The Bookseller to preview indie titles

18 September 2014

From The Bookseller:

The Bookseller is to preview self-published titles from October, and has partnered with US bookseller Barnes & Noble to exclusively include Nook Press titles in the section through to April 2015. The new preview will give independent authors the chance to showcase their work and recognises the role of non-traditional channels to publication.

The “Independent Author Preview” will feature around 10 titles each month, from a selection exclusively supplied to The Bookseller by Nook Press, B&N’s self-publishing platform. The new preview will sit alongsideThe Bookseller’s respected previews, including New Titles, and Paperback Preview.

. . . .

The Bookseller editor Philip Jones said: “Our goal here is to discover the best new books published independently and made available to customers in the UK and we’re thrilled to have partnered with Nook Press. This is a new spin on what we have been doing for more than a 100 years, and recognises that some of the best new writing now comes through non-traditional channels. The Bookseller’s job remains the same, however, to shout about these books and bring them to the attention of our audience.”

. . . .

“We also encourage self-published authors who are not yet on our platform to sign up today to be considered for this great opportunity and discover all of the great promotions available to Nook Press authors.”

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

Prisoners get better libraries than public

16 September 2014

From The Telegraph:

Prisoners are “far better served” by library facilities than the general public, an MP has claimed.
Some prisons carry more than 16 books for every inmate, compared to just one book per resident in a community library, Philip Davies, the Conservative MP for Shipley, told the Commons.

Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary who has faced criticism after banning inmates from receiving books in the post under a crackdown on perks, said Mr Davies was “entirely right”.

. . . .

Mr Davies said: “In a recent Parliamentary Question it was confirmed that £106 per prisoner is spent on libraries in prison. From a recent Freedom of Information request I did, I found out that in Leeds prison there are ten-and-a-half books per prisoner. In Wakefield prison there are 16.9 books per prisoner.

“By contrast, in the libraries in my constituency for the general public, there is only about one book per person. Would the Secretary of State agree with me that rather than prisoners being denied reading material, actually they are far better served than the general public?”

Link to the rest at The Telegraph 

Tracy Blythe, a Kirk Langley farmer’s daughter, achieves self-publishing success

15 September 2014

From the Ashbourne News Telegraph:

A Kirk Langley farmer’s daughter has written her own success story. Thanks to the powers of self-publishing Tracy Blythe has watched her first novel turn into a bestseller. She talks to Jill Gallone.

Imagine the story… a Derbyshire farmer’s daughter who can’t ever remember writing stories at school manages to pen a novel in two-hour blasts during her baby’s naps.

After years of hard graft she finishes the book, but it is rejected by 18 publishers.

Fast forward seven years and the book is plunged into the limelight after it is self-published online. Available as an ebook, it soars to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list. More than 200,000 readers snap it up.

It feels like a storyline from a novel, but it’s not; it’s happened to Duffield mum-of-two Tracy Blythe, now more famously known as Tracy Bloom.

. . . .

“Growing up on a farm creates a foundation for comedy,” she explains. “Farmers are very sharp and witty, so much so that when you are growing up the only way to get attention is to have plenty of witty replies.”

Tracy says she honed her humour from a young age. “Most farmers have a natural desire to say something funny. I think it comes from the fact that all farmers are running businesses, they are massive multi-taskers, work long hours and it can be quite solitary. So when they do meet up, they are ready to be very, very sociable.”

. . . .

Meanwhile, husband Bruce (occasionally mistakenly called Mr Bloom!) works at Rolls-Royce in Derby.

“We’re Derbyshire through and through,” says Tracy, who laughs when she hears about Bruce’s name mix-ups. “My agent suggested I wrote under a pen name because they said Blythe wasn’t very sparkly.

“Bruce finds it hilarious when he’s called Mr Bloom but in one article he was called John!”

. . . .

