Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The book is not dead: but long live the book | FutureBook

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The book is not dead: but long live the book | FutureBook:

There are few publishing analysts like Philip Jones prepared to take a knife and cut through the media crap pedaled about the doom and gloom in publishing and the imminent demise of 'the book'. This is another first class piece he has written for FutureBook....

"At times it seems that every journalist or news editor want to break the news that the "book is dead", rather than reporting on the slightly more complicated reality that the book is evolving. That reading is in rude health, but the supply chain from author to reader is being disrupted by, as you'd expect, the growth in a new medium."

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Monday, 29 August 2011

The Culture and New Wave of The Spoken Word

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Music and literature have always had a unique relationship, with both composer and writer in a never-ending struggle to perfectly construct and record their definition of experience through seduction and mystery.

Spoken word can be used to describe a musical or term of entertainment, referring to works or performances that consist mostly of one person speaking or reciting literary work (published or unpublished). Music in spoken word, more often than not, plays a background or accompanying role enriching rather than overpowering the word. The work may be written by the speaker (sometimes improvised in performance) or originate from a renowned writer, but the key should always be to deliver the words in a natural voice. Though presented musically, the song "Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen)" by Baz Luhrmann, is an ideal example of this, as distinct from modern rap music where rhythm and melody is intrinsically interwoven into the overall performance. In entertainment, spoken word performances generally consist of storytelling or poetry, best exemplified by artists like Hedwig Gorski, the originator of performance poetry, British punk poet John Cooper-Clark, the monologues written by Spalding Gray, and the spoken word improvisations by Henry Rollins. In the 1980’s, the BBC began broadcasting British playwright Alan Bennett’s series of monologues called “Talking Heads”.

Spoken word as we understand it today in the western world—as a delivered performance—did not fully evolve until the late 1980s with the emergence of "poetry slams," where spoken word artists would square off in duels (the equivalent of poetry’s X-Factor). Slam poetry and vocal events have been popular in India and Pakistan and many areas of the Middle East for centuries as part of the cultural ritual to weddings and other celebrations and festivals. In the United States, the competition of slam poetry arose in the 1980’s from rap music and competitions for rap vocalists. Like the previous Beat generation of the 1960’s, the common elements were political activism, social commentary and self-exploration. Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York City is one of the earliest venues where poets could go and protest in spoken word about the ills of society. Def Poetry on HBO became the most visible venue for slam-type protest poets, but the poets did not necessarily compete against each other for audience approval. Indeed, every nation perhaps has its own story and folklore on the history and emergence of spoken word artists through culture and song.

Spoken Word as a new wave of cultural expression, just like the writers of the Beat Generation, was adopted by the youth of college circuits to describe a performing art form that began with the Postmodern Art Movement. Spoken Word has become something of a catchall phrase to describe anything that doesn’t fit into the already established categories of performance arts such as music, theatre or dance.

Two prime examples of the explosion of the live spoken word circuit closer to my own home are the Glor Sessions, streamed live across the globe with poet and MC, Stephen James Smith. It takes place in Dublin City every Monday night, featuring a host of local and international writers and musicians in an intimate and impromptu setting. The success of the Glor Sessions has led Stephen and some of the performing artists and writers on to large European music festivals such as Electric Picnic. Dublin also has its own Poetry Slam in the guise of Literary Death Match.

Another example of spoken word flourishing is London’s BookSlam. Book Slam was London’s first true literary nightclub, featuring writers, live music and a Serbian DJ. Guests over the years have included the likes of Hanif Kureishi, Dave Eggers, Adele, Nick Hornby and Kate Nash. BookSlam was founded in 2003 by ex Everything But The Girl musician, Ben Watt, and author and Whittbread Book Award winner, Patrick Neate. Elliot Jack, promoter and producer, and Canongate’s Head of Publicity, Angela Robertson now run the event on the last Thursday of every month. This year BookSlam has taken its first step into book publishing with the release of an anthology of written material—appropriately, considering the subject of this article—inspired by music. The anthology features writing by Irvine Welsh, William Boyd, Hari Kunzru, Simon Armitage, and several other established and new authors.

For the record, Armitage chose to write a poem based on Joy Division's "New Dawn Fades" to explore lead singer Ian Curtis' suicide, Kunzru piece is based on "New Gold Dream" by Simple Minds, Boyd chose Smokey Robinson and the Miracles' "Tears of a Clown", and Welsh went for Republic of Loose’s “Comeback Girl”.

