Random House’s New Digital Imprints

I got a good laugh today when I read Publisher Weekly‘s “Random House Launches New Digital-Only Imprints.” Why, you might ask? Well, because a group of friends and I had the exact same idea in 2011.  Continue reading

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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!

Last Days at Random House

I don’t know if I’ve said this before on my blog, but my internship at Random House was the best internship I’ve had, ever. And I’ve done six. My last week there was a mixture of sad and exciting.

Last week was Children’s Publishing Celebration Week, and on Monday and Tuesday I was able to attend two perspective meetings, where I heard authors talk about their writing processes. On the first day I heard Jarret J. Krosoczka, author of the Lunch Lady graphic novel series, and Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, authors of Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist. Aside from being hilarious (who knew authors could speak so well?) I got some tips about collaborative writing, which I can hopefully successfully implement this summer when I collaborate on a teen genie young adult story (for details, check out my blog Teeny Genies).

On the second day I got to meet Clare Vanderpool, author of Moon Over Manifest, and Rebecca Stead, author of When You Reach Me. Both writers won the Newbery Medal, the highest honor for a children’s writer, and they both personally signed their books for me! Meeting Rebecca Stead was particularly exciting because she is one of Wendy Lamb’s authors, so I’ve been sending her mail for the past four months. Our meeting went something like this:

“Hi Rebecca. My name is Sabrina. You may recognize it because I’ve been sending you your author mail all semester.” Awkward grin.

“Great, hopefully our paths will cross again in the future.” Yes!

I went back to my cubicle with a happy heart. It was a little tough, however, leaving on my last day. The department I had worked in had recently moved offices. This was great, because it meant everyone had to shrink their inventory and I ended up with 853 free books (see picture here). It also meant that when we moved offices, they actually put my name on my cubicle! And the spelled it correctly!

But, just like in the system, my name on the mail slot was Starina. I suppose to Random House I will always be “Starina.”

The Effects of Digital Publishing

I’ve been saying for a while that ebooks should take advantage of being digital and able to be produced quickly, so it’s exciting to see that publishers are finally embracing that (not that I claim they are listening to me!). Tomorrow morning, Random House will be releasing an ebook about Osama bin Laden, now that he is dead. I have no idea whether or not this is a book they’ve had written for a while and been waiting to release, or if they had a really knowledgeable and talented writer who was able to put this together in a week. But, that doesn’t matter. This book may end up being shorter than a traditional book, but traditional books probably won’t be around forever, (or at least they won’t dominate the market–ebook sales are really on the rise). The point is, publishers can defend themselves from “getting scooped” by newspapers and magazines. They can publish relevant, newsworthy stories just as quickly as journalists now, and that is a great way to take advantage of the ebook market. To read the article on Random House’s bin Laden book, go to RH Enters Bin Laden Book Craze with E-Original.

Another, arguably more exciting (in terms of the publishing industry embracing the future) piece of news involves Bookish, an online book site backed by Simon & Schuster, Penguin, and Hachette (three of the six biggest publishers in the world). This is a first step in publishers working together to sell their books. Bookish is an independent site, but it will provide customized recommendations for users and it will be another channel for publishers to sell their books. To read the full article, go to S&S, Penguin, Hachette Back Bookish, Online Book Site

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.

This Week in Publishing

Random House finally decided to adopt the agency model. It’s the last of the big six houses to switch from the wholesale model, but now that it uses the agency model all 17,000 Random House ebooks will be directly available through the iBookstore—which is good since the iPad2 made its debut on March 2.

The agency model is “when the publisher sets the price and designates an agent, in this case the bookseller, who will sell the book for 30 percent commission.” With this model, publishers typically make less money than with the wholesale model—the model where the publisher sells to a retailer at a discount.

A Random House spokesperson said that the company decided to adopt the agency model partly as commercial motivation for customers, partly as an investment in digital sales growth, and partly to ensure their e-books will be more widely available anywhere anytime.  With the agency model comes higher eBook prices, which is a good thing for publishers and independent retailers, because low eBook prices tend to devalue books and cannibalize hardcover sales, according to PW. The agency model means that “once a price has been set it cannot be changed or discounted by the retailer and independent e-book retailers believe the higher prices of the agency model allow them to compete with big e-book vendors.”

