Friday, November 27, 2009

My Head Hurts: The Google Settlement (Amended), et al

PW reports on the amended settlement in the Google/Authors Guild deal. Judge Chin accepted the revised agreement and imposed a new deadline for objections to the revised deal of January 28, 2010. A final "fairness" hearing is set for Feb. 18, 2010.

Unfortunately, it still looks to me that the losers in the deal will be (surprise, surprise) the authors. I have a print-out of the redlined revised amendment. Someday when I have nothing better to do I'll read all 337 pages of it. Oy. Apparently the onus has been shifted, somewhat, off the rights holders and onto Google. And international books have been taken out of the deal (US, UK, Australia and Canada remain). But I'd love to have one of the attorneys sit me down and explain exactly how it works. When Google finds an "orphaned" work, they snatch it up, start providing it and make money off of someone else's book/writings, without ever paying a penny for it. And if the work has a rightsholder front and center? They get 67% of the income. Google and the other "resellers" split the diff?

Too much math involved (and for those who dont' know my math skills are commensurate with my nuclear physics skills - which is to say non-existent).

In one corner of the world (i.e. ROMANCE) these last 2 weeks the glare of the spotlight was squarely on Harlequin. After a previous announcement of the start-up of their YA line (all good), and after the 60th Birthday celebrations died down, HQ announced the Carina all-digital arm. Angela James, digital proponant and late of Samhain and the gone-before-it-got-started Quartet Press, was announced to be the head of the new launch(good for you, Angela!) Rather than the release of e-books that had been or were being released as print titles, and different than the Spice Briefs and Nocturn Bites (shorts) that were all e-book shorts, Carina plans full-length novels, of a variety of types and flavors, without any future print release.

This started the rumblings amid the groups who don't favor e-books. And many, many questions arose as to royalty rates, etc., esp. when the Carina site indicated no advances would be paid (I can practically hear the squeals of distress from RWA over that one) and that the DRM process would not be implemented (opening the door to easier piracy and sharing of books, meaning fewer royalty dollars for authors). But apparently there were sufficient interested parties (read: desperate authors) because the Carina site was deluged with submissions.

Then - like a precursor to a Richter-scale sized quake - after the pre-shock - Carina - came the biggest news. HQ's even newer project: Harlequin Horizons - a self-publishing operation (called a vanity press by most) - with little tantalizing bits of info that would give the rejected Harlequin submittee a new 'lease' on their writing life by paying to be pubbed by the Harlequin Horizons line. That "Harlequin" would (kind of/sort of) be their publisher. And the additional tease that, if sales were good, they might be reconsidered to be a 'real' author (the quotes aren't mine - my opinion on self or vanity pubbing is a heated subject for another time and place).

The outcry against this op began with the Romance Writers of America whose "alerts" alerted their members that HQ was now verboten. Out. Kicked to the curb. No advertising HQ titles in Romance Sells. And they banished every single ARM of HQ - not just the Horizons folk. What this meant for RWA members pubbed, or dreaming of bineg an HQ pub was not clear. (Can I be in PAN? Can I get a "First Sale" notice?) HQ pubbed authors were concerned about the diluting of the brand that they were published with (and the taint of the self-pubbed author) (note that 2009 Pres. Diane Pershing was a multi-pubbed HQ author; so is this year's President, Michelle Monkou). What might it mean for entering the RITA with an HQ pubbed book, or having HQ attendees at the National conference, and many other questions arose and with lightening speed zoomed across the Yahoo group loops, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and every other conceivable avenue of communication.

There have been few responses from National to these questions from their members. But when the Mystery Writers of America and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers joined the outcry, HQ began making subtle and quiet changes. Now the self-publisher is "DellArte Press". No sign of the vaunted HQ name anywhere. Apparently some of the other "too good to be true" bait has also been removed. Satisfying the HQ pubbed authors and, perhaps, the writing organizations who have booted HQ from their "reconigzed" (read: approved) publishers. No word that I have seen as to how the triumverate of writers' groups are responding to this change.

