Quick Link | New Thriller Sells More E-Books Than Hardcovers – Digits – WSJ

Interesting, non?

Weeks after Amazon.com said that it is now selling more electronic books than hardcovers, a leading book publisher said one of its prominent new titles is generating greater e-book unit sales than hardcover unit sales during its first week on sale.

Laura Lippman’s thriller, “I’d Know You Anywhere,” went on sale Aug. 17, and in its first five days sold 4,739 e-books and 4,000 physical hardcovers, said News Corp.’s HarperCollins Publishers.

via New Thriller Sells More E-Books Than Hardcovers – Digits – WSJ.

Quick Links | Adapt to recover, warn publishing chiefs | theBookseller.com

Publishing is hard!

Barnsley, whose company saw sales fall 13.3%, the largest drop among the top 10 and despite Hilary Mantel’s Booker-winner Wolf Hall, explained it had been necessary to take “a lot of cost out of the business”, including cutting the number of titles published by 20%. “We are focusing more on profit than on market share [now at 7.3%],” she said. “Most publishers over-publish for today’s market.”

via Adapt to recover, warn publishing chiefs | theBookseller.com.

Osprey Publishing Acquires Angry Robot

I like Osprey. I think they are very smart operators and they know what they are doing and why. They have also built two very nice niche brands (Osprey and Shire) that are almost instantly recognizable in their markets, certainly by the kind of people who buy books and information in those spaces. So the news that they have bought the HarperCollins science-fiction and fantasy imprint Angry Robot is pretty exciting.

Here’s how Angry Robot put it:

Following an acclaimed first year of publishing, the revolutionary science fiction imprint Angry Robot Books has parted company with HarperCollins UK. It will now run as an independent publishing imprint, with the full backing of niche publishing experts, Osprey Publishing.

And here is what Osprey told us:

We at Osprey/Shire/Angry Robot (we are going to need a group name) are all about publishing for specialists, whether your specialism is Panzer variants, timber-framed buildings or zombie novels. We want to publish books (and not just books these days) for people who are enthusiastic, knowledgable and passionate about their interest whatever it is.

What this might mean?
Tor.com has made it clear since its foundation that emphasizing niche can be a successful strategy for reader engagement and Angry Robot is doing a good job of replicating that in the UK with their Robot Army. I’d love to see even more accessible content that just their great and active blog but what they do now is good.

In terms of strategy, Angry Robot is a strong and build-able brand. I’d expect to see more community features over time and perhaps even some kind of membership much as Osprey has created on their home site.

The bigger questions are for HarperCollins. The sale of Angry Robot leaves them with Voyager as their main Science-Fiction and Fantasy imprint. That’s a fine imprint but their engagement strategy is a little up in the air right now. They moved from a community site which I always felt was far too sales pitchy toward a more blog orientated site.

The new site is much better, both visually and in terms of reaching out to readers but it lacks the openness of Tor.com’s site. Unless they address that soon, I fear they may fall behind. When you consider their authors and the passion these superstars generate, this seems a shame. I think they could learn quite a bit from the imprint that have just sold off or simply by copying some of what Tor.com is doing.

Authonomy turns on the smarts

Eoin Purcell

Moxyland, by Lauren Beukes
Moxyland, by Lauren Beukes

I’ve dissed Authonomy a little in the past, but this really is a clever idea:

We’re giving you the chance to have your short story published in Lauren (Beukes)‘s next book, Zoo City. In order to enter, all you need to do is write a short story (up to 3000 words) based in the Moxyland universe, using characters, themes and settings from the book to create your own work.

They have more on their blog. Lauren is the author of the Angry Robot published novel, Moxyland. But the smarts start on Authonomy otslef, firstly it has an extensive book page for Moxyland and a faily decent author page for Lauren (though this could easily have had a video and some more features, given the competition). And then they use the power of HarperCollins’ Browse Inside toolkit to display the entire text. That is brave.

I’d be hard pressed to find an issue with this project (other than the minor one I’ve already mentioned). It’s not just that Harper are embracing Fan Fiction and encouraging it even, but they have added real value to Authonomy by doing this. They have used clever cross platform tools to bring a really worthwhile competition to the Authionomy community and have, I think, created one of the most compelling and engaging promotions so far this year. All told, praise if deserved.

I’m enjoying my last day of being 29, successfully made a very big Beef Bourguignon!
Eoin

Crowdsourcing a cookbook: food52

Eoin Purcell

Cooking Light (Explored) by Flickr user Steve Wampler
Cooking Light (Explored) by Flickr user Steve Wampler

This is a nice idea
You now there must be something funky going on when Techcrunch reports on a new crowdsource cookbook initiative. Even if it is from Amanda Hesser (Wikipedia & Twitter) and Merrill Stubbs (Twitter), two pretty well connected folk. The site is called Food52 and right now it’s just a landing page and a sign up*:

The site and the book will appeal to anyone who ever wanted to write their own cookbook but never had the time. But it won’t be a free-for-all. Hesser and Stubbs will make editorial decisions with give-and-take from the site’s members. To guide the community, every week two themes will be presented which will act as a call for recipes. This week’s themes (they are really assignments) are “Your Best Grilled Pork Recipe” and “Your Best Watermelon Recipe.” Anyone can submit their favorite recipes, along with photos or videos. Then Hesser and Stubbs select the most promising ones, test them, and choose the best two for each theme. They present these back to the Food52 members, who get to vote which one will make it into the cookbook.

“There is a huge tradition of community cookbooks, but none of them are user vetted,” says Hesser. Users can take part in creating the cookbook by submitting their own recipes and helping to edit the submissions through comments, ratings, and votes. (Recipes can be flagged if someone tries to pass one off as their own that is actually from another cookbook). Anybody who submits a recipe selected as one of the two finalist recipes each week will get a free copy of the book along with cookware tailored to their recipe.

The iterative process should bring hardcore foodies and fans of the authors coming back every week. By the end of the 52 weeks, Hesser and Stubbs will not only have the recipes for their cookbook, but also a built-in and built-up audience already sold on the book. It won’t be just a cookbook, it will be an artifact of their participation.

But it’s still in beta
I’m not keen on announcements and PR in advance of a website opening to the general populace. When will people stop doing that, wouldn’t a page of text explaining the site be better, especially when there is so much information already out there? Maybe a picture of the authors, a short bio, some links and scary concept but given that it’s a video site, maybe a video? I mean seriously! Still even a google search reveals some more juicy morsels.

Serious Eats (my current favourite foodie site) for instance offers is links to a tour of the kitchen and videos from food52 on vimeo:

But what really caught our eye today is that Hesser and Stubbs seem to have quietly started uploading to a Vimeo account, which is full of what appear to be test videos—along with a couple great nuggets: an introduction to the Food 52 concept, and a video tour of Amanda Hesser’s envy-inducing kitchen—complete with the now-customary refrigerator-baring.

The entire project has a nice sense of buzz about it in the publishing world too, coming as it does with a book published by super-hip Harper Studio.

All told, I see good things coming from this. Having crowdsourced the content for a book published by Mercier last year, Our Grannies’ Recipes, I can guess at the problems they may encounter. Whereas Ourgranniesrecipes.com was very much a no money, seat of the pants endeavour, I like that food52 seems likely to be well funded and have the opportunity to expand the social and user content features that small investments allow.

Best of luck to them, I watch this space with interest.
Eoin