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Posts tagged ‘AAP’

Sunday Link Salad

I haven’t done one of these in a long time. When I first joined MGC a number of years ago, I kept asking Sarah and Dave why they wanted me. I wasn’t a writer (okay, I may have had one book out). No one would want to read what I had to say. Sarah, being the devious woman that she is and knowing me as well as she does, knew there was one way to convince me. She suggested I do for the blog what I had been doing for myself and for her — I keep on top of what was happening in the publishing world and post links to articles or sites I thought our readers might find interesting. Then, slowly but surely, she conned — er, convinced — me to expand my postings. I still do the occasional link salad posts but a number of the sites I used to follow are no longer around. Or they’ve fallen so deep into the Amazon Derangement Syndrome or Indie Derangement Syndrome that I no longer read them. Others, I read only on occasion. However, the following sites are some of those I check on a daily or weekly basis. Keep in mind, you can also find a lot of information from social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. You just have to do your homework and confirm what the authenticity of those “quotes” or excerpts.

First up is the best of the sites, imo, because it is compiles information from a number of sources, has an active commenter base and we get the added benefit of comments from the site’s owner. That site is The Passive Voice. If I had to name one site that is mandatory for all writers to follow, it would be this one. Bookmark it. Check it at least once a day. Read the comments.

Next up is a twofer. Kris Rusch and her husband, Dean Wesley Smith, run two sites I also feel need to be on your must read list. Kris Writes offers, among other things, the Business Musings posts that should be mandatory reading for every author. They give insight into the traditional publishing world as well as guidance for indie publishing. Dean’s site is important because it offers the “Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing” posts as well as a list of his workshops. Both are well worth your time.

For keeping up with what’s happening in the traditional publishing world, Publishers Weekly is still the go-to site. Yes, much of is it behind a paywall, but there is still a great deal to discover that isn’t. You do have to keep in mind the bias PW has for traditional publishing. But, to see what the “other side” is up to, this is your place to go.

Going hand-in-hand with PW is Association of American Publishers. Again, this is slanted more toward traditional publishing but there is good information to be found there.

Here are a few other sites you might find of interest:

Literary Hub

Digital Book World

The Digital Reader

Teleread

Then there is the site that sends traditional publishing into apoplexy more often than not by sticking pins into their balloons about the earning potential of indie authors and just how popular e-books are with readers. Author Earnings isn’t a daily or even a weekly read. I recommend you sign up for email notifications of when they have new information available. But, when they post a new report, it is always something authors need to sit down and read. Better yet, they have past reports available for viewing. That lets you track the trends and see if they really are trends, as others might say, or not. Bookmark this page and take the time to go through what it offers.

There are many more sites out there that we, as writers, either follow or should be following. I tried to stick with general industry-related sites today. You can find author sites that give you a window into the life of an author. There are other sites that offer writing advice and exercises. The wonderful thing about the internet is the fact there is no lack of resources available. The problem comes in winnowing through those resources to find the best ones.

What are your favorite industry-related sites?

 

 

Turning a blind eye

I want to start by thanking Cedar for stepping in and handling MGC last Tuesday. This past week has been more than a bit trying and there was simply no way I could have blogged then. Life is slowly returning to normal and I will try to do Cedar proud today but I warn everyone that the brain is still a little battered around the edges after everything that’s happened this week. Anyway. . . .

There has been a lot of talk over the last week or so about the latest Author Earnings report. AAP report and now John Scalzi’s take on it all. If you want to read more about what Scalzi had to say about the two reports, you can check out this article on Teleread or check out what the Passive Voice has to say. I guess no one should be surprised to know that Scalzi puts more credence into the AAP report — the one put together by supporters of traditional publishing — than he does the AE report (indie publishing). After all, look at what camp he happens to be in and where his paycheck comes from.

From Teleread: He [Scalzi] scoffs at the latest Author Earnings figures on the basis of “the source [being] unabashedly pro-indie (and less-than-subtly in my opinion anti-publishing)” and thence opines that publishers know exactly what they’re doing in raising the price of e-books. They’re intentionally protecting the print market, Scalzi believes, at least insofar as the strategy touches on novels.

Of course publishers are protecting the print market. With Author’s Guild finally demanding traditional publishing amend their contracts so that authors receive a larger percentage of royalties for e-books, it makes sense for publishers to try to protect the remaining portion of their business where they get the lion’s share of royalties. For the last how many years have we heard from traditional publishing (and again I have to say Baen is the exception) that they have basically the same expense in making an e-book that they do a print book. They have even tried to make that argument fly when the print — and possibly two to three print versions — of the book already exist. We’ve been told e-books have to be edited and set (as in print set) and new covers, etc. That argument has finally gone the way of the dodo because there are too many of us out there in the trenches who know just how wrong that argument is and we’ve been letting others know.

So now, with the print market continuing to shrink, publishers are doing what they can to protect that market at the expense of the digital market. They continue to fail to recognize that their business model is outmoded and out-dated. Instead, they blame Amazon for their problems. After all, it is so much easier to blame someone else for your failings than to take a long, hard look in the mirror and realize that the problem rests with you.

But let’s continue with what Scalzi has to say.

