Big Publishing

Want to Get Published? NY Literary Agent’s Tips For Native Authors

21 July 2016

From Indian Country Today Media Network:

Native authors wanting to get their books published may have felt a jolt of inspiration over the past year as publishers and literary agents embraced such social media movements as #WeNeedDiverseBooks. Though many literary agents and publishers want to work with authors of diversity, most don’t know how to find them.

Eddie Schneider is a successful literary agent and Vice President ofJABberwocky Literary Agency, which he joined in 2008. Schneider says he is among those agents who wish to work with a greater selection of diverse authors, but says many aspiring writers don’t know how to navigate the submission process.

Schneider’s website and literary blogcites some sobering statistics about the lack of diversity in the publishing world.

“According tothis study of literary prize demographics conducted by the University of North Texas, 95% of Pulitzer Prize winners are white, 75% are male, and 85% of them live on the East Coast. When it comes to the National Book Award for Nonfiction, it’s only slightly better; 90% of winners are white, 70% are male, and 80% live on the east coast. The winners are being drawn from a pool where the numbers are stacked against women and minorities. Seventy percent of the submissions for these awards are for books authored by men.”

. . . .

“As obvious as it sounds,” writes Schneider, “the first thing that you want to do to get your work published is to write the manuscript (fiction) or the proposal (non-fiction). With fiction, one of the great pitfalls that authors encounter is finishing projects they start. Too often, the candle that burns brightly at the start goes out before all the wax has been used. With a new author, agents and publishers need to see that you can finish projects, and the way to demonstrate that . . . is by finishing a project.

“Non-fiction is a little different. What you need to succeed there are sample chapters that demonstrate you have writing ability, and a proposal that shows you have a strong concept for the book as a whole.

. . . .

 “If you’re near a bookstore, that makes things fairly easy,” says Schneider. “You can move around the physical space and look at the other books that might one day be your book’s neighbors, and see where your book fits in, as well as how it stands out within its own genre/sub-genre. Sometimes people already have a strong sense of which genre they write in, but sometimes this can be eye-opening.”

. . . .

Schneider says there are four things to remember when writing a query letter.

“First, is that your letter is going to capture the tone of your book. It will even if it feels to you like the business letter that it is and everything in you wants to break the mold and do something unusual to stand out.

“Second, it’s a good idea to have one or two catchy lines that don’t feel contrived. That sometimes shows up as a hook near the beginning of the letter, sometimes as some part of the plot summary that sticks with you later, sometimes in the final paragraph which is mostly just to say that you look forward to the agent’s (or publisher’s) response.

“Third, it’s best not to self-aggrandize and get too adjectival when describing the work.

“Fourth, the bio paragraph should contain information that’s relevant and not get all that personal. If you’re a nonfiction author, this is your first opportunity to show your platform. If you’re a novelist, list a few publication credits (if you have any) or mentions of relevant work, life, or college experience will suffice.

“When submitting the query letter,” says Schneider, “Send it simultaneously! And if an agent offers representation, let the other agents know. And be sure to follow individual agents’ guidelines. Usually they don’t differ too radically from one another, but we get hundreds of email messages and letters each month and if something comes in that has ignored our guidelines, well, we’re looking for excuses to trim down the size of our reading piles.”

 

Link to the rest at Indian Country Today Media Network

Or you could self-publish one or two or three books during the same amount of time it takes to go through the above-described exercise and immediately increase the number of diverse books available for purchase.

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Discount Abuse

15 July 2016

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Contracts have gotten worse, much worse in the past thirty years—and that’s with agents (so-called experts) negotiating them.

. . . .

For this blog, however, I’m going to focus on the discount clause.

Before you indie writers go heading off to the hills thinking none of this applies to you, look at the title of this post. Discount Abuse. Many of you indies are as guilty of discount abuse as traditional publishers are.

You just do it in different ways.

. . . .

