Saturday, June 27. 2009
The last article was about how some terms get thrown around carelessly when authors, publishers and booksellers get together, and those terms become confusing. The article covered “traditional publishing,” a misnomer; commercial publishing; and print-on-demand (POD) which is actually a printing technology that has spawned a new business model, rather than a form of publishing.
Today, you’ll learn about two more forms of publishing.
Vanity publishing. Vanity publishing is often described by simply reciting a litany of some of the most egregious vanity publishers. While naming a few of those is not a bad thing, it doesn’t define a vanity publisher.
For the rest of the article, click HERE.
Tuesday, June 23. 2009
There is a great deal of misinformation floating around about the way books are published. Authors and many others throw around terms like “POD publisher,” “traditional publisher,” and “self-published” with lack of understanding of what terms really mean. Sadly enough, some magazines, bloggers and others pick up on the common and incorrect definitions of the terms and repeat them, further muddying the waters. This is the first of three articles that will give you some information and accurate definitions of terms related to publishing.
Monday, June 1. 2009
On one of the discussion lists I frequent, we have been talking about book sales, and conversation migrated to who (large publishing houses or smaller publishing houses) sold the most books in aggregate. Now I KNOW that Simon & Schuster sell more books than my two imprints, so that's not the point. It's about whether or not the small and independent presses are encroaching on the money that the large presses make, which in turn makes the Six Sisters nervous.
To avoid rewriting a long post, I'm going to post (almost!) the exact same information here that I put on that discussion list.
Why do I think that the midsize, small and independent publishers are producing the largest part of book sales in the U.S.?
The Book Industry Study Group has issued a report that says book sales have been seriously underreported. The study, “Under the Radar,” says that approximately 63,000 publishers with annual sales of less than $50 million generate aggregate sales of $14.2 billion.
Now, if anyone has their collective finger on the pulse of book sales in the U.S., I would say it is the BISG. They are devoted to studying the industry and reporting the facts, no matter how distasteful those facts may be to some members of the industry.
Secondly, the number of small and independent publishers in the U.S. is increasing astronomically, thus further diluting the market share of the Six Sisters (Bertelsmann, CBS Corporation, Hachette, News Corporation, Pearson and Verlagsgruppe.) According to www.ISBN.org, between 8,000 and 11,000 new publishers are now being established each year. That includes self-publishing authors who purchase their own ISBNs and create new imprints, as well as small presses.
By the way, regarding the "big houses" in NYC: who exactly gets listed depends on how you view that. Do you want to list managing groups, i.e. the big companies that own the presses and who own other presses in other countries too, or do you want to list presses by the names we see on the spines of books? The way I have it listed above is by owner groups. The top six publisher imprints you see are Random House, Inc., Penguin Putnam Inc., HarperCollins, Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings, Time Warner, and Simon & Schuster, Inc.
DISCLAIMER: The figures I have in this post are as accurate as I could find based on currently available data. Exact book sales data are notoriously hard to come by, and even the use of such statistics as I have here is akin to an educated guess.
Sunday, March 29. 2009
FOR SALE - Crime and Suspense ezine (http://www.crimeandsuspense.com/). Established 2005.
Contact me for details! email@example.com
Yep, it's true. Other things in my life have become much more pressing, and I decided to give up the Crime and Suspense ezine. It's not because I don't like the ezine--heck, many of my friends and business contacts are because of the ezine. But sometimes, when there are a lot of things on the table, something has to be sent back. "Sorry... I'm full, really. Nope, can't eat another bite, seriously!" <belch> "Oh, pardon me."
The Crime and Suspense ezine has been around since October 2005, and was established then almost as a lark. "Hey, why don't I do my own online magazine?? Cool!" And behold, it was cool. But it also is time-consuming. Stories have to be read, selected or rejected, edited, formatted and placed on the site. Interviews have to be made. Appropriate graphics have to be selected and/or created to illustrate the stories. Reviews have to be coordinated. The ezine has grown. We even had Warner Brothers contact us twice, out of the blue, to help with promoting two of their new movie releases. And we are a paying market, unlike many online magazines.
Now, it's not that this is a terrible lot of work on its own, but when you couple it with a growing book publishing business, trying to write my OWN stuff, and building our new home, it has become more than I can easily handle.
I really like to do a GOOD job at what I do, not a slipshod job, and when I don't have the time to focus on the ezine or on the publishing business, it bothers me.
