Why You Can’t Find Indies in Bookstores (via @tglong)

Terri Guiliano Long gives her perspective on the distribution of independent publishers’ books:

In 2011, Barbara Freethy, a #1 New York Times bestselling author of thirty novels, began self-publishing her backlist. Freethy has sold an amazing 1.5 million books. While she’s currently in talks with distributors, bookstores do not yet stock her self-published titles. It may be tempting to chalk it up to a conspiracy to marginalize indie books—conspiracy theories are fun! In reality, it comes down to dollars and cents.

Terri breaks down some of the barriers to successful distribution, and outlines some hope for the future:

Barbara Freethy is currently exploring her print distribution options. “This is a huge untapped market,” Freethy says. “I personally have many, many readers clamoring for my books to come out in print . . . [now] if they don’t have an electronic reader, they’re out of luck.”

This is quite a lengthy article, and there are some great examples of agents and publishers (and authors) working within the confines of the existing system to get their books out there.

Check it out here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/11/why-you-cant-find-indies-in-bookstores_n_1418839.html

Some Authors Do In Fact Need a Publisher/Is a Small Publisher Right For You? (via @PhoenixSullivan, HT: @thecreativepenn))

I’ve combined two posts by Phoenix Sullivan here – the first is a reminder amidst all the self-publishing hype that not every method works for every writer:

Leaving aside issues of ego and desire, where some authors will only feel validated and complete when they see their physical books on physical shelves in their hometowns, let’s examine the business side of traditional vs self publishing, and why going traditional is still a viable option — for some. Interestingly, it wasn’t that long ago when this examination would have been between print publishers and digital-only publishers. Consider for a moment how the very definition of “traditional” has changed in a few short years.

She lists what this means (quoted verbatim from the article):

  • The Big 6 with (potentially) aggressive print and digital distribution
  • The mid-size publishers (think Harlequin) with equally (potentially) aggressive print and digital distribution that caters in general to a more niche audience
  • Small print-first publishers that concentrate on print distribution and supplement (often heavily) with digital
  • Small digital-first publishers that concentrate on digital distribution and supplement with print-on-demand for select titles
  • Small digital-only publishers that operate virtually
  • Publisher coalitions that assist members primarily with digital publishing, which includes many of the recent agent/publisher models
  • Self-publishers with a primary concentration in digital

Her article is detailed, examining each of these in turn, and dovetails nicely into a more recent post by Phoenix, which looks into whether small publishers might be a good fit for you:

As with most questions, the answer is … it depends. One of two statements must be true for you to even consider it:

  • You have life challenges (work, family, volunteer commitments) that preclude you from studying the book industry well enough to make savvy business decisions and/or from overseeing the details of editing, covering and publishing the book yourself.
  • The small publisher offers value-add in the form of benefits that aren’t in your arsenal.

She continues, and again, it’s a lengthy article that delves into that list and also analyses a handful of things to be wary of (eg. long-term commitments).

Definitely worth a read:

But everyone’s situation is different, as is everyone’s measure of success or degree of expectation. All I ask is that you be smart in choosing your path. And I’m betting that’s what you want too.

The first article is here: http://phoenixsullivan.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/some-authors-do-in-fact-need-publisher.html

And the second here: http://phoenixsullivan.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/is-small-publisher-right-for-you.html

Publishers Think of You as Customers I SWEAR (via @scalzi)

John Scalzi discusses the assertion that publishers don’t consider readers as customers. His experience is different:

[H]aving worked with a number of publishers in a professional capacity for a dozen years now, in both non-fiction and fiction, at no time was it suggested to me, either by words or by how my books were sold, that my publishers don’t consider readers to be their customers. To be certain, they are not the only customers; publishers work directly with retailers, who are often but not always the middlemen in the relationship with publishers and readers, and they also work with libraries and schools. But only a foolish publisher is not aware of and solicitous toward its relationship with the reader, who is, after all the ultimate consumer of the product.

John digs deeper into his own experience with traditional publishing, and you’ll also find additional feedback in the comments from Teresa Nielsen Hayden, which makes for a good read.

Explore more here: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2011/12/27/dear-readers-publishers-think-of-you-as-customers-i-swear/

What To Do When Your Book Gets a Bad Review (via @epublishabook)

Along with a form rejection, a bad review is up there on the list of soul- and ego-crushing things that can happen to a writer in the course of their daily working life.

Patricia from http://www.epublishabook.com/ has a two part article discussing some prevention and coping strategies for bad reviews.

There are different kinds of bad reviews, and each should receive a tailor made treatment. Bad reviews can be divided according to their source or to their content.

Patricia provides a very nice, detailed breakdown of how to respond. The core message, as you should already know, is that an author should always be polite and courteous. Your image is your brand, and your public behaviour is your image.

I particularly liked how to avoid (not cope with!) criticism of your style:

Critics about the style
These are best avoided by offering free sample chapters.  A reader who does not like your style will simply not buy the book and have no reason to complain. If it happens nevertheless, most of the time, it is best to ignore it, or to hope that other readers will comment on that critic.

Note that doesn’t help you if you’ve already received the bad review, but it’s a healthy and supportive mitigation strategy.

