Lots going on in the world of books and publishing right now. Because of that, I’m going to throw some things out here and would like to know your thoughts on it. That’s the short version of what today’s post is all about. The longer version is my brain is fried and I’m stressed and distracted due to family stuff that’s going on. So it is this or watching me OD on coffee as I pace the floor and worry that everything is going to be all right.
First up is something that has me giggling on the one hand and wondering what will actually happen on the other. Randy Penguin–pardon me, Penguin Random House–wants to buy Simon & Schuster. According to the Justice Department, PRH is already the world’s largest publisher. Allowing the deal to go through would give it too much power over publishing in the US.
“Books have shaped American public life throughout our nation’s history, and authors are the lifeblood of book publishing in America. But just five publishers control the U.S. publishing industry,” the Attorney General continued. “If the world’s largest book publisher is permitted to acquire one of its biggest rivals, it will have unprecedented control over this important industry. American authors and consumers will pay the price of this anticompetitive merger – lower advances for authors and ultimately fewer books and less variety for consumers.”
One of the justifications PRH gives for allowing the sale to go through is that larger publishing houses would allow for better bargaining power against evil-doers like Amazon. What PRH didn’t plan on was having some of their internal documents about the sale come to light. According to the Wall Street Journal:
Penguin Random House’s internal documents “tell a different story: Penguin Random House plans to embrace Amazon even more closely after the merger,” the lawsuit alleged.
What do you think should happen and what do you believe will happen if the acquisition of S&S is allowed to go through?
The Passive Voice linked to this article from Mike Shatzkin. I’m the first to admit I don’t always agree with Shatzkin. However, he is right in the article when he said there are really only two big players when it comes to getting your books into the hands of readers: Amazon and Ingram. From the indie point of view, Amazon has been the leader in allowing us a path to readership. But we have to be honest about our relationship with the ‘zon. It is both good and bad. Good because it did break ground for us. It offers us a huge potential customer base. It is easy to use when it comes to uploading books (although I am not a fan of some recent changes on the back end).
But there are some potentially negative issues we should keep in mind as well. The first is that we have to weigh whether or not we want to put our metaphorical eggs all in one basket. Yes, Amazon will pay us for “page reads” if we go exclusive with them. But are those reads and the ever changing payouts worth ignoring other e-book markets?
The second potential negative comes to print books. Yes, we can offer print versions of our books through KDP. We can even offer hard covers for the first time. That’s huge. But let’s face it, most indies don’t make a great deal of money from print books sold through Amazon. The problem comes down to the antagonism between bookstores and Amazon. While they can special order our print books for a customer asking for them, it is nearly impossible to get those bookstores to stock our books–especially if the only bookstore in town is a chain store.
That’s where Ingram, specifically Ingram Spark, comes into play. THIS is where bookstores get their stock. Publishing our print books through IS doesn’t guarantee we’ll see our books on the shelves of the local bookstore but it makes it possible. The downside is the cost. There’s a set-up fee. You have to pay on a yearly (iirc) basis to keep the books listed. Want to make a chance to your cover or interior file, it very well may cost you. Yes, there are ways to get “coupons” to help defray some of these costs, but it can add up, especially when you look at the zero cost to doing your print books through Amazon.
Still, if it helps get your books into the local store–and I highly recommend you talk to your independently owned bookstore to see if they will stock your books–it might be worth the money.
The truth is, even indie publishing is changing. We need to take a hard look at what we’ve been doing and what we can do to improve our market share. More and more indies, including yours truly, are moving away from being Amazon exclusive. But that doesn’t mean we don’t keep looking at the stats and adapting and changing as needed. And that means keeping an eye on the current anti-trust suit filed against Amazon. Depending on what comes out of those suits, the self-publishing landscape could change again–as could traditional publishing.
A couple more quick notes. I’ve been a proponent for Vellum for a long time. It has made converting and formatting books for print and digital formats so much easier and the results are professional looking. There have been two real problems with the program. The first is that it is Mac only. The second is the cost. But another problem started rearing its head over the last year or so. While the program devs are awesome when it comes to updating the back-end section to meet new requirements for the various markets where we upload our books, there wasn’t much change being offered to the available templates, etc. That shortfall became very apparent with the release of Atticus, which can be used across multiple operating systems. However, I received an email from the Vellum devs yesterday. A major upgrade to the program is coming the end of the month. the upgrade will include a number of new templates and other changes that users have been asking for. I’m looking forward to seeing what they have to offer because I still prefer Vellum over Atticus.
But don’t get me wrong. Atticus has the potential of being an excellent program. My concern, however, is it is trying to do too much. It is a formatting tool. It is a writing tool. It wants to become a collaboration tool and organizational tool. In other words, you are looking at a mix of word processing, Scrivener, Vellum and more. That’s a lot of bells and whistles and a lot of things that can go wrong. It is also the potential of a lot of distractions (my main complaint about Scrivener). But, it might be worth it in the long run, especially for the non-Mac users out there.
Okay, I’m out of here. Let me know what you think.