Yearly Archives: 2015

5 Industry Issues for Authors to Watch in 2016

30 December 2015

From Jane Friedman:

1. We’ll need to learn how to market books in a mobile-reading future.

A Wall Street Journal trend piece, “The Rise of Phone Reading” (Aug. 12, 2015), discusses new research from Nielsen showing a growing number of people read on their phones—leading to the conclusion that the future of digital reading will be on the phone, not tablets or e-reading devices.

A range of publishers, authors, and retailers—including Amazon and Apple—went on the record to share impressions of what the data (and anecdata) means. Some of the implications:

  1. Apple and the iBookstore benefit greatly from mobile reading growth—for example, Kindle customers are increasingly reading books through their respective iPhone apps;
  2. Publishers are thinking about phone display when designing covers;
  3. Marketing for mobile readers means focusing more on email, Facebook, and websites—or anything that’s most often accessed through phones;
  4. Emerging marketing strategies focus on places where people might download something while in transit (airports, hotels, and trains).

All this isn’t to say that print is going away. In fact, Judith Curr of Atria was quoted saying that the future of reading will be on both the phone and in print. But such trends may inform how your next marketing plan comes together, and they may also call to mind the increased sales of digital audio . . . .

. . . .

4. Sorry, but print book sales aren’t surging.

No doubt you’ve already seen the New York Times headline “E-Book Sales Slip, and Print Is Far from Dead” and encountered lots of speculation as to whether that story is accurate.

Not really. Hardcover sales are down more than 10 percent this year. As Michael Cader pointed out in Publishers Lunch, “Print sales are down more [than ebook sales] in percentage terms, and down more in aggregate dollars.” Across the board, overall sales volume hasn’t changed much: in 2015, print sales are up 2 percent, just as they were in 2014, according to Nielsen Bookscan data.

Also, Barnes & Noble (B&N) is not exactly flourishing in the way you would hope if print books are making a comeback. Since August 2015, their stock has dropped 67 percent. In 2013, the bookseller said they planned to close about one-third of their 689 stores over the next decade. Industry insiders speculate that, over time, shelf space or title selection may decrease at B&N.

But aren’t independent bookstore sales increasing—isn’t that a bright spot? Independent bookstore sales have not made up for the declines sparked by the Borders bankruptcy in 2011, despite positive media attention on their resurgence. Also, while American Booksellers Association (ABA) membership has grown, there are lots of ways to be a member of ABA: you can be a used bookstore, a book fair organizer, a mail-order catalog, etc. So take those “increases” with a huge grain of salt. Instead, focus on the shift taking place on where print books are sold, and keep your eye on Amazon’s share of the print book market.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman and thanks to Nate for the tip.

PG agrees that printed books won’t go away. However, as they’re purchased by fewer and fewer people, they’ll become more expensive, which, in turn, will mean they’re purchased by even fewer and fewer people. At some point, printed books will migrate to museums and become tourist attractions.

In the late 1880s, New York City was occupied by 1,206,299 people, and about 170,000 horses for transportation. (Yes, there was a serious manure problem and, unfortunately, sometimes horses died in the streets. In 1880, New York City removed 15,000 dead horses from the street.)

Today, according to PG’s quick-and-dirty research, it appears that New York City contains 220 privately-owned horses, all of which pull carriages for the pleasure of tourists. (PG iPhone photo below) The New York Police Department owns 60 horses. Perhaps some billionaire keeps horses in the city, but PG didn’t see anything about that.


Other than carriage horses for tourists and the NYPD, horse ownership within thirty miles of Manhattan is effectively limited to the wealthy and horses are for use primarily for recreation, not means of transportation.

In PG’s ostentatiously humble opinion, printed books will follow a similar path. In the future, undoubtedly tourists will still visit the New York Public Library to look at the printed books, but that will be for their novelty.

Ten Things I Learned About Publishing in 2015

30 December 2015
Comments Off on Ten Things I Learned About Publishing in 2015

From author Elizabeth Hunter:

1. This business moves too fast for anyone to predict.

This is why I don’t predict. I only tell you a few things I’ve learned this year. You can find my posts from 2011, 2012, and 2013 at the links. (I didn’t do 2014, long story.)