Second: Do not do what traditional publishers do when they discount books. Generally speaking, traditional publishers do it wrong. Or their strategy is aimed at promoting their company, not at promotingan author. Your strategy is to grow your readership. A totally different thing.

Third: Be glad, as you scan this post, that you’re an indie writer. Even if you screw up and decide to discount your first book, you’ll make more money than your traditionally published friends do on theirdiscounted books. (Unless, you put your book up for free. Sigh.)

And—a bonus Fourth: Read this post now in case you decide to get a traditional publisher to publish your paper copies. Especially if you had (or will have) an agent negotiate the deal. Because much of what I’m going to discuss here applies to paper books, not ebooks. This is one of those areas where you, the indie who has gone hybrid, is most likely to get screwed.

In fact, this area is where writers have been getting screwed since some publisher thought to change their contracts in the last 1990s—and then all the other publishers followed suit.

. . . .

Discount clauses always send a ting of discomfort through me, and not just because the things are damaging to writers’ careers and writers’ incomes. But because they are one of those let’s-screw-the-writer clauses that got added into contracts in the past twenty years or so.

. . . .

And these modern documents have lots of let’s-screw-the-writer clauses. Sometimes they’re bunched into a single clause marked “the discount clause” and sometimes they’re spread out, such as these clauses from a fairly recent contract:

  1. Discounted sales. Some sales of the Work in the forms specified in [another part of the contract—forms like hardcover, trade paperback, mass market] above may be to jobbers, chain stores or others at substantial discount. Where the discount is fifty percent (50%) or more from the Retail Price, a royalty equal to one-half the regular royalty. Where the discount is sixty-five percent (65%) or more from the Retail Price, a royalty equal to ten percent (10%) of the Net Receipts per copy sold.
  2. Cheap editions. On all net copies sold of any cheap edition that the Publisher publishes at a price not greater than two-thirds (2/3) of the original retail price, a royalty of ten percent (10%) of the Net Receipts, but if the Publisher licenses publication of such edition by another publisher, a royalty of fifty percent (50%) of the Net Receipts.
  3. Other Book Publication. For other editions (including but not limited to premiums, mail order, schoolbook and book fair editions, and other special editions) sold in the United States: Ten percent (10%) of the Net Receipts.

This lovely publisher starts screwing writers right from the start. Chain stores or others? Most of the large stores get discounts over 50% as a matter of course, so that means that most of the royalties paid from a writer’s book are paid at half the usual royalty rate.

. . . .

These “discounted” books have no time limit, so if your book is really popular, and it sells to Barnes & Noble (chain store) or Wal-Mart (chain store) at publication, the publisher can discount the royalty rate too. Right from the moment of publication. No waiting a year, as in the 1980 contract.

And lookie here! The publisher doesn’t have to pay full royalties on books sold by mail order, which many publishers are now considering as books sold off their websites. In fact that entire clause that mentions other editions? It’s pernicious all by itself.

It says “For other editions (including but not limited to…)”

In other words, they can publish the definitive book, and then all kinds of other editions, because the author didn’t limit the kinds of books the publisher can publish. And believe me, there are a million different editions the publisher can think up, none of which the publisher has to pay full royalties on.

Things get even worse for writers. For example, this lovely publisher from whose contract I’m quoting has an even lovelier clause in its ebook royalty rate. That clause says:

Royalties For Ebook Editions sold in the United States, except as described in paragraphs 1-3 below: Fifteen percent (15%) of the Net Receipts.

Guess what, folks? Paragraphs 1-3 are the clauses I excerpted above. The discount clauses. So if your publisher has this clause in their ebook editions royalty rates, then your publisher can sell your discounted ebook and pay you even less. So that wonderful $1.99 sale they’re doing to “promote” you? Well, that $1.99 is significantly less than 50% of the cover price of your $9.99 ebook, isn’t it? Guess who doesn’t get paid a full 15% of net receipts on the ebook edition.

You.

By the way, the contracts I’m using for this modern stuff were all negotiated by agents, not attorneys. Just pointing this out.