What I found particularly ironic is that numerous other "real" publishers already have partnerships in place with self-publishing operations (Random House, Thomas Nelson's West Bow Press and Smashwords - partners with B&N) were blithely ignored. Can't quite figure out why.

Time will tell! But the vitriol was at such a fever pitch that I was expecting word any minute that Donna Hayes and her henchwomen had been dragged from their Canadian offices and were being tarred,feathered and ridden out of town on a rail. Can you say "i'ts just business"?

As we creep up on the end of the year (a tough business year, for sure), the holiday gift-giving season and no new Twilight, Harry Potter, Dan Brown or other mega-mega title coming down the pike, what does 2010 hold in store? (Adult hardcover sales were up 2.9% for the quarter, but all thinking is that this was a Dan Brown phenom, rather than an upswing in the sales game overall.)

Well, Kensington's doing that little Snoopy dance, having had a stellar year. But they seem to be one of the few bright lights in a continuing tough year.

Fewer mall stores than ever before (Barnes & Noble & Borders) planned. B. Dalton and Waldenbooks stores being phased out. Will 2010 improve the bleak brick & mortar picture? The big three of non-bookstores: Target, WalMart and Amazon continue the "how low can you go" game of lowering prices on books to $8.97, undercutting publishers, hurting the dedicated booksellers and, naturally, the authors. (Lower publishers' profits and that will become fewer titles purchased, lower advances, etc.).

Barnes & Noble is making sure that they don't have all their eggs in one brick and mortar basket, however. They re-launched their e-book store, and its partnership with Google to sell digital books was expanded by its launch of the NOOK e-reader (Count 'Em! 700,000 titles!). Orders were such that the ship date was pushed from Nov. 30 to Dec. 18 (still in time for Christmas). Admittedly not a subject I'm all that well versed in, techno-phobe that I am, but I'm intrigued by the Nook's wireless capabilities (what always kept me from the Sony E-Reader). With lots of little perks - like "sharing" a title with a friend, free downloads while in-store to read as much as you want, and - for those who care - designer Nook covers by such heavy hitters as Kate Spade, it looks to put a crimp in the Kindle holiday stocking of profits.

December's just days away. NaNoWriMo is in full swing as writers the world over seek the elusive 50,000 word MS. The turkey's just a memory (well, not in my house...) and holiday titles are sweeping onto the shelves. "New Moon" is breaking box office records (no dearth of goodies under the tree for Stephanie Meyer, eh?) and somewhere out there is an author deciding how to best get her book into print. Print? Digital? Self-publish? Chisel and stone tablet?

It's a tough business. And every author has to make their own decision as to what process suits them best. Make sure to educate yourself - don't be sucked in by the advertising, word-of-mouth gossip, or the lure of cash. Only you can know what is best for you. Whether you are able to market yourself, or want to rely on someone else to do that. Whether you want to hie to a prescribed formula for a genre novel, or break the rules, break out of the box and tell your story your way. Whether you want your words available in as many formats as possible so you can share your story, or whether you want to hold that physical thing that is a book in your hands (or put it in your parents' stocking). Whether you want the cash up front or are willing to put in the work to get the royalties coming to you over time - or even paying up front to get the book published and then be your own sales person. Many decisions to make. And as a creative professional, only you know what is going to work for you.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


OK. So we've been inundated in recent months with all sorts of digital news. The good, the bad, and the truly ugly. But what seems to be the ugliest is often the response to the various changes in the publishing industry. IMNSHO (in my not so humble opinion), people really need to get a grip.

A few months back, Amazon made a "mistake" by suddenly removing a huge number of titles from their lists, losing those titles their rankings, and in many cases, the authors' pages were deleted as well. Twitter-rage was all that got a response, in the end (after a long and obvious silence) from Amazon. "Whoops", was essentially their response. Nothing meant by the fact that the books so slighted were all the sort of gay, erotic, or banned titles that have so frequently been maligned. They lost their rankings but it was just a mistake. That furor died away.

