PG’s Thoughts (such as they are)

Cory Doctorow Launches a Bookstore Where Authors Sell on Behalf of Publishers – Wait, What?

20 March 2017

From The Digital Reader:

Cory Doctorow just announced his support for an ebookstore platform that has me scratching my head.

. . . .

It’s not just that he has apparently abandoned his support for free Creative Commons-licensed ebooks in favor of selling ebooks (welcomes to 2007, Cory!) but also that he believes that authors should be sales staff for publishers.

From PW:

Walkaway has traditional publishers, and it will have a traditional e-book edition. But I’m going to sell that e-book in a nontraditional way. I’m launching an e-book store with the book, a store that I’ve privately developed for the past three years, code named “Shut Up and Take My Money” (SUATMM). SUATMM is what I like to call a fair trade e-book store, in which the writer also serves as a retailer.

There are many small, niche-oriented e-book stores serving highly specific markets, but SUATMM is different. It’s a retail platform that lets authors with traditional publishers serve as retailers for their those publishers, on the same terms as Amazon, Kobo, Google, BN.com, Apple, and other giants. Those stores have resources no individual author (save, perhaps, the delightfully DRM-free J.K. Rowling) can muster. In particular, they can manage a seamless experience that no indie bookstore can hope to match.

. . . .

While it is easy to buy ebooks in the Kindle Store, it’s difficult to find much less buy ebooks in niche 3rd-party ebookstores (hence why Harry Potter ebooks are available everywhere, why Baen Books moved into the Kindle Store – not away, and why Hachette never launched its Kindle Store competitor).

. . . .

Instead, I want to point out Doctorow’s blind spot: the unwarranted assumption that authors need or even should be doing business with publishers.

. . . .

It’s 2017, and publishers now expect authors to do their own marketing, blog regularly, be active on social media, and ideally already have their audience built before the contract is signed.

And now Doctorow wants authors to also

Sell ebooks for publishers,
And handle payments,
And remit the money to publishers in several countries?
Okay, but if authors are going to do all this work then why sign with a publisher in the first place?

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader and thanks to Meryl and othes for the tip.

PG delayed posting about Doctorow’s plan because he was waiting for someone to propose a theory about why an intelligent trad-pubbed author would try to sell books directly from some strange organization for side-loading onto a Kindle. What kind of service is that for an author’s readers? Who do those readers call for tech support when the ebook file won’t load?

Certainly, having an affiliate account with Amazon and embedding links to an author’s books on the author’s website might bring in a bit of money, but that’s a set-and-forget job that takes a few minutes. Some cobbled-together spit and baling wire book-purchasing system does the readers no favors.

The shortest and easiest route from an author’s website to a rewarding book purchasing experience runs through Seattle.

Amazon Derangement Syndrome takes on many different forms, but this may be the most extreme.

Let PG be perfectly clear – if Jeff Bezos woke up one morning, decided that Amazon was indeed evil for shaking up the sclerotic book business and ordered his Amazon minions to immediately stop selling books, the traditional publishing industry would collapse.

PG suspects that if Big Publishing really examined its accounts, it would discover that ebooks offered through Amazon generate virtually all of the meager profits that inure to the publishing business these days.

Actor recites all 9 hours of Amazon Kindle T&Cs

16 March 2017

From CNet:

Do you read the terms of service for every service you sign up for? Stop lying, you don’t. But you have a very good reason. They’re very long and very boring, and you just want to get stuck into whatever you’re signing up for.

. . . .

To highlight just how ridiculous it is, Choice hired an actor named Laurence to read aloud all 73,198 words of Amazon’s Kindle terms and conditions.

Based on the estimation that 500 words is one A4 page, that’s 146 pages, and it took poor Laurence nine hours to slog through the whole thing.

Link to the rest at CNet and thanks to G.P. for the tip.

.

.

Having written, rewritten and read more Terms of Use than he cares to remember, PG says such “Agreements” always begin as shorter documents, then grow over time. They never seem to shrink.

Unless a provision is determined by a court or government agency to be illegal or unenforceable, it stays in the Terms of Service (or Terms of Use or Terms and Conditions) forever. These three titles (abbreviated as ToS, TOU or T’s & C’s when lawyers communicate with one another) tend to be used interchangeably to refer to the same type of document embedded somewhere on a corporate website or printed in tiny, tiny type on a much-folded piece of paper inserted into product packaging.

