Big Publishing

US book sales fall in first five months of 2015

2 September 2015

From The Bookseller:

Book sales of traditionally published books in the US fell by almost 6% in the first five months of this year, compared to the same period the year before.

Overall sales for trade fiction and non-fiction, children, higher education, professional and university presses were down 5.8% from January to May 2015 to $4bn, compared to $4.3bn for the same five months last year, according to the AAP StatShot, produced by the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

The fastest growing format from January to May was audio, with 38% sales growth compared to the same time last year.

. . . .

Paperbacks grew 8.4% in the first five months of 2015, but hardback and e-book sales have fallen by 11.6% and 10.2% respectively in comparison to the same period a year earlier.

. . . .

The StatShot includes sales from more than 1,200 publishers, but does not include self-published works.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

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Zombie Publishing Memes #3 – Without Legacy Gatekeepers, No One Will Be Able to Find Good Books

2 September 2015

From Joe Konrath:

The thrust of the argument is this: without legacy gatekeepers carefully curating the slush pile and winnowing choice for consumers, the unwashed hordes of self-published authors will unleash a deluge of worthless books that will engulf the good ones, preventing readers from finding anything worthwhile.

Of course it’s true that when there’s too much choice for consumers to sample individually, we need third-party systems to help us winnow the choice down to manageable levels. But it in no way follows from this that legacy publishing is the only or even the best such third-party system.

Here are few things to consider. First, when was the last time you sampled every single book in a bookstore before making a selection? Even in legacy’s heyday, the industry was publishing something like a quarter million new titles every year. Whatever winnowing function legacy provides, it therefore seems not a particularly stringent one.

Second, are there existing third party systems you primarily rely on to help you select the books you want to try? Recommendations from family and friends? Newspaper, magazine, and blog reviews? Search terms? The bestseller racks in bookstores? Amazon customer reviews? Do these means of winnowing choice seem more or less important than the traditional gatekeeping function that results in hundreds of thousands of new titles every year?

. . . .

Fourth, if consumers really needed gatekeepers to help them manage their choices, the Internet itself would be useless. After all, for any given person, it’s a safe bet the Internet is 99.99999999% crap. And yet somehow, every day, each of us manages to find the good stuff amidst all that crap, all without any gatekeepers keeping the unwashed masses from putting their stuff on the Internet.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath and thanks to Stephen for the tip.

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

PG says this is the meme that is closest to the hearts of BigPub minions – they love having the power to gatekeep. They get attention from people who would never talk to them otherwise.

PRH sees ‘strong growth’ in first half of 2015

1 September 2015

From The Bookseller:

Strong revenue growth by Penguin Random House (PRH) in the first half of 2015 helped its parent company Bertelsmann to achieve its highest revenues since 2007.

Meanwhile, Bertelsmann’s chief executive Thomas Rabe has told Reuters the company could “imagine” raising its stake in Penguin Random House, but said the decision was up to co-owner Pearson.

PRH’s half-yearly success was “driven by numerous bestsellers as well as positive currency effects”, with the book publishing business in the US particularly recording improved results.

. . . .

The year’s bestselling title so far from Penguin Random House is Paula Hawkins’ debut novel The Girl on the Train(Doubleday), which has sold 4.5m copies worldwide according to Penguin Random House.

In the UK bestseller also included To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Arrow) and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul by Jeff Kinney (Puffin). In the US, top selling titles also included Paper Towns by John Green and books by Dr Seuss and B J Novak.

At Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial, an “excellent performance in Latin America and double-digit growth in e-book sales more than offset the ongoing challenges in the Spanish book market,” the company said.

Other highlights for the first half of the year include E L James’ Grey (Arrow), which surpassed 3.5m print, audio and e-book copies sold in the US and UK in its first two publication weeks, and the launch of Penguin Classics in Spain and Latin America as Penguin Clasicos.

In a letter to staff, Penguin Random House c.e.o. Markus Dohle, said: “As Penguin Random House, we know that we have the resources to continually deepen our impact through the breadth of our publishing expertise, our industry-leading support of customers, the strength and variety of our author talent, and an expanded global reach.”

. . . .

“In publishing we know from experience that there is no foolproof formula for guaranteeing or even sustaining big bestsellers. However, with all of you coming together to create a community of creativity and teamwork to serve our authors and to maximise their reach over the long term, I know we can continue to have a huge impact in this world. And that is the best result we could ever hope for.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

In Stieg Larsson’s Head, but His Own Man

29 August 2015

From The New York Times:

The saga of Lisbeth Salander continues, and David Lagercrantz, who has written the sequel to Stieg Larsson’s wildly popular “Millennium” trilogy, is both proud and deeply anxious over how millions of readers will receive it.

