Monthly Archives: September 2013

To Self Publish or Not To Self Publish? That Is the Question

With so many changes occurring in the publishing industry, there is a lot of talk about whether or not traditional publishing is still the best way to go for new authors. Of course a plus to self publishing is having complete creative control over your product, but does one just wake up and decide to self publish over taking the traditional route? And what factors go into making that decision? Well according to an article entitled “DIY Book Publishing: Is It Worth It To Self-Publish” Michelle Alerte explores those very questions with three different authors and the overall consensus was that self-publishing was done out of necessity and not as a first choice.

Song of the Shaman author, Annette Leach, turned to self publishing due to the inability to find a publishing company that was willing to not only take a chance on a new author, but one with a book that she categorized as a metaphysical historical fiction. Leach started her own publishing company, MindPress Media, hired editors to review her work, utilized the services of TheBookDesigner.com and BookBaby for cover art and e-book distribution and turned to Ingram Spark, a reputable printing company, to print her books on demand. Over a ten month period, she spent no more than $5,000 which included the cost of starting her own company.

Marlen Suyapa Bodden, author of The Wedding Gift, wanted to take the traditional publishing route mainly for access to superior editors, but after being turned down close to one hundred times due to publishers stating that they “could not sell a book about slavery”, self publishing was the only way to go. Bodden published her book through Amazon.com’s Create Space (previously called Book Surge) in 2009, hired a PR company to help with marketing and put in the leg work of promoting her book for about two to three years. By 2012, her book had made it onto the Wall Street Journal bestseller list which definitely proved those one hundred publishers who turned her down were sadly mistaken about her books selling potential.

Nana Salone’s Game, Set, Match was published through Wild Rose Press in 2010, but due to creative differences on the cover art and little to no marketing support, the book only generated $52 in its first quarter. Such low sales are completely unexpected and unacceptable when taking the traditional publishing route. Salone chose to re-release the self published version of her book with a cover of her choosing in 2012 and made that same amount within two hours as she had with Wild Rose Press and has been hooked on the idea of self publishing ever since. Her Hot In Stilettos book, which is the first in a three book Stiletto series, made it onto the USA Today bestselling list.

Each of these authors were drawn to traditional publishing companies for different reasons, but it is important to note that they all saw value in taking the traditional publishing route. The problem appears to be that these authors were willing to step outside of their comfort zone to produce their work and publishing companies were not. It makes me wonder how many books these companies will miss out on publishing in the future simply because the book concepts do not fit within a cookie cutter image. By taking risks, these authors were able to see first hand on which areas of publishing they should focus in order to reach the most readers and generate decent sales. Publishing companies should use examples such as these to build their relationships with new authors and learn that it okay for them to take such risks as well.

Source: http://madamenoire.com/305431/rules-publishing-changed/

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Issue 1: Publishers Adapting to the Changing Market

“Penguin Random House Makes Moves to Improve Bookseller and Reader Relations”

Since the July merger of Penguin and Random House, those in the publishing industry have been interested to see how the new publishing house will integrate the two companies and how they will fare in the face of internet giants like Amazon and Google. Penguin Random House was formed around the belief that fewer large publishers are better than many smaller publishers in such a competitive market. Now the largest consumer book publisher, Penguin Random House controls more than 25 percent of trade publishing. Of course, size isn’t everything, and some recent moves from Penguin Random House show how the company is working to improve their interaction with booksellers and engage their readership in innovative ways.

This past Wednesday, Penguin Random House announced their effort to make its supply chain for print text more effective. They created the United Fulfillment Group, which will be responsible for distributing over two million print texts to booksellers daily. The goal of this group is to combat the problem between bookstores and their distribution centers. Currently, when a bookseller sells one of their books, the title becomes out of stock simply because most only have one copy available on shelves and reorders only occur once per week. This means that the title wouldn’t be available at that bookstore for anywhere from one week to two weeks, with the consideration of how long it takes distributors to ship. Penguin Random House will now focus their attention on reestablishing their print vendor agreements and making the process more cost effective.

