Immediate seating available
SOPA bubble: Popping
SOPA: eMedia class exercise with Jane Friedman
Marketing: Not even for ready money, Mr. Wilde
Marketing: Looking for ‘Ferriss Effects’
Apple: Introducing iBooks 2
Amazon: Not the way everybody would like to hear it
Amazon: Customers stand by their Fires
Publishers: Unskilled leading the re-skilled?
Digital: Barefoot and app-happy
Digital: You download them how?
The Novel: Riffing on quandary
For once, it doesn’t matter how cold it is in New York. As the first big annual F+W Media conferences of 2012 heave into action, the upholstery is toasty. ConfabWorld is cooking.
And we don’t have to wait for the massive Digital Book World Conference & Expo to open on Monday. Attendees of the Writer’s Digest Conference, which opens Friday, will find themselves in a Seventh Avenue salon superheated by the snickers of self-publishing authors who think they have the biz licked – and by the fuming of other writers determined to go less gently into that 99-cents furnace.
To reassure you quickly: you don’t have to be there to be there.
If you’re not able to join us on the hearth and find your own chaise-chaude in our book-ly ballrooms, no problem. We’ll be sure some smoke gets in your eyes.
Warmed by the sociability of new media, our industry loves Twitter. Perhaps you’ve noticed. Well, of course you have. So keep these hashtags handy: #wdc12 and #dbw12. Another good one to add daytime ET on Monday is #dbwsum – that’s the DBW Marketing Summit.
Also: software willing, my site’s home page – PorterAnderson.com – will display a self-refreshing capture of hashtagged tweets. I’ll be doing my live-tweet coverage of select sessions, from top to bottom, in hopes of giving you a coherent account of the proceedings. And our community is unhampered by shyness when it comes to blogging, columnizing, opining, and scrawling on vacant walls at ConfabWorld.
You keep an eye on the tweets. We’ll keep you going with comely confabulation.
- Preview: Digital Book World Conference & Expo 2012
- Preview: Writer’s Digest Conference 2012
- Your Guide to Writing & Publishing Conferences, 2012
- How To Get The Most Out Of A Conference
And as we the people of letters convene, I want to catalog some of the kindling – sorry, wrong word – a few of the drier twigs, that’s better, which are fueling what surely is among the most fired-up conference season this business has seen since Margaret Mitchell fanned those other flames.
Every chair at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers is a hot seat. That’s because just about anybody who can make it to a registration table can accuse all the others of messing up everything — and be accused of messing up everything.
We’re going to see 70 agents slammed by 90-second pitches from 450 authors for three long hours at WDC.
And while the carpet is being replaced after that, cast a wary eye over this list of companies attending DBW. Yes, that’s Our Friends From Seattle and Google and Barnes & Noble and Apple and the Big Three-Plus-Three and the top 400 partners and rivals immediately south of them — all up in there at once.
Be aware that the nearest exit may be behind you. This could simply disintegrate into a 1,200-person brawl in the ballroom. Shall we finally start jacking up authors’ royalties? Royalties? I got your authors’ royalties right here. Why not just slug it out and be done with it? (I like “brawlroom,” don’t you?)
Watch for discount code DBWFIGHT, $40 off on your ambulance ride.
And as the news media close in for their special coverage, here are just a few says you might see the tracer fire fly on Reuters’ video:
- How do agents feel about self-publishing authors these days? How do agents feel about publishers? How do agents feel about agent-publishers? How do agent-publishers sleep at night?
- How do traditionally published authors feel about agents? And commissions? And self-publishing authors who brag about having no commissions?
- How do small publishers feel about the Big Four-Plus-Two?
- How do the Big Six’s staffers feel about being told in meetings, “You guys better digi-up”?
- How do any of us feel about metadata? It’s driven Laura Dawson to knitting.
- How do independent bookstore owners feel about the Interwebs?
- How do librarians feel things are going? Pack a lunch before you ask that.
- How do self-publishing authors feel about everybody? Okay, we, we know that already.