On occasion, stories arise about someone who inserts a provision at about the 80% point in a corporate TOU that offers to pay whomever reads the provision a reward of $100 with an email address to claim the reward. Months pass, then years, and the reward is never claimed.

While PG would never recommend treating the contractual provisions included in a TOU lightly, as a general proposition, most large organizations with lengthy TOU’s threaten violators with great vigor, but seldom seem to take enforcement actions to trial before a judge or (heaven forefend!) a jury.

In PG’s experience, TOU’s tend to be much, much longer than agreements on similar subjects that are negotiated between two parties who are each represented by counsel.

PG stumbled across an article in The Telegraph which indicates the islands from which the foundations of American law originated may have a more sensible view of TOU’s than the US does. It’s official: you don’t have to read the Ts & Cs

University of Washington Writing Guru Declares American Grammar ‘Racist,’ Wants New Rules

22 February 2017

From Heatstreet:

The chief writing instructor at the University of Washington, Tacoma, is trying to dismantle the rules of grammar because he believes they are racist—and the college has given its endorsement to his campaign.

Posters that appeared this week in the college’s writing center are part of a new effort to teach students that the conventional rules on how to structure sentences and form ideas in written language are perpetuating inequality and “white supremacy.”

“Racism is the normal condition of things. Racism is pervasive. It is in the systems, structures, rules, languages, expectations and guidelines that make up our classes, school, and society,” the poster claims. It goes on to say that critiquing a student’s use of language, or implying that there is any one grammatical standard within the English language, is inherently discriminatory.

. . . .

Grammar, according to the posters in the writing center, can “justify placing people in hierarchies or restricting opportunities and privileges because of the way people communicate in particular versions of English.”

To solve the problem, the program intends to help students become aware of “social justice” issues in their everyday life, and to help them “check their privileges”—particularly those that result in unconscious racism.

They also appear to say that they will not deduct from grades—even in English classes in an English department—for failing to use proper grammar. “We promise to emphasize the importance of rhetorical situations over grammatical ‘correctness’ in the production of texts,” a “commitment” on the poster reads. “We promise to challenge conventional word choices and writing explanations.”

Link to the rest at Heatstreet and thanks to Felix for the tip.

Here’s the Statement in full:

Writing Center

 About Writing Center

Following is a statement that Writing Center professional staff, tutors, and the Director worked on extensively. It informs our center’s practices and on-going assessment efforts to improve our practices.

STATEMENT ON ANTIRACIST AND SOCIAL JUSTICE WORK IN THE WRITING CENTER

Our Beliefs

The writing center works from several important beliefs that are crucial to helping writers write and succeed in a racist society. The racist conditions of our society are not simply a matter of bias or prejudice that some people hold. In fact, most racism, for instance, is not accomplished through intent. Racism is the normal condition of things. Racism is pervasive. It is in the systems, structures, rules, languages, expectations, and guidelines that make up our classes, school, and society. For example, linguistic and writing research has shown clearly for many decades that there is no inherent “standard” of English. Language is constantly changing. These two facts make it very difficult to justify placing people in hierarchies or restricting opportunities and privileges because of the way people communicate in particular versions of English.

Because we all live, work, learn, and communicate within such racist systems, the consultants in the writing center assume that a big part of our job is to help students become more critical of these unjust language structures as they affect students’ writing and the judgment of that writing. In particular, being aware of racism as structural offers students the best chances to develop as writers and succeed on their own terms in an inherently racist society.

Furthermore, by acknowledging and critiquing the systemic racism that forms parts of UWT and the languages and literacies expected in it, students and writing center consultants can cultivate a more socially just future for everyone. Just avoiding racism is not enough because it means we are doing nothing to stop racism at large, and it amounts to allowing racism to continue.

Our Commitment

The writing center consultants and staff promise to listen and look carefully and compassionately for ways that we may unintentionally perpetuate racism or social injustice, actively engaging in antiracist practices. For instance, we promise to:

  • be sensitive to our language practices (what we say or allow to be said) and other microaggressions that may make some people feel uncomfortable or feel in some way inferior;
  • openly discuss social justice issues as they pertain to the writing at hand;
  • emphasize the importance of rhetorical situations over grammatical “correctness” in the production of texts;
  • be reflective and critical of the practices we engage in;
  • provide students ways to be more aware of grammar as a rhetorical set of choices with various consequences;
  • discuss racism and social justice issues openly in productive ways;
  • advocate for the things that will make our Center safe, welcoming, productive, proactive;
  • challenge conventional word choices and writing explanations;
  • conduct on-going assessments of the work of the writing center, looking specifically for patterns or potential inequalities or oppressive practices that may be occurring in the Center.

