Student-Managed Book Publishers

Student-run presses are not a new concept. Most MFA programs for creative writing publish literary journals, which MFA students work on while in school. And many universities have student-run newspapers, such as UCSB’s Daily Nexus.

But not many schools have student-run book publishers. A couple weeks ago, I met an author whose book had been acquired and published by Apprentice House, “the nation’s first and only book publishing house entirely run by students.”  Continue reading

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Self-publishing, the Slush Pile, and Print Books

Self-publishing may be the new slush pile. In the past, the slush pile has been the pile of unsolicited manuscripts sent by aspiring authors in hopes of being picked up by a publisher. Now, some publishers are looking to pick up books that have already proven to be successful. They offer authors bigger advances and they take on less risk in doing so. Continue reading

Publishers Should Sell Directly

Should publishers sell directly? Many arguments are floating around about the benefits and drawbacks. Some drawbacks are that huge retailers such as Amazon have such a large share of the market, that publishers can’t hope to reach nearly enough consumers through direct channels. Others argue that this line of thinking will keep the cycle with Amazon going, since there won’t be other channels for consumers to try.

Personally I like the idea of selling directly. Calvin Reid wrote about more strategies and benefits on Publisher’s Weekly. One successful publisher is Logos Bible Software, who over the years has built a loyal customer base of about 100,000 (they have 1 million total customers and sell ~27,000 e-books). Consumer behavior is tracked and the store offers many different types of bundles, allowing them to select different tiers. There are also pre-order discounts, but according to Publisher’s Weekly,

he also emphasized that most of these pricing strategies depend on a direct selling relationship to the consumer. Logos sells direct completely, he said, allowing it to avoid showrooming and gaining the ability to “control access, give better customer service and adjust your margin and pricing.”

Digital Content: Where are publishers investing and what challenges will they need to overcome?

I’ve been really in to webinars lately. I think part of it is I’ve been finding a lot free webinars that discuss either various aspects of the publishing industry or entrepreneurship. (Although the webinars on metadata were not free, but I think it’s important to learn and understand as much about metadata as possible).

Anyway, today’s webinar was on an Innodata survey conducted by Digital Book World. Presented by Marc Rubner, the VP of Product Marketing at Innodata Consulting, the webinar discussed the results of an online survey of 366 media executives.  Continue reading

The Reader Revolution: Recap of How the “Publishing Game” is Changing

BEA offered an education series, where many experts participated in panels about a wide range of topics relating to publishing. One of the most interesting panels was called “The Reader Revolution: Changing the Game for Readers, Writers, and Everyone in Between.”

Continue reading

Getting Support for Your Projects

I’ve been researching ways regular people like me might be able to get their projects off the ground.

One of these ways is via Kickstarter. The site is a funding platform where people can post their ideas for projects–anything creative involving Art, Comics, Dance, Design, Fashion, Film, Food, Games, Music, Photography, Publishing, Technology, and Theater–and ask people to help provide funding, with the promise of receiving non-financial rewards in return. In terms of publishing and writing, projects so far have included producing ezines, making journals, and writing various book genres.

Another funding site is Unbound. Unbound is a relatively new site, made to help fund authors before they write their books. Currently they are only promoting well-known, already published authors, or authors with agents. The idea is that authors make sure they have an audience before they write their books. This could be helpful for authors who are trying out a new genre, for example.

Making Money with Mobile

Between the iPhone, the iPad, and the Android platform, mobile and tablets are on their way to becoming hugely profitable. But it’s not just the apps that are making them popular. Mobile web is still an important component of mobile as a whole, and McDonald’s certainly knows that. Advertising and monetizing mobile is still being experimented with, and McDonald’s has come up with a new campaign that involves both mobile and billboards. Recently launched in Sweden, McDonald’s allows people to play a pong game on a giant billboard. Users simply type in a web url on their smartphone and play the game in real-time. Those who can last longer than 30 seconds win a coupon for a free item at the nearest McDonalds. In my opinion, that’s pretty innovative, and a great way to entice customers physically into an establishment.

