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!

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