We also realize that racism is connected to other forms of social injustice, such as classism, sexism, heteronormative assumptions, etc., in similar ways. We promise further to do our best to compassionately address these issues as they pertain to student writing as well.

The Writing Center at the University of Washington Tacoma is a part of the Teaching and Learning Center located in Snoqualmie 260, and is closely affiliated with the University Writing Program.  All students can make an appointment to see a Writing Consultant in person or online.  There are four ways the Center offers expert feedback on student writing.  The Center also offers electronic resources for academic writing.

PG says this manifesto appears to him to be written in standard American English and, thus, packed with microaggressions.

PG observes not the slightest sensitivity to the way those not trained to this standard might react to such a racist tone. Clearly, those at the top of  this hierarchy are determined to bend others less privileged to their will.

How such people can purport to teach English without continuing to perpetrate an inherently hostile environment by repeatedly othering those who differ from them cannot be imagined.

His Mysterious Lady

13 February 2017

Mandatory Disclaimer for New Visitors to TPV:

The Passive Voice is not a book blog. PG loves books, but there are many other excellent book blogs. PG is unable to say exactly what kind of blog TPV is, but he’s certain it’s not a book blog.

From time to time, PG receives requests from perfectly good authors to promote their books. He politely declines such requests.

Unless the requests are delivered in person. At breakfast.

Mrs. PG has book on Kindle Scout. When PG checked the rankings before this posting, Mrs. PG’s book was Hot.

As you may have guessed by the cover, the book is titled His Mysterious Lady.

A question has undoubtedly entered your mind, “Why is a mysterious lady lurking around Regency England?”

There’s a Viscount. PG isn’t sure of his name, but it might be Bob. So Viscount Bob meets a mysterious lady whose name is Virginia. The lady is named after the place of her birth. Fortunately, she wasn’t born in Massachusetts.

What’s a lady from Virginia doing in Regency England? She claims to have an inheritance from some dead English guy, but who knows? She’s not from Suffolk, so she could be lying.

After all, the War of 1812 is going on. To be fair, most of the Viscounts in England are way more worried about fighting a guy named Napoleon than dealing with a motley crew of former colonists who are in a constant state of peevishness.

But, for all Viscount Bob knows, all women from Virginia are congenital spies. However, he’s pretty sure that all women from Virginia are not as cute as this lady is. So, he decides it is his patriotic duty to check her out.

Viscount Bob is a really smart guy and an honorable one to boot. If Bob weren’t honorable, as PG clearly remembers from a Jane Austen movie he saw on Masterpiece Theater, Bob would be called a Miscount or a Discount.

PG can almost hear Lady Catherine de Bourgh saying, “I will never permit my daughter to marry a mere Discount. She must marry Mr. Darcy so their kids will be haughty and aloof!”

But PG digresses. Back to the mysterious Virginian, Virginia, and Mrs. PG’s book about her.

Mrs. PG and PG would appreciate it if you would check out His Mysterious Lady on Kindle Scout and click on the nominate button if you like what you see.

If click on the nominate button and Mrs. PG’s book is published by Amazon, you’ll win a free early copy of the book. That way you can finally find out what happens to Viscount Bob.

 

Working for free (but working for yourself)

7 February 2017

From Seth Godin:

Freelancers, writers, designers, photographers–there’s always an opportunity to work for free.

There are countless websites and causes and clients that will happily take your work in exchange for exposure.

And in some settings, this makes perfect sense. You might be making a contribution to a cause you care about.

. . . .

But just because you’re working for free doesn’t mean you should give away all your upsides.

Consider the major publishing platforms that are happy to host your work, but you need to sign away your copyright.

. . . .

Now, more than ever, you have the power to say “no” to that.

Because they can’t publish you better than you can publish yourself.

It doesn’t matter if these are their standard clauses. They might be standard for them, but they don’t have to be standard for you and for your career.

Link to the rest at Seth Godin

PG says “This is our standard contract” may be the oldest con known to humankind to persuade someone (including an author) to sign a terrible contract.

The “standard contract”, “standard clause” or “standard language” designation is designed to make the author think that everyone agrees to those terms. Who is an author, particularly a new author, to dare to ask for something different than all the established authors accept?

This is baloney. Publishing contracts are changed all the time.