And in the digital age of publishing, BookSlam’s first published anthology will be available as an ebook, multi-platform app, and audio download as well as hardback. The stories will also be available individually.

However, many more spoken word artists and poets have not chosen publish their work in book form, preferring instead to use video and audio recording and the reach that mediums like YouTube and live performance can deliver. Spoken word artist Hedwig Gorski rejected what she described as the "dull-drums" of book publishing in the 1980’s. What is very definitely clear about the place the spoken word movement has in our oral culture and literature today is its continued rise across the world in all languages. The new wave of self and digital publishing has given a voice to many writers without a formal academic background, and whether live on a stage of performance, or through digital and audio platforms of distribution, the modern writing community is embracing spoken word in a way not seen since before the days of the Guttenberg Press.

Believe me, this whole digital age of publishing is not all bad news for the book reader and purist. Now, more than ever before, there are more and more chances to get close and personal with local and international poets and authors. Check your event listings for literary events, slams and festivals in your local area.

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Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Pan MacMillan Australia Announce Digital-Only Imprint

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Pan Macmillan Australia today announced the launch of Momentum, a digtal-only imprint, and with books from new and established authors as well as republishing out of print work.

From the press release:

Pan MacMillan Australia announced today the launch of MOMENTUM, its new digital-only imprint. Momentum will publish an exciting and vibrant list of new works from established and emerging authors, as well as partnering with agents and individual copyright holders to digitally republish titles that are currently unavailable in print. Publishing ebooks and utilising print-on-demand (POD) technology, Momentum aims to make new and old books more accessible than ever before.

Momentum will combine all the editorial expertise of a traditional publishing house with strong and highly focused marketing and promotion, at the same time embracing the international potential of the digital market by making its ebooks available globally.

The Momentum list will go live in February 2012, with new titles from John Birmingham (author of Without Warning, After America, and the forthcoming Angels of Vengeance), Andy Griffiths (The Just series, The Day My Bum Went Psycho, The Bad Book and the forthcoming The 13-Storey Tree House), Rusty Young (Marching Powder), novelist and academic Liz Byrski (Last Chance Café), as well as a new iOS app from baby whisperer Tizzie Hall (Save our Sleep).

Birmingham says, ‘This is so cool, so inevitably going to be awesome, that if Pan hadn’t gone there, I was totally gonna go all wildcat and do it myself. It means writers can experiment in ways that just aren’t possible when you’re betting the mortgage on a book that took four years to write. It’s almost an insurgent style of doing things that you wouldn’t expect to see from one of the older and most successful publishing houses. But because Pan are so long lived and successful they bring skills and possibilities to the process that garage-based publishing can’t match. This is the stuff the reader never sees, the editing, the production, the marketing. It feels like the future just caught up with us.’

Momentum will be run by Pan Macmillan director Tom Gilliatt and the list will be managed by publisher Joel Naoum.

Gilliatt says, ‘The growing Australian and global market for ebooks opens up major opportunities for publishers and authors. Momentum, with its digital-only focus, is a hugely exciting new venture that’s been created to capitalise on these opportunities. In Joel Naoum Momentum has a new generation of publisher – innovative in his publishing vision; a true native of the global digital age in his outlook; and a highly skilled and passionate advocate of traditional editorial values.’

Naoum says, ‘Digital publishing provides a highly accessible way for new and established authors to have their voices heard across the globe, to experiment with form and content and to communicate with readers in new and interesting ways. Although print books will continue to be a major part of the publishing industry for the foreseeable future, we are aiming to change the perception of digital as a purely secondary format. Momentum is committed to the highest quality of editing and production, global accessibility and to fostering a relationship with the readers and authors who make publishing books possible.’
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Friday, 19 August 2011

Kit Foster | Cover Designer For Self-Published Authors

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Kit Foster is a book designer and has recently launched his business. He contacted me yesterday to let me know that he is keen to get the ball rolling with his new venture. To get things going, he is offering to design book covers for self-published authors - for free - to help build up his portfolio. Take a look at his work at the link here, and if you think Kit could be of help to you then you can contact him at the link above.
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Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Shoddy PublishAmerica Promotional Practices Earn Wrath of Rowling and Edinburgh Book Festival

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The latest PublishAmerica 'golden pot' promotional offer to its authors has targeted Harry Potter author, J. K. Rowling. PublishAmerica is never a publisher to miss a trick when a celebrity, actor or author is in the news, fresh with the news of the soon to be launched Pottermore (it's just gone into beta mode online), PA come tumbling into the party with a $49/69 promotion claiming to bring any author's book to the attention of J. K. Rowling herself. Indeed, as the PA blurb below tells us that this will happen while a PA delegation is in the hometown of the Harry Potter author.