Investing time in strengthening alternate retail paths makes sense in that case, especially if, as the article suggests, consumers are happy to receive the book in different formats for an advantageous price. If people fundamentally don’t care if they read something in print or electronic format, as long as they get a price they like, that leaves publishers a lot of room to maneuver.

As Teleread noted, this is part of Scalzi’s point that what publishers are doing is an anti-Amazon strategy. Hmm. So, before we get into the economics of what he says, let’s look at the alternatives to Amazon. I live in a large metropolitan area. There was a time when there were, by a quick mental count, half a dozen or so bookstores within a ten mile radius of where I live. Two were chains and the rest were locally owned bookstores. Then came the big box stores like Bookstop which was followed by Borders and then Barnes & Noble. The two chains were bought up by the big box stores and the mom and pop stores were run out of business. Flush with their success, Borders and Barnes & Noble, as well as one or two other national chains, expanded and expanded and expanded and then started to go bust. Now Barnes & Noble is the only major chain store still standing, at least in this part of the country, and a number of their stores down here have closed. In that same ten mile radius, there is one B&N and it is more than a bit difficult to get to because of its location. Lousy parking, worse traffic and an indifferent staff. Yeah, right, that is where I’m going to go to buy my books. Not.

But let’s look at the economics of what Scalzi claims. Without taking into account the time and cost to drive somewhere, if I go to my local B&N, I will pay full-price for a book unless it happens to be on sale. But, Amanda, you can get their membership card. Yes, but I won’t. You see, I remember when those loyalty cards were free. All you had to do was fill out the information and give them an email address. Now, you pay $25 a year for the same thing. For that, I would get 40% off of their hard cover best sellers (and note when you look at their membership page, it doesn’t say if that is NYT best sellers, B&N best sellers or what) and 10% off almost everything else (of course there are exceptions). Oh, and I would get free express shipping on orders from BN.com (again with exceptions). Hmm. Nope.

Let’s look a bit deeper. Say I want to get J. D. Robb’s latest book. Devoted in Death is now available in hard cover and e-book. The price set by the publisher is $27.95. I can order it right now from B&N for $19.16 for hard cover or $13.99 for e-book. I can get it from Amazon for $18.88 or the same $13.99 for e-book.  I wouldn’t buy either of them from either store. Why? I don’t buy hard covers except for a very few authors any longer. Between declining quality of the actual book itself — not the writing or editing — and the lack of space, I have become a lot more picky about what I buy. As for the e-book, I refuse to pay that much for an e-book novel. I might pay it for a “boxed set” but not for a single e-book that is less than 400 pages.

But that’s me. Let’s go back and look at Scalzi’s assertion above. First, the sort of pricing we are seeing from publishers is not advantageous to anyone but the publishers. People aren’t as dumb as they seem to think. We know that an e-book doesn’t have the same amount of expense associated with it that a print book does. There are no physical resources necessary for an e-book such as paper, ink, press, physical storage and transportation — both to and from the distributor. Yet, they seem to think we are happy paying print prices for an e-book. They are not looking at the way indie and small press digital sales continue to climb while that trend for traditional publishers has slowed, especially after going back to an agency-like pricing.

There is something else folks like Scalzi forget — the generation that grew up loving physical books is aging. Our kids and grandkids are the tech generation. They live with their smartphones or tablets attached at one hand. They want and expect to be able to find a “book” quickly and have it instantly delivered to their phone or tablet or laptop. But they are also smart — hopefully — about their money. My son looks at the price differences between hard cover, soft cover and digital and will walk away from an e-book priced over $10. His basic response is why should he pay that much for a single book when he can go to Baen and get a month’s worth of releases for less than $20? He gets seven e-books for $18. That is a much better deal for him than buying a single e-book for $13.99 or more. Even if he doesn’t like a book or two from the bundle, he still has more than a few books that will entertain and engage him.

But, according to Scalzi and others, it is all about Amazon being bad.

I could go on. After all, Scalzi calls into question the methodology for gathering and reporting the AE data. I find that more than a little humorous (and possibly duplicitous) considering he is championing the AAP numbers which are reported by publishers that rely upon Bookscan numbers (see Cedar’s post on Tuesday, linked above, for more on just how “reliable” Bookscan is not). Oh, and there is the allegation that the AE findings are suspect because of the pro-indie and anti-traditional publishing stance of AE. Isn’t that sort of the pot calling the kettle black since Scalzi is pro-traditional publishing?

I guess this is all a case of which side do you fall on and how do you read the data. For me, I know what my sales have been over the last five years or so. I’ve seen them go up each year, not only as indie publishing has gained more and more traction but as I’ve put out more work. I know that I know make more in a year on my science fiction and fantasy than I would in a traditional advance for a new author (which I would be seen as by most publishers) from most traditional publishers. So tell me again why the AE report is bad and the AAP report is good.

