Big Publishing

FBF marred by violent political altercations

16 October 2017

From The Bookseller:

This year’s Frankfurt Book Fair experienced a 3% rise in visitor numbers on 2016, but was marred by “physical altercations between left- and right-wing groups” which required police intervention, its organisers have revealed.

The fair attracted 286,425 visitors, including 7,300 exhibitors from 102 countries, and the Literary Agents and Scouts Centre set a new record in selling 500 tables, the organisers announced. In 2016 visitor numbers had dipped by 2%, pulling in 275,342 visitors (2015: 281,753).

But while UK publishers and agents reported this year’s FBF was generally upbeat, it was overshadowed by confrontations between left- and right-wing groups.

According to DW, a member of the anti-political group Die Partei was attacked after showing up at a right-wing stand to protest, while a left-wing music producer was punched in the face near the stand of the right-leaning newspaper, Junge Freiheit (Young Freedom); both will be pressing charges. Further scuffles took place over the weekend, it reported, as demonstrators protested a book presentation by right-wing publisher Antaios, which included controversial far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) politician Bjorn Höcke.

. . . .

Heinrich Riethmüller, chairman of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, added: “Society faces major questions and challenges – that was again palpable at this year’s book fair. Now as never before, publishers and booksellers need to stimulate debate and promote dialogue and political discourse. In the past few days, the book industry demonstrated once more its vibrancy and diversity. It also sent out a clear call for freedom of expression and pluralism, for an open and tolerant society, from Frankfurt to the world.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Major Publishers Proclaim eBooks Represent 20% of Total Sales

16 October 2017

From Good Ereader:

Over the course of the past few years major publishers have consistently reported that ebook sales have been declining steadily. This has resulted in a number of publishing executives to become disillusioned with the format. Penguin Random House CEO Markus Dohle recently stated that “Book markets have seen growth in most countries, slow, but continuous growth,” Dohle said, noting that some emerging markets have seen “double-digit” growth. One contributing factor to financial stability is the re-invigoration of the print market and the now “healthy co-existence” of the print and digital markets. Overall the markets have stabilized, with print accounting for 80% of sales and digital 20%. “Who would have predicted this five years ago?” Dohle asked. “Most people would have thought it would have been the opposite.”

Markus also took a jab at self-published authors who merely write a word document and submit it to Amazon. “There are 50 million books available from Amazon,” he said, acknowledging the growing importance of self-publishing as an avenue for authors. “Yet, while we are growing in titles, we are still thirsty of the next great story.” Publishers, he went on to say, have a key role to play as curators of content. “Publishers stand for quality and perfect each product before it makes it to the market,” he said.”

. . . .

[Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn] Reidy added that she believes “very firmly” that a new version of the book based on digital delivery will come eventually, though she does not know what it might look like. “Some person who is young and grew up with the screen will come up with something that I hope we recognize,” she continued. “There will be a new form of it, because there has to be.”

Link to the rest at Good Ereader

Book Publishers Go Back to Basics

16 October 2017

From The Wall Street Journal:

Book publishers are giving an advance review of the industry’s future, and it looks a lot like the past.

After a decade of technological upheaval and lackluster growth, executives at the top four U.S. consumer book publishers say they are done relying on newfangled formats to boost growth.

It has been nearly 10 years since Inc. introduced its Kindle e-book reader amid the financial crisis, destabilizing publishers and challenging their well-honed business models.

Now, e-book sales are on the decline, making up a fraction of publishers’ revenue, and traditional book sales are rising. The consumer books industry is enjoying steady growth in the U.S., with total revenue increasing about 5% from 2013 to 2016, according to the Association of American Publishers.

Executives gathered in Frankfurt for the industry’s biggest trade fair said they are returning to fundamentals: buying and printing books that readers want to buy—and they are streamlining their businesses to get them out faster than ever before.

. . . .

The shift is a surprise reversal for an industry that experts just a decade ago predicted was facing radical change, if not a slow death, because of digitization and changing reading habits. Instead, e-book sales in the U.S. were down about 17% last year, according to the AAP industry group, while printed book revenue rose 4.5%.

