The Industry Finally Acknowledges Indies Are Authors

From GoodEreader:

The gates have finally been thrown open, all are welcome here… Such is the dramatic sentiment now that indie authors have been given their very own day at one of the previously excluding events, Digital Book World. With the laughable and out-of-date self-titled proclamation, “DBW Indie Author: The First Conference For The New Professional Author,” industry leaders are once again convincing themselves that they set some kind of standard for self-published hangers-on.

Backing up, DBW has not been kind to self-publishing in the past. It has largely been an event aimed at patting the traditional publishing industry on the back for all of its innovation, while publishing regular blog posts that mock indies and shoot down any effort to prove that self-publishing can produce solid sales numbers.

This has been nowhere more evident than in DBW’s own author survey and its longtime scorn for the Author Earnings report. The company’s stance has long contained a negative refusal of acceptance that has questioned everything from Hugh Howey’s methodology in compiling sales figures–you can read about it in blog posts with titles such as, “Ten Reasons You Can’t Trust Everything You Read About the Author Earnings Report“–to asking if Data Guy was actually a real person.

Link to the rest at GoodEreader and thanks to Cathy for the tip.

Perhaps because PG has attend ten zillion (more or less) trade shows for various industries, he’s very picky about which shows are worth the time/cost and which are not.

Hint: The majority of trade shows are not worth the travel hassles, expenses, etc. In more than a few cases, people attend a show because they think others will draw negative inferences about them or their businesses if they don’t attend.

To be clear, PG has never attended a Digital Book World Conference, so he doesn’t have any knowledge of the quality of its shows.

PG admits a bias against shows in New York City. For him, food and lodging expenses, airport hassles, etc., are greater in NYC than other venues.

A few years ago, PG traveled to New York on business every other week for about a year with his employer paying the bills. He worked to keep the experience as non-stressful as possible, staying in the same (nice) hotel, using the same car service and driver, leveraging all the perks included in the top-level mileage category of a major airline, etc.

While there is no perfect convention city, New York never became as easy as other major business travel destinations – San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Boston or Florida cities like Miami and Orlando.

PG will quit rambling about New York.

Another alternative to traveling to gather information is the internet. Particularly for indie authors who don’t need to impress a publisher, editor or agent, the internet may provide up-to-date information in better and certainly cheaper ways than a convention does.

PG doesn’t discount the potential business benefits derived from meeting people face-to-face. It can be vital for many types of businesses. However, PG wonders if it’s as important for indie authors as it is for many other business professionals.

PG was about to pontificate about introverts and large conventions, but he’ll let visitors to TPV let him know what he’s overlooked about trade shows and indie authors.

Riggio Reaffirms Commitment to Bricks-and-Mortar

From Publishers Weekly:

Barnes & Noble’s disappointing holiday sales have not diminished the retailer’s resolve to get its bricks-and mortar stores on firm ground, CEO Len Riggio told PW in an interview last week, following the announcement that comparable store sales fell 9.1% in the nine-week period ended December 31, 2016.

For the fiscal year ending in April, Riggio said B&N still plans to close a total of 12 outlets while opening four. In fiscal 2018, he expects B&N to be “store positive.” Riggio attributed the weak holiday results largely to a decline in customer traffic that affected many retailers for much of 2016. Riggio observed that with traffic down for many retailers, it was difficult for an individual store to build sales momentum on its own.

Riggio was widely quoted as predicting that store traffic would improve after the presidential election, but he acknowledged that this did not occur. “People were not in a celebratory mood,” Riggio said. In the four days following the close of the holiday period, sales and traffic did improve, but Riggio admitted it was hard to draw too many conclusions from such a small sample. Still, he still expects customer traffic to rebound at some point in the new year. “People will be looking to move on with their lives,” he said.

. . . .

With more sales moving online, Riggio said he was encouraged by the performance of BN.com, which had a 2% gain over the holidays. He acknowledged that the company had a hard time improving the consumer experience of the site, but believes the newest version is much more consumer friendly. “We finally saw an uptick [in sales] at BN.com. It has finally been debugged,” Riggio said. “We have plenty of room for growth.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Here’s Another Way Digital Could Complement Print

From Digital Book World:

As I’ve said before, the publishing industry needs to get beyond the current “print or digital” mindset and instead explore ways for one to complement the other. Plenty of industry stats show that most readers are comfortable with either format and that many prefer the convenience of switching between the two (e.g., reading the news digitally but mostly sticking with print books).