“At night my head burns,” he said, explaining that he had tried to get Mr. Larsson’s characters “into my blood system” when writing. Asked about the biggest liberty he took, he laughed a little and said, “Doing it.”

A tall, handsome, slightly twitchy man in a T-shirt and plaid trousers, he acknowledged that “I’m scared to death that I won’t live up to Stieg.” But “I couldn’t resist,” he said. “I would have regretted it my whole life.”

Mr. Larsson’s legacy is certainly formidable, even intimidating. After he died in 2004 of a sudden heart attack at 50, his three books, beginning with “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” went on to sell some 80 million copies in more than 50 languages.

In 2013, Mr. Larsson’s father and brother hired Mr. Lagercrantz, a Swedish author of literary fiction and biography, to write a sequel to the trilogy. The result, “The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” was published in 25 countries on Thursday (the American edition is due out on Tuesday), and its many publishers, including Knopf in the United States, have reason to be bullish.

. . . .

Already 2.7 million copies have been printed globally, and marketing is in full swing; one German bookshop is offering to give away a Fiat 500 in the “Millennium” design — the Fiat with the Dragon Tattoo — to a lucky customer. Discussions about another film have already begun, and Mr. Lagercrantz is preparing for a grueling five-week author’s tour in Europe and the United States.

But not everyone has welcomed the book, which throws its characters into complicated new conspiracies involving cybercrime and the National Security Agency. Its publication has been particularly traumatic for Mr. Larsson’s longtime partner, Eva Gabrielsson, who sees it as a crass manipulation of his legacy for profit. She draws a parallel between “Spider’s Web” and the controversial publication of Harper Lee’s first draft of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“I’m quite angry about it,” she said. “I don’t think it’s the right thing to do to a dead author. Sequels never turn out very well, because authors are so constrained; they’re not free to move around in the material.”

Ms. Gabrielsson, now 61, lived with Mr. Larsson for more than 30 years, but because they never married, she had no inheritance rights under Swedish law.

. . . .

 Mr. Lagercrantz, meanwhile, remains sensitive to charges that he is profiting from another man’s fame. The Swedish news media has pointed out, as has Ms. Gabrielsson, that he and Stieg Larsson are from different worlds — that Mr. Lagercrantz is from a noble literary family and lacks the political activism and rage that drove Mr. Larsson.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

Cold Opening: The Publicity Campaign for “Watchman”

28 August 2015

From The Los Angeles Review of Books:

The July 14, 2015 publication of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, the sequel to Lee’s only other novel, the intensely beloved To Kill a Mockingbird, was the most anticipated publishing event since the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows almost exactly eight years before. The initial print run for the novel was two million copies. According to Nielsen BookScan,Watchman sold 761,000 print copies in its first week (dropping to 220,000 the following week).

It was a big deal, and HarperCollins, Watchman’s publisher, designed its prepublication campaign carefully. A bit of news about the book leaked out between February, when Watchman’s publication was announced, and July. Two newspapers — one in the United States, one in the United Kingdom — were granted rights to publish an excerpt from the novel before publication. HarperCollins secretly provided advance review copies to only a few outlets, major legacy publications with national and international reach, on the condition that their reviews would be embargoed until the official date of publication. All other publications were told that ARCs were not available to anyone.

The embargo didn’t hold, though. On July 10, New York Times chief book critic Michiko Kakutani reviewed the novel on the newspaper’s front page, mildly positively, and the Wall Street Journal published its review, along with an excerpt from the novel, the same day. This breached the dike. Soon after that, other publications — Time (July 11), the Los Angeles Times (July 11), The Washington Post (July 12 — by former US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey!), the Dallas Morning News (July 13), the London Guardian (July 13) — rushed out their own reviews in advance of the official publication date.

HarperCollins’ publicity machine declared itself disappointed that its embargo didn’t hold. “Am I angry at The New York Times? I’m not angry, but I’m not happy,” Newsweek quoted Tina Andreadis (senior VP and director of publicity) as saying. Andreadis called the Times’ move “a disservice” to customers, but it’s unclear quite what the disservice would be. More hype, more anticipation would seem to benefit Harper, not readers — for whom, presumably, reviews are written.

. . . .