Interviews at the Frankfurt Book Fair with the top four consumer book publishers in the U.S.—Penguin Random House, CBS Corporation’s Simon & Schuster Inc., Lagardère SCA’s Hachette Livre and News Corp ’sHarperCollins Publishers—showed the decade of seeking cover from outside threats is over, but the fight to overcome the lackluster growth it left behind has just begun.

One thing all agree on is the need for speed. Companies are reinvesting in printed books after years of cost-cutting, and they are building pipelines to bring author’s words into readers’ hands faster.

. . . .

Mr. Murray blamed flagging e-book sales on “screen fatigue,” and said HarperCollins was upping investment in printed books, “the value anchor” for the entire business.

Printed books are “more beautiful now,” he said. “You’ll see endpapers [and] a lot more design sensibility going into the print editions because we recognized that they can’t be throwaway.”

. . . .

And after years “spent taking pennies out of the cost of making a book,” the company is raising the quality of its print editions again, she said.

. . . .

Simon & Schuster’s Ms. Reidy said a young generation of internet natives has been turning to print books—a trend she noticed when her company signed a deal with Rupi Kaur, a poet based on Instagram, to sell and distribute her work in the U.S.

Her young fans “don’t want the e-book at all. They want the physical object,” Ms. Reidy said. “They want to own something that is connected to the person they like online and, number two, because they can share it.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

Nothing but clear sailing ahead for traditional publishing according to the view from Frankfurt.

“Screen fatigue” again.

PG did a quick search and could not find any large organizations outside of publishing that are talking about screen fatigue. If it’s more than a figment of Big Publishing’s hopeful imagination, Apple, Facebook and Google should be desperately afraid. PG hasn’t seen any indication of that.

From Amazon, a Change That Hurts Authors

12 October 2017

From author Douglas Preston (does anyone remember him?) via The New York Times Opinion Page:

Last March, Amazon quietly changed the way it sells books. An obscure and seemingly harmless modification to its website has opened the door for some third-party sellers to deceive Amazon’s customers by selling books as “new” that may not come straight from a publisher or its wholesaler, thus depriving authors of royalties they should have earned from the sale of a new book.

Amazon decided to allow third-party sellers to be featured atop the primary purchase button for new books, a spot previously reserved for Amazon’s own inventory, which comes directly from the publishers. Approved third-party sellers “win” this placement through a secret algorithm that considers, among other things, price, availability, seller’s rating and shipping time. In doing so, Amazon abdicates its role as the prime retailer on its own website. The main requirement is that the books offered by the third-party seller must be “new.”

So when you, the customer, hit that main buy button, you should always expect to get a brand-new book, right?

Not necessarily.

To explain why, we have to take a journey into the underbelly of the book market. Have you ever asked yourself, when shopping for books on Amazon, how third-party sellers can be offering dozens of “new” books at prices way below even the discounted Amazon price? The reason is that such books could have been bought in bulk by a handful of giant online third-party sellers to be re-sold through Amazon as “new” books, when some are not.

Where do these gray market books originate? There are several possible sources.

Bookstores can return unsold books for credit. The publisher or distributor will sometimes sell these returns at a discount in bulk as overstocks, or sell excess inventory as remainders. Huge online bookstores buy these books (perfectly legal). Often, these books are marked with a line indicating they are remainders. But sometimes, they are not. In such cases, the online bookstore might resell them as “new” on Amazon.

Blemished books also seem to feed the gray market for “new” books. Bookstores will return shopworn books or those damaged in shipping under the category of “hurt books.” The publisher sells these books as used books. Online bookstores may buy them in bulk, sort through them, and resell as “new” the least damaged through Amazon.

. . . .

 And finally, a number of review copies are sent out free to media outlets. They are not supposed to be sold. Some book sellers apparently have standing arrangements with magazine conglomerates and television networks to bulk purchase all the review copies they receive, which they could presumably then sell on Amazon. While this isn’t strictly illegal, it is unethical — and terribly unfair to authors and publishers.

. . . .

In many of these sales, the author gets zilch, or close to zilch. And, according to the Independent Book Publishers Association, which has been conducting its own research into the issue by purchasing books on Amazon, the customer is sometimes sold a used book under false pretenses.

Publishers and authors, deprived of income and royalties, have long worried about this gray market. Amazon, to its credit, quickly tightened up its definition of a “new” book, to the one cited above. These definitions make clear that remainders are not regarded as “new” books, and the company insists that it follows a strict policy as to what qualifies.

