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.