Now, the question is, how can publishers learn from this? Would an interactive billboard in Times Square paid for by say, Simon & Schuster, have as much impact? It’s hard to say. Simon & Schuster is not as well known worldwide as McDonalds, but they could easily apply the same concepts. People could play a game, and if they win, they could receive a free ebook, a discount on a book, or even an advanced copy of a highly anticipated book. Simon & Schuster, like most publishers, don’t have their own stores, but they could partner with bookstores to allow people to redeem their prizes. Or they could send winners to their websites to directly download their ebooks or directly give the publishers their information so publishers can send them their books. Either way, this would allow publishers to collect more information about their consumers, which, nowadays, is something they all need to work on anyway.

BEA Day 1

First day of my first BEA, BookExpo America. Fortunately, because of this publishing blog, I was able to attend for free! I spent about five hours today at the Expo, and I still wasn’t able to cover everything. It can be a little overwhelming, as some attendees may agree, but totally worth it.

This year, BEA was held at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan. BEA took up all four floors, with exhibits featuring hundreds of publishers, an entire section devoted to author signings, and the whole bottom floor open for meetings and panel discussions about the publishing industry.

I spent about an hour in the digital area, talking to people about companies that convert documents into ebooks, businesses that help publishers sell books directly from their websites, nonprofits who deal with copyright laws, and companies that create enhanced ebooks. There is a surprisingly large number of different softwares publishers can use these days. Trilogy, a Microsoft Certified Business Solutions Partner, is a company that sells software for mid- to large-sized publishers. Publishers can use their program to keep track of all sales, and track books from idea to publication.

Copyright Clearance Center is a non-profit that helps clients gain the rights to re-use content–which may be very useful to companies who are unable to afford their own attorneys. Innodata Isogen is a company based in Hackensack, NJ that provides, among other things, a service for publishers to convert their documents into ebooks and enhanced ebooks. They also had the most high-tech business card, which turns into a USB drive containing more information about the company.

Other exciting companies included Q&R, Cyberwolf, and QBend. These three companies help publishers sell books, both print and digital, directly from their websites. Q&R also develops apps that allows consumers to make notes and share on social networks about the books they are reading. Cyberwolf has an interesting solution to the piracy dilemma publishers now face in the digital world. Publishers have the choice of adding strict DRM, but they also have the option of social DRM. This means that consumers may buy the ebook, and a watermark will appear on each page that contains personal information about that consumer (email, phone number, etc.). That way, consumers are free to share their books with friends, but are less likely to pirate books for fear of spreading their personal information. QBend allows consumers to share their ebooks with friends, and they give publishers the option of selling separate chapters of a book, so they can try and serialize a book. All of these features are great ways to help publishers market themselves and increase sales. Who knew it could be so easy?

I also met some of the people who run BookRix, a social community for writers. Over two years, they have cultivated over 250,000 members, all who upload and give feedback to each other’s work. This really emphasizes to me the importance of social media and building communities. Later this year, BookRix will expand to publish ebooks as well as help their writers self-publish. It’s a great idea, especially since they already have such a large audience.

I was also able to see one of the Google Speaking Sessions, “The Future of eBooks Publishing Executive Panel.” The moderator was Tom Turvey, director, strategic partnerships of Google Books. And the panelists were Amanda Clos, president of Random House Digital, Evan Schnittman, EVP of Business Development of Bloomsbury, David Steinberger, CEO of Perseus, and Andrew Savikas, SVP of O’Reilly and CEO of Safari Books Online.

“Ebooks are a convenience read,” according to Evan Schnittman. This means that consumers buy books in their digital form because they know they want it, and it’s easier to have as an ebook than a print book.

“Digital is good for hunters and not gatherers,” David Steinberger said.

Most of the panelists agreed that the Netflix model is very instructive for book publishers. The way Netflix has made movies accessible and searchable is a good starting point for where book publishers should go in the future. On any given night in the U.S., Netflix accounts from 30% of the bandwidth.

Another topic that was discussed was whether or not best-seller lists will continue to drive book sales. Apparently, they only work well in the U.S.

Amanda Close said that she expects we’ll see more targeted retail experiences, and that a diverse product selection will be more beneficial.

“A market is a conversation,” David Steinberger said. Markets need to be evolved to meet consumers needs.

“Consumers need help” when it comes to finding books to buy, Evan Schnittman said.

How book publishers will continue to market themselves and make money was another topic of interest.

