Wednesday, April 24, 2013

An Awful Week for Industrial Publishing

What an awful week for industrial publishing.

We may be witnessing an inflection point. The oft predicted drop in ebook prices is progressing. The final major US bookseller is on the ropes, mergers and closures are occuring monthly, and with their collusion having failed, the larger actors appear to be engaged in vicious battles over a shrinking pie. All the while, Amazon's Kindle continues to grow, and Kobo continues to innovate. These trends do not appear to be reversible. The entire media landscape is shifitng to digital content.

What does this mean?

It means a lot of good people are going to lose a lot of good jobs.

This concerns me because I need and love editors. This concerns me because I need and love designers. But it isn't time to start a martini fund. It is time to start taking fishing lessons. The trade winds' direction is obvious to anyone not hiding under a desk, but, fortunately, there is still plenty of time for folks within the industry to take action.

It would be nice if editors had their own Konrath. Someone to point out that where they are isn't where they have to be. But right now there's not anyone like that, so here is about the only advice I can give you: Don't assume your job is protected. Events are moving far too rapidly. It's time to polish up your resume, take a class on business or two, and prepare to hang up your own shingle.

There are already examples that you can follow. Red Adept is a shining beacon of what a small publishing house can be. They don't have expensive New York offices, they offer both a la carte and comprehensive services, and they have a waiting list a mile long. There are going to be plenty of opportunities out there, but folks are going to have to be nimble.

These are incredible times. Prepare to be faced with incredible decisions.


ETA (4/25): And the news just got worse. Mike Shatzkin reports on the findings of a friend who "owns a pretty substantial bookstore":

"To further underscore how slowly book inventory moves, another report they do shows that more than 80% of the titles in the store do not sell a single copy in any particular month. So it is no surprise that an analysis of books from a major publisher that promotes heavily showed that more than half the new titles they receive from that publisher don’t sell a single copy within a month of their arrival in the store, which would include the promotion around publication date!" [emphasis mine]

You read that correctly. An industry insider just said that despite their "curation," "expert touch," and "marketing savvy," half the books a certain large publisher is placing on store's shelves are never getting into the hands of readers. What on earth are these authors handing over lifetime rights for, then?

I'm stunned by this last one. I'm struggling to understand how it could be sustainable.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Publishing just got (more) complicated

The Supreme Court, in a rather far-reaching ruling on copyright law, just gave foreign buyers of things like books and movies the right to resell them in the United States without the permission of the copyright owner. The 6-3 decision involved a USC student from Thailand that figured out that he could make money by purchasing textbooks at lower costs in Thailand and re-selling them in the United States. The ruling also featured a dissent by Ginsburg, Kennedy and Scalia. (Yea, you read that right.)

From the Washington Post:

"Had the court come out the other way, it would have crimped the sale of many goods sold online and in discount stores, and it would have complicated the tasks of museums and libraries that contain works produced outside the United States, Breyer said. Retailers told the court that more than $2.3 trillion worth of foreign goods were imported in 2011, and that many of these goods were bought after they were first sold abroad, he said."

What should authors take away from this ruling?

Well, it's a bit to early to tell, but here is one of a few possible scenarios bouncing around in my head. Let's say that you are a disgruntled traditionally published author. What if you were to sell the English print rights to one of your books in, say, India.  Now, lets say that the terms of that deal ensure that those books will cost only a quarter of what they do in the US. Could you then re-import and sell your "India Edition" books in the US and undercut your own US publisher?

Think I'm going crazy?

Well, check out Courtney Milan's post on some of the many unanticipated impacts the rulings might have on the fiction market. Until the legal dust settles, my advice would be to not sign any global rights deals or non-compete clauses. We are living in some crazy freakin' times.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Business of Self-publishing:
Of Fan Pages and EdgeRank

As an end consumer of Facebook content, I feel Facebook's filtration algos have gotten a bit out of hand. I use a browser plug-in called FBPurity to force the Facebook news feed to sort by "most recent," but I'm still not catching everything. For instance, a band I like announced a new album last week and that announcement wasn't pushed to my feed. I liked the band's page for a reason; I wanted to know when their next album was coming out. I was left wondering why I should have even bothered.

If you want to ensure that you get every post a page makes, there is indeed a workaround. But as a fan page manager, you have to be realistic. Few Facebook users even know of the like sub-menu's existence, and the feature will probably be phased out eventually.

Events like these coupled by the vocal ditchings of Facebook by fellow authors like Kevin Hearne inspired me to get educated. That's how I stumbled on a blog called Just Ask Kim. I've found it pretty valuable. She talks about the history of EdgeRank in this thirty minute video [with bonus meow]. If you're managing fan pages on Facebook, it's worth pulling out a notepad and giving it a listen.

