Serious non-fiction: Weidenfeld hits back

Eoin Purcell

Weidenfeld hits back
So Bodley Head and Random think there is life in serious non-fiction and judging from his comments, there is life in Lord Weidenfeld too. And he stands by serious non-fiction according to the bookseller:

Weidenfeld called the Observer story “a mischievous and misleading bit of journalism”. He said: “It is a complete misrepresentation. We particularly take pride in our distinguished list of biographies, history and current affairs titles. We have written off some of our non-fiction list, but not at the expense of serious historical authors. We are still bringing out major celebrity memoirs. What we have rid ourselves of is middle of the road journalistic popularisations whose time has gone and do not have much of a market.”

You have to admire the fire there. Read the rest here.

Oh and here is the link to Bodley Head that I forgot the other day,
Eoin

Serious Non-Fiction: Doomed?

Eoin Purcell

Bodley Head thinks not
I’m honest enough to acknowledge that if I was the average buyer of books, our industry would be in a fairly fantastic position. Firstly I buy too many (even with a mostly effective book buying bar I’m tallying about 5 or 6 a month) and I buy expensive (a weakness for serious non-fiction and hardback new release genre fiction). I’m rarely swayed by 342 offers unless someone does it across the range when I take advantage to pick up a selection of backlist titles I have eyed for a while (mostly non-fiction).

In any case, I am not the average reader and that makes for a tricky time for serious non-fiction publishers. In fact there have been some signs that serious there will be thin times ahead and the dumping of books by W&N as mentioned twice before on this blog is just the tip of the iceberg.

There is an interesting piece in today’s Independent (the London variety) which paints the market in a very negative light:

Anecdotal evidence abounds that high-quality works of history fail to arouse the level of support in the retail trade that they once did. That, in turn, inhibits editors who seek to commission more of the same.

Dissing retailers is easy enough for most book people but the really harsh words though are reserved for publishers:

Too often, even the most dedicated houses have been content to print good popular history rather than really publish it. That attitude no longer suffices. Given high-street resistance, 50 per cent and more of likely sales for many top-notch histories will soon come from online outlets. Which means that publishers have to toil to recruit and retain virtual communities with a passion for the past.

All this makes the relaunch of Bodley Head as “a list devoted to quality non-fiction” quite a strange and perhaps a brave move. You will find a fascinating article on the topic by imprint publishing director Will Sulkin in Publishing News:
So why The Bodley Head? Why now? What does Random House think it’s doing?

Well, for a start, if you’re a major player in any field then you need to know you’re playing with a full deck. We didn’t have a World’s Classics list, so we started Vintage Classics. (And what a success that’s turning out to be.) We haven’t had a Penguin Press, so we’re launching The Bodley Head.
And this, for the first time, allows Random House to concentrate its formidable resources on the acquisition, design, marketing, publicising, production and selling of quality non-fiction – to become a specialist in the field. It gives the likes of Misha Glenny, Jonathan Powell, Roger Penrose, Karen Armstrong, Simon Schama, Nicholas Stern, Stephen Greenblatt, Norman Davies, et al a purpose-built platform for their wares – somewhere the texts can be hand-crafted and polished by a peerless editorial team and sent out into the world in the best shape and with the best chance of reaching the broadest possible readership.

I like the idea here. Basically he is saying We did it because we could!! How is that for confidence? You have to admire the ambition too.

Hoping it works,
Eoin

A pretty neat DRM solution

Eoin Purcell

As far as DRM goes
I knew it would be fun to have G&M’s Digital Development Manager blogging. For instance, here is part two of his series on DRM:

Here’s how it works:

1. I visit a website to order a book
2. The website requires me to register (not perfect in terms of web usability but a fair compromise and fairly universal these days)
3. I order an e-book from the site in my choice of format.
4. The site back-end takes the XML source of the book and starts the process to create my copy of the book in the format I chose.
5. While creating the copy of my book it pulls information from the membership database to add to selected areas in the book and to create a custom header (This copy of RUINAIR has been personalised for XXXXXX).
6. The customised e-book is placed in a digital library linked to my member ship account for me to download at any time.
7. An email is automatically sent to me letting me know that my book is ready for download.

The data we pull from the membership system can be your name, billing address, email address, phone number, order number or any combination of these. Its not a device locked DRM but how many people will be willing to share files that have their email address or phone number in them.

I like this idea but mainly for the reasons I expressed in my comment on the blog:

Now that is smart!

I especially like the concept because where you can add DRM in such a fashion you can add value that is specific to the consumer.

Think of it, if you can pull their membership preferences you can slip in ads for their pre-selected genres and topics, extra info on authors they like and other stuff they would see as enhancing the e-book/digital product!

If you can make DRM a value added, then I think you have a winner. That is of course if e-books is the way forward and not just webpages and access rather than a physical/digital product.

Very nice,
Eoin

Book Meme Tagging

I was tagged by Rowan over at Fortify Your Oasis. The rules:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

1) Oddly is Strategy (Second Revised Edition) by BH Liddell Hart [9780452010710]
2) The sixth, seventh and eight sentences on page 123 read:

If this be true, it forms an ironical final triumph for the strategy of indirect approach and its decisive ‘pull’.
In 1815, after his return from Elba, the size of Napoleon’s forces seems to have sent the blood to his head gain. Nevertheless, in his own fashion he used both surprise and mobility,and in consequence came within reach f a decisive result.

And I tag in turn: Trifles, American President’s Blog, History is Elementary, David, and Declan.

Nice day after the rain,
Eoin