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Thursday Midday Links: Simon & Schuster Staff Stars in YouTube Video...

Kobo is entering the self publishing/publishing realm. To agents and others, this will come as no surprise. Kobo has been meeting with agents, hiring content editors, and with its major competitors thriving in the self publishing space, this is an inevitable move. Kobo currently has a deal with Smashwords to supply self published content. It is unknown what will happen to that relationship. I believe that BN also accepts Smashword content and its own PubIt! branded materials.

The incentive to use the retailers self publishing platform over a distributor like Smashwords would likely be increased visibility at the retailer site. I wonder if the future of retail based self publishing will tie scaled royalties to exclusivity.

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Simon & Schuster released a video on behalf of Snooki to promote her latest book. The video is fairly embarrassing with Snooki wandering the halls of Simon & Schuster and labeling the author portraits as grenade or geek. Grenade is apparently a girl that is unattractive. Snooki then refers to the publishing staff as “farty old grandmas” until she “guidos” them up by having them stick out their “tits and asses”, tease up their hair, and put on lots of makeup while drinking heavily [the drinking heavily part was in the Director's Cut resurrected by Ed Champion which appears to have been removed by S&S]. Louise Burke, the publisher; Liz Perle, the editor in chief; and Lauren McKenna, executive editor, all appear in the video. They appear to be having a good time and you have to applaud the lengths at which they are going to support their author. It’s too bad, however, they that they are doing it in a way that emphasizes looking like Snooki and drinking heavily over being a well read, intelligent woman.  Sarah Wendell has a poll up and shared her own thoughts on the subject.

Maybe they’ll dress up as foul mouthed, video game playing, bling wearing, sword wielding Valkryies to celebrate Kresley Cole’s upcoming release, Lothaire. After all, Cole is a #1 NYT Bestselling author and Snooki only made the extended list. Hermain Cain is No. 7 on the non fiction list. Maybe we’ll see his publishing team sitting around smoking in a video or perhaps punching people in the face with bouquets of yellow flowers.

Think of the possibilities! What would you want Louise Burke, Liz Perle and Lauren McKenna to star in next?

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The NextWeb quotes an excerpt from the Isaacson Steve Jobs biography about how Apple changed the ebook pricing market (and at the same time adds fuel to the class action lawsuits):

[Jobs] told the publishers that Apple would “go to the agency model, where you set the price, and we get our 30%, and yes, the customer pays a little more, but that’s what you want anyway.”

This made the publishers happy, but it didn’t solve the problem of Amazon undercutting the iBooks store on price.

To solve this, Jobs negotiated an agreement from the publishers to allow Apple to sell the books at a lower price if any other vendor began selling them in ebook form cheaper than Apple was.

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Publishersmarketplace has a piece on Amazon and how the agency pricing model is affecting Amazon’s balance sheet. (Reg requ’d) PM believes that over 90% of Amazon’s reported net income of $63 million is from the agency ebook commissions at $56 million.

What that also means, which analysts who find our piece are bound to discover, is that agency model ebooks are masking even greater declines in Amazon’s profitability than are readily apparent.

The larger gross margin on the agency books, however, is helping BN tremendously.

When the company reported their first quarter results in August, for BN.com they showed sales of $198 million and gross margin of $41.5 million. A year ago, sales were $148 million and gross margin was just $5 million. A meaningful part of the big boost in margin was Random House’s move to agency, along with the general increase in agency ebook sales. By our rough estimate, agency publishers did about $50 million in net ebook sales during BN’s reported quarter, which would be worth $21.5 million in recordable gross margin.

Which just goes to further support my belief that Agency has helped BN compete.

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Speaking of BN, their stores are becoming increasingly devoted to non book items like toys, games, and electronics. They’ve reorganized their internal footprint and teen books are gaining prominence. They even have a Teen Paranormal Romance section at the front of many stores. Their website offerings are becoming more diverse as well.  BN.com now offers five new categories of goods: Home and Gift, Consumer Electronics, Arts and Crafts, Toys and Games and Baby.

Last week, Barnes & Noble started selling items like rugs and cooking utensils on its website. ”If shoppers are buying cookbooks from bn.com, it’s natural to offer them cooking supplies at the same time; if shoppers are buying new baby books, it’s natural to offer them baby supplies as well,” said John Foley, B&N’s president of eCommerce.

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Whether it was Simon & Schuster’s bad programming or Apple iBookstore’s mistake, the initial iBookstore release of Steve Jobs’ biography was riddled with formatting errors.  Apple quickly responded and urged its customers to delete the original book and download a new copy.

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Sarah Wendell pointed out this article about female soldiers being integrated into the special operative groups to help with cultural outreach.

In 2009, under pressure from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and Gen. David Petraeus, then the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, the Army began to develop Cultural Support Teams.

Last November, the first group of women went through a grueling five-day assessment that tested their physical and military skills, their problem-solving and writing abilities and their psychological and mental fitness. Those that passed moved on to a six-week training program.

And just because the women are part of the cultural support program, they are not immune to risk as the article starts with the news of the death of one of those women in a bombing.  She was attached to a Ranger’s squad.

