Dear Author

Thursday Midday Links: Mass market paperback sales decline 41.5% in February

At RT, there were dozens of workshops about self publishing. I sat on a panel myself with HP Mallory and Mark Coker. HP Mallory has sold over 130,000 copies of her self published books and has scored a 6 figure deal with Random House for publication of three forthcoming titles. As I sat next to Mallory on the self publishing panel, I could tell immediately why she was successful. Mallory knows how to market her books and spoke in terms that I hadn’t heard any one else speak about marketing in a long, long time. During the panel, someone told her that they wanted to buy her marketing book. I think she is going to write one. In any event, there were many authors who attended these self publishing panels. Authors who are routinely on the bestseller lists and authors who haven’t been published. Part of the reason is due to this:

According to AAP's monthly sales estimates, e-book sales jumped 202.3% at the 16 publishers that reported results, hitting $90.3 million. The rest of the trade segments, however, all had declines in the month with adult hardcover sales plunging 43%, to $46.2 million at the 17 houses that reported figures, while mass market paperback sales tumbled 41.5%, to $29.3 million at the nine reporting houses.

Romance, if you recall, makes up about 50% of those mass market sales. Jennifer Crusie has thrown her advice hat into the ring. She doesn’t believe self publishing can be done without professional help.   She also dislikes the terms “Big 6″ and “legacy publishers”.   I wonder what she thinks of “Agency Publishers”.   I actually agree with a lot of what Crusie says in that how you publish establishes who you are as a professional.   Self publishing is hard, particularly if it is done right.   Yet, when Crusie ends with the summary you “really need both print and e-publishing” she does something that is actually pretty misleading.   She conflates self publishing and digital publishing into one basket.   I’ve seen this time and again.   Digital publishing is going to be the norm in the future and print will not be.   Don’t conflate self publishing and digital publishing. They aren’t the same.

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New Yorker has a long story about the conflict between George R.R. Martin and his most ardent supporters.   Basically ardent supporters have turned bitter due to the long wait for the conclusion of the Fire and Ice series.   Laura Miller describes the readers as consumers who are impatient with the delivery of their product and perhaps not as respectful of the author’s creative process.   Some readers regret even reading the series given the tortuous wait.   Martin worries about not delivering.

It’s not that I don’t feel for the author.   Probably Martin is trying to write as much as he can when the creative muse strikes him.   But readers aren’t the patient sort and I don’t think that authors should expect that.   Impatience works in their favor.   Look, for example, at the success of the Jean Auel’s The Land of Painted Caves which has been hotly anticipated since 2002.   Impatient readers are a mark of a successful book and really, something to be celebrated rather than despised (not that I think Martin despises his readers).

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Courtney Milan points out how much the Google Book Settlement could have cost authors taking into consideration the most favored nations pricing require by Amazon.

But the terms that are most damaging to authors are buried after the royalty rate. Those are the terms that allow Google to set any price it wants, so long as it pays you the royalty on the List Price you have set internally. Yes, you can set your price to any price point. But Google has the right to discount off the price that you set.

Why is that worrying? Because in order to get Amazon's 70% revenue, you have to let Amazon match prices online. So if Google had rights to your backlist titles, and you put your books up on Amazon, and Google lowered your price (as it was allowed to do), Amazon could match that price lowering. And if Google lowered its price below $2.99, Amazon would match- and you'd get bumped from the 70% royalty to the 35% royalty.

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Publishers Lunch is reporting that several of Borders’ executives have resigned (reg req’d or Det News link) while Borders asks for millions of dollars to be paid in bonuses to the executives who have stayed.   No one likes the idea of the executives making so much money trying to bail out a company.   The argument for executive bonuses is that these execs are necessary to pull the company out of bankruptcy and that the executives are taking on an extraordinarily difficult task that has a lot of personal risk for them (i.e., if the company doesn’t make it, they are out of a job).   The argument against bonuses is that this money should be used to finance the reorganization, not line the pockets of the already wealthy.   I think Borders’ chances of getting out of bankruptcy is slim at this point.