Tuesday, December 30, 2008

December 30, 2008 - Winding Down The Year

As 2008 - a year of turmoil, strife, challenge and change - winds down, lots is going on in the publishing game. Much of it points to continued tension in the business come 2009.

Publisher's Marketplace reports that the huge Barnes & Noble store in Harrisburg PA that has been under construction will not open. The Patriot-News said that the mall owner's financial difficulties have left it in default of the mortgages owed TD Bank (in the neighborhood of $50 million and change).

PM also reports, citing Freep.com, that Borders' share price, closing at $ .37 cents on Monday (a drop of $ .06) puts it in jeopardy of review by the New York Stock Exchange. The new price per share is down from the $1.00 it was at on November 26 when Borders made the announcement that it was no longer seeking a buyer. They quote a Farmington Hills turnaround expert, Ken Dalto as saying, "They tried to sell and there weren't really any takers at the price they wanted." and further, "Borders is a 1980s, 1990s concept. They are not going to have the market share they used to have. One way or another, they are going to have to downsize. The method of distribution of entertainment has fundamentally changed in the past 10 years. Borders doesn't have a cutting edge, that's the problem." The article also blames Borders' troubles on their inability to hold a market share from the powerhouse of e-selling, Amazon.

The written word lost several luminaries in the past few days. Playwright Harold Pinter passed away at age 78 on December 25. Children's book illustrator of one of my favorites, A Child's Garden of Verses, Margery Gill died at 83 (October 31st). Mystery author Hillary Waugh died on December 8th at 88. And Thomas B. Congdon, editor of, among many others, Peter Benchley and David Halberstam, died at 77.

Reported by everyone and their mother, on the "who wrote a book and lied" front this week, Angel at the Fence, the "memoir" by Herman Rosenblat - purporting to be a poignant history of how he met his wife while a prisoner at Buchenwald in Nazi Germany - has been disputed by historians and upon receiving new information from Rosenblat's agent, Berkeley (an imprint of Penguin) announced it was pulling the title. Penguin's had a tough year, having to pull the gang-memoir by Margaret B. Jones, Love and Consequences, and a scant month later they severed their relationship with romance author Cassie Edwards over her alleged copyright infringement and plagiarism of other sources.

An anonymous source at the Sunday Seattle Times said book reviews are being reduced to a single page on Sunday and a single review on Friday. At another paper, The Washington Post is losing Marie Arana, who had spent 15 years editing the Book World section of that paper. Arana is leaving to "pursue a full-time writing career" reports Galley Cat.

As newspapers cut their coverage, look to the web for continued reviews, not just for romance titles but books of every ilk. A wise author will be compiling a hefty database of these sites for their own purposes. Hey, how many papers or magazines (outside of RT) review romances anyway?

The end of the year is when we start seeing those "best of" lists (everything from best book to best cheese, I swear). So not to be left out of the stampede, I'm reporting some here (no one wants to hear what MY idea of the best books of the year were, after all!):

PW's Best Books List includes Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth on the fiction list (among numerous other notable authors' titles), Lie Down with the Devil by Linda Barnes on the mystery list, the Elizabethan paranormal, Ink and Steel by Elizabeth Bear under SF/Fantasy/Horror, and the first title of the Jordan Dane tri-fecta, No One Heard Her Scream under mass market. The lists were long and varied, but these titles popped out at me.

The NY Times, of course, does everything in a big way, so their list is not the best of the year, but (drum roll, please) The Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years - and the winner is: Beloved by Toni Morrison. Runners-up included Don DeLillo's massive tome, Underworld, Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, John Updike's quartet, Rabbit Angstrom: The Four Novels, and American Pastoral by American iconic author Philip Roth (who had so many titles under the other high-vote getters that they should just give him a separate list). Sadly for us feminists, the only other female author to make the pack of also-rans was Marilynne Robinson for Housekeeping.

The list was presented along with an essay by literary critic, A. O. Scott, discussing the questions raised during the selection process (debate? really?). Included were, what, exactly is fiction, what qualities would make something the "best". Even the notion of what, exactly, was meant by "the last 25 years" apparently led to a lively debate.

In the business arena, the NY Times also ran a story on December 24th predicting the e-book's slow rise is going to be picking up speed. The race is being fueled, apparently, according to Brad Stone and Motoko Rich, by the e-book device battle between Kindle and Sony (which was helped apparently in pre-holiday sales by the fact that the Kindle was out of stock, possibly the result of an Oprah plug in October which led to faster than anticipated sales. Oops.)

Steve Haber, president of Sony's digital reading division is quoted as saying, "The perception is that e-books have been around for 10 years and haven't done anything. But it's happening now. This is really starting to take off." He reports that the Sony reader sales had tripled this holiday season when compared to last year. Since the debut of the original model of the Reader in 2006, he says, they've sold 300,000 devices. Amazon wasn't talking, but a book market researcher, Peter Hildick-Smith, president of the Codex Group, said he believed the figure was approximately 260,000 units through the beginning of October (pre-Oprah). Others however suggest the number is closer to a million. Further information shows that many Kindle buyers are "outside the usual gadget-hound demographic". Almost as many women as men and it is a popular device among the 55-64 year old age group.

Simon & Shuster, along with Harper Collins and Random House, say that e-sales are still a small percentage of their overall sales, but they do agree that sales of e-books have "tripled or quadrupled in the last year".

Harlequin Enterprises reported in the NYT piece that "expected sales of digital versions of the company's books someday to match or potentially outstrip sales in print". So says Malle Vallik, director for digital content and itneractivity. Harlequin's 120 titles per month makes all of them available digitally, along with their e-only shorts under Spice Briefs and Nocturne Bites.

A last detail from the article: "Scroll Motion announced this week that it would begin selling e-books for the iPhone from major publishers like Simon & Schuster, Random House and Penguin. All of these cmopaneis say they are now tailoring their software for other kinds of smartphones, including BlackBerrys. Publishers say these iPhone applciations are already starting to generate nearly as many digital book sales as the Sony Reader..."

Both Amazon and Sony are expected to introduce new versions of their machines in 2009. And they'd better be good, because competitors like Plastic Log and E Ink, are on the way with their own devices (both models planned to be on sale in 2010).

And a little closer to home. From Penny Sansevieri, The Marketing Expert, comes some advice on writing web copy. She advises you to write in narrow columns of text; use bullet points and "read more" buttons (research shows people scan for interesting bits and then hunker down); stay on point (you have less than a second to grab attention, so distill copy to the important details); use captivating headlines and make sure to make your message obvious, using headlines, lists and bold text to convey your message; and use links - to other areas on your site and other relevant sites.

She also has some advice on making your book trailer stand out: 1. Keep it short (30 seconds); Use Flash as your program to stream your video; 3. Avoid poorly produced videos and bad acting - still shots can be just as engaging; 4. Make sure your music is Rights Free or that you own them; 5. Don't forget to include a cover of your book and where to find it.

In January there are free telecasses from AME University. The Building Blocks of Book Marketing on January 1, 2009 from 4-5 pm, and Book Signing Gold on January 22nd, same time. See Penny's link further down the page for details or send an email to author@amarketingexpert.com.

Once again let me suggest that you subscribe to this e-zine newsletter. It is chock full of info on marketing and promo and has lots of links to classes and other opportunities.

And further on the author marketing front, Amazon has launched Author Pages - though it is experimental. 2,500 "customized selling pages for authors", which "store" the company hopes to make home to webpages for all authors. (Reported by PW, PL and by Galley Cat). Here's what Amazon says: "Amazon has added a new way of finding books to its site, which the company is calling Author Stores, single pages that feature all books from a particular author, plus, in many cases, an author photo and some related content, such as a biography, message board and streaming video."

So much for tonight, folks, this is a lot of information. I've got plenty more where this came from so look for Winding Down the Year, the Sequel, tomorrow. Same place.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Making Up For Lost Time

Cutting right to the chase with lots of news.

From 12/23/08 Publishers Lunch:

Borders has gotten an extension of another month on repayment of their loan to Pershing Square ($42.5 mill). PL says "The nearly worthless stock has still managed to decline another 20 percent in early trading today, though Barnes & Noble has suffered weak trading the past two days as well."

ScrollMotion's interface for iPhone books has made arrangements with a variety of publishers. Random House is in on this deal and is releasing a dozen books on iPhone. PL notes a Wired report that Twilight will be among the books making the leap.