Then fast on the heels came the 1984 debacle. Having purchased and sold an e-edition of 1984, it turned out the seller did not actually have the rights to the title, and so Amazon - WHOOPS - yanked it back from all the customers who bought, paid for, downloaded and in some cases not just read but notated it. One must wonder what, exactly, is Amazon's vetting system that they were unaware of the rights issue. Secondly came the hue and cry (and lawsuits) from folks who felt it was inappropriate that the books they bought could be - at Amazon's whim - taken away. Sure, they were reimbursed but the ironic "big brother" feeling left a bad taste in many Amazon/Kindle customers' mouths. So Amazon suffered a period of tarnished rep. What happened to those lawsuits? How is Amazon rectifying the problem? What happened about those banned books? Investigation? Anyone take responsibility? Anyone still wondering if it was as innocent as it sounded?

So, on we go. Digital books are selling like hotcakes. Ibid the new technology, applications. Ditto ibid the willingness of every concievable publisher to jump on the digital bandwagon. Traditional publishers are all vacillating, but after the Dan Brown hold-your-breath moment, when the e-book was released simultaneously with the hard copy edition (and sold like the proverbial e-hotcake), notices began being released that all the pub folk were all going to release simultaneously. They were going to investigate digital "arms" for their business operations. Yada Yada.

With reports citing 200-400% increases in sales of digital titles, it is no wonder that everyone's looking to the e-book for salvation from the tough economic times. Big bookstores are hurting (some more than others), publishers are looking anorexic, and the future is rather bleak (if not downright apocalyptic in some quarters). But we've got the Kindle, the Sony Reader, and a variety of other dedicated e-reader machines, and VOILA just in time for the gift giving season, THE BARNES & NOBLE NOOK! It's sold out, delivery dates are being pushed back and since it's partnered with Google (and how's that settlement thing going, guys?) it's got a gazillion (give or take) titles available for wireless download (take that, Kindle!)

Then we get the news that Macmillan has issued a new boilerplate contract. Bad news for authors (I mean, really, when do authors really get any GOOD news?) - Macmillan is lowering the standrad 25% digital royalty rate (25% of NET, mind you) to 20%. Hue and cry from agents, and authors, but in the end, what clout do we have, actually? If other publishers get the feeling they can make the same change, they will - in a heart beat. (Don't believe it? Hold your breath. You probably believe in Santa Claus, too.)

Things are looking all topsy turvy. Being an author is like being Alice in Wonderland stuck in the middle of a slice-and-dice terror film where the Red Queen is armed with razor-sharp fingernails. Can you say "Oh, My Goodness!" (oh, wait, that was Shirley Temple! But I digress...)

Then mere days ago, that big old behemoth in lipstick, Harlequin, announces Carina Press. All e-books, all the time. After going digital with HQ titles(simultaneous e-book releases of all titles) and short fiction offerings (Spice Briefs and Nocturne Bites) they've plunged into the profit pool big time. Within days they were so overwhelmed by submissions from hopeful romance authors that the site froze up. (Writers, desperate? Say it ain't so!).

There was grumbling, mumbling and all manner of dire forecasts. But - as someone famous once said - hold onto your shorts, you ain't seen NOTHING YET!

Today came the announcement - eliciting a Richter-scale response - that HQ - the grand mere of romance fiction, the be-all-and-end-all of romance publishing (happy 60th bdy, BTW) was (gasp) GOING INTO THE "VANITY PRESS"/SELF-PUBLISHING BUSINESS!

Within nano-seconds the airwaves (rather, the internet) was awash in communications riddled with despair, fury, disgust and any number of other responses to this dire news. Because, of course, self-published authors would immediately destroy romance.


OK - let's get a grip, folks. First, let's give it a chance. The self-publishing game ain't cheap. It also is not always a disaster (anyone heard of Eragon? The Shack?). Sure, some crappy titles will get published if people - in this tight financial world we live in - have the spare cash to toss out to get themselves in print. But hey, there are some crappy e-books out there, too because it is so easy to get a start-up publisher and get into the e-book game and not everyone is looking for quality product. Instead they're looking for quality ka-ching. And be honest - there are some (many?) crappy print books out there, too. I've bought some of them and have, in a moment of pure disgust, thrown them away (for those who know me, you'll get how astounding that act is).

