Monday Midday Links: Joplin Missouri Needs Help
Joplin Missouri was hit by a tremendous tornado yesterday. The American Red Cross has sent out a call for donations and for medical help. On CNN, it is reported that 75% of the city has been destroyed by the tornado.
I feel a little awkward about transitioning into books after this but this post is about news and books. BEA starts today and Richard Curtis of eReads leaked a seismic announcement last night that is setting BEA aflame. Larry Kirshbaum, a former CEO of Time-Warner Book Group (now known as Hachette) is going to run Amazon’s New York publishing office beginning July 5, 2011. Kirshbaum left Time-Warner and formed his own agenting firm which he has run for several years. Now, he is back on the publisher side of things. Amazon NYC plans to publish everything from literary fiction to commercial fiction to non fiction. More hires to come.
This has serious ramifications. My first thought is who else is Amazon NYC going to poach and how will they change the publishing culture? Will there be advances? How fast will they get a book to market? What kind of focus will be on the print side?
Joe Konrath, self publishing guru and Amazon fan, has blogged about his recent troubles getting his soon to be published print book with Amazon’s mystery imprint into brick and mortar retailers. Indie booksellers, who believe that Amazon is in large part responsible for their demise, are threatening to boycott him. Further, it is unlikely that Amazon’s competitors like Walmart, Borders, and Barnes and Noble are going to carry his books.
Larry Kirshbaum, if he intends for Amazon to have a print presence, will have to address these issues.
It’s nearing a new release period and thus we’ve got some resources to help craft your TBR list. There is the coming soon catalog from Dear Author. As well as the open thread for authors (where authors post their new releases) and for readers.
S. Victor Whitmill is a tattoo artist. He designed the tribal tattoo that is on Mike Tyson and replicated in the movie The Hangover Part II. Mr. Whitmall is claiming that the tattoo is subject to copyright and has sued Warner Brothers to enjoin them from using the tattoo without his permission.
If a tattoo clearly violates copyright — say, exactly reproduces a Keith Haring drawing or an Annie Leibovitz photograph without permission — could a court order it removed?
The case gets more serious, according to Christopher A. Harkins, an expert on copyright and patents who has written the definitive law review article on the subject, when someone tries to profit from the copying — by, for instance, selling photographs of the infringing tattoos.
Obviously this has all sorts of implications, the least of which is whether it will impact the use of tattoos on romance book covers.
Eric Hellman blogged about Hachette’s views about its future business.
Massive companies, Amazon, Apple, Google, and in fact last year was a tipping point for our company, because 50% of our net revenues were made through outlets that were not invested in us. Companies like Walmart and Costco and all the others you can think of, not directly invested in our business. And I think that was a big moment and it means you’re having to deal with people who think about books in a way totally different from the way Barnes and Nobles regards books.
Kobo has a brand new eink reader. It’s basically like the Sony Reader: touchscreen and Pearl eInk with a much faster processor. The best part? It’s only $129.99.
This was a fascinating! report. According to data compiled by Dan Lubart of eBook MarketView, romance readers have shifted their purchases away from Agency priced books and toward lower priced books. Even Harlequin, who is not an Agency publisher, is seeing a reduction in market share of their higher end books.
Interestingly Angela James at Tools of Change told the TOC crowd that Carina Press had reduced the top of end pricing for their books from $6.99 to $5.99 because no one (or few) were buying the $6.99 priced books.
I’m not sure what to make of this data. Are romance readers on the front of a trend here? They were one of the first group of readers to really embrace digital books and digital first publishing or is this a genre specific phenomenon? In other words, romance readers are voracious readers and consume multiple books a week. In the digital world, there is no used market or resale market nor can they easily trade or share books. Thus, to feed their habit, romance readers are turning to lower priced goods. This behavior is not likely to be replicated in other genres.
Update: On Twitter, I saw that 66% of the power ebook buyers are women and they buy primarily romance with a household income of $77,000 or above.
With Agency pricing, there are only two or three authors whose books I’ll buy at list price. I pick up other books a month or two after release in the UBS close to my house. That’s not helping the authors’ bottom lines, but I can’t afford full price all the time. I also check sites like Books on the Knob and Daily Cheap Reads for alerts on reduced/free ebooks, and that’s steered me to some authors I otherwise wouldn’t have tried.
