Archive for the publishing Category

To Serial… or Not?

My eighth Jackson novel is completed, except for the Thomas & Mercer editing process. When I submitted it in early December, I expected it to be released in the fall of this year (2013). But the T&M schedule is full, and Jackson #8 isn’t slotted until next February (2014)—a full year after Jackson #7 releases next month.

Waiting makes me (and most of my readers) crazy, so this schedule isn’t good for me. My editor offered me an alternative: release the book as as a Kindle Serial this spring and summer, which means it will be on the market, in full, by this fall.

But the serial aspect makes me nervous. Even though serial books are clearly labeled—so readers should realize they’re only getting chunks of the story at a time—the books often get bad reviews. Many readers hate waiting for the next “episode” and give the novels one-star ratings. They also use much of their review space to criticize the format.

My editor thinks it’s an opportunity to take advantage of advertising avenues that aren’t offered to traditional books. He thinks it could expand my readership. I like both of those ideas. And I love my editor. He’s been right about many things. But I’m worried about my current readership. They like to read my books in a couple of big gulps. And I like them to rave about “not being able to put it down.”

Of course, readers don’t have to buy it as a serial. They can wait until all the episodes are released and buy the whole book in the fall. But that means waiting three months to buy the book, knowing that some, or most, of it is already available. If you buy it as a serial, it’s only $1.99. I think you pay full price ($4.99) if you wait.

But my biggest concern is that many readers will not understand the serial process. Because I’ve never released a Jackson book that way, they might just see the new story and buy it—without reading all the disclaimers. Lovely, loyal people that they are. But two or three chapters in, the book will stop, and they’ll have to wait a week or so for more.

I don’t like to read that way, and I suspect my Jackson fans don’t either. So I’m leaning toward saying no. What do you think, readers? Does the serial idea appeal to you, especially if you’ll get the story sooner? Or would you rather wait and get the book all at once early next year?

Amazon May Not Be the Bad Guy

The recent news about the IPG-Amazon struggle has people saying all the same things. “Amazon is flexing its muscle and hurting the little guys.” “Big bad Amazon.” Shelf Awareness ran the story with quotes from authors and publishers all complaining about Amazon’s tactics.

My understanding of the dispute is that IPG wanted better distribution terms for its ebooks—I believe it requested no discounting—and Amazon said no. Which the company has the right to do. Amazon already capitulated when the Big 6 publishers colluded to set their own high prices—a collusion that is now the subject of lawsuits and investigations.

So like all other retailers, Amazon wants to control the sale price of its inventory, and since it couldn’t get Independent Publishers Group to agree to its terms, it took IPG’s products off the shelf. (Caveat: There may be more to the issue than I realize, and if you know more, please leave a comment.)

The people hurt most by this are the authors whose ebooks are no longer selling at Amazon. But it’s important to remember that these authors have a choice. They chose to publish their work through a small publisher, which in turn, contracted with IPG for distribution. Or maybe some authors are working directly with IPG. Either way, these authors have chosen to hire middlemen for publication and/or distribution. Middlemen that take a chunk of the profit, and in this case, refuse to meet Amazon’s terms.

But this is the new age of publishing! Authors don’t need publishers, or distributors for that matter. Anyone can upload their ebooks to Amazon though Kindle Direct Publishing and to Barnes & Noble through PubIt. Granted, if you want to sell on Kobo and Sony, you need a distributor. But Kobo and Sony’s market shares are almost insignificant, and at the same time, they are the ebook retailers doing the discounting that, in turn, triggers Amazon to drop its price.

I pulled my books down from Kobo and Sony for that very reason. They caused me to lose far more money at Amazon than I ever made from either. And Amazon has never discounted my books except to match another retailer’s price.

I understand authors wanting to control the price the book is sold for, and thus, maximize royalties, but if your book is not selling on Amazon, you’ll never maximize your profit. From my perspective, it makes far more sense for IPG to pull its books from Kobo and Sony, and thus eliminate the discounting issue, than to give up its authors’ opportunity to sell on Amazon.

What is IPG offering its authors—besides getting their books pulled from the biggest retailer in the marketplace? I realize distributors may be able to get some print books into bookstores, but what can they do for ebook-only authors that those authors can’t do for themselves?

Of course, some—or many—may have signed contracts with small publishers (that in turn signed with IPG) and therefore, they no longer have the right to control their own work. But instead of complaining about Amazon, they should be contacting their publishers about finding a new distributor. Or if they work with IPG directly, maybe they should terminate that agreement and either find a new distributor, or better yet, simply join the indie revolution and upload their books to Amazon, B&N, and Apple themselves.

Another blogger has offered some excellent alternatives for IPG as well. I expect to take some heat for this, so tell me, what do you think?

