Archive for the ‘the future of publishing’ category

Collaborative Publishing Thoughts from Kristy

06/26/2011

So…lately I’ve been thinking about publishing. About the business of publishing. We’ve put out two wonderful (and very different) debut novels and we’re getting ready to sign one more. But we have a very restrictive form of publishing with Blank Slate Press and I think we’re limited in what we can do with BSP’s regional focus.

In the NYTimes a couple of weeks ago, there was a piece about artists and the studio model where assistants do all the art….where pieces can sell for a gazillion dollars even when the “artist” didn’t even touch them. This is the same model that James Patterson uses…he has an idea for a book and puts his minions to work writing the actual book. The infamous James Frey is doing a similar type of thing with his studio.

I think that is inherently disingenuous…but, if no one really cares and the books and the art is still selling, then obviously the people buying the work don’t really care. The brand name is all that matters and it connotes a certain style or art or a certain style of writing.

Also, in the visual art world, there is the artists’ cooperative. Where artists band together to rent space together and show together but whose work is very different.

And in the film world, there is (was) United Artists which was founded by four film stars. Granted, I (and nobody I know) am not a film or a literary star, but the concept is the same. And because technology is breaking down barriers to publishing, the only thing that remains in the way of getting a well-written book out there is the system of gate-keepers called agents. Some agents are already responding to changes in publishing by starting their own e-imprints. But this is beside the point because you still have to jump through all the hoops to get the agent in the first place.

In the professional world, doctors, dentists, and lawyers get together to form limited liability partnerships (basically cooperatives) where partners own the company and split profits according to ownership percentages.

So, back to publishing. On the one hand there are the thousands of people who are taking advantage of Kindle/Nook/Smashwords to self-publish. Some of these writers are putting out high quality work and are having great success – including the now famous Amanda Hocking and John Locke, who were never traditionally published before they self-published. On the other hand, established authors (J.A.Konrath stands out) have turned to self-publishing (often starting with their backlist of books that never got published) after success with a traditional publisher. Now, Amazon has started its own publishing house with imprints for literary fiction, romance, mystery…all the established rules are in flux.

What I’m interested in is the idea of an author’s cooperative like an artist’s cooperative/professional limited liability partnership. I’m interested in charting a middle course between a publishing house and self-publishing. Where a group of authors gets together to curate each other’s work. Where an author can come to the group with a manuscript, have the group vet the writing and decide whether or not the author “fits” into the sensibility of the group, and then have two or three other authors help edit the work and get it in shape for publishing and then put it out there under the moniker of the single publishing house brand. When an author joins he or she invests a certain amount of money and then when the author has a title that is ready to go, so to speak, funds will be allocated to cover the cost of the book production (proofreading, cover art, printing/mailing ARCS, etc.) and then an agreed upon split of the proceeds will return to the author and to the cooperative/publishing house to support marketing efforts to promote the brand/house. There must be a consensus between the author and the author/editors as to when the book is “done” and ready for release.

It’s an author-owned and controlled publishing house. While there are/would be still lots of kinks to be thought through, I think it is an intriguing idea. What do you think?

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Choose Your Own Adventure…or Not?

03/19/2011

Have you ever wanted an author to make a different choice than he or she did? Have you ever wanted that so badly that you wouldn’t mind at all if the author released a new edition of the book with the alternative choice?

The choices authors make define their works. Let’s use a commonly known example (SPOILER ALERT): JK Rowling decided that Harry Potter would live. Huge choice. Some might say she chickened out, but I’m guessing that most fans are happy that Harry made it.

But if Harry hadn’t made it? Is there an early revision of Book 7 when he didn’t? What does that world look like? And most importantly, would you want to read it?

My guess is that 99% of the time, we want authors to make choices for us. Books feel more “real” that way. We want to know what “really” happens.

And yet I’m intrigued by that 1%. Do you know any books that fall into that 1%? Books where you wish the author had given you the power to make a choice, or the option of choosing between two books that reflect the two different choices?

How Amanda Hocking Did It

03/06/2011

Recently it’s been big news that Amanda Hocking has sold nearly a million ebooks in the past year, all of them priced between $.99 and $2.99. They were all self-published (I believe all on Amazon.com).

Now every aspiring author out there is trying to figure out how she did it. The thing is, all of those authors (including myself), are slightly obsessed with the prices of her books. The low prices differentiate herself from most authors and publishing companies (including Blank Slate Press–The Samaritan is currently $9.99 on Amazon). So the price must be key, right? All you have to do is change the price of your eBook to $.99 and suddenly everyone will buy it!

Nope. Not that simple. I’m sorry, but there simply isn’t a magic formula. I know that’s not what you want to hear. You want steps to replicate success. We all do. So here are a few:

  • Social network up the wazoo. This doesn’t mean promote the hell out of yourself. It means stay connected and get more connected. Teach people new things, entertain people with your thoughts, and engage people with your opinions. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter. Every day, starting yesterday. Not the day after you publish the book.
  • Write a great book. By this I don’t necessarily mean that you should write the perfect book. Just tell a good story, use as few words as possible, and do everything you can to make the reader need to know what happens next.
  • Have someone who doesn’t know you edit the book. Don’t have your best friend edit your book. He’ll do it, sure, and he’ll catch some mistakes and make you feel good about everything else, but that’s not what you want. You want significant improvement, contextually, structurally, and grammatically.
  • Have a professional design the cover. Even as we enter an age when books don’t have covers, we judge the quality of the book by the quality of the cover. Pay money for this. If you like covers on BSP’s books, let us know. Our cover designer is fantastic.
  • Price it so strangers will take a chance on it. Yes, $.99 is a ridiculous price. Think about all the work you put into that book, and then you have to stoop to the level of selling it for less than a dollar?!

