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Posts Tagged ‘publishing’

I want to start by thanking Glenn Reynolds for the link to yesterday’s blog and welcome all his readers from Instapundit.  Pull up a chair, relax and enjoy your favorite virtual cup of coffee or other morning beverage.

It still amazes me how publishers and agents can cry foul when Amazon — or any other entity for that matter — encroaches on what they see as their territory.  It amazes me because it truly shows just how disconnected the legacy publishers and others are from the realities brought on by new technology and the change in reader demands.  Right now, these publishers are crying “foul!” because Amazon is trying to make them unnecessary in the road to publication.  They say they offer so many things of value to the writer, and the reading public, that Amazon and others can’t.  But, as I said yesterday, these very same benefits they tout are the ones they gave up on long ago:  quality editing and proofreading, formatting, promotion, etc.  This is especially true when it comes to e-books, the same e-books these publishers say cost as much to produce as the hard copy that is being released at the same time.  I could go one, but my friend Dave Freer has said it much more eloquently than I can over at Mad Genius Club.

What I do know is that legacy publishers are cutting their own throats, especially when it comes to the e-book market.  I’m not just talking price here, even though the majority of people don’t want to pay the same price for an e-book that they do for a hard cover and most of them don’t even want to pay the price of a paperback for an e-book.  Nor can I blame them, especially not when the legacy publishers view the e-book not as a book at all, but as a license.  They fill the e-book with DRM, which is expensive to the publisher and insulting to the reader/customer.  With DRM, you are limited to the type and number of devices you can read the book on.  Try to read it on an unsupported device and you can’t.  Want to break DRM, you’re called a pirate by the publishers.  Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy toward those publishers, doesn’t it?

These same publishers say they are paying extra, a lot extra if you believe them, to convert that next best seller into an e-book.  If that’s the case, I’d expect there to be no problems with the formatting or layout of the e-book and I’d sure as heck expect it to have been proofread so there are no misspellings, etc.  Guess what, it’s more than likely that you’ll find errors in the e-book.  For some reason, they seem to pop off the screen at you much more than they do off the printed page.  At least they do for me.  I’ve even checked printed versions of books when I’ve found errors in the kindle version and, yep, those errors are on the printed page as well.  I’m not talking indie books here.  I’m talking books printed by the big six publishers.  so where’s that wonderful quality control they’re talking about?

But it isn’t all gloom and doom in publishing.  I was pleased this morning to see the news that there will be two publishers focusing on books for middle grade kids.  The first is from Algonquin and will focus on the YA and middle grade markets and is expected to debut the end of next year.  While I wish it was happening soon, I’m thrilled to see anyone who knows there is a hole in the middle grade market and wants to fill it.  I just hope they fill it with books that are fun to read — and that therefore encourage kids to read them — instead of books that are all “socially relevant” and written in styles that send the kids running from them just as fast as they can.

The second is the one that really excites me because it is aimed at boys.  I’ve gotten so tired of hearing that boys don’t read.  They do.  These people who are supposedly in the know might be surprised if they climbed down from their ivory towers and actually looked at what middle grade boys.  The problem hasn’t been that they don’t read.  It’s that they haven’t had nearly enough well-written and FUN books to read.  It’s my hope that this new venture will provide just that.  At least Move Books’ slogan is encouraging: “Moving Boys to Read”.  Eileen Robinson, publisher of Move Books, gets it, in my opinion.  Here’s what she had to say about how her nine year old son was inspiration for this new venture: “He struggled as a reader, and it was difficult to find books that would grab his attention, make him laugh, and make him want to read on his own. . . He and his friends seem to be drawn more to nonfiction, and like a lot of boys, they tend to read for information more than for pleasure. I am hoping that the novels Move Books publishes will provide that pleasure, and will encourage boys to pick them up rather than turn to a video game.” Well said, Ms. Robinson.  Well said.

So, here’s a hat tip to those who recognize the need to encourage our middle schoolers, especially the boys, to read.  And here’s a swift kick in the pants to those publishers and agents who seem to think we can put the genie back in the bottle and go back to publishing like it was fifty years ago.