. . . .

My solution is to go back to 1980.

First, the publisher can’t discount anything without seeking the author’s permission.

Second, the publisher can only discount a book after the book has been out for a year or more.

If the publisher wants to discount titles to promote sales in the first year of publication, let the publisher eat the difference in the cost. Not the writer.

. . . .

Traditionally published authors have no idea what price their book is selling for and what royalty percentage they will get on that book. Without a full-blown audit of their publisher, there’s no way the traditionally published writer can know.

These discount clauses—which the authors have freely signed—are the way that publishers are increasing their bottom lines. This is also why so many #1 New York Times bestselling authors are seeing their royalty rates decline. It’s not because the books sell fewer copies (although that’s happening as well); it’s because the authors are being paid less per copy sold—significantly less.

. . . .

Do your best to negotiate out these pernicious clauses. If you do manage to get those clauses out of your contract, be prepared to audit your publisher regularly. Because they’ll probably still act as if the clauses are in your contract, and figure you won’t catch them at it.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

PG is always conflicted when an author proudly tells him that Costco is selling the author’s books. The author is understandably excited at the prospect of selling a lot of books.

PG has not had any author mention that he/she understands that royalties on such sales will fall through the floor because of deep discount clauses. So far, PG hasn’t had the heart to share the bad royalty news with the author.

The increasing rapaciousness of deep discount clauses explains why fewer and fewer traditionally-published books are earning out their advances.

Whenever PG is banging heads with a publisher trying to extricate an author from a bad publishing contract, the publisher’s counsel invariably mentions that some or all of the books haven’t earned out their advances (as if this is a mortal sin on the author’s part). PG usually responds by saying he’s not surprised because the publisher is paying the author 5% royalties instead of 25% royalties.

Kris is correct that publishing contracts have become longer and longer over the past 10-20 years.

The basic rule for all types of form contracts in the computer word processing age is that lawyers never take anything out of a form contract and constantly insert new provisions and expand old ones. PG sees this in enterprise software licenses and internet terms of service as well as publishing contracts.

He’s also seen an increase an old contract trick that gives something to the other side on page three and takes it back on page 15. A 30-page contract makes this easier than a 10-page contract does.

When PG is reviewing a contemporary contract, he’s constantly going back and forth to see how Paragraph 48 may affect Paragraph 12, etc., etc., etc.

The bigger the jungle, the more places the tiger can hide.

The “Big Change” era in trade book publishing ended about four years ago

12 July 2016

From veteran publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin:

Book publishing is still very much in a time of changing conditions and circumstances. There are a host of unknowables about the next several years that affect the shape of the industry and the strategies of all the players in it. But as publishers, retailers, libraries, and their ecosystem partners prepare for whatever is next, it becomes increasingly evident that — from the perspective of trade publishing at least — we have already lived through the biggest period of transition. It took place from sometime in 2007 through 2012.

At the beginning of 2007, there was no Kindle. By the end of 2011, there was no Borders. And by the end of 2012, five of America’s biggest publishers were defending themselves from the US Department of Justice. The arrival of Kindle and the exit of Borders are the two most earthshaking events in the recent history of book publishing and its ecosystem. The Justice Department suit first distracted and then ultimately strait-jacketed the big publishers so it was both difficult to focus and then difficult to react to further marketplace changes.

Paying close attention to what we then called “electronic publishing” started for me in the early 1990s, with a conference other consulting colleagues and I organized for Publishers Weekly which we called “Electronic Publishing and Rights”. This was before Amazon existed. It was when the big transition taking place was from diskettes to CD-Roms as the means of storage. And it was even before Windows, so the only device on which you could view on a screen anything that looked at all like a book was a Macintosh computer, which had literally a sliver of the market. The most interesting ebook predecessor was the Voyager Expanded Book, and it could only be used on a Mac.

In this speech I gave in 1995, I put my finger on the fact that online would change all this and that publishers shouldn’t spend too much energy on CD-Roms.

