Change

Go Read This | Authors Launch Brown Girls Publishing

You really don’t need to look hard for even traditionally published authors driving change:

The two authors, who will continue to write for S&S, are also skilled in other areas. Murray has an MBA from New York University and Billingsley is a former TV and radio news reporter who also has more than 25 years experience in marketing.

“We’ve been pretty successful and we’ve still got book contracts at S&S,” Murray said in a phone interview with PW. Murray told PW the notion to launch a publishing company began a year ago when her agent, Lisa Dawson, self-published some of Murray’s fiction as an e-book novel and the book sold about 15,000 copies with almost no promotion. “Just a little note on my facebook page,” Murray said.

via Authors Launch Brown Girls Publishing.

kindle_etch02

Go Read This | Never say Never |David Worlock

A good piece from David this:

It was no place to pursue the argument, and if time had been available I might have learnt all sorts of clever things that Penguin Random House have up their sleeves to stave off change and preserve the status quo. The novel form as a narrative seems to me to begin with Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding in the mid-eighteenth century . Much of the last century, from James Joyce and Virginia Woolf onwards was occupied in trying to blow up the form Things that have a beginning often also have an end . Did Sophocles remark to Euripides, “Well, old boy, one thing is certain. We shall always have a job because plebs will always want three act tragedy!”

For this Never thing to work for fiction publishers the demographics have to be right , and I see no evidence that the form, if we discount the odd phenomena of Fifty Shades (perhaps itself a pointer to a future?), is growing or diminishing in audience. If I was working in fiction publishing, then I would want a small unit dedicated to second guessing the future – be it multiple media, narrative choice for the reader, the future of smartphone as a narrative platform or any of the other emerging network options for telling stories to each other.

via David Worlock | Developing digital strategies for the information marketplace | Supporting the migration of information providers and content players into the networked services world of the future..

Does seem strange to me that anyone would adopt this way of thinking. Maybe it’s the public front to a very different private thinking. I certainly hope so!

Go Read This | Dancing with Myself — The Principal Impediment to Change and Innovation « The Scholarly Kitchen

All good this, and by my lights the first must read of 2013 for the publishing community:

One form this organizational blindness takes is the tracking of the wrong metrics. By “wrong” I mean measurements that tend to support current activity without providing a different and perhaps unflattering perspective. A university press director proudly told me about his system of peer review, the number of outside reviewers, how carefully these reviews were themselves assessed, and how the reviews were used by authors to improve their books. Nice job. But the same director failed to note that sales of the press’s books had declined by more than a third in the past decade, and that financial support from the parent institution was wavering. “Have you considered the possibility that you are publishing the wrong books, that you are working in fields that are not growing and may even be declining,” I asked. He was taken aback by my question. After all, the peer review results said the press was doing a great job.

Examples of tracking the wrong things, or at least of failing to track some important things, can be found everywhere. I encountered one management team that boasted of their profit margins. But the same team had failed to adjust their sales reports for inflation. Thus, over a period of about 15 years, this team had in fact been putting the company through a long-term liquidation.

via Dancing with Myself — The Principal Impediment to Change and Innovation « The Scholarly Kitchen.

Go Read This | The Technium: The Post-Productive Economy

Great and interesting post from Kevin Kelly about economic growth and where we are at with it

The main accomplishment of this 3rd Industrialization, the networking of our brains, other brains and other things, is to add something onto the substrate of productivity. Call it consumptity, or generativity. By whatever name we settle on, this frontier expands the creative aspect of the whole system, increasing innovations, expanding possibilities, encouraging the inefficiencies of experiment and exploring, absorbing more of the qualities of play. We don’t have good measurements of these yet. Cynics will regard this as new age naiveté, or unadorned utopianism, or a blindness to the “realities” of real life of greedy corporations, or bad bosses, or the inevitable suffering of real work. It’s not.

via The Technium: The Post-Productive Economy.

Quick Link | The Idiots Guide to Publishing – NYTimes.com

Very interesting piece this!

Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr are idiots. No, really — the couple after bidding a Steven Slater-esque adieu to their previous careers as graphic designers founded Idiots’ Books, an independent press run out of their Maryland barn. There they live, work and raise two children. Swanson writes and Behr illustrates, and together they distribute their snide, satirical works through a bimonthly subscription service. Titles include “The Baby Is Disappointing,” a sarcastic paean to parenting, and “Facial Features of French Explorers,” a microanalysis of the craniofacial quirks of adventurers like Samuel de Champlain. They also maintain a blog about their lives.

via The Idiots Guide to Publishing – NYTimes.com.

