Archives for the month of: November, 2012

This announcement from Simon and Schuster, reported in Shelf Awareness today, sounds like just the deal Tucker Max was talking about — see last week’s post. I guess S&S figure it’s better to get a piece of the action rather than nothing. Mr. Max’s presentation made it sound as if the service would only be for “big” authors. A $25,000 price tag would tend to restrict the service to the top tier, but we don’t discover how low the fees could be for less coverage.

S&S and Author Solutions Launch Archway Publishing

       Simon & Schuster and Author Solutions are together launching Archway Publishing, a self-publishing service with a focus on fiction, nonfiction, business and children’s books.

Under the Archway Publishing umbrella, Author Solutions will offer editorial, design, distribution and marketing services to self-published authors. Archway Publishing titles will be listed on Edelweiss, and Archway will offer a speakers’ bureau, video and book trailer production and distribution services and a “concierge service,” allowing authors to work with a publishing guide who will coordinate each step of the book production process. Some of its services are among the priciest for self-publishing authors, ranging as high as $25,000 for the“outreach” program for business book authors.

S&S and Author Solutions quoted Bowker data on self-publishing, saying that 211,269 self-published titles (based on ISBNs) were released in 2011, up more than 60% from the previous year.

S&S president and CEO Carolyn Reidy commented: “Through Archway Publishing, Simon & Schuster is pleased to be part of the rapidly expanding self-publishing segment of our industry. Self-publishing has become a viable and popular route to publication for many authors, and increasingly a source of content for traditional publishers, including Simon & Schuster. We’re excited that we’ll be able to help more authors find their own path to publication and at the same time create a more direct connection to those self-published authors ready to make the leap to traditional publishing.”

One unusual aspect of the deal: in July, Penguin Group parent company Pearson bought Authors Solutions and combined it with Penguin, which is merging with Random House. According to the New York TimesS&S and Author Solutions were already working on a deal before the Pearson purchase and “decided to go ahead anyway.” Author Solutions divisions include AuthorHouse, AuthorHouse UK, iUniverse, Palibrio, Trafford Publishing and Xlibris.

Here’s a slightly different take on the same announcement, from Brave New World, The Bookseller (UK) blog.

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Here’s a write up from Book Business Magazine today of a survey showing that people are not buying e-books because they are cheap.  And below is today’s post from FutureBook the blog of The Bookseller in UK saying exactly the opposite. Me, I buy e-books because I can’t fit any more p-books into the apartment. There is no doubt that discounting the price of a Kindle edition for one day can lead to a big spike in sales. Amazon emails thousands of people notifying them of the discount opportunity — many react positively.

E-book pricing analyst Rachel Willmer asks the question on her blog: is it possible to get an e-book with a sensible price into the Kindle Top 10, or do they need to be price slashed? Wilmer, who is on a pricing panel at next week’s FutureBook Conference, has analysed e-book prices in relation to their Kindle ranking over the past week, and reveals that all of the top 10 titles have been offered with a price below £1 over the last week. Outside of those 10, prices are more variable, there are 11 titles priced above £1 in the top 30, though only one above £5, the new Ian Rankin book Standing in Another Man’s Grave agency-priced at £9.99–one pound above Amazon’s price for the hardback. Still, the data appears to be clear: cheap prices push Kindle sales.
The blog has generated some interesting reactions from Twitter, with some supporting the view that only cheap books sell digitally, and that those publishers that don’t realise this, need to. As Peter Brantley tweets “better marketing will elevate some book sales volume, but readers are very price sensitive due to abundance”, or in the words of Jill Mansell
“People would rather eread something they don’t love because it’s dirt cheap, than a book they DO love which costs a few pounds”.
But we need to be careful about rushing to judgements with the data available so superficial. First, Willmer’s chart is based only on the Kindle chart, and though Amazon obviously dominates this sector, it IS not the only player in town, and as more e-booksellers join the fray price may become less significant, particularly if different e-booksellers attract different types of customer. Kobo has already stated that its ‘sweet-spot’ is between £4 – £4.99–and in its top 10 today six titles are priced above £1. The Nook UK charts look even healthier: I could not find one title in its bestseller lists this morning, priced less than £3.99. Second, at TOC Frankfurt Nielsen told us that $9.99 was the most popular price point in the US, compared to the UK where e-book buying was coalescing around 99p. The point being that as an e-book market matures, customers become less price-sensitive. Third, it seems to me inadvisable to look at e-book prices in isolation. It may look odd to consumers that an e-book is priced more highly than a hardback, but it might look even odder were booksellers left trying to shift hardbacks for £10, with competing e-book versions of the same book priced at £1.

Sorry — I can hardly read this. If you click on it then zoom in it gets a bit better, but some of the titles remain unreadable. Actually you don’t really need this. Go to Project Gutenberg and they will give you their top 100 for today, yesterday, the last 7 days, and the last 30 days. What I can’t figure is why 2238 people would download Steam, Its Generation and Use by Babcock & Wilcox in the past week. I guess maybe I might know more if I downloaded it myself. Maybe that’s it — curiosity explains all.

It seems to be government policy both here and in the UK. In principle it’s right. Effectively it may be a bit wrong, as Douglas Fields’ piece for Huffington Post suggests. However I suspect the ingenuity of man will be able to work out a way to avoid the pitfall of quality reduction — sure anything will be “published’ if the publishing fee is paid, but that doesn’t mean that there will be no way to establish which papers are any good. We just won’t have the simple old way of knowing that if it was in the peer-reviewed Journal of XYZ Studies someone responsible guaranteed its academic bona fides.