. . . .

The first important new device for books in 2007 didn’t start out as one at all. It was the iPhone, first released in June of that year. Although Palm Pilots were the ebook reader of choice for a big chunk of the then-tiny ebook community, they lacked connectivity. The iPhone was not seen as an ereader when it came out — indeed, Apple head Steve Jobs still believed at that point that ebooks were not a market worth pursuing — but they could, and did, rapidly become one when it was demonstrated that there was a market. And they vastly expanded the universe of people routinely paying for downloaded content, in this case music from the iTunes store.

Then Kindle launched in November of 2007. A still unannounced number of Kindles sold out in a few hours and Amazon remained out of stock of them for several months! Because the original Kindle was $399, it was only a “good deal” for the consumer who read many books on which they could save money by buying electronic. What this meant was that Kindle owners bought ebooks in numbers much greater than the relatively small number of devices placed would have suggested. Throughout 2008, the awareness dawned on the industry thatebooks were going to be a significant business.

And that awareness rapidly shook loose a raft of competition. Barnes & Noble saw that they had to compete in this arena and started a crash program to deliver the Nook, which first appeared almost precisely two years after the first Kindle, in November 2009. Months earlier, Amazon had released the app that put Kindle on the iPhone. Meanwhile, Jobs had become persuaded to take ebooks seriously, and, anyway, he had a store selling content downloads to devices like crazy. Now, about to launch his new tablet format, the iPad, he had what looked like the perfect vehicle with which to launch ebooks. The iPad and the iBookstore debuted in April 2010. A month later, Kobo entered the market as a low-priced alternative with their first device.

. . . .

All of this change within three calendar years — 2008 through 2010 — created a blizzard of strategic decisions for the publishers. Remember, before all this, ebooks were an afterthought.

. . . .

During the period when Amazon was pretty much alone in the game (the pre-Amazon market leaders, Sony and Palm, faded very quickly), they started pricing Kindle titles aggressively, even willing to take losses on each sale to promote device sales and the ecosystem. This alarmed publishers, who were seeing small Kindle sales grow at what were frightening rates and raising the spectre of undermining their hardcovers. It didn’t hurt that the retailers with whom they (still, then, though not now) did most of their business were also alarmed. Nook arrived and Barnes & Noble would never have been as comfortable as Amazon with selling these new products at a loss. But B&N also worried about the impact that cheap ebooks might have on more expensive print book sales. Amazon didn’t.

. . . .

Coinciding with and enabled by all of this was the huge growth in author-initiated publishing. Amazon had bought CreateSpace, which gave them the ability to offer print-on-demand as well as Kindle ebooks. The combination meant that a huge audience could be reached through them without any help from anybody else. When agency happened (2010), they started to offer indie authors what amounted to agency terms: 70 percent of the selling price for ebooks. This was a multiple of the percentage an author would get through a publisher.

Agency pricing fell right into Amazon’s and the self-published hands. Getting 70 percent on the ebook, the indie author got $2.10 pricing at $2.99 and $2.80 pricing at $3.99, royalties comparable to what they’d get from full-priced print.

. . . .

Suddenly, names nobody had heard before were on the map, selling millions of ebooks, and taking mindshare away from the industry’s output. And it also handed the publishers’ authors an alternative path to market that could only have the effect of improving their negotiating position with the publishers.

. . . .

Amazon continues to grow its share, and they are around 50 percent of the business or more for many publishers these days.

Barnes & Noble is troubled but in no immediate jeopardy and is still, by far, the number one brick-and-mortar account for publishers. But the optimistic view is that their book sales will remain flat in the near future.

Independent bookselling continues to grow, but even with their growth since Borders went down, they are less than 10 percent of the sales for most publishers. It is true that ebook sales for publishers have flattened (we don’t know the overall trend for sure because we don’t really know the indie sales at Amazon, and they’re substantial) and don’t seem likely to grow their share against print anytime soon.