Publishing contracts of a certain era were formatted so the changes in “standard” language were shown in a different font or otherwise highlighted. PG has seen such contracts that included dozens of changes for authors who were not best-sellers. Many agents have a set of standard changes they always make to the “standard contract” from a particular publisher.

Most publishers no longer use stone tablets for their contracts. Microsoft Word can change a “standard contract” to a fairer contract in an eyeblink.

PG says, “Ask and ye shall receive.” And if you don’t receive, you can walk away and get a better deal from someone else. The Amazon or Draft2Digital or Smashwords, etc., options are always open.

Another negotiating tip – Always have an alternative planned before you begin a business negotiation. Negotiation theorists call this a BATNA – Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. Part of the psychology of the “standard contract” ploy is the assumption that the author is mentally and emotionally committed to having a book published by a particular publisher, working with a famous editor, seeing big stacks of books in Barnes & Noble, etc.

Prior to sending the contract to the author, many publishers encourage an author, particularly a first-time author, to think everything will be sunshine and lollipops. The author has told all of her relatives and friends that Big Time Publishing has accepted her book, imagined what it will be like to fly on a private jet to Paris for a book signing, what she will say during her Nobel Prize acceptance speech, etc., etc., etc.

These sorts of things put immense pressure on an author to not walk away from a bad deal. PG suggests that an author may want to defer any announcement until after a fair contract is negotiated and signed. However, he knows this can be a very difficult thing to do, so perhaps a cautionary element should be added to any pre-contract announcements, “But I’m going to make sure the contract and all the details are right before this is official.”

Agency pricing didn’t restrain Amazon; it strengthened them

2 February 2017

From veteran publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin:

Many, if not most, of the people in publishing houses I know have what they feel is a pretty clear picture of the changes we’re seeing in the business. There seems to be a strong consensus that the ebook share is leveling off or diminishing as opposed to print. And there is an enthusiasm about what is characterized as a vibrant and growing independent sector. And stronger print, too many (if not most) people (even inside the industry) figure, means stronger brick-and-mortar and a lessening of the power of Amazon.

But data is really elusive and confusing in our business. Nobody really counts everything in the same way with the same time periods and methodology.

. . . .

The challenge of aggregating that data and making sense of it has been tackled by Data Guy, the anonymous quant who put together the Author Earnings website with indie author star Hugh Howey. The original mission of Author Earnings was to get a handle on how much money indie authors earned in relation to conventionally-published ones. Indie authors often sell ebooks, particularly, at much lower prices than established publishers do, with the author getting a much larger share of the consumer dollar from those sales. But indie authors don’t get the same level of print sales (almost none in stores) and often don’t produce audiobooks, which require a separate creative effort.

So indie authors often make more per copy on ebooks, even when they are priced very low, than published authors do, ignoring, for the moment, that so many published books don’t earn out their advance so the effective royalty rate is higher than the contractual royalty rate. The indies also usually give up a big share of the potential market because many of them only get ebook sales through Amazon.

. . . .

So it requires a certain amount of faith to accept Data Guy’s analysis. It is almost certainly not 100% correct. But Bookscan doesn’t capture all the cash registers and PubTrack doesn’t get reports from all the publishers either. (Welcome to the world of publishing data!)

. . . .

That’s analysis each publisher needs for each book they do, and should perhaps engage Data Guy to help them with. There are some stunning revelations even within his DBW slides but, as he spells out, he can get exceedingly granular with that analysis. If my commercial success depended on knowing the landscape, I’d want him to inform me about the market for each book I published.

The other set of insights provided blows away the picture of reality painted here in the opening graf. (Admittedly, the sophisticated quants inside the biggest publishers must know this picture isn’t accurate about their own books.) It documents that the strategy of the biggest publishers, going to agency pricing so it was harder for Amazon to discount ebooks, is not solving their “Amazon problem”. It is exacerbating it!

Data Guy delivers a much clearer picture of the real market by including and integrating data for what Bookscan and PubTrack leave uncounted: the indie-published books (and even some from publishers) that don’t carry ISBNs and Amazon-published books that aren’t reported. He estimates the total “non-traditional” market at $1.25 billion consumer dollars, almost 300 million units across formats, with the lion’s share — 263 million of the 297 million units — being ebooks. The ebooks are on the cheaper side (he says an average of $2.92 per unit for the self-published and $4.38 per unit for Amazon-published). The ninety-nine cent price is pretty much a relic, except for windowed promotions. Amazon made that happen with their royalty structure, encouraging authors to price at $2.99 or above.