. . . .

The Authors Guild has urged publishers to keep better track of remainders, overstocks and excess-discount sales, and some publishers have responded. But the cost of policing the market, marking and tracking books, and suing malefactors has proved daunting. Remainder overstock sales bring some revenue for publishers, but the authors receive little to no royalties.

Link to the rest at New York Times

C.E. Petit, who provided the tip (Thank you, C.E.), has some commentary:

Oh dear, yet again the Department of Overstatement is running rampant regarding book sales… yet again involving pseudoactivism by Douglas Preston in the face of facts that don’t quite match up, largely because he continues to believe that all of publishing works exactly like he thinks commercial-publisher trade fiction works. (Nope. Not even close.) In an editorial in today’s NYT, he raises the tired old “deceptive discounts” argument yet again.

Without pretending to defend the practices of “wholesale price competition and margin splitting,” especially given that those really paying the price for such “competition” are the captive labor forces and those reaping the benefits are not the consumers but the investors, one must wonder what Mr Preston thinks of shopping at Nordstrom Rack, or T.J. Maxx, or any of a variety of other discounters-of-new-clothing-and-fashion-accessories vendors who take advantage of the same thing in an industry with per-item margins significantly lower than in publishing.

. . . .

This is another example of an argument from assumed authority: That Mr Preston is a bestselling author (not to my taste, but whatever) gives him a platform and presumed authority to pontificate on “the way publishing works,” when it at most gives him some insight into part of one of the thirteen publishing industries. Not the largest one, either. It is possible that some of these “overdiscounted new books” are returns being resold on Amazon… but that’s the case at Barnes & Noble and Half-Price Books and other brick-and-mortar stores, too.

. . . .

Another problem is that everything Mr. Preston says is couched in “could” and “may,” but aimed at an entire subset of commercial practices. Admittedly, part of this is publishing’s own damned fault: It operates on a culture of secrecy that would shame the intelligence community in its effectiveness. For example, the intelligence community (and those around it) know quite well how much intelligence value comes from open-source analysis, and can even quantify it. In publishing, not so much… because even publishing itself doesn’t know. And that’s the real flaw with Mr. Preston’s argument: Only one of the examples of “unfair” sources he cites is actually an unfair source, and he poisons even that by equating “has previously been in a bookstore (even still cased up in the back” as “shopworn.”

Link to the rest at Scrivener’s Error

As C.E. points out, authors are paid according to the (lousy) terms of their traditional publishing agreements with big publishers for most of the sales Preston decries. Big Publishing earns (as usual) far more money than the author does from these types of sales.

PG’s overall response to the latest from Preston is encapsulated in the title of the following song:

Shorter Attention Spans

12 October 2017

From Shelf Awareness:

“You have whole generations being trained for shorter attention spans than books require,” said Carolyn Reidy, president and CEO of Simon & Schuster, during the annual CEO Talk at the Frankfurt Book Fair on Wednesday.

. . . .

Reidy described the battle for the consumer’s attention and time as the “main thing,” the “number one challenge” facing publishers, and one that has gotten only more critical since the advent of things like social media and especially video streaming services. She said it behooves publishers to “make sure in every way we can” that books remain “central to the discussion of what’s going on in the culture.” At the same time, Reidy and Dervieux agreed that for all of the dangers that they pose, social media does provide new opportunities for reaching consumers more directly than ever before and for finding new authors to publish, whether they be Youtubers, bloggers or Instagram poets.

“I’m not so sure that we should be so anxious about it,” said Dervieux. “For the moment, no indie author has said to us, ‘no, I prefer to stay [independent], I don’t want to have my book published.’ “

When asked whether today’s hostile political climate factors into decisions on what books to publish, Reidy answered that it does, adding that things have gotten so contentious that people of opposing viewpoints often “don’t even want to understand” the other side. She said that S&S has always “made a point” of publishing points of view “from all sides” and “books we feel can help elucidate the conversation,” and she suggested that the industry “would be in trouble” if publishers decided to publish only books “we all agree with.”

“The real question is the books that don’t make us as comfortable, and should we be publishing those too,” said Reidy. She encouraged publishers to “make sure that we stay open to cogent and well done books of all points of view, so that the discussion can continue on the level that we as publishers can hopefully help provide.”