“Any day that they’re walking into a village and engaging with the population they are at the same risk as those Special Forces, SEALs, or special operators they’re detailed to. So I would say it is not for the weak-kneed,” said Michael Lumpkin, principal deputy assistant defense secretary for special operations. “These women are on the front lines in very austere locations.”

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Erica Tsang tweeted this article about using Georgette Heyer books as a guide to touring London.

From the steps, look left towards The Athenaeum Club. It was built over the western corner of the Regent’s demolished Carlton House and Wellington, who was a member, had a mounting block, which is still there, placed on the opposite pavement.

Walk left into Pall Mall, and first right into St James’s Square, where Deborah Grantham’s aunt had her gaming parlour in Faro’s Daughter. Numbers 20 and 33 are by Robert Adam. At 16, on the site of what is now the East India Club, the Regent was dining with Mrs Boehm on June 21 1815 when Major Percy, four French eagle standards protruding from the window of his post-chaise-and-four, clattered into the square to confirm the victory at Waterloo.

 

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

21 Comments

  1. Kim
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 11:12:56

    On one level, the video is amusing. It appeals directly to the target audience. Then you realize those are actual executives and not just actors. Imagine if a man was the “author” in the video and he was objectifying women like that. Since it’s Snooki, however, it must be okay.

    Will publishing houses sign anyone that is in the public eye to a contract, while talented mid-list authors are finding it harder and harder to sign with a major publisher? Doesn’t there have to be any talent or redeeming quality to snag a book deal? As Jane said, don’t go to school and study, just work on your tan and use slang; you’ll be a television star and author- or perhaps an editor.

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  2. Kim in Hawaii
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 11:53:11

    Regarding the article about female soldiers, this same controversy arises during each war. Yet women have served valiantly since the American Revolution.

    Here’s an article about female Marines on a similar mission from 2009:

    http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=53416

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  3. May
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 11:56:05

    “Maybe they’ll dress up as foul mouthed, video game playing, bling wearing, sword wielding Valkryies to celebrate Kresley Cole’s upcoming release, Lothaire. After all, Cole is a #1 NYT Bestselling author”

    now THAT is a video I’d like to see!!!! Snookie makes me cringe + die a little on the inside.

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  4. library addict
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 12:40:42

    I couldn’t even watch the whole video. How embarrassing for the S&S employees. At least they digitally muted all of the real authors Snooki was insulting.

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  5. lisabookworm
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 12:57:55

    The S&S Snooki video was embarrassing. While I like publishers supporting their books, they took that too far. If I were a S&S author I would be totally appalled at my editor’s behavior. Not to mention the disgraceful part where Snooki insulted the portraits of other S&S authors.

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  6. Karenmc
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 13:30:39

    That video is a load of insulting hoooey. I’ve never seen Snooki other than in magazine photos, and I feel grungy for having watched this. Really? Jersey Shore is something people aspire to?

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  7. Courtney Milan
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 13:30:55

    Re: Kobo. I took their announcement to mean that they were starting their own publishing imprint, not that they were throwing open their doors to all self-publishers like Amazon’s KDP or B&N’s PubIt. The people mentioned in the article are people who are published by Amazon, and grant Amazon exclusive rights to the work. Self-publishers just upload, and can take their work off sale as they wish.

    It sounded to me like Kobo was going into acquisitions, not starting its own digital publishing platform.

    Does anyone have the skinny?

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  8. Sunita
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 13:36:04

    Re: the video. I had trouble getting through the whole thing as well. If Agency publishers are wondering why their bedrock customers, i.e., readers who buy more than 1-5 books a year, don’t think much of them anymore, they can just dial this up.

    The entire Telegraph article on the Heyer walk is worth reading. I have a hat from John Lock; it’s a great hat and a great store. The Running Footman was something of a disappointment, being filled with office types at lunch. Not a pair of Hessians in sight. :-)

    And if you’re in the neighborhood, I strongly recommend a trip to Purdey and Sons. It was established in 1814, so it was a mere pup in the Regency, but it was firmly established by Victoria’s time and it still sells the most amazing (and expensive) hunting equipment and clothing. The time we were in there, a few winters ago, there was someone being shown a hunting rifle that TheHusband informed me probably cost the equivalent of our monthly mortgage payment.

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  9. Alex
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 14:05:42

    I lost 314 IQ points watching that. It put me in the negative digits, but I’m still smarter than that dingbat and the women on that video at S&S.

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  10. Brian
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 14:13:29

    Guess I’m completely out of touch since I had no idea who Snooki was. After the video I kinda still wish I had no idea who she is.

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  11. Lisa J
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 14:15:59

    The video is beyond insulting. I’m sure I’m not their target market, but if I was on the bubble about buying it, this would convince me to put it back on the shelf and leave it at the store.

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  12. anon
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 14:17:43

    I don’t know who Snooki is and, after your description, I’m not going to watch the video, but you’ve said enough to send my respect for Simon & Schuster plummeting to the lowest depths.

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  13. Tiffany Clare
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 16:49:10

    @Courtney Milan:

    Courtney,

    It’s my understanding that they are going into publishing (acquiring).

