlesmann said.

. . . .

In his letter to employees, PRH CEO Markus Dohle said that despite having “a year that felt challenging for all of us,” PRH raised its operating margin to 16.0%. (Operating margin was 15.0% in 2015). A key to maintaining strong profitability levels, Dohle added, has been PRH’s commitment to “preserving a vital and vibrant bookselling community,” as well as “maximizing efficiencies in our cutting-edge supply chain.”

Dohle also emphasized PRH’s commitment to print, saying the house supported the format “even when it was in decline earlier this decade.”

. . . .

In a press conference in Germany, Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Rabe reiterated that the company, which currently owns 53% stake in PRH, is interested in raising its stake to 70% to 75%. Earlier this year, Pearson said it was looking to sell its 47% share of PRH.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Alexis for the tip.

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