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I’m a little late posting this morning and I apologize.  I’d really planned on putting up an open thread today, but a couple of articles caught my eye during the wee hours of the morning as I was trying to convince the scaredy dog (yes, that is a word and the nicest I could call the drooler at the time) that we weren’t about to be tossed into the air only to land in Oz.  In other words, the big, bad dog is scared of rain and kept the household up during the night because we had storms.

Any way, a couple of articles caught my eye.  One has been in the news for a week or so.  There have been the typical knee-jerk reaction from the legacy publishers and those who still believe they are the only hope for the publishing industry.  Another has been sort of ignored because it doesn’t deal with Amazon even though it is yet another example of how some agents are potentially getting into a conflict of interest, or at least a very grey and murky area of fiduciary duty to their clients.

But the Amazon story first.  On the 16th of this month, the New York Times published an article about Amazon bypassing publishers and signing authors to contracts to publish through Amazon.  For some months now, Amazon has been introducing “imprints”.  Several well-known authors signed exclusive publishing contracts with Amazon.  There were a few ripples when that happened, but nothing like the response to the Times’ article last week.  The specifics are pretty simple.  This fall, Amazon will publish 122 titles.  These titles will be across a variety of genres and some will be digital and some hard copy.  Among the authors will be self-help guru Tim Ferrias and actor/director Penny Marshall.And the cries of foul were heard far and wide from legacy publishers.

According to the Times, “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.”

So let’s look at that statement.  While I can’t speak to whether or not Amazon is “aggressively wooing” top authors, it would be a fool not to.  The same publishers who are crying foul are the ones who backed the agency pricing plan for e-books.  This is the plan that lets the publishers set the price for their e-books so there is no competition across the different e-book retailers.  Worse, the general reading public doesn’t understand that Amazon can’t control the prices for those books from the agency model publishers, and it is the one on the receiving end of the bad customer feelings.

But more telling is that these same publishers are crying because Amazon is “gnawing away at the services that publishers, critics and agents used to provide.”  Used to provide is the key phrase here.  Past tense.  As in, these are services that were once provided by publishers, critics and agents and are no longer.  Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  And, frankly, can you blame an author for signing with Amazon if it does offer the editing, copy editing and proofreading, promotion and placement legacy publishers used to and no longer do?  I can’t.

I also think it’s rather disingenuous to have an agent, who also happens to be a publisher, complaining about Amazon taking money out of the hands of agents.  What about putting money into the hands of writers, especially when so many agents these days are either turning into publishers themselves (which brings up the question of just how hard they are going to work to place their clients’ work with another publisher when the agency could be the publisher)?  I’ll be honest, those who are crying “foul” the loudest are those who have enjoyed telling the writer to bend over and cough, forgetting that, without the writer, they wouldn’t have a business.

Read the article and let me know what you think.

Then there’s the second article, which sort of falls in with my last set of comments.  The Perseus Books Group has announced a new venture to “help” authors who want to self-publish.  The catch:  these authors have to be represented by certain agents who have signed agreements with Perseus.  So, that’s how some agents are getting around the somewhat murky ethical issue of literary agents also being publishers.  They don’t.  They just sign agreements with companies like Perseus to “publish” and “distribute” the books.

The article notes that one of the “benefits” of doing it this way is the breakdown of authors getting 70% while Perseus will only get 30%.  Guess what, boys and girls, an author can get that from Amazon now by self-publishing through them.  More than that, any author is capable of putting their e-books into the outlets mentioned in the article.  Even if the author doesn’t have the required Mac computer for iBooks/iTunes, it can be easily done through Smashwords.  Again, quick and easy and without the middleman.

But there’s more.  At least I have more concerns.  Question one, if Author A is represented by one of the agencies that has an agreement with Perseus, does Author A owe a commission to Agent B if he goes through Perseus?  Question two, if so, how does the agency build the proverbial Chinese wall (no insult intended here.  It’s a phrase learned in law school.) to make sure there is no undue pressure put on the author/client to go this route instead of the traditional publishing route?  Conversely, what sort of pressure would the agent put on Author A if the author came to him and said he wanted to self-publish and Agent B really wants to take the book through the traditional route?

