Friday, 29 June 2012


Lulu Launch Publishing Advice Tool


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Lulu has launched a new service called 'The Lulu Publishing Advisor', a recommendation tool geared to advise authors on their book publishing project. Director of Services at Lulu.com, Sarah Gilbert, described the new service:

"The Lulu Publishing Advisor gives authors the advice they wish they'd had before they made a mistake," says Sarah Gilbert, director of services at Lulu.com. "The Publishing Advisor is a fun, easy tool that gives honest, upfront tips for making a book better from basic editing ideas to how to best market a title. Its not the advice your mother or best friend would tell you, but what you need to hear to become the next bestseller."

An author completes five specific questions based around their book and then receives a recommendation report based on the answers provided. I did try the tool, but as much as I provided varying answers based on experience, I never got to the final magical 5th question! Here are the ones I answered choosing every available option. 

Where are you in the overall publishing process?
How would you describe your editing needs?
Describe your current plan for marketing your book?
How much do you know about how to distribute your book?
Question Five??

Eventually you are taken to a screen option detailing budgeting, community, editing and marketing and once you have submitted an email, Lulu provides their recommendation based on their services with links to them.

It's a neat idea, but ultimately it simply looks like a way for Lulu to get your contact email while providing a very basic level of advice.

Good publishing consultation and advice is never based on a prescribed set of multiple choice answers.

[Update: Shortly after using the new Lulu Publishing Advisor, I received a service marketing email from a Lulu representative, confirming I used the online tool and inviting me to make contact directly if I had any further questions on Lulu services and the publishing process.] 

From the full press release:


Lulu.com Gives Authors Free Custom Publishing Advice

Five Simple Questions Put Authors Closer to Success

RALEIGH, N.C., June 28, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Lulu.com, the leader in open-publishing, announced today the launch of the Lulu.com Publishing Advisor, a new tool designed to give authors of all backgrounds and levels of experience customized publishing recommendations for their books, absolutely free.

"The Lulu Publishing Advisor gives authors the advice they wish they'd had before they made a mistake," says Sarah Gilbert, director of services at Lulu.com. "The Publishing Advisor is a fun, easy tool that gives honest, upfront tips for making a book better from basic editing ideas to how to best market a title. Its not the advice your mother or best friend would tell you, but what you need to hear to become the next bestseller."

By completing five simple questions about his or her book, authors will receive a fully customized publishing recommendation based on their answers. The tool is built to gauge where a writer is at in terms of concept, editing, marketing, and distribution and provide the next, most logical steps for their title. The new tool will also provide links for further information and resources as well as contact with a dedicated publishing expert at Lulu.com. The Publishing Advisor is designed to better equip authors to make informed decisions throughout their publishing experience. The tool also provides collectible social author badges to share with friends and fans on popular sites like Facebook and Twitter.

"So far, authors have loved the Publishing Advisor," says Gilbert. "Some have even changed their answers upwards of 20 times to see what the different results would be for their book. The Lulu Publishing Advisor is a great tool for setting realistic writing goals with help from real publishing professionals. Its just one more way Lulu is helping authors sell more books."

No matter if an author is out to make a mint, or just share an idea, the Lulu Publishing Advisor provides a clearer idea of which route to take with their remarkable works. To learn more or to begin your own publishing journey, visit: http://publishinghelper.com


About Lulu.com:
Lulu.com, founded in 2002, is a one-stop shop where, with a few clicks of a button, anyone can publish anything as a print book or eBook for free and sell it to customers all over the world.  Lulu has helped over 1 million creators publish in over 200 countries and territories.  Creators set their own price and keep full creative and copyright control over their works.  With over 1.2 million titles in their catalogue, Lulu is the clear leader in open-publishing solutions.








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The Future of Publishing 2020: Risk (DBW Interview with Carolyn Reidy)


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This video caught my eye over the past week when I was putting together my article The Future of Publishing 2020: Control. Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy was in conversation with Digital Book World's Rich Fahle, a co-founder of Astral Road Brand Media. Reidy was at pains to point out that big publishers today are not risk-averse as may be perceived by those looking in on the world of big publishing.

 

I do take Reidy's point that publishers have now honed their marketing skills when it comes to pushing a new acquisition out to booksellers, but I remain unconvinced that a 'non risk-averse' strategy exists when it comes to the job of acquiring new titles. I thought it a little ironic Reidy choose Frank McCourt's debut book, Angela's Ashes (1996), as an example of a publisher being risky. Sure, McCourt's book is a hard and gritty memoir of a childhood in the tenement slums of Limerick City, and acquired at a time when there was no boom in the memoir genre, but I don't believe it is indicative of the book's big publishing houses are putting out now. More to the point, Reidy's example of risk-taking is sixteen years ago and I'm not convinced the same book would see the light of day from a big publisher. It should also be noted McCourt won the American Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1997) and National Book Critics' Circle Award (1996) soon after it the book's publication.

