Books in General

Print vs Digital, Traditional vs Non-Traditional, Bookstore vs Online: 2016 Trade Publishing by the numbers

20 January 2017

DataGuy’s slides from his presentation at Digital Book World have just been posted at Author Earnings.

Following are a few slides from a much longer presentation.


Link to the rest at Author Earnings

Nielsen Sells BookScan, Other U.S. Book Industry Services to NPD Group

20 January 2017

From the American Booksellers Association:

Nielsen has sold its U.S. market information and research services for the book industry to the NPD Group. The sale, announced on January 20, includes U.S.-based BookScan, PubTrack™ Digital, PubTrack™ Higher Education, PubTrack™ Christian, Books & Consumers™, PubEasy®, and PubNet®, all of which will become NPD-branded services in the U.S.

Nielsen will provide operations support for NPD BookScan and related U.S. services during a transition period, and no immediate changes are expected in the way American Booksellers Association member stores report to the Indie Bestseller Lists via BookScan.

NPD,  which has been in business for more than 50 years, provides market information and analytic solutions for over 20 industries and partners with more than 1,200 retailers, representing over 165,000 stores worldwide.

Link to the rest at American Booksellers Association

Meet the writers who still sell millions of books. Actually, hundreds of millions.

18 January 2017

From The Washington Post:

Reading, contrary to previous reports, is not dead. In fact, it’s very far from it.

Brazilian author Paulo Coelho has legions of readers. His best-known book, “The Alchemist,” the story of a young Andalusian shepherd on a personal quest, spent almost eight years — two presidential election cycles — on the bestseller lists. It was translated into 81 languages.
But “The Alchemist” is only one of Coelho’s more than 30 works. “The Spy”came out in November. All told, the writer has sold an estimated 350 million books.

Yes, books, those word-filled works that people were supposed to have long ago abandoned for videos, blogs and podcasts.

And Coelho has company.

Horror master Stephen King, with more than 50 titles, has also sold an estimated 350 million books. Dan Brown has millions of readers as well. “The Da Vinci Code” — possibly sitting on your bookshelf — alone sold 80 million copies.

Books like John Grisham’s “The Whistler,” now topping bestseller lists, and King’s “End of Watch” will no doubt be stacked under Christmas trees nationwide this year, or paperbacks of the writers’ earlier works stuffed in stockings.

There are best-selling authors, and then there are mega-best-selling authors — writers who have sold 100 million copies or more. Writers like Ken Follett, Nora Roberts, James Patterson and Stephenie Meyer. And there may be more of them now than ever.

We live in a time of disruption in entertainment, when many people no longer go to the movies or buy CDs or watch television on television, and younger generations seek amusement largely through their phones. Yet there are still people who buy countless books, often by authors who don’t so much visit the bestseller list as dwell there.

Mega-best-selling authors don’t just have readers. They have fans, the way rock stars have fans. Their readers are collectors, determined to own every title. They make pilgrimages to author events — often, as in the case of Nicholas Sparks, in tears.

. . . .

Their astonishing sales are, in part, due to improved technology — e-books and the speed of printing and distribution. Not so long ago, booksellers and readers often had to — gasp — wait for additional printings of a runaway hit novel. Today, if you want a copy of Patterson’s “Cross the Line” or Sparks’s “Two by Two” and the local bookstore is out of stock, you can download an e-book in minutes or order a hardcover from Amazon to grace your doorstep the next day. Or your neighborhood bookseller can generally get a copy by week’s end.

The success of these works can also be attributed to the cumulative power of the international marketplace, although because of multiple foreign imprints and varying publishing formats (hardcover, paperback, e-books) total worldwide sales can only be estimated.

The mega-sellers’ ranks include romance writers (Roberts, Danielle Steele, Debbie Macomber), a goosebumpy spinner of creepy stories for children (R.L. Stine), a laureate of love (Sparks, who eschews the romance label), a Muggle of British wizardry (J.K. Rowling, selling more than an estimated 450 million books), a provocateur of shades of kink (E.L. James) and, more than any other genre, practitioners of suspense and thrills (Grisham, King, Brown, Dean Koontz, Jeffrey Archer, David Baldacci and Mary Higgins Clark).

Elite readers may scoff at consistent best-selling writers, few of whom will ever win coveted awards or land on best-of-the-year lists. But tent-pole authors are the powerful engines that keep publishing houses profitable and able to float authors who win acclaim but not necessarily large sales.