The Times wouldn’t confirm whether it had indeed received an embargoed advance copy when Harper provided them to the press on July 10. But that didn’t matter: the Times reviewed its own bootleg copy. “Our policy is that we do not honor embargoes if we obtain a book independent of publishers’ official channels,” Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha stated. How theTimes got that copy is still a mystery.

After the Times and WSJ broke the embargo, it was a free-for-all.

. . . .

In the United States, only a few prominent publications were given access to advance review copies. The Times had one, presumably; the other major outlets who had been provided with ARCs, seeing that the Times had run a review, rushed their own out. But most publications — including major metropolitan newspapers with very vibrant book sections and web publications like this one — were denied ARCs.

In the film business this is sometimes called a “cold opening” — critics are not allowed to see a film before the release date on the assumption that their savage reviews will depress the box office. Cold openings are designed to maximize sales before the bad news rolls in. Did HarperCollins fear pans of this novel (which was, as was widely reported even before publication, a rejected first draft of Mockingbird) and thus orchestrate a Hollywood-style cold opening? The intent isn’t clear. But those early reviews were decidedly mixed: they weren’t Transformers: Age of Extinction bad, but they certainly weren’t rapturous.

. . . .

Nonetheless, this selective allocation of ARCs caused some ill feelings. Books editor Tony Norman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — who was told repeatedly he couldn’t have a review copy until the date of publication — was “sad to see that [some] publications got special treatment.”

For these editors, HarperCollins’ caste system was ultimately counterproductive. “The Twin Cities has more than 50 independent bookstores and is consistently ranked at the top of the nation’s most literate cities,” Hertzel added.

The Star Tribune is in the top twenty in circulation in the country. We run book reviews three times a week — Mondays, Wednesdays, and two full pages on Sundays. All original, no wire. Our book reviews are widely read, widely shared online, and they often appear in other newspapers. There are more wonderful books out there than we can possibly review. The publishers need us more than we need them.

It didn’t help, either, that HarperCollins wasn’t honest about its ARC policy. Hertzel requested ARCs twice — in February and May — but both times was told by the HarperCollins publicity department that nobody would be receiving advance copies, so as to ensure a “level playing field,” in the words of HarperCollins’ Andreadis.

. . . .

The embargo and selective ARC provision aren’t the only distasteful things about the rollout of Go Set a Watchman. In their zeal to capitalize on what the Times’ Joe Nocera called a “phony literary event,” major media outlets seem to have lost their analytical faculties, and, with some notable exceptions (such as the Times, whose reporting on the Lee saga, Kakutani’s softball review aside, has been exemplary), served as publicity mouthpieces. On July 13 — the day before publication — PBS’s American Masters broadcast a short interview with Lee and Tonja Carter, Lee’s lawyer and the woman who brought Watchman to HarperCollins’ attention. Is PBS now working for HarperCollins’ publicity department?

The most important questions, though, are about the book itself. Why this version? Why now, after all these years? Harper Lee is aging — now 89 — and living in a nursing home. Her sister Alice Lee, a lawyer who looked after Harper for many years, passed away at the age of 103 on November 17, 2014. Almost immediately after that, Carter (who had worked in Alice Lee’s firm) brought the novel to HarperCollins’ attention. Carter stated that she had only discovered the existence of this manuscript in August 2014, but The New York Times reported that as early as 2011, Carter had been aware of — had in fact been present at an appraisal of — this very manuscript.

. . . .

Whether Harper Lee was fully capable of making these decisions is unknown. Alice, in a 2011 letter, said that her sister “can’t see and can’t hear and will sign anything put before her by anyone in whom she has confidence.” Carter is sticking by her story, and HarperCollins has stated that they believe her.

. . . .

[W]hen I worked in the early 1990s for Basic Books, then a prestige HarperCollins imprint (now independent), on at least two occasions our editor-in-chief received instructions from the top either to publish or scuttle books that would have directly impacted Murdoch’s business interests in China. Would HarperCollins skirt its ethical responsibilities when it comes to a sure blockbuster title from a potentially compromised author? Is there anything to suggest the company wouldn’t?

. . . .

[T]his event shows us the underside of the publishing business. With conglomeratization and consolidation, the major publishers look to the major legacy journalistic outlets as partners in the promotion of this book. Smaller, regional outlets with links to local bookstores and readers were shut out, as were web-based publications such as the Los Angeles Review of Books, which are increasingly the places where readers gather.