The technology, called "Iceberg" allows Apple to get in on the business and get a percentage of sales. And "ScrollMotion says it envisions a more organized app store and iPhone/iPod interface in the future where titles could eventually be sorted and grouped creating a virtual library of all your books."

The price sounds steep, though, when compared with e-books. Between $12 and $28, found PL - 30-40% more than the respective Kindle edition of the same title. Twilight will be $10.99 for the iPhone book, versus $6.04 for the Kindle copy.

Publisher's Weekly December 15, 2008 edition was chock full of news, reports, reviews and info, too.

For those of you who remember Francis "Baby" from Dirty Dancing (and who doesn't? - send good thoughts out to Patrick Swayze who's fighting the good fight against his cancer), the PW Pick of the Week is a biography of Frances Perkins, FDR's secretary of labor and the first woman in the cabinet. Kirstin Downey's Doubleday/Talese book debuts on March 3, 2009, for the history buffs out there.

The Forward column in the issue debates the pros and cons and marketing value of author websites. While no one has yet been able to get proof-positive that a good website = good sales, most folk agree that if you haven't got one, you're not helping yourself. PW reports that Carol Fitzgerald, founder and president of Book Report Network feels "having a Web presence gives writers a chance to extend the conversation with their readers." She's "less concerned about authors having a message board or book trailer than with providing a go-to place for fans." PW passes on her warning not to overdo the Flash, though. She also thinks that a blog is a easy way to keep your site fresh. This sentiment is seconded by author Chris Bohjalian, who enjoys blogging and finds it "the easy part of maintaining an online presence." He recycles content from his weekly newspaper column, a concept also espoused by Penny Sansevieri, marketing guru (see past posts). He says, "It all goes back to that notion that an author is no longer a disembodied face on the back of a book jacket."

But the most succinct statement (IMHO) is that of Steve Bennett, author of 50 titles and president of Author Bytes, which builds author Web sites. "A Web site is your locus in space. It's not that people can't get basic author information on Amazon. But they're looking for extras. The Web has changed the way we learn about products and services; it's hard to imagine succeeding without it."

Dean Koontz, horror master and perennial visitor to the NY Times bestseller list, has his latest title at #8 on the PW Hardcover Bestseller Fiction list. He's spotlighted and has the following to say about that question all writers get: "Story ideas have come to me from lines in songs, from a scrap of overhead conversation, from just about everywhere. And sometimes a story pops into my head and I have no idea what the source of it was." The title, Your Heart Belongs to Me had an 800,000 copy first printing. Guess Dean's doing something right!

When fans of Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series heard about True Blood they were all a twitter. But it appears the series is making new fans for the authors' quirky heroine. Backlist sales were so great that Ace created a 7-volume boxed set. 130,000 copies have shipped so far. Ace Associate Director of publicity, Jodi Rossoff crowed, "We knew it would do well, but it has surpassed our expectations."

And speaking of vampires, did you think that maybe the vampire romance genre was cooling off, what with dragons, gargoyles, demons and gods on the scene? Apparently not. The 12/15/08 Mass Market Bestseller list has 3 vampire titles on the list.

Gotta love it, too, when our President-Elect has two titles on the Trade Paperback Bestseller list! (Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope are at 2 and 3, respectively).

Another story on the technological has me stumped, except for the openers. The title of the article, What the Hell is XML, sums it up for me, but the intro makes a strong case for e-books, e-marketing and the changes being wrought to the traditional publishing models. Article's author Mike Shatzkin (founder of the Idea Logical Company and one of the creators of the StartWithXML project) says bluntly: "Print book review media and subscription books clubs are fewer in number and, most critically, bricks-and-mortar retail shelf space for books is being reduced." He highlights the proliferation of on-line review sites. As we've all seen, too, print review in even the biggest newspapers is dwindling, with some abandoning their entire book review sections. Further, says Shatzkin, "While sales of books through bricks-and-mortar locations are stagnant, sales through online channels....are growing. A goodly portion of those sales are driven by 'referrals' from specialized Web sites." At the heart of the changes already being experienced, "The shift from traditional to digital marketing is already changing publishers' mindset when books are acquired ("Does this author have a Web site?")."

So it isn't just the book format that we're seeing veer into digital, but the marketing of the titles as well. I'm not the first to say it, but I keep hammering at the bottom line: Digital is going to be where it's at. Be there or be square! Start compiling those lists of on-line review sites. Can't get a Times review? How about SmartBitches Love Trashy Books, Coffee Time Romance and dozens more.

Lots of great reviews in the issue, too (where, or where am I going to put all these books?!).

Bestseller Susan Elizabeth Phillips' latest, What I Did for Love (Morrow/Feb. 09) garnered a starred review for a "over-the-top, hot-under-the-sheets romcom". "In this massively entertaining romp, redemption is always possible, and even a fake Hollywood couple trapped in a pretend marraige might find true love."

Edgar-award winning mystery author Alex Berenson's forthcoming "The Silent Man" (Putnam/Feb. 09) features CIA agent John Wells and his fellow agent and fiancee, Jenny Exley. PW says about the bad guys in the "well-plotted and thoughtful" thriller: "These extremely clever villains...aren't mad dog idiots but credible characters..." In summation, "Fast and furious when it needs to be, this is a welcome addition to an excellent series."

Of interest to those self-published authors, or if you are thinking about taking that route, take note that in addition to The Celestine Prophecies and Eragon, both originally self-published, a new St. Martin's/Dunne Feb. 09 release, "Hater", by David Moody, was originaly self-published, as well. Termed a "nail-biter", it has gone that extra mile and has been optioned by Guillermo Del Toro for film. Success stories are out there, and since a self-pubbed title that sells 5,000 or more copies (by dint of the author's hard work), generally gets attention from established publishers looking to get a product that's already been test-driven, it is a viable option for an author who may not fit "the box" of many publishers. Lulu and iUniverse/Authors House and X-Libris are the big three when it comes to self-pubbing. Check the sites for answers to your questions on the hows and how-muches of self-pubbing.

Debut author Meredith Cole's St. Martin's/Minotaur mystery "Posed for Murder" won the Minotaur and Malice Domestic's Best First Traditional Mystery competition has an amateur sleuth and a NY setting. PW found it "entertaining".

Romance author Sharon Ashwood has switched genres with her latest, an urban fantasy romance (first in a series). "Ravenous: The Dark Forgotten" (Signet Eclipse/ Feb. 09) is a "well-paced tale of supernaturally infested Fairview, U.S.A." features witch Holly Carver, handsome police detective Conall Macmillan and her "undead business partner" (and, apparently more!) vampire Alessandro Caravelli. "Strong world-building and romantic elements benefit from deft tuoches of humor; readers will look forward to the sequel." Nice start, Sharon!

On the non-fiction side of things, there are a couple of titles that may help those writing both contemporary military characters: Soft Spots: A Marine's Memoir of Comat and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" by Marine sergeant Clint Van Winkle (St. Martin's/March 09, and FBI agents: Bullets, Bombs, and Fast Talk: Twenty-five Years of FBI War Stories" (James Botting, Potomac, Feb. 09). Memoirs are a great way to gather emotional and immediate details that speak to a reader where dry facts don't, and to give authors insight into characters who are living lives you never have!

The internet and all the fun folks are having in the virtual universe has a downside too. While the legal universal is still playing catch-up, the case of a forged MySpace page is being litigated (claims of emotional distress and defamation). Another media case in the courts concerns the use of "fleeting expletives" and other languaged deemed sexual or obscene in televised media. So far the Supreme Court holds the First Amendment supreme, and given the likelihood that President Obama will appoint liberal judges to any vacancies, it seems destined to remain so for the time being. But keep tabs on rules, regulations and, soon, laws, promulgated regarding obscenity (always a flashpoint for critics) on the web and other new media. Knowing what you can and cannot say, what might get you in hot water, and understanding basic defamation/libel strictures is a wise choice for anyone posting commentary on the web, like blogs, journals, podcasts, and statements on other social sites. When it doubt, zip that virtual lip!

Monday, December 22, 2008

December 22, 2008

Well, looking back I see that I have been remiss for 2, count 'em, 2 weeks. Due to all manner of home appliance and system SNAFUs (car breakdown, plumbing nightmare, oil burner disaster which is on-going forcing us to keep the heat at the lowest possible setting of 59 degrees which, in NYC, means things are getting pretty nippy in the house).

But there's good news to be spread! So here I am, frostbite and all.

