As if we needed more evidence this week that the old model is under severe pressure from new and competing models, it crops up from an unexpected source:
She sold more than 100million books and was for years the most-borrowed author in British libraries.
Now, more than 12 years after her death, Catherine Cookson, the best-selling author of The Fifteen Streets and the Mallen trilogy, is embroiled in a literary bust-up.
Her estate, the Catherine Cookson Charitable Trust, is set to infuriate the print publishing industry by releasing 100 of her novels as cut-price electronic books.
via Catherine Cookson’s estate set to infuriate publishing houses by releasing 100 cut-price e-books | Mail Online.
I have a quick strategy note over on my EoinPurcell.com for publishers, especially small and medium-sized one, on how they can stop making their backlists a digital problem and maybe start moving towards selling ebooks:
Well to my mind, the first thing ANY publisher needs to do, even if they don’t have immediate plans for digital publishing, is stop making that backlist issue bigger and I’ve a pretty sensible strategy for how they can do that AND start preparing for digital publishing.
1) Stop only holding PDF files
Simple enough really, but if you are using in-house design programmes like Indesign or Quark, make sure you hold onto the Quark or Indesign files of your titles AS WELL as holding on to the PDF. If you are using out of company contractors, make it a condition that designers supply original files to you when they deliver the final files. Doing this means that you have files that are easier to convert then PDFs and will thus cost considerably less money when you decide to explore digital publishing and ebooks.
Cost to you: Nothing
via Stop Making It Bigger | Eoin Purcell.
A wonderfully snide analysis of Eason (Ireland’s largest book retailer) in The Spectator Book Blog the other day.
Foreign retailers have it no easier. In the States, Borders is poised to collapse; whilst in Ireland, shrinking giant Eason can’t stop making a loss. Radical measures that should have been taken years ago are finally in the offing. Eason has been forced to introduce another loyalty card package and establish in-store interactive zones, in addition to giving its outlets a lick of paint and a squirt of Fabreeze. The firm is also working to narrow its stock categories, having conceded, like Waterstone’s, that it can’t compete when it comes to shifting Sophie Kinsella. Most conspicuous of all, Eason is relaunching its website to boost sales.
via Book Blog | The Spectator.
A very fine piece on value, price and economics in ebooks:
Too true. I may have a legal monopoly over books by Courtney, but there are decent economic substitutes for books by Courtney. The problem is that (a) there are a small number of really good economic substitutes and (b) all substitutes are imperfect, with some substitutes being more imperfect than others.
For instance, I have a vast amount of empirical data demonstrating that at least some people would rather pay $7.99 to read my book than spend $0.00 to read Moby Dick for free. This is because Moby Dick is a really, really bad economic substitute for a historical romance. I like to think that even in historical romance, there is no perfect substitute for a book by Courtney. Heck, my books aren’t perfect substitutes for each other. Most people don’t read Unveiled a second time and say, “Well, now I feel just as good as if I’d read Unclaimed, so why bother?”
via In which competition fails to be perfect « Courtney Milan’s Blog.
There’s a paragraph on Bloomsbury’s Strategy page on their website that always grabs me. It reads:
A key element to Bloomsbury’s strategy is to broaden the base on which it acquires and exploits intellectual property. This began in 1994 with retaining paperback rights and moving into children’s publishing. With the advent of the internet, the company identified a growing demand for quality on-line reference content which culminated in the development of our first major database, The Encarta World English Dictionary.
The reason it grabs me is that you can see the company put that paragraph into action very regularly. The latest is Reeds Nautical Almanac from their A&C Black division (the location of some of their most interesting properties).
I wrote before about Bloomsbury that:
It further occurs to me that nearly all the moves place them in a position to exploit the brand potential of all these properties and to do that through new digital avenues if and when they choose to
That still holds true and when you check the site out, you do begin to wonder why it wasn’t done before, but that’s not the point. This is strategy in action before our eyes. What’s more, it’s a sensible strategy that’s moving physical products and customers towards digital models in an un-hyped way.
It shows the value of intellectual property that has something that can be made available as an online service as well as a print product. Sure it brings its own worries and concerns, but it also offers opportunities and real hope for a future for publishing and publishers.
Maybe it should be more hyped! Or maybe more publishers should copy them!
I’m loving watching JA Konrath experiment with pricing the way he is, there’s much for him and others to learn. I wonder if any publishers are doing such brave and bold exercises? I suspect not. Though that said, I have watched some movement by publishers over the least few months and perhaps that indicates that they are.
I dunno if Disturb can crack the Top 100 or not. If it doesnt by the time The List drops to #90, then Ill put it back to $2.99 and drop the price on another, better-selling ebook. I believe Origin, Endurance, or Trapped could hit the Top 100 at 99 cents.
The concept of putting items on sale has served retailers well. Im thinking that my new sales strategy will always have one or two novels at 99 cents, and then rotate the titles monthly.
It should be fun to watch what happens for the rest of March…
via A Newbies Guide to Publishing: The List Experiment Update.
In what is a fascinating piece for a number of reasons, The Telegraph reports on Bloomsbury’s successes in selling ebooks. I’m struck most forcefully by three things:
- Richard Charkin is as refreshingly open, honest and forthright as ever, which is good to see. We still miss his blog though.
- Bloomsbury have been playing the game pretty well on the library front and their partnership with Exact Editions seems to be yielding dividends.
- Charkin highlights the speed at which older readers are taking up ebooks. I’m not terribly surprised by this, but it is interesting, considering they remain amongst the most loyal readers!
Richard Charkin, executive director, said: “If sales continue the way they have in January and February, which we would fully expect, they are going to be off the scale. If that is an indicator of future growth then we expect digital sales of Bloomsbury titles be as high as 25pc of sales. They could be even higher.”
Bloomsbury, which reported £90.7m sales and £5.5m of pre-tax profits last year, would not reveal what proportion of profits ebook sales were likely to account for in 2011, but it is expected to be considerably higher than 25pc. Digital book margins are higher because there are no printing costs involved nor any extra costs incurred by over-estimating print runs or pulping books with errors in them. “The biggest saving is in cock-ups,” Mr Charkin said.
via Bloomsbury sees ebook sales leap – Telegraph.