Go Read This | Vestron’s Law: The Propensity for Rights to Revert to the Original Publisher « The Scholarly Kitchen

Excellent post by Joe Esposito over at Scholarly Kitchen today on Vestron’s Law. Oddly enough, it touched on ideas and principles I mention in a blog post over on EoinPurcell.com today. Happy timing because Joe’s post gives a much better theoretical foundation to what I am saying than I could have:

Vestron’s Law also accounts for many structural changes in the publishing industry.  During the 1980s, for example, trade book publishers began to talk of “vertical integration,” by which they meant that a hardcover house, which originated titles, should be aligned with a mass market paperback house, which in those days was the key source of publishing revenue; paperback houses licensed rights from hardcover publishers. Thus Random House bought Fawcett hardcover house purchasing a paperback company and New American Library, where I worked at the time, acquired Dutton paperback publisher acquires a hardcover house.  The culmination of this trend came about when Bantam, the leading paperback house, acquired Random House, the leading trade publisher.

via Vestron’s Law: The Propensity for Rights to Revert to the Original Publisher « The Scholarly Kitchen.

A Writer’s Ire Misdirected & An Odd Counterpoint

Transworld Ireland gets quite a battering from Aiden O’Reilly’s 21 December open letter. He lambasted publisher Eoin McHugh* with a wonderfully amusing paragraph:

I decided not to bother sending my manuscript to you. I cannot have any trust that it would get serious attention. I would not fit in among the authors on your list. Even if you decided to publish me, I would not feel comfortable with your publishing house.

Personally I think the target poorly chosen and the tone a little too much for my liking, but I do understand the frustration of writers in Aiden’s position which regardless of my thoughts on the subject he puts well:

I put this question to you: What is your ethos? What is your company’s ethos?

When I go to my local restaurant, the owner tells me he wishes to bring authentic and excellent Indonesian cuisine to Dublin. A building company run by a friend will strive to use Irish materials in an energy-efficient manner. None of them will say: “I need to maximise income for my shareholders in a very difficult market.”

What is your ethos Sir? Do you have any sense of responsibility that you are shaping a new generation of writers?

I see also that you were previously a book buyer at Easons, a company known for playing a role in the literary life of the nation. Was there some sense when Transworld Ireland was set up in 2007, that it should promote new writing that reflects what’s happening in this country? Is there any sense of responsibility for seeking out good writing wherever it may be found?

via The Stoneybatter Files – News.

Oddly enough, I stumbled across another blog today, from a  writer too (one Stephen Leather), with a much different attitude to the world and for his good fortune a better outcome:

Last month I sold 44,334 books on Kindle UK. That’s a lot of books. I don’t know of any Indie author who even comes close to that in the UK. I know that I’m not a true Indie author in that I am also published by one of the best publishing houses around – Hodder and Stoughton. But I have published five books on my own and they are true Indie books.

I know of only one Indie author who sells more than me in the US and that’s paranormal romance writer Amanda Hocking – and she sells more than twice as many as me.

I’m putting my December sales figures onto my blog so that people can see for themselves where my sales are coming from.

In December it was my vampire book Once Bitten that sold best, accounting for 22,607 sales. Interestingly it is my New York serial killer story, The Basement, that is currently selling best – and heading the Kindle UK bestseller list. But in December it was lagging behind Once Bitten with 17,321 sales. For most of December Once Bitten and The Basement were Number 1 and Number 2 in the Kindle UK bestseller list respectively. As of today, it’s The Basement that’s Number 1.

via I Sold 44,334 Kindle Books in December

It is a strange phenomenon in this age of digital books, that authors CAN now serve very large markets with a single account and do darn well out of it.

I’m not saying that Aiden’s solution is to jump on the independent publishing bandwagon, perhaps that’s not his bag and not every independent author will sell such huge numbers, but I am saying that the things he writes about are the frustrations consequential to his choice. Had he chosen to publish independently his frustrations would be different ones, but real nonetheless.

