Jun 152007

Don’t get me wrong. I love Amazon. I buy lots of books from Amazon, and I link to my new books at Amazon as a matter of course, but this galls me. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows could be a great boon to the entire book business and to small bookstores everywhere, but many stores are taking a hit on the final Potter book or not stocking many copies because they can’t compete with Amazon’s deep discounts. And now we know that even Amazon isn’t making any money on the deal:

Amazon.com Inc. has taken more than a million pre-orders for the final “Harry Potter” book due out in July, but the world’s largest Web retailer won’t make a profit, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos told shareholders at the company’s annual meeting Thursday. Amazon’s handling of the “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” release – a $17 discount off cover price, a free shipping offer and guaranteed on-time delivery – showed yet again that the company is willing to take a hit to cement customer loyalty.

I guess that’s no surprise, but I’d encourage you to think about where you buy your books and whether your purchase supports your local economy, your local tax base and small businesses, or whether your purchase supports an admitted loss leader and predatory discounting that is ultimately killing your own local bookstore.

This is one book we’re buying from our local bookseller.

Link, via Publishers Lunch.

  •  June 15, 2007
  •  Posted by at 10:27 am
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Jun 072007

This has got to be one of the more pathetic (or funny) things I’ve ever read, along the lines of boy, that promotion screwed with my head or could it be that cancer isn’t so bad, try writing a book?

Of course we all know that dying is easy, comedy is hard, so maybe this is no surprise, or maybe it’s a joke. It’s hard to say. No matter what, it’s nice to remember that there are certainly more important things in life than your book deal! As for me, I’d put my relationship, my kids, my job, my own sense of self worth, all that and more, far ahead of any book.

  •  June 7, 2007
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Jun 062007

Funny short piece in New York mag, via Galleycat.

Money quote —

“Many books are unprofitable,” says CEO Peter Olson. Fifteen to twenty best sellers at a time and a huge volume of steadily selling older titles support Random House, a unit of German media giant Bertelsmann. Every week, the country’s biggest trade publisher releases 67 new books, but it’s the the 33,000-book backlist (Ian McEwan’s Atonement, for example) that supplies 80 percent of its profit.

Below that there’s some funny math —

Most authors do not see a 15% list royalty on paperback sales, that figure is decidedly fishy.


  •  June 6, 2007
  •  Posted by at 9:35 am
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May 312007

Mike Shatzkin’s BEA talk is absolutely essential reading for anyone involved in trade publishing. He looks into the future and forecasts that “general trade publishing” will increasingly lose ground to “niches and community,” and I don’t doubt for a second that it’s true.

Change is seldom sought; it is usually forced. But in the media world, more than in most others, we are living in an era of blistering change. The future web — and even unconnected digital devices enabled by the web — are going to be more content-rich than we have ever imagined, and much of the content will be free.

That’s our biggest competitor right now in numerous markets — Free!

Tech, travel, cooking, gardening, how-to, all of these categories are eminently “nicheable.” The key will be to become involved, known, trusted, and linked-to in the online communities that you aspire to reach. Publishers and authors both will need to bring a laser-like focus to individual markets.

Via Publisher’s Lunch


  •  May 31, 2007
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May 112007

Congrats to Chronicle Books: a new blog, a new building, and now they’re one of the sponsors for the upcoming Maker’s Faire in San Mateo. That’s how I found their blog. I love their list and I hope I can sell them something this year.

My last book with Chronicle was the very cool Jamming the Media by Gareth Branwyn, but that was 10 years ago!

I admire their green aspirations —

“As a publisher, though, you can’t help but feel guilty about all the trees that go into our craft. That’s one reason we prefer to print our books and stationery titles on papers from sustainable forest growth. We’ve also tried to refurbish the building in an environmentally conscious way. For example, we’ve installed solar panels on the roof. All the old carpet tile was removed and immediately reinstalled in two local projects. And many of the furnishings are crafted here in the Bay Area and have been created from recycled materials.”


  •  May 11, 2007
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Feb 202007

Not my genre and not my thing, so hey, maybe it will be successful, but for now I just think it’s weird. Harlequin and NASCAR ink up for NASCAR themed romances. At GalleyCat, Linked.

This sounds like a genre ripe for fan fiction if there ever was one.

Whoa, I Googled it and I can tell you there really is such a thing! For NASCAR fan fiction check out TrackBunnies.