More concerning is the refusal of editors and reviewers at the favored few outlets to discuss the “event.” Both the books editor and the reviewer at theLos Angeles Times, for instance, refused to comment, and the books editor atThe Washington Post did not respond to a request for a statement. All of this suggests a newspaper world more concerned with its complex relationship to publishers, and perhaps more importantly their parent media conglomerates, than to the free flow of information that is its stated mission.

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Review of Books and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Change Keeps Happening

27 August 2015

From Hugh Howey:

The revolution in the publishing industry has barely begun. That’s the takeaway this week, as a print-on-demand book becomes a #1 bestseller and the Big 5 move into Kindle Unlimited.

First, the children’s book that should be waking up major publishers in a major way. It’s called The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep, and it was written and self-published by Carl-Johan Ehrlin. If you have kids, you should stop reading this and shoot over to Amazon right now to buy a copy. Using the psychology of suggestion and sleep-inducing language patterns, parents all over the world are discovering the book’s seemingly magical ability to zonk their kids out. No wonder the book has taken off.

It’s been a #1 overall bestseller on Amazon and B&N. And Publishers Weekly is now reporting on this story as the book has been snatched up in a 7-figure deal. The New York Times even had to change the rules of their children’s book bestseller list to exclude paperbacks, in order to make sure an indie book doesn’t do this again. So what exactly happened? Why is the publishing world freaking out over this? Well, it’s because this was thought impossible just a few weeks ago. But the nature of digital disruption is that the impossible becomes possible seemingly overnight.

When I toured the CreateSpace printing facility in 2011, I knew something crazy was happening. It wasn’t just the print process, which had been around a while. It was the way this printing facility was integrated into the Amazon retail machine, and the way CreateSpace maintained the startup vibe, able to pivot on a dime. Things were changing at the facility every day, even as freshly printed books zipped by on steel rollers. The paper stock was improving; the trim size options expanding; matte covers were being introduced; the ink used for the covers was improving; and even the way the books were packaged and handled was being tweaked. In the year it might take for a Big 5 print book to get to market, the POD industry will have revolutionized a dozen important techniques.

. . . .

The major publishers and the New York Times do not like this one bit. The Big 5 have shunned POD as a backup solution, refusing to give Amazon and Ingram PDFs so that these two companies can handle supply when that supply is outstripped by demand. This has been shameful when books attempt to go viral but can’t because of how slowly the Big 5 print and ship their wares.

. . . .

Make no mistake: Carl-Johan’s breakout success is a game-changer. Because the “digital” in digital disruption isn’t relegated to ebooks. When PDF files can be emailed, and books can be printed in minutes anywhere and then sold instantly everywhere, and then shipped same-day most places, the old chain of print-in-China and sell-in-B&N has been radically upturned. Not only is the publishing revolution moving into the print space, the indie revolution has as well. When we see authors, agents, and publishers warning writers of all the money they are leaving on the table by ignoring print, they are clinging to what they thought was their last redoubt. No longer.

. . . .

Speaking of the Big 5 selling stuff through Amazon, look who’s playing around in Kindle Unlimited right now. I love me some Vince Flynn. Imagine my surprise this shows up while I’m browsing KU. My first thought was that his estate must’ve gotten the rights back and self-pubbed the ebook edition, because the Big 5 do not participate in Kindle Unlimited. Guess they do now.

Link to the rest at The Wayfinder

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

A manifesto for reaching readers

27 August 2015

From Futurebook:

“Direct to consumer” is not about selling books through your Web site.

Rather, it is a philosophy that puts your consumer, the reader, first and foremost in each and every activity that the business undertakes. That might seem straightforward enough, but with decades of complex author, agent and retail agreements piling up — not to mention territorial licensing, franchise deals and the like — readers may have taken a bit of a back seat in publisher corporate strategy.

The first phase of the digital evolution of the industry has taken place, and where we go next depends on publishers shifting their business away from B2B  —  we are no longer in the exclusive domains of resellers and middle men. Whoever makes the most of the unparalleled direct access to the consumers that digital platforms provide will emerge as the next dominant player in this ever-changing ecosystem.

. . . .

Publishers must recognize that they are brand owners

They are the gatekeepers standing between fans and the authors and stories they love.

  • Ask the average reader who their favourite author is and you get a clear-cut answer (or two, or more!).
  • Ask who publishes that author and you see where the branding loses focus.

