Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Smashwords Courts Literary Agents

Smashwords, the California-based company that converts and digitally distributes Word files uploaded through its interface, is offering a suite of services to literary agents. The company will allow agents to digitally convert their authors' files, for free, and also provide agents with metadate on the files, as well as merchandising at

Speaking to the decision to court agents, in particular, Smashwords founder Mark Coker said many authors, with out-of-print titles, would prefer to let their agents handle things like digital publication. "Agents represent the most commercially successful authors. These authors are now asking their agents to add e-publishing services to exploit the potential of their reverted-rights works and unpublished works. Although all authors have the freedom to self-publish, many would prefer to delegate the e-publishing and back office duties to their agent so the author can focus their energy on writing."

Through a change in its metadata tagging, Smashwords will now have a field for publisher and agent, where previously there was only the option to indicate a publisher for a title. Agents, who can create an account for free, will also be able to have the titles they upload onto Smashwords appear in a co-branded Smashwords bookstore that will group represented titles by agency.
Smashwords does not charge to convert files, but does take a 10% commission on the list price of books it converts and then sells through other retailers, such as Apple and B&N; it takes a 15% commission on titles sold directly through Smashwords. A number of agencies have titles available on Smashwords, including Dystel & Goderich and the Beverly Slopen Agency.

*From PW Daily

Friday, November 18, 2011

Barnes & Noble Sees Bright Future in Digital

Barnes & Noble sees it sales of e-books rising from about $250 million in 2010 to over $2 billion in 2015, according to a presentation made by CEO William Lynch at Liberty Media’s investor meeting Thursday. While e-book sales are expected to skyrocket, sales of print books through B&N are expected to fall from about $3.6 billion in 2010 to about $2.8 billion in 2015, Lynch reported.
Despite the decline in print sales by 2015, B&N sees its share of the print book market growing over the years from an estimated 17% in 2010 to 20% in 2015 due in part to the closure of Borders and what it believes will be the decision by large chain stores that currently sell books as a sideline to abandon the business. As the company said in September when it reported first quarter results for fiscal 2012, it expects the demise of Borders to boost store sales between $300 million to $400 million on an annual basis. Based on industry forecasts, B&N sees the overall print book business falling from an estimated $21 billion in 2010 to $14 billion in 2015, while e-book sales rise to $7 billion from $1 billion.
B&N’s growth won’t come from just sales of e-books, however, but from gains across the digital spectrum. It anticipates that in fiscal 2012 it will sell $1.8 billion in Nook devices and content (e-books, magazines, apps and PubIt! services) compared to $880 million in fiscal 2011. It put its share of the digital newsstand business at about 30%, and Lynch reiterated what he said in September that PubIt! is B&N’s fastest-growing digital business.
He also once again stressed the importance of using Nook displays in its stores as a competitive advantage in selling digital devices and content as well as its 35,000 booksellers. With Borders gone, Lynch noted is the only national bookstore chain remaining for developers, leading to favorable deals. Lynch also repeated B&N’s strategy of expanding in the educational toys and games business. 
For its part, Libery laid out some of the reasons it made its $204 million investment in B&N earlier this year during the investor meeting. It too cited B&N as being the only national bookseller that operates profitable stores with short-term leases and with a good chance to profit from the liquidation of Borders. The physical stores will drive sales of digital goods, Libery said, and noted that it believes B&N is "cracking the code of e-book service, e-reader and low-end tablet market."
* From PW Daily

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

September Bookstore Sales Rise Slightly

Bookstore sales continued to do better than expected, at least as measured by the U.S. Census Bureau. According to preliminary estimates, sales in September rose 0.7%, to $1.55 billion and were up 2.8% for the first nine months of 2011. Revenue includes all sales made at stores where at least 50% of its sales come from books and also reflects the final going-out-of business sales at Borders.

For the entire retail segment, September sales rose 8.5%, and were up 8.1% in the first nine months of the year.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Long Road to a Final Cover Design

Sometime, when I have a week free, I'll tell you all the long and twisting tale of how the cover of The Distant Shore changed and changed and changed. Suffice to say there were over 30 different versions at one point! All that is over now, thank goodness, and we have a stunning new cover.