This shadow market constitutes 43% of the units purchased on Amazon and 24% of the dollars spent.

Those 263 million ebooks that Data Guy counts and Bookscan doesn’t are the difference between the flat or shrinking ebook market that publishers see and the perhaps-still-growing ebook market that Amazon sales suggest.

. . . .

No, the strategy of forcing Amazon to eschew discounting of ebooks — the agency pricing publishers have fought for and accomplished over the past several years — is not fostering an ecosystem more hospitable to the publishers.

In fact, it is making it more difficult for them.

This is clearly revealed through Data Guy’s consolidated picture of print book sales (only) in 2015 and 2016. In fact, the year-to-year change over those two years showed that the percentage of sales delivered through B&N, Walmart/Target, and “other” (smaller chains, airport stores, non-bookstores) all fell. The celebrated independent bookstores held their own, at a pretty paltry 6 percent of the sales.

But Amazon increased its share substantially, from 38 percent of the print units to 42 percent.

So if the original point to the agency strategy was to reduce the power of Amazon, it isn’t working.

. . . .

It is an incredible irony that the publishers had a strategy to hobble Amazon: stop ebook discounting. The courts found that unpalatable, so the publishers were forced to relent a bit. But, Amazon effectively said “no, thank you, we’re okay with what you did originally” and changed tactics to create a different pressure point.

We now live in a world where 69 percent (shout it out: SIXTY-NINE PERCENT) of book sales — print, digital, and audio — are online and only 31% in brick-and-mortar stores. For kids books, fiction and non-fiction, that’s a bit under half. For adult books, fiction and non-fiction, that’s about three-quarters!

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files and thanks to Jan and others for the tip.

PG suspects “sophisticated quants inside the biggest publishers” don’t exist. If PG is wrong about the nonexistence of quants, the only explanation for Big Publishing’s strategy during the last 5-8 years is that management never listens to anyone with the tiniest bit of quantitative ability.

At every major fork in the disruptive road, publishers have made the wrong decision. Fighting Amazon when they should have embraced Amazon. Mispricing ebooks to support print sales. Chasing talented authors away when they should have been treating them like queens. (Yes, publishers are sexist, particularly in their attitude towards “women’s” genres and the authors who write in those genres. Anybody with a single quant cell in their brains would have gone all-in for ebook romances and their voracious readers.)

Digital Book World Indie 2017 Wrap-Up

24 January 2017

From author Ron Vitale:

The state of indie publishing is in flux. Is print coming back? Are indie authors losing sales? And with the rise of more competition from traditional publishers, what is an indie author to do?

Based right outside of Philadelphia, I took the train up to New York and went hoping to find answers at Digital Book World Indie 2017. Truth be told, one of the main reasons why I went was to hear Data Guy talk in the Tight Insights: The Indie Universe Quantified session. I wanted to see his data on the big screen. I could have listened to him for hours.

. . . .

How are indie authors going to compete and thrive against huge conglomerate corporations? At the end of the first session, Porter Anderson reminded all of us that when photographers needed to streamline their services, they came together to form a co-op. Professional services (developing the film, marketing, etc.) could be provided by reputable and vetted individuals while the photographers could stay out longer in the field, shooting. Anderson, in his understated way, turned to the audience and said, “Now it’s all on you.”

The biggest take home message from Digital Book World Indie is so simple that I almost missed it while preparing for the next talk. When we as indie authors unite, we have strength. We are the sum of our individual skills.

. . . .

While I sat in the conference room listening to the talks, I had my phone out, sharing information with members of a private Facebook group. And throughout the day, I kept checking in on Michael Anderle’s 20BooksTo50K Facebook group. I joined the 20BooksTo50K group back in December when there were 1,200 members. Less than a month later, there are more than 3,450 members. Fellow indie authors who are sharing their launch plans, screenshots from their sales dashboards, asking for advice on covers they are having designed and talk through the most in-the-weeds details about email lists.

. . . .

The mismatch between the experts at the conference and the brain power available from within the room itself could not have been more pronounced over the course of the day.

. . . .

The second most important lesson I learned at DBW Indie is that traditional publishers, to quote Jane Friedman, “are kicking ass in marketing.” Judith Curr’s (President & Publisher of Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster) talk brought that home to all the authors in the room. Not only are publishers creating apps such as Crave, but they are performing A/B tests with their advertising, targeting the appropriate readers with the ads as well as sending out thousands of ARCs in advance to build reviews online.