We will bring your book to the attention of Harry Potter's author next week while our delegation is in her hometown, and ask her to read it and to tell us and you what she thinks. Tell her what you think: in the Ordering Instructions box write your own note for JK Rowling, max. 50-100 words. We will include your note in our presentation for her!

I wonder if this motley PA 'delegation' operate on the same kind of invitation that got them invited to dinner with Random House. I wrote about that particular invitation nearly a year and a half ago. It seems PA haven't learned anything since then and I don't expect this to be the last of this kind of practice. But unlike other literary organisations and literary figures, it looks like Rowling isn't taking this latest PA self-earning promotion sitting down.  

Victoria Strauss, along with ABC News and The Seattle Times, has the full story. This morning, The Bookseller also reports of an another promotional gatecrash by PublisherAmerica at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

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Amazon Launch Kindle Indie Bookstore

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Amazon today announced the launch of the Kindle Indie Bookstore which will be dedicated 'high quality' and bestselling books from authors and independent publishers. On face value, this doesn't look a bad move by Amazon if it does help to promote worthy self-published books. In addition, Amazon has also announced some other new features including improved 'look inside'.

From the Amazon Kindle Newsletter:

We are excited to announce the launch of the Kindle Indie Bookstore ( on This page will provide readers a convenient way to explore and browse some of the indie selection available on Kindle from KDP authors and publishers. We hope the Kindle Indie Bookstore will showcase top selling, popular and high quality books from independent authors and publishers. "We are excited to highlight our growing selection of indie books to Kindle readers through the launch of the Kindle Indie Bookstore and provide this new avenue of exposure to KDP authors and publishers,” said Atif Rafiq, General Manager, Kindle Direct Publishing. Please read the Kindle Indie Bookstore FAQ for answers to commonly asked questions.

Dig a little further into this news and authors will quickly discover that the new Kindle Indie Bookstore is not a free-for-all. Submissions by authors to have their books featured will not be accepted.

From the FAQ's:

How can I become a featured author?
Our editorial team selects authors to highlight in this area based on criteria that we believe will best serve the interests of Kindle readers. At this time, we do not accept submissions for this placement.
How can I have my books featured in the Kindle Indie Bookstore? We use a combination of automated techniques and editorial activities to select books based on criteria that we believe will best serve the interest of Kindle readers. At this time, we do not support any specific requests for placement. The likelihood of appearing within the Kindle Indie Bookstore is higher for highly rated, popular and top selling books.

The cynical however may look upon this move by Amazon as the first step towards cleaning up the house in light of the vast number of self-published books flooding their retail database. For Amazon to remain the most successful online book retailer it must make it as easy as possible for readers to find the books they are looking for as well as allowing Amazon to fully harness their marketing and recommendation engines.

It will be interesting to see how this develops over the coming months.
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Sunday, 14 August 2011


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This will probably be the last index published until late September/early October as I have a pretty busy schedule  coming up over the next two months. I suspect as we move closer to the financial quarter four for 2011, there will be quite a number of changes with a the companies I include in the index. There are one or two publishing services that I don't expect to see surviving into 2012, and there are also a few at the bottom I am considering removing because of their poor showing, lack of foresight and development, and output.

The index takes a great deal of time to put together, and it involves following and analyzing not just the 70 companies included here, but a further 50+ on the edge of entering the index. As always, I would ask companies to keep me updated on what they perceive to be improvements to their services, but again, as always in my correspondence with them; don't spam me with correspondence about actual books. I am not interested. The Publishing Index was set up to review your company services and it is not a device or platform to promote your authors or books. What matters to me is the value of your services, experienced by your authors.

Let me once again thank the authors and companies who regularly feed me back with updates, experiences and information which all goes into producing the Publishing Index chart every month. Your input is invaluable and always welcome.

Beyond my own reviews on each company (which plays a small part in each company's index evaluation), all the data gathered is entirely subjective and based on positive and negative correspondence and formulaic analysis. I deliberately avoid making my own comments when the chart is produced and published each month, in so far as highlighting movements of significance in the index. It should speak for itself if followed closely. The companies in the top 20 are there for a reason, because they follow and respect the core values a good self-publishing service should offer. If you want to know what those vales are then you'd best go here to read the book I published on self-publishing, or here, to read the articles I have written on the values I believe should exist in self publishing.