As for Amazon, I just have to sit back and watch what they do, not knowing right now if it’s positive or negative or both. I use iThingies for my ereading, but if I were to buy a dedicated ereader, it would be a Kindle, simply because Amazon is becoming so overwhelming in the book selling business (I’ve never bothered with iBooks).
So Konrath is upset that his print books won’t be carried in bookstores? I gotta say, I’m having a LITTLE trouble empathizing with him, seeing as how his deal with Thomas & Mercer means anyone who wants to buy his book in digital HAS TO go to Amazon to get it.
On the subject of romance and the pricing of digital books, I’ve actually been going in the opposite direction. After having purchased a fair number of “cheaper” digital books that I found to be very sub-par in terms of both content and copy editing, I’m more and more willing to pay full agency price to get a decent books. Of course, the copy editing for a fair number of those agency-priced books leaves quite a bit to be desired nowadays. Can we talk about that sometime? Why are so many books getting published these days with such execrable copy editing?
This is why I sample everything before I buy, even if it’s only $0.99. Authors who don’t bother w/ decent copyediting, etc. do not deserve my money.
B&N and Borders do carry print versions of Amazon published stuff on their websites right now (including Konrath’s Shaken), not sure about in brick & mortar stores.
@Nadia Lee: I always sample unless it’s an author I already know.
I don’t want to name names, but there is an author with a major publisher whose books I love, but the copy editing is atrocious. If I refused to buy her books because the editing was not up to my standards, I’d be missing out on a great read. Because the books are that good, I’m able to get past the errors even though I do find myself shaking my first at times.
That said, I’ve bought quite a few books that opened promisingly (i.e., the sample was reasonably well-edited and enjoyable) only to have the book fall apart as it progressed. Sometimes, you can’t tell if the CONTENT is well-edited from the sample, and for me, a lot of the cheaper books I’ve read lately have failed to live up to my expectations from that perspective, not just copy editing.
Any retailer following a business model of “Amazon has stolen our customers, so we refuse to stock Amazon’s product, thereby forcing our remaining customers who want the aforementioned product to buy it from Amazon” deserves to go out of business.
OMG whoever created the first tattoo of a rose is going to be RICH!
Jackie Barbosa-I too would love to see an article about copy-editing. I’ve seen a lot of very, very popular authors with various publishers (I’ll name the pubs, but not the authors), such as Penquin (NAL) and Berkeley (sp?) with glaring typos and grammar problems, which I attribute to the publishers. These are authors who are routinely on the NYT and there are always problems in their books.
@Jackie Barbosa: Of course, the copy editing for a fair number of those agency-priced books leaves quite a bit to be desired nowadays. Can we talk about that sometime? Why are so many books getting published these days with such execrable copy editing?
I actually don’t think it’s necessarily the copy-editing that’s at fault. It’s impossible for a copy-editor to catch everything–and even if they did, when the copy edits are incorporated, that leads to a second chance for mistakes to be made.
The way you catch those errors that escape copy-editing, and the ones introduced by incorporation, is to have people proof the books after the fact. I suspect that the houses that have those issues (and I do think it is a house-by-house issue) are skimping on, or skipping entirely, the proofing steps. Steps, plural. That’s my guess.
Alternate guess: they’re skipping copy-editing and just using a single proofing step.
This can be further compounded if the author is perennially late: if you’re trying to crash a book to meet a schedule, proofing is going to fall though the wayside.
In any event, some authors will need a minimum of 2-3 rounds of proofing to get a clean product out there–and even then, the proofing will introduce errors when the proofing isn’t proofed. (In PROOF BY SEDUCTION, for instance, someone decided at a proofing stage that “gypsy” should be capitalized, and so it is: as “Ggypsy.” Whoops.)
So that’s my guess–for whatever reason, some houses are skipping stages in the process that you need to engage in to produce a clean book.
Don’t forget that the smaller print houses like Sourcebooks and Kensington are not part of the Agency pricing scheme. If you know how to search by publisher, you can pick up some great deals on Amazon. :)
@Jackie – Do you think some of the copy-editing issues are due to format changes that are not proofed? Or is it more egregious than that?
@JackieBarbosa – if you are talking about the Lora Leigh book, I suggest you go and read the reviews for her last SMP as well as her last Berkley book. Seems like it is more of an author problem than a publisher problem.
I’m not sure how clean a manuscript should be before it hits the publisher’s desk. I’ve read some ARCs with the most appalling sentence and grammatical structures. Is it up to the publisher to fix all these before it gets into print or do authors have some responsibility for their own work?