So where does that leave people like me? Paying to reach folks who liked my Facebook page simply isn't in my budget. (I need to spend that money on great editors and cover artists.) So I'm just going to continue to focus on directing everyone here for announcements and to the New Releases list for publishing updates. Hopefully, a service like will come along and get us out of this toxic consumer-as-product model of social media. But that's a far and away pipe dream. Until then, I guess I'm going to just grin and bear it, keep experimenting, and see what works.

Now back to cleaning up some dialogue...


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Huge Amazon Gold Box Deal on Textbooks

An unusual Kindle Daily Deal today. It's almost all textbooks.

So if you need a digital version of something like Pocket Medicine

 (my favorite)

Swing over to the main page. Some of the prices are still ridiculously high, but it's worth checking to see if they are offering books that cover any of the classes you might be taking in the next year or two.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Aaron Swartz: How to Get a Job Like Mine

Aaron Swartz at a Creative Commons event
Photo taken by Fred Benenson,
and shared under a Creative Commons
Generic Attribution license Swartz helped promote

At the age of fourteen, Aaron Swartz co-authored the RSS 1.0 protocol.
He founded Infogami.
He helped form the Creative Commons.
He participated in the creation of
He was one of the key figures behind
He helped kill SOPA/PIPA
And he was being prosecuted for "stealing" academic journal articles.
Aaron Swartz died yesterday.
He was twenty-six years old.

If you have a moment, please read Aaron's short article entitled, "How to Get a Job Like Mine." His principles work. I've tried them.

Rest in peace, Aaron.


ETA (01/12/13 4:45 PST):

-Cory Doctorow on Aaron Swartz's death
-Prosecutor as Bully - Lawrence Lessig on Aaron Swartz's death
-Official Statement from the Family and Partner of Aaron Swartz

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cyber Monday Deals

Quick heads up. Amazon is running a huge sale on ebooks to celebrate Cyber Monday. Lot's of the titles are from "indie" publisher Open Road. I picked up Lilith's Brood: Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago by Octavia Butler. That and Cloud Roads will be my Christmas reading.

Another sweet (but perhaps bad sign for Microsoft shareholders) deal is Windows 8 64-bit System Builder DVDs for only 70 bucks. I don't really recommend upgrading from Windows 7, but if you are building a new PC, this beats the Windows 7 Home Edition System Builder DVD price by over 20 bucks. Add a third-party hack and you can enjoy the faster boot times and improved encryption of Windows 8 while retaining the look and feel of Windows 7.

Happy Holidays,


Update 11/27/2012: The sales are over. : (

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Dalton Caldwell on Link-gate

You may have already heard from other authors like Kevin Hearne (1|2) or tycoons like Mark Cuban that changes are afoot at Facebook. (Slate featured an article on the topic, as well.) The quick and dirty version is that when we used to make a post on FB, everyone that liked our pages would get to see that post. Now, if sources near and far are to be believed, only 15% of my audience do. If I wish to reach the once usual 100%, I must pay, and pay a lot. There is some variability to this phenomena due to a master algo called EdgeRank, which, if I understand it correctly, functions not unlike the social ecosystem found in a high school cafeteria. Receive enough votes and you are awarded a seat at the popular table. Receive too few, and you are left debating Timothy Zahn continuity errors with me in the corner.

But the true purpose of this post is not to moan and groan. It is to draw attention to an incredibly insightful post by Dalton Caldwell, a reasonably well known entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. In this post, Mr. Caldwell outlines his vision as to where Facebook is headed—and it's a mind trip. Here's just a tiny snippet:
Facebook newsfeed is an embodiment of our war on noise. We depend on the newsfeed optimizer to protect our limited attention span, and as a consequence, Facebook gets to choose what stories we do and don’t see, just as Google chooses which search results we do and don’t see. Conceptually, this seems very lucrative: Facebook is auctioning off our limited attention span to the highest bidder, as long as the bidder has a candidate newsstory to promote.
This is what Like-gate is about.
I encourage you to read his post in its entirety here.

Disclosure: Mr. Caldwell is presently developing a competing social media platform called You can see him outlining his company's core values here. I have to do a bit more due diligence, but I'll probably be joining within the week.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Amazon's November Specials

Found a few goodies in the new batch of Amazon under $3.99 titles.

Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles for $3.99

Felix Gilman's The Half-made World for $2.99

Martha Wells's The Cloud Roads for $1.99

And a fun non-fiction title called Wicked Bugs by Amy Stewart for $2.99

Also, I noticed one title that I hadn't seen before called Forged in Death, written by Jim Melvin ($1.99). It's the first in a new fantasy series. The initial reviews look pretty good. Anyone read this one yet?


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Animenzzz Is Animazing

You guys need to check this pianist out on YouTube. I just spent the entire day listening to his work. I especially liked his versions of "Daydream Syndrome" and "In the Garden of Sinners." Enjoy!