Anita Lovett gives an overview of the e-Book market in 2014 and prepares a guide for the new year. The literary market share of e-books continues to grow, and Forbes reports that e-books “have dominated 30 percent of 2014 book sales”. E-book sales have expanded to more than 45 times larger in the past five years, with people’s willingness to buy e-books “on the rise”. Lovett then highlights 5 major details that authors and publishers should pay attention to, in order to succeed in the e-book market in 2015: book cover design, book description, book reviews, genre identification, and extensive revision and editing.
In addition, Darrick Dean holds a discussion about whether Book Price Wars will be the “publishing battleground” in 2015. Some are concerned with the situation where traditional publishers will lower prices in their competition with indie authors. However, Dean argues that first of all, “there is always competition” regarding book pricing; the key is to connect with audiences “with a strong, quality product.” With traditionally published books going cheaper, the authors earn a lower profit, which is why indie authors still have some advantages. He ends the discussion with a particularly thought-provoking sentence: “There’s room for all publishing models, but we are seeing a settling of which is good for whom.”
Image Credit: Anita Lovett & Associates
In the article Literary Agents: heroes no more?, Bonie Santos introduces John Saddler’s class about the role of literary agents, and how this role has changed over the course of publishing history. She lists six major responsibilities of a literary agent, including bridging between authors and publishers, advising authors, and handling issues related to marketing and rights.
Various roles were introduced into the publishing chain from the early 17th century to the late 19th century, as illustrated in the picture above. Today, the necessity of literary agencies are challenged by the emerging e-book market, which makes their role less profitable, and by the digital technology that allows authors to directly reach their readers through self-promoting on social media. There have been concerns about the loss of status of literary agent, which may potentially put authors in disadvantage during negotiation with publishers; Jason Allen Ashlock urges fellow literary agents to “retain their heroic role, which is to protect authors”. However, this concern seems much less relevant if the authors take an alternative approach — self-publishing. I believe that in digital era, where there is challenge, there is opportunity, as indicated in the Chinese phrase for “challenge” (危機/危机, wei1 ji1). As for literary agents, they may wish to seek a brighter future in honing on their consultancy and networking services rather than simply acting as a representative during the author/publisher negotiation.
Image Credit: Kingston Publishing/MA Publishing team at Kingston University
Merry Christmas from Melbourne, Australia! Time for a feast of food and books……
Wish you all another year of happy writing, reading, and publishing!
Image Credit: Luther M. Siler
Jane Austen just celebrated her 239th birthday on December 16th!
Regina Jeffers introduces some interesting historical facts about Publishing Options for Women During Jane Austen’s Lifetime on her blog.
Female writers during the early Regency suffered from the gender bias from their time, and were generally faced with great difficulty in pursing writing as a career. Encouraged and supported by her family, Jane Austen mainly had four means of publishing her works: Publishing by subscription, publishing by profit sharing, publishing by selling the copyright, and publishing on commission. Their explanations are followed by a brief introduction to Austen’s Publishing History. Her influence as a successful writer and an inspiring woman continues into our age.
Image Credit: Austin Authors
Source: Courtesy of Regina Jeffers
Robert Miller, president and publisher of HarperStudio, advocates his ideas in the article Re-thinking the Publisher/Author Partnership, as a reaction to M.J. Rose’s editorial Publishers Must Change the Way Authors Get Paid from the previous week.
Miller applauds Rose’s stance in involving authors in the marketing of books, but disagrees with her proposed solution of having authors “paid a higher royalty in exchange for their marketing efforts”. This is because he believes that the author is equally responsible for making full effort in marketing as the publisher, but it is difficult (if possible at all) to translate the “effort” into corresponding share of profit (if there is any). Consequently, the authors and publishers will not find this solution very plausible. With the vision to establish a “sustainable publisher/author relationships”, Miller takes a step further and suggests that publishers and authors be “equal partners” and share profits equally. This possibly tackles the aforementioned issue of calculating effort, and builds up responsibility on both sides.
While Miller’s suggestion of a fifty-fifty share has received some positive feedbacks, I do not see how it can work out so ideally, at least in the short term. One paradox in this proposal of adjusting publisher/author relationship is that most authors have a limited understanding of the publishing business, and it is the publishers who will suffer most financially if the books fail. I do sympathise with the authors who work whole-heartedly on their books, and I agree that they should receive the share that they truly deserve. While the industry certainly needs to rebalance the publisher/author partnership in order to motivate all practitioners, we will probably need to modify the contract case by case when it comes down to doing business.
Image Credit: Shmuel/Flickr
Laura Hazard Owen reports that Hachette Book Group will start selling books straight from Twitter after announcing a partnership with Gumroad, a platform where creative works get around distributors and are directly sold to the readers/audience. David Holmes speculates in a more in-depth discussion that this experimental deal is Hachette’s battle hymn against Amazon.
Although Owen describes it as an “experiment” because the books are sold “for a limited time and in limited quantities” only, Holmes argues that such business models might be revolutionary in shaping the future of digital distribution. From what I have read so far, here are some of its advantages:
1. This partnership facilitates the integration of marketing and sales for Hachette Book Group, since much of the company’s book marketing and promotion is now done on the social media.
2. By providing valuable data for creators, Gumroad makes it easy for the creators to identify their potential audience, and to reach out directly to the audience for promotional purposes.
3. Both Gumroad and Hachette expresses a more “creator-friendly mentality” through this partnership, allowing the authors/creators to make more profit from selling the books, which is motivating and will benefit the publishing ecology, or the entire creative industry in general.
Thought of the day: Do you think this type of business model will be adopted by more publishing companies? What in your opinion might be a disadvantage?
Image Credit: Brad Jonas for Pando Daily
Johanna Vondeling gives a speech about her observation of the global publishing industry while working in Perth, Australia.
According to Vondeling, the rapid change that publishing industry faces today comes from “the explosion of self-publishing”, “the emergence of new technologies and new business models”, “globalisation of the industry”, and even some “fundamental changes in consumption habits”. These changes have brought about unprecedented challenges in the industry. She encourages the global publishers to invest more in digital publishing to embrace the new trends, while maintaining traditional publishing practices.
The most interesting point that Vondeling has made is that publishers these days are not just competing with each other or self-publishing authors, but are really competing with the attention of readers, who are believed to spend less and less time on reading due to distraction of emerging electronic devices and more diversified sources of information. Concerns of this phenomenon can be found beyond the publishing industry; as people devote more time to their smartphones and laptop entertainments, they are deprived of the time they used to spend exercising, meditating, family gathering, and even sleeping. What we are witnessing is a fundamental change of modern lifestyle that has been going on globally in the past decade. Traditional publishers will need to think about adjusting their strategies in business decision making before the change is too overwhelming to digest.
Video Credit: Berrett-Koehler Publishers