I look to my previous career in videogame publishing and how game publishers organized business verticals and brands around genres, and I see a lot of opportunities for book imprints with more defined offerings to play a larger role in bridging the publisher-to-reader divide. On noisy social networks, targeted content that speaks to individual interests is more likely to attract attention than general mass communication.

Authors, with varying degrees of success, have been better at connecting and communicating with their readers. Publishers can amplify those successes, instead of adding competing voices to the mix, by empowering and enabling these connections and by looking to innovators in the digital space to maximize the breadth and depth of these interactions.

So what is it that readers want?

The simple answer is more books to read. The detailed answer involves curation, personalization and greater engagement. Whether that engagement is with the publisher, imprint, author or book character depends on the book genre and reader habits, and there is no one-size-fits-all.

Link to the rest at Futurebook and thanks to Barb for the tip.

PG is interested that Futurebook has discovered a great unaddressed longing among readers – more engagement with publishers. “I just want to snuggle up with Simon & Schuster.”

PG suspects the only people who truly want more engagement with publishers are those authors who have signed publishing contracts and can’t get anyone from their publisher to reply to their emails or return their calls. And unemployed MFA graduates.

Readers don’t care who published the book. Moviegoers don’t care who financed the movie. Music fans don’t care who distributed the song.

The Amazon Agenda

26 August 2015

From Joe Konrath:

Amazon was recently the subject of world news when the ever intrepid David Streitfeld, the NYT reporter that gave us the wonder of whale math, did a hit piece on Amazon corporate culture that came to the startling and controversial conclusion; Amazon employees work really, really hard.

. . . .

Streitfeld, too, has a book available on Amazon, though his dismal 700,000 rank may be part of the reason he dislikes Zon so much.

Last I checked, the five hundred plus signatories of the latest Authors United bullshit letter also all had their titles available on Amazon. That letter recently arrived at the DOJ, and I’d bet it wasn’t a coincidence that it was on the heels of Streitfeld’s anti-Zon piece. I can imagine their delicious, mutual self-gratification as Preston and Streitfeld exchanged super-important emails about how to best coordinate their Anti-Amazon efforts for maximum impact, and about how Suzie in Algebra is dating Brad now because he dumped Melissa after she gained weight, and OMG doesn’t gym class suck this year 4 realz?!?

. . . .

Here we have all of this vocal, public author disapproval of Amazon, yet no one has the guts to actually pull their books.

. . . .

Amazon has allowed more writers to reach more readers than any other company in history. They’ve done this by innovating, giving readers what they want, and working with authors to offer us much better terms than any publisher ever has, in the past, or the present.

The Big 5 are a price-fixing cartel who want to charge readers high prices. That’s why the DOJ went after them and Apple, and that’s why they lost the suit. They had an oligopoly over paper distribution for decades (the only way to reach readers was through bookstores, the only way to get into a bookstore was through those publishing gatekeepers). Because they controlled who got published, they could get away with giving authors take-it-or-leave-it unconscionable contract terms.

Amazon has broken that oligopoly by allowing readers to reach readers via ebooks.

Because of this, the Big 5 can no longer control book pricing—and independent author can undercut them—and as a result the Big 5 are losing marketshare to Amazon and to indies.

. . . .

This isn’t altruism on Authors United’s part. It’s greed. It’s wanting to return to the old ways, where top authors got seven figure advances. Great for that 1%, not great for the 99% that Big Publishing ignored, harmed, and/or took advantage of.

Because Authors United is a bunch of entitled rich and famous authors (who should be celebrating the luck they’ve had in life rather than whining like babies about Amazon), they’ve been wooing their media contacts to wage a public opinion war against Amazon by painting Zon as a bully.

. . . .

Authors United are a bunch of greedy whiners who don’t want the status quo to keep shrinking; and it is shrinking, for the good of all readers and the vast majority of writers. So they beat their chests and flail about, trying to spin media, hoping public opinion will make big bad Amazon stop disintermediating the publishers who have made them rich.

It won’t work. Authors United knows this. Their argument doesn’t hold up to US antitrust law, logic, or majority opinion. But they are seeing their livelihoods slip away because their corporate masters don’t control the book world anymore, so they’re throwing a public tantrum.

. . . .

I’m pretty tied into the indie community, and the thousands of writers I’ve encountered are smart, and aware. Sometimes they draw incorrect conclusions, or feel persecuted, but the difference between dealing with Amazon and dealing with the Big 5 is like the difference between and honest, open, friendly relationship, and being beaten up by a group of muggers.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath and thanks to James for the tip.