The truth is, traditional publishing is going to hang on, at least for some time. It will eventually morph into something smaller that will survive. Indie publishing will continue as well. Tech has given us that. Readers will, given the chance, set the prices they are willing to pay. Unless and until traditional publishing finds a way to get the courts or the legislature to set a minimum price, indie publishing will continue to undercut them there and that will help expand the indie market. (And don’t think traditional publishing and its supporters aren’t already trying to undermine the indie market. Authors United is trying to convince the Justice Department to investigate Amazon. Funny, I don’t remember anyone having any problems with Amazon until they opened up to indie publishing and it started taking off. Hmmm. Could there be a correlation?)

Anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough. What are your thoughts on the issue?

Facts, figures and scams. Oh my!

After last week’s non-post, I spent some time last night and this morning trying to figure out just what to  write about in today’s post. There’s a lot going on in the industry and yet so much of it is the same old same old. You have the report from AAP (Association of American Publishers) confirming what most of us suspected: e-book sales have risen past the 20% mark. At the same time, others are predicting the resurgence of print or the death of e-books because their rate of sales increase. Then there are the new and more imaginative ways to scam writers desperate to see their name “in print”. Of course, there is also the continuing story of the Night Shade Books sale. And that’s only scratching the surface.

According to the AAP, e-book sales accounted for 22.5% of all sales in 2012. Ten years ago, e-books accounted for 0.05% of all sales. In the last few years, there’s been a great deal of discussion about where the tipping point would be with e-books. I suggest we have reached it. For one thing, the figures reported by AAP are about as accurate as those reported by Bookscan. AAP is a voluntary organization that is reporting sales reported to it by its members. It doesn’t take into account, as far as I can tell, sales by any number of small and micro presses, nor does it report sales by self-published authors. If we were to take all of those potential sales into account, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see that e-book sales accounted for over 30% of all new “book” sales last year.

But there is another reason why I say we’ve reached the tipping point. I’m hearing more and more authors talking about how their legacy publishers are refusing to release rights e-books rights back to them even though these same publishers are reporting digital sales on the titles in question that are well below the “in print” figures necessary to maintain the rights. Now, there are several possible reasons for this. The first is that the publishers know the e-books in question are selling more than they are reporting to the authors and are, therefore, an active participant in fraud. Since I’m sure there is no one in publishing who would willingly and knowingly — much less carelessly and negligently — defraud an author, we won’t spend any real time on this. (Besides, I need to quit laughing before continuing.)

What I feel is the truth of the matter is that publishers know just how important a role e-books will play in their continued survival and, like someone afraid of drowning, they are clinging to anything to stay afloat. So they drag their feet when they receive notice from an author demanding their rights back. They’ve learned over the years that authors are hesitant to hire attorneys to protect their rights. There’s still that mentality among too many of us that tells us that if we rock the boat, we’ll go on some blacklist publishers share amongst themselves and will never be published again. The only problem with this is that those authors demanding their rights back are the ones who have figured out that they can make money without having the “big name publisher” putting out their e-books.

Does this increase in market share mean the death of print? Not yet, and probably not for a very long time. I can foresee a niche market for print for years to come. But it does mean we will see a steady movement away from print as the medium of choice. That’s pretty much a no brainer because our kids are more tech savvy than we are. Their kids will be even more so. They will be much more comfortable reading on their screens than we are and that will be their “comfort” read, just as a print book is for so many of us.

All that said, there are those who are saying that because e-books sales grew “only” 41% last year that it has reached the saturation point in the market. Now, let’s face it, that’s just silly on the face of it. But the same qualifiers I put on the figures reported by AAP on the market share held by e-books apply here. Besides, a 41% increase is still a major indicator that e-books are here to stay and will continue to be the major force in publishing sales. This is particularly true when you consider that print sales continue to be flat or, in many areas, fall.

If all that isn’t enough to make your head spin, then the lengths some folks will go to get money out of authors ought to. Anyone who want to call themselves a writer or an author ought to know the first law of writing: money flows to the author not from it. We’ve all heard the horror stories of vanity presses that would guarantee to publish your book as long as you paid a few hundred to many thousands of dollars to buy and sell X-number of the books afterwards. The result was usually that the poor author was out the money and had a garage full of books that he couldn’t give away.

Over the years, these vanity presses have found new ways to market themselves. Unfortunately, they still exists. But now there’s a new twist out there: crowd sourcing. Writer Beware pointed to one that, at least on the surface, appears to be questionable at the very least. Fifty Shades of London is an anthology being touted by Endeavour Press. They are looking for fifty short stories or essays to go into the book. Their project page claims Endeavour Press is “the UK’s leading independent publisher of digital books.” All you have to do is submit your short story or essay of 2,000 words. Oh, wait, there’s another little catch: you have to pay to be included.

That’s right, you pay to be included. What do you get for your money, you ask? You get your work proofed and published in the anthology. No editing. Nothing more than proofing and editing in a book you have to pay to get into. Sounds like a deal to me — NOT!

At least there are only two backers for the project so far. But those two are guaranteed to be two of the first five stories in the anthology, should it be published. How do I know this? Because it is one of the “perks” of being a first backer. For the first five backers at a MERE 50 GBP, you guarantee your place as one of the first five stories. After that, your 50 GBP gets you a place someone in the anthology. Now, what is interesting reading their pledge levels, they are all the same price. You can choose to be among the first five stories, or to simply be included in the anthology, or to be part of the anthology AND receive one of only 10 printed copies of the book, or be part of the anthology and receive five — that’s right FIVE — e-books from Endeavour.