I spotted on Galleycat that, apparently, Nielscan's book numbers for fantasy and romance are UP the week of December 15, contrary to just about every other aspect of publishing (although I understand that children's books are still selling...). Galleycat quotes Juno Books editor, Paula Guran who says "fantasy mass market paperbacks sold 102,660 units last week..." compared with "62,781 units" in 2007. Romance, she says "always the industry leader in mass market paperback, sold 202,667 for the week in 2007..." and this year "310,689".

Although they report further that overall for the year, fantasy sales are down, but they report that "overall romance sales are up 83 percent, with mass market paperbacks alone experiencing a 50 percent boost".

Wha-hoo! Some good news. And if you aren't keeping up with all the news that GalleyCat has to offer, check out their site (see link at right).

There are still lots of deals being announced, especially in the romance genre, which bolsters the belief that they are strong sellers. Kelly Mortimer at Mortimer Literary is responsible for numerous romance sales in recent weeks. Check out this agency. Could they be for you?

Charlaine Harris is also hot with sales of both mystery titles and anthologies via JABerwocky Literary.

The likewise popular genre of paranormal continues in YA with a recent mother/daughter Cast sale of three additional titles in their House of Night series.

Simon & Shuster reported (Publishers Lunch; Publisher's Weekly) on their end of year with similar news to their NY brethren in "a challenging year". As with Random House, however, S&S has indicated they will "nearly quadruple eBook salse this year". And they'll be digitizing another 5,000 titles. Additionally they are relaunching their website in January, so check it out for upgrades.

Despite an on-going debate among Romance Writers of America members over the legitimacy of e-published titles, S&S' latest news seems to support my contention that, as far as the e-book is concerned, authors better get on this train or be left in the station! When the traditional NY houses embrace the format, you know it's on its way.

Exciting news for literary and film fans. PL reports that Baz Luhrmann has optioned The Great Gatsby. That's a big WOW as far as I'm concerned. The Aussie-born director of the fantastical and lush Moulin Rouge, as well as the romantic epic, Australia starring (sigh) Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman, cannot help but do justice to the story of ill-fated love, money, beauty and the picturesque Gold Coast of Long Island. Now, who will he cast? Who can possibly outdo the perfection of Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby? And what about Daisy?

Another book to film story is that of Robert Harris' The Ghost. The contemporary international thriller by the author of Fatherland and Enigma, the latter of which was also turned into film, will be the next project of Roman Polanski. Say what you will about old Roman, but the guy sure has a way with film.

In the gossip news (sort of), Sumner Redstone and his daughter Shari, facing a deadline to repay $800 million in debt, are feuding.

Publisher Cumberland House is folding and Sourcebooks is "taking over the rights to almost a hundred titles". Cumberland founder Ron Pitkin is "seeking publishers to take on rights to 400 previously published titles not included in the Sourcebooks deal". Cumberland specialized in non-fiction titles, especially history and quirky subjects.

Several posts ago I mentioned the Tools of Change conference and provided a link to the registration site. Booksquare blogger Kassia Krozser has also made the argument that this conference is a must. She says "I've long encouraged publishing folk to setp outside of traditional book conferenes to get a sense of where technology - particularly social media - is heading." Check out Booksquare (see the link) for complete details on the panels for this conference, which include Speaking the Same Language: Universal Technology Standards in Publishing and Bookselling; Where Do You Go with 40,000 Readers? A Study in Online Community Building; New Reading Habits, New Distribution Models; and Smart Women Read eBooks.

And on a wonderful note for all fans of words, President Barak Obama has selected Elizabeth Alexander to write and read a poem at his inauguration. Find out more about this fellow word lover at her site (see at right).

For tonight, that's all folks, as I head home to watch over my laboring oil burner until our 2nd visit from the folks I hope will fix it (this time) so we can dispense with the thermal underwear while inside!

I leave you with a poem of my very own.

Write happy,
Write true.
It's the best thing there is,
And it's all you can do.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

December 9, 2008

Welcome back to the doings of the publishing world. Lots to cover. Let's jump in:

Some good news to report: According to PW, figures in from Nielsen's BookScan report a 6% rise in unit sales over Thanksgiving week. Largest ground was gained in children's fiction, led by (of course), Stephanie Meyer. (Who coincidentally holds 4 of the 5 top spots on Kindle's Bestseller list, beaten from #1 by Patricia Cornwell's latest, Scarpetta.)

Random House is re-structuring. The three groups will be overseen by Gina Centrello (Pres., Random House Publishing Group), Sonny Mehta (president, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group) and Jenny Frost (president, Crown Publishing Group). Spokesperson Carol Schneider indicated the upcoming consolidation could mean "a reduction in title count". The "imprints of Bantam Dell and Doubleday were dispersed based on affinities with the other groups,...made the most sense to move the mass market operations of Bantam and Dell into Random House which had its own mass market division in Ballantine."

On the issue of rights - Universal Pictures, (Daily Variety, 11/21/08) has made an overall deal with the Ludlum estate, giving the studio exclusive rights to the Jason Bourne character and first look at other Ludlum novels (some of which have already been made into movies during the last several decades, including The Holcroft Covenant, The Osterman Weekend and The Rhineman Exchange). Too bad Bob's not around to reap the benefits. But then again, his books keep coming out - he's the brand that keeps on ticking.

The PW December 1, 2008 issue included the results of a national survey of who is reading and what. At first glance the info is intriguing, although I personally wonder about the comprehensiveness of the numbers, gathered by RR Bowker, LLC, because they used a "national online survey". Call me crazy, but I think there are still lots and lots of readers and consumers out there who aren't on-line. My Mother, for one. So while the numbers are fun to play with, they might not be as reflective of the whole as they might have been.

But here's some details:

In the 5 age groups (Teens 13-17; Generation Y (18-28), Gen X (29-40), Boomers (41-59) and Matures (60 +) (and let me say, couldn't we have called them the Greatest Generation? or the Silver Surfers or something? "Matures" has a rather geriatic ring to it). But I digress.

The numbers varied widely between mass market and hardcover sales, for example. And while every group except Gen X ranked the mystery/detective genre #1 (Gen X had romance as its #1 genre.), I personally wondered if all those romantic suspense titles fell under romance or, mystery? Given the generally accepted RWA finding that romance is always #1 in mass market sales, that is.

Curiously, the "non-print" category is the digital downloads of audiobooks, e-books and other "nonprint items", remained failry steady at 2%, 4%, 3%, 3% and 2%, respectively. I'm predicting this will be a far more significant portion of the pie chart by next year.

Something the survey did show was that purchases were driven by the desire to "add to a collection" and because of interest in the topic or main character, but also because of the author. And PW adds "Such factors as cover art, author readings, and book reviews were well down the list."

So perhaps this is an additional impetus to work on author name recognition and branding as opposed to trying to garner as many five coffee cup, champagne glasses, skull & crossbones or whatever in reviews.

Another telling detail: Except for the whopping Teens category who buy 46.3% of their books in chains, (Gen X was 29.9% chains v. 25.7% online - in my "book" too close to call), every other group favors on-line buying. Which additionally points to the importance of a web presence. Be there or be square!

Beyond this survey, the glum news that all the big chains had dismal third quarters and PW predicts that this could lead to a year-long decline.

More news on Random House is that they will add an additional 6,000 titles to the already 9,000 available in digital format. And for the "first time, make its entire catalogue of both new and existing titles available in e-Pub format.". Like I keep saying, folks, e-publishing is going to explode!!!!!

There was a nice article on the long-lived genre bookstore, Murder By The Book (Portland, Oregon), which prompts me to suggest that if you are a genre author, gathering intel on genre bookstores that cater to your audience (romance or mystery, for example), might provide you with an opportunity to reach out to them (live and in-person, or in another way) to help them sell your titles. A fellow RWA member, author Megan Frampton (A Singular Lady, Signet Regency) once sent saltwater taffy to a distant bookstore where her title was selling (as the confection figured in her novel). It was a great way to say thanks, and keep this author in their minds. Never forget - Little things mean a lot!

Now here's hoping I can get back later on this PM to restore the huge chunk I just lost that included lots of reviews of upcoming 2009 titles.

Til then, read as if your brain depended on it!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

And now back to our regularly scheduled program...

With apologies for having been in absentia for the last few days (due to unfortunate familial illnesses over the Thanksgiving holiday), here I am, back in the saddle again, with oodles of news and thoughts on the publishing front.