After several years of going exclusively digital with books, I have to admit I’ve been reading a few more print books lately as well. Sometimes it’s because the book was given to me, and other times I simply opted for the format that was right in front of me at the store.

What I’m finding, though, is that the reading experience would be better if we could narrow the gap between print and digital. Here’s a great example: As I continue reading The Content Trap, I’m highlighting more and more passages. When I do that with an ebook, I can quickly search and retrieve those highlights using my phone, my iPad or whatever device is handy. With print books, however, those highlights and notes are only accessible if the physical book is nearby.

I’d love to see someone develop a service where I can take pictures of the print pages with my yellow highlights and allow me to upload them to a cloud service where they’ll be converted to a digital format. Since I’ve now got a nice library of both Kindle and Google Play ebooks, it would be even better if I could add those print highlights to my existing bookshelves.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

PG says he finds it quite simple to use his phone to take photos of printed documents (or pages) he wants to keep, then save them to Dropbox and/or Evernote, where they’re stored in digital form in the cloud and on each of his computers if he needs them offline. Evernote even performs OCR on the document so it’s full-text searchable.

If PG wants to have a printed document (or photo) automatically transformed into a cleaner image, he takes a photo with his phone using an app called PhotoScan from Google. PhotoScan automatically improves the quality of the image, frames it properly in the photo, instantly uploads it to Google Photos in the cloud and saves it to his phone’s camera roll.

He doesn’t get any OCR or text searching capabilities with the PhotoScan documents, but nothing prevents him from sending those documents from his phone to Dropbox.

You Can Write a Best-Seller and Still Go Broke

From Slate:

In 2012, a month after the publication of her memoir, Wild [Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail], Cheryl Strayed was on a book tour, soaking up the wonder of her first big success as an author, when her husband texted her to say that their rent check had bounced. “We couldn’t complain to anyone,” Strayed told Manjula Martin, editor of the new anthology Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living: “My book is on the New York Times best-seller list right now and we do not have any money in our checking account.”

Few connections are more mysterious than the one between writing books and making money. Strayed most definitely did make money on Wild, which was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film with Reese Witherspoon, but she didn’t get her first royalty check for it until 2013, “so it was almost a year before my life actually changed.” Yes, there was that $400,000 advance—an amount to make any aspiring memoirist’s eyes go dreamily unfocused—but Strayed and her husband had run up so much credit card debt that almost all of the money went to paying it off and supporting her family while she finished writing the book. Book advances, which are advances against the royalties that will be earned after the book is published, aren’t forked out in one lump sum, either. The payments come parceled out in (typically) three or four checks paid on signing the contract, on delivery of the manuscript, and on publication. The writer’s literary agent then takes a percentage of that. When Strayed sold her first novel a few years earlier for the seemingly handsome sum of $100,000, the advance amounted to, as she puts it, “about $21,000 a year over the course of four years, and I paid a third of that to the IRS … it was like getting a grant every year for four years. But it wasn’t enough to live off.”

It’s worth leading with all these numbers because, as Scratch repeatedly demonstrates, the nitty-gritty on this stuff is in short supply in the wider writerly imagination, while fantasy, evasion, and envious brooding runneth over. Strayed is among the few prospering contributors to this collection of essays and interviews who speaks so explicitly. (“We’re only hurting ourselves as writers by being so secretive about money,” she told Martin.) Another is Roxane Gay—author, columnist, editor, publisher, professor, public speaker—who reports that she made approximately $150,000 in 2014. That’s a good income by almost any standard, but does it match your sense of Gay’s prominence and productivity? (Surely there are plenty of professors who make that much, or more, from their academic work alone.) Depending on your media diet, Gay may or may not constitute a “famous writer” in your eyes, and depending on how much you think famous writers must earn, her income may strike you as surprisingly modest. Or perhaps this entire topic offends you. There are still a few idealists out there cherishing the belief that writing, as art, mustn’t be contaminated by filthy lucre.

. . . .