"The truth is large to medium sized book publishers have been refusing to invest in any kind of real risk strategy for the past twenty years, and that philosphy has stretched—in part—from the desk of commissing editors right to the very infastructure and development of the industry."
The Future of Publishing 2020: Control or (Jeff Bezos stole all my books and ate all the hamsters!)


Reidy is right to point out that big publishers can and have greatly expanded markets for certain genres—the memoir is a clear case—but her comments on the net results should also be noted as to emerging 'book auction' of the past twenty years.

"Angela's Ashes is a perfect example. The publisher and editorial director who wanted to buy that book were passionate about it. At that time there was a kind of belief in the industry—Irish books don't sell, it's a memoir, it's about a poor kid; you know, like please, it's beautifully written—but they were passionate and it was that passion that enabled them at every single step of that publishing process to make sure they were gonna get that book noticed and read. Obviously the book itself was what ended up creating the phenomenal sales it had but they ploughed that field to make it possible. So publishing is really based on passion. I'm in an awful lot of auctions and I don't see any risk-aversion going on. People have shrunk their lists a bit because the marketing of books is more difficult today. There's much more competition in the media. A lot of the old media we used—book reviews, television shows—there's a lot less attention placed on books, as books, not as an industry than there was before."
Simon & Schuster CEO, Carolyn Reidy speaking to Digital Book World at Book Expo America, 2012.


I'd hazard that sales from Angela's Ashes flowed as a direct result of the awards the book won soon after publication and the demand from booksellers to stock the book rather than 'passionate marketing' from the publisher. The real passionate marketing which directly led to the success of the book occurred when McCourt's agent convinced multiple publishers that this was a book worth having on their lists and paying for. I do think large publishers have 'book champions' within their ranks and Reidy made a compelling case in her example above to still believe it's still the case. I just wonder how powerful those voices can still be in publishing.

I'll go back to some old publishing adages and points I have made in a number of my recent articles:


Readers are the best instrument to sell books (That's word of mouth. It's what made Oprah's Book Club such a powerful medium)

Publishers sell books to booksellers (Not readers! Though there are signs publishers are beginning to grasp this simple concept through their development on social media platforms)

Booksellers buy books if they alone perceive a demand from readers


Primarily, my point is that big publishers are still happy to engage in book auctions and risk six and seven figure sums on 'sure-shots' or big-named authors, but more often are unwilling to risk a fraction of acquisition expenditure on midlist or new authors. There are of course a few exceptions to every rule, but right now, big publishers are still in a mindset of less pots - more money, and that's not a strategy that lends itself easily to leaving enough to invest inwardly and nurture and grow what you already have. Risk in publishing needs to be across the board and not just front-loaded. I applaud any publisher who is passionate and willing go for broke to land the next big talent, but that's often driven by a 'we'll sign 'em before you do' philosophy. We've seen the same approach in the world of sports - leading to teams with astronomical wage bills and no indigenous structure to nurture talent already within the team.

Medium-sized and independent publishers don't have the financial clout to compete with larger houses and it forces more diversity and smaller 'multiple-risk and multiple-pot' acquisition. Their yearly budgets cannot be based on extracting the most profit from the least amount of profit-pots.

I'd like to believe that Carolyn Reidy is speaking about a publishing industry, as it is, but I suspect the passion and championing of books of which she speaks is deeply clouded by the ghost of publishing long gone - more than twenty to thirty years ago. Now, the industry is about selling commodity and quantity, packaged to fit into the most marketable trends. Nevertheless, Reidy does share what publishing should be even if we don't all believe it does what it says.

"One of our roles as publishers is to introduce new things into the world and new types of books, new subjects, new areas..."

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Tuesday, 26 June 2012


Indie Publishers Back Agency Model, Criticize DoJ Deal | Publishers Weekly


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Indie Publishers Back Agency Model, Criticize DoJ Deal:

"Nine independent publishers have combined to file joint comments objecting to the pending settlements of the Department of Justice's lawsuit with Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster related to e-book pricing. The publishers noted that while they continue to sell e-books under the wholesale model, they have “benefitted significantly”--along with authors, booksellers and consumers,-- from the ability of the Big Six publishers to adopt the agency pricing model with Amazon, since those arrangements, “contributed dramatically to increased competition and diversification in the distribution of e-books.”"