In the past, one of the things I have decried is the dwindling of the markets for short fiction. (See this post.) And as I have begun to talk about the possible impending demise of Crime and Suspense, I've received many emails and contacts from people saying, "Don't do it! We need the short story markets!"
Well, they're right--we DO need them. But we also need someone who has time to do it right. I have to make choices about what is the best investment of my time and right now, the new home, my own writing, and my book publishing business take precedence. So, I asked some of these people who begged me not to let it die, whether they might be interested in running the ezine.
"Oh. No, no, I don't have time."
"I don't have the background/experience/knowledge to do that!"
"No, no... I just couldn't!"
Now, I will confess that a couple of people have volunteered to take on the screening of stories for me, and that does give me some breathing room. In fact, that's probably the only thing that will allow me to keep the ezine going for a few more months this year. But what I'd really like to do is to find someone who is willing to take the helm, to use a nautical turn of phrase, and steer the Crime and Suspense ezine into new waters.
One thing, though: I'm not going to give it away. The ezine comes with a background and history, with subscribers, with a domain name! And from past experience, I've found that giving something away often carries with it the notion that the gift is worth exactly what was paid for it: NOTHING. The cost will not be exorbitant, but just enough to assure that the buyer will appreciate what they now have.
So, if you have an interest in taking over the editorship of an established short crime fiction ezine, drop by the Crime and Suspense site and take a look around. If it still interests you after that, contact me for more details. (See the email address above.)
Tuesday, March 17. 2009
Today I received this exciting email! (Actually, it's exciting in the way that having a dog lift his leg on your shoe is exciting, but sometimes any sort of excitement is good.)
Continue reading "Dear Anonymous Author--We LOVE your book!"
Friday, February 20. 2009
Well, folks, you probably know that I am the Chief Editor/Manager/Janitor for Wolfmont Press. (I've mentioned it often enough here.)
I just found out tonight that DYING IN A WINTER WONDERLAND made the Top Ten Softcover Bestsellers list for the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association, for 2008! (Go here to see the list at their site.)
Now, while I have had a book to make a bestseller list twice before—my first novel, BLINDED BY DARKNESS, made the Birmingham, Alabama newspaper's top ten bestseller list two weeks running in 2007— but this is for a whole doggone YEAR, and it's not at the end of the list, either. Here's the list:
1 – Lisa Lutz, The Spellman Files, Simon & Schuster
Note that there are two books from a big, big publishing house that came after Wolfmont's book on the list. It's really exciting to have one of our books listed in the same Top Ten with books from Simon & Schuster, Penguin, Berkley, St. Martins, Bantam, Flying Dolphin and Picador.
I am excited, but I can't take the credit for this. The authors who were part of this book worked their tails off to promote the book, and they deserve most of the credit. The rest of the credit goes to those great people who went to their local bookseller and purchased a copy of the book.
Thursday, January 29. 2009
OK, I'm beginning to wonder if the national pandemic of illiteracy has stricken the writers' population... or at least the writers of mystery, crime and suspense. Can't people read? Or is it maybe selective, in that they can read some things but not the Submission Guidelines?
May I vent?
It's almost two in the morning, and I've been going through stories submitted for my ezine, Crime and Suspense, trying to pick out a few gems for the next issue. In the last hour, I have read three... four... no, excuse me, FIVE submissions where the writers either (a) chose not to read my ezine's submission guidelines, (b) figured the guidelines didn't apply to them or (c) were incapable of reading or understanding plain English.
Three of the authors loaded their stories with gutter language. You know, the f-bomb, etc. Now, I know that I publish crime fiction, but if you are not capable of engendering proper suspense or creating the right emotional atmosphere without resorting to gutter language, maybe your writing skills are suspect, eh? Portraying reality has nothing to do with it. Raymond Chandler didn't use gutter language in his stories (though he probably would have if the censors would have let it through.) Ditto for Dashiell Hammett, though the same caveat still applies. Their stories are remarkably well-written, evocative and powerful. There was no need for mother-f*** this and a**hole that.
If you are a writer, challenge yourself to write well, not floridly. I have no respect for writers whose primary goal is to shock.
The fourth one was a romance story... not even a crossover mystery/romance or suspense/romance, but a pure romance story with a very weak story arc. What's up with that? The guidelines specify exactly what I publish, and this author has even had stuff published in my ezine before!