Tracy explains: “I was 36, had just had my first baby and gave up my career in marketing to move to America with Bruce. It was partly because I’d moved to a country where I didn’t know anyone that I started writing. It was my salvation. It gave me something to focus on – plus an excuse not to do the housework! I wrote in two-hour blasts when Tom went to sleep in the afternoons.

“I had always wanted to write. When I was in marketing it was the part of the job I loved.”

Without the day job, her creative energies could be poured into her funny and romantic novel, No-one Ever Has Sex On A Tuesday. And though she was in Connecticut at the time, it had its roots in Derbyshire ante-natal classes.

“I went to ante-natal classes before we went to America and it struck me that a very random selection of people meet up to talk about a very intimate and life-changing experience.”

. . . .

“It went on sale as an ebook on Amazon in April 2013,” Tracy explains. “Amazon spotted it and put it on promotion on June 1. By June 8 it had gone to number one in the bestseller list and stayed there for three weeks. At the time it was hard to comprehend. I was an unknown author. It seemed just ridiculous.”

With thousands buying the book online, it wasn’t long before a publisher came knocking on Tracy’s door. “I got a book deal with Penguin Random House.”

This year the book finally came out in paperback in the UK – which means Tracy can see her novel in book stores. Self-publishing catapulted Tracy to the kind of success she hardly dared dream of.

Link to the rest at the Ashbourne News Telegraph and thanks to Sharon for the tip.

Here’s a link to Tracy’s book, No-One Ever Has Sex On A Tuesday: A Very Funny Romantic Novel

Europe gears up to fight back against giant US beasts of the internet

12 September 2014

From The Guardian:

In Germany, they have a term for silicon valley companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook, the big beasts of the internet that have come to dominate our online lives. They are known as the datenkraken. The word means data octopuses, and it is intended to frighten – in Norse myth, the Kraken was a murderous sea monster.

Today’s datenkraken do not drag mariners into the deep, but they have tentacles that reach around the world, gathering the data of private citizens on a scale that, since Snowden’s revelations about US surveillance, has created huge unease in Europe.

Last Monday, the European Commission’s outgoing competition commissioner, Joaquín Almunia, decided to reopen his five-year investigation into Google’s search rankings. Finishing the job will fall to Almunia’s replacement, the former Danish finance minister Margrethe Vestager. Her colleague, Europe’s new digital economy commissioner Guenther Oettinger, has already made his feelings known. On Wednesday, he said Google’s market power could be limited, adding that he would work to ensure that the search engine’s services preserve neutrality and objectivity.

The message from Brussels is clear, according to Ian Maude, new media expert at Enders Analysis: “Google is the new Microsoft. As far as the regulators are concerned, it is the big bad wolf.”

. . . .

The controversy is over natural search – as opposed to the paid-for results that appear on the right hand side or at the top of the Google page. Rather than producing a series of blue links in response to queries, Google has begun answering questions itself. Ask for the weather today, and you will be shown a forecast for your region. Look up French food in Nottingham, and you will be shown a map with pins locating each restaurant, plus a list of establishments with addresses and star ratings.

Rivals complain this diverts traffic away from specialist websites offering the same information, like OpenTable or TripAdvisor.

. . . .

Google insists it does not promote its own products at the expense of others. Schmidt said in a letter to the Financial Times last week: “We aim to show results that answer the user’s queries directly (after all we built Google for users, not websites) … To date, no regulator has objected to Google giving people direct answers to their questions for the simple reason that it is better for users.”

. . . .

In parts of Europe, Google is more than the next Microsoft. It is an agent of American colonialism. By gathering the private data of European citizens, Montebourg believes that Facebook and Amazon are creating databases that can be exploited for virtually tax-free commercial gain, or mined by intelligence experts in Washington DC.

. . . .

In an open letter to Google’s Schmidt, penned in April, Döpfner warned: “Voluntary self-subjugation cannot be the last word from the Old World. On the contrary, the desire of the European digital economy to succeed could finally become something for European policy, which the EU has so sorely missed in the past few decades: an emotional narrative.”