Now I have to make sure all the online files on different sites (Amazon,, Bowker, Ingram, B&T, et al.) get changed!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Taking Extreme Measures to Find the Self-Publishing Holy Grail

By Jeremy Greenfield, Editorial Director, Digital Book World

In early 2011, Alex de Campi approached literary agent Ethan Ellenberg with a graphic novel.
De Campi, a 39-year-old music video and commercial director and graphic novelist based in Durham, NH, hoped that a publishing house would pick up Ashes, a follow-up to her critically acclaimed 2005 graphic novel Smoke. After making the rounds at publishers with Ellenberg, de Campi realized she would have to fund the Ashes project herself; while some publishers were interested, they would not agree to pay the artist while the book was being drawn, she said.
These days, self-publishing is common. Once stigmatized as “vanity publishing,” the practice has lost some of its stink with authors such as Amanda Hocking and Barry Eisler self-publishing their way to big-time book-sales and commercial success.
What is less common are some of the extreme measures authors take to fund their self-publishing projects. Some sell their possessions – even the clothes off their back – while others enlist the help of their family, friends, clients and colleagues. The point isn’t, as the name “vanity publishing” would suggest, merely to see one’s name in print – the rewards today for a successfully self-published book, some authors believe, are potentially great: a deal with a major publishing house. Hope springs for this self-publishing set, despite the fact that the number of self-published authors who are picked up by a major publisher is dwarfed by those who are not.
Getting creative in the case of de Campi, meant turning to Kickstarter, a crowd-sourcing website where entrepreneurs can raise money from the public for their projects. As was widely reported in book blogs, de Campi set up an account on Kickstarter to raise $27,000 to publish her book. Much of the money is to be spent paying James Broxton, the graphic artist for the book. Through Kickstarter, those who want to support de Campi’s book can buy a limited-edition hardcover copy plus a serialized digital edition for $30, or a cameo for themselves as a minor character in the book for $1,200, for instance.
“Next year there will be this little club of people getting chapters of the book,” said de Campi. “Once the book is done, we’ll be sending out hardback editions. This then lets us still have room for a trade edition down the line.”
For de Campi and others, this is the goal: Get picked up by publishers who once rejected them and reach a mass market.
Michelle Dunn, a 45-year-old author who writes about credit and debt collection in Plymouth, NH, risked nearly everything she had for a shot at this goal.
In 2007, she sold her profitable debt collection business and in an ironic twist the buyer soon failed to make his monthly payments to her. High and dry and running out of money, Dunn tried her hand at writing. Publishers weren’t biting and her family needed an income.
To bridge the gap, Dunn literally sold the clothes off her back – on eBay.
“I had some nice, quality, expensive clothing because I had worked in corporate America,” she said. “I was writing and so I didn’t need it anymore.”
Her book, Become the Squeaky Wheel, came out soon after. The title is almost out of print and its success, in part, helped her secure a deal with John Wiley & Sons for her most recent book, The Guide to Getting Paid, which came out in May of 2011 in hardcover and as an e-book. The Guide is Dunn’s 14th book.
“I self-published 12 books. By doing that, I gained a platform,” said Dunn.
It’s the “Blair-Witch” model all over again.
In the late 1990s, Mike Monello, now-executive creative director and partner at New York-based creative agency Campfire, was a struggling filmmaker. He and his film-school friends were just about ready to give up their dreams of careers in movies.
Blair Witch was one, true, last-ditch effort,” Monello said. “We thought we got to make one last one and make it work or else we have to get real jobs.”
Monello and his film-school friends raised $30,000 from friends, family and other investors to make The Blair Witch Project.
Due in part to a strong grass-roots marketing campaign and a product that was called by critics “the scariest movie ever made” and “ingenious in its simplicity,” the movie was optioned by a major studio for $1 million, plus a percentage of the overall take for the filmmakers, an unheard-of deal for first-time content-creators like Monello and his team.
Anthony Meindl, a 40-year-old acting teacher and writer-director in Los Angeles, also hopes that he can tap the resources and creativity of his family, friends and colleagues to hit it big.
When Meindl met with agents and publishers about his project, At Left Brain, Turn Right, a book meant to help readers achieve success by activating the creative sides of their brains, he was told it was too niche to work for a mass market.
Undeterred, Meindl convinced some of his contacts to provide services usually handled by a traditional publisher. His acting student, Randy Raphael, for instance, designed the cover for the book. In exchange, Raphael is taking classes from Meindl for free.
With the help of those around him, Meindl hopes to publish the book in print in January with an e-book roll-out soon to follow. He and his team plan on sending out review copies and organizing an online advertising campaign.
The goal? Build a publishing empire a la Timothy Ferriss, the self-help author who has sold millions of copies of The 4-Hour Workweek and similar titles. Until recently, Ferriss was published by The Crown Publishing Group, a New York-based imprint of publishing giant Random House. In a twist of the narrative – self-published obscurity to big-time publishing house – Ferriss announced in August that his next book would be published by Amazon, a company that has been a platform used by so many who publish their own work.
Will de Campi’s Kickstarter gambit work? For the funding to kick in and the project to move forward, the graphic novelist will have to raise $27,000 by Sunday, December 18 at 5:02 p.m., according to her Kickstarter page. She has raised almost $12,000 as of November 8. With 40 days to go, she has to raise nearly $400 a day to make it.
Even if she does make it, her agent, Ellenberg, said that there’s no guarantee her novel will then be picked up by a publishing house and re-released to the mass market.
“There are a limited number of slots of the three or four or five publishers who do graphic novels,” he said. “There is a percentage of worthy projects that don’t get published.”
De Campi is optimistic, which is why she left the door open to trade rights in the first place, and, besides, “Part of making art happen is leaning on friends and family,” she said.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Borders Gone But Not Forgotten, at Least Not by Random