Folks, I repeat, money runs to the author and not from him.

And that brings us back to the Night Shade proposed sale. I wrote several weeks about about how the terms they were presenting to their authors (which really amounted to nothing more than blackmail, imo) were horrid. I wasn’t the only one to do so. Nor was I the only one to question why SFWA seemed okay with them. Since then, the terms have been amended and they are better. Not great, mind you, but at least better. Michael Stackpole has a post here about why he is now going to sign the new contract. While I understand his decision — and would probably have done the same thing — it’s still not a great deal for the authors. But it does beat having your novels, and future novels based on those currently held by Night Shade, from languishing in bankruptcy hell.

The lesson of all these stories is to be sure you know the terms of any contract you sign. Don’t just rely on the fact that your editor or publisher is “a nice guy”.  Failure to pay royalties in a timely manner is a breach of contract. Failure to do so on a regular basis is a warning sign that ought to tell you to start whatever process you have to in order to get your rights back. Stop thinking about your career as something other than a business, because that is what it is. It is your business and you wouldn’t let a distributor of your goods fail to pay you for items they’d already shipped and been paid for if you were a farmer or manufacturer. So why do it when you are a writer?

Money flows to the writer and not from him.

The sky’s not falling – Part II

Last week, I told everyone not to worry. The publishing sky isn’t falling, despite the gnashing of teeth and beating of chests by some in publishing after figures showed e-books sales outpacing hardcover sales. I was subsequently taken to task in the comments section of the post by Andi Sporkin (Association of American Publishers) for a number of things. I don’t normally spend an entire post responding to a comment but, after discussing this with several of my fellow mad geniuses, I decided that is exactly what I’m going to do.

First, Ms. Sporkin noted that I was not quoting directly from the AAP report on the first quarter sales by their members. That’s true. I tried. I went to their site and looked for the report. Guess what, I couldn’t find it. When I went back this morning to see if I’d simply overlooked it, I still couldn’t find it. The only report listed on their home page is for overseas sales by U. S. publishers. I looked through their site and still didn’t find it. I’m not saying it’s not there. It may be. But it isn’t easily available and, quite possibly, is only available if you are a member of AAP or pay for the report. Whatever the case, that leaves me to rely upon information presented by other sites, respected sites, such as GalleyCat for the report.

So, yes, I did rely upon information from other sources. However, I did attempt to verify the information. Perhaps if AAP made the information easier to find. . .

As for the link provided, it was changed to link directly to AAP’s home page. Ms. Sporkin was right. I did link to the worldwide report. She is also right in that it does show growth for most areas of sales overseas by U. S. publishers. However, if you read the report, it shows – again – how e-book sales growth is outpacing that of the other areas. So I stand by my statements in the post in question, and in others, that e-books are more than a flash in the pan and deserve greater attention from legacy publishers.

If that was all I had to say regarding Ms. Sporkin’s response to my post, I would have done so in the comments section. However, that was just the beginning. Now we get to the heart of matter.

Ms. Sporkin: While the ebook phenomenon is certainly true, there remain seasonal buying habits in books and the Q1 figures fully reflect that. We always see strength in Q1 figures for e-formats because of e-reader sales at the holidays and people buying books (mainly in January and February). We see hardcovers and paperbacks dominate in other quarters. That will certainly continue to happen.

This is an interesting opinion. I’ll even admit she has figures based on membership sales to support it. I’m no statistician, however, I’d bet most would say you have to take into account the change in technology available, the change in age and demographics of your buying public and the change in availability of options before you come to conclusions such as she’s made. You also have to look at where your figures are coming from.

You can see a list of AAP members here. If you look at it, you will see AAP represents both major and lesser-known publishers. So, how do they get their figures? Some will be getting them through Bookscan, and we know those figures aren’t accurate. We don’t know how the others are reporting their sales.

Also, because AAP represents publishers, and this is a voluntary group, their figures don’t include sales from non-members or from self-published, or “indie” authors. That might not mean much in the grand scheme of hard copy reporting. But in the reporting of e-books sales, it means a great deal. Of course, that is one of the many reasons so many in publishing would like to see Amazon disappear. It opened the e-market to small presses and indie authors in a way it had never been opened before.

You also have to look at how people are going to want to read books in the years to come.  What I’m seeing is that the aging reader is finding that it is easier to read on a Kindle or Nook – or their tablet – than it is to read a print book. Why? There are a number of reasons. One is that the standard e-book reader is lighter than a book, even a paperback. That makes it easier to hold. Another reason is that the contrast on an e-ink display is easier on eyes than light bouncing off a print page. Then there is the fact you can adjust the size of print on an e-book reader. As a personal note, I can attest to the fact that my mother’s eye specialist has recommended she read on her Kindle whenever possible to avoid eye strain.

But there are the kids and young adults who are now becoming the book-buying public. These are readers who have grown up with computers and cell phones. They are tech savvy and more comfortable with a tablet or e-book reader than with a printed book. This is the main buying public of the future. Do you really think they will give up what they are comfortable with to maintain the buying trends of the past? I don’t.