Penguin Random House has also set the bar high in terms of reader engagement; they recently teamed up with Flipboard to curate content for the social-network application. This partnership is kind of a big deal, because they are the first book publishers to do something of the sort. Flipboard has a whopping 85 million users, which means that the publishing house was on a mission to go above and beyond their norm to really grasp the attention of readers. But it gets better—the collaboration includes two digital magazines from Penguin Random House’s best-selling authors, Margaret Atwood and George R. R. Martin. Atwood’s magazine will be based on MaddAddam, her new novel, and will offer readers insight on unique information that wouldn’t be found elsewhere. The World of Ice and Fire will be Martin’s magazine, which will offer in-depth information on the infamous series, as well as current news, excerpts, and vast array of theories. Both magazines are set to drive traffic and get readers talking and engaging. It’s safe to say this was a smart move on Penguin Random House’s part.

Robert Ennis

Bridget Jackson

Beverly Vandenburg

Sources:

“Penguin and Random House Merge, Saying Change Will Come Slowly”

“Penguin Random House Creates United Fulfillment Group”

“Supply Chain News: Theory of Constraints Working in Random House Distribution Center, as Publisher Uses Dynamic Buffer Management”

“Random House LLC Launches Curated Magazine on Flipboard; Margaret Atwood and George R.R. Martin Magazines Mark First Book Publisher’s Entry in Social Magazine Space”

“Margaret Atwood & George R.R. Martin Fansite Curate Flipbard Magazines”

 

“To Self-Publish, or Not To Self-Publish, That is A Trade Publisher’s Question”

To be described as a “legacy” in today’s publishing industry may sound more like mockery than a compliment, because it creates an image that predates the digital revolution and casts its mark in the past–and that’s not the impression long established publishers want to give. They want to be a viable force in this industry today. In an effort to compete, a few publishers have decided to not only add a self-publishing platform to their list of services, but to also vie for favors with authors by offering new features and lower prices.  The Penguin Group has done something similar, by cornering the market with the launch of their self-publishing platform Book Country and with the purchase of Author Solutions in 2012. Following in their footsteps, Simon & Schuster has also added Archway Publishing in an effort to broaden its list of services. While many see this as an attempt by large publishers to establish a new relationship with their authors, others see this as a way for publishers to adopt a new business model.

Truth be told, economically, maintaining conventional publishing models has exacerbated the industry’s financial woes when it comes to both authors and publishers profiting from such a small pools of readers, even if readers are loyal. On the other hand, self-publishing makes for a good construct because authors can keep a larger percentage of their royalties and publishers can provide print options that can successfully reduce their overhead. This means that publishing services are now scalable and less of a financial imposition, and that publishers have more opportunities to partner with indie publishers in an effort to find ways to deliver the same value in smaller creative and marketing units. Additionally, this construct has brought more opportunities for the publishers to connect and maintain open communication with their authors, and subsequently their customers, instead of focusing solely on their products and services, which at times can exclude potential publishing markets.

There is evidence that other publishers are thinking along the self-publishing lines. Penguin and Simon & Schuster have tools that very few publishing companies have, and now there is the opportunity to explore where these services for their authors can provide efficiencies and how the expertise of these authors can add value in the long run.

Bakara Yakub

Sources:

“Penguin Buys Self-Publishing Platform Author Solutions for $116 Million”

Archway Publishing From Simon & Schuster

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World Book, Inc. Launches New E-book Platform

World Book, Inc., a long-established educational publishing firm (responsible for home/office bookshelf staples such as the World Book Encyclopedia (now the World Book Encyclopedia Online)) is taking a cue from some other big players across the publishing community and recently announced that it will launch its first subscription-based e-book platform, World Book eBooks, this fall. As its name (unintentionally) implies, this new platform will be globally accessible to subscribers using any internet-ready device thanks to World Book, Inc.’s decision to have all content support the EPUB3 standard (global distribution format developed by the International Digital Publishing Forum). Content published on this new platform will consist of e-book versions of existing titles from several series in the World Book, Inc., library, and includes an online viewer (rather than digital reprints) of these books that was developed through researching the primary needs of students, teachers, librarians, and other key audiences who would be using the digital publications. According to a Digital Book World (DBW) press release posted to the DBW website today, the “collection includes beautifully illustrated, engaging titles that contain such multimedia features as videos, audio, and games.”