The Borders estate has yet to determine how much unsecured claims will be paid on the dollar, at least one large publisher is still scrutinizing what it is owed. At the time of Borders’s bankruptcy filing in February, Random House’s unsecured claim was listed as $35,414,969.25. In May, Random filed a claim stating that it is owed $37,191,889. On the eve of a bankruptcy hearing to determine voting procedures for Borders’s Chapter 11 plan, Borders has filed a settlement agreement that, if upheld in court, would bring Random’s claim to $36,402,158. A confirmed bankruptcy plan could be in place before Christmas, as early as December 20.

Publishers Weekly

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Amazon Launches Lending Library Without the Big Six

As rumored for months, Amazon is getting into the digital book lending business, announcing the launch of Kindle Owners Lending Library for Amazon Prime members. Amazon Prime members—who pay $79 a year for free shipping on products and streaming movies—can now borrow one book a month for free. But there’s a hitch: none of the big six publishers, all of which use the agency model to sell their titles, are participating in the program.
Nonetheless, the model isn’t quite the all-you-can-eat lending subscription service many observers had rumored. Amazon Prime members can only borrow one book at a time, even though the service claims to have “no due dates” for finishing the book. While Amazon touts that the service offers “thousands” of books to borrow and at least “100 New York Times bestsellers,” none of the titles in the program are from the largest trade publishers--Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin and Hachette. The program features titles from a variety of mid-size houses that continue to sell their books using the wholesale model, including W.W. Norton, Scholastic, and titles by well-known self-published authors such as Seth Godin.
Publishers using the agency model have complete control over the pricing of their books and, as some have noted, the model does not allow for the price to be changed or discounted. With the wholesale model, publishers cannot dictate final retail pricing. Amazon's statement in launching the lending program said it is either paying a flat fee to publishers to feature its titles, or paying the standard wholesale discount for each book that is borrowed.
Nevertheless, PW has learned that some non-agency houses have declined to be a part of the lending program. One mid-size publisher that sells wholesale said the “fee” Amazon mentions is a “lump sum” payment that the publisher must allocate to its authors. The fee is said to be determined by Amazon by looking at the 12 month sales history of the titles in question. And according to our sources, some agents are starting to complain about the payment plan.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which is testing several titles in the lending program, said in a statement: “Of course these days we are testing many things and many programs. When Amazon first approached us about prime lending, the terms were not something we could accept. Our position is, our authors need to be protected, we do not want lending to replace selling in the retail environment if our authors lose out. We are not at liberty to disclose the terms of our agreement for this limited test of eight titles, but rest assured, our authors are protected.”
Several big six publishers contacted by PW either declined to comment on the Kindle Lending Library or did not respond to our calls. One industry insider, though, questioned the soundness of a model in which publishers allow retailers to give away their premium content as a loss leader.
Bloomsbury USA, a publisher which sells it titles wholesale, and has books featured in Amazon's Lending Library, said its involvement in the program has less to do with choice, and more to do with its current sales model. 
In a phone interview from London, Evan Schnittman, Bloomsbury managing director of group sales and marketing, print and digital, said that since Amazon buys Bloomsbury titles on the wholesale model, he and other publishers like Bloomsbury, really have no say in how a book is ultimately priced—or not priced—by Amazon. He said the Kindle Lending Library can be classified as a "promotion," which is allowed under the Bloomsbury contract terms. However, Schnittman said Bloomsbury was in the process of examining their contacts to make sure that giving away a book for “free” is allowed. But as long as Bloomsbury receives its wholesale fee, Schnittman said, Amazon can offer the book for what it chooses. “If Amazon, or B&N or anyone who buys from us using the wholesale model wants to sell at a loss, we have no say,” Schnittman said.
Schnittman called the lending program “a classic loss leader.” He said, “If you’re Amazon, your view is to make the Kindle as attractive as you can and to enhance Amazon Prime for its customers. They’ll lose money on every sale simply to promote more Kindles. Amazon PR says that it will increase sales, so we’ll have to see.” But Schnittman was quick to add, “I woke up this morning answering questions about a giant promotional push for my books that I had nothing to do with!”