'via Blog this'
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The Future of Publishing 2020: Disruption


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I've been preparing these articles for a while on The Future of Publishing 2020. One thing I have learned is that predicting the future based on current practices and trends is a precarious business. The publishing industry–as a community and business–is undergoing an utter sea change in methodology and ideology not seen since Gutenberg’s first print press. When I speak of the publishing industry as a community, I include publishers, agents, authors, printers, guilds and associations, as well as readers in this community.

The first article in the series, The Push and The Pull, dealt with the shifts and changes in the industry with the evolution of digitization and how things are shaping up for 2020. In the second article, Control or (Jeff Bezos stole my books andate all the hamsters), we looked at the new emerging players in publishing, how vertical integration has helped some players leverage control from the big six, and how that control may be exercised by 2020. In the third article, we are going to look at Disruption in publishing.

Thursday, 21 June 2012


The Future of Publishing 2020: Control or (Jeff Bezos stole all my books and ate all the hamsters!)


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I've been preparing this article for a while on the future of self-publishing 2020. One thing I have learned is that predicting the future based on current practices and trends is a precarious business. The publishing industry – as a community and business – is undergoing an utter sea change in methodology and ideology not seen since Gutenberg’s first print press. When I speak of the publishing industry as a community – I include publishers, agents, authors, printers, guilds and associations, as well as readers in this community.

I intended this article, as part of our series The Future of Publishing 2020, to deal originally with Control, Disruption and Discoverability in publishing. I’ve decided to begin with just the subject of control now and in 2020 due to the length of the articles.

At the end of my last article in this series, The Future of Publishing 2020: The Push andThe Pull, I spoke about what we should not expect to see in 2020—the familiar big six publishers, and literary agencies operating as they do today. I also spoke about the realities in 2020 of the current terminology we so readily use now to describe the rise of the ´independent author’.  

In 2020, there won’t be a ‘self’ in publishing. It’s meaningless. Come to think of it, in 2020, there probably won’t be a ‘publishing’ in publishing anymore! It’s all becoming meaningless.
 
But one thing is certain. Writers will be writing in 2020. Whatever you do, whatever you write, do what you have to do and believe and enjoy it. Just maybe, someone else will also agree.

In the strictest sense, mankind has been ‘publishing’ by way of record every experience and story since the first drawing was etched on the wall of the El Castillo cave in northern Spain forty thousand years ago. Whether the record of existence is carved on rock or saved for prosperity into the etheral clouds of a digital heaven, our mark is made in the world for those who follow on after we have long departed.

While there are many battles being waged in the world of publishing today over digital rights ownership, pricing, lending, ereader device supremacy, disintermediation between author and reader; perhaps the greatest battle being played out today is for control—but control of what? Less than a hundred years ago some publishers still used their own print presses and undertook much of the distribution of published books. Now, publishers combine in-house staff with freelancers and work with multiple global partnerships to deliver books into the hands of readers, though ,the days of vertical integration in the publishing world may not necessarily be over. Walt Disney Studios might be one of the best examples of vertical integration in the movie business, but the dot com successes of the 1980’s and 1990’s have given us Amazon and Apple—potentially two of the strongest players currently exerting their control on the publishing industry and modern aristocrats of vertical intergration on a global scale.


Change followed by Control

Up until five years ago, the core publishing industry had changed very little in a hundred years. Yes, we have seen publishers focus their strategies and goals on not just being gatekeepers and intellectual content investors of quality literature and entertainment in word form, but stallworths of an industry that must also extract profit to maintain its high moral literary ground. The explosion of the cheap paperback in the 1950’s may have gone a long way to preserve the status quo in the industry, but in the past five years—with the emergence of digitization—there has been no time for standing still and an everpressing need to make sense of a changing and complex industry with new global players and characters at every turn of the page.

You can’t control what is no longer yours. Back in yonder days when the ebook was but a glint in the eye of psychic beholders and the physical book was sacred to publishers, and the only other kid on the block was the audio cassette book (remember them?), publishing was realitively straightforward and simple. Audio books proved a nice distraction and side revenue for publishers, though, the format did prove costly to hire professional actors to read, but worth it if the hardback or paperback was still lingering in the bestseller lists. Well, publishers quickly cast aside serious investment in audio books once the cassette got the boot and some new kid called ‘digital audio disc’ arrived in the neighbourhood but those technoheads in Sony and all those Japanese companies with weird names couldn’t make up their minds on a standard format. Sound like a familiar story? Don’t let any industry analyst or publishing guru tell you the industry as a whole didn’t see ebooks coming and the dramatic impact digitalization would have, not just on the book format, but on pricing and distribution networks. The truth is large to medium sized book publishers have been refusing to invest in any kind of real risk strategy for the past twenty years, and that philosphy has stretched—in part—from the desk of commissing editors right to the very infastructure and development of the industry.