First up, the Amazon Kindle bestseller list shows that Stephenie Meyer rules - all 4 Twilight titles in the top 10. And despite lukewarm reviews, the film version of Twilight RULES at the box office, racking up a cumulative gross since it's opening day of $119.7 million. According to Daily Variety (11/24/08), "Twilight is a ready-made film franchise, and the opening reps a resounding victory for the relatively new Summit, which didn't even wait for weekend's end before announcing plans for a sequel, 'New Moon' ".

Borders announced their nominees for their 13th Annual Original Voices series in four categories. The fiction nominees are Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles; The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steevn Galloway, The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti; The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry; The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes and The White Tigeter by Aravind Adiga.

But Borders' bad news eclipsed the Voices when they reported on their earnings (fiscal third quarter fell 12.8 at superstores, with Waldenbooks falling less, only 7.7%) (Publisher's Lunch, 11/26/08).

Borders also reported "management is no longer contemplating a transaction to sell the entire company".

In addition to Twilight, upcoming films based on novels abound (due in part to the difficulty coming up with original scripts during the recent WGA strike), including The Reader, starring Kate Winslet, based on Bernard Schlink's novel, Defiance, based on the book, Defiance: The Bieleski Partisans, a non-fic title that will star Liev Schrieber and James Bond himself, Daniel Craig, in a less frivolous role; Flirting With Forty by Jane Porter, starring Heather Locklear in the title role; and Daily Variety (12/3/08) reports that Johnny Depp's acquired the film rights to In The Hand of Dante by Nick Tosches.

On the smaller screen, True Blood held it's own and a second season has been ordered. Golden Globe buzz indicates the show is also in the running for nominations, no surprise given the much lauded Alan Ball (he's won the following awards - Oscar, Emmy, Golden Globe, WGA, DGA, Producers' Guild, BAFTA) is at the helm of the Gothic crowd-pleaser based on Charlaine Harris' titles - which now have reappeared like mushrooms after a rain on all the bestseller lists.

And this brings up the point of the importance of film, television and dramatic rights in your works. In a publishing contract an author should retain these rights or, at the very least, retain no less than 50% of them. If a contract says all these rights go to the publisher or a heavy percentage? Have your agent, or, better yet, an entertainment attorney specializing in publishing, negotiate this so very important provision. This is one of the areas where beaucoup bucks are involved as well as all the stuff down the line - sequels, novelizations of the film, and merchandising.

Recent deals in the romance world have been made by Barbara Poelle at the Irene Goodman Agency, and Kim Whalen at Trident Media Group - get a bit of background on these agents' houses via the links at right.

The November 30 NYT had a thought-provoking editorial by non-fiction author James Gleick (science essayist and author of CHAOS and GENIUS:THE LIFE AND SCIENCE OF RICHARD FEYNMAN) discussed the positive ramifications of the Authors Guild/Google digital settlement. He pointed out that books out of print will be made available to readers, and that e-publishing will continue to grow and expand what readers can tap into, but that the printed book will never go away, because "As a technology, the book is like a hammer. That is to say, it is perfect; a tool ideally suited to its task. Hammers can be tweaked and varied but will never go obsolete...". Good news for us paper book lovers.

On the marketing front, Penny Sansieveri, The Book Marketing Expert discusses ways to get your name out there and attract attention to your blog - including writing articles. There's a million subjects for articles in this naked city. Try your hand at some and get them published, along with links to your blog and website. Try such sites as articlecity.com, goarticles.com, submityourarticles.com and ezinearticles.com.

And you ARE keeping track of traffic on your blog, right?

If you haven't checked out Penny's site, scroll down for the link and give it a look. Marketing may or may not blow your skirt up, but it's a fact of an author's life that you're going to have to participate in some way, shape or form in today's ever poorer publishing world.

More to come in upcoming posts: a great issue of Writers Digest, the e-publishing future (as seen by yours truly) and the value of putting on your business hat for marketing, promotion, PR and branding purposes.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Quick Friday Bits

It's definitely a good news/bad news kind of day.

11/21 Publisher's Lunch reports the grim news that Random House is "freezing all pensions at their current levels and will not give pensions to new employees hired as of January 1, 2009," though "the company will continue to offer matching funds, up to 6 percetn, for 401K plans." (Story is also being reported by the AP).

In the same report under "Today's Meal" however, is the report that Hatchette Book Group employees got news of something to be thankful for, an additional Thanksgiving bonus (in addition to the regular year-end bonus), which celebrates "a spectacular year".

11/20's Pub Lunch reported on the Barnes & Noble financials. In a nutshell: "Even worse than expected". Reported sales were $1.1 billion for their third quarter, and a net loss of $18.4 million. Store sales were down 7.4 percent, though the online sales rose 2%. CEO Steve Riggio said, however, "On a positive note, our gross margins continue to hold up well. We have scrupulously avoiding driving unprofitable top line sales growth with additional coupon promotions and extra discounting. Additionally, the company remains focused on producing cash flow. We are managing our working capital efficiently, which is evident in the reduction of $107 million of inventory compared to last year." (Problem with this, I'm no business woman, but that sounds as though they bought fewer books, no?).

Upcoming retailer news - BAMM reports today, and Borders releases their results on Tuesday, November 25 (after the market closes, those cagey folk!).

11/19's Pub Lunch says that "At current prices, the market value of Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-A-Million and Hastings all together is less than $950 million. "


For those of you who want to sharpen your marketing and promotional skills, Author M. J. Rose's Buzz Your Book Class (an 8 year hit with authors that explores the creation and execution of your own marketing plan) is forthcoming. The first 25 registrants only. The 6-week on-line class runs from January 5th to February 2nd, 2009. The link at right will get you there.

Angela Knight's got another sale reported. Her 6th Mageverse novel went to Cindy Hwang at Berkley in a 3-book deal brokered by Roberta Brown of Brown Literary Agency.

Thought I would highlight a few agents who have made recent deals, too. Jennifer Schober of Spencerhill Associates had 2, count-em two, deals mentioned in the trades, and Helen Breitwieser at Cornerstone Literary made a romance sale. Check out these mover-and-shaker ladies via the links, stage right!

For some auspicious, yet upbeat news:

The Mystery Writers of America bestowed Grand Master status to James Lee Burke (author of, among other things, the awesome Dave Robicheaux series) and Sue Grafton (author of the perennial favorite Kinsey Milhone alphabetical series).

And for those who may have missed the event (my evening gown was in the cleaners), the National Book Awards were presented on November 19th. And the winners were: Fiction - Peter Matthiessen, SHADOW COUNTRY (Modern Library); Nonfiction - Annette Gordon-Reed, THE HEMINGSES OF MONTICELLO (W. W. Norton & Co.); Young People's Literature - Judy Blundell, WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED (Scholastic) and Poetry - Mark Doty, FIRE TO FIRE: NEW AND COLLECTED POEMS (HarperCollins).

It's always a great day when literature is celebrated!

Have a great weekend, and remember - buy a book. Think of it as royalty karma.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hump Day, Redux (and the hump keeps getting bigger)

Whew. Tough day on the market today. Down over 800 points in 2 days. Wasn't it the Paul Simon song that went, "slip sliding awaaaay"?

Anyway. I'm shaking it off.

Back to the biz of publishing.

From Publishers Weekly (Nov. 17 issue): In addition to the article on cover art in the romance genre, there was a very informative article on the rise and rise and rise of paranormal in YA. In "The Next Dead Thing" the mounting popularity of the genre is examined, in the wake of the Twilight saga. Vampires are still on the scene, claims author Donna Freitas, but all things un-dead are making their presence known. Say, like, zombies. In fact, the many takes on zombies are what seem to be hot hot hot.

Says Senior VP and Associate Publisher for fiction at Harper Collins, Elise Howard says "We are still looking for that perfect zombie property.", while explaining that the "hunger for these novels is still unsatisfied", the fact is that the market is getting more sophisticated in what they want. Because of the glut - the books have to be top notch quality in order to stand out from the rest of the un-dead crowd. The old zombie - rotting flesh and body parts falling off - appealed mostly to the young male reader. But new approaches and titles are changing that. Zombie Blondes, Generation Dead and ghostgirl are some examples. Alessandra Balzer, co-publisher of Balzer & Bray at HarperCollins says "Now that people realize paranormal books are popular, everyone is publishing them. Soon it will be harder to get those books the attention they need, so we have to be really picky about what we publish."

Indeed, other creatures of the night are grabbing their own turf, including ghosts, pixies, weres and demonic creatures, such as The Vours in the recently released The Devouring.

Despite not being able to chart what the future will bring, Bloomsbury's Melanie Cecka said, "If fans are demanding these books, then we want to fulfil the need. But we are all getting more calculated about the books we publish. We are being watchful about what each house is doing, and how to position our authors..."