These things seem likely to be as true two years from now as they are now. Nothing felt that way in from 2008-2012.

. . . .

But the challenges of today aren’t about change of the magnitude that was being coped with in the period that ended five years ago. They’re more about improving workflows and processes, learning to use new tools, and integrating new people with new skill sets into the publishing business. And there are a lot of new people with relevant skills up and down the trade publishing organizations now. That wasn’t so much the case when things were changing the fastest, 2007-2012.

It isn’t that there aren’t still many of new things to work on, new opportunities to explore, or long-term decisions to make. But the editor today can sign a book and expect a publishing environment when it comes out in a year or two roughly like the one we have today. The editor in 2010 couldn’t feel that confidence.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

As PG has mentioned before, he believe Shatzkin’s posts reflect the thinking of many in Big Publishing.

Unfortunately, the predictions in the OP represent a typical pattern of thinking in an industry swept up by disruptive technology. The survivors of early changes think, “It’s going to stop now. Nothing happened to me last year or last month, so nothing will happen to me next month and next year.”

PG doesn’t think this is the case for Big Publishing and its ecosystem.

Why? Big Publishing is simply too expensive. It costs everyone too much.

It’s too expensive for authors to try to live on a royalty of 17.5% of the price of an ebook when they can earn a 70% royalty on the same ebook sold in the same place.

It’s too expensive for readers because the $15 ebook price from a big publisher is too high when they can find excellent ebooks for $2.99 or borrow them at no charge.

It’s too expensive for everyone to load Manhattan rents, salaries and costs of business into the the fixed costs for publishing a book when indie authors can and do create competitive books from a kitchen table with a wifi signal.

The relevant question for more and more authors is not, “Can I find a publisher for my book?” but “Can I really afford the expense and hassle of using a publisher for my book?”

PG regularly talks to a lot of smart and successful authors (as well as smart and beginning authors). He has an idea of what kinds of questions they’re asking. Unlike Shatzkin, he doesn’t think the Big Change is over for trade publishing.

PG thinks the largest changes of all for trade publishing are in the future.

What Does ‘Brexit’ Mean for Publishing?

3 July 2016

The day I feared since David Cameron stepped out the door of 10 Downing Street in May 2015 to declare victory for the Conservative Party came to pass in the early hours of June 24, when news spread that voters opted to take Britain out of the European Union, of which it had been a grouchy member for more than 40 years. “No man is an island,” John Donne wrote in his Devotions upon Emergent Occasions. “If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less.”

At the most basic level, uncertainty is always bad for business. Small British publishers—always conscious of cutting their cloth—will be cautious indeed. The multinational houses that dominate the industry will be modeling various scenarios. I hear that one has already put new projects and contracts on hold. And as with the 2008 recession, some will use Brexit as an excuse to rationalize, to put out to grass older and wiser, but more expensive, heads and hire younger, cheaper staff. (How must indebted British postgraduate students feel, their futures blighted?)

On both the high street and Amazon, sales of books (and much besides) in the U.K. will slump. Brexit will mean an increase in the cost of living. Inevitably, all that means at least a short-term cut in discretionary spending, as there was in 2008. Clearly that will have impact on British booksellers and publishers; lists will be trimmed—perhaps slashed—in response.

Publisher turnover will be further imperiled by the loss of European sales. After skirmishes a few years ago, it was broadly agreed that U.K. publishers should be able to acquire exclusive English-language rights for the entire E.U. market. But with Britain out of the E.U., Europe—including Ireland—becomes an open market, a battleground where the cheapest edition wins out. Academic and educational publishers will be able to continue to seek world English rights and possibly continue to obtain a full assignment of copyright, but trade publishers will not.

Moreover, U.K. trade publishers need Europe to give them scale; after all, their U.S. counterparts already have Latin America and sometimes Canada. The realignment will reduce the income of British authors for whom Europe is currently part of the home market so far as royalties are concerned. The situation could become desperate if—or when—Scotland gains independence in order to remain in the E.U.