All industries experience rises and falls in fortune and new challenges regularly see the emergence of new ideas, enterprises and shifts in the sand. Most industries also have research and development facilities and academies where the next generation of talent will learn and flourish. While the publishing industry is awash with graduates and experienced professionals, it has the curiosity of having its historial roots planted deeply in the world of academia and universities. The publishing industry can appear and behave like an institution, government body, public or medical health service with its own bestowed rules of etiquette, morality and engagement—particularly when the industry attemps to communicate and operate with a singular voice. Industries don’t normally work or operate that way and possess a multitude of framented voices, stances, opinons and agendas. In theory, the publishing industry should have been primarily placed to tackle all the challenges currently facing it—well-versed in its products, passionate to the core and equipped with highly skilled professionals. Is it perhaps that the industries CEO’s, talismen and drivers of decision are no longer men of books, champions of talent, academically introspective yet passionate, and instead we now have publishers led by media conglomerates and salesmen and agents too willing to place the needs and requirements of publishers above authors? Is it no surprise then that publishers have simply allowed themselves to become mere middlemen, primarily self-inflicted pawns selling books to booksellers and not readers? If the last five years has taught us one thing about publishers—it’s that they are good at selling what bookstore buyers ask for, and the largest often do little more than publish competent and prescribed book products to fit existing trends and markets. More and more over the past twenty years the relationship between agent, publisher and bookseller is akin to an overly convoluted book packaging project. And believe me, dedicated book packagers do it far better and quicker!

When the digital shit hit the fan for the publishing industry and they had few answers, combined with an historical instinct to do nothing at all but wait, it’s no wonder—from top to bottom—integrated partnerships were the only option and place to find a way forward. And that has come at an extraordinary sacrafice—the very future existence of publishers as they are today. No agency, book lending rights, or digital distribution agreement will fix this now to the whole industry’s satisfaction. The truth is that there are now so many fragmented and disenchanted sectors of the industry with polarised views and bias opinions, from large publishing houses to small presses; indie authors to mainstream authors; independent bookstores to large chains; digital advocats to purists; author guilds and associations to governments, that the industry will canibalize and distil itself down to the bare fundamental parts—author/creator, delivery platform and reader.


Jeff Bezos stole all my books and ate all the hamsters!

Enter Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and for that matter any other entrepenure with a posse of Silicon Valley graduates.  Please put your hands together for some of the big publishers in 2020. If you want to talk about control in publishing during the years ahead—take a good look at that motley crew. You may not like them, maybe even less than the last big six publishers, but likely most of them are here to stay and will have a great deal of say and control, not to mention profit to take from your book content over the coming years, if they have not already. The debate and development of ebooks is still at an early stage and whether the ‘purchase’ of ebook content will become nothing more than access to a specific edition to your ereading device, or by paying more you can access enhanced and revised editions ‘in the cloud’ remains to be seen. Much will depend on what degree of freedom we wish to grant to the new gatekeepers of  ‘cloud storage’ or whether we are happier keeping what we purchase safely tucked away on our ereaders. When Amazon stretched its mighty hand and removed content from users ereaders a couple of years ago, I discovered that some of their biggest critics were people who openly shared the most pertinent and private information on social network sites.

When the big six publishers moved on Amazon to sign up to the Agency Model Agreement, they may have felt they were arresting a tide of control flexed by the goliath of online book sales, but in reality, they were simply seen by ordinary book readers as trying to make hay while the sun shone. Bezos, I’m sure, smiled a great deal the week signatures were put to paper on the Agency deal. For Bezos, the battle might have been lost that week, but for Amazon, victory on the fronline was already taking place. Publishers and independent booksellers might not like Amazon’s tactics, but Bezos will argue that he has stolen nothing but the moral ground and can back it up with a vast customer, cloud and community base, an online retail platform (with thepotential of physical stores to come), with well integrated products, the ereader of choice, and a growing array of publishing imprints and digital publishing deals with bestselling authors. Initially, the Agency agreement with Amazon had the effect of driving readers to cheaper ebooks, and aligned with the retailer’s introduction of Kindle Select, a shot in the arm for self-published authors as they began seeing their books proliferated the ranks of Amazon’s Kindle Top Bestsellers list. This year, that same Kindle list shows a marked drop in self-published titles. Conclude yourselves what you will, but I’d suggest we may be seeing the first signs that readers may already have accepted that bestseller ebooks from the big six are going to hold a relative price of $12.99-$14.99 for some time. It may also suggest that self-publishers using high discounts as a promotion and introduction to a book’s release is fine for the short term, but outside of the big self-publishing authors only reinforces low quality in the mind of the reader. Amazon has long understood the mechanics of marketing to readers—they buy books on the reputation of an author’s name and not the publisher’s imprint, and every product has a value. It’s about gauging what the value is, when to impliment it, and where to place it. Control is not just about pricing—it’s about what you can do without it. And Bezos and Amazon will argue all this was consumated without harming a single hamster.