- How does everybody feel about Amazon?
- And does Amazon feel anything at all?
So don’t get comfortable, know what I mean? Don’t sit back and relax. Sit forward and be tense.
I’m going to run you through a quick litany of multiple viewpoints. The road to ConfabWorld this year is paved with hot coals. Try to keep up:
I know a few agents, and they’re tearing their hair out. An agent recently told me “editors in big publishers are basically readers for marketing departments.” Another said in the past year she’d got more than 10 excellent books to editorial board, with all the editors staunchly behind them, but marketing vetoed them. An editor I know – very senior in terms of job title and the publisher she works for – laments that she is no longer allowed to accept the rich fiction she loves to read and has to publish shallow sure-fire supermarket titles.
London-based author, bestselling ghostwriter, and writing instructor Roz Morris writes these and more telling observations in Why playing safe in publishing is riskier than ever
The major publishers have completely abdicated responsibility for producing the digital versions of their catalogs: it’s all handed over to amateurs. You see it throughout the industry. From the typographical horror of most eBooks, through to the lackluster iPad titles being produced.
Chris Stevens is interviewed by the Toronto Review of Books in Chris Stevens on Alice for the iPad, Book Apps, and Toronto: a Q & A
It seems to me that those of us who sell goods – be they books, white goods, clothes or anything else – need to learn to think far more closely about the user experience.
Sheila Bounford in On Experience at Off the Page (and What of the Book?) before reminding us “Dr Seuss famously said ‘Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple'” in On Change (via Dr Seuss & W H Auden)
The overriding message…is that books are an entrepreneurial exercise, combining the selection of a subject, the self-confidence to stay with it through the reporting and writing ordeal, and a commitment to marketing the results, which for many authors is an especially unfamiliar process.
Peter Osnos at The Atlantic writes Good Writing Isn’t Enough: How to Sell a Book in the Digital Age, an article he bases on the Nieman Foundation for Investigative Journalism’s excellent Nieman Reports edition titled Writing the Book(a free download)
While writing this post, it felt antiquated how bestseller lists still segment out sales by edition (hardcover, paperback, mass market, electronic). If these lists are printed to serve and inform readers—and perhaps that’s a huge assumption?—how much does this distinction matter, except to those inside the industry? How much do these distinctions serve to keep the old paradigms in place? (E.g., “hardcovers” are more important or meaningful than “paperbacks”?)
Jane Friedman, University of Cincinnati new-media professor, industry analyst, and long-suffering host of the Ether here at her site, preps for one of her presentations at WDC this weekend in eBook Statistics For Authors to Watch, writing, “You can not only find various data sets, you can also find many interpretations”
As traditional publishers experiment with ebook sales…it seems they may be pushing self-published authors off the list…The average price of a self-published Kindle top-100 bestseller continues to drop, but a new look at these titles’ performance in 2011 suggests these books are facing increased competition from traditional publishers.
Laura Hazard Owen, who assiduously covers publishing for paidContent, has this interesting analysis in Did Self-Publishing Hype Hit Its Peak In 2011?
Amanda Hocking’s “books from Trylle Trilogy were removed from distribution in August, will be republished in weeks, in print and digital formats – and cost a few times more…. In 2011 self-publishing was bearing the badge of novelty. Now it becomes the part of the digital publishing landscape…Publishers and authors would like to avoid such stories (as Hocking’s) and that’s why they’ll find each other much sooner – and that means that less good quality books will come out as self-published ones.
Piotr Kowalczyk writes up his Top Self-published Kindle Ebooks of 2011 [Report], as Jane Friedmannotes, a “helpful parsing of Amazon data” with which we can begin to discern “Is the 99-cent price tag for e-books wearing out?” and other issues
We should stop thinking of self-publishing simply as a nice way for indie authors to be published. Viewed another way, measuring self-publishing activity calculates the amount of money Amazon (and others) are no longer sharing with publishers. And it’s growing.