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Kobo Unveils Kobo Vox, $200 Color Tablet e-Reader

Responding quickly to Amazon’s Kindle Fire e-reading tablet, e-book retailer Kobo is releasing Kobo Vox, a seven inch, full-color, multimedia digital reading device for $200. Reminiscent of both the Kindle Fire and B&N’s NookColor, the new device runs the Android 2.3 OS and offers access to 15,000 free apps.
The new Kobo Vox is available for pre-order and offers all the functionality—read books, magazines and newspapers, play games and use apps, listen to music, watch videos and movies—consumers expect from tablet devices. It also looks like B&N’s NookColor has really set the standard for competing in a tablet marketplace utterly dominated by the iPad. B&N’s notion that a seven inch, reasonably priced tablet (half the price of an iPad) with full multimedia functionality; designed for a targeted range of media consumption, seems to have hit a sweet point in the digital marketplace and is driving the development of these new reading/media devices.
The new device supports Kobo’s Reading Life, a social media application that lets you see what your friends are reading, keeps stats of your reading habits, offers amusing badges for reading accomplishments. The device also supports Kobo Pulse, a more recent addition to Kobo's reading social media that allows readers to start conversations with other readers on any page of any Kobo e-book. The device also allows users to web browse and access their email.
In a phone interview, Kobo CEO Michael Serbinis said Kobo believes in “open platforms” and the Android 2.3 operating system will support standard Android apps—including other reading and selling apps. “We're an open platform and the Android 2.3 OS we're using is not locked down. Of course we expect people will use the Kobo reading app,” he said. Serbinis said the devices can be pre-ordered right now and shipping will begin late next week.
Kobo Vox will have a branded app store offering 15,000 free apps optimized for the Kobo Vox, including pre-loaded apps from RDIO (streaming music), Zinio (magazines, including 12 free promotions), PressReader (newspapers) and social media (Twitter and a Facebook app on the home screen). There are pre-loaded apps for games and an installed dictionary as well as more content (including comics and graphc novels, cook books and other color illustrated works) and more applications through both the Kobo app store and Android Market. Serbinis said the Kobo Vox app store will eventually offer more for-pay apps optimized for the device and that developers can develop and submit apps for the device.
Serbinis acknowledged that Kobo Vox also offers more opportunities for self-publishing, a service which Kobo does provide although it is not marketed.  Currently Kobo does not offer the easy self-service approach of Amazon or B&N’s self-publishing services. “Self-publishing is an exciting category,” Serbinis said, “We do some self-publishing and its growing but we don’t have a self-service program. We’ll have more news coming on self-publishing but no announcements today.”