Do check out the rest. You can read part 1 here: What to do with a bad review – Part 1 – Looking at the source of the review

…and part 2 here: What to do with a bad review – Part 2 – Looking at the content of the review

Discussion on Ebook pricing using the Starbucks pricing model (via @sydneywriters)

The Sydney Writers centre reposted a great article by Elle Lothlorien about how she adjusted her ebooks prices upwards and increased sales. She postulates that a few different reasons account for the behaviour, and compares this to expensive coffee at Starbucks. There are a couple of insights into reader approaches to pricing. Having started at $2.99 she says:

The first revelation took place at the beginning of October. While skimming various Kindle reader forums, I ran across a thread on the topic of pricing. One reader wrote that she never bought a book that was $2.99 or less because it was sure to be self-published “indie crap” riddled with typos.

This reader perception doesn’t even have to be true; the simple fact that it exists needs to be taken into account.

Consider this: In mid-October I raised the price of The Frog Prince to $3.99. I immediately saw a jump in sales. And when I say immediate, I mean overnight. Within a few days the book had leap-frogged for the first time onto two Amazon Top 100 lists.

The article is fascinating and pretty detailed. But if you are feeling a glimmer of excitement, read what happened next:

At the beginning of November, I raised the price to $4.99. In November I sold 224 copies. I raised it again to $5.99 at the beginning of December, and that’s when the whole thing began to pick up steam.

Even more excitement! If you’re interested in managing pricing on your self-published books you could do worse than read it: http://www.writingbar.com/2011/12/interviews-with-writers/one-author-shares-what-she-learned-from-starbucks-pick-an-ebook-higher-price-and-turbocharge-her-sales/

Amazon signs up authors; Publishers need a new angle

You won’t hear me saying that traditional publishing is dead. But I will say that if they don’t pull their act together and reconfigure for the new world, they’re going to be dead. The old model, where a good author didn’t have nearly as much choice in getting their work in front of people as they do now, is becoming uncompetitive. Change-or-die, frankly.

So to add to the old-school woes, the New York Times released an article talking about Amazon’s role in signing up authors directly, offering them more creative control than a traditional publisher, and generally treating them like what they are: the actual source of  their income. This isn’t news, of course, but the NYTimes article is pretty thorough.

Publishers say Amazon is aggressively wooing some of their top authors. And the company is gnawing away at the services that publishers, critics and agents used to provide.

I read about plenty of discontent with Amazon, often from booksellers (remember this?), but the reality is that if Amazon is offering a competitive package to authors, why would they go through the trials of self-publishing/traditional publishing at all?

“It’s always the end of the world,” said Russell Grandinetti, one of Amazon’s top executives. “You could set your watch on it arriving.”

He pointed out, though, that the landscape was in some ways changing for the first time since Gutenberg invented the modern book nearly 600 years ago. “The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader,” he said. “Everyone who stands between those two has both risk and opportunity.”

I have to disagree in part: there is an ever growing need now, more so than ever, for the hidden heroes of publishing, the service providers formerly hidden behind the walls of traditional publishers: the typesetters, the cover artists, the freakin’ editors. Literarium is pretty much predicated on my expectation that these professionals will be more in demand than ever, from both self-publishers and small publishers who outcompete the traditional businesses. Saying that editors don’t fall into the ‘really necessary’ part of the writing/reading process is foolishly overvaluing the quality of unedited writing out there.

Just sayin’.

He is right about one thing though: it’s like the shift in the music industry (which almost destroyed them due to their inertia) and the shift in the movie industry (which despite their imbecilic decisions on content availability is thriving, contrary to fearmongering reports by industry bodies).

Amazon has started giving all authors, whether it publishes them or not, direct access to highly coveted Nielsen BookScan sales data, which records how many physical books they are selling in individual markets like Milwaukee or New Orleans. It is introducing the sort of one-on-one communication between authors and their fans that used to happen only on book tours. It made an obscure German historical novel a runaway best seller without a single professional reviewer weighing in.

There’s also a reference to Kiana Davenport’s dramas with Penguin. All very interesting, and interesting times. For people who are invested in the publishing industry, as opposed to a specific business model in the publishing industry, it’s all pretty exciting.

Here it is: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/17/technology/amazon-rewrites-the-rules-of-book-publishing.html

Brand Recognition in Publishing (via @steampress)

Martin Latham blogs on http://www.thebookseller.com/ about publishers squandering significant brand recognition through mergers.

Nobody knows who published Stieg Larsson. By this, I mean no normal customer—even a Larsson fiend—could tell you the publisher. This matters because readers follow particular publishers, and this silent relationship is a rich source of whole genres. For instance, Picador can take chances because it has a following of customers who expect edgy, often unpleasant tales, such as Ian McEwan stories in the 70s, and Emma Donoghue’s Room in 2011.

It’s an interesting thought: do you expect a certain quality of material, or a certain approach to a genre, based on the publisher?

Few other imprints have kept their audience so carefully. Pan, with its satyr flautist logo, gave us Ian Fleming and lurid thrillers. Collins, with its fountain logo, meant wonderful non-fiction. These two names have lost their discrete identity, but customers would still get their wallet out if they suddenly reappeared.

I know that Angry Robot Books has a reputation for quality writing. So does this mean that the indie presses are beginning to take over the distinctive qualities of old?

Read the rest here: http://www.thebookseller.com/blogs/making-imprint.html