Oh, and another one... I almost forgot it... the cover email was some sort of existentialist drivel with varying font sizes and the story was formatted with all sorts of odd spacing, besides being what appeared to be a pastiche of something written by a drunken Agatha Christie.
One author actually told me, "I can't be bothered to read and follow the guidelines for all the places I submit. It takes too much time, and besides, stories hardly ever get accepted anyway." Does anyone reading this see the cause-and-effect relationship here?
Please... if you really want to see your story published in ANY sort of periodical, online or hardcopy, READ and FOLLOW the submission guidelines for that periodical. If the editors didn't want you to do that, they wouldn't go to the trouble of writing the guidelines and then displaying them prominently. By not reading and following the guidelines, you are wasting your time and the editor's, and probably annoying him/her so much that they will immediately toss your next submission, anyway.
That's what I feel like doing for these folks.
Continue reading "What is so difficult???"
Monday, January 12. 2009
One of the first things I did this morning was read an email from my co-conspirator... no, wait... my partner in crime... hmmmm. From my fellow-author and friend, Allan Ansorge. Yeah, that's it. Anyway, Allan and his wife Jane were on their way from their home in Wisconsin to their digs in Florida, would be passing within a very few miles of my home, and would I like to join them for coffee or some such?
As I said, Allan is also an author, and one of the contributors to the Toys for Tots anthology, DYING IN A WINTER WONDERLAND. Allan also has a novel being released this summer through Echelon Press, entitled CROSSING THE CENTERLINE.
Although Allan and I had never met, we had exchanged numerous emails and a few phone calls while I was pulling things together for the anthology. I was very happy to have the chance to meet both him and his lovely lady, so we met at a convenient point at the Redbud Road exit from I-75 and from there proceeded to a nice little Mexican restaurant in Calhoun, El Nopal.
Allan is just as friendly and entertaining in person as I thought he would be from his emails, and his wife is equally charming. We had a great time at lunch talking about kids (we both have them), books, publishers and just stuff. Allan very generously paid for lunch for us all, and Jane was kind enough to take a picture of Allan and myself standing in front of El Nopal, looking writerly.
Actually, I think we look sort of tired, but maybe that's just me. Allan is the handsome one in the white sweatshirt. I'm the fuzzy one in gray.
They also had another passenger with them, a cute little dog whose name or breed never came up in conversation, but I believe she was either a poodle or a small spaniel of some sort.
Monday, January 5. 2009
I guess I'm not the only one who is concerned with the impact returns have on publishers. There is an article in today's NY Times on austerity for the coming year in the big NYC publishing houses. The articles talks about belt-tightening in a number of areas, but I was interested to see the following (from the article):
Not everyone quoted in the article thinks abolishing returns would be a good idea, though—one person thought it would be harmful to the publishing and bookselling economy to do that. Uh-huh. It must be harmful like trying to drive more fuel-efficient cars is harmful because it reduces the amount of gasoline purchased, or perhaps like having your shoes re-soled is harmful since it reduces the number of new pairs of shoes sold at retail. In other words, it's great for the consumer.
Why is it great for the consumer? As I indicated in my last post, the increasing cost of printed books is due in large part to the built-in padding used by publishers to protect themselves from returns. Statistically, when you print 25,000 books, you probably only ship out 15,000 of those to booksellers. Of those shipped out, you expect perhaps 3,500 will be returned, so you have to take a loss on over one-half your original print run, perhaps selling them as remainders to go in bargain bin tables, or having them pulped. In a situation like that, you have to increase the price simply to cover your possible losses.
There is a fresh, new wind blowing across the plains of publishing and I am glad to be one of those with the wind at my back, instead of blowing grit into my face.
Postscript: I forgot to make this point earlier.
When the overall price of books goes down, things are better for the author as well... especially for new or emerging authors. Think about it this way: if your book budget is $50, would you be happier if you were able to purchase two new books or if you were able to purchase three or four new books for the same amount of money, including your two original choices?
When consumers have little money to spend on books, they're probably going to stick with the "tried and true" or bestseller authors. But if the overall price of books goes down, they now have more money to spend. Conceivably, that means lesser-known authors now have a better chance of their books being taken home by the customer, simply because there is less "risk" involved. The book buyer doesn't have to choose between a known quantity and an unknown—they can do both.
Tuesday, December 30. 2008
And if you are a bookseller/storefront, will you order books that are non-returnable? More to the point, will you shelve books that are non-returnable?