Writing is a frustrating career choice, wether ploughing the traditional route or trying the newer independent forms, but it IS a choice. Commercial publishers, as crass as you might think their list to be, are not the cause of your problems, nor a suitable target for your ire.

Eoin

*It’d be wise for me to point out that I know Eoin, have met with him on several occasions in both a business and more recreational situations both since he joined Transworld and when he was at Easons and have a lot of respect for him.

GO READ THIS | Why Online Retailers Will Squeeze Out Publishers In The Book Business | paidContent

You know, this is a terribly defeatist attitude. I see no reason why smart and driven action by publishers can’t bring about change, though along vertical niches rather than broad trade lines:

In short, I don’t think publishers will figure all this out in time, which is why retailers will dominate the customer relationships in the future. They can amass enough of a consumer base that they can market a book to hundreds of millions of consumers and, more importantly, get enough of those consumers to buy the book. With those 100 million billing and messaging relationships, Apple and Amazon would only need to achieve a reasonable 1 percent conversion rate to help an author sell 1 million books, a level few authors today reach.

via Why Online Retailers Will Squeeze Out Publishers In The Book Business | paidContent.

Commissioning For The Irish Story

Last year I launched a niche Irish History site, The Irish Story. The idea was to create a vibrant site where people could discuss Irish history in an intelligent and interesting way.

I also commissioned five titles and have published each of these as Kindle ebooks and iOS Apps. It seems to have worked pretty well. The titles are each between 10 and 15,000 words each with a detailed timeline of events surrounding the particular focus.

The central focus of the website is the free material that gets posted weekly by a variety of contributors.

There are now over 100 posts on the site of varying length from a few lines to full-length essays, all free. Many of them feature exclusive audio interviews with scholars too, brought to you by the excellent John Dorney who also penned three of the first five books, and who is, in my view one of the most interesting young writers of Irish History.

Based on the success of the site (which is slow but steady) and of the first group of titles I’ve decided to commission a fresh batch of books and this series is to focus more on individuals (though if anyone has ideas for an event based title, I would welcome it too). I created an initial list of targets for 2011 commissioning, it’s here. Have a look at it and if any of them appeal to you, drop me a line and we can discuss the project.

I’ve already added two biographies with this batch, Kaye Jones will be writing two titles from the list in 2011.

So please, get in touch if you are interested, I would love to hear from you.
Eoin (Eoin AT eoinpurcell.com)

Some Notes
1) There are no advances for writing these books, however royalties for the digital editions start at 35% of Net Receipts and go up from there.

2) While many of the titles will be made available through Print On Demand avenues, I cannot guarantee this for ALL titles.

Go Read This | Portraits of an Industry in Flux: Digital publishing and UX | UX Magazine

Excellent exploration of the challenges of being a book publisher in the modern age:

Several months ago, we piloted a program to deliver digital course materials to students enrolled in a select group of medical test prep programs These students were evaluated at the end of their courses to determine how using digital course materials affected their learning experiences, as well as how they felt about using the materials. Actual usage data was also collected and compared. We learned that for the large majority of the time, these students were using the digital versions of their course materials as quick reference tools. The most used feature was search, favored over other features such as note taking, highlighting, bookmarking, sharing, and others. The context in which students used the products most often was the classroom. Not online, not on the bus, nor in the subway. They were listening to a lecture and were using these eBooks to quickly look up terms and formulas and reinforce the lecture in a context.This pilot program represented a real turning point for us. We were both surprised and excited about the data we collected, and also by the real insight we had gained into what our customers were doing, what their needs were, and what they wanted us to provide to them. While the data is different product to product, we did learn what to measure and how to listen.In the world of software application development, UX designers and researchers physically watch people using an application and determine information about them and their needs through observation. In the eBook world, the ability to track usage data, feature adoption, and time spent with each product has meant that we have a whole new world open to us, and a new way of conceiving of and talking about our products and product development.Digital products have brought the customer back into the equation.

via Portraits of an Industry in Flux: Digital publishing and UX | UX Magazine.