This announcement is one of the first of many like it that the publishing community will see over the next few years. Based on the boom in e-book usage in just the past few years, it should come as no surprise that large and long-established publishers are trying to get into the e-book market without totally scrapping their current publishing business model by offering revamped or digital reprint versions of their current libraries on a subscription basis. This seems to ring especially true for educational publishers, who are more likely to find large subscriber groups such as libraries and schools to support this delivery model. Although this e-book platform is not available yet, so a review of its capabilities is not yet possible, educational texts have a lot to offer the consumer in an e-book format, such as more streamlined access to content, less of a load  for students to carry (literally), ever-advancing digital imaging possibilities, etc.,  and I expect World Book, Inc. will capitalize on that.

Source(s):

DigitalBookWorld.com (September 17, 2013), “Educational Ebook Publisher World Book Goes Direct to Consumer With New Platform”

IDPF.org, EPUB3

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Will Smartphones Soon Be the Preferred Ereader Format?

With the freshly manufactured Kobo Aura costing up to $149.99 and the HD version up to $169.99, is it possible that readers would someday soon bypass the ereader format and read straight from their smartphones? It’s a concept that all ereader producers, including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Samsung, and Kobo, have to consider.

More people than ever are surfing the web with the smartphone, according to a research by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Some 60% of U.S. adults use a smartphone to access the Internet, double that since 2009, and about 20% claim their phones to be their primary source for the Web. And if you’re already surfing the web on your phone, while also tweeting, Facebooking, instagramming, why waste the time going back and forth between your devices? Why carry an ereader no matter how light when you already have a viable, dynamic ereader in your pocket, especially when you could download the Kindle app and the Nook app to access your ebooks?

In addition to losing precious seconds in a social media climate of instantaneous reaction swapping devices, there’s also the cost issue. Ereaders can range from around $69.99 for the basic models to the $200 range for HD models with WIFI and to at least $500 for an iPad. They certainly do not have to be expensive. But smartphone ownership continues to rise among U.S. adults, from 35% in 2011 to 56% in 2013. Compare this with 18% in 2011 and 33% in 2012 for ereaders. And if readers are spending $700 in retail on a phone, or less with a two-year service contract and upgrade eligibility, how many people are also willing to shell out the additional cash to buy an ereader?

Despite Amazon denying that it will release a smartphone this year–and certainly not a free one–it seems only a matter of time that the ebook giant (tyrant?) will enter the smartphone market and try to connect even more directly with its consumers.

Sources: http://www.kobo.com/kobo-aurahd.html

http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Smartphone-Ownership-2013/Findings.aspx

http://www.itworld.com/mobile-wireless/372192/amazon-says-it-wont-offer-free-smartphone-after-all

http://www.the-digital-reader.com/2012/12/27/tablet-ownership-rose-in-2012-while-ereader-ownership-remained-flat/#.UjfQFMakrLM

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Library E-Books’ Privacy Rights

Internet privacy is almost non-existent: Google keeps tabs on your browsing history and sneaks in ads related to what you’ve been searching, Amazon keeps a permanent history of your orders, and the paranoia of digital surveillance is not so baseless after all. It should come as no surprise that any e-books you purchase are recorded by the e-reader companies that you buy from, but what about e-books you check out from your library?

The majority of American libraries elect to follow the high standards that are set forth by the American Library Association (ALA). One of the most important standards the ALA upholds is intellectual freedom. All libraries strive to create an environment where patrons never fear surveillance. Libraries do not record the histories of their patrons.

Having worked at a library, I’ve seen law enforcement denied access to library computer sign up stations to uphold these standards. I’ve had to say “no” to parents who want to view what their teens have been checking out. Intellectual freedom in American libraries is that serious. Libraries want customers to feel safe to check out any book and conduct any research within their walls, but how is this done outside of their walls? How are library e-books kept from being recorded? . . . They aren’t.