It is true as Dr Fields says that Cambridge University Press’s uninterrupted tradition of book (and journal) printing starting in 1584 has come to a sort of end, but I should emphasize that Cambridge University Press the publishing company continues uninterruptedly, dating its origin from that same 1584 date. So some runs remain intact. Furthermore I wonder whether the cancellation of his journal has anything to do with open access: his account doesn’t say it did; it just implies a connection by juxtaposition.

And now maybe HarperCollinsSimonSchuster. It’s mega-merger time. I don’t pretend to know what the motivations are. I have read about international good fit: the one weak in South America was strong in the Middle East and vice versa. But John Naughton in The Guardian gives us a “let’s gang up on Amazon” rationale for the RH/Penguin deal.

It’s pretty common these days to sling mud at Amazon. Easy to forget that they sell most of our books — and not just by cannibalizing sales which would have been made elsewhere — they have grown the market. Still they live in such a closely intertwined relationship with the publishing industry today, that their many demands niggle at us more than they really warrant: “There they go again”. Almost anything they do now is greeted with suspicion. Here’s a bit from Shelf Awareness on 9 November about the shutting down of the Buy Button, Amazon’s stiletto.

For at least a few hours last night, buy buttons for the Kindle e-book versions of a range of titles–as many as all titles by the big six publishers–disappeared. Within a few hours, the buy buttons had returned. The disappearance apparently affected only the U.S. Amazon store and only the largest publishers.This morning the Bookseller reported that Amazon had issued this laconic statement: “The Kindle Store is experiencing a technical issue. We’re working to correct it.”Last night’s “technical issue” has already caused much speculation in the book world. The company often privately threatens publishers with delisting and other actions that reduce sales when it is pushing for better terms from publishers or fighting terms it doesn’t like. In recent months, for example, Amazon has threatened to delist publishers that do not comply with its edict to ship expensive books one in a carton. The most famous delisting occurred in early 2010, when Amazon took down buy buttons for all Macmillan titles as a protest against Macmillan’s institution of the agency model for e-books.Interestingly, last night’s technical issue comes in the wake of the Justice Department settlement over e-book pricing and the announced merger of Random House and Penguin Group–one of whose rationales cited by outsiders is a stronger bargaining position vis-à-vis major retailers.It’s no surprise that this morning some industry observers are wondering if the move last night was a legitimate technical problem, a test, a warning to publishers–or all of these things.

Of course the time to have competed with Amazon was before Amazon had gotten going. I can’t help thinking the new beefed-up publishing combos are not going to overcome Amazon’s 18-year lead. Perhaps the combo represents a bigger Buy Button than before, and this may offer some temporary relief.

It looks to me like we may be moving into a golden age of small publishing start-ups.

Not quite self publishing — self publishing by hiring a publishing company to do your distribution and sales is more like it. This video actually gives you a not altogether nonsensical introduction to the world of trade publishing, while at the same time indicating its horrible vulnerability. The title, “How an asshole is blowing up the publishing industry” is a bit misleading I guess. Lots of other potential explosions threaten us, many of them more dangerous than the successful author who wants to make more than the 7.5% royalty he’s been getting. Max, a successful author with a track record (two million copies sold of his first two books) hired Simon & Schuster to do distribution only for his third book. He pays for editorial, printing, and publicity/marketing, all of which can easily be bought freelance. This avenue is as Tucker Max says only available to authors who are already very successful, but still what big publishing company can afford to lose all its big authors to this sort of freelance deal?

Book trailers — who knew? Here’s one which seems to me to have a bit of charm.

The trouble (for me) with these things is how few people actually seem to look at them — but maybe the number of views on YouTube isn’t really the true measure of success. Perhaps the trailers’ real function is to be played to booksellers, in the place of the old-fashioned reading of the catalog page. Publishers are obviously spending quite a lot of money on these — I hope value for money is on the horizon.

These things keep cropping up. While they are obviously cunningly done — one can’t deny the craftsmanship — they tend to make me feel uncomfortable. Cutting up a book (or several books) even if they are dull old books means that there are now fewer copies left. I don’t like that. I don’t approve of the business of cutting engravings out of old books. What’s wrong with keeping the book intact? Flavorwire brings us a selection of Alexander Korzer-Robinson’s work. The implication that their being derived from antique books somehow makes it not matter because they have been “stripped of their utilitarian value by the passage of time” seems nonsense. I wouldn’t want one in my house.

Similar work has been being anonymously left around the Edinburgh Festival for the last couple of years. Again, beautifully made, but a rather upsetting approach to literature. I suppose we can expect more in 2013.

Adding reinforcement to my appeal at the end of last month’s post about Education for Publishing, Brave New World, a blog from The Bookseller in Britain, sends us this report on 1 November.

Technology Skills In Demand

What do you think is the technology skill in most demand today?
As all companies fight to be seen in the ever expanding digital arena then the demand for the right technology skills increases. It’s a simple case of supply and demand.
Freelancer.co.uk claim that job adverts for top digital jobs grew between the second and third quarters of this year from 189,917 to 230,614, that’s over a 20% hike in demand. Following the redesign of the EBay site demand for developers there rose some 44%.  Facebook advertisers and Internet marketing demand was up 12%, search engine optimisation 12%, HTML some 8%.
An interesting trend was the continued increase in demand for Android app developers, which was up some 16%, compared to Apple iOS’s demand growth of 8%. This clearly demonstrates that Android is now holding its own and Apple is being pegged back by the onslaught of devices from the likes of Samsung. However, the biggest demand growth was associated the ‘paperless office’ and the transition from paper documents to online and cloud based services.
Technology is changing and with it the skills and demand for developers and support to exploit it. Nearly a quarter of a million jobs were reported for skills which did not exist a few years ago and itself again demonstrates the volume of demand in the marketplace.