A lot of people consider me an early self-publisher, and I only started doing this in 2011. That’s four years ago, guys! I’m a baby at this. And yet… I’m not. Things that are common knowledge for me are still new for authors who spent all or most of their time under the traditional system. So I know a lot, but I’m still learning, too. And you have to keep learning. Nothing is static in publishing anymore. Advice that was written in stone two years ago is inapplicable today. Keep on your toes. Keep learning. At the same time…

2. My goals haven’t changed much.

In 2012 I wrote a post about writing goals I called “Moving Toward the Mountain” about setting goals and following them, including some advice from the excellent Neil Gaiman. In that post, I identified four main goals for my writing career:

  • I want to tell stories.
  • I want to write better every day.
  • I want to be able to pay my rent and buy groceries.
  • I don’t want to be bored.

Surprisingly, these goals from three years ago haven’t changed much, so I focus on these things and let the other stuff be a bonus. Make a list? Eh. Grow my mailing list to ___? Eh. Hit number one in this category or that category? Eh. All that is bonus stuff. The fundamentals that I mentioned above? Those are still what I work for. (I just traded a mortgage for rent.)

. . . .

5. Comparisons are the devil.

Please remember these two things:

There will always be someone who sells more than you.
There will always be someone sells less than you.

Full stop.

Link to the rest at Elizabeth Hunter and thanks to Nicci for the tip.

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

What Exactly Does An Editor Do? The Role Has Changed Over Time

30 December 2015

From National Public Radio:

When Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman was published earlier this year, readers learned that this much anticipated “second book” by Lee was actually a first draft of what would later become the beloved To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee radically revised this early version of the book on the advice of her editor, Tay Hohoff. That made us wonder: How much do editors shape the final book we read?

On hearing the news about the role Lee’s editor played in the creation of To Kill a Mockingbird, Pulitzer Prize-winning author A. Scott Berg was surprised at first. The story immediately made him think of legendary editor Max Perkins — who shepherded the works of such greats as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe and Ernest Hemingway. Berg, who wrote a biography of Perkins, says Perkins had a huge influence on the editors who came after him because of the way he worked with his authors.

“Not only did he change the course of the American literary river, but he changed what editors do by becoming their best friends, their money lenders, their marriage counselors, their psychoanalysts,” Berg says. “And along the way he began offering them titles. He often provided structure for what their novels ought to be. He often gave them whole ideas for what their next book should be.”

That was the way editors interacted with their writers for many years after Perkins came on the scene, Berg says, but now publishing has changed: These days there is more pressure on editors to acquire best-sellers, and they are much more involved in marketing a book. And that, he says, leaves precious little time for actual editing.

“Make no mistake about it: That editor-author relationship is still fundamental to good books,” says Berg. “But it’s not necessarily cost-effective for book editors to invest as much of their time into any single manuscript or any single author and that’s simply because the publishing houses have not encouraged their editors to edit.”

Link to the rest at NPR and thanks to Deb for the tip.

Lawsuit claims ‘Big Bang’ stole ‘Soft Kitty’ song

30 December 2015

From USA Today:

Bad news for Dr. Sheldon Cooper, who doesn’t do well with uncertainty on CBS’s hyper-hit The Big Bang Theory: No more Soft Kitty lullabies.

Well, possibly.

Turns out the saccharine song that Sheldon (played by Emmy-winning Jim Parsons) needs to calm down or sleep whenever he’s anxious (which is practically all the time) may not have been entirely the invention of Big Bang‘s clever writers.

The heirs of Edith Newlin, a New Hampshire teacher who published a song/poem about a “soft kitty” in 1937, sued CBS and other Big Bang-related media companies, claiming that the show has been violating their copyrights. For years.

According to the Associated Press, Edith Newlin’s daughters, Ellen Newlin Chase and Margaret Chase Perry, assert that the show’s song uses lyrics similar to those written by Newlin in the 1930s without paying for the rights.

. . . .

Edith Newlin, who died in 2004 at age 99, had worked as a nursery school teacher inAlstead, N.H., for about 35 years, and her daughters still live nearby.

Link to the rest at USA Today and thanks to Chloe for the tip.

Elsevier and the 25.2 Billion Dollar A Year Academic Publishing Business

29 December 2015

From Medium:

Twenty years ago . . . Forbes predicted academic publisher Elsevier’s relevancy and life in the digital age to be short lived. In an article entitled “The internet’s first victim,” journalist John Hayes highlights the technological imperative coming toward the academic publisher’s profit margin with the growing internet culture and said, “Cost-cutting librarians and computer-literate professors are bypassing academic journals — bad news for Elsevier.” After publication of the article, investors seemed to heed Hayes’s rationale for Elsevier’s impeding demise. Elsevier stock fell 7% in two days to $26 a share.