. . . .

How do you get to be a blockbuster author? Typing is not enough, though some of these novels certainly read that way. The writing quality and storytelling vary tremendously, but there are some similarities among hit writers.

Chiefly, they’re extraordinarily productive. They publish with Swiss-clock regularity — once a year, twice a year, monthly if it’s Patterson, who’s an industry unto himself, with a stable of writers working for him. Or Robert Ludlum, who continues to publish his “Bourne” series and other books long after his death in 2001, thanks to multiple authors writing under his name.

. . . .

Most of all, though, the top sellers deliver a terrific story. In their novels, especially thrillers and science fiction, plot is paramount. The heroes tend to be relatable — shy, clumsy, anxious, myopic, in recovery, short-tempered, middle-class, broke — but their stories are fantastic, over-the-top, a wild ride and a welcome escape from a reader’s quotidian life. In romance, the love is for the ages, destined, the opposite of casual. The story does not bog down with the challenge of dirty dishes or tax audits.

“You can’t underestimate the value of entertainment that these guys are delivering,” says Suzanne Herz, executive vice president of Doubleday, which publishes Grisham and Brown. “There’s usually a David-versus-Goliath theme. You want the hero to come out on top.”

Link to the rest at The Washington Post

11 words whose meanings have completely changed over time

16 January 2017

From The Week:

Occasionally you will encounter someone with an etymological axe to grind. They insist that a certain word has to mean just what it meant hundreds of years ago when it was first spoken: For example, that decimate has to mean “kill exactly one tenth.” This is what’s known as the etymological fallacy. If you don’t feel like arguing with the person, here are 11 reasons you can just respond with “Nice!”

1. Nice

These days, we often say “Nice!” sarcastically to mean “That’s really ignorant!” If we traced the word nice back to its source, though, it wouldn’t be sarcastic at all. Today’s bland sense of “good” comes from the meaning “precise, fastidious” (still sometimes used, as in “a nice distinction”), which in turn came from a use in the 1400s to mean “overrefined, excessively delicate,” which was a narrowing down of the broader sense “foolish,” which is the meaning it had when it came into English via French from Latin. But the Latin original was nescius, which literally means “unknowing, ignorant.” And here we’ve all been using it without knowing where it came from. Nice!

2. Silly

So okay, nice comes from “ignorant.” Well, ignorance is bliss, right? Sure, and so is silliness… historically, at least. Silly started out as Old English sælig, “happy, blissful, fortunate” and by the 1200s it had gained the sense “blessed, pious,” which expanded to “innocent,” and then shifted to “pitiable” and so also “insignificant, poor.” By the 1500s it was being used to mean “ignorant, foolish,” and from there we got our more innocuous modern senses of “inane” and “giddy.”

. . . .

4. Throw

So why didn’t they just use throw to mean “throw”? Because — wait for it! — throw originally meant “twist.” Yeah, that’s right. That twisting motion your body makes when throwing? It may have led to this word for “twist” coming to mean “toss” — trading places with warp. If you’re wondering how people clearly spoke of the throwing motion while throw and warp were twisting around each other, the answer is that they mainly used cast.

. . . .

6. Awful

If down is up, good is bad, right? Well, awesome is awful, anyway. The word awful originally meant something rather like “awesome.” Its Old English form, egefull, meant “causing dread”; as ege became awe and came to mean not just “dread” but “profound respect,” awful came to mean “commanding profound respect or fear.” In the 1600s, it could mean “sublimely majestic” and was uttered as high praise to such things as a great cathedral. But a slang usage of awful to mean “monstrous, frightful, very ugly” caught on in the 1800s, and now it’s the only way you can use the word. A shadow of the original sense can be seen in our use of awfully to mean “very.”

. . . .

9. Surly

Not everyone was always impressed with the manners of the nobility, though. We may retain a certain respect for the kingly and lordly, but if we expand “ly” to all those called “sir” we run into sirly, which was respelled surly. At first it meant “lordly, majestic,” but then it got resentful and went downhill into “haughty, arrogant” and from that to “ill-tempered.”

Link to the rest at The Week and thanks to Matthew for the tip.

Why More Writers Should Talk About Money

16 January 2017

From The Atlantic:

Money makes people anxious—perhaps even more so with writers. The relationship between commerce and writing is commonly sketched out in caricatures: the starving artist, the hapless student, the privileged few who “make it.” More often, it’s not addressed at all.