  •  February 20, 2007
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Jan 112007

The AMS-PGW mess has been covered many places, and especially well by Michael Cader at Publisher’s Marketplace, but Radio Free PGW has the perhaps the most poignant and personal take on the crisis and PGW’s history, Publisher’s Group West, 1976-2007.

I always liked PGW. I loved their broad list and diversity of publishers.

I saw many pioneering computer book publishers grow up in their stable (including Peachpit, No Starch, The Waite Group, and many more), and appreciated the fact that this west coast outfit was such a significant force in the publishing world at large.

Not to mention that they pretty much always had the best parties.

I hope as many publishers and authors as can escape unscathed. It looks like Avalon already has, per Galleycat, Today in AMS: Avalon Signs with Perseus, but that deal sounds like it was already coming.

  •  January 11, 2007
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Jan 042007

AMS (Advanced Marketing Services) is a San Diego based distributor that helped publishers sell huge quantities of books to the big-box retailers like Costco. AMS experienced great growth in the 90s when big-box retailers were opening right and left.

But discount clubs are a small margin business and distributor profits depend to a great degree on what other services (i.e. advertising and placement fees) they can bundle for publishers. It also depends on huge volume. So of course AMS was always trying to find bigger margin business and found that to a degree in packaging books themselves, and eventually went on to buy well-regarded Berkeley distributor and sometime publisher PGW (Publisher’s Group West).

Now that AMS has declared bankruptcy on the heels of numerous legal and financial problems, it spells potential disaster for PGW distributed publishers.

Galley Cat has decent overview coverage here.

It’s scary. PGW distributes a great list of publishers, and this is awful news for them. And to me it’s proof positive that consolidation is not always a good thing for the industry.

It also gives you something to think about. Many publishers use third party distributors and it’s not unheard of to see small publishers go out of business when their distributors fail. Keep your fingers crossed for these folks.

  •  January 4, 2007
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Dec 132006

via Mediabistro, Free Online Because You Won’t Find it in Stores.

Science fiction author Peter Watts has released his most recent novel, Blindsight (Tor), as a pdf under a Creative Commons license, which is cool and may spur more sales, but it’s driven by the fact that his publisher only printed and shipped 3700 copies and didn’t find wide distribution. Sadly, this is somewhat contrary to Boing Boing’s first take that “the book is selling so fast that readers are having a hard time laying their hands on copies.”

I assume he reserved these rights in his contract, you can’t just decide to release your book via pdf without your publisher’s permission.

It’ll be interesting to see if this helps sales. I sure hope it does.

Here’s the Amazon page, Blindsight.

And here’s the novel itself, Blindsight in html.

And here’s a very cool add-on, 7 alternate covers to the book.

  •  December 13, 2006
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Dec 122006

A couple of interesting articles about bestsellers crossed my screen this week.

The Bible and the ripped-from-the-headlines Iraq Study Group Report are books that you don’t ordinarily think of when you hear the word “bestseller,” but each story can tell you a lot about the business of publishing, and maybe something about the future of this business.

Peter Osnos’s latest Platform is about the behind-the-scenes maneuvering for the rights to be first publisher to print the Iraq Study Group Report, linked.

His take on variable pricing is of note —

“What makes all this robust sales activity notable (aside from public interest in its content) is that millions more people accessed the 142-page report gratis from all the Web sites where it was posted. In the first day, the U.S. Institute of Peace, said it alone had 730,000 downloads. The process was instantaneous and the layout exactly the same as in the book that carries retail price of $10.95.”

Plus, the latest New Yorker has a great piece about the bestselling book in America, clocking in at some 25 millions copies a year, your friendly Bible, in all its variations, and sliced, diced, and interpreted many different ways — The Good Book Business.

Money quote, “The amount spent annually on Bibles has been put at more than half a billion dollars.”


One thing in common with both books? No royalties. Well, unless maybe you have a superstar like Max Lucado involved.

Another thing in common? Most everyone already has a Bible and most anyone can download the Iraq Report for free.

Both bestsellers show you some of what readers truly value, and the “success” (hate to use that word in this case) of the Iraq Study Group Report clearly demonstrates the massive interest and concern about the war in Iraq (in case that wasn’t clear from the election!).

  •  December 12, 2006
  •  Posted by at 10:27 am
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