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

In Germany, Strong Words Over Google’s Power

9 September 2014

From The New York Times:

A trans-Atlantic war of words — and profits — over the future of the Internet heated up on Wednesday when the head of Germany’s largest publisher admitted that “we are afraid of Google” and suggested that European authorities were colluding with the American Internet giant to develop a “business model that in less honorable circles would be called extortion.”

Mathias Döpfner, the chief executive officer of Axel Springer, lashed out a week after the Google chairman, Eric E. Schmidt, mounted a spirited defense of Google’s practices and charged that “heavy-handed regulation” in some places “risks creating an innovation desert in Europe” that would ultimately threaten its well-being.

. . . .

While Mr. Döpfner was careful to stress his many years of contact with Mr. Schmidt, and indeed their recent deals not only to include Springer content in Google News but also to sell ad space — a deal Mr. Schmidt in his lettertermed “path breaking” — there was no mistaking the fear, anger and puzzlement in the German’s attack.

“We are afraid of Google,” Mr. Döpfner wrote. “I must say this so clearly and honestly since scarcely one of my colleagues dares to do this publicly. And as the biggest of the small fry, we must perhaps be the first to speak plainly in this debate.”

. . . .

Google controls so much data, becoming the global equivalent of what Deutsche Post once was to mail or Deutsche Telekom to making phone calls in Germany, which is why it is so important for the American giant to be transparent and fair, Mr. Döpfner wrote.

Attacking what Mr. Schmidt had characterized as Google’s willingness to forge a compromise with the European Commission over a four-year-old complaint about its practices, Mr. Döpfner starkly declared, “This is not a compromise.”

“This is the introduction,” he continued, “sanctioned by an E.U. authority, of that kind of business practice which in less honorable circles is called extortion.”

. . . .

Turning to the relevant European Union official, Joaquín Almunia, the competition commissioner, Mr. Döpfner suggested that he should ask himself whether he wants virtually his last important decision before stepping down this autumn to be an act “that would go down in history as the nail in the coffin of Europe’s already somewhat sclerotic Internet economy.”

Instead, he suggested, Brussels should recognize a historic opportunity to exert political influence over the digital future and at the same time lend the European Union “what it in recent years has so painfully lacked, namely an emotional narrative.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times

For a tech person, “political influence” means the death of innovation.

Amazon’s tantrum over books cost me $212 at a real bookstore

8 September 2014

From The Guardian:

I paid $99 for an Amazon Prime membership, but the company’s standoff with Hachette over ebooks forced me to spend more at bookstores to get the selection I needed.

. . . . owes me at least $212.82.

Amazon’s strategy to torture Hachette into reducing prices for its books has been to make the publisher suffer by imposing delivery delays on many of its most in-demand titles.

The long-running spat is starting to take a toll on customer loyalty. No one’s happy. Nine hundred-plus authors have signed an anti-Amazon petition and for customers, Amazon has reversed its promise of instant gratification.

. . . .

I reached my breaking point last month when my book group decided to read Scoop by Evelyn Waugh.

Hardly a new release (it was first published in 1937), it’s still a Hachette book and subject to that shipping delay from Amazon.

Too long for me to wait to get the book and still have time to read it before our meeting – so off I ventured to a Barnes & Noble.

For the first time in perhaps six months, I walked out of a bookstore with a bag. A bag containing not just the Waugh novel, but four other books.

. . . .

In about a month, because I couldn’t buy two paperback books from Amazon, I’ve ended up spending $400 with its rival. The first time I had to make a special trip to the bookstore might have been a fluke, but by the second time, I was irked.

. . . .

But I will be very curious to see, when Barnes & Noble releases its fiscal first quarter earnings early next week, just how many other frustrated book buyers nationwide may have ended up indulging in similar physical book-buying sprees as Amazon, the digital giant, proves uncooperative.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

A French Literary Call To Arms Against The Amazon Monopoly

7 September 2014

From Le Monde via WordCrunch:

We French love our rentrée littéraire. But with the launch of this year’s new literary season, dedicated in part to the memory of our American World War II allies, a new war is erupting. And the alliances seem to be changing. U.S.-based Trojan horse Amazon started the fight by targeting major French publisher Hachette in its battle to lower the price of e-books.