What does this mean for publishers? It’s confirmation that for now at least, the agency model is the best way to sell e-books. But what about other ways to ensure that print books are still valued? Bundling seems to be a good option. Just as DVDs and Bluerays often come in a pack, publishers can offer hardcovers and eBooks together. They can price the package at a slightly higher rate than a stand alone hardcover or eBook, and that way customers will see value in both forms.

Random House Switches to Agency Model for E-Book Sales

HarperCollins has decided on limiting e-book lending capabilities for libraries to 26 loans. Basically, this means once an e-book has been lent 26 times, the license expires and the library has to buy a new license. Obviously, libraries are frustrated with these new restrictions, especially since ebooks are already so difficult to loan. Currently most ebooks can only be lent for up to two weeks.

This new limitation addresses the bigger issue regarding ebooks. With ebooks, there is a much higher risk of plagiarism than with print books, yet deeply engrained into our culture is the idea of being able to lend our books to friends. With print books, it’s no big deal how many people you lend your book to; you own that book. But with ebooks, it’s more like you pay for the right to keep it on your hard drive, right now you can only lend a book once in its life, and only for two weeks. After two weeks, the file on your friend’s hard drive stops working.

Right now, there is no good solution to this problem. HarperCollins seems to be experimenting with new ideas, but unfortunately that hurts libraries with shorter loan periods. Still, if ebooks had no restrictions in libraries, then there is the chance that people would stop buying books altogether.

Maybe publishers could over a larger number of loans, say 50 or 100. And libraries could extend their loan periods. Or, if that doesn’t work, maybe publishers should turn to a subscription model. Libraries could pay a certain amount each month and license the unlimited use of a specified number of books, or even just an unlimited use, period. Right now, the best way seems to be experimentation. And even though HarperCollins recent decision is unpopular, it is just a first step.

HarperCollins Announces 26 Loan Limit on E-Book Circulation for Libraries

Random House Day 1

Today was my first day at Wendy Lamb books in Random House–and I’ve never been so excited to work for free before. Day one as an editorial intern and already I want to actually work at Random House. I can’t help it, I’m in love.

Everyone was incredibly friendly and my boss greeted me with flowers, because it was my first day. And then I got to spend the day in a cozy building on the 9th floor, watching the snow fall down on the city. And I found out that RH offers yoga classes for its employees. How awesome is that?

For my first day, I read a manuscript and took notes. I’ve been getting really into YA lately, which are the types of books Wendy Lamb publishes, so basically I get to do what I love all day. I could really get used to this!

My Last Day at LIFE

Yes, sadly friends, I no longer work at LIFE anymore. But on the bright side, I will be working at Random House next semester, as an editorial intern for Wendy Lamb books!

Anyway, I just thought I’d share some highlights of my last day at LIFE.

First, I finally got to write for LIFE! One of these days, galleries for Halle Berry, Anne Hathaway, and Sandra Bullock at their hottest will be published, and you will see some quality writing. I’ll keep checking and then post links once they’re up.

Also, I got to listen to a lot of Christmas carols. Down the hall, one of Time Inc.’s many editorial staffs were having their Christmas party, which I hope, involved lots of alcohol. There was merriment and singing, and of course games. After their party ended, I found one of their survey games, which involved giving a hint about someone’s life (presumably someone on their staff), so everyone else had to guess who they were. Here was the best one:

I once helped Steve Tyler of Aerosmith try on all the women’s clothes in the store I worked at. Who am I?

Working at LIFE can be quiet sometimes, and today, the sounds of all of us typing were accompanied by loud, slurred Christmas carols. Since they were down the hall, their songs echoed, which sounded a little creepy. One of my co-workers commented, “it sounds like they’re going to march down the hall and massacre us.”

At lunch, I went to my usual place, Pranzo Deli. Over the past five months, I think I’ve managed to make an impression on the people who work there. Or at least, I think they remember me. At any rate, they always give me a familiar smile. Today, I happened to be wearing my Daily Nexus sweatshirt. It’s my warmest hoodie, and when I only have to walk five feet in the cold for lunch, I don’t like to get completely bundled up. Today, the woman at the counter smiled at me (with recognition) and asked where I worked. Before I had a chance to respond, she said, “Oh, Daily Nexus,” and nodded with approval.

The last thing I did at LIFE today was work on a Dick Van Dyke Life and Times gallery. There’s a long list of celebrity galleries that need to be built, and I chose him. So you’re welcome, Dick Van Dyke.