In the past few years, some writers have begun to more openly approach questions of class. The internet has seen a profusion of such pieces: A writer who is “sponsored” by her husband calls on other writers to be more transparent about where their money comes from. Another outlines the clear advantages that being born rich, connected, and able to attend expensive schools furnishes to becoming a successful writer. In another case, a woman who wrote a well-received debut novel details how she went broke after a single advance.

A new book of essays and interviews with writers on the topic of money, released earlier this month, aims to dig even deeper. Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living, edited by Manjula Martin, includes hard truths and thoughtful meditations on class and capitalism while also functioning as a survival guide. In one essay, Roxane Gay (Bad Feminist, Difficult Women) speaks frankly about her student debt, annual income, and past day jobs. In another, Martin herself explains the kind of code-switching by which writers conceal their class background in talking about their careers.

By turns comforting, depressing, and illuminating, Scratch paints a fuller, more personal picture of what it’s like to make a living from—or while—writing. I spoke with Martin about the intersection of writing, money, and class, as well as the process of making Scratch.

. . . .

Joseph Frankel : Some of the writers you spoke with for Scratch were very frank about their finances and their class backgrounds. Others were a little more reluctant. What accounts for these different levels of openness?

Manjula Martin: In my experience working with writers on this topic, it’s often the people who have more money who don’t want to talk about money. Transparency is a really scary thing for a lot of people in any profession, and I think there are good reasons for that. But people who are excited to talk about the topic, even if they’re nervous, inherently understand … that it takes transparency to change stuff. It’s the old saw of “knowledge is power,” and I think that extends to writers and money.

There are a lot of barriers to access for people who come from low-income backgrounds, or maybe less traditional educational backgrounds, or who have had to deal with other types of prejudices in their life. If we want that to change, we need to start being honest about how this business actually works.

Frankel: Essays in the collection call attention to the creative value of day jobs and, in the case of Leslie Jamison (The Empathy Exams), their impact on writers’ output. Others, particularly the piece by Alexander Chee (The Queen of the Night, Edinburgh), think that the discussion of day jobs helps to romanticize unfair pay for writers. How do you think about the relationship between other kinds of work and writing?

Martin: I think that some of the stuff Chee says in his essay is particularly valuable for younger writers who maybe haven’t been around in an era where folks were ever really compensated well. I’ve certainly written for free. I’d bet Chee has done it too, and I think he talks about that in his essay. But if you’re hiring me to do work, you need to pay me, is sort of his stance. And I agree with that 100 percent.

You mentioned romanticizing that relationship between work and craft. I think it’s very tricky because there is a lot of dangerous romanticization, and that can set writers up, particularly in the beginnings of their careers, to blunder in a business they know nothing about.

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

My Conversion to Kindleism

15 January 2017

From The Coffeelicious:

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. But one area I have been putting effort into improving is finishing things I start, especially Medium articles. I’m also not trying to rush into the new year. I’m not avoiding it per se, I’m just really content taking things one day at a time over here. Hence why I’m publishing a piece reflecting on last year, 11 days into this year.

. . . .

But without a doubt, the most life changing transition I made in my life in 2016 was converting to Kindleism. That’s right, I downloaded the Kindle app.*

For those of you thinking, “Welcome to the 21st century Victoria,” I would like to say, “Thank you, I’ve heard so much about this place. It’s great to finally be here!”

And for those of you thinking, “Traitor! How could you?!” Allow me to explain.

Not long ago, I too, used to be one of those over-my-dead-body people when it came to reading books off of a screen. I looked with disdain on people with their Kindles, Nooks, and Paperwhites. “So smug. They’re not real readers,” I thought. “They’re just wannabes!”

But then it hit me — if I wanted to follow through on my ambition to read more books, I needed to change something. Converting to Kindle meant that I was finally taking my desire to read, one I had had for pretty much my entire life, more seriously. It was time I put my goals in front of my pride. Because the truth was, I liked thinking I was better than Kindlers. It was a way to keep myself separate, which is something I do when I’m scared or not sure about something (or someone).

I was also clinging to this idea that books are only books if you can hold them. That books are only real books if they’re in physical form — sheets of paper bound together with a hard spine. And if I can’t display all the ones I’ve read on my bookshelf, in hopes that someone will ask if I’ve read all of those, to which I would reply with feigned modesty that I had, what was the point? If there’s no evidence or trophy, was the book even read? Better yet, if I received no recognition for it, did I even want to read in the first place? I’m partly joking when I ask these things but like, mostly not.