There is also the financial aspect to look at. For a minimal investment, you can buy a reliable e-book reader. In fact, you can buy one for less that the price of three or four hardcover books. Once you have that e-book reader, you have thousands of free books available through any number of different sources. These can be the classics you grew up with a loved. They can be newer books, offered as free promotions by their authors or publishers. You can carry hundreds of books around with you in a device that weighs less than a pound. Add to that the fact that hardcovers now cost $20 or more (unless you order from Amazon or have a discount at Barnes & Noble, etc) and buying two e-books at $9.99 or more for less makes financial sense. This, too, will continue to impact sales trends over the coming years.

Ms. Sporkin: Finally, two assumptions you make are simply baffling. First, publishers are among the strongest advocates of booksellers, particularly independents, since they are our partners in encouraging the joy of reading and literacy. Our work with them, both public (such as bringing World Book Night to the US) and private, supports that statement. And there are numerous reports and analyses out there, including from AAP, that independent booksellers weathered the recession and digital transition with renewed strength due to expansion into e-commerce themselves as well as other innovative branding and marketing.

I have two issues with this statement. First, I never said publishers didn’t support booksellers. What I said is that legacy publishers are more worried about making sure the big box booksellers like Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million stay in business. Sure, I’ll admit publishers, legacy or not, have a stake in seeing the local independent bookstores make it, but I don’t buy that they are “among the strongest advocates of booksellers, particularly independents”. Why? Because the indies aren’t where they see the major numbers of sales being made. If I’m wrong, prove it. Lip service by these legacy publishers isn’t enough, nor is the occasional donation for a charitable event.

My main issue with the above is with Ms. Sporkin’s last sentence. If she’d bothered to read my post, or any of my earlier ones about locally owned bookstores, she’d see that I am a big advocate of them. She’d see that I, as well as others on this blog, have applauded these stores for the way they have tackled the market, doing what they could to think outside the box and to innovate. But I still say that there is more they can, and should do.

Ms. Sporkin: Also, “legacy publishers,” as you call them, are leading the digital transition: they are the companies creating new formats and new ways to offer content, generating distinct social media marketing and reader outreach, developing new titles and cultivating new authors to serve digital readers. These publishers are creating staff jobs for people with digital skills – jobs that didn’t exist only a few years ago – and directly start-ups and other small businesses and individuals who work in digital formats. There is not one AAP member publisher that is not producing books in every print and digital format. It is unclear why you would assume that publishers would not be embracing new ways to reach even more audiences and keep the industry healthy.

Oh my, where to begin. Let’s break it down statement by statement.

“[L]egacy publishers,” as you call them, are leading the digital transition: they are the companies creating new formats and new ways to offer content, generating distinct social media marketing and reader outreach, developing new titles and cultivating new authors to serve digital readers.

Here I strongly disagree. If they were on the leading edge of the digital transition, they would have jumped onboard ten years ago when e-books first hit the market. Instead, they laughed at publishers like Jim Baen who not only was an early adopter of e-books but one of their strongest proponents. Under him, and now under Toni Weiskopff, Baen has long been known for offering their books in multiple formats that are DRM-free. Both of which had Mr. Baen’s contemporaries in the publishing world telling him he was insane, and worse.

Also, if they were leading the digital transition, they would have been developing hardware to make e-books easily read. We’d be reading books on their platforms and not on the Kindle or the Nook. So, nope, don’t buy it.

As for creating new formats, well, that is also where they are late to the game. MOBI, the format Kindles use, has been around for years. EPUB, the format the Nook and other readers use, has been around almost as long and is based on an earlier Adobe format. What other “new” formats these publishers are creating waits to be seen. I’m not holding my breath.

New ways to offer content. Such as? All of this will be dependent on the available hardware platforms, something I don’t believe publishers are developing. So they can create all they want. Unless a the person buying the e-book has a tablet or wants to read on their computer/laptop, this new content may not be available on their e-book reader.

Generating distinct social media marketing and reader outreach? That means they are tweeting and posting on Facebook, etc. They might even have an online community. Guess what. That’s not new. Baen again led the way with Baen’s Bar. It’s been around for years and has been a way for authors and their fans to connect.

The last statement about developing new titles and cultivating new authors just left me shaking my head. Isn’t that what publishers are supposed to do?

These publishers are creating staff jobs for people with digital skills – jobs that didn’t exist only a few years ago – and directly start-ups and other small businesses and individuals who work in digital formats.

I should hope so. But this doesn’t prove they are leading the e-book charge. This means they are playing catch up. If not, these jobs would have been created years ago. I work for a small e-publisher. I know what it takes to create an e-book. This comment doesn’t impress me. Not when you realize just how labor intensive creating an e-book is not, especially not if you are working with the right software. The only time it becomes labor intensive is when you have to check for OCR issues when you scan in a book because you don’t have a digital file. Considering the number of issues folks see with e-books that came from OCR files, I’m guessing at least some of these publishers Ms. Sporkin is championing don’t bother employing enough proofreaders to check those files.

It is unclear why you would assume that publishers would not be embracing new ways to reach even more audiences and keep the industry healthy.