Read the rest at Publishers Weekly.

PRH CEO: ‘Publishing Is Undeniably a Force for Good’

1 July 2016

From Digital Book World:

Penguin and Random House merged three years ago, in 2013, and today Penguin Random House’s CEO, Markus Dohle, sent an anniversary letter to employees in which he congratulated them on their hard work, but more importantly, detailed how that work is affecting people throughout the world.

“Along this road, we have continued to write our story, telling the world who we are, what we do, and why we do it,” Dohle wrote. “Equally important is how—especially in today’s dynamic and complex world, with unprecedented societal events impacting all of us.”

“Publishing is undeniably a force for good,” Dohle continued. “But working in an industry that is inherently a service to society, we risk subscribing to the notion that this is enough. It’s not. We ought to do more—and we can—by taking advantage of our capacity as Penguin Random House to drive positive social, environmental, and cultural change, locally and globally.”

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

PG says if you have any lingering doubts about Big Publishing being a force for good, the following buzzword-rich video Tour de Force will surely convince you of that truth.

PG was particularly moved by the music and noted that Randy Penguin nurtures its employees.

Strangely, there was no mention of nurturing authors. Perhaps that’s no longer fashionable – or sustainable or responsible or social or environmental or universal or cultural or local or global.

PG was so inspired by this whole experience, he wrote a new PRH slogan.

Randy Penguin: Giving back to everyone . . . except authors

 

Author Gay Talese disavows his latest book amid credibility questions

1 July 2016

From The Washington Post:

In his forthcoming book, “The Voyeur’s Motel,” acclaimed journalist and nonfiction author Gay Talese chronicles the bizarre story of Gerald Foos, who allegedly spied on guests at his Colorado motel from the late 1960s to the mid-1990s.

But Talese overlooked a key fact in his book: Foos sold the motel, located in Aurora, Colo., in 1980 and didn’t reacquire it until eight years later, according to local property records. His absence from the motel raises doubt about some of the things Foos told Talese he saw — enough that the author himself now has deep reservations about the truth of some material he presents.

“I should not have believed a word he said,” the 84-year-old author said after The Washington Post informed him of property records that showed Foos did not own the motel from 1980 to 1988.

“I’m not going to promote this book,” the writer said. “How dare I promote it when its credibility is down the toilet?”

. . . .

The source of my book, Gerald Foos, is certifiably unreliable,” Talese said. “He’s a dishonorable man, totally dishonorable. . . . I know that. . . . I did the best I could on this book, but maybe it wasn’t good enough.”

. . . .

Morgan Entrekin, chief executive of Talese’s publisher, Grove/Atlantic books, said the majority of events described in “The Voyeur’s Motel” occurred before Foos sold the motel in 1980. But he said the company would consider appending an author’s note or footnotes in subsequent printings to account for errors or missing information.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post and thanks to Barb for the tip.

For YouTube Stars, Writing a Book Is Still a Big Deal

28 June 2016

From The Wall Street Journal:

How can you tell if somebody’s really big on YouTube? Subscriber count mean something. A book deal might mean even more.

A host of YouTubers have entered the world of old-fashioned physical media by publishing memoirs, fiction and even comic books since 2014. This weekend at VidCon, a convention for the YouTube-famous and those who aspire to be, fans were able to get their hands on a printed extension of their favorite online personalities.

Xandra Long, a 16-year-old from Orange, Calif., found herself unexpectedly drawn to a stand selling books written by YouTube stars. “Dream House,” a fictional thriller byMarzia Bisognin – known as CutiePieMariza on YouTube, where she has nearly 6.5 million subscribers — caught Long’s eye.

“I watch her videos a lot,” said Long, holding the newly purchased hardcover book in her hands. “I don’t really read a lot, but I do like [Bisognin’s] channel, and it’s really cool that I can get a book by her.”

