JK Rowling

On Galbraith, JK Rowling & Debut Novellists

Cuckoo's CallingI can’t say I agree with this argument

But there’s another downside, which is the negative impact on thousands of writers the public has never heard of or, more importantly, had the opportunity to read. In that sense, it could even be argued that Rowling’s well-intended hoax has backfired, turning into yet another story about fame in the modern world.

via JK Rowling’s book ruse is a cautionary tale for unknown writers | Joan Smith | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

For one thing, readers always have the opportunity to read debut authors, though they may never consider them and they may choose not to read them, given that readers’ time is limited and the chances of getting a bad book are high, it’s understandable that they often pick authors they already know and like.

Secondly the publishing industry has always been hit driven, there’s some argument that it is becoming even more so with the bandwagoning effect of the internet, but that’s a question of scale rather than kind. New writers always struggle to get exposure in this environment. But even the hits start small until something or someone pushes them over an edge, that can be advertising spend, celebrity endorsement, top line publicity, word of mouth or just dumb luck, but even JK Rowling started at the bottom with Harry Potter, the initial print run for The Philosopher’s Stone was around 1,00 copies!

Finally no writer is entitled to success, just as no publisher or bookseller is entitled to it. We all have to work to reach readers and entice them to read book (hopefully our books). Sometimes that means publishing a few books before gaining a readership, sometimes it may mean a writer never gains that readership despite being talented. There’s no foolproof way to guarantee success, you just have to keep plugging away at it and finding good partners to work with and hoping you can do everything right so that if success comes, you’re ready.

Author, Niche & Power Shifts: What Pottermore MIGHT Point To

Mike Shatzkin has a fine post about the implications of the Pottermore move in terms of publishers and DRM:

Without DRM, as Berlucchi explained, anybody can sell ebooks that can be read on a Kindle. Once Pottermore decided they could live without DRM, they faced Amazon with a very difficult choice. The ebooks were going to go on Kindle devices whether Amazon wanted them there or not. Either they could ignore them or they could play along. I am sure the “play along” deal includes compensation to Amazon for the sales they refer (as it does B&N and, according to a quote from Redmayne, other distribution relations and affiliations will be enabled going forward.)

In other words, in a refreshing change from recent history, the content owner was able to present Amazon with a “take it or leave it” proposition. They decided to “take it”. They were wise. The game was changing either way.

I’ve long felt that the power balance between authors and publishers has shifted and will shift further as digital change drives home a point I made most clearly in my essay No New Normal: The Value Web (and reiterated here on Futurebook):

All of this will happen despite, or perhaps because of the fact that, the actual slice of value captured by each player changes in size and shape. Publishers will be forced to cede more revenue to authors, the idea that 25% Net is a defensible long-term ebook royalty rate is a farce best forgotten about quickly.

And even earlier (2006) when I wrote about Authors Driving Change:

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?

I think Mike is right to say that Pottermore marks a decisive point of change. It is the point at which owning the brand becomes essential, the point at which the 25% slice for the author stops being enough and the changed power balance between author and publisher begins to bite really hard.

If publishers hope to use author brand and scale to attract readers direct then they need to persuade the authors to work with them. That’s gonna take money and a whole new approach to working with the author. I expect we’ll see more of that.

The other change I believe it will drive even further is that of Niche or community driven content publishing. If selling without DRM enables big  publishers to flourish as retailers (or for that matter niche publishers with scale in a single niche), then there is even more incentive for them to pull readers together in communities of interest (or rather to build stores that appeal to those existing communities of interest) and sell content to them directly rather than spending all their marketing on pulling them to a mass appeal site that only offers them content that works for that reader by chance event or a well placed cookie!

So I see Niche coming back with a vengeance, and community at its side, perhaps even a third horseman in the shape of an industry newly engaged in open standards, weak DRM and a willingness to innovate. That’s rather exciting if you ask me.

Go Read This | Harry Potter Goes Google for the New Pottermore E-book Site

You know, this really IS a very good idea for Google. It will popularise their platform and probably engage LOTS of readers just as they are transitioning to ebooks. Might even help them sell some of those new ereaders they’ve launched!

Its no surprise that Pottermore has turned to Google to run what is bound to be a wildly popular e-commerce site. How well this deal will help boost Googles own e-bookstore efforts, beyond just sales of the Harry Potter titles, remains to be seen. No doubt Google hopes to be able to lure fans and book-buyers in to its e-bookstore for all their reading needs.

via Harry Potter Goes Google for the New Pottermore E-book Site.

Wisden Logo

Wisden: Another Clever Bloomsbury Brand

Wisden Logo
Bloomsbury has featured on these pages a number of times. To my mind, too much of the focus on Bloomsbury is about Potter and Rowling. When I’ve been interested in Bloomsbury it is generally for their clever acquisitions and what I perceive as a well developed but poorly reported strategy for acquiring valuable and sustainable brands that have digital potential.

The announcement yesterday that Wisden their cricket imprint (which is part of the A&C Black group of imprints) will expand its offering (relatively slowly) into other sports seems like a great example of just that strategy.

So long as the extension is done with some common sense, the very string image of Wisden should be able to sustain this move. I’m looking forward to seeing how this goes for them,
Eoin