 

Conferences Are in Flux Too

Left Coast Crime in Santa Fe was great this year. I got to meet in person people I’ve come to know and like online: Peg Brantley, Jodie Renner, Marlyn Beebe, and more. I participated in two panels, Research: Getting It Right, and Publishing: Today and in the Future.

Both were well attended, and I got terrific feedback from the audience. Read more

The New Gatekeepers

Laura Miller, founder of Salon, asks: “How do you find something good to read in a brave new self-published world?” She writes about the horrors of the slush pile and wonders how readers will fare if traditional publishers stop functioning as gatekeepers. She points out that gatekeepers are necessary to steer readers away from the “all the dreck.” Bloggers—who read and review a much wider variety of books than Library Journal or Publishers Weekly—are already doing this to a certain degree. Read more

Agents, Bookstores Turn to Publishing

There’s been a lot of industry news lately, but some game changing developments that caught my eye were buried in a report under Joe Konrath’s deal with AmazonEncore. In a nutshell: Agents and bookstore are becoming publishers.

Scott Waxman, of Waxman Literary, has created Diversion Books, Read more

Digital ARCs Make Progress

Simon & Schuster is the newest publisher to offer digital ARCs (advanced review copies) directly to reviewers, media, bloggers, journalists, librarians, and booksellers. So far, the galleys are available by e-mail invitation only, but early-readers can register with Galley Grab for consideration.  I expect more publishers will follow. Others, such as Clarkson Potter, a Random House imprint, have already been experimenting with e-galleys. Read more

Will Big-Name Authors Go Rogue?

I read an article about a speech Simon & Schuster president and CEO Carolyn Reidy gave at a publishers’ convention. She mostly talked about the state of the industry and how publishers have to find ways to cut costs. Then she said a couple of interesting things. First she mentioned “powerful retailers who have ambitions to be publishers.” Does she mean Walmart and Costco? How would they make the transition? They would need big-name authors to sign directly with them, and they would have to allow distribution in bookstores as well. But this could happen, especially with nonfiction authors.

Then Reidy talked about self-publishing and wondered, “is it only a matter of time before one of the major authors actually strikes out on his or her own?”

That would be an interesting development. What would motivate a best-selling fiction author to step away from his/her publisher and self-publish? An opportunity to make more money? Probably not. If this ever happens, the dispute will likely be about content. Maybe the issue will be an entire story that the writer wants to bring to market, but the publisher won’t because it’s controversial or outside the writer’s genre. Or maybe it will be an environmental issue. An author who refuses to have his book published in hardback form because so many are returned and shredded. And his publisher won’t concede, so he self-publishes in trade paperback with smaller print runs that sell out each time.

What if such a venture proved successful, and the author was able to reach a wide audience and make money? Would more authors follow? What would it mean to the industry? Would publishers change their business model to keep authors onboard? Would it finally blur the distinction between traditionally published and self-published authors? And who will be first? Stephen King has already stepped out on his own with serial e-content (and made money), and I believe in time more authors will do the same.

It’s fun to speculate. What do think?

The End of Publishing (as we know it)

According to an article in the New York magazine, publishing in its current form is coming to an end. The article opens with a description of watching books being shredded, a fate that awaits 25% of the product produced by major publishers. This in itself is reason for change.

Then the article describes HarperStudio, an offshoot of HarperCollins, and how it will revolutionize the industry with its new model. In this new world, authors forgo large advances (or in some cases, any advance) in exchange for half of their books eventual profit. The idea is that by not over-investing in certain projects, there is more money to promote an entire line of books. Essentially, HarperStudio is forgoing the blockbuster model, in which most of a company’s profits are generated by one brand (J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, Dan Brown). I also believe I read earlier that HarperStudio plans to NOT take any returns from bookstores, which would eliminate the massive book shredding.

The article discusses many other industry problems: consolidation, declining book sales, imprints from the same company bidding against each other and driving up prices (advances), the growth and influence of Amazon, the low moral of editorial staff, editors constantly changing houses leaving authors to fend for themselves, and more.

For those in the business, this article is worth reading or at least skimming through. As for HarperStudio’s new model, I think it’s a step in the right direction, as long as profit is clearly defined so that authors aren’t cheated. Moving away from the blockbuster model to a more vertical platform will benefit writers by:

  • spreading the promotional dollars more evenly
  • taking the pressure off each novel to perform to a certain standard
  • allow smaller print runs and more novels to become available in paperback
  • allow more novels to come to the market through traditional publishers
  • inspire all authors to market their own work as much as possible

What do you think? Will publishing really change that much? As an author, are you willing to take a no-advance contract with long-term gain as the goal?

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