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/story/2011/10/26/kobo-publishing.html

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  14. Suzanna Medeiros
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 17:48:28

    The general tone of the article makes it sound like Kobo is going into publishing, but the following quote makes me question that:

    “Kobo will be offering complete publishing services for authors, including book editing and design.”

    I’m wondering if they’ll be doing both – acquiring/publishing as well as offering those self-publishing a place to upload their books directly (Serbinis did say at F8 that Kobo would be moving into self-publishing). Or perhaps they’ll be providing a self-publishing platform and giving authors the option of paying to use various other services – editing, design, etc. Not too dissimilar from what they have at their site now (http://www.kobobooks.com/companyinfo/authorsnpublishers.html) where they offer a conversion to epub service.

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  15. DS
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 19:05:29

    B&N used to have these great folding stackable bookcases that they sold in their mail order catalogues. I would not mind in the least if they brought those back. I can’t find any that are nearly as well made although several sites (including Amazon) offer them– the wood tends to be not well cured with a tendency to split where the hardware is attached.

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  16. Danielle D
    Oct 28, 2011 @ 05:42:43

    What I can’t understand is how the heck did Snooki did get not one but two books published????? And some of my favorite authors have lost their contracts.

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  17. Angela
    Oct 28, 2011 @ 07:42:12

    @DS: Like these? I have some similar, but I bought them somewhere else (for significantly cheaper) and I saw that same brand is elsewhere too for much less.

    I do love my folding, stackable bookcases. First time I saw them in the store, I cleared off the shelf.

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  18. DS
    Oct 28, 2011 @ 13:44:45

    @Angela: I don’t remember the brand name but that is definitely the style. My home office is lined with the ones I bought ages ago– at a much better price. They also had quarter circle endcaps.

    The ones with the splittery wood from a closeout store were about $30 each.

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  19. Nicole
    Oct 28, 2011 @ 15:10:11

    I actually like that BN has expanded the non-book offerings. They even had a Duplo table set up and L had fun playing. Some of the toy brands aren’t stuff we find around here. It’s also nice to be able to buy Sophie the Giraffe without having to go online (a favorite baby gift).

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  20. Anthea Lawson
    Oct 28, 2011 @ 15:53:16

    @Courtney

    Actually, I think Kobo is doing both. I have in my e-mail (from earlier this week) a contract from Kobo about their IPP (Independent Publishers Program). Pretty similar terms to Amazon KDP, except that Kobo is offering 70% royalty on list when you price between .99 and $12.99. I recommend you contact Stephen Troister of Vendor Relations (stroister@kobo) for more info. :)

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  21. Linda Hilton
    Oct 31, 2011 @ 10:08:25

    @Danielle D: What I can’t understand is how the heck did Snooki did get not one but two books published????? And some of my favorite authors have lost their contracts.

    While I can’t claim to be anyone’s favorite author, I think the treatment I got by S&S/Pocket over this past week-end certainly represents the other end of the scale from this promotion/prostitution for Snooki (whoever/whatever the hell she is).

    When I asked for the rights back to my 15-years-out-of-print books last May, I never expected the letter I got from Pocket two weeks ago announcing they would be making the books “available” again in “a few weeks” in trade paperback editions. Why would they do this? The books didn’t sell all that well when they first came out.

    But my surprise of mid-October was nothing compared to the demoralizing discovery I made yesterday, Sunday, 30 October 2011.

    The second of the books, originally published in 1996, will be rereleased on Amazon on 5 December 2011. There is no cover art, there is no description of the book’s format as to whether it is trade, mass market, nothing. The author’s name is identified only as “Hilton.” The price is $19.99, discounted 34% to $13.49. There is a single review which is not a review at all, and it was lifted from the earlier editions. It is not possible to post additional reviews, ratings, comments, nothing.

    The same book is listed at B&N, again with no cover, no details, same “cover” price but discounted to only $13.69 and is slated for release there on 28 December 2011. The other change is that the author is listed as “Anne Hilton.” That’s not my name. My middle name is Ann without an E, but my middle name does not appear on the contract for this book anywhere.

    The first of the two books I did for Pocket — I won’t list their titles because I don’t want this post to provide any kind of link for them — received similar treatment on both B&N and Amazon regarding author’s name errors, no cover art, release dates. Except that this book, which sold fewer than 15,000 copies when it was originally released in 1995, is priced at $24.99, discounted to $16.49.

    I am not Nora Roberts or Courtney Milan or Lisa Kleypas or Amanda Quick/Jayne Krentz. NO ONE is going to pay those prices for those books. NO ONE. If they do, they’re crazy and I really don’t want crazy people reading my books.

    But what this apparently does is make the books legitimately “available” according to the contract terms and keeps me from getting my rights back. This means I can’t revise the first book, which was horribly mutilated during the editing process, and put it up as a digital version. Oh, I can “negotiate in good faith” with S&S on royalty rates for an electronic edition — the contract, from 1994, reserves elecronic rights to S&S, but no terms are specified — but I can’t get the rights back myself.

    S&S, of course, has no obligation to publish in good faith.

    My message to them is not printable.

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