Well, let’s see. Delaying getting into the e-book market. Continuing to add DRM to e-books, thereby limiting the number of devices, types of devices a legally purchased book can be read on by the purchaser. Treating readers, their customers, like criminals by adding DRM. Pricing e-books higher than paperback books. By doing their best to cripple Amazon. By trying to pull the wool over the public’s eyes regarding the DoJ’s lawsuit. The DoJ has stated in the pleadings and proposed settlement that there is nothing inherently wrong with agency pricing. What is wrong in this case is the alleged collusion. But that’s not what we are being told by legacy publishing or by those echoing its position. By not changing its reporting of sales to authors so they aren’t getting shafted. (Sorry, but when a book is still on the shelves more than two years after it was published, that book is selling, no matter what the publisher says when it cancels the series.)

Shall I go on?

I have never said traditional publishing will die. Nor have I said that bookstores, especially independents, will disappear. What I said last week, and what I’ve said any number of other times, is that the landscape is changing and there will be some fatalities along the way. Some publishers will go out of business. We’ve already see how others are shrinking, discarding lines and imprints. That happens whenever there is a major change in technology that impacts buying trends. I’ve said the big box bookstores are going to have to re-examine their business models and find ways to think outside the box or they will go the way of Borders. I’ve predicted bookstores, especially indies, will thrive filling niche markets.

I’m a writer. I’m an editor for a small press. I’m a reader. The last thing I want to see is the death of an industry I’m so invested in. But I am tired of folks sticking their heads in the sand and ignoring what’s going on around them. As the song says, “The times, they are a-changin’.” Those who cling to old business models and old ways of thinking may not survive, at least not in the form they currently have. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

But I stand by my statements that legacy publishers are anything but enthusiastic supporters of the e-book revolution.

No, the sky isn’t falling

Ah, the gnashing of teeth has one more begun. Between the comments being filed in response to the proposed settlement of Department of Justice’s price fixing suit against Apple and the five publishers and news that e-books have outsold hardcovers, the old guard in publishing is looking to the sky to see if it is falling. I’d be laughing if their reaction wasn’t indicative of what is wrong with the industry right now. It is much the same reaction I had to the link in Dave’s post yesterday where the author is lamenting the loss of books because books are status symbols. WTF?!? Maybe in her mind, but not in mine. But that’s another post.

The beginning of the this latest round of teeth gnashing and chest beating began with the news that e-book sales for the first quarter of this year surpassed the sales of hardcovers. According to figures released by the Association of American Publishers, adult e-book sales for the first quarter came in at $2821.3 million. That’s up from $220.4 million for the same time last year. Hardcover sales for the first quarter of this year were reported at $229.6 million, up from $223 million for first quarter 2011.

Instead of noting that sales are up for hardcovers over the same period a year ago, the industry — and media following the industry — is warning us that it is now time to say good-bye to our neighborhood bookstores. They fail to take into account that, in some ways, they are comparing apples and oranges. Instead they are playing Chicken Little and screaming that the sky is falling.

Is this the tipping point for e-books? I think so. But it isn’t the death of print books. What it does show, at least in my opinion, is that publishers needs to take a look at what’s happening and why. First and foremost is the fact that a lot of us can’t afford $20 or more for a book. Even if we can, a number of us have quit buying as many hardcovers as we once did. Why? Because the gatekeepers have abdicated their duty and we don’t automatically trust them when they say, “this is the next best, greatest thing”.  Then there are the authors who were once an automatic buy who have stumbled and are merely rehashing plots from previous books or are writing on autopilot. There are also those like me who have simply run out of room for more books.

E-books offer us the same entertainment and education as physical books. I was amazed when I received my Kindle at how quickly I adapted to using an e-book reader. I enjoy being able to carry a few, or many, books with me without having to risk dislocating my shoulder doing so. The ability to have tens or hundreds of books at my fingertips is essential when, like now, I’m writing a novel that requires historical and geographical accuracy. Yes, I’ve been to Russia. I speak and read Russian — admittedly not as well as I once did. I know my Russian history. But there are still little tidbits I need for this novel, or that I want to be sure I have right, even as I write. If I had to rely solely on print books, I’d be tied to the library or my house. With my Kindle, I can go wherever I want and have all the books with me.

Part of me understands why the legacy publishers are scared stiff by these latest numbers from AAP. For the last few years, they’ve been saying they were scared e-books would cannibalize the sales of hardcovers. They’ve willingly sacrificed the sales of mmpb and trade paperbacks in order to try to save hardcovers. Why? Because they, the publishers, make more per unit on hardcover sales than they do with other sales per unit. So, they have gone with a business model that tries to emphasize something that is no longer on most readers’ buy-list, the hardcover, instead of looking to see how they could maximize sales across the board.

Look, folks, how many of your favorite authors, those wonderful mid-list authors who are our comfort food of books, are never published in hardcover? Why are they being cut by publishers now? Because they aren’t making as much money as their hardcover darlings. It doesn’t matter if they are outselling in number of units. Those sales per unit don’t make as much money, so just because they sell more units isn’t enough.

