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Archive for the ‘Future of Publishing’ Category

The Economist has published an interesting article The transformation of the book industry: Disappearing ink | The Economist. In it they point out the inevitability of the shift from print to digital. Already, in the U.S. about one-fifth of publisher’s book sales are digital and that number is only trending upward. E-readers are going down in price. The Kindle is inexpensive enough that people don’t hesitate to take it to the beach.  Still, they show hope for publishers:

Yet there are still two important jobs for publishers. They act as the venture capitalists of the words business, advancing money to authors of worthwhile books that might not be written otherwise. And they are editors, picking good books and improving them. So it would be good, not just for their shareholders but also for intellectual life, if they survived.

If publishers are going to survive they should copy some tricks learned from the music industry, like bundling print with digital and eliminating territories where books can be sold and instead take a more global approach. I have found articles on the future of the book fascinating and will continue to monitor progress. Although I agree with what The Economist has to say, I’m still rooting for independent booksellers. They provide the community we all so desperately need.

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Margaret Atwood gave a charming presentation at the O’Reilly Tools of Change Conference in New York on Feb. 15th called The Publishing Pie. She illustrated her Powerpoint presentation by hand (see image on left) and she speaks on behalf of writers, asking the publishing industry “please don’t forget your primary source”. She also points out that, in a way, publishing has come full circle from her days as an emerging author creating her own covers in linotype or even Dicken’s time publishing serials to today’s authors who are publishing their own work. This video is 30 minutes long, but well worth your time.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6iMBf6Ddjk

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Further to my previous post, Ben H. Winters weighs in regarding the online book review on HuffPost Ben H. Winters: Why I Give Everything Five Stars

The gist of his article:

The problem isn’t that “amateurs” are doing the reviewing: the opinions of regular old readers or playgoers or whoever can be just as valuable, and usually more passionate and interesting, than those of the jaded professionals. But in a world where Amazon sells everything from books to lightbulbs, then asks the consumer to rank his purchase from zero to five, I worry that we start to forget that a book is different than a box of lightbulbs — for the simple, cheesy reason that it emerged from the soul of a human being, and not from a light-bulb factory.

Do online reviews help or hurt authors?

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Are you a person who loves routine? Do you like to know what to expect the following day when you go to bed at night? If you answered, yes then how are you coping with social media? How do you keep up with the bleeps and tweets that dart around your office everyday while you’re trying to get down to the business of writing? Yes, I know I could shut down my email, stop logging into Facebook and turn off my phone, but I might miss something!!

Do you have a stack of books on your bedside table waiting for you to read them? I do AND I have a backlog of recommendations from brilliant people like Nancy Pearl and The Book Bench : The New Yorker and Huff Post’s new page on books Books News and Opinion on The Huffington Post and many more, but if I keep going on this track I’ll never get back to my work.

What happened to the good ‘ole days, like when I was eight years old and I got up every morning, twisted my hair into two braids, ate a bowl of Raisin Bran and read Beverly Cleary for twenty minutes before school. How do I go back? Of course, I understand I’m an adult who’s lived several decades and that this is impossible, but I’d love to know if there is a way to get on top of all this information? My mind is cataloguing like crazy, organizing my bookmark bar into categories — literary agent blogs, publishing blogs, writer’s blogs — you get the idea.

Maybe Jonathan Franzen has the right idea. On NPR he said he shuts himself in a room with no phone, no internet, blinds drawn and puts on large earphones. Maybe I’ll indulge myself one day. Will you?

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Wikipedia defines disintermediation:

in economics, disintermediation is the removal of intermediaries in a supply chain: “cutting out the middle man”.

Ok, now that we have that out of the way, I can tell you about the talk I went to yesterday. Two panels of publishing luminaries discussed the future of publishing at Giga’s loft-like space in downtown San Francisco.

Panel 1: Brad Inman – CEO Vook, Rob MacDonald from Scribd and Zeke Koch from Adobe

  • They agreed we haven’t perfected the digital reading experience … yet.
  • Brad believes stories are moving to a shorter form not unlike what happened to the newspaper when USA Today debuted.
  • Lots of technical discussion on epub and html5. From what I could gather, epub works well on low-powered devices like the Nook and html5 only works on higher powered devices. It sounded like html5 will be the go to development tool. People were asking about a standard format for uploading books to reading devices, but Zack was not very optimistic about this happening. “The people making the technology have a vested interest in keeping their developments proprietary.
  • Digital gives the author more assets. For example, Vook took some backlisted work from Ann Rice and revived it by adding embedded video, author interviews and Twitter creating a wider digital fan base.
  • Vook also has a company called ‘Turn Here’ which has reduced the cost of short-form video author profiles from $15,000 to about $2,500 for those of you ready to go there.

Panel 2: Mark Coker, CEO Smashwords, Nathan Bransford, agent Curtis Brown (and one of my favorite bloggers), Simon Wood, mystery author and John Warren who is on the board of the Media & Policy Center Foundation and works at RAND Corp.

  • John suggested the author model could change, perhaps where people donate money to an author so they can write a book. The author could even use the donor’s name for one of their characters. This suggestion was met with many snorts from the audience, but never say never.
  • One person asked how the reader can sort through the drek to find the gems in the self publishing world. Mark said he’s proud of the drek because if an author helps just one person, then he/she has done a good thing. I think the consumer needs some kind of sifting/reviewing device. Bloggers and social networking sites (i.e. Goodreads, Librarything, Scribd) are a good start.
  • How does an author create his own platform? Simon saids he sends out e-review copies of his books to about 50 bloggers. He can often see an increase in sales the day after a blogger reviews his book.
  • And, the best way for an author to succeed? Nathan said “do what you do best, and do it well” Meaning, only blog if you’re going to stay with it and you are willing to take the time to post interesting material. If you’re no good at Twitter, don’t worry about it.

Thanks GigaOM for an enlightening (and might I add complimentary) morning. It was worth the trip.

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Yesterday, I signed up for a writer’s conference in my new home state — California! There are three reasons why I want to go:

1. My favorite blogger, Nathan Bransford a literary agent based in San Francisco with Curtis Brown is the keynote speaker. Nathan Bransford – Literary Agent

2. The workshops feature several areas of interest including self-publishing, publishing anthologies, using new media and one called “Query letter Mad Lib”. Maybe this last one will help me write the magical query letter that will get me published. Cuesta College Writers’ Conference Page

3. The conference is located in San Luis Obispo. I’ve always loved the sound of this name and the drive from Palo Alto down the coast should be beautiful.

I’ll be sure to report back after I attend the conference on September 17 and 18.

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I’ve spent hours reading about the e-book pricing battle between Amazon and MacMillan. I’ve wondered if I should simply bypass looking for an agent someday and publish my book on Kindle. Can I do the same for the I-Pad?  Or, should I set myself up as a small publisher on Amazon Advantage? I could round up all my aspiring writer friends and we could publish under our own label, use Facebook and Twitter to get the word out about us. Why not? Meanwhile, my book sat. I didn’t write many new words for a couple of days.

So, it’s back to my core business — writing. I need to figure out how to develop more characters in my memoir to avoid boring my readers to death with words only about yours truly. THEN and only then can I focus on the publishing industry.

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