Secondly, if everyone else is in the self-publishing game (including Amazon), why shouldn't HQ be able to cash in? And as their site indicates, they'll be keeping their savvy little eye on the authors whose books do well through Harlequin Horizons. Once you've plunked down your cash and gotten through the publishing process if you actually have the wherewithal to market your book, promote yourself, get your brand going and SELL the freaking thing, you might just get the attention of the old girl herself, and get a book deal with a "real" publisher. (I just hate that!)

From the RWA (I haven't heard much from the non-RWA types yet, but it's coming, I have no doubt) I can only imagine there was a collective gasp of horror and universal plotzing. If e-books are the ugly, redheaded, step-child of the organization, can you IMAGINE how they'll take the bastard kid, self-published books?

What I want to communicate with all this is that the industry is a' changing, folks. Digital, internet, branding, Espresso Machines, bookstores folding, publishers merging, and self-publishing growing - the old-fangled publishing model is getting arthritic. It's changing and technology is moving at light speed. Instead of sitting around pouting that the industry is embracing new ways of getting stories and writing to readers, why not investigate? Why not get active on these fronts? Why not learn as much as is possible about how these things are going to work before you get all het up about them. Instead of bitching, grab the bull by the horns and make it work for you. Don't buy into the furor. New things always get trashed.

Look at rock and roll, for heaven's sake.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Rise of the Machines: E-books, Digital Publishing & You

