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Running Press

Dear Author

Monday Midday Links: Disintermediation and the valued supply links

Several people noticed that the comments to the controversial post of Christopher Navratil, the publisher of Running Press, over at Publishers’ Weekly had disappeared. I emailed and received a prompt response from PW. According to PW, this is a technical glitch site wide due to a change over in commenting systems:

I’m writing in response to your note to Jim Milliot about the comments on the Running Press Soapbox. We have not deleted the comments. We switched comments systems to a third-party solution last week. Doing so caused the old comments to stop displaying. We are now working to get them back up. We have not deleted them, we just need to figure out how to display them. Please be patient.

Thank you,
Craig Teicher
Senior Web Editor

Having run into my own problems, I can appreciate the challenge this will be.

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Joseph Esposito writes that disintermediation is occurring everywhere in publishing, not just between author – publisher – reader but also between publisher – retailer/library – reader. Disintermediation is the phrase used to describe what happens when an intermediary gets booted from the supply chain between the producer of a product and the end consumer. Libraries are a form of intermediary and publishers are always looking for a way to reduce the number of barriers to the consumer. Esposito writes that disintermediation has taken a long time to occur because each link in the supply stream has added value up today. Esposito’s article is fascinating and well worth the read, even if you don’t agree with everything he says. His long history in publishing provides valuable insight, particularly to a neophyte like me.

If there is an entity experiencing disintermediation, then that entity has to recreate its value. Publishers, for example, have to sell themselves to authors as providing a value that the authors could not ordinarily (or easily) obtain. Random House was successful in its courting of HP Mallory and Macmillan in its acquisition of Amanda Hocking. However, putting out a sub par product may lead to questions of value by all parties.

Barnes & Noble is transforming itself into a digital company through the production and sale of the nook. Libraries are just another part of the supply chain that need to reinvent themselves. Take a look at this blog post by Jenica P. Rogers is Director of Libraries at the State University of New York at Potsdam at how ill equipped she believes libraries are in reinjecting their value into publishing / reader ecosystem.

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Nathan Bransford writes about the “tragedy” of the 99c book and how the future of publishing will be to determine what is the optimal price point for each book. Bransford uses the term “price discovery” as it relates to Groupon and how it is using its service to discover what price individuals are willing to pay for differing products. Ideally, price discovery is used in conjunction with price discrimination. It is said that Amazon and other retailers engage in A/B testing of price. The idea is that you price two separate but similar products at differing prices and see whether the increase or decrease in price makes a difference in sales. Self published authors do that as well, moving their book prices from $.99 to $2.99 to see what, if any, increased revenue comes from the higher price, knowing that there may be a reduction of sales but also an increase in margin.

Bransford points out that self published authors are able to undercut traditional publishing prices to their benefit. But what if traditionally published books also are priced low. Is a reader going to spend their money on the lower priced traditionally published books or the self published books? Obviously it behooves self published authors to have a product that is indistinguishable in terms of cover, blurb, and presentation as the traditionally published author.

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Jeannie Lin posted a detailed summary of the session she led at RT Bookcamp. It’s worth a read. I think I’ve mentioned before that I enjoyed these group discussions so much because the opinions were so diverse but despite the differences, the conversations were respectful and robust. A couple of interesting points:

4. There are programs such as Worldreader.org which distribute books to developing nations through e-readers. So whereas in the U.S. print books are used for charity because distribution and printing is cheap, globally the use of e-readers can actually be a more economical solution because it negates printing, shipping & distribution costs.

5. Many teens are still reading print, but then going online to participate in fan forums where they can interact with other readers and do activities such as share fan fiction.

Each one of the points brought up could have been its own session and we really only skimmed the surface.

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A reader previously pointed out the documentary, Guilty Pleasures, that was originally released in the UK. The US release has occurred and Smart Bitches has an entire blog post on the documentary. I’d like to see the documentary myself, but I appreciate the in depth coverage provided by librarian Jennifer Lohmann.

Overall, I was left with the impression that Moggan had no desire to actually understand her subjects. She was an outsider looking inside a culture and she made a shallow effort to learn why Roger wrote a novel and Hiroko, Shumita, and Shirley read the novels but ultimately it was a superficial effort. She read hundreds of Mills & Boon, but I get the impression that she allowed them to confirm her stereotypes of the genre rather than opening herself up to a new understanding. Perhaps she is confusing understanding with endorsement and, in her effort to make sure she didn’t endorse the genre, she forgot to try and understand it.

You’ll have to read the rest of the post to find out what else Jennifer found to be of interest in the documentary. The part regarding the cover model was pretty fascinating. Our own Sarah F has a write up of it that we will post later in the week.

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According to the AAP numbers, ebooks have outsold paperbacks for the first time in February 2011. While this makes a great headline, the true meaning is greatly obscured. The AAP reports that ebook sales were $90.3 Million. The press release does not break out the numbers for Adult hardcover, trade, or mass market but merely lists the total as $156.8M. The print book sales data comes from 84 U.S. publishing houses where as the ebook data comes from 16 houses. The ebook sales are not broken down by category and presumably all the trade sales, both adult and ya, are included in the $90.3 million figure. The one metric that is reliable is that digital book buying is increasing but not at the same rate print book buying is decreasing.