Passing through a convention floor bustling with vendors, businesses and a host of opportunities for selfies, fans perused books published by Simon & Schuster, which has produced many of the YouTubers’ books.

“I think the audience wants something physical, that they can hold in their hands and for me, writing a book is an opportunity to reach a different audience than on YouTube, and possibly, some of my fans that might have outgrown my videos,” said Shane Dawson, a YouTube star with 7 million subscribers. He has also written two books: “I Hate Myselfie” and the soon-to-be-released “It Gets Worse.”

“We’re all looking to broaden our horizons,” Dawson said. “This is just an extension of who we are online.”

. . . .

Ariele Fredman, assistant director of publicity at Atria Books, said these books cater to a different audience than memoirs written by celebrities who found their fame through more traditional routes.

“They’re not going to seek out a memoir by Tina Fey, necessarily, to learn more about who they want to be or how they see themselves reflected in society,” Fredman said.

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

Where would we be without New York publishing as the curator of our culture?

The YouTube author trend should provide lots of work for ghost writers while it lasts.

AAP: Ebooks Decline, Audio Grows and Publishers’ Sales Drop

27 June 2016

From Digital Book World:

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) released its new newest numbers this morning, which compare January 2016 to January 2015.

Ebook sales took a big hit, according to the AAP’s numbers, dropping 24.9 percent to $99.9 million. Hardcover books didn’t do much better, falling 18.7 percent to $151.3 million.

. . . .

Publishers’ book sales for January 2016 were $991.7 million, down 6.7 percent from $1.06 billion in January 2015.

. . . .

Trade (consumer) books sales were $488.0 million in January 2016, down 13.7 percent from $565.4 million in January 2015. This includes childrens/YA books, adult books and religious books.

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

International Publishing and the UK’s Vote for ‘Brexit’

25 June 2016

From Publishing Perspectives:

We know we have shot ourselves in both feet. And a lot of us didn’t want to. And we’re rather scared.”

That’s what one member of the London publishing industry has said to me this morning, on waking to find that the Leave camp has been successful in the UK.

Another colleague in southern England writes, “All my friends and publishing colleagues just simply can’t believe that this has happened. Or that we have somehow allowed it to happen. Our economy is in free fall, and our government in turmoil.”

. . . .

Literary Agent and rights specialist Ginger Clark with Curtis Brown (the US agency, not the London-based agency of the same name) has been trying on Twitter to encapsulate some ways that American publishing people might consider immediate effects.

Clark is supporting what another literary agent, Barry Goldblatt:

. . . .

I want to quote Cader at a bit more length than usual here because his musings on what’s coming are helpful in getting focused on the gravity of the moment:

“Already, the UK’s focus on the election had reduced consumer traffic at retail stores, and earlier in the month Waterstones’ chief executive James Daunt had warned employees in an email that leaving the EU would result in a ‘significant retail downturn’ that would ‘reverse much of the hard-won gain of the last few years.’…

“In addition to the prospect of lower ‘home market’ sales right now, UK publishers face the likelihood of rising costs on a number of fronts, albeit over time. Exporting books to EU countries may become more complicated and more expensive, even as a lower British pound reduces the price of exported goods (and/or makes sales in Euros, as well as Canadian and Australian dollars, worth more in pounds). But a significantly weaker currency could put also put UK publishers at competitive disadvantage: Their advances (and royalties) are worth less to trading partners, which could mean that UK publishers need to pay more to win new properties, or may not be able to buy rights as broadly as they would like.”

. . . .

The author J.K. Rowling had written earlier about some of the cultural currents:

“Nationalism is on the march across the Western world, feeding upon the terrors it seeks to inflame.

“Every nationalist will tell you that their nationalism is different, a natural, benign response to their country’s own particular needs and challenges, nothing to do with that nationalism of yore that ended up killing people, yet every academic study of nationalism has revealed the same key features. ‘Your country is the greatest in the world,’ the nationalist cries, ‘and anyone who isn’t chanting that is a traitor!…Now place your trust in our simplistic slogans and enjoy your rage aginst the Other!”