As the smoke settles twenty years later, one of the clear winners on this longitudinal timeline of innovation is the very firm that investors, journalists, and forecasters wrote off early as a casualty to digital evolution: Elsevier. Perhaps to the chagrin of many academics, the publisher has actually not been bruised nor battered. In fact, the publisher’s health is stronger than ever. As of 2015, the academic publishing market that Elsevier leads has an annual revenue of $25.2 billion. According to its 2013 financials Elsevier had a higher percentage of profit than Apple, Inc.

. . . .

 Brian Nosek, a professor at the University of Virginia and director of the Center for Open Science, says, “Academic publishing is the perfect business model to make a lot of money. You have the producer and consumer as the same person: the researcher. And the researcher has no idea how much anything costs.” Nosek finds this whole system is designed to maximize the amount of profit. “I, as the researcher, produce the scholarship and I want it to have the biggest impact possible and so what I care about is the prestige of the journal and how many people read it. Once it is finally accepted, since it is so hard to get acceptances, I am so delighted that I will sign anything — send me a form and I will sign it. I have no idea I have signed over my copyright or what implications that has — nor do I care, because it has no impact on me. The reward is the publication.”

Nosek further explains why researchers are ever supportive by explaining the dedicated loyal customer base mantra, “What do you mean libraries are canceling subscriptions to this? I need this. Are you trying to undermine my research?”

In addition to a steadfast dedication by researchers, the academic publishing market, in its own right, is streamlined, aggressive, and significantly capitalistic. The publishing market is also more diverse than just the face of Elsevier. Johan Rooryck, a professor at Universiteit Leiden, says, “Although Elsevier is the publisher that everybody likes to hate, if you look at Taylor & Francis, Wiley, or Springer they all have the same kind of practices.”

Heather Morrison, a professor in the School of Information Studies at the University of Ottawa, unpacks the business model behind academic publisher Springer and says, “If you look at who owns Springer, these are private equity firms, and they have changed owners about five times in the last decade. Springer was owned by the investment group Candover and Cinven who describe themselves as ‘Europe’s largest buy-out firm.’ These are companies who buy companies to decrease the cost and increase the profits and sell them again in two years. This is to whom we scholars are voluntarily handing our work. Are you going to trust them? This is not the public library of science. This is not your average author voluntarily contributing to the commons. These are people who are in business to make the most profit.”

Should a consumer heed Morrison’s rationale and want to look deeper into academic publishers cost structure for themselves one is met with a unique situation: the pricing lists for journals do not exist. “It’s because they negotiate individually with each institution and they often have non-disclosure agreements with those institutions so they can’t bargain with knowing what others paid,” says Martin Eve, founder of the Open Library of the Humanities.

In addition to a general lack of pricing indexes, the conversation around the value of a publication is further complicated by long-term career worth. David Sundahl, a senior research fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, says, “We actually understand how money passed through to artists who wrote music and authors who wrote books — but it is not clear how the value of a publication in a top tier journal will impact someone’s career. Unlike songs or books where the royalty structure is defined, writing a journal article is not clear and is dependent not on the people who consume the information but rather deans and tenure committees.”

Link to the rest at Medium

When I’m good

29 December 2015

When I’m good, I’m very good. But when I’m bad I’m better.

Mae West

Scientists Reveal The Science Fiction Stories That Inspired Them

29 December 2015

From The Conversation:

Tales of strange alien worlds, fantastic future technologies and bowls of sentient petunias have long captivated audiences worldwide. But science fiction is more than just fantasy in space; it can educate, inspire and expand our imaginations to conceive of the universe as it might be.

We invited scientists to highlight their favourite science fiction novel or film and tell us what it was that captivated their imagination – and, for some, how it started their career.

Bryan Gaensler, astronomer, University of Toronto

Time for the Stars
– Robert A. Heinlein

Long before the era of hard science fiction, Robert Heinlein took Einstein’s special theory of relativity and turned it into a masterpiece of young adult fiction.

In Time for the Stars, Earth explores the Galaxy via a fleet of “torch ships”, spacecraft that travel at a significant fraction of the speed of light. Communication with the fleet is handled by pairs of telepathic twins, one of whom stays on Earth while the other journeys forth. The supposed simultaneity of telepathy overcomes the massive time delays that would otherwise occur over the immense distances of space.