I know legacy publishers and agents are scared about where the industry is going.  Or they should be.  Heck, anyone in the business, including authors, should be at least a little scared.  But it really is those who have made their livelihoods on the backs of authors who are the most scared and who are doing their best to find new and imaginative ways to maintain the status quo.  My advice, whether you are shopping a book around right now or thinking about doing so in the near future, decide what route is best for you.  Most of all, if you are offered a contract by either an agent or a legacy publisher, hie thee to an intellectual property attorney forthwith.  Do NOT sign it without first having someone very familiar with the industry looking it over first.  And please, note I said legacy publisher AND agent.

(Edited to add:  Welcome to everyone coming over from Instapundit.  Thanks to Insty for the mention and link.)

(Cross-posted to Mad Genius Club and Naked Truth)

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Borders hits new low

I”m supposed to be writing.  I need to be writing or my editor is going to come through my computer and beat me.  But there are times when you simply can’t believe what you’re reading.  That’s what happened to me as I was skimming the twitter feed through tweedeck over lunch.  OMG, just when I thought I’d seen the worst thought out plan from Borders — specifically, asking the bankruptcy court to let them give some of their execs 6 figure bonuses — I came across this:  Borders is going to charge educators $75 to publish their books.  Yep, you heard me right.  For the low price of $75, any teacher can publish their book through Borders and BookBrewer.  And just what does the teacher get for her hard earned money?  Why she gets a free hard copy of her book.

Now, when I first saw news of this on twitter, I went to the web to find out if it was true or not.  It is.  Borders is going to charge teachers for the exact same thing they can do for free through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Smashwords.  And they are ONLY charging $75 for the privilege of getting ripped off.

Okay, I hear you pointing out that the teacher gets a hard copy of her book.  That’s an awfully expensive copy of that book.  Especially when you consider that you can go POD through CreateSpace and Amazon for free.

So I went to BookBrewer and wasn’t any more impressed than I was with the Borders’ announcement.  To begin with, if you use them to create an e-book, they are going to charge you anywhere from $20 – $40.  For $20, you get your file converted into an EPUB file and you get distribution.  (Read the fine print.  If your book is submitted to an online retailer, it can be rejected FOR ANY REASON and there is no recourse that I see.)  But it gets better.  For $30 they will convert and give you your converted file.  NO distribution.  For $40, you get it all.

Now, color me skeptical, but you can get all of that from Smashwords for free.  And that includes the distribution.  Amazon and BN also allow for free upload and you are put into their stores.  All right, I hear you saying that BookBrewer converts the book for you.  Well, so does Smashwords.  All you have to do is have a DOC file that meets their requirements.  Then there are these two nifty little programs — Mobipocket Creator and Calibre — that are both free and both very easy to use to create either MOBI friendly files or EPUB files.

But let’s look a little further.  Borders promises a free hard copy of the book if the teacher signs up for $79.  Now, there’s not a lot of detail specific to the teacher offer online.  However, Bookbrewer is currently offering this special:  For folks who have already paid BB to create their e-book for them, they can now pay BB an additional $49.99 to create a paperback version of their book.  And, gee, you can order your books at a discounted price and then you can set the price to sell them.  Sounds an awful lot like vanity publishing, doesn’t it?

Now, I may be missing it, but I don’t see anything regarding this so-called POD that mentions anything about distribution except where it talks about sending copies to the author.

So, let’s see, if you are Joe Blow accountant who wants to be a novelist, you can get your ebook put together by BB for $19.99 and for another $49.99, you can have it made into a print book.  If my math is right, that adds up to $69.98.  Hmmmm….that’s less than the $75 they are offering to educators as a “special” price.  Or is it special because IT COSTS MORE?!?

I have no patience for deals like this.  If you know a teacher who is considering it, tell them to run, not walk to Smashwords, Amazon and B&N.  Read what they offer — and what they charge (NOTHING) — and then compare that, and their terms of service, with Borders and BB.

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