Finally, there was a part of me that felt like reading should be arduous (reading on my phone is just so easy!) I felt like I should struggle in my pursuit of wisdom, knowledge, and brilliant storytelling. This is what too many of us are taught growing up, that for something to have meaning or value, it has to always be difficult. One has to have struggled in achieving it for said achievement to count.

Link to the rest at The Coffeelicious via Medium

With a heavy heart that we have decided to close Wilde City Press

14 January 2017

From Facebook:

To all our friends, readers, reviewers and fans of our authors,

Due to various personal reasons it is with a heavy heart that we have decided to close Wilde City Press. We have enjoyed every moment of our journey over the past four years, and want to thank everyone who has been a part of our adventure.

Over the next few months we will be ensuring that everyone who has worked with Wilde City will be paid in full and have their rights returned to them. We are very proud of the work our authors and editors have given to the world, and we hope these books will be published again to be enjoyed for many more years to come. For members of our book club, we will give you plenty of time to back-up any files you have purchased through our site so you don’t lose anything.

Link to the rest at Facebook (see also Wilde City Press)and thanks to A. for the tip.

When Writing Becomes Just Another Lifestyle Good

11 January 2017

From Literary Hub:

The bookstore next to my apartment is one of the few places where a budding writer can go in New York to and feel nothing but optimism about their literary prospects. People don’t just go there to buy books: they go there to gape at books, to think about books, to read—or fondle—books. Among the shelves of essays, short stories and criticism, the store has also set aside a few rows for writing manuals penned by icons like Stephen King and Haruki Murakami, advising aspiring writers on everything from how to construct a sentence to the best time to go to bed. Those who have gathered the courage to actually put words on paper can move on to the store’s book printing machine; I’ve seen many MFA grads pay a few bucks to get their thesis printed in book form, just as I’ve seen many hopefuls pay some additional bucks to display their paperbacks on the store’s self-publishing shelves.

Having recently graduated from an MFA program with a price tag higher than the average annual household income myself, this store is a comforting place for a writer. Inside, it feels less outrageous to have spent all this money to study how to be a writer. If so many places and services exist just to cater for writers like me, then surely that means the industry is booming?

This daydream extends beyond my book store. After graduation, an informal system of readings, talks, and other events exists to fill up the time I would have otherwise spent in school. I can go to a panel on Elena Ferrante to mingle with other writers and feel part of a literary community. Instead of my neighborhood cafe, I can take my laptop to one of the many co-working spaces especially designated for writers that can offer me a desk, like-minded company, and a reason to get dressed in the morning. Even if I were to move away from New York entirely, the internet would still offer a wide enough net of writerly support: there are complete industries offering online seminars on pitching, or remote workers that provide an editor’s eye—as long as I’m willing to pay the fee.

What all of this seems to point to is the emergence of writing as a lifestyle good.  Grad programs and services catering for writers are growing while newspapers and magazines shrink from repeated rounds of lay-offs, and this demonstrates exactly how living like a writer is no longer necessarily correlated to actually working as one.

Link to the rest at Literary Hub

Rumors of the Demise of Books Greatly Exaggerated

10 January 2017

From Gallup:

Despite the abundance of digital diversions vying for their time and attention, most Americans are still reading books. In fact, they are consuming books at nearly the same rate that they were when Gallup last asked this question in 2002 — before smartphones, Facebook or Twitter became ubiquitous. More than one in three (35%) appear to be heavy readers, reading 11 or more books in the past year, while close to half (48%) read between one and 10 and just 16% read none.

. . . .

Although the survey did not track the types of books that Americans read by age group, book reading in general is fairly similar by age group among U.S. adults. It is a bit more prevalent among the oldest and youngest age groups than among those in the middle years. Roughly nine in 10 adults aged 18 to 29 (91%) report reading at least one book in the past year — possibly related to the required reading among college students within this age group. The percentage among those aged 65 and older is 85%. Nearly four in 10 respondents in both age groups say they read more than 10 books.

The most meaningful differences in reading behavior since 2002 are evident among Americans aged 65 and older. Collectively, they are reading more books than the same age group did in 2002.