The catch is that at the tremendous speeds of these torch ships, time travels much slower than back on Earth. The story focuses on Tom, the space traveller, and his twin brother Pat, who remains behind. The years and decades sweep by for Pat, in a journey that takes mere months for Tom. Pat’s telepathic voice accelerates to a shrill accelerated squeal for Tom, as Einstein’s time dilation drives them apart, both metaphorically and physically.

This is ultimately a breezy kids’ adventure novel, but it had a massive influence on me. Modern physics wasn’t abstruse. It was measurable, and it had consequences. I was hooked. And I’ve never let go.

. . . .

Duncan Galloway, astrophysicist, Monash University

– Larry Niven

It was Larry Niven’s Ringworld that led, in part, to my career in astrophysics.

Ringworld describes the exploration of an alien megastructure of unknown origin, discovered around a distant star. The artificial world is literally in the shape of a ring, with a radius corresponding to the distance of the Earth to the sun; mountainous walls on each side hold in the atmosphere, and the surface is decorated with a wide variety of alien plants and animals.

The hero gets to the Ringworld via a mildly faster-than-light drive purchased at astronomical cost from an alien trading species, and makes use of teleportation disks and automated medical equipment.

The appeal of high-technology stories like this are obvious: many contemporary problems, like personal transportation, overpopulation, disease, and death have all been solved by advanced technology; while of course, new and interesting problems have arisen.

Grand in scope, and featuring some truly bold ideas, Ringworld (and Niven’s other books set in “Known Space”) are as keen now as when they were written, 40 years ago.

Link to the rest at The Conversation

Daily E-Book Deals Are Gaining Traction

29 December 2015

From The Wall Street Journal:

Every day, the company sends out more than 7 million emails pointing consumers to e-books that cost as little as 99 cents each and free titles as well.

A host of big and independent publishers list titles there, including New York-based Kensington Publishing Corp. The idea is to entice readers with a bargain, so they get hooked on a new author or series and eventually buy full-priced works.

Kensington’s chief executive, Steven Zacharius, says BookBub is powering sales growth for the company, but he worries about the long-term value of his catalog if he nurtures a generation that won’t pay more than a few dollars for an e-book.

“We know we might be shooting ourselves in the foot,” says Mr. Zacharius. “But I can’t resist because it’s such a good way to stimulate sales.” Every promotion the company has run through BookBub has been profitable, he said, despite the steep discounts.

. . . .

“There are more of these promotion companies, and because their reach has expanded, their effectiveness has increased,” said Liz Perl, chief marketing officer at CBS Corp.’s Simon & Schuster. Many new e-books from major publishers are priced from $12.99 to $14.99.

For publishers, the promotions are a form of advertising in an industry that traditionally has spent cautiously. There is hope the services could help jump-start stagnant e-book sales. A survey of 1,200-plus publishers by the Association of American Publishers found e-book revenue for consumer titles fell 11% this year through August to $964 million.

. . . .

The risk for publishers is that consumers could become accustomed to paying lower prices and only purchase titles when they are on sale.

“It’s an industrywide concern,” said Heather Fain, director of marketing strategy at the Hachette Book Group. It’s hard to know, she added, whether readers who are dedicated to reading bargain books will ever spend as enthusiastically to buy full-priced titles.

. . . .

Offering cheap prices via BookBub and its rivals is seen as a way to pull consumers away from Facebook and other digital temptations. On Dec. 17, for example, independent publisher Sourcebooks Inc. used BookBub to promote Scott Wilbanks’ novel “The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster” for 99 cents instead of its regular $14.99 price.

“We want people to discover this book and start talking about it,” said Dominique Raccah,chief executive of Sourcebooks. “When that happens you get a viral marketing effect.”

. . . .

BookBub expects to spark the sale of 20 million e-books at its retail partners this year, generating about $30 million in retail sales. Chief Executive Josh Schanker said heavily discounted e-books don’t compromise overall sales for publishers because they target a segment of consumers who otherwise wouldn’t buy those particular discounted books at full price.

“What publishers are saying is that they’d rather you read our book than play Angry Birds,” said Mr. Schanker. “It’s a cluttered landscape with more and more titles. Price promotions give publishers the ability to get a large group of people to sample their books.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire) and thanks to Nirmala for the tip.

PG says that a career hawking books to Barnes & Noble doesn’t prepare a publishing executive to have a clue about consumer marketing and retail pricing.

It shows.

Over and over.

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