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Some other numbers to ponder include Brian Murray’s statements at the London Book Fair as reported by the Bookseller:

Brian Murray said the number of US e-readers—grown from 15m a year ago to 40m today—was having a disproportionately large effect on the market because they had reached “core” readers, those buying over 12 books a year. He said: “Some of the heaviest book buyers no longer visit bookstores.” He said some e-books had a 50% share of total sales during the first few months, a “watershed” for the trade.

Dear Author

Monday Midday Links: Post mortems full of fail

I wasn’t going to do a links round up today. I’m getting ready to leave for Romantic Times and have a list as long as my-well, it’s a long list. But I would be totally remiss if I didn’t point the readership to Publishers Weekly, a supposed journalism magazine about the industry of publishing. But apparently it’s just a publisher’s mouthpiece, and not a very good one. (this is incorrect as the piece is an op ed piece and thus not endorsed by PW)

In a section titled “Soapbox”, PW publishes a piece by Christopher Navratil, the publisher of Running Press. The piece is entitled “The Misinformation Age: What Happens When A Headline Goes Viral” and is designed, I believe, to respond to the mess caused when contract editor, Telep, requested Jessica Verday change her YA anthology contribution from m/m to f/m.

Timeline:

On March 21, 2011, Jessica Verday publicly confirmed she would no longer be in the anthology Wicked Pretty Things published by Running Press and edited by Trisha Telep. Telep wanted the story changed from m/m to f/m:

I’ve received a lot of questions and comments about why I’m no longer a part of the WICKED PRETTY THINGS anthology (US: Running Press, UK: Constable & Robinson) and I’ve debated the best way to explain why I pulled out of this anthology. The simple reason? I was told that the story I’d wrote, which features Wesley (a boy) and Cameron (a boy), who were both in love with each other, would have to be published as a male/female story because a male/male story would not be acceptable to the publishers.

On March 22, 2011, Telep confirmed this in the comments section to Verday’s blog post, writing:

Oh dear. Might as well give you my two cents. Not that it really matters but… Don’t take it out on the publishers, the decision was mine totally. These teen anthologies I do are light on the sex and light on the language. I assumed they’d be light on alternative sexuality, as well. Turns out I was wrong! Just after I had the kerfuffle with jessica, I was told that the publishers would have loved the story to appear in the book! Oh dear. My rashness will be the death of me. It’s a great story. Hope jessica publishes it online. (By the way: if you want to see a you tube video of me wrestling a gay man in Glasgow, and losing, please let me know).

This statement led further communications between Verday and Running Press which Verday blogged about on March 25, 2011:

Has the publisher commented on the matter?
- Yes, they have. On Wednesday, I spoke to Lisa Cheng, the editor at Running Press Kids, at her invitation after receiving an email from her. Although I can’t speak for Running Press, and can only tell my side of the story, I will say that Lisa was misinformed as to why I pulled out of the anthology and I corrected that, and although she apologized profusely over the “misunderstandings on all sides,” she told me that they have worked with Trisha many times before and stand behind her.

Trisha Telep has over 21 anthologies to her name on Amazon. Apparently each author is paid $250 flat fee to be included in the anthology and Telep gets all the royalties (man, I did not take enough for the Agony/Ecstasy anthology!).

April 3, 2011, Running Press Publisher, Christopher Navratril uses industry website, Publishers’ Weekly, to respond with a scold to Verday and the rest of us for not appreciating Running Press’s love for the GLBT community.

Ms. Verday, understandably, refused to change her story and pulled it from the anthology. Then she took to her blog and social media connections, and accused Running Press of intolerance and censorship. Other authors in the anthology asked to pull their stories, believing the account. Fans, librarians, and a handful of authors in the anthology became angry. Authors in other anthologies began to send us e-mails expressing concern. This all happened in just a few days. We at Running Press contacted Verday immediately to assure her that we had no such guidelines and would be excited to include her story as written. But she was unyielding.

First, Verday publicly communicated the reasons given to her by editor Telep, the representative or agent of the publisher. Second, in a second blog post, she acknowledged she was invited back into the anthology and republished, word for word, the statements of Running Press and Constable & Robinson, that were supportive of GLBT issues. Third, she never accused Running Press of intolerance and/or censorship. Never. Read the first blog post. She says she isn’t going to support the anthology. That’s it. When she does name Running Press, it is in the same blog post as the republished statements from RP as being pro GLBT issues.

Navratil uses the PW bully pulpit to spread the message that Verday is a difficult author who spread misinformation and false accusations. It does not come out and state that Telep’s statement was offensive or one that they do not support. Instead, it tries to redirect attention back on Verday, almost as in warning. The reason that authors are dropping out of the anthology and libraries and readers are upset isn’t necessary the rejection of Telep, but Running Press refusal to acknowledge the hurtful message of Telep’s statement, their continued support of Telep, and their chastisement of Verday.

This will inevitably cause more damage to Running Press because the issue that their actions are speaking louder than their words.

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One of the panels I am sitting on at RT is a self publishing panel with Mark Coker, owner and CEO of Smashwords, and HP Mallory, self published success and newly contracted Random House author.   I am going to talk about how self published authors should pitch for reviews.   I’ll probably refer to a few cautionary tales, like the blow up over at Bookbinge, the fuck off author at Abe’s (video of my voice?), and finally, this one (fuck you for being too lazy to rate my book and no one appreciates my genius).

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Several Nora Roberts’ books were made into Lifetime movies and apparently there is a tragic remake of Linda Howard’s Loving Evangeline. But did you also know that there were a number of Harlequin categories made into movies?   This site has a rundown of several. Any of the commenters watch these?