And here are a few more that may only sometimes be correct:

  • Write a trilogy. I’m not saying that because Hocking did this, you should too. I’m just saying that trilogies can turn sellers into bestsellers. I think this works best with works of speculative/genre fiction–fantasy, sci fi, dystopian, paranormal, and supernatural. There’s something built into us genre readers that gets our juices flowing when we hear “planned trilogy.” Star Wars is probably to blame (is there anything more ingenious than these two numerals starting a series: IV?!) Trilogies probably don’t work for literary fiction. The Help wouldn’t work as a trilogy. You just want to read it, enjoy it, and get it over with so you can talk about it with your book club.
  • Be the first to do something different. It could be anything. But as you compose or market your book, do something that no one has ever done, and then remind people that you’re the first to do it. See what happens.
  • Write young adult fiction. Most people read books because they enjoy the vacation from reality. Take 30 seconds and think about your fondest and most painful high school memories. Those scars run deep. There will never be a day when adults stop wanting to remember their roots. And at the same time, there will never be a day that middle schoolers stop wanting to be in high school. Those are the most marketable years to write about.
  • Get book bloggers to review your work. Hocking writes highly of the value of book bloggers, and we at BSP are on the same page. There’s a fairly small number of bloggers with huge followings that write about books. The catch is that book bloggers rarely accept self-published submissions, or any submissions at all. If you can get an in with them, do not underestimate their importance. They are the NY Times Book Review of the future.
  • Collect e-mail addresses. You need to have a way to tell your readers really important information. Sure, you can put this on your blog, Facebook page, or Twitter feed, but people have to go to you to get that information. There will be times when you want to reach out to your readers ASAP and tell them something important, so having their e-mail addresses is key.

So what can you do today? You, person sitting at your computer, desperately wanting to sell a million eBooks, even if they’re $.99. You who wants to copy what Hocking did with your own twist.

You know what? I say go for it. If you can write an amazing YA paranormal trilogy, find a great editor, have the cover professionally designed, socially engage a growing number of people every day without overpromoting yourself, do something no one’s ever done before, and you have the guts to price it for $2.99 on Amazon, do it. Go for it.

It might just work.

Subscriptions vs. Cash

02/19/2011

Seth Godin unveiled a really interesting concept in an article for his new publishing company the other day. The basic idea is that he started with a pre-order ebook price of $9.99 for his new book, and for every 5,000 people who sign up for his company’s e-newsletter, he’ll drop the preorder price by $1.

There’s no catch. You don’t have to buy anything. All you have to do is give Seth Godin your e-mail address.

He wrote article 6 days ago. At the time he had about 10,000 e-mail subscribers (so the pre-order price actually started with a $2 discount). After 6 days, he has 18,188 e-mail subscribers.

This is so interesting because Seth is saying that a direct line to his readers is more valuable in the long run than money in the short term. I would venture to say that he’s completely right.

Think about it–publishers don’t know who buys their books. The only companies that know anything are online booksellers, and they’re more interested in recommending other books to you than anything else (which is also good). But imagine if every author or publishing company had a direct line to each of their readers. The engagement would be incredible.

Blank Slate Press is gathering momentum, and as we do, we’re fully aware that we need to know who are buying our books and who are interested in the new model of publishing we’re creating here in St. Louis. If you want to be a part of that conversation, go to our homepage and scroll down a little bit to the e-newsletter signup. We won’t be annoying about it–we’re only going to send out newsletters once a month (unless we have stupendous news, like Fred Venturini wins an Oscar despite not being nominated [or an actor] or Anene swims across the Pacific).

In what ways have publishing companies engaged you? In what ways have they missed out on engagement opportunities?

The Rumpus Becomes a Book Publisher

09/08/2010

The Rumpus Becomes a Book Publisher.

The Vanishing Newspaper Book Critic and the Opportunity for Independent Bookstores

09/03/2010

Times are definitely changing and it is a perfect opportunity for independents–booksellers and publishers–to participate in shaping the future.

With newspapers cutting staff and reducing overhead, arts and book review editors often find themselves either taking on more responsibilities or out of a job. According to an article on the American Booksellers Association website, it was the latter for San Diego Union Tribune arts and books critic Bob Pincus and the newspapers readers were not happy about it. After Pincus was let go, several area independent booksellers– Warwick’sMysterious GalaxyThe Book Works, and The Yellow Book Road –decided to fill the gap themselves.

Each bookstores will recommend one title each week in a process that will allow the stores to showcase their personalities through the diversity of their recommendations.

Here’s the article:  http://news.bookweb.org/news/san-diego-indies-provide-newspaper-book-reviews

From the WSJ-The ABCs of E-Reading

08/26/2010

This is from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. The gist is that most people with an e-reader (I have a Kindle) read more or are least buying more books. That is certainly true for me. I’m still buying books that I want to own, that I want to treasure and keep on my bookshelf, in “book” form, but for books that I want to read for simple pleasure, I’m buying on my Kindle. For instance, I write historical fiction/romance/mystery and so I’ve been going through a frenzy of reading similar books. Books that I probably would never have purchased new. We have a great used bookstore in our neighborhood and I could go and stock up there, but I’m talking a lot of books. I’ve probably read 15-20 romance/mysteries in the last two months and they won’t all fit next to my bed and they’re certainly not keepsake material, so it makes sense to read them on the Kindle.

Anyway, here’s the article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703846604575448093175758872.html?mod=WSJ_Books_LS_Books_2


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