The emphasis is mine. This ringing comment comes from the Milano office of ATKearney in its upcoming report at DBW. Mike Shatzkin, conference council chair, used it this week in his walkup to some of the data sessions in the conference ahead, Show me the data!I may give it one more ride in a later segment of the Ether, as one of the most penetrating evocations yet of the industry — inclusive of Amazon
I get millions of hits a year on this blog. When people discuss self-pubbing, my name often comes up. But the people who visit this blog, and discuss my self-publishing efforts, are writers. Writers aren’t buying my fiction. They aren’t buying my non-fiction either–I have an ebook called A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing and it is among my lowest-selling titles. The people who buy me are readers, and the vast majority have never heard of me. Readers find me on Amazon, because Amazon has made it easy for my books to be discovered… If one of Amazon’s imprints offers to publish you, accept. Right now they are the only publisher who can increase your sales.
Joe Konrath – as he says, “People consider me to be one of the mouthpieces of the self-publishing movement” – here takes on The Value of Publicity, positioning it as fairly analogous to the standard author platform encouraged today
We’ve compiled an informal account of all of the self-published ebook authors to make the NYT bestseller lists last year with an original work (thus we are not including reissues or short-form pieces). Contrary to the popular impression, the total number is…11. The authors, along with the date of the first appearance on the list, are:
Nancy Johnson (2/20)
Victorine Lieske (3/6)
Stephanie McAfee (3/27)
Heather Killough-Walden (5/1)
John Locke (5/8)
Courtney Milan (7/10)
Darcie Chan (8/28)
Chris Culver (9/4)
Rick Murcer (9/4)
CJ Lyons (9/11)
The one self-published nonfiction author to make the list was Sarah Burleton, whose WHY ME? debuted on the 10/2 list
Michael Cader, writing at Publisher’s Lunch in How Many Self-Published Authors Were Bestsellers In 2011? has the above sobering numbers, suggesting, as has been stressed many times, that the Konraths and Hockings (pre-St. Martin’s) are exceptions to the rule. And Laura Hazard Owen‘s headline above about self-publishing hype having hit a kind of peak in 2011, bears serious consideration
Twilight and The Hunger Games showed young adult fiction to be a potential goldmine. Authors and publishers quickly latched onto the galaxy of online book sites, where a vast young readership roams, as the key to global success. But can you harness that energy? Should you even try? More and more bloggers are reluctant to host the author blog tours that now swamp book sites – only to find that publishers refuse them free advance review copies of the new books they want. Who wins there?
Julie Bertagna, in YA novel readers clash with publishing establishment at the Guardian reminds us that another issue dogging the industry is the abrupt diffusion of critical voices. The rise of blogging reviewers simply pulls the rug out from under yet another once-orderly, standardized element of business, the assumption and protocol of mainstream-media criticism. As Bertagna sees it, “The hardest thing a writer has to learn is that once you publish a book, it’s no longer truly yours.”
It is undeniable: we are at transformation. And I suspect that 2012 may well be the most important year in any of our professional lives and, quite possibly, in the history of the book. With that in mind, I wanted to share some of our 2011 year-end results for Sourcebooks. While these data points are just for one publisher, we believe that they can help us better think about the year that we get to create in 2012. I hope that they help you as well.
Dominique Raccah, publisher at Sourcebooks, announces a superb performance for 2011, including an 19-percent increase in revenue growth and print-book sales running 11 points higher than the Bookscan average. It’s in the ebooks arena that she trumpets some of her most ebullient news this way:
And there you are. Comments and quips and coverage that represent only some of the camps within publishing, now making the pilgrimage to ConfabWorld. What we do hear, even in this small sample, reflects just how many ways there are to look at the industry. We are many, many stakeholders. And at times, our aims, yes, do cross. See you in our simmering opening conferences of 2012. As Bertagna at the Guardian writes:
If you can’t stand the heat of the blogosphere – don’t Google yourself.
The widespread Internet blackout Wednesday, in which sites such as Wikipedia and Reddit went dark to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), seems to have influenced members of the U.S. Congress.