. . . .

On the subject of self-published and independent authors, Reidy said that self-publishing has certainly caused traditional publishers to lose some customers; in particular the market for mass market romance novels has all but “dried up.” What used to be a huge paperback market, she explained, has largely gone to digital original. But while self-publishing may cause some consumers and authors to turn away from the traditional system, it also affords publishers an opportunity to “make the case of what it is we provide,” which Reidy described as everything from “the editorial and marketing to legal representation and copy-editing.” Dervieux, meanwhile, said that he did not think self-publishing was a competitor, but may actually be “the exact opposite of what we are doing.”

Noting that it’s been 10 years since the mainstream adoption of e-books began, Reidy and Dervieux talked about why they think the dire predictions of the death of print have not come to pass. Reidy proposed that while nothing “went wrong” with e-books to cause the leveling-off of their popularity, consumers most likely simply “got tired of screens.” She noted that for years before e-books, publishers had been “taking pennies out of the cost of making a book,” but when digital became widespread, publishers began “spending years putting value back into the book.” Dervieux wondered if perhaps the industry expected “too much, too soon,” from the e-book format, and remarked that even by the “grace of Jeff Bezos and huge discounts,” such a large shift in consumer habits could not happen in such a hurry.

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness

Hachette to Honor Weinstein Books Contracts

10 October 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

Following a New York Times report exposing decades of sexual assault allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and his subsequent removal by the board of the company he co-founded, Hachette Book Group has addressed the future of writers signed to his book publishing imprint, Weinstein Books.

“Hachette Book Group will honor its contracts with writers who have come to us via Weinstein Books,” a spokesperson for the company told PW. “We will consider all of our options going forward, keeping support for our authors foremost.”

. . . .

Weinstein Books is a joint venture with The Weinstein Company, but its author contracts are with HBG, not Weinstein. Its authors include Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski, who recently wrote on Twitter that she has “a three-book deal with Weinstein Books, through Hachette. I can’t go forward with those books unless Harvey resigns.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

The OP doesn’t provide the dollar total for the advances Hachette has paid to Weinstein. PG opines that any number of Hachette executives can’t forget that number. But, of course, supporting authors is always the most important priority.

Super Thursday: with 500 new books out today

5 October 2017

From The Guardian:

More than 500 glossy new hardbacks are set to arrive on the shelves of the UK’s booksellers on Thursday, as books by names ranging from Alan Hollinghurst to Mary Berry prepare to do battle for the Christmas No 1 slot.

This year, 505 new books are being published on Super Thursday, the day marked out as the start of the annual race for Christmas bestsellers. As usual, memoirs feature prominently, with books by actor David Jason, comedian Sarah Millican, and Virgin tycoon Richard Branson. There is also a diary from Dawn French; Niall Ferguson’s The Square and the Tower, a look at social networks of the past; and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s take on the Obama era, We Were Eight Years in Power.

While celebrities including Nadiya Hussain and Cara Delevingne are jumping into the lucrative children’s book market, there are new literary novels from two Man Booker prize winners – Hollinghurst (The Sparsholt Affair) and John Banville (Mrs Osmond) – but the biggest fiction seller is likely to be Philip Pullman’s long-awaited La Belle Sauvage, out a little later, on 19 October, along with 259 other new hardbacks.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Tackling Gender Inequality in Publishing

3 October 2017

From Digital Book World:

Former publishing executive Nancy Roberts (previously Global Operations Director at Cambridge University Press) has founded Business Inclusivity, a consultancy aimed at helping publishers to address issues of gender inequality in a way which supports business goals.

Publishing is a female-dominated industry, but sadly this doesn’t necessarily translate into equitable treatment of women at senior levels. I want to use my experience to help women achieve success in the industry, and to enable publishers to leverage the proven business benefits of a more inclusive workplace.
Nancy Roberts, Founder, Business Inclusivity

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

PG has yet to discover any gender inequality in the operations of indie authors with whom he has worked.