OT, the best line of the article, however, was that of Children's book buyer Donna Gerardo, who said, "It's pretty sad when the undead are getting better sex than I am."

But everyone agrees that this trend is going to stay strong for a while. The lesson I gleaned from the article? Find the next unique dead thing ... and they will come!

Among the PW reviews were some new names as well as some familiar:

Under Fiction - Karen Rose's Kill For Me (Grand Central; Feb.) - "Rose juggles a large cast, a huge body count and a complex plot with terrifying ease." The Nightingale, debut title from Morgana Gallaway (Kensington) "is a politically inspired romance set in contemporary Iraq." (Feb); St. Martin's Press is releasing Eric Spindler's Breakneck (Jan) but PW finds that "Spindler strays from her comfort zone." Lutishia Lovely's A Preacher's Passion (Kensington/Dafina; Jan) gets this kudo, "Amen to Lovely's hilarious follow-up to Love Like Hallelujah"

Mass Market reviewed The Witch's Grave by Shirley Damsgaard in her supernatural series (Jan), finding a "rather disjointed plot"; The Accidental Sorcerer: Rogue Agent, Book One, K. E. (Karen) Mills (Orbit; Jan) - "Miller's whimsical prose keeps the plot jumping and the readers laughing." And Lone Star Woman by Sadie Callahan - who is really Texas author Jeffrey McClanahan (Signet Eclipse; Jan) gets a great review. PW calls the title "as sizzling romance" and of the author's talent says, "...multifaceted character development, swift pacing and sensuous love scenes set this western romance well above its contemporaries." An impressive review for a male-penned romance offering.

And speaking of the YA paranormal trend, under Children's Fiction - Bones of Faerie by Jannie Lee Simner (Random) earns the debut author "the plotting is strong". Melissa Marr, already established in the YA field, enters into a compilation with other authors in the collection of five original stories - Love Is Hell (HarperTeen; Dec). PW says "consistently supple storytelling will lure readers through all five entries".

PW has 5 romance titles on the harcover list and 9 on the mass market. Romance is still strong, in all its permutations!

The Soapbox endpiece that wraps up the issue is a pithy essay by Stephen Barbara, literary agent and contracts director at Donald Maass Agency, who laments the well-honed query letters that now proliferate, following years of workshops and courses for authors on how to pen them. His problem? "Time was, bad writers wrote bad query letters." He now finds himself sucked into reading a submission with a great query letter, only to discover a dreary to dreadful submission. He concludes, "Nowadays...I figure that my goal is to discover great talent, not run a writer through some Draconian test of his or her ability to follow arcane query-writing guidelines." In other words, to paraphrase the Bard - the book's the thing!

Writer's Digest's Writer's Yearbook 2009 is out and is packed with lots of great intel, including an article (sorry, Mr. Barbara) on how to write (you guessed it) great query letters. This magazine is well worth the cover price of $5.99 for other articles on what agent's hate to find in a first chapter; strategies and advice for quick pitches at conferences; publishing your first book after 50 (which includes an inspiring story of Bangladeshi author, Nirad Chauduri, whose first book was published in 1951 at age 54. His second in 1988 at 90. His third? 1997 - aged 100); the year's wrap-up of the state of the e-book; anatomy of a writer's website; and the piece de resistance of the Yearbook, the wrap-up of 101 Best Websites for Writers.

This year these include selections under General Resources, Creativity, Publishing Resources (check out authormba.com/resources/blog_insiders.html) and publicityhound.com),Writing Groups and Communities (groups.msn.com/romancewritingtips), Agent blogs (including the Lori Parker blog I mentioned in an earlier post, as well as rejecter.blogspot.com), Legal and Business Advice (agentresearch.com/agent_ver.html; copyright.gov, literarylawguide.com/resources.html and publaw.com), Fun Stuff (noveljourney.blogspot.com) and Several Genres (erotica - erotica-readers.com; horror - horror.org; and romance - coffeetimeromance.com; romancedivas.com).

And for anyone looking to broaden their horizons:

For folk in the NYC area, PACE University offers a graduate degree, Master of Science publishing program.

The London Book Fair iwill be held on Wednesday, April 22, 2009, if you happen to be in jolly Old England.

There's the Tools of Change for Publishing TOC Conference, Feb. 9-11, 2009 in New York City.

AND, the big BEA, BookExpo America is also back in the Big Apple, May 28-31st, 2009, at the Jacob Javits Center.

More deals, dealmakers, agent profiles and good stuff to come tomorrow.

Til then, say a prayer, and buy a book.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hump Day News at The Publishing Game

Well, Brian came through with my copy of PW, and there's lots of news, but before that, a few other tidbits.

Daily Variety 11/18 issue reports that the "House of Night" series by P.C. Cast and her daughter Kristin has been optioned for the screen by Producers Michael Birnbaum and Jeremiah Chechik. Birnbaum says of the project: "P.C. and Kristin Cast created a thrilling world that juxtaposes teen drama with supernatural suspense, using the transition from human to vampire as a metaphor for the transition from adolescence to adulthood."

Daily Variety 11/19 reports that Nicholas Sparks' run of great good fortune on the silver screen continues - Warner Bros has cut a "seven-figure deal" for the movie rights to "The Lucky One", his latest bestseller. It will be produced by Denise Di Novi in her 4th Sparks film. He's going to be well-represented on the big screen because his other project, "Dear John", directed by Lasse Hallstrom is also in production for Screen Gems. AND he's "writing a new novel and an accompanying screenplay that is being custom-fit as a star vehicle for Miley Cyrus at Disney".

The 11/19 article also reports that "Lucky" is just one of the titles currently making the rounds, but that the pickings are slim - studios "aren't really biting on books".

Now on to the Publishers Weekly November 17 Romance special issue. This year's coverage on the genre is focused solely on the issue of cover art, in particular the ever-controversial "clinch" cover.

The short article reports:

"A clinch is never passe, but it is always evolving," and "A tastefully done clinch is a must-have for debut authors." These the words of Borders romance buyer Sue Grimshaw.

Vice President and Editorial Director of Avon, Carrie Feron says, "We're pro-clinch at Avon. Clinches are important when readers don't recognize the name of the author, but it doesn't have to be the clinch of 20 years ago."

Jennifer Enderlin, VP and associate publisher at St. Martin's Press weighed in saying that cover art should "be done in a modern way. If you feature a hero and heroine together on a cover, it needs to reflect some equality between the two." and warns further, "avoid at all cost poses where the heroine is bent so far backward she'll be in need of a chiropractor."

The article points out that opinions are rife, particularly on romance blogs, but that there hasn't been a poll to give us definitive proof.

Obviously Sarah Wendell of www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com has an opinion: "Many readers hate it. Hate it." addign "But clinch covers will probably never go away."

Another divergent opinion is that of Kate Smith, founder of www.romancingtheblog.com, who says that while the clinch is "definitely old fashioned, it exists for a reason. A clinch identifies the genre in a way that leaves no question about what you're getting between the covers." She says some of the readers of her blog say "it provides fules tothe naysayers, the critics of romance who dismiss the genre as fluff..."

But one of the respondents on the Romancing the Blog discussion said, "I've been reading romance for 30 years. The clinch cover is like an old friend."

PW had an interseting comparison of various covers of different publishers and genres and the reasoning for the artwork (no clinches) including what the "message" of the art is intended to convey to the reader, subliminally.

Having read PW cover to cover, I discovered lots of great bits to pass on. So many in fact that I'll do a "Hump Day, Part II" tomorrow, despite the fact that then, well, it won't be hump day anymore!

But a few more bits and bites:

Sara Nelson mentions Bookreporter.com, the site of Carol Fitzgerald. It's got release info, author interviews, industry stuff and polls, and is basically just a jam-packed site. Check it out (see link at right).

If you have not already heard, Amazon and Penguin are teaming up for a 2nd unpublished novel manuscript Breakthrough Novel Award. More info can be fond on www.amazon.com/abna and the grand prize includes a publishing contract with Penguin with - hold onto your hats - a $25,000 advance!

Upcoming releases are reported for perennial favorite, Belva Palin. Crossroads (Random) will be released on November 27. Stocking stuffer, anyone?

Several books have recently been in the news for their homage to Breakfast at Tiffany's. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Truman Capote's famous work, Vintage is releasing a new edition, which includes as well, the poignant and sweet short story, "A Christmas Memory".