After weeks of impassioned argument and confused claims and counterclaims — some of the more preposterous numbers taken apart by Julian Sanchez in How Copyright Industries Con Congress — Zoe Fox on Wednesday evening at Mashable has the news, headlined PIPA and SOPA Co-Sponsors Abandon Bills.
Over at paidContent, the tone is even more definitive: Tech Industry Breaks Back Of SOPA As Republicans Jump Ship On Black-out Day. Jeff Roberts writes “prominent Republican lawmakers like Senators Mario Rubio and Jim DeMint announced they no longer supported the Senate version of SOPA known as the Protect IP Act.”
By just after 4 p.m. on protest Wednesday, Mashable reported, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is withdrawing his support — with an announcement on Twitter.
It gives government and corporations unprecedented power to stop all kinds of online activity that they (authorities) don’t like.
When WKRC Cincinnati needed an on-air specialist to talk about the SOPA/PIPA blackout protests on the 18th, University of Cincinnati new-media Prof. Jane Friedman — former publisher of Writer’s Digest and host of Writing on the Ether here on Thursdays at her site — was the natural bookings get.
In the CBS affiliate’s report, Websites Protest Internet Piracy Act With Blackouts, viewers had a chance to hear a bit from UC students in their media complex.
And they got Friedman’s mercifully uncomplicated brief on the criticisms leveled for many loud weeks at both the Senate’s and House’s proposed bills:.
The law as written is so wide-reaching that it could potentially stop sites like Facebook and YouTube from normal day-to-day functions.
The Gotham Gal has been under the weather this weekend. Last night we made soup for dinner and decided to sit on the couch and watch a movie and go to bed early. After dinner, we fired up Boxee and checked out Netflix. Nothing good there. Then we fired up the Mac Mini and checked out Amazon Instant Video. Nothing good there. Then we went to the Cable Set Top Box and checked out movies on demand. Nothing good there… We would have paid good money to watch Sherlock Holmes or Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. But it simply was not an option. So we went with a TV show that was free and then went to bed.
This is venture capitalist blogger Fred Wilson in Scarcity Is A Shitty Business Model. While his piece is aimed at the film industry, there’s a lot to pick up here for books. How recently have you looked for a paperback to buy for a friend, only to find that a title out for months still is available only in hardback, ebook, and audio formats? I just walked smack into the problem when I tried to find a paperback copy of The Art of Fielding as a gift. Hardback, ebook, and audio? Out since September. Paperback? Not until May. We are wading through the same sort of Old World thinking Wilson describes here.
I am sure there was a time when scarcity was a good business model for the film industry. And I am sure that many of the leaders of the film industry came of age during that time. I understand their muscle memory in terms of the scarcity business model. But restricting access to content is a bad business model in the age of a global network that costs practically nothing to distribute on.
There are a number of causes for this. The first is that it’s easier to pick out the national media targets than it is to pick out the high-value bloggers. If you walk into any bookstore, you can look at the newsstands and see which magazines are nationally-distributed, and you recognize certain names. Same with television. With the blogsphere, however, you actually have to dig, and know how to use multiple tools to figure out whom you should be speaking to.
Never one to hide his own light under a bushel, Tim Ferriss gets off a lot of refreshing wisdom, forward-leaning and respectful of the times, in his talk with Michael Ellsberg for Forbes, The Tim Ferriss Effect: Lessons From My Successful Book Launch. He’s right about the tip-over we’re all watching for, a moment in which the connectivity of the socially mediated world becomes recognized as a more palpable assist than the weakening channels of old mainstream media.
Characteristically, he’s none too patient with anybody who wants to go a bit gently into this new night. But with such lines as ” with a feature from some D-list blog, they’ll sell 100 times more,” he certainly nominates himself for blog booster of the year, and his reasoning is sound. The audio of the conversation is fun to hear, too. These two guys yakking encapsulate the less-formal buddy system approach to marketing in which “it’s all about developing relationships.”
Authors and bloggers are storytellers. They have the same language and make their living by sharing perspectives and stories, which is why their audience match better. If an author hopes to win in today’s world, be a great storyteller, find other great storytellers.