E-Book Revenue Increased for the First Time in Two Years

29 September 2017

From The Association of American Publishers:

eBook revenues for trade book publishers were up 2.4% in May 2017. The growth was attributed to increased eBook sales for Adult Books, up 3.4% over May 2016. This is the first monthly increase over prior year sales since March 2015, according to the StatShot Monthly report from the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

The increase in eBook sales was one element of a growth month for book publishers. Revenues for book publishers were up by $50.7 million (4.6%) in May 2017 over May 2016. Revenues from Jan. – May 2017 were $4.25 billion, gaining $175.7 million (4.3%) compared to the same timeframe in 2016.

With the exception of Professional Books, all reported categories saw sales increases for the month. The categories with the greatest growth in May were Childrens & Young Adult Books (11.8%) and University Presses (7.3%). With these and other gains, no categories are reporting revenue loss year-to-date.

Link to the rest at The Association of American Publishers

What the (New) Book People Won’t Tell You: There Will Always be Publishers

28 September 2017

From The Digital Reader:

A couple weeks back I got on a tear about things Book People won’t say, including that B&N has been doomed by its senior and digital is killing print.

Today I would like to turn it around and share something that isn’t said enough in self-publishing circles.

There will always be book publishers.

It is axiomatic in certain circles that in 2017 that authors have all the power.  Authors can hire they help they need and take their work direct to market, thus removing any need for a publisher.

While all of that is true, it does not automatically follow that book publishers are going the way of the dodo.

One detail that is often overlooked is that not all authors are equally imbued with the business skills – or the interest – required to publish their work and maximize revenues. There will always be some author who would rather focus on writing and hire someone else to do the packaging and selling.

. . . .

So yes, ten years from now we’re going to be able to point to something and call it a publisher. We’re probably going to even have many of the same names then as now – after all, there is value in a publishing brand – but that’s no guarantee that the future publishers will be the corporate descendants of the present publishers.

In the same way that the major publishers have killed themselves by ignoring ebooks, other publishers are rendering themselves irrelevant by refusing to adapt to the times.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

PG says Nate makes some good points.

A great many authors hire editors to help polish their manuscripts. A great many authors also hire cover designers and book/ebook formatting services.

Professional editors, designers, etc., tend to be service-oriented. If they don’t understand at the outset of their careers, they soon learn that, in addition to their skills at editing and design, they need to pay attention to their clients if they want to keep editing and designing.

Given the attitude of so many contemporary publishers toward authors, the question is whether employees or former employees will be capable of making the complete turnabout required to become service professionals. Some will, but PG suspects most won’t.

Additionally, a lot of the things publishers are good at won’t be necessary any more.

PG is not among those who believe that readers will always want printed books.

Due to his antiquity, PG remembers when serious music lovers were completely committed to their record collections, carefully preserving them and proudly showing pristine album covers to any who entered their listening abode. When CD’s were first introduced, serious listeners were aghast at the harsh quality of sound produced by early CD’s.

Of course, streaming music has even poorer sound quality than CD’s, but listeners seem to have adapted. Do major musicians release their music only on vinyl records? PG doesn’t follow that sort of thing, but he doubts they do.

PG is happy to have people listening to the sounds via the media they like best, but from a commercial standpoint, are any large music publishers staking their revenues on vinyl?

Some readers will continue to like printed books, but their numbers are already declining and will continue to do so.

One of the keys to low print prices are large print runs. 100,000 printed books cost much less on a per-book basis than 1,000 books. Mass production delivers the best prices when you can set up the machines and let them run for awhile.

Publishers are striving mightily to keep the prices of their ebooks close to the prices of their printed books, but that’s bound to be a failed strategy. For one thing, the accountants at the holding companies that own all major US publishers will complain about the wide divergence in profitability between ebooks and printed books.

Why would any sane business person spend a lot of money to print thousands of books that may never be sold, then pay storage and transportation costs for those books and finally pay someone to dispose of the unsold print books when, for almost nothing, the publisher can send a single electronic copy of an ebook to various vendors and watch deposits come into its bank accounts?

What reality-based business would not prioritize selling products with no production costs over selling products with high production costs?

What’s going to happen to Barnes & Noble?

Let’s answer a question with a question: What happened to Blockbuster Music, Camelot Music, Mediaplay, Music+, Musicland, Music Play, SamGoody, Tower Records, Virgin Megastores, Wherehouse Music, and a zillion other music chains?

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