Consider this sampling of recent publishing news:
♥ The complex settlement between Google and the Authors’ Guild, 3 years in negotiations, is awaiting judicial approval after a postponement due to concerns over the burden the agreement places on authors and rights holders, as well as a flurry of filings and debates. The industry is holding it’s breath regarding the fate of the licensing of down-loadable electronic versions of “orphaned works”, but just recently the National Writers Union weighed in against the agreement, saying it was “grossly unfair to writers”.
♥ Barnes & Noble revamps and re-launches its e-book store with nearly 700,000 titles (many public domain works through a deal with Google). With titles available in numerous user-friendly apps, including iPhone and Blackberry, as well as the Sony Ebook Reader and others, it is clearly set to compete meaningfully against the market behemoth, Amazon.
♥ Nearly every single publishing house in the game takes a loss in almost every reported quarter. They cut staff, they cut acquisitions, they cut advances. Oh, except for Harlequin. The Grande Dame of Romance, HQ gains and gains and gains.
♥ Reports continue on the amazing surge in e-book sales. One example: in the period April – June 2009 it is reported that e-book sales tripled from that same period in 2008. Romance e-books outsell every other genre, remaining the backbone of e-publishing.
♥ HarperCollins, which recently debuted its new Harper Studio division – an experiment in drastically changing the traditional advance/royalty payment structure – adds another new division: The digital division handling titles to be released in a single format – e-book.
♥ After concerns of piracy, and debate as to whether a simultaneous release of Dan Brown’s much anticipated sequel to The DaVinci Code, The Lost Symbol, would hurt sales of the hardcover, we have go for launch: Knopf Doubleday is releasing the soon-to-be-blockbuster simultaneously in hardcover and e-book formats on [countdown, ten, nine eight, seven, six] – September 15, 2009.
♥ New apps and readers are in the works, or being released on a near-daily basis. counts 12 different e-book readers available at this point. Numerous apps for other gadgets include those for the iPhone, iPod Touch, T-Mobile G1 and the Blackberry.
♥ Random House announces they will be doubling the number of digital books they offer to approximately 15,000 titles, citing “triple digit increases” in e-book sales. Simon & Schuster likewise announces plans to double its e-title collection, adding another 5,000 titles. 95% of the McGraw Hill company textbooks are available in e-book format.
♥ There have been over 2 million downloads of the Stanza app for iPhone and iPod Touch since summer 2008, in comparison to 900,000 Kindles sold. But studies show that the most favored e-book reader remains: the computer.
♥ Long-time NY agent, Lori Perkins, together with book packagers Holly Schmidt and Allan Penn, owners of Hollan Publishing, form a brand-new romance e-publisher, Ravenous Romance. It’s stated goal – to play with the other big boys, er, girls on the block, successful operations like Ellora’s Cave, Samhain, Loose ID and The Wild Rose Press.
♥ Dana Langvin, VP and Director of Electronic Markets at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt says he has “seen a triple digit percent increase in e-book sales and anticipates it could become as much as 10% of the market within five years.
♥ Morrow/Avon names Margot Schupf to a newly created position, Senior Vice President, Editorial Director, of its new Digital Publishing Division.
♥ The first color e-book reader goes on sale in Japan (¥ 99,75, or $1,000).
♥ As we “go to press”, Quartet Press is the latest new e-publisher, starting with their first imprint, Quench, for romance e-books, with other genres to come. And they hit the ground running, hiring digital publishing heavy-hitter, and e-pub advocate, Angela James away from Samhain Publishing.
* * *
There is no doubt about it. Regardless of the myriad debates over pricing, formats, compatibility, cost, monopolies, gadgets, payment to authors, release strategies and the future of the print book, digital publishing is here to stay. And getting bigger, stronger and more prominent with every day that passes. Understanding the realities of this sea-change in publishing is paramount if you are to navigate the business, make the right decisions for your career and understand how it is all going to impact you in the years to come.
Keep your eyes on the news, for details about traditional publishers changing their payment structure to authors (vis a vis advances against royalties, royalty percentage of e-books versus print books, etc.) and other changes to contracts that will be made to accommodate the new formats. Watch e-publishers as they also evolve. Samhain already pays a token advance, and the publishers’ royalty percentages on an e-book are around 30-40%. Will that change, too? Prices for books released by the e-publishers are fairly low. Will they raise theirs to be closer to the traditional publishers selling e-book versions of bestsellers in order to garner a bigger piece of the pie? Or will trad publishers LOWER theirs to be competitive? Will the two distinct business models remain just that, or will they grow further apart? Or will we see a hybrid model evolve that embraces the best of both worlds, and addresses such fiendish problems as the dreaded RETURNS. How is the entire industry going to deal with copyright, piracy and fair use? What about reversion of rights and new definitions of what is, or is not, “in print”? So many questions, so little time!
The industry has seen the future and it is the e-book. Make sure you are making yourself competitive, too, by understanding the business evolution that is underway. RWA has an electronic chapter, ESPAN. There is also EPIC, the individual organization (and sponsor of the prestigious EPPIE awards). Discussions on every aspect of the digital revolution are held at BEA, the EPIC conference being held in New Orleans this March, the Writers Digest conference upcoming in September, the O’Reilly Tools for Change Conference, and the new Digital Book World Conference in January, 2010. There are countless blogs, websites, and such industry sources as BookSquare and Publishers Lunch/Publishers Marketplace, too. Publications like Wired, Publishers Weekly, and even Writers Digest, are invaluable. Likewise, the topic of e-books and the digital publishing industry are covered in every business publication from the Wall Street Journal to Newsweek.
The ideas that e-books will not be competitive, or are not being considered as equal opportunity sources of enjoyment compared to print books, are outdated. NY Times bestselling authors are writing for both e-pubs and print. And major publishers aren’t just using e-publishing as a way to release titles. They’re using it in various ways to boost sales, including “free” giveaways of older titles to rev up interest in new releases, including James Patterson. [The top 3 Kindle bestsellers in recent days (reports Publishers Lunch) are 3 free books, including Patterson’s The Angel Experiment.] Whether you are looking to be published in e-book format as a first step toward traditional publishing, if you intend to stick with e-books for the flexibility and cutting edge technological aspects, or if you are a multi-published author with a NY house who now has to cope with changes in your contract that accommodate the new format (and new practices such as freebies, and how that practice impacts your ability to earn royalties), you cannot afford to be in the dark about e-publishing.
You’ve been warned, Sarah Connor!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Time Waits For No Blogger

Boy has the world been zipping by! Time has flown and I'm still in the coop. But hey, I'm here now and this is some of the news that's happening:

The economy still stinks. Booksellers, publishers, and everyone else keep laying people off (including the big news of Feb, Editor in Chief of Publisher's Weekly, Sara Nelson herself). Sales are down. Natch.