Apple has announced iBooks 2 at an education-focused event in New York City’s Guggenheim Museum. iBooks 2 was touted as a “new textbook experience for the iPad” by Apple’s Phil Schiller. He told the audience that “Kids are getting smarter thanks to their tablets, whether they’re older and studying for finals or kids playing a Dora game.”
But, he said, kids faced challenges in education: “The truth is, if you’re a high school student in the US, it’s not easy. If you are one of the ones that are lucky enough to work hard and graduate, you may not be best prepared to compete in a global environment.”
Matthew Panzarino at The Next Web writes Apple announces iBooks 2, a new textbook experience for the iPad on Thursday morning (19th) as the announcements are being made at the Guggenheim.
Amazon’s plagiarism problem came to light again last week after Fast Company reported that many of the bestselling self-published “authors” in the Kindle store were actually copycats who uploaded other writers’ e-books under different titles. Using the Kindle Direct Publishing platform, the copycats are able to hijack the sales of the original authors by simply copying and reselling their works.
Jeff Roberts and Laura Hazard Owen both contributed to paidContent’s write-up here, Why Amazon’s Plagiarism Problem Is More Than A Public Relations Issue. In answer to questions from Roberts and Owen, Amazon responded.
An Amazon spokeswoman called me this morning…and told me that Amazon does employ screening software. However, the company would not specify the kind of software it uses…
Illegal copies are hardly unique to Amazon, of course. The Kindle store is just the latest in a long line of forums, from Grokster to YouTube, through which third parties have offered works without the creators’ permission.
Most times, the websites are not legally at fault. The law protects them by granting “safe harbor” status…that helps internet companies avoid liability when a third party posts copyrighted material on their sites.
Despite the poor early reviews for Kindle Fires, actual users love the tablet according to a proprietary survey of 216 Kindle Fire users by RBC Capital.
Two big takeaways from RBC: Amazon will make money on the Kindle Fire through app, eBook, and other sales.
And people are using Kindle Fires for reading eBooks more than surfing the web. This is surprising to us because the iPad is mostly seen as a web surfing gadget according to our own survey of users.
We would, however, propose that another kind of re-skilling is necessary at many (if not most) publishing houses in preparation for the future. That is training in basic management skills. Without casting aspersions on anyone at any publisher, we’ve noted in our work with clients that many individuals, particularly those in middle and junior management roles, lack many of the basic tools needed to be effective managers.
In that deft way Don Linn has of getting to a point without clearing an offended roomful or two of readers, he points out in Publishing Management: The Next Generation – at Firebrand Associates’ welcome new “From the Whiteboard” series of posts – that realities and changes at many publishing houses have left them with a dearth of good management material.
News organizations have seen this, too, the managerial track becoming in some instances all but devoid of editorially experienced personnel as both in-house training and institutional memory fell away. If you’ll give Linn’s quick piece a read, you’ll find that there’s a difference here, in that “career paths for senior managers in publishing have often run through the editorial or sales side of the business.”
Don’t get us wrong. We’re certainly not suggesting turning creative people into “Suits” or McKinsey consultants, and we know what can happen when the bean counters take control of a creative enterprise. We do, however, feel strongly that good management will be at least as important as technical skills for those publishers who survive and prosper going forward.
In 2012, there is a huge opportunity for retailers to bring their catalog experiences to life on the iPad. For example, shoppers should be able to build avatars and virtually try on clothes, making mobile shopping an interactive, enjoyable and functional experience.
As if the stack of unwanted catalogs in your mailbox isn’t enough, Erik Loehfelm puts together a list of 5 Digital Publishing App Trends to Watch in 2012 for Mashable, and includes a fearful vision of those things beeping and blinking and cutting all kinds of interactive flips to waste your time and money.
Homeowners should be able to take pictures of their living rooms and upload them to the catalog app, then “decorate” rooms with the items from the catalog. And forget paint swatches – soon you will be able to take a picture of a room, choose and try different paint colors on the walls, click to buy, and have it ready to pick up at a nearby store in 15 minutes.