Strangely enough, as French publishers hope the new season will compensate for abysmal sales figures so far this year, the fight for literary prizes seems to be creating more passion in France than the power struggle between the two giants. Nine hundred American writers and 1,000 German authors have signed a petition to support Hachette, and publishers in Japan are also starting to react. But in France, for now at least, authors and publishers alike have remained relatively silent on the matter.

Amazon’s offensive against Hachette — in which the online giant is basically trying to lowball Hachette on pricing, and strong-arm in distribution contract negotiations — once more poses the question of how important literature is in our societies, whether in printed or digital form. Just what’s at stake for books, both aesthetically and politically, in a world dominated by screens and feeds, where algorithms, busy lives and the commercialization of exchanges are ever more present?

. . . .

For the past two years, France has seen an unprecedented number of bookstores close. In 2013, Virgin went bust. This year, another chain, Chapitre, closed 57 of its stores. The book market is losing 2% to 3% every year. Online stores represent about 12% of the market, but their dynamic growth has slowed down for the first time in France.

As for e-books, their share in the revenues of French publishers is only 1%. Surprisingly, the e-book has yet to be embraced in France. The reason for this is often kept quiet. The primary French publishers, including Hachette, are also distributors, acting as the middlemen between retailers and publishers for the sale and transport of books.

Therefore, to develop the digital offer is to kill the middlemen and, eventually, French bookstores. No other country has as many independent retailers, free from all ties to any group and able to display and sell the books they want. This exceptional network is the first form of internal resistance to the Amazon invader.

. . . .

Bookstores are the spirit of civilization, a place where ideas are put to the test, where conversation, courtesy and even quarrels allow us to rise. That is why there is a political issue behind the future of books. Our elected representatives must do what it takes to put the book back at the center of our societies, even though a demanding real world and an intrusive virtual one often put us off it.

When bookstores disappear, intelligence, curiosity and the democracy of ideas wither. Public broadcasters and politicians who are hooked on 24-hour news networks have forgotten that they are the ones who must pull the world towards intelligence and sensitivity to thwart the destructive and reactionary forces that surround us.

Link to the rest at WordCrunch

French booksellers refuse to stock Valerie Trierweiler’s ‘dirty laundry’ memoirs

7 September 2014

From The Telegraph:

Valérie Trierweiler’s explosive memoirs of her relationship with Francois Hollande may have shot to the top of the French bestseller list, but not all of the country’s bookshops are keen to cash in on its more lurid revelations.

Signs have appeared in some of France’s bookshop windows to explain why they would not be selling Merci Pour Ce Moment [Thanks For This Moment], despite initial sales of the tell-all memoir topping even those of Fifty Shades of Grey in France.

“We have 11,000 books. We are not here to be the dustbin for Trierweiler and Hollande,” said one. “This bookshop isn’t planning on becoming an outlet for Ms Trierweiler’s dirty laundry”, wrote another.

. . . .

The book has widely been seen as an attack on the French president by his spurned ex-girlfriend, claiming that the Socialist Hollande privately “doesn’t like the poor” and kept Trierweiler on “astronomical” amounts of tranquillisers after their break-up to keep her hidden away in hospital.

. . . .

However, some entrepreneurial booksellers appeared ready to use interest in the book to divert readers to other, weightier tomes. “Apologies – we don’t have Valerie Trierweiler’s book but we do still have some Balzac, Dumas, Maupassant, etc…” one sign read.

Link to the rest at The Telegraph and thanks to Josie for the tip.

Margaret Atwood’s new work will remain unseen for a century

5 September 2014

From The Guardian:

Depending on perspective, it is an author’s dream – or nightmare:Margaret Atwood will never know what readers think of the piece of fictionshe is currently working on, because the unpublished, unread manuscript from the Man Booker prize-winning novelist will be locked away for the next 100 years.