The new big six and their current toys:

Amazon (Kindle)
Apple (iPad)
Microsoft (tablet device imminent)
Barnes & Noble (Nook)
Kobo (Kobo)
Google (iriver)

The new publishing landscape of 2020 will be controlled by the new big six and will be entirely device-driven for content delivery. My only fear with the book industry structured this way [and take note, we are now talking about a ‘(e)book’ not publishing industry] is that large publishers—in an effort not to fall too far down the food chain—will attempt to forge exclusive partnerships with specific sellers/devices. My suspicision—though it might be attempted by both publishers and leading authors aligned to media conglomerates and big movie studios—is that it will ultimately fail because readers, sellers and a greater and more coordinated alliance of independents (sellers and authors) won’t allow it to happen. In spite of my best wishes for the future of publishing in 2020, the strongest relationship will not necessarily be author and reader, but reader and seller. Sellers will integrate far better with new social media networks, provide greater product discoverability for customers, and be driven forward by renewed public spending and a derire to reemerge from a long ten-year global economic downturn.


The Shape of Times to Come? (and a bit of tongue and cheek)

In 2020, more than 80% of authors will operate independently  and will control and manage their entire writing output with less than a quarter earning a full time living. The remaining 20% will be a combination of writers from national writing academies, independent publishing cooperatives and publishing houses owned by media /agency companies. In 2020 ‘an agency author’ will mean an author with PR representation and earning a living from book publishing through a media imprint. The general term ‘he/she is agency’ will also denote a more deroggratory  tone for someone in the public eye—meaning someone to be held in suspicion or someone who is motivated soley by financial or political gain.

In 2020, most global broadcasters will use content from freelance reporters rather than in-house reporters following years of claims of media bias. At least 50% of broadcast content will come directly from social media networks. In 2020, publishing will simply mean disseminating content for public consumption by way of service, for free or for profit.

In 2020, during a CBS Evening News interview with the ghost of Dan Rather, outgoing Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, will reveal an acute hamster-eating disorder he has been battling for more than ten years.



The third in this series of articles on The Future of Publishing 2020 will deal with Disruption.   

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Monday, 18 June 2012


Averill and Sirois Win Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards 2012


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The general fiction and young adult fiction winners of the Amazon and Penguin Group Breakthrough Novel Awards for 2012 were announced yesterday at a ceremony held at The Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, Washington.

Alan Averill won the prize in the general fiction category for his novel, The Beautiful Land, and Regina Sirois won the adult fiction prize for her novel, On Little Wings. Both books will be published by Berkley Books and Viking Books respectively and are available for pre-order now from Amazon.

From the press release:


Hailing from Seattle, Alan Averill, a former “video game script doctor,” wrote a draft of “The Beautiful Land” as a part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a movement that challenges writers to complete a novel in 30 days. “The Beautiful Land” is a story of two people in love from the moment they met but destined to be apart forever. Thanks to a time machine and a mysterious invention buried deep in the Australian Outback, they now have one more chance to get it right. One customer reviewer writes: “From the opening statement to the last quote, [it] had me excited all the way through. The prose is strong, descriptive in a quirky way, charming, and unique. The characters are extremely memorable. I can't wait to read how they will be interacting with one another later in the story.”
Regina Sirois was born and raised outside of Kansas City. She minored in Creative Writing, but never found the right inspiration for a story until she became the mother of two girls. “On Little Wings” is her first novel. In it, 16-year-old Jennifer’s discovery of an aunt she never knew existed reunites her family and provokes love and forgiveness. One customer reviewer writes: “…some of the most exquisite writing I've seen in a VERY long time. Any given sentence, paragraph or scene was sublime.”


All six books in the finalist categories were reviewed by a panel of publishing expects before Amazon customers voted on the two eventual winners. Both winners have received their publishing contracts from Penguin USA (Berkley and Viking) and an advance of $15,000.
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