Yes, my brain now hurts, but it gets me back to my original point. Publishers are scared and trying to cause a panic among booksellers and readers by saying these latest figures mean bookstores are going to suddenly disappear. This is simply another verse of the same song we’ve been hearing for so long. What’s interesting is if you really look at the trends, you’ll see more and more small, indie bookstores are opening. Not all of them make it, but some do. Some are thriving. But those aren’t the stores that really matter to the legacy publishers. Not at all. No, they are worried about the Barnes & Nobles, the Books-a-Millions because the legacy publishers are so interconnected with these big box booksellers that they don’t see life without them. They’ve forgotten the days before the big box stores when they relied on the locally owned stores, relied upon them and did well.

But, like Chicken Little, legacy publishing is running around yelling, “the sky is falling”.

It’s not. In fact, if they would just accept and adapt, they’d see the possibilities opening before them. I’m no math major. Math usually makes my head hurt. It really does today as I come off a multi-day migraine. But consider the average price of e-books. Now consider the average price of hardcovers. How many more e-book units had to be sold to make the monies reported by AAP than hardcovers for that reported number? It is clear that is where the demand is. Why continue to fight it?

There’s more. E-book apps (I’m not going to say e-book readers because most aren’t ready for this yet) allow for enhanced e-books. OMG, think about the possibilities, especially for non-fiction works. You can embed videos, music, external links. Graphic novels and children’s books are now not only available in e-format, but beautifully done. Pricing for for these enhanced e-books can and should be more than for the standard e-book. Hence, another revenue source.

But, no. E-books are still the ugly stepchild as far as legacy publishers are concerned. They fill them with costly DRM that does nothing to prevent piracy but does piss off the legitimate readers who want to read the e-book they just bought across different platforms. They insist that what we buy when we purchase an e-book isn’t the book itself, just a license to read it. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen the  EULA for an e-book from a major publisher. I don’t know what’s in the license agreement. All I do know is that they want to limit the number of devices I have it on. They want to be sure I can’t sell it or loan it to anyone, and heaven forbid that I want to give it to someone — all things we can do with a physical book.

So, no, the sky isn’t falling. This isn’t the end of books as we know them. Not really. Sorry, but books are more than the medium on which they are printed. Books are the words that are written, the images that are used. The packaging is just that, packaging. It is the work of the authors and artists that should matter most, not the format we eventually read.

Does this mean the status quo will survive? Hell no. There are going to have to be changes made or any number of publishers will go under. Big box stores will continue to suffer, at least for awhile. They simply have too much overhead and not enough responsivity to their customer base due to regional and national purchasing instead of local purchasing of stock. We will see more smaller, locally owned bookstores cropping up and surviving. They will do so because some will fill niche points in the markets. Others will do so because they will be willing to think outside the box. They will let indie authors and small presses sell their books through them. Maybe it will be by installing expresso print-on-demand machines. It may be by allowing these indies and small presses to sell e-books through their stores. There are any number of different ways these small bookstores and indies/small presses can help one another.

So, don’t panic when you see headlines like “It’s the end of books as you knew them” or warnings that you’d best bid goodbye to your local bookstores now that e-books have outsold hardcovers. The truth of the matter is, e-books have been outselling them for a long time. This is just the first time when the dollar amount has shown it and, let’s face it, the almighty dollar is what publishers look at. If there is any change we are likely to see, at least from legacy publishers, it is that there will be even fewer mmpbs on the shelves now as they try to find more and more ways to push hardcover sales. So be prepared for even more mid-list authors to be cut loose.

That, my friends, is what we should lament.

*   *   *

Book 1 in the Nocturnal Lives Series

Now for the promotional spiel. Nocturnal Origins (Book 1 of the Nocturnal Lives Series) can be purchased through Amazon. Nocturnal Serenade (Book 2) and Nocturnal Haunts (a novella set in the Nocturnal Lives world) can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the Naked Reader Press webstore. And, because I was rightly chastised by someone for not pointing this out, authors get a larger slice of the pie if you buy your copies from the NRP store. Finally, as always, there is no DRM added to any of the Naked Reader Press titles.

Tipping Point or Quitting Point?

by Amanda S. Green

This week has been a typical week in the industry.  There’s been good news, bad news and news no one is quite sure how to interpret.  All of it does, in my opinion, show the state of flux in publishing and just points out that no one knows — yet — where things will finally settle.

First up, reaction to the new line of kindles from Amazon continues, especially on the kindle boards and most especially with regard to the new Kindle Fire.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Fire, it is Amazon’s entry into the tablet market.  Whether it is the iPad killer some have forecast or not, I don’t know, but I doubt it.  Amazon has taken a very clear stand that the Fire is a media tablet, built for reading, music, video and apps.  It is smaller, a 7″ screen, doesn’t have a camera or 3G capabilities.  It also has a much lower price than the iPad, coming in at $199.

Still, all you have to do is go to the Kindle boards and you’ll see thread after thread of people wanting to know why Amazon isn’t offering the Fire with 3G capabilities.  No, not just 3G but FREE 3G.  After all, some of the Kindles have free 3G.  Sure, you pay a bit more for it, but it’s free.  So why isn’t Amazon offering it for the Fire.  They’re being mean, not giving away something that will make it easier to surf the web free and stream videos and play online games, etc., etc., etc.