And on November 29, the Kate Jacob's Knit Two, the sequel to Putnam's The Friday Night Knitting Club is released. Take note, too, that TFNKC is being filmed; produced by and starring Julia Roberts.

OK, Folks. Heading out for the night, but I hope you found this post interesting. Tomorrow's part II will include details from Publisher's Lunch and more from PW, including interesting news on the YA paranormal explosion. Gotta love the title of the article by Donna Freitas- "The Next Dead Thing".

Til then!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

If It's Tuesday, It Must Be The Publishing Game

Welcome to another quiet day in the publishing industry.

Publisher's Lunch advertised the Amazon Kindle Best Seller List, including their "Top Movers & Shakers", with Casting Spells by Barbara Bretton (Berkley) at the #1 spot.

The Google settlement agreement has been given a tentative approval. PL says "Judge John Sprizzo's order was made public yesterday, and he set a June 11 date for a fairness hearing to 'decide if the deal is fair, reasonable and adequate.'"

Given the importance of this copyright milestone for the internet age, I'll try to keep abreast of this case and report the details as it moves forward. Legally, everyone is scrambling to get all they can, or, in the alternative, protect themselves all they can, before the laws get put in place. It's groundbreaking work that is happening here, and, as we saw with the WGA strike against the producers in Hollywood over internet usage of their work, it can have devastating effects. Stay tuned!

Marketing Expert Penny Sansevieri's Book Marketing Expert Newsletter (see link to susbscribe!) has great details on the ins and outs of marketing via the internet, including website, blog, Twitter and social pages. If you have a hankering to keep up to date on a great newsletter with excellent ideas for managing your marketing time and resources, I urge you to subscribe. Additionally,there are free classes to be had on marketing. (nNte that Penny's Red Hot Internet Publicity class is this Thursday, Nov. 20 from 4-5 pm Eastern).

Your sales are your responsibility. Even if you have assistance or guidance from your publisher, be it a traditional publisher with a teensy-weensy budget for your marketing efforts or an e-publisher with no marketing budget, you will be the Main Man on the marketing front. It's up to You!

And if you are thinking that blogging is not worth your time? Guess again.

According to Penny's newsletter of Nov. 13, Technorati's State of the Blogosphere report for 2008 has found that:

Blogs have a total internet audience of 188.9 million; There were 94.1 million US blog readers in 2007 (50% of internet users) and 77% of active internet users read blogs.

I found another industry site, Publishing-Industry.Net, that covers publishing in its every permutation, from newspapers to books. It's not an American site, but covers the American publishing industry. Give it a look (though it is heavily business oriented.)

Given the light nature of the fare (blast my PW for always being delivered late by my mailman! I love Brian, he's a very cool dude, but what is he doing with my Magazine!)

But, in order to give you guys a good dose, I'm going to include some other tidbits to make things worth your while.

Did you know that some publishers are now including a new provision in their contracts? As if the rights to your next title weren't enough, they are adding "Non compete" clauses, which would hinder you from plying your writerly trade to other publishers for the duration of the contract.

As with the option for your next title, negotiate this clause, too, should you come across it (and are not able to have it removed, and by all means, ask to have it excluded). Given that the language will probably be broad (which is in the publisher's favor), try to negotiate it to a more specific area. Do you write urban fantasy for the publisher? Negotiate a non-compete ONLY for urban fantasy (leaving you free to peddle your steamy erotica, or your YA, or your romantic suspense, elsewhere). If you are contemplating a contract and do not have an agent, consider employing the services of a publishing attorney (not your Uncle Max who does trusts & estates, or you brother Steve who just graduated from law school). A publishing attorney will be well-versed with the industry standards, what is traditional, what is unusual, and will know how to negotiate any contract to your best interests. If not, consider an option such as the Authors Guild, which, for $90, you can join and get free legal advice. I posted their link earlier on so check them out.

But most of all, you should be as knowledgeable about the law of publishing as you can be, for your own protection and your own benefit. It is not complicated law and there are lots of books out there to give you a leg up when you are holding that precious piece of paper in your hands!

Some titles are: Every Writer's Guide to Copyright and Publishing Law, Third Ed. by Ellen M. Kozak (Henry Holt & Co., 2004); Author A to Z: A Desktop Guide to Writer's Rights and Responsibilities by Randolph/Davis/Dustman/Elia (Capital Books, 2005); and Writer's Guide to COpyright Law: How To Get Your Full Financial Reward and Avoid Pitfalls by How To Books (2006).

And on that note, have a lovely evening.

Monday, November 17, 2008

To Market, To Market ...

A few bits of interesting news via Publisher's Lunch and Publishers' Marketplace daily deals.

Laura Bradford, Bradford Literary agency made a romance deal with Cindy Hwang at Berkley. In case you are not familiar with the agency, check it out (Link to the right). She reps romance of a wide variety.

More news on the agency musical chairs front via Publisher's Lunch:

Jenny Rappaport has separated with her prior partner, Lori Perkins, to start her own literary agency, The Rappaport Agency. She'll specialize in: science fiction and fantasy, YA and romance. The link to the agency site is at right, and check out Jenny's blog to get to know her.

Meanwhile at Lori's establishment, the L. Perkins Agency, they will continue to focus on erotica and chick lit, horror and pop culture, and employee Marsha Philitas has been promoted to Senior Literary Agency. (Lori's Blogger profile link is at right.) You've probably heard of or seen her blog, Agent In The Middle. Check it out!

I'm going to harp for a bit on Publicity/Marketing/Author Promo. It's my blog and its my soapbox, so there.

I've recently seen some discussions on some author loops regarding the RWA "recognition" of publishers, and the RWA imposed standard for an author to achieve PAN status, which is a $1,000 advance or earning of royalties. Debate ensued about the pros and cons of traditional publishers versus E-publishers vis a vis how much money you get from either.

What was missing from the discussion was the acknowledgement that it is going to be the author's job to promote and market her own book. Regardless of publisher, unless you are one of those bestselling types, you're pretty much on your own. In addition to the quality of the book, any title is going to move based on the author's willingness to push/promote/announce it. Don't know much about marketing, beyond post cards and bookmarks, freebie pen giveaways and book trailers?

My one word of advice: LEARN.

The voracious reading public can't buy something they don't know exists.

Make sure you know how a good website works (pretty is not all you need). Make sure you know about compiling a list of contacts. Make sure you're reaching out not just to WRITER communities, but to READING communities. Announcing your book to everyone in RWA is nice, but those folks are busy writing and they'll cheer you on, but you want readers who are going to buy this book, and the next, and the next, .... and so one.

So take some time from your writing life and dedicate it to the art of marketing:

Here are a couple of titles to help:

PUBLICIZE YOUR BOOK: An Insider's Guide to Getting Your Book the Attention It Deserves by Jacqueline Deval

HOW TO SAY IT: Marketing with New Media by Lena Claxton and Alison Woo (while this book addresses small businesses of all sorts, they specifically state that writers are one of the top types of "small businesses", according to the IRS. So with some focus you can fine-tune the techniques to apply to your writing career.

More on this tomorrow, from the chilly Big Apple.

Friday, November 14, 2008

TGIF - and a little something for the weekend

Lots to get into today (I missed 2 days because of layoffs that were announced out of the blue at my office, and it threw me off my game for a bit):

November 10 Publisher's Weekly:

Scholastic bought out 110 employees who took early retirement, but a small number of employees got laid off.

A very informative article, "Digital Pulse 2008" additionally polled various publishing houses about their thoughts, operations and expectation as far as digital is concerned:

Random House - "Digital and online afford publishers the opportunity to connect more effectively with consumers and, ultimately, to make more and more interesting products." And as far as the future is concerned: "People will read a lot more on devices."

Penguin: "We are still seeing e-books as a rapidly growing area, and the downloadable audio market will continue to open up further in 2009 as new customers recognize its value and potential. Penguin Groups USA's net e-book sales are up 500% over 2007 and we expect e-books to continue to sell strongly." [MY COMMENT - 500% - HOLY COW!]

Houghton Mifflin/Harcourt: "There is no doubt that this is a business that's very quickly arriving." and what might be expected in the next few years: "To put a line in the sand, and just speaking for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, I think that over the next two to five years, e-books can come up to 4% or 5% of our total business."

Kensington: "We are looking forward to a time when all of the accounts will accept just the ePub format. We've focused on rmoance and women's fiction titles, as well as gay and lesbian and mystery titles; we're looking forward to braodening our offerings. I think it's safe to say that as we make more new release titles available...the business will probablyd ouble each year for several years."