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

How ‘Sherlock of the library’ cracked the case of Shakespeare’s identity

9 January 2017

From The Guardian:

Deep in the Folger Library, in Washington DC, Heather Wolfe says that studying Shakespeare makes an ideal preparation for the onset of Trump’s America. You can see her point: Shakespeare would have revelled in the mad excesses, the sinister vanities and the pervasive stench of cronyism and corruption surrounding the president-elect as America makes the painful transition from Barack Obama.

Dr Wolfe is a willowy, bright-eyed manuscript scholar, a paleographer specialising in Elizabethan England who in certain moods of candour might put you in mind of Portia or perhaps Cordelia. She’s also a Shakespeare detective who, last year, made the career-defining discovery that is going to transform our understanding of Shakespeare’s biography. In the simplest terms, Wolfe delivered the coup de grace to the wild-eyed army of conspiracy theorists, including Vanessa Redgrave and Derek Jacobi, who contest the authenticity, even the existence, of the playwright known to contemporaries as Master Will Shakespeare.

Wolfe is an accidental sleuth. Her scholar’s passion is as much for old manuscripts as for the obscurities surrounding our national poet. Project Dustbunny, for example, one of her initiatives at the Folger Shakespeare Library, has made some extraordinary discoveries based on microscopic fragments of hair and skin accumulated in the crevices and gutters of 17th-century books.

. . . .

Before Wolfe arrived on the scene, all that scholars could be certain about was that a man named Shaxpere, Shaxberd or Shakespear was born in Stratford in 1564, and that he was an actor whose name is printed in the collected edition of his work published in 1623. We also know that he married Anne Hathaway, and died in 1616, according to legend, on his birthday, St George’s Day. The so-called “Stratfordian” case for Shakespeare rested on these, and a few other facts, but basically, that was it.

. . . .

Wolfe’s appetite for manuscript corroboration has led her into many dusty corners of the Elizabethan archives. It was this research instinct that first led her to reopen the file on the coat of arms granted to Shakespeare’s father, the small-town glover, in 1596.

John Shakespeare, from Stratford-upon-Avon, was ambitious to rise in the world. He was certainly not the first Englishman keen to put his origins as a provincial tradesman behind him. Among his contemporaries in Stratford, he was a figure of fun for his social climbing. English class snobbery has a long pedigree. His son, who would continue the quest for official recognition after his father’s death, also attracted metropolitan disdain as “an upstart crow beautified with our feathers”. In 1601, after his father’s death, Shakespeare the upstart returned to the college of arms to renew the family application for a coat of arms. He had made a small fortune in the theatre, and was buying property in and around Stratford. Now he set out to consolidate his reputation as a “Gentleman”. Under the rules that governed life at the court of Elizabeth I, only the Queen’s heralds could grant this wish.

A much-reproduced sketch for a coat of arms crystallised Shakespeare’s hopes for legitimacy in the antique jargon of heraldry: “On a Bend Sables, a Speare of the first steeled argent. And for his Crest, a falcon, his winges displayed Argent, supporting a Speare Gould …” The needy applicant also attached a motto: Non Sanz Droit (“Not Without Right”). All this, and much more, is buried in the archives of the college of arms in London.

Wolfe’s fascination with Shakespeare’s quest for a family crest grew out of her immersion in the manners and customs of late Elizabethan England, in particular the College of Heralds. These court officials were required to administer the complex rituals governing the lives of the knights, barons and earls surrounding Queen Elizabeth.

An adjunct to the court, the College of Heralds was not exempt from its own secret feuds. In 1602, the internecine rivalry between Sir William Dethick, the Garter King of Arms, and another herald, Ralph Brooke, burst into the open when Brooke released a list of 23 “mean persons” whose applications for crests (he claimed) had been wrongfully preferred by Dethick. When “Shakespeare the Player” found himself on this list, his campaign for social advancement seemed in jeopardy. A bitter row broke out at court between two factions. Shakespeare himself became an object of ridicule. Another rival, Ben Jonson, in his satire Every Man out of his Humour, poked fun at him as a rustic buffoon who pays £30 for a ridiculous coat of arms with the humiliating motto “Not Without Mustard”.

It’s at this point in the story that Wolfe discovered “the smoking gun”. In the Brooke-Dethick feud, it becomes clear that “Shakespeare, Gent. from Stratford” and “Shakespeare the Player” are the same man. In other words, “the man from Stratford” is indeed the playwright. Crucially, in the long-running “authorship” debate, this has been a fiercely contested point. But Wolfe’s research nails any lingering ambiguity in which the Shakespeare deniers can take refuge.

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

Next Page »