I’m not sure where along the line these errors are occurring. I think Courtney Milan could be right that it’s due in some cases to a missed proofing step. All I know is that the errors I’m seeing are present in both the final digital and print versions of the book, which implies it’s not a case of the ARC being used to generate the digital file while all the edits are included in the final print version.
Actually, I’m not thinking of Lora Leigh. The author I’m thinking of doesn’t write for either of the houses you mentioned. Again, in the interest of not being mean, I’d prefer not to mention either the author or the house, especially since I truly love her books.
As to your question about who bears the responsibility–I do think authors have the lion’s share of that responsibility. However, no one is perfect and being able to write a good book doesn’t really depend on the ability to spell, distinguish between various homophones or know where commas belong/don’t belong. We have copy editors precisely because it’s not fair to expect authors to be the single arbiter of all of these things. A few mistakes are bound to slip through no matter how hard an author and copy editor try, but when I can count on one of these errors cropping up every few pages or so, I start to think the publisher didn’t even bother with a proper copy edit. And that, in turn, starts to feel like the publisher thinking the book will sell just as well whether it’s edited properly or not, which in turn is a slap in the face when I’m spending my hard-earned money on their product.
@Jane: If it’s that bad (i.e. more than typos), I’d say the publisher should send it all back to the author and tell them to do their job properly before it gets near the stage of ARC’s. I wouldn’t expect publishers to buy books that have egregious errors in them.
I’m actually very relieved to see some documentation that Agency pricing has affected purchasing. I was talking about it with a friend recently, and we had decided that everyone had just given up and was accepting it, so it’s great to know that’s not the case. I started out keeping a wish list for when/if prices came back down. I’ve stopped keeping that up, and now I buy probably about 5-7 Agency-priced books PER YEAR. I used to buy at least that per month, usually from Fictionwise with discounts. I’ve switched to mostly Harlequins bought with discounts from Kobo or just working through my massive TBR list.
I’m also spending much less time reading books, and more and more time reading blogs and other online media. That’s very strange for me to say, since I’ve had my nose in a book for more than 40 years. I wouldn’t have thought anything could reduce my reading addiction, but the big publishers have managed it.
I love Agency Books….BUT, I’m used to getting my ‘discount’ when I buy them at the store. I now have an Ereader, love it, and prefer to read my books on it….However; I’m Not Willing to Pay Full Price for Agency books just to use my Ereader. Therefore, I limit my buying of Agency ‘new releases’ to 1-2 books per month. In the meantime, I’m finding lots of other books to buy/read at affordable prices…many of them are OOP books by some of my favorite authors. Others are by popular authors I’ve never read before. It’s a win/win for me to get these books at a great price and enjoy great stories.
If Agency Pubs want me to buy their books on release, then they have to give me the same incentive I receive if I buy a print book. Retail $7.99 less 40% coupon = $4.80. Granted I still won’t ‘own’ the book or have an actual copy of the book ‘in hand’…But I will most likely buy it at that price and add it to my Ebook Library.
I’m with Mitzi (always nice when someone else writes my comment for me!) – I love my e-reader but given the rights I’m giving up, I won’t pay more for content than I’d pay for a new book in print.
Since I get coupons from Borders and have a membership at B&N, and regularly resell my books if I don’t think I’ll re-read, I figure that I have to get at least a $2.00 discount on e-materials to make the math balance out. If I really want a book right away, I’ll pay extra. But usually, I won’t, because it makes me feel like I’m getting ripped off. And I hate that. The whole reason I bought an ereader in the first place was so that I’d stop feeling like I was getting ripped off on hardcovers.
I admit that I’m cheap, but that actually doesn’t factor into this issue. It seems like the publishers feel entitled to a certain price for a book, no matter what the purchaser is actually receiving. It’s throwing a wrench in my impulse buys, because it makes me not want to give them my money.
I’m part of that “power ebook buyer” demographic, btw, and a lot of my purchases are romance novels, but I buy nearly as many fantasy/sci-fi novels. I think that genre will probably have a similar relationship with ebook content.
@Jane @ Ros – I have to agree with Ros here… I think it’s great that publishers proof these books, but ultimately, it’s the author’s responsibility to proof their own books.
small typos are going to happen…we’re all human and most times, if the story is good, I barely notice them. But, as with the Lora Leigh fiasco, when entire pages/paragraphs are missing, I say lay the blame on the author – at some point you have to take responