Publishing

Go Read This | Harder, better, faster, stronger | The Bookseller

There is, as ever much to enjoy in reading Rebecca Smart’s analysis over on The Bookseller. One thing that stands out for me though is the ease with which she talks about topics that rarely get flagged up in publishing discussions, things like working capital and cash flow, critical elements in the world of books, physical or digital that perhaps more often than makes sense get relegated to the back room while the cool topic like art, literature and the rest get all the attention and discussion:

The current trade publishing sales process means that money and time are invested in 15 to 18 months’ worth of books at any given point. If we could reduce the length of the pipeline for most of the books we publish we would be able to invest more in each book – and the fact that the business of publishing would become less working capital-intensive would improve its chances of survival and therefore of continuing in its important role of finding and developing talent.

via Harder, better, faster, stronger | The Bookseller.

Of course, it’s easier to say than to implement but it’s a worthwhile goal I think, one worth thinking through and looking at a plan for execution!

Eoin

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Go Read This | The future of bookstores is the key to understanding the future of publishing – The Shatzkin Files Pt. II

I’ve already linked to this, but it warrants a second link. If you want to understand the basic problems facing book publishers in 2014, then read this post. In it, replace the large publishers and niche players that Mike refers to with small general players and consider how the trends and realities he discusses endanger them. It’s both illuminating and unsettling:

But that’s today when the online-offline division may be near 50-50 overall and is 75-25 for certain niches. If those numbers become 75-25 and 90-10 over the next five years, the bookstore market really won’t matter that much to most authors anymore. Whether through self-publishing or through some fledgling publisher that doesn’t have today’s big publisher capabilities but also doesn’t have their cost structure, authors will feel that the big organizations are less necessary than they are now to help them realize their potential.

via The future of bookstores is the key to understanding the future of publishing – The Shatzkin Files.

When Mike talks about the challenge publishers will face in retaining authors, I’m struck by how his thoughts reflect those I wrote back in 2006 (Authors Will Drive Change) early in my blogging about this ongoing shift we’re all a part of:

What’s more you can package your content in any variety of ways. Make a podcast or your poetry and push it on iTunes. Act out your play and upload it to YouTube or your preferred location. It is easy to do it all now and to do it well. Maybe the cost of a decent designer or video editor will take a summer to save for or a winter of being cold avoiding buying new jumpers but the costs are so achievable it is exceptional.

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?

Of course the real growth in power for authors is with two groups; the super successful authors who already command high advances and special treatment, and those who were never going to be published anyway. In both cases options abound for changing the current model.

Where things are less easy to decide is the mid-list. Here, as bookstores fail and ebook sales gravitate towards the winners and the margins, there may be difficult years ahead for those who fall into either the average writer space or the average sales space.

None of that solves the headaches publishers face!

Go Read This | Been Down So Long | PWxyz

Seems a bit negative on the whole, but it’s a useful thought experiment:

Other impacts are inevitable, but harder to perceive in clear definition. Successful self-published authors like Howey, who did well by ultimately selling print rights to a Big 5 publisher while retaining digital rights, are less likely to see any benefit in prestige or marketing when there is diminished gain from a rapidly diminishing retail presence. The appeal for authors to sell rights only for finite term duration, another Howey recommendation, are likely to increase. And ultimately, that means that Big Trade publishers are going to have fewer titles to work with; my agent lunch-partner describes the difference as going from 800 big titles a year to 200 – regardless of the actual numbers, it’s the level of impact that’s important.

via Been Down So Long | PWxyz.

Go Read This | Local publishers find new life by digitizing out-of-print, hard-to-find titles

Interesting piece throughout. Perhaps the most interesting thing is the way it illuminates just how much easier digital makes publishing, for everyone. Interesting too that the bookstore is seeing opportunities upstream from book-selling, driving its own revenues, something there has been too little discussion of in recent years among bookstores. If Amazon is doing a good ob of gathering exclusive ebook content through KDP, there’s many reasons to believe that bookstores are even better positioned to capture this kind of exclusivity at a local level, to act as publishers for that material and to profit from it too:

The Imai Shoten bookstore chain, based in the western prefecture of Shimane, published the electronic edition of “Shutei Kunchu Meigetsuki” (Revised Version of Annotated Meigetsuki) in October. Meigetsuki is the diary of famed “waka” poet Fujiwara no Teika (1162-1241).