I ask these questions because I'm struggling with my own returns policy, and I'm getting a lot of different messages, both from other publishers and from booksellers. For example, some booksellers are gracious enough to buy books and shelve them whether they are returnable or not. Another said that they want the books returnable, but will pay the return postage. And another has said that they want returnable, but will only order books that are both returnable AND returnable at no expense to them.
Some publishers just sigh and say that returns are a part of the business, even though they are destructive to the bottom line of the publisher and environmentally unfriendly (read on for what happens to most returned books). Other publishers have rebelled entirely and refuse to even consider returns of any sort. I fall somewhere in the middle there, a sort of philosopher publisher, hoping for a synthesis that blends the thesis of protecting the bookseller from making bad choices (i.e., ordering too many copies of a book) and the antithesis of protecting the publisher from the bookseller's bad choices.
One thing I have discovered in my investigations is that Baker & Taylor, at least, seem to have the best of all possible worlds when it comes to returns. If a bookstore returns a book they have purchased through Baker and Taylor, the bookstore must pay the postage to return the book. If I ALLOW returns through Baker and Taylor, I am charged $2 per book for the privilege, plus I must pay for the book and pay for the shipping to get the book back to me so I can attempt to re-sell it, else it is destroyed. All in all, the one who has no risk is Baker & Taylor.
Of course along with this, there is no guarantee that the returned books will be in a resalable condition. As one publisher acquaintance of mine has said, "If I want to sell damaged books, I don't have to send them to [insert your favorite bookstore name here] first. I can do the damage at home and save a lot of transaction costs!"
I have a friend who is an author, and who has written and sold many, many books. She was in a bookstore once and they had one copy of the book she wanted--but someone had carelessly torn the title page and flyleaf. My friend offered to buy the book anyway if they would give her a discount of a couple of bucks. The response from the store manager: "I'm glad you found that! We can just return it for a full refund." They could have sold the book and had a happy customer, but chose instead to send a damaged book back to the publisher and deny their customer a copy of a book she wanted.
Understand that I'm not griping about the situation. The situation is what it is, as they say. I'm just trying to understand the mindset and somehow come up with a policy that is fair to both sides of the equation. I have devised a policy whereby a bookstore owner or manager can sign a book returns agreement, with conditions, if they order directly from me. But that doesn't cover those booksellers who wish to order through a wholesaler (even though I can give them a substantially better price than they get through the wholesaler.)
You see, if I allow returns through my North American wholesalers (Ingram and Baker & Taylor), I have no way of setting any limits. In other words, I can't say, "This bookseller can return books but that one cannot," or "I'll accept returns of no more than XX% of the bookseller's order." It's flat, across the board returns. And the books must be returnable for one full year AFTER the book goes out of print. For a small press, one or two bad orders under those sort of conditions could spell disaster. I know of a publisher who received a box with about 200 battered, torn and dusty books tossed into it--returns--nine months after he had already paid the royalties on the books to the authors involved. He couldn't get the money back from the authors and he couldn't sell the books because of their condition. So, he was simply out the cost of all the books and the royalties, plus the return fees for the books ($2 per copy.)
I did some research for a presentation I made at the Harriette Austin Writers' Conference at the University of Georgia this past year, and although I knew returns were bad news, I had no idea of the extent of the damage until I researched it! Here are some figures from various industry sources:
So, if you are wondering why the price of books is increasing, it's not all about those "huge advances" being paid to authors, because most of the time those are mythological. For every author who gets paid a six-figure advance, there are 500 more who receive less than $5,000, and many get less than $1,000.
What do you think?
jenny milchman about Excuses, excuses!
Thu, 11.06.2009 17:56
I wonder what he was in (or ou t) for...?
agnes dee about Death of a Thousand Cuts: Big Presses, Small Presses, and Sales
Mon, 01.06.2009 14:43
A wonderful argument you've ma de here. I would hope readers continue this trend - I think it could lead to a great [...]
Mary Saums about Dire warning, indeed!
Sun, 26.04.2009 10:51
HAHA! Love it. You had me scar ed there for a minute. Thanks for sharing.
Dennis Leppanen about Dire warning, indeed!
Sun, 26.04.2009 10:05
Tony, Loved your tale. And yes, that is a beautiful drive . Dennis
Chris Speakman about The Unexpected
Sat, 11.04.2009 18:40
Thank you. Hugs Chris
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