Quick Link | Seth Godin Drives Another Nail Into the Book

Mathew Ingram adds some interesting nuance to the Seth Godin reaction:

Not every author or artist has that ability, and not every book is going to find an established audience that way. There are still going to be mass-market blockbusters in publishing, just as there are in movies and music, where the marketing machine goes into high gear to reach as large an audience as possible. But for established authors and artists who specialize in a particular niche, connecting directly with readers or fans can be a far better approach than relying on the traditional infrastructure of the content-distribution industry. At the end of the day, that is a good thing for fans of both books and music.

via Seth Godin Drives Another Nail Into the Book.

Authors Really Are Driving Change

In 2006 when I was only starting to think clearly about digital change (and had only been writing a blog for some 4 months) I wrote a post called Authors Will Drive Change, it was part of a short series of articles on what was changing the publishing industry.

The point is that publishing is no longer just about books and even more it is no longer about waiting for a publisher to decide your work is good enough for print. Options abound and as more and more writers realise that they will take advantage of it.

E-books will push this change even more. There is no reason why authors’ royalties should be the same on e-books as they are for paper books and in many ways there is no reason why the authors cannot sell e-books themselves rather than through a publisher. Why should you sell a paper publisher your digital rights when there is no need?

What I didn’t address back then and what has become clearer now, is how established authors will also drive change and in doing so, make a much bigger impact.

The most recent example of this is JA Konrath who writes The Newbies Guide To Publishing blog. He has been posting for some time now about his rather impressive success in selling books via Amazon’s Kindle device:

In short, this market is perfect for a one-person operation.

I’d certainly entertain an offer from a large publisher, if they wanted to buy rights for one of my books. But I’m not going to go out looking for the opportunity. Especially since I’ll make more money in the long run if I keep my rights.

I could even make more money in the short run.

According to my recent royalty statement, my horror novel AFRAID sold about 54,000 copies in all formats, earning me around $27k.

If I released a Jack Kilborn ebook on my own, and it sold like my current ebooks are selling, I’d make $20k in a year.

It’s doubtful I’ll make $17K next year on AFRAID, since it’s no longer getting coop on bookstore shelves. But I’m sure I’d make $20k, or more, on a self-pubbed ebook.

So in two years I can make more money on my own on a self-pubbed ebook than a book released by a major publisher in hardcover, trade paper, paperback, and ebook formats, supported by a tour and advertising.

Unless it’s a big offer, I can’t imagine selling rights to my work ever again…

And There Is More
The IDPF released the figures for February ebook sales. They are pretty stunning. I’ve written elsewhere about my skepticism regarding ebooks and the industry’s obsession with price and a single format, but when one sees figures like this, it is almost understandable that they get excited and distracted by them.

Mike Shatzkin writes about what this seemingly rapid shift towards digital means for the print side of the business and it is an interesting perspective:

If by the end of 2012, 25% of sales for a new book are digital, then about half of new book sales will be made through online purchases if we count the print book sales made through online retailers (mostly Amazon.)

Online print sales can be served through inventory generated on demand. So, if these estimates are right, we are less than three years away from a publisher (or author) being able to reach half the market for a book without inventory risk!

Having half the market reachable without print-run risk or inventory storage; having half the customers connecting with their reading through online paths that make them at least theoretically identifiable; and having a quarter of those customers reading through a medium that enables interactivity will make all the changes we’ve seen so far in trade publishing appear trivial. And if the very perspicacious Carolyn Reidy, her unnamed counterpart, and I are right, that disruption is going to take place before many books now under contract reach their publication date.

Personally I caution about moving from current trends towards future results. I’m unsure if the sales will continue at their current level never mind continue to explode in such an impressive fashion. However, even if we allow that Mike and the trends are half right and we see say 33% or 40% of the market reachable via no-risk required methods by 2012, then the savvy authors like JA Konrath will see little reason to work with a publisher at all. Why, if they don’t require the finance that is one of a publishers strongest assets, would they?

This is not to say that publishers don’t offer more than finance, they do and in abundance, but for some authors, the skillset that publishers offer is affordable and at a more reasonable cut than they currently allow publishers to keep.

In my view, as the market becomes more digitally biased, the greater the risk that lead and mid-list authors see first the advantage of retaining their own digital rights, then later the advantage of retaining all rights and exploiting them for themselves.

The future, for all that it offers great promise to authors and thus they WILL drive change, may not offer such great promise for publishers and certainly not as they currently exist.

Much to get done today!
Eoin