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

Is Amazon Creating a Cultural Monopoly?

25 August 2015

From The New Yorker:

For months, a group of writers calling themselves Authors United have campaigned, mostly unsuccessfully, against the business practices of Amazon.com. On Thursday, they mounted their latest challenge, officially requesting that the Department of Justice investigate how Amazon exercises its “power over the book market.” (A spokesman for the Justice Department said it is reviewing the request.) The list of signatories fills twelve pages and reads like an unusually expansive long list for a prestigious writing award; the five hundred and seventy-five writers include Philip Roth, V. S. Naipaul, and Ursula K. Le Guin, along with many longtime contributors to this magazine.

These writers generally aren’t legal experts, however, and they freely acknowledge this near the beginning of their letter to the Justice Department, while asserting that their profession does afford them some degree of expertise: “We are not experts in antitrust law, and this letter is not a legal brief. But we are authors with a deep, collective experience in this field, and we agree with the authorities in economics and law who have asserted that Amazon’s dominant position makes it a monopoly as a seller of books and a monopsony as a buyer of books.”

. . . .

 It is perhaps the writers’ lack of legal expertise that has given them the freedom to put forth what antitrust experts described to me as a highly unorthodox argument: that, even though Amazon’s activities tend to reduce book prices, which is considered good for consumers, they ultimately hurt consumers.

. . . .

 Authors United’s specific argument—that Amazon’s actions are bad for consumers because they make our world less intellectually active and diverse—is unorthodox in its resort to cultural and artistic grounds.

. . . .

 None of this is to suggest, however, that the Department of Justice would have a strong case against Amazon if it were to sue the company and apply Authors United’s reasoning. One reason pricing has been such a popular method of measuring consumer welfare is that it’s easy to quantify: a three-dollar jar of peanut butter is objectively better for consumers than the exact same jar priced at five dollars—forty per cent better. While it may be attractive, on a philosophical level, to argue that Amazon is bad for us because it makes our culture poorer, measuring that effect would be difficult, if not impossible. How would one go about valuing an unpublished masterpiece by an unknown author? This is further complicated by the fact that Amazon makes it easy for authors to self-publish and have their work be seen, without having to go through such traditional gatekeepers as agents and publishers; Amazon might argue that this allows for more free flow of information and ideas.

. . . .

 I spoke with Douglas Preston about these points, mentioning that another antitrust expert I spoke with had supported them, as well. Preston acknowledged, “Not being a lawyer, maybe they’re right—maybe we’re barking up the wrong tree.” Indeed, it’s quite possible the Justice Department will read the Authors United letter and dismiss it as uninformed. But even if that happens, Preston said, it will have been worthwhile for the writers to have made their case. Last fall, Authors United appealed to Amazon’s board of directors to get the company to change its practices; the board seemed unmoved, but the authors’ request was written about in the press. That in itself served the writers’ goal, Preston told me, because it helped disseminate their message to regular people, including Amazon customers. Authors United’s larger mission, he told me, was this: “We hope to show the public that getting products faster and cheaper isn’t necessarily the greatest good. It comes at a human cost.”

Link to the rest at The New Yorker and thanks to Barry for the tip.

If you fail to achieve your original objective, change the objective and claim to have achieved the new one.

Why Smart Publishers Build Bad Websites

25 August 2015

From Digital Book World:

When you compare the online traffic of a news website against that of a publisher’s website, who do you think gets the most visitors? Think the New York Times or Fox News versus HarperCollins or Simon & Schuster. To almost no one’s surprise, it’s not even close: the news sites get much more traffic. Yet both groups create massive amounts of content that people enjoy reading. So why such a big difference? Put simply, one group understands the power of content.

Let’s face it: most readers never visit publishers’ sites. And if they do, they don’t find many good reasons to return. That’s because the typical publisher’s site is covered with dozens of images showing frontlist releases, current bestsellers, author listings and some lame ads to join a boring mailing list.

In other words, a publisher’s site feels like an inferior online store. Yet if it were in fact a good online store, the retailers would get upset. It’s a bit of a catch-22, which is why most publishers’ sites work against themselves.

Is there a better approach to take? Yes. Mimic the news sites and focus on offering compelling content rather than just selling product.

Publishers possess huge repositories of great content that people want to read. Too often, though, this wealth of content is left sitting in a publisher’s warehouse or on its servers. All this dormant content represents a vast amount of untapped selling power. Yet I rarely see publishers taking advantage of this great opportunity on their sites.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

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