What all these folks demanding free 3G seem to forget is that it isn’t free.  At least not for Amazon.  The company has to pay for it.  Putting it onto Kindles that aren’t built to really surf the web easily and that aren’t capable of streaming videos is one thing.  But to put it onto a tablet that is optimized for surfing the web and streaming video would be a potentially very costly move for Amazon.

Could they have put 3G capabilities onto the Fire, sure?  But that would then be like the iPad with 3G and a data plan would be needed.  Can you hear the cries of FOUL! that would have risen because now Amazon was charging for something that had been free in the previous incarnations of the Kindle?  I can.  All those entitled folks would have protested loud and long and just as foolishly as they are now when they complain because there is no free 3G with the Fire.

And this brings me to the latest figures from the AAP.  If you read the figures one way, it looks like e-books sales are cooling, justifying certain publishers’ belief that they have merely been a flash in the pan.  This is especially true if you look at the sales of hard covers with the same rose colored glasses.  After all, e-book sales ONLY increased by 105.3% in July.  That’s the smallest increase in e-books sales all year.  At the same time, hard cover sales increased 33.9%, one of it’s best performances this year.

So let’s look at that in solid figures.  E-book sales accounted for $82.6 in July.  For the same month, hard cover sales accounted for $91.2 million.  There are several things I believe are important in these figures.  First, e-book sales continue to grow in triple digits each month.  I don’t feel the fact these sales ONLY increased by a little more than 100% in July is indicative that e-book sales are cooling.  July is the middle of summer vacation and most folks are not spending their free time reading.  For another, one month a trend does not make.  But there’s something else to look at.  That mere doubling of sales has brought e-book sales to near parity with hard cover sales.  That’s something traditional publishers have been fearing.  So that knocking you hear right now are the knees of legacy publishers trying to figure out what they’re going to have to do to survive.  Finally, it is important to keep in mind the fact that e-book sales for the year (through July) are up 152.8% while hard cover sales are down 17.8% for the same time frame.  Like it or not, e-books are here to stay and, in my opinion, the tipping point is here.  That will be confirmed as we see the sales figures for the rest of the year.

What would be interesting would be to see the number of units sold, and from what publishers, and not just the total dollar figure.  The reason I’d like to see it is because I want to see how the legacy publishers using the agency model of pricing v. those who follow the philosophy that you don’t have to charge as much for e-books as you do for hard covers.  I’d also like to see the breakdown between how many e-books are sold at the higher agency pricing v. the number of those same books sold when the price is lowered after the paperback version of the book comes out.  Until we see those figures — and I’m not holding my breath — we really won’t know the full impact of e-book sales on traditional publishers.

Finally, there’s this post from Publishers Weekly about the increasing market share of e-tailers v. physical bookstores.  True, part of the decline in brick and mortar sales comes from the fact Borders has gone belly up.  But, as I said many times in the months leading up to Borders’ dissolution, a large part of the problem was the influx of the big box bookstores.  They drove many of the mom and pop indie stores out of business.  That wasn’t necessarily all bad.  But the problem came from the fact that the big box stores didn’t adapt to the changing market.  They kept doing things the way they always had.  Worse, they started demanding concessions from publishers to help them maintain a money losing business.  Now we’ve lost Borders and publishers are hurting – badly.  Indie bookstores are few and far between.  But, what I anticipate happening (and I’m already seeing signs of it) is that we will see a return of indies.  These will be specialty stores for the most part.  They will be manned by people who love books and who know their stock.  These employees will interact with their customers, get to know them.  Sure, there might be a coffee shop or bakery or wine bar attached.  After all, readers are spoiled now.  They want their triple soy latte or whatever as they browse the shelves.

But it will be more than that.  These indies, if they are smart, will also work with small e-publishers and self-published authors.  They’ll sell download cards or codes for these e-partners.  Not only will that help service those readers who have gone digital, but it will get money in the pocket for the store owners.  They’ll carry print versions, often from Lulu or Createspace or several other POD publishers, for these same digital authors because not everyone wants an e-book.  Author events will be back as will partnerships with libraries where the store helps with library events.

Finally, for those who haven’t heard, an author who for a very long time was the lone voice in the forest promoting the benefits of digital self-publishing has decided to go on a blogging hiatus.  Joe Konrath announced his decision to take a break from his very successful blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, a week ago.  He isn’t planning on shutting the blog down permanently.  He just doesn’t know how long he’ll be gone.  However, his departure, for however long it might be, will be noted.  Here’s hoping his blogging batteries get recharged soon.

So, have we reached the tipping point for e-books?  I think so.  Not only are e-book sales almost matching those of hard cover sales, but e-book readers are now very affordable.  For the price of dinner for two a then a movie, you can buy a Kindle.  The loss of Borders and the lack of bookstores in many areas means more and more people are having to turn to internet stores for their books.  I can’t help but think that will bring about more readers buying e-books, especially when the home page of Amazon touts the new, lower priced Kindles as well as the Kindle Fire.  But don’t leave B&N out either.  Their homepage features the Nook models prominently.  But, maybe I’m wrong.  What do you think?

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.