For now, here is the index for August...

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Saturday, 13 August 2011

The Literary Agent’s Indie Ebook Roadmap - How Literary Agents Can Survive in The Digital Age | Mark Coker - Smashwords

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Smashwords founder Mark Coker shares his views on how he believes literary agent can survive in the age of digital publishing by producing the “The Literary Agent’s Indie Ebook Roadmap" slideshow.

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Thursday, 11 August 2011

Vantage Press Launch Trade Imprint

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US self-publishing service, Vantage Press, today formally announced the launch of its trade imprint, Vantage Point Books, backed by a distribution program agreed with Ingram Publisher Services. The establishment of a trade imprint has been something CEO David Lamb first spoke about introducing in 2010. The announcement included its four inaugural titles of fiction and memoir.

About Vantage Press
For more than 60 years, Vantage Press has been based in New York, helping new and established writers publish their books. Vantage Press offers a premium, full-range publishing service for a fixed fee.

There is no substitute for reading a book, feeling it in the hand, leafing its pages. And if it is your book, summing up thoughts and emotions, perhaps of a lifetime, there is no substitute for having it to hold, share, and treasure.

We take your book seriously. We pride ourselves on our professionalism and customer service. Our staff has on average more than twenty years of experience. When you publish with Vantage Press, you will work hand-in-hand with publishing professionals who will ensure that you and your book receive service personalized in every respect.

By choosing Vantage, you are also enlisting the services of our distributor, Ingram Publisher Services. IPS is an affiliate of Ingram Book Company, the largest book wholesaler in the world. IPS exclusively warehouses, ships, and sells Vantage books. Other Ingram companies allow us to make ebook editions available and give us versatility in printing.

Your book is important. You have invested time in it, and it deserves personal attention. Vantage is dedicated to publishing your book in the most professional manner. Learn about what sets Vantage Press apart here.

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Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Amazon Launch Kindle Cloud Reader

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Amazon today announced the launch of their online Kindle Cloud Reader application. The Cloud Reader will allow users to read the books they purchase both online and offline.

From the press release:

For over two years, Amazon has been offering a wide selection of free Kindle reading apps that enable customers to "Buy Once, Read Everywhere." Customers can already read Kindle books on the largest number of the most popular devices and platforms, including Kindles, iPads, iPhones, iPod touches, PCs, Macs, Android phones and tablets, and BlackBerrys. Today, announced Kindle Cloud Reader, its latest Kindle reading application that leverages HTML5 and enables customers to read Kindle books instantly using only their web browser - online or offline - with no downloading or installation required. As with all Kindle apps, Kindle Cloud Reader automatically synchronizes your Kindle library, as well as your last page read, bookmarks, notes, and highlights for all of your Kindle books, no matter how you choose to read them. Kindle Cloud Reader with its integrated touch optimized Kindle Store is available starting today for Safari on iPad, Safari on desktop and Chrome at

"We are excited to take this leap forward in our 'Buy Once, Read Everywhere' mission and help customers access their library instantly from anywhere," said Dorothy Nicholls, Director, Amazon Kindle. "We have written the application from the ground up in HTML5, so that customers can also access their content offline directly from their browser. The flexibility of HTML5 allows us to build one application that automatically adapts to the platform you're using - from Chrome to iOS. To make it easy and seamless to discover new books, we've added an integrated, touch optimized store directly into Cloud Reader, allowing customers one click access to a vast selection of books."

Features of Kindle Cloud Reader include:

•An immersive view of your entire Kindle library, with instant access to all of your books
•Start reading over 950,000 Kindle books instantly within your browser
•An embedded Kindle Store optimized for your web browser makes it seamless to discover new books and start reading them instantly
•New Kindle Store for iPad is built from the ground up for iPad's touch interface
•Your current book is automatically made available for offline use, and you can choose to save a book for reading offline at any time
•Receive automatic software updates without the need to download new software
•Select any book to start reading, customize the page layout to your desired font size, text color, background color, and more
•View all of the notes, highlights, and bookmarks that you've made on other Kindle apps or on Kindle
•Sync your last page read across your Kindle and free Kindle apps so you can always pick up where you left off

Kindle Cloud Reader is available for Safari on iPad, Safari on desktop and Chrome starting today. Kindle Cloud Reader on the iPad is optimized for the size and unique touch interface of iPad. Without even leaving the app, customers can start shopping in the Kindle Store and will find a unique and immersive shopping experience built specifically for iPad's Safari browser.