Moving on.

E-books are still in the news. The Authors Guild and Amazon settled quick on the issue of voice software but everyone's waiting to see how that plays out. The Big A backed down, but those in the know figure there'll be some other battles on the horizon that won't be quite so polite.

A Chicago Sun Times blog by Mark Coker (founder of Smashwords and Dovetail Public Relations), who moderated a panel at the Tools of Change conference just passed, said that IDPF reports November e-book sales were up 108 percent.

Amazon's new Kindle is out and everyone and their mother are reporting on what changed for the better - and what didn't change that should have. Still don't have one because (see above comment re: economy).

And along with everyone else and their mother, Hearst has announced it will be launching a wireless e-reader (according to "The publisher plans to introduce a large-format device this year based on electronic-ink technology.") I just gotta get with the high-tech program and figure out what all this stuff means.

While overall book sales are down, down, way down, Borders reports that a few of their categories were up, including American history books and science fiction and fantasy and, YAY, romance titles!

But don't be discouraged, all you hopeful authors out there. Deals are still being made arcross the board.

A new historical novel, The Queen's Pawn, a debut novel by Christy English (a fictionalization of Eleanor of Aquitaine) sold to NAL; Laura Lippman' new title, The Girl in the Green Raincoat sold to William Morrow; a fantasy title, Griffin Summer (griffins, mages, kings) by Rachel Neumeier has sold to Orbit (very nice, 3 book deal no less!). There's a new book out by Syrie James, author of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen that sounds like fun: Dracula, My Love: The Secret Journal of Mina Harker sold to William Morrow. Sounds like James may have found a great gimmick!

Self-published Lisa Genova, whose title Still Alice hit the big time, has sold her next two novels to Pocket, following up on the success of such other self-pubbed to trad-pubbed notable titles: The Shack, Eragon, The Hoopster, and The Celestine Prophecies.

YA paranormals still rockin' & rollin' with The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers, Lynn Weingarten's title about teen girls with magic powers that went to Harper Children's, and Chelsea Campbell (her debut) The Rise of Renegade X to Egmont.

And books are in the media news again, with more titles being optioned, including The Life of Pi, with Ang Lee on Board, and Lucy Silga's debut Beautiful Americans going to Fox Atomic.

There are a few other choice tidbits floating around as well, including the announcement (oh, everywhere? but particularly PW) that Harlequin will launch their own teen imprint with a title(s) in August '09.

I just got a gander at the Barnes & Noble Review site - who knew? March 2, 2009's offering features romance heavyweight Eloisa James reviewing the Harlequin NASCAR title by Pamela Brittan On The Move. (And I've included the link for your reading pleasure).

And The New Yorker has its Book Club blog (ditto the link next door) to keep you in the know on loftier literary doings.

In the agency game Brendan Deneen has joined FinePrint Literary where he'll continue to rep writers in publishing and film, including all genres but (says The Swivet blog), he is "particularly interested at this time in genre YA and thrillers". Check out the agency - maybe you have what they want!