Macmillan: "We're going to see e-books not just be a sideline. W e'll see more simultaneous publications, more formats..."

Hachette Book Group: "...looking forward to e-ink devices with color screens. W e're excited about the new Sony device", and "Mobile phone distribution: We have worked with Mobipocket for several years, and now with Fictionwise and eReader on iPhone." And they expect in the next five years: "..more interactive types of content."

Under the Reviews, THE TEMPTATION OF THE NIGHT JASMINE by Lauren Willig (Dutton) in her Pink Carnation series gets a lovely review "...another sultry spy tale" and "The author's conflaction of historical fact, quirky observations and nicely rendered rmoances result in an elegant and grandly entertaining book."

Jacqueline Frank's new series debut of the Shadowdwellers , Ecstacy (Zebra)gets a nice nod "This romantic and strongly sexual story between complicated characters is made even richer by an intriguing secondary cast and efficient world building that's familiar without being lazy."

Julia Harper's "hilarious follow-up to 2008's Hot", For the Love of Pete (Grand Central) is reviewed too.

And there are a wealth of non-fiction titles spotlighted in Reviews that may be of interest to authors:

One Big Happy Family: 18 Writers Talk About Polyamory, Open Adoption, Mixed Marriage, Hosuehusbands, Single Motherhood, and Other Realities of Truly Modern Love" (edited by Rebecca Walker, Riverhead Publising, Feb. 09), including essays by authors like Dan Savage, and ZZ Packer.

For history buffs, Mistress of the Monarchy: The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster by the inimitable Alison Weir (Ballantine, Jan. 27, 09)

More history: Banquet at Delmonico's: Great Minds, the Gilded Age, and the Triumph of Evolution in America by Barry Werth (Random; Jan. 6, 09)

And for the gruesomely inclined and mystery/crime writers: Mop Men: Inside the World of Crime Scene Cleaners by ALan Emmins (St. Martin's Dunne, Jan. '09)

Back to my insistence on how important keeping up with the business is, there is a free daily PW newsletter, PW Daily (I'm having trouble finding a working link, but I'm on it for you guys!)

Another source of the business of books: Library Journal, recommended by Jacqueline Deval, author of Publicize Your Book! AN Insider's Guide to Getting Your Book the Attention It Deserves (a marvelous guide, filled with massive amounts of terrific information for handling publicity, whether you've got $1,000 or less to spend, or $10,000 or more). See the link at right to access LJ.

And at Author Buzz you'll find a marketing service if you have the means to utilize their services. Here's from their Publishers Lunch ad: "For less than $1,000 AuthorBuzz.com reaches 370,000 readers, 5000 booksellers, and 12,000 librarians. Fr incrementally more add leaders and readers of more than 15,000 bookclubs." They get a rave from Carla Neggers, "Dollar for dollar this is the best marketing tool I've ever used."

OK, folks, I'm going to make this short after all. I'm going to a book launch party for a fellow author - just another way to get out the word about your book! (Pardon the typos and hope you enjoy the intel!)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

11/11/08: Gird Your Loins, Ladies & Gents - Tough Times Ahead

The word has hit the street. Tough economic times have the publishing industry cringing as they await the holiday season. In USA Today they quote an internal B&N memo by chairman Len Riggio that says the chain is expecting "a terrible holiday season" and "never in all my years as a bookseller have I seen a retail climate as poor as the one we are in.". Publisher's Lunch newsletter, quotes USA Today, says there's more "competition for attention and dollars".
Literary agent Richard Pine says (according to USA) that B&N is limiting its orders "on titles other than the big, sure-thing best sellers".

HarperCollins "reported that fiscal first-quarter operating income had slid to $3 million from $36 million a yer earlier,"

Today reports the grim news that layoffs have already begun. Doubleday made a 10% cut in staff (16 employees) and Rodale a 7% cut (14 employees).

This news comes on the heels of the earlier rumor that Borders was looking for a buyer, and then (as reported last week) informing their distributor that they'd be witholding payment for a certain period of time. Competition from online booksellers and the other discount outlet stores are putting Borders in the hot seat, as the industry watches nervously to see what becomes of the giant.

Beyond the hope of holiday sales, the future looks even grimmer. According to The New York Times, Jamie Raab, Grand Central publisher says, "You know to a certain extent people will be in the stores during the holidays. What will happen once there is no reason to be in the stores?" Although she adds that "A book is still this incredibly lovely, respectable gift, and a lot cheaper than other luxury items".

Times further reports that "royalty advances for so-called midlist authors could come under pressure." and that Christy Fletcher, Manhattan literary agent says "Something may sell for $50,000 that would have sold for $100,000 a year ago."

Others in the industry are taking a more optimistic outlook, however, such as BookReport.com's Carol Fitzgerald, who told USA TODAY: "Books could be one of the few categories that could be even, and even is the new up." And the NY Times pointed out that books can provide an escape from financial misery." And quote Larry Weissman, literary agent, as saying "I think there is a yearning for authenticity out there, and peolpe are going to go back to the things that really matter, and one of those things, I hope, will be reading books."

SO, folks, all we can do is fasten our seatbelts and prepare for the bumpy ride. You can help yourselves survive and with luck thrive, in this recession, however, by making certain that you are taking advantage of your platform, and your business savvy. When publishing budgets tighten, so will marketing budgets. Be prepared to be your own sales agent and learn all you can about the advantageous ways you can promote yourself and your book.

Investigate on-line marketing and a web presence. Some possible sources to help you are GET KNOWN BEFORE THE BOOK DEAL by Christina Katz, and her site (see it at right). Penny Sansevieri of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. has several titles FROM BOOK TO BESTSELLER: AN INSIDER'S GUIDE TO PUBLICIZING AND MARKETING YOUR BOOK! and RED HOT INTERNET PUBLICITY. Her site is listed on the right as well. I've heard the lady talk and she is excellent.

Besides optimizing your platform and learning how you can market yourself, the last best piece of advice is: Write the absolute best book you can.

Then strap on that kevlar, heft that shield, load that six-gun - and prepare to brazen out these tough times until Happier Days are Here Again!

Good night and (as Edward R. Murrow said) Good Luck!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday, November 10 - Technology Advances Lead News

NY Times Business Section: Google's officially in the E-publishing game now. The deal reached (Authors Guild v. Google settlement) concerns Google's publishing of electronic versions of out-of-print books, but books that are still under copyright protection. The settlement is subject to the court approval process, which is pending, but it is a harbinger of the varied future of publishing. A particularly salient point is that "Google would share online sales revenue with publishers and authors."

The article examines numerous other new ideas that are being explored by publishers (including e-books on iPhones, for example). In support of the concept that the industry is expanding, technologically, from the tried-and-true print & ship to stores version, the article quotes Eileen Gittins, chief executive of Blurb, a company that aids self-publishers using the internet: "The book business model is under siege, just as the music industry earlier came under siege."

Kindle/Sony Readers/ cell-phone and iPhone "publishing" are just the tip of the technological iceberg and Genevieve Shore, digital director for Penguin in London said in the Times' article "We will have some interesting new business models on the market in 2009."

In fact, the Times reports that while books sales in the US fell 1.5 percent in the first 9 months of this year, e-book wholesale sales are up 55 percent from a year earlier. Look for this to add impetus to the industry's pursuit of electronic delivery methods.

Electronic books have been available for a while, including Project Gutenberg, which makes more than 25,000 books available for download. Their focus, however, is on books whose copyrights have expired, unlike Google, who will be providing titles that still enjoy copyright protection.

This is just one salvo in the war on the traditional paper book. Given the plethora of electronic delivery options, increasingly "green-minded" consumers, and continuing glum fiscal news, look for everyone in the business to invent, explore, expand and promote alternative publishing and distribution of books. Particularly as the legal ramifications are more completely identified, the various parties weigh in, and precedent for these issues are straightened out.

The October 27 edition of PW (which arrived in my mailbox on 11/7), the Deals column highlights new deals for fiction authors Beth Hoffman ("Saving Ceecee Honeycutt - woman's fiction) and William Ryan (The Holy Thief and 2 addtl. titles, historical crime), both by agents at InkWell. Sounds like a "happening" place for authors to be! Check out their website for more details on this agency (see link to the right).

Lots of romance titles got reviewed in the issue, including a great one for Janye Ann Krentz' new HC title, "Running Hot" (Putnam) "The plot is fast, steamy and wildy entertaining..." Also - Meg Cabot's "Ransom My Heart" is an historical romance "...thoroughly enjoyable and funny."