Distributors of digital media, such as OverDrive, OneClickdigital, and EBSCOhost, reserve the rights to track and record your searches and your checkout history. How can they do this if even law enforcements respect Libraries’ sacred standards of intellectual freedom? Local and state authorities understand the need for intellectual freedom within libraries and write privacy laws to check themselves and protect the free and open exchange of knowledge and information. Distributors of digital media might agree with intellectual freedom but they understand they will make much more of a profit if they can track your browsing history for future ads and sell your records to third entities. Digital distributors do not write laws for themselves to ensure their customers’ privacy rights—this is broken.

The article below shows how Arizona is the third state to expand their library privacy laws to include e-books. Digital distributors for libraries within the states of New Jersey, California and, now, Arizona will be charged with a misdemeanor should they ever release information about a user’s library activities. Unfortunately, the distributors are still allowed to keep records of checkout histories. It is not just the library e-book distributors that are broken when it comes to privacy rights but the entire Internet. 

Expanding Privacy Legislation to Include Ebooks

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E-books: Unlimited Access

Read until your heart is content! Oyster, a New York-based startup is attempting to do for e-books what Netflix has done for movies and what Spotify has done for music, by creating a new single price subscription service that provides unlimited access to e-books. For just $10 per month consumers will have easier and unlimited access to content, from publishers like HarperCollins to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, with the expectation that many more publishers and authors will make their e-books available in the future. With the launch of its new iPhone and iPod app, by invitation only and on a first-come, first-served basis, iPhone subscribers will have access to more than 100,000 e-books. Similar to Netflix, in that content is organized by genre, ranges from classics to modern titles, and includes well-known authors. Unfortunately, it lacks in best sellers and the availability of new releases comes at a snail’s pace. This has the potential to change as the user base grows, thus acquiring more leverage with publishers.  Like similar apps, it aims to help users discover new content, follow other user’s reading activities and of course, there is the option to share e-books to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The decision by Oyster’s founders to focus on the iPhone and iPod experience first, rather than the tablet was motivated by the assumption that more people carry smartphones and iPods than tablets. Naturally there had to be considerations about the design of the e-reader because these are smaller devices, therefore, the user scrolls through content up and down rather than from right to left, as well as making the font type and size adjustable.

Whether or not this app will serve as the impetus for increased book consumption, only time will tell.

Sources:

Techcentral.ie. (9/09/2013). “Oyster promises all-you-can-read e-books: Publishers wary of subscription model.”  Web.  <http://www.techcentral.ie/22597/oyster-promises-all-you-can-read-e-books#ixzz2eumNDIX3>.

Seth Fiegerman (9/5/2013). “Oyster Releases the First True Netflix-for-E-books App.”  Web. <Mashable.com/2013/09/05/oyster-launch>.

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Conventional vs. Unconventional: Lack of Diversity in the Genre of Science Fiction

In an article by David Barnett entitled, “It’s Time for Science Fiction to Face Up to Discrimination”, he discuses the desire to see more diversity amongst both the writers of science fiction and the characters in their stories. In the article, Barnett explains why he feels it is paradoxical that such an unconventional genre focuses so much on conventional ideas and images. Majority of the main characters in science fiction are white males and although the stories are interesting, it would not hurt to include more examples of the diverse world in which we all live.
Having taken a science fiction course in my junior year of college, the majority of the semester was spent analyzing the works of a variety of authors that had been combined into an anthology. Since I attended an all women’s college, I am almost certain that my teacher made sure that we read a few stories with main characters that were female, but half way through the semester, I realized that she wanted to make us aware of the major disparities between the authors and their stories. We were given the ability to choose which stories we wanted to read, but if we wanted something outside of the normal model of a science fiction story, our choices would be limited.
The World Science Fiction Conference (WorldCon) took place two weeks ago and after speaking with a few attendees, Barnett was able to ascertain that the need for diversity has not gone unnoticed by the convention chairs, but the problem is that those who are seeking change the most are not actively involved in helping to bring it about. Tor.com, one of the largest publishers of online fiction, has become proactive and altered their publishing guidelines to explain the type of diversity that they want the stories to reflect which “includes but is not limited to writers of any race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, class and ability, as well as characters and settings that reflect these experiences.” Science fiction authors and fans alike are utilizing social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook to voice their concerns, but these outlets can only fuel conversations for so long before fans will actually expect to see a change.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2013/sep/06/science-fiction-racism-sexism-discrimination

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