Kindle Cloud Reader will be available on additional web browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, the BlackBerry PlayBook browser, and other mobile browsers, in the coming months. customers can start reading their Kindle books immediately using Kindle Cloud Reader at

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Lulu Blog | (Not) Getting Your Book on a Retail Shelf...and the Big 'E' RA-RA

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Lulu Blog » (Not) Getting Your Book on a Retail Shelf

This is always the kind of blog post put out by self-publishing services that irks me. The below piece is from today's Lulu blog.

"I believe that one of the biggest mistakes in any marketing endeavor is not defining a clear goal. It’s easy to get caught up in a clever idea while losing sight of what you wish to accomplish. As authors, we are all trying to market our books. The way in which you promote your work will depend greatly on what you’re trying to achieve. I have read a number of blog posts by self-published authors describing ways to get one’s book on retail shelves. Most of these articles, however, don’t answer that fundamental question … why? Why bother trying to get your title on a retail shelf?"

Clearly Gavin from Lulu is reading the wrong blog posts from self-published authors. Probably, many of them are using services like Lulu, and they are also wondering why their books don't appear on bookstore shelves. What Gavin doesn't tell us is that at least eight out of ten books sold (approximately) sell directly from high street bookstores, and not as the hype will have you believe, from online retailers. Fewer books still, sell directly from the online bookstores or services like Lulu, Outskirts Press, Infinity, Xlibris, AuthorHouse and CreateSpace. Even large commercial publishing houses offering online purchases represents a single presentage figure of their overall book sales. The marketplaces where the bulk of online book sales are generated comes from recognised sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, Smashwords, Kobo and Apple's iBookstore. Certainly, small and independent presses can maximize online direct sales through heavy and dedicated marketing to their own community, but this remains a captured and engaged audience.

What is worth considering is the sales outlook for the author new to self-publishing. Unless the author has built up a networked following based mainly online, then the likelihood is the author is going to be faced with the same protests and frustrations from family and friends claiming - "I tried to buy your book in the store but it wasn't there and the sales guy said he hadn't heard of it or just couldn't stock it because of rules from head office!"  Aunt Maple and Uncle Ben, your best friend from accounts at work who loves reading, and your next door neighbour still buy their books over the counter and that is where they will expect to find your book when it is published.

My own belief is that the e-publisher only model of business is only sustainable in certain genres of the US market, and globally, for the next two to three years remains in genre specific (romance and Sci-Fi) and the niche markets of readership. I've seen too many new e-publisher start-ups hit the rocks early on, and I don't believe sustainability will happen unless that imprint or new e-publishing kid on the block is propped up by a larger print publishing house. Right now, the model that is best geared to work is a publisher operating in both print, electronic and audio mediums, and prepared to be flexible book release by book release. It was one of the fundamental reasons that swayed me to sign with my own publisher, Book Republic, earlier this year.

I don't disagree with some of the points made by Gavin in the Lulu posting, and he is right to quote Joel Friedlander (even though Joel's comments are taken slightly out of context re fiction/nonfiction sales), but again, like so many other ra-ra self-publishing, ra-ra ebook articles, such viewpoints continue to be espoused from a small island located off the coast of the mainland of the publishing industry, and often cite authors with a firm grounding in traditional publishing.    
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Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Industry Sales Rose 3.1% in 2010; Trade E-book Sales the Big Winner | PW

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Industry Sales Rose 3.1% in 2010; Trade E-book Sales the Big Winner | PW

"Total book publishing revenue rose 3.1% in 2010 to $27.9 billion and posted two-year growth of 5.6%, according to figures released Tuesday by BookStats, the joint AAP, BISG program developed to create a comprehensive analysis of industrywide sales. As expected, the gain was due almost entirely to increases in digital products which offset declines in all print formats. Among the major formats, e-book sales across all categories rose 38.9% in 2010, to $1.62 billion."
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Monday, 8 August 2011

Digital Book World | HarperCollins CEO Brian Murray Interview

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In this exclusive interview from Digital Book World, Brian Murray, CEO of HarperCollins, discusses the thinking about books beyond their print containers, return on investment and keeping up with the pace of innovation, and the HarperCollins’s 26-lend policy for ebooks in libraries.

Read more at HarperCollins CEO Brian Murray Interview on Library Ebooks | Digital Book World

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