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Well, we’re still here, guess that means I have to blog

by Amanda S. Green

A lot has been happening in the publishing world this week and I feel like I’ve missed a lot of it because I’ve been so busy with NRP work.  The latest sales figures for the industry are out.  Borders continues to bleed money and now says it needs more time.  Amazon has a new author promotion community. Facebook limits what we can do regarding contests.  There’s an offer for Barnes & Noble.  Kristine Kathryn Rusch has some great advice for every author.   And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Let’s start with Facebook.  We all know how important it is to have a platform and to get our names out there.  Social media has become a major part of any promotion plan and most plans include contests and giveaways.  Facebook has played a big role in all this — until this week.  No longer can we use FB as we have in the past for giveaways.  For a quick rundown of the new regulations — and requirements — check out this post on Galleycat.

Since I’m talking promotions, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the new author promotion community at Amazon.  There has long been a rule against self-promotion on the Amazon boards, but it hasn’t been uniformly enforced.  Basically, as long as an author didn’t get too annoying with a promotion thread (ie, didn’t do one more than once a week or so), the thread wasn’t reported as spam too often or an author didn’t hijack another person’s thread just to do drive-by promotions, there was no real problem.  At least not as far as Amazon was concerned.  However, there are a number of folks on the kindle boards who would b**ch and moan about such threads, often being, as Jim Baen would say, butt-heads.

Well, Amazon finally responded and has created this new community where self-promotion threads are not only allowed but welcomed.  Of course, there are problems.  The first is that it wasn’t adequately announced, only buried in a thread entitled “important annoucement from Amazon”.  The second issue occurred when Amazon started moving the promotion threads.  Apparently, they are using bots to sniff out and find the promotion threads.  As a result, when a long-time forum participant listed new titles offered for free — by various other authors, not herself — and then an author added his own promotion note, the thread was moved to the new forum.  The howls of protest and outrage could be heard around the kindle world.  That thread, and others like it that are not actually promotion threads but merely listing free titles offered by Amazon, are now back where they belong on the kindle board and will be allowed.

But there is another issue that has arisen.  Authors have long added links to their books or their Amazon Author Central pages to their signatures.  That will no longer be allowed, or so I’ve been led to believe.  Hopefully, Amazon will change their view on at least the Author Central links.  But only time will tell.

Now to the nitty-gritty.  The AAP has released the sales figures for March.  E-book sales continue to soar, although at a slight slower pace than in the first two months of the year (for January and February, sales increased at a rate of 169% while for March it was a “relatively modest” increase of 145.7%).  What this means is that e-book sales rose 159.8% (16 publishers reporting) during the first quarter of the year.  Compare this to a 23.4% decline in hard cover sales (8 publishers reporting) during the quarter.  Is it any wonder the industry is reeling right now, especially when faced with major players who either don’t understand or want to deny the changes in demand that are occurring?

On the bookstore front, both Borders and Barnes & Noble were in the news.  We’ll start with Barnes & Noble.  Liberty Media has made an offer for the company.  The offer has strings attached, but most offers do.  This one is interesting in that, among the requirements Liberty Media put on their offer, is that Len Riggio would retain not only his position in the company but also his equity ownership in it.  It will be interesting to see where this offer goes.

And then there’s Borders.  Yes, I’m shaking my head.  It’s all I can do these days whenever I see the once proud bookseller in the news.  This week, Borders made headlines twice.  We’ll start with the bad news.  Despite closing hundreds of stores and firing thousands of employees, despite reassurances that Borders is on the right track and publishers should go back to the way things were with them, Borders announced it lost $132 million in April.  This is more than March’s reported losses.  I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t bode well in my book.

Then came the other bad news.  Borders has been in bankruptcy for months now.  There have been several comments from the executives on high, all telling us how well their reorganization is going.  We’ve heard the blame game — how Ann Arbor isn’t rallying around the troubled company, how the publishers are being unreasonable for wanting money upfront despite a track record of non-payment by Borders, how e-books are the cause of the company’s problems and not poor management and lack of foresight.  Now comes the “Please, sir, may I have some more” phase where the company is asking for more time to submit its reorganization plan to the court.  Under the motion filed this past week, Borders is asking for an additional 120 days to file the plan.  The new deadline would be October 14th instead of the current June 16th deadline.  Gee, am I the only one who remembers their promises to be out of bankruptcy by September?

Finally, if you are a writer and you don’t follow The Business Rusch by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, hie ye there now and read her latest entry, Surviving the Transition – Part I.  Read it, think on it, think on it again and remember what she has to say.

So, was there any publishing news this week I didn’t mention that you want to discuss?  The floor is now yours.

5 Comments
  1. On the e- book formats:
    http://goodereader.com/blog/tablet-slates/amazon-to-allow-epub-ebooks-on-the-kindle-e-reader/
    On a slightly more self decieving note on publishing: http://lunch.publishersmarketplace.com/2011/05/as-expected-ebooks-slide-to-17-percent-of-sales-in-march-as-trade-rebounds-but-e-is-now-amazons-top-format/
    This of course may reflect wishful thinking as it does not include figures of independent sales – which I suspect would account for their loss in market share.

    May 22, 2011
  2. Dave,

    I saw the announcement about e-pub on the Kindle. My first thought was that it was a smart business move and one they will probably make when the next generation of the kindle comes out — the new gen is rumored to be a tablet. Then I read the article again and noted that it really talks more about publishers being able to submit in epub format and not just mobi — that will make it easier for everyone who is submitting to both Amazon and BN, as well as other e-tailers. It will be interesting to see if these publishers who have been clammoring for epub will lower their prices since they don’t have to do multiple conversions of their e-books.

    As for the second link, the news that Amazon sold more e-books than dead tree versions isn’t all that surprising. It happened a bit sooner than I expected, but it was bound to happen sooner or later. As for the “ebb” in e-book sales in March, that doesn’t really worry me. I do find it interesting that the article fails to note that, even though March’s figures were down slightly, e-book sales for the quarter still rose by triple digits over first quarter sales a year ago. And I think you are right. I think the independent and small press sales that aren’t reported would account for a good sized portion of that market loss.

    May 22, 2011
  3. The way someone else I occassionally correspond with saw it: mobi (which is Amazon’s property) had been having a head-head for the market with epub. When it became too obvious that epub was winning Amazon has begun cutting their losses. I am far too ignorant to know.

    May 23, 2011
    • Dave,

      No, you’re right. The mobi-epub conflict is much like the VHS-Beta back in the early days of the video recorders for TV. I don’t see Amazon giving up on mobi — not as long as there are a significant number of early versions of the Kindle still working. I guess my cynicism comes out in wondering how the publishers who have whined because it “costs so much” to convert to a second format (mobi) when other channels accept epub will justify not bringing prices down once they can submit their files to Amazon as epub.

      May 23, 2011

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