Atwood has just been named as the first contributor to an astonishing new public artwork. The Future Library project, conceived by the award-winning young Scottish artist Katie Paterson, began, quietly, this summer, with the planting of a forest of 1,000 trees in Nordmarka, just outside Oslo. It will slowly unfold over the next century. Every year until 2114, one writer will be invited to contribute a new text to the collection, and in 2114, the trees will be cut down to provide the paper for the texts to be printed – and, finally, read.

. . . .

She predicted that the readers of 2114 might need “a paleo-anthropologist to translate some of it for them”, because “language of course will have changed over those 100 years. Maybe not so much as it changed between say 1400 and now, but it will have changed somewhat”.

. . . .

Each year, the Future Library trust, made up of literary experts – and Paterson, while she’s alive – will name another “outstanding” writer who will be contributing to the artwork. The trust is also responsible for the maintenance of the forest, and for ensuring the books are printed in a century’s time. A printing press will be placed in the library to make sure those in charge in 2114 have the capability of printing books on paper.

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

In one hundred years, no one will be reading paper books except archivists. PG votes to let the trees live.

Uncomfortable Statistics for traditional publishers – Good news for Indies

5 September 2014

From author Kathleen Jones via Do Authors Dream of Electric Books?:

The Big 6 are not so big any more. According to the latest figures for 2013, Penguin Random House came top of the table with a 24% share of the market, but its sales were down £342m (15%). All the others – Hachette, HarperCollins, Pan MacMillan, Bloomsbury, and Simon & Schuster were also down. Their total share of the market was only 59% – down from 70% in 2001. Is this a sign that their dominance of the book trade is fading? I think it is. But they won’t go down without a fight, so – more turbulent times ahead.

. . . .

The hope of many ‘mid list’ and ‘literary’ authors dumped by the Big 6 for commercial reasons has been a group of valiant and well-respected independently owned publishers still willing to take on authors for their literary merit. These presses have been having a hard time of it in the orca-infested ocean that is BookWorld at the moment. The trend for conglomeration in the face of severe competition continues and this inevitably means mergers and job losses. The Penguin Random House merger has seen major bloodshed among the staff (out of the public eye) with the loss of many talented individuals, some of whom have now gone freelance because there’s simply nowhere else to go. Several small independent publishers have been hoovered up – sadly the innovative Quercus press was acquired by Hodder (part of Hachette) after making big losses.

. . . .

What the 2013 figures do show is that self-publishing in both ebook and paper book formats is really taking off. Paperback sales through Lulu rose 38% and CreateSpace sales were up a massive 161%. This is bound to send shivers of fear through the boardrooms of the publishing industry. Half of all book sales (both traditional and self-published) in the UK are now through Amazon.

Rumours that ebook sales are flat-lining are untrue. Obviously they aren’t soaring at the goldrush rates that happened in the beginning, but they’re now climbing at more realistic levels. According to Nielsen, ebook sales across the industry were up 20% overall in 2013 and readers spent more than £300m buying at least 80m ebooks. This accounted for more than a quarter of all book purchases. One in five of these sales (12% of all sales) was an ‘Indie’ book. Early figures from the first three months of 2014 show that the moment when ebook sales will overtake paper book sales is very close and the percentage of ‘Indie’ books is also rising fast, particularly in the USA.

. . . .

Many [publishers] are still hostile and unable to accept the fact that e-publishing is here to stay. They seem to think that if they throw their weight about a bit they can put it back in the box. They feel the same about self-publishing. It’s obvious to observers that the two sectors are going to have to co-exist.

. . . .

The rosy dawn of self-publishing is over – it’s now a serious business and we are in competition with traditional industry professionals who won’t necessarily play fair. They see themselves as the legitimate land-owners and ourselves as the barbarian hordes.

Link to the rest at Do Authors Dream of Electric Books?

Here’s a link to Kathleen Jones’ books

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