Judith Curr came to speak to a room full of indie authors with an olive branch, asking us to consider traditional publishing. The word “hybrid” floated throughout many of the sessions and authors were pitched not only by Curr, but by Kobo, Wattpad, Ingramspark and, if you wanted, one-on-one with iBooks. Opportunity flowed throughout the day.

The challenge that I see is that without the deep (for now) pockets of traditional publishers, indie authors will continue to struggle. Although traditional publishers have amazing teams to produce extremely high quality products, the opportunity for indie authors comes in our being able to control our own careers. We have choice. With knowledge, there is power. In today’s publishing, we could license our print book rights, but retain our ebook rights and publish as we like. We have bargaining power that did not exist a few years ago.

Link to the rest at Ron Vitale

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

PG doesn’t know Mr. Vitale, but PG does know something about large conglomerates, including publishing conglomerates, pre-internet and internet marketing and technology in general.

Conglomerates are large collections of people and money that are not all the same. Some do reasonably well at attracting capital and running some of their businesses. Others do dumb things all the time.

If you want to rapidly accomplish something innovative, a conglomerate is not the way to go. If you want to attract and keep creative employees, a conglomerate is not the way to go.

No smart entrepreneur tries to start anything inside a conglomerate. Apple would have been killed in the crib inside a conglomerate. So would Amazon and Google.

As a group, publishing conglomerates are among the slowest and least innovative members of the conglomerate class. PG worked for one of the largest (RELX Group, previously known as Reed Elsevier) for three unhappy years and knows of what he speaks.

Specific points mentioned in the OP:

  • Apps such as Crave from big publishers. Do you know how easy it is to build an app? Ten-year-olds build apps. There are over two million apps on Apple’s App Store. PG looked at the most popular book apps on Apple’s App Store. The first page includes a large number of apps. Crave was not among them. Three out of the top five apps were from Amazon.
  • A/B tests for advertising. PG wasn’t one of the Mad Men, but his boss at a very large advertising agency would have qualified. Needless to say, PG’s adventures in advertising occurred centuries ago. A/B tests with advertising were a routine practice during Mad Men days.
  • Sending out ARCs in advance to build reviews online. Publishers have been doing this forever. Smart indie authors have email lists, social media accounts, etc., and use them to do the same thing.

PG agrees with the OP that authors should get together and share ideas, support each other, etc.

However, there’s a key difference when indie authors get together and when traditionally-published authors get together.

When an indie author hears or reads about a great idea for marketing, he/she can implement it immediately and see the results (good or bad) in a few days or weeks by watching their KDP dashboard. When a traditionally-published author hears the same idea, it’s a different experience.

To pirate a saying, an author needs a big publisher like a fish needs a bicycle.

 

Micro-Publishing: An Inside Look at Goosebottom Books

23 January 2017

From Digital Book World:

You’ve probably heard of indie publishers, but have you heard of micro-publishers? Author Shirin Bridges, owner of Goosebottom Books, calls her company a micro-publisher: a professional publishing organization that brings together a flexible workforce to produce a small number of highly targeted books.

Because of the nature of micro-publishers as small, custom organizations, no two are alike. This in-depth look at Goosebottom’s structure and goals can offer insights into the benefits of this new highly flexible option for energetic authors and entrepreneurs looking to reach niche audiences.

. . . .

Goosebottom was created with the goal of producing books for children about females who have found a way to effect change in their communities.

“We run Goosebottom like a co-op,” said Bridges.

The organization does not employ full-time staff members. Instead, trusted professional members come together on an as-needed basis. Bridges noted that she doesn’t pay herself, but the other members of the team receive standard compensation. Authors get advances and royalties, illustrators get either a flat fee or a royalty, and all copy editors and designers get a flat fee.

. . . .

“Micro-publishers can’t compete in the realm of general fiction.” said Bridges. “They have to know their narrow niche.”

Bridges defines the brand as the thinking girls’ series that boys are interested in, too.

The stories produced at Goosebottom Books span various times in history, and the stories come from all over the globe. For example, one series is about real-world princesses, including Hatshesput of Egypt and Sorghaghtani of Mongolia. Another series, called “Dastardly Dames,” includes biographies of iconic women such as Cleopatra and Njinga, “The Warrior Queen.”

. . . .

“There’s recognition out there,” said Bridges. “People see me at conferences and say they recognize the logo.”