And if I’ve done all that, the store can deliver, I won’t be picking it up.
Until August 2011, our data showed that the computer (desktop or laptop) was the prevailing purchasing platform. Today, however, more and more people are purchasing directly on their dedicated ereaders — 49% of respondents to the August 2011 fielding, up from 36% in May 2011.
Angela Bole doesn’t blow us away with many surprises in her interview with Jenn Webb, A study confirms what we’ve all sensed: Readers are embracing ereading. The only shocker in the Book Industry Study Group’s (BISG) Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading survey results, as far as I’m concerned, is that until last August, people were still downloading books to their computers, then moving them to their ereaders. Somebody’s been way too attached to their ISB ports. Dudes, the elves bring your books to your ereader while you sleep, where have you been? As they get the hang of things, though, the outlays for books seem to be going in the right direction:
Consumers who migrate to digital are spending less on physical hardcover and paperback books. The research supports this out quite clearly. That said, respondents to the survey actually report increasing their overall dollar spending as they make the transition to ebooks. Almost 70% of the respondents to the August 2011 fielding reported increasing their ebook expenditures, compared with 49% in the October 2010 fielding. Respondents reported increased spending on books in all formats to a greater degree than they reported decreased spending. Assuming the publishing industry can develop the right business models, this is good news.
Conference note: Angela Bole is scheduled to present more on the BISG survey in a session called “Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading” at TOC, the Tools of Change Conference (#toccon), February 13-15 in New York.
The central question driving literary aesthetics in the age of the iPad is no longer “How should novels be?” but “Why write novels at all?”
Well. Some literary aesthetics may feel driven by this wither-the-novel? shrug, but — with all respect — I’ve run into a number of people who find Garth Risk Hallberg’s ‘Why Write Novels at All?’ in the Times more than a little involved.
One commenter, quick to the piece when it came out and I was crawling along through it, myself, writes: “This line in particular jumped out at me as gibberish: ‘Literature, to a degree unique among the arts, has the ability both to frame the question and to affect the answer.’ What does that mean, really?”
I think I know. But then, maybe I don’t.
It starts well enough, with a cogent memory of Antonio Monda and Davide Azzolini‘s Le Conversazioni 2006 on Capri (the late David Foster Wallace was there). And Hallberg’s drive-by reference to Bordieu and aesthetics-as-socioeconomic-artifacts is good, actually. But, of course, one can hardly risk the implied elitism of such a thought in our age when ” a sense of connectedness” is the socially approved motivation – we all “share” and “reach out” and “mash up” so fervently.
Alas, I think Hallberg just gets the Wilis, Albrecht, when he arrives in the Valley of the Shadow of Silicon, and packs it all in for a quick exit. Cheer up, man, after all, your middle name is Risk.
I’m cribbing these words — “delight,” “instruct” — from a 2,000-year-old theory about the purpose of art because they seem today more apposite than ever. Even as you read this, engineers in Silicon Valley are hard at work on new ways to delight you — gathering the entire field of aesthetic experience onto a single screen you’ll be able to roll up like a paperback and stick in your back pocket. It’s safe to say that delight won’t be in short supply, and as long as there’s juice in the battery, we won’t have to feel alone. But will we be alone? Literature, to a degree unique among the arts, has the ability both to frame the question and to affect the answer.
This isn’t to say that, measured in terms of cultural capital or sheer entertainment, the delights to which most contemporary “literary fiction” aims to treat us aren’t an awful lot. It’s just that, if the art is to endure, they won’t be quite enough.
There. Who doesn’t get it when Hallberg ends that way?
Never before has “legitimate art,” represented here by literary work, been confronted by such overwhelming competitive distractions as wave to us now, digital sirens gathered on a shore much too close, whether your ship is Italian or not.
Plug your ears. Lash yourself to one mast or another. Don’t waste a single conference, don’t leave ConfabWorld without some insight you can deploy.
We need some answers and direction. Now would be good.