Other general reviews included "Midnight Sins by Cynthia Eden (Kensington/Brava), "Night Shadow" by Cherry Adair (Ballantine). Mass Market reviews of "Untamed", (starred review) Pamela Clare (Leisure) - about this historical they say: "Clare's detailed attention to the history of alliances forged and battles fought near Fort Ticonderoga adds authenticity, and the characters evolve and change with a realism that readers will love"; "Dying for You" Beverly Barton (HQN) "fast pace and hot-tempered romance"; "Wicked is the Night", Catherine Mulvaney (Pocket Star) - "a diverting if pedictable tale"; and "What a Pirate Desires", Michaelle Beattie's debut title (Berkley Sensation) - "This very traditional but fun romance features a feisty heroine, a tortured hero and a sassy parttot, along with strong doses of betrayal, action and plenty of cunning". The number of reviews give romance a nice plug - not always the case in PW which sometimes reviews a mere one or two romance titles.

And the 11/9 Publishers Lunch Deluxe provides details on 12 new deals for romance novels/authors, more than any other genre covered; 11/10 (hooray!).

Lastly, you might wish to consider looking into membership in the Authors Guild. Their membership fee is $90, but they include contract review among their member benefits. Given the diversity of contracts - e-contracts particularly deviate from the old standard publishing contracts - and the recent propensity of publishers to include new provisions, and to change what had been some traditional provisions - for those of us without agents, it is a good source of legal advice that can help you avoid pain, heartache and wasted efforts later. Their link is on the right!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Daily News in the World of the Printed Word

Additional information on the Google/Authors Guild settlement agreement can be found on the Google site dedicated to that (see link to the right).

Also, the Book Rights Registry - provided by Google - will "locate rights holders and collect and maintain rights holders information. The Registry will also disburse all payments generated fromonline access provided by Google. The Registry is open to all rights holders." (PW, 11/3/08)

On the financial front, a gathering storm cloud of badness. The book business - which some forecasts have said might benefit to a certain degree from tough economic times because people who can't afford movies, travel, etc., may instead opt for that least expensive of entertainment types: Books. BUT, according to Publisher's Lunch, and with further discussion and information available on Ed's Rants and Galley Cat, Borders has informed its distributor, IPG, that it will not be paying them for 2 months due to "anticipated excessive returns". IPG is passing on the information to its client publishers, and decisions will apparently be made as to whether or not to continue to ship to the chain.

Certainly the already hot hot hot e-publishing trend is going to pick up speed with the gloomy financial situation as all costs attendant to the traditional paper book will be rising as well. Watch for more traditional publishers to expand their e-publishing operations accordingly.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

News From Publisher's Weekly 11/3 Issue

PW is an invaluable resource (an ironic sentiment, I know, given the pricey subscription rate for the publication). However, as this week's issue illustrates, it provides a wealth of up-to-date information that every author needs.

PW reports that the Authors Guild, AAP and Google $125 million preliminary settlement ends 3 years of litigation. And further "providing the broad framework for how books - and their content - will be sold in the digital age."

The agreement "ensures that, ...in the online world books will be discovered and rights holders compensated. The agreement gives authors and publishers two things they want the most: control over what is browsable and control of pricing for in-print copyrighted books."

Additionally, "The settlement also gives Google something it wanted, too, the opportunity to continue to (legally) scan copyrighted works and make them viewable, with the permission of the rights holders. The out-of-court settlement also avoids setting a precedent of what constitutes fair use in the digigal age. Google had contended that its scanning of copyrighted books from which it would show only snippets was fair use, a theory publishers and authors rejected."

This is a very complex issue, and I will do my best to cover it as the settlement details unfold.

Read more about it on the Author's Guild site. Links are included to both the official press release as well as the actual settlement agreement for those so inclined.

Suffice it to say that this is one large first step on the road to recognizing the rights of authors in the world of internet and "e-media". As a new frontier, legally-speaking, it will require much legal action to define and hone the parameters that protect rightsholders by translating copyright issues and fair use issues for the new medium, but also allow business to be conducted without undue restriction.

PW also announces their picks in this issue for Best Books of the Year.

The Mass Market category includes the debut Avon novel of author Jordan Dane, No One Heard Her Scream, savying about the book "tight plotting and smooth prose...a story that appeals to mainstream thriller readers as well as romantic suspense fans". Another high-profile deal was the sale and publishing arrangement of Sherry Thomas' Private Arrangements (Bantam). It comes in for kudos - "Deft plotting and sparkling characterization mark this superior debut historical romance..." The other 3 mentions are Mira's The Face by Angela Hunt, HQN's Deadly Deceptions by Linda Lael Miller and Terry Spear's Sourcebooks' title, "Heart of the Wolf". It was particularly interesting to me that Harlequin had 2 titles receive mention, coming on the heels of last year's Quill Nominee under their Mira imprint, The Kommandant's Girl. For anyone who might think that HQN is all about category, their Mira, Luna and HQN imprints are obviously holding their own in the single title arena.

In the main fiction reviews section, PW gives a nice review to Lora Leigh's upcoming St. Martin's Griffin trade paperback release, Only Pleasure (January 09), saying of her heroine Kia, "a superior heroine; strong, sexy and vulnerable."

In the mass market section, romance received reviews for: Die Before I Wake by Laurie Breton (Mira) (Starred review); Talk Me Down by Victoria Dahl (HQN) "winning tale"; Stolen Fury Elisabeth Naughton (Dorchester/Love Spell) "rock-solid debut"; and Warrior of the Highlands by Veronica Wolff (Berkley Sensation) "passionate and magical".

Note, too that Publisher's Weekly Romance issue is November 17 and their Mystery special issue November 24.

Check out the bible of the publishing industry. Romance Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America memberships will both get you a discounted subscription off the $225 cost for a year's supply. ($8.00 per single title copy, but they are not usually available on newsstands).


On the books-to-TV front: Big news for fans of the True Blood series and Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse. A 2nd season's episodes has been ordered by HBO.

Hip Hip Hooray! And pass the red stuff...

I've gotten myself a subscription to Publisher's Marketplace ($20.00 per month). I'll check it out and see what's what. They offer info on deals, agents, editors, lots and lots of blogs and sites to check out as well as a job board. I'll let you know if I think it is worth it.

And anyone can get a free subscription to Publisher's Lunch.

That's all for today.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Secrets of the Book Biz

Welcome, one and all to my first post on my new blog, The Publishing Game. No, I'm not a publishing "insider". I'm not going to have tricks, or dirt, nor can I provide the inside track. So, you ask, what good are you? Aha! What I intend is to provide a clearing house for the information that I gather in my "travels". As a business-minded author of romance and women's fiction, I nose about around this mysterious world. I pick up news and info and rather than keep it all to myself, I'll spread the wealth.

What makes an editor buy a book? Or turn up her nose? Why do some books turn into mega-bestsellers, surprising everyone, author and publisher alike? How do books get to market? What publishers are leading the way with new trends, and which ones are lagging behind? How goes the e-publishing business when compared with traditional? Who's in, who's out, what changes are being implemented that will affect how we authors do business?

And what's up with the agenting world? Who's making the deals, who's hanging out a new shingle and looking for talent?

For those of us breaking out, first-timers or mid-listers, how do our fellow authors score those reading gigs? Where do they come up with the cool and effective marketing tools? How's that internet-thingy work, anyway? Blogs, websites, Amazon, Twitter, Facebook, book trailers - what's a technophobe to do in this electronic age of sales and promo?

What's coming down the pike for the book lover? Audio books, e-books, books on your cell phone, new formats, new prices, new imprints. I hope to make this the place to find it all out.

Then there is the fun side of the game - the conferences, contests, winners, losers, movie deals and publicity events.

From the New York Times Book Review, to Publisher's Weekly. Writer's Digest, Poets & Writers, The Writer, Romantic Times, Book and the rest of the people that write about the people who write.

My goal is to gather, like a literary squirrel, all those golden nuggets of publishing goodness, secreting away the interesting bits and tids and provide them to you, along with ideas, advice, gossip, direction and motivation.

Every once in a while, us creative types have to hang up our authors' chapeaux and plunk on our businessman's hats. It's not always fun, but you've got to play nice with the other publishing types, and knowing who they are, what they want, where they work, and how to get to them, can only help smooth the path on your road to literary greatness. So, pull up a chair, hang your hat, and make yourselves at home!