. . . .

Goosebottom Books, like publishers of any size, is inundated with queries.

“We get two to three manuscripts a day,” said Bridges. “Though they’d be hard-pressed to know how to find us.”

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

PG knows nothing about Goosebottom Books, its personnel or financial backing.

However, the first thing that popped into his mind when he read the OP was All Romance E-Books.

Goosebottom struck PG (perhaps wrongly) as a hobby, albeit a serious hobby, for most of its participants. There is nothing inherently bad about that type of organization, but is Goosebottom and its books only a hobby for the authors it publishes?

PG quickly scanned the website and couldn’t find anything about the contracts Goosebottom wants authors to sign. He checked out the publisher’s Terms of Use and they were standard boilerplate legalese.

If the same attorneys who wrote the TOU wrote Goosebottom’s publishing contracts, PG would expect the usual (unfortunately) term-of-copyright, all ancillary rights language that most publishers include in their contracts.

This type of language is dangerous enough for authors publishing through well-established traditional publishers. In PG’s astonishingly humble opinion, such provisions definitely should not be in the publishing contracts of small publishers, some of whom will definitely go out of business in either an organized or unorganized fashion before their authors’ copyrights expire.

For small publishers who may read this, what are PG’s alternatives?

  1. The publishing contract lasts for a specified term – three years, five years, seven years, ten years max. At the end of the contract term, the parties can renew the agreement if everybody’s still happy.
  2. The publishing contract is for printed books and ebooks only.
  3. For any other rights associated with the book (games, toys, movies, etc.), the author agrees to negotiate with the publisher if the publisher wants to do something with those rights, but is not required to grant those rights to the publisher.
  4. If any payment of royalties and/or royalty statement is more than 30 days late, the author may immediately terminate the contract on written notice to the publisher and all rights to the author’s books immediately revert to the author.

If an author is writing as a hobby, perhaps he/she may knowingly take the risk of giving his/her stories to a publisher on a wing and a prayer. However, if an author is working towards a career in writing, the author and any publishers with which he/she associates should engage in sound business practices.

Pearson to Sell Stake in Penguin Random House

19 January 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

Faced with worse-than-expected results in its North American higher education publishing business, Pearson said this morning that it is putting its 47% stake in Penguin Random House up for sale. Pearson has held its share in PRH since it merged Penguin with Bertelsmann’s Random House in 2013, with Bertelsmann controlling a 53% stake in the giant trade publisher.

Pearson had been expected to sell its stake in PRH at some point, but the announcement of its decision today came as a surprise, as did the reason why it was putting its share on the market: Pearson’s acknowledgement that operating profits for 2016 will be below expectations and it will not hit is goal of £800 million in operating profits for 2018, the year Pearson said it expected its turnaround efforts to start bearing fruit.

Instead, Pearson reported that sales in the North American higher education market in 2016 were much worse than forecast, particularly in the fourth quarter, when revenue dropped 30% compared to the final period of 2015, leading to an 18% decline in the North American higher education group for 2016. Pearson added that while earlier it had anticipated that the North American higher education market would stabilize in 2017, it now expects further revenue declines in the year.

To meet the lower demand, Pearson said it will accelerate a number of efforts to meet the higher demand for digital products and textbook rentals. The company has already eliminated about 4,000 jobs as part of its effort to create a more streamlined company.

. . . .

Following the Pearson announcement, Bertelsmann chief executive Thomas Rabe issued a statement saying the company is “open to increasing our stake in Penguin Random House, provided the financial terms are fair.”

. . . .

It is not clear if Bertelsmann would be interested in acquiring the full stake or only part of Pearson’s share of PRH. Pearson said it wants to divest the full stake.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG’s analysis is as follows:

a. Pearson is having big problems in the educational publishing market.

b. Pearson has decided to get out of the trade publishing market.

c. Pearson plans to stay in the educational publishing market

d. As (almost) half-owner of Penguin Random House, Pearson has access to top PRH executives, highly-detailed financial information about PRH, etc., etc.

e. A huge public announcement like Pearson’s would not have been made without Pearson first talking to Bertelsmann, the other half-owner of PRH, since Bertelsmann would be the obvious purchaser.

f. Bertelsmann has access to top PRH executives, highly-detailed financial information about PRH, etc., etc.

g. Bertelsmann is not anxious to pay very much money to own the rest of PRH.

h. PRH is the largest trade publisher in the world.