And all the guys on the NYC block are sweating it a little - one of the BIG BOYS - CAA -- is comin' to town. Daily Variety announced that talent agency Creative Artists Agency is getting into the literary game for the first time, and have hired Simon Green to broker book deals for their celeb clients (like the 7-figure deal for the Jonas Brothers photo book). The other guys are concerned that CAA, despite it's pledge that they will limit themselves to "marrying CAA celebrity clients to book deals and that the percentery will not make publishing deals for established authors", will make waves in their little East Coast pond. Other big-time talent agencies have played this game, including WMA, ICM and Endeavor, and the NYC competition is giving a lot of responses along the lines of "CAA is welcome to start any business they like, but they have to understand that if we see them as competition, we will pull back submissions, and that doesn't serve their central financial engine for packaging", a quote attributed by DV to "one heavyweight agent", who added, "If they build this department to five agents in the next two years, none of us will submit our books to them."

Well, that's mostly it for now. I'm off to a new monthly event here in the Big Apple that celebrates the romance novel in all of its glorious forms. Lady Jane's Salon, a new operation formed by authors Hope Tarr, Maya Rodale and Leanna Hieber, along with Ron Hogan of GalleyCat and have banded to together and are offering author readings on the first Monday of every month at Madam X, a cool club in downtown Manhattan. Tonight's offering (the 2nd of the events) has RWA/NYC chapter member Lauren Willig - a brand new New York Times bestseller author - doing the reading along with historical romance author Jenna Peterson (and her alter ego, Jess Michaels, who writes historical romance with a side of steam heat). For the price of a gently used romance novel, or a $5 contribution (proceeds going to Maya Rodale's Share The Love charity and you can meet, mingle, enjoy a cocktail and hear some glorious words of love every month. If you're in the neighborhood, why not stop by? Check out Lady Jane's MySpace link to the right.

See you there!

Monday, January 26, 2009

So We'vePicked Ourselves Up, Dusted Off & Are Starting Again

January 26, 2009.

All the 2008 tallying has been done, the news was bad, badder and worst, but now, like a phoenix from the ashes, the old Publishing Game rises again.

Publishers cut more than 1,200 jobs in 2008 (and this is a conservative estimate based on what they'll all actually admit). Barnes & Noble just announced they're cutting 100 at its headquarters (4% of NY workforce). Random House has reorganized and restructured its three publishing groups. Borders has a new chairman, Richard McGuire (former hedge fund executive - now call me crazy, but isn't that sector having an awful lot of problems of its own?) and the NEA survey that proudly announced reading rose to 119 million in 2008 (versus 115.5 million in 2002, breaking down the numbers shows a slightly different - and less rosy - story. PW shows the breakdown (1/19/09 issue) and in every category, the Percentage of Adults Who Read a Book Not Required for Work or School fell several points. The catch? The "reading" included everything read anywhere or anytime - and a single poem constituted "more". Anything that constituted "literary" was acceptable and I, for one, wonder how lenient the respondents were with this rating! Moreover, the prior study did not include electronic materials, so that, in itself, may well account for the jump. But rest assured that everyone in the Pub Game will be poring over these numbers for quite some time to come in an effort to wring a rosy scenario from it, as well as put it to the best use in their own game. Still, any news that says we're reading is good news.

The economy is hitting conventions and conferences hard in all industries. The New York ComicCon, reported by PW to be the fourth largest event in NYC is showing a bit of fall off, though Lance Fensterman event director of Reed Exhibitions says they expect presales to pick up right before the show. Hope so, Lance!

Sales were down, too, sharply at the end of the year but when all was said and done, the last quarter debacle was helped by prior periods' health and the news was painful, but not agonizing.

Still, it was thrilling to see the Publisher's Lunch Deluxe 1/12 edition that reported 10 new romance sales for the date, as did the 1/19 edition, covering every genre and indicating that the powerhouse genre is still going strong.

Among others, the lovely and entertaining Wendy Corsi Staub's new deal was announced, taking the 30 title Kensington author to Avon, where her first three titles have been signed by Lucia Macro. Congrats Wendy! Keep those NYT bestselling hits a' coming.

The film biz is also sticking with the books. Edgar Sawtelle's been optioned by Tom Hanks, and The Reincarnationists, MJ Rose's title to Warner Bros. as a pilot for Fox.

There's plenty more where this came from folks, but night has fallen and I'm hitting the road.

More later.