. . . .

“Brexit” was not a rehearsal, not a testing of the waters. It was and is the real thing, and—as The Bookseller’sown survey had shown, one that was not what nearly 80 percent of the UK’s publishing industry wanted to see.

As Blair put it, “We really thought it was impossible for us to take a decision like this” to pull that great nation out of the world’s largest collaborative marketplace. “The single market [of Europe] is where we sell half of our goods…We’re going to have to negotiate our way back into that.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Hachette buys mobile game company Neon Play

24 June 2016

From The Bookseller:

Hachette has bought mobile games development studios Neon Play in a “substantial” acquisition. Hachette c.e.o. Tim Hely Hutchinson has said the acquisition “could be one of several” for the company in the app space.

Neon Play was founded by co-owners Oli Christie and Mark Allen in Cirencester in 2010 and to date has created over 30 games, including Paper Glider, Flick Football and Panic Traffic London, attracting over 60m downloads.

The studio, which has won 20 business awards including the Queen’s Award for Innovation, will be tasked with “creating, developing and marketing new mobile games” as a standalone business under the Hachette UK umbrella.

Although terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, Hely Hutchinson said it was a “substantial acquisition designed to lead to substantial revenues”, and was also a “serious first step” for Hachette in a bid to make its business “more digital”.

Referring to the mobile gaming industry as “complementary” to the book industry, Hely Hutchinson anticipates that trade and educational publishers will become “more like 50% digital” within the next five to 10 years. He told The Bookseller mobile gaming is “part of the future of the book industry”, with games the biggest and fastest growing part of the app market, while e-books, currently in decline, are “so similar to print books … they barely count as digital objects”.

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He added: “It’s something where we are very much on the front foot. E-book sales are not declining because people don’t like digital things. They are declining because there is less discounting in the market. So that is the main reason why e-book sales are lower this year. In fact e-books are so similar to print books that they barely count as digital objects. What people are really looking for with the digital world is more interactivity. So communicating with each other on social networks and playing games, you’re not just looking at something, you’re directly involved. And that’s where we want to be.”

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Hely Hutchinson (left) said that conversations with Christie and Allen had shown him their efforts with apps to date were “somewhat amateurish”.

“They know infinitely more than we do about the app market and how to make an app work, and I think the skills and knowledge they have at Neon Play will help us, for example with a cookery book app or an educational app that actually has nothing to do with games, so I see the acquisition as taking us several steps forward in various parallel relevant directions,” he said.

Hachette has already seen success in the games market with New Star Soccer in May, a game and a book all in one, that was produced in partnership with game developers New Star Games and Insight Studios, and contributed to by award-winning children’s authors The2Steves (Steve Barlow and Steve Skidmore). It hit 35,000 paid downloads in its first week and charted in Apple’s top 10 apps.

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Hely Hutchinson said the mobile game market “is not for all books,” because “they have to be big enough – have a big enough market – to justify the potential investment, which is quite large.”

Discussions with authors and agents whose books are candidates for gamification would start “from scratch,” Hely Hutchinson said. “Even if we happen to have a very broadly worded contract we would never go to authors and agents ‘we’ve got these rights, we’re going to exploit them’. We would always want to go to the author and agent and discuss the whole thing with them whether the games dimension is the sort of thing they want to do and we would start the terms discussion from scratch.

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“We see ourselves as having a role of taking, sensitively, creative people’s work to market and turning it into money – income – for creative people. It doesn’t mean we at Hachette can do everything, we are not of the scale to be producing Hollywood-style movies, but there are some things we can do where the investment level is affordable, which will widen our offer to our traditional author base and also give us potential new products where we can gain a very good understanding and do the job properly.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller and thanks to SFR for the tip.

PG is not familiar with the mobile gaming world, but he tried to imagine what Hachette could bring to a company that makes games. He couldn’t come up with anything but money.

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