From these facts, what can we conclude about the insiders’ view of the future of PRH and, by extension, the future of traditional trade publishing?

Happy talk to the public from top executives and the PR departments are one thing. Words are, of course, cheap.

But when one owner of the largest trade publisher in the world wants to sell out and the other owner isn’t particularly anxious to buy, what does that tell us about what smart money thinks about the future of trade publishing?

From the Guardian:

Books world alarmed by Pearson’s sale of stake in Penguin Random House

Authors and staff have reacted cautiously to news that Pearson is to sell its stake in Penguin Random House (PRH), the world’s biggest publisher and home to some of the most successful brands in books, among them Fifty Shades of Grey, Jamie Oliver and The Girl on the Train.

PRH moved quickly to address fears among staff that the sale of the 47% share to German-owned Bertelsmann would affect jobs. In a statement, global chief executive Markus Dohle promised it would be “business as usual for us”. He added: “Both Pearson and Bertelsmann continue to be very supportive of our strategy and our success, and both have been valued shareholders for us.”

. . . .

Authors and staff told the Guardian of fears that the takeover by the German-owned media corporation could lead to further consolidation at the publishing house, which is responsible for one in four books sold and the sale of 800m paper, digital and audiobooks every year.

One bestselling author, who asked not to be named, said the company was “in pretty good shape” but: “You always worry that any added pressure to streamline the business will narrow its publishing focus further.”

Echoing the concerns of other writers the Guardian spoke to, she added: “For any author, you are only as good as your last book, so it’s a worry you could be vulnerable when things like this happen.”

. . . .

Staff remained jumpy, according to insiders. “We knew it was going to happen,” said one senior executive. “But we don’t know what will happen now. Hopefully we will be OK.” Another said: “This sort of thing always makes people nervous, but especially so after what happened.”

Link to the rest at the Guardian

The Trade, Its Resilience, and Its Data

19 January 2017

From Publishing Perspectives:

In its opening on Tuesday, the eighth annual Digital Book World conference in New York City attracted some 650 registrants.

. . . .

[I]t was interesting to hear Macmillan CEO John Sargent say as he opened his keynote that when conference attendees were asked to submit questions ahead of the event, “Oddly enough, almost none of the questions had anything to do with digital—here at Digital Book World.”

This had played into what Sargent wanted to say, however, about the abiding thrust of the industry’s work. While he sees “a bit of hand-wringing, still, on the digital dark side,” seven years into the digital disruption of publishing, “ink-and-paper books continue to be the favorite, not only the way for the population as a whole but for our kids to read.”

In terms of digital sales, Sargent said, “Ebook growth has stopped, and it has stopped before it forced book retailers out of the business, as it did music and video” retailers.

“All this doesn’t mean that we’re through the transition to digital” yet, Sargent cautioned. “And there are certainly many, many dangers ahead.”

What he called “the good news and the bad news” is the rise of the self-publishing sector . . . . It’s growing through Amazon Kindle Unlimited,” he said. “We don’t know how big it is, but we know it’s very big. And what it tells us [is that] there is plenty of reading going on out there.”

. . . .

In listing more hurdles, Sargent said “There are fewer and fewer newspapers out there, and their audiences are shrinking. Discovery is an ever-growing problem. Big titles get bigger, and everything else gets harder and harder to find and sells fewer and fewer copies. Retail power is consolidating.”

But publishing, Sargent said, is an “instinctual business” exemplified that “no algorithm could have predicted that a book by the least popular president of our time, George Bush, would outsell a book by the most popular president of our time, Ronald Reagan. That happened.”

Still, despite the importance of gut instinct, many decisions made in publishing “can be improved,” Sargent said, “by using data, in every aspect of our business from supply chain and workflows to editorial acquisitions.”

Sargent mentioned Macmillan’s acquisition of Pronoun, a self-publishing platform, as a way of getting closer to data-driven decisions and self-publishing. One reason for the acquisition, he said, is to gather data and “insights into the self-publishing model and how it works.”

In an observation on the comparative advantages the industry has over “our friends in Seattle,” he asserted that “as a community, we can do better” in terms of marketing.

But he also conceded that the smartest decisions in that regard haven’t always been on view: “We’ve pissed away millions of dollars over the years on ads on the back page of The New York Times to sell eight more books.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG says a bit of tweaking around the edges won’t save Big Publishing.

Not knowing anything about self-publishing, not only the size of the market but why authors choose that market, would be an unforgivable blind spot in any reality-based industry.

Next Page »