The bookstore chain released the first edition of the annotated diary in the form of a printed book in eight volumes in 2002, selling 200 copies and winning high praise. The company had also been working to publish a revised edition of the title, but could not do so because estimated benefits were not worth the required costs.

“It would be impossible to release the revised work without digitizing it,” says Yasuhiko Tago, chairman of the bookstore firm. “I believe that we will be able to turn the introduction of e-books into a great opportunity for the publishing world.”

via Local publishers find new life by digitizing out-of-print, hard-to-find titles – AJW by The Asahi Shimbun.

Go Read This | The unevenly distributed ebook future | Studio Tendra

Baldur Bjarnason (@fakebaldur) is in the middle of a writing spurt, which is good news for anyone who is interested in thinking about books, digital, readers and publishing. He’s a good thinker on these things and while I don’t always agree with him, I do enjoy reading his material and the thinking it generates. I also wish that I had the discipline to write a series of posts, there’s a lot on my mine.

Anyway, several of the posts have really interested me greatly, but I like very much this section and have quoted him wholesale:

The publishing industry has bought into this idea wholesale. Some publishing markets are, according to this worldview, further ahead on the progress timeline than others. It also implies that advancement along the timeline is inevitable, even if it progresses at varying speeds. Romance and other genre fiction tend to dominate ebook sales and so must have more ‘future’. Non-fiction less so and must therefore have less ‘future’ and more of that crippling ballast called ‘past’. Big mainstream titles hit the ebook market in seemingly unpredictable ways. Some garner decent ebook sales while others seem to sell only in print. There, the ‘future’ seems to be randomly distributed, like a stress nosebleed over a term paper.

This, obviously, implies that the ebook will either eventually dominate universally or at least capture the same large percentage uniformly across the market.

I don’t think that’s going to happen.

The various publishing markets differ in fundamental ways that won’t be changed by ebooks. As others have said, ‘ebooks are terrific and haven’t changed a thing’.

Some will switch entirely to ebooks. Some partially. Some almost not at all.”


via The unevenly distributed ebook future | Studio Tendra.

Go Read This | Books go online for free in Norway – Telegraph

Fascinating plan this one, and seems pretty sensible from a copyright perspective. It has echoes of the way that HarperCollins has been engaging with new subscription services (ie: breaking out  frontlist and backlist titles). One thing this brings to the forefront of my mind however is that this increasing move to split out front list will reinforce the hit driven nature of the business:

The good news is that so far sales in bookshops do not appear to have been affected by the project. Instead, Bokhylla often gives a second life to works that are still under copyright but sold out at bookshops, said Moe Skarstein. “Books are increasingly becoming perishable goods,” she told AFP reporter Pierre-Henry Deshayes, “when the novelty effect fades out, they sink into oblivion. Many national libraries digitise their collections for conservation reasons or even to grant access to them, but those are (older) books that are already in the public domain. We thought that, since we had to digitise all our collection in order to preserve it for the next 1,000 years, it was also important to broaden access to it as much as possible.”

via Books go online for free in Norway – Telegraph.

Go Read This | Kindle Singles and the future of ebooks | Joe Wikert

Good piece from Joe Wikert, even if I don’t completely agree with everything he says:

End the practice of artificially puffing up content
The greatest aspect of Kindle Singles is, of course, their short length. The first one I read was a Single about media and I remember thinking how a typical business book editor would have asked the author to turn this 30-page gem into a bloated 300-page mess. It happens all the time and its a function of both physical shelf presence and perceived value. In the ebook world there’s suddenly no physical bookshelf an individual title has to have a spine presence on. Now we just need to stop equating \”shorter\” with \”cheaper\”…more on that in a moment.

via Joe Wikert’s Digital Content Strategies: Kindle Singles and the future of ebooks.