“We are a data rich industry,” Amanda Close said. “The more we know our customers, the better.”

Some people think book publishers should look to magazines for guidance on how to find out more demographic information about its consumers. Magazines market to their audience and have great direct relationships to their consumers.

But, Evan Schnittman had doubts. “I’m struggling with the concept of holding up the magazine industry as a beacon for success.” Makes sense, since the magazine industry is struggling too, especially with their ads. Evan Schnittman thinks that books publishers can “have a marketing relationship with consumers, but can’t effectively have a sales relationship.”

Of course, a big part of BEA is getting advance galleys and free books! Two books that stood out to me today were Eromenos by Melanie McDonald, who I had the pleasure of meeting today, and The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch.

Eromenos is a coming-of-age novel about Antinous of Bithynia, who had a seven-year affair with Hadrian, an emperor of Rome. This is Melanie’s debut novel.

The Eleventh Plague is the story of a young boy born after a war and a plague.

Jeff Hirsch signed an advanced copy for me–best author signature ever!

Inside the Book World

Every once in a while I like to update my 2 readers on all the interesting stuff I’m learning about the book world. First off, I finally figured out why the book industry has the most ridiculous/backwards business model where return on sales of books are expected and planned for. It all started in the Great Depression. Publishers wanted to encourage failing bookstores to keep their stock of books up, so they allowed the stores to return books. And since it worked so well in the Great Depression, that practice continues today.

Second, I found one more awesome thing about working at Random House. Once a month a book club meets to eat snacks and discuss a soon-to-be-released book. I’m really going to miss it once my internship ends–I’ll probably devote an entire post to that later.

The Future of Publishing…We’re In It

Three interesting articles about the publishing industry caught my eye today. But first, I’ve found that reading and thinking critically about articles goes more smoothly with music, so I invite you to play the video below and enjoy the sweet sounds of “Stereo Love” while reading the rest of my post. (And yes, I may be a little obsessed with this song right now).

First, the Kindle 3 is coming out with two versions–one for $139 and one for $114. The $114 Kindle, however, will be ad-supported, or to quote Amazon, it will be the “Kindle With Special Offers.” $25 doesn’t seem like enough of a difference to opt for the ad-supported device, though I’m sure once it becomes a viable model we’ll see larger price cuts, but the ads will only appear when you’re not reading your Kindle (so instead of seeing intricate photos of famous writers on the screen, you’ll see deals for LivingSocial). But, this is only a first step. Amazon also launched an app, AdMash, that will allow users to vote for which ads they want to see on their Kindles. For now, there are no ads in the books themselves, but I think someday soon we may see that as well.

Full articles: Amazon to Offer $114 Kindle 3 Supported by Ads; Will the Ad-Supported Kindle Sell?

The second article I found questions the role of publishers in a world where self-publishing is so easy. At The London Book Fair this week, one side argued that publishers are becoming irrelevant, because self-publishers now have the tools to edit, market, and distribute, while the other side claimed that publishers “are the best, and perhaps only, way for good books to make it into the world.” But maybe publishers shouldn’t be ignoring self-publishing. If they could somehow combine the tools of self-publishing with the edge they still have as actual publishers, they could still remain relevant. Bobbie Johnson sums up the end of his article nicely: “In the end, though, that moment didn’t seem to make much difference to the audience. Doctorow and Bridle were defeated, with around 80 percent of the audience voting for the idea publishers will remain relevant. It wasn’t a surprise; had it gone the other way, it would have been as if the audience — which was, of course, largely made of publishers — were a barn full of turkeys eagerly voting for Thanksgiving.”

Full article: Will Book Publishers Ever Be Irrelevant?

But, if publishers can’t think of how to incorporate self-publishing tools right away, there’s always the Hulu method. Michael Wolf of Gigaom suggests that publishers who can find multiple outlets, other than merely selling their books, will continue to be successful. A new Spanish company, called 24Symbols, uses a freemium model which allows users to read free books with ads or pay subscriptions for unlimited access to books. Wolf thinks that publishers should get together and offer their content in a platform similar to Hulu, because they have the rights to the most number of books. It’s an interesting thought, and probably could make a lot of money, but will publishers then lose potential sales? Thoughts, anyone?

Full article: Forget Netflix. E-Book Publishers Need a Hulu