If they are novelists (or—God forbid!—poets), they almost always rely on teaching for steady income. What they teach, for the most part, is writing; that is, as none of the contributors has quite the nerve to state baldly, in order to support themselves, they train others to do the work that isn’t providing them with a viable living. At times, the entire fiction-writing profession resembles a pyramid scheme swathed in a dewy mist of romantic yearning. Many of these essays begin with wry descriptions of the author’s youthful madness in moving to New York or throwing away a dependable day job or career path to “be a writer,” a phrase that often connotes earning enough money to live by writing alone. Yet this is never a simple transaction. For authors, money, however obscurely, is always entangled with legitimacy because writers have for centuries equated publication with professional and artistic anointment.

It’s indeed a significant testimonial when someone else wants to invest their own money in a writer’s work, so it’s easy to forget that a publisher is actually the writer’s business partner, not a conferrer of literary worth. In their candid moments, most publishers will admit going into business with writers whose work they regard as subliterary because they believe that they can profit from their books. This is still considered shocking in some unsophisticated quarters, but publishing isn’t literature: Literature is literature. Publishing is a separate, if related enterprise.

Link to the rest at Slate and thanks to Matthew for the tip.

Stolen good books: why Canadian thieves outclass the British

From The Guardian:

They have a better class of book thief in Toronto. Whereas in the UK, Potters Harry and Beatrix, as well as travel guides, top the list of titles most likely to be stolen from bookshops, thieves working the aisles in the Canadian city are targeting Haruki Murakami’s work.

One bookseller said he was C$800 (£500) lighter after a shoplifting spree that cleared an entire shelf of the Japanese author’s work from his shop. “They took my Norwegian Woods, my Sputniks, all of them,” lamented Gary Kirk of the A Good Read Bookshop, telling broadcaster CBC Toronto that he doubted the thief had ever cracked open a Murakami.

In the UK, though the Booksellers Association keeps no records about “shrinkage” – as it quaintly refers to shoplifting – it appears shoplifters (shrinkers?) browsing its members’ shelves have less highbrow tastes. Philip Downer, former head of Borders UK and managing director of Calliope Gifts told the Guardian that thieves targeted “big brands – Harry Potter, Peppa Pig – where the thief can take a pile of the same title with an easy guarantee of being able to shift the goods.”

. . . .

But am I alone in feeling a bit embarrassed that our thieves can’t raise the bar a bit? Must they make us look so dumb compared with our Canadian cousins?

It isn’t as if our taste in knockoff books has always been books with a reading age of 12 and lots of pictures. As with our bestsellers, our stolen books have dumbed down.

Go back 40 years and any self-respecting book thief in London could be found at Soho’s Coach and Horses knocking back booze with Peter Cook, Lucien Freud and Tom Baker, according to Jeffrey Bernard’s memoirs. Their taste in quality art books and highbrow literary works makes them look like “gentleman thief” Raffles compared to modern-day thieves.

According to former “gentleman bookseller” Steerforth, whole shelves of Nabokov used to disappear from his Richmond shop. One thief, the notorious curmudgeon Roy Faith, who specialised in high-end art books, ensured so much business for store detectives that one firm sent a rep to his funeral. Another wore a specially adapted raincoat to lift copies of the Times Atlas – £75 a pop – two at a time.

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

Rumors of the Demise of Books Greatly Exaggerated

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.

Print Book Sales Rose Again in 2016

From Publishers Weekly:

Despite a less-than-ideal environment—no breakout bestsellers on the adult fiction side and a lengthy, brutal election cycle that sucked nearly all of the air out of the cultural conversation—unit sales of print books were up 3.3% in 2016 over 2015. Total print unit sales hit 674 million, marking the third-straight year of growth, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 80% of print sales in the U.S.

Most print formats had an outstanding year, with hardcover up 5.4%, trade paperback up 4%, and board books up 7.4%. Mass market has been on the wane since the introduction of e-books, and its slide continued in 2016 with a 7.7% drop in unit sales. Physical audio, where sales were down 13.5% on the year, also took a big hit from digital.

The largest gains came in the adult nonfiction category, where sales were up 6.9% from 2015. Several subcategories posted substantial increases, among them crafts and hobbies, where the adult coloring book boom—though slowing down from 2015’s blitz—continues to have a large impact. The religion and self-help areas also saw boosts, though for different reasons. Several big-name religion authors published new titles last year and racked up six-figure sales (Pope Francis, Lysa Terkeurst, Sarah Young), whereas backlist powered the self-help category: of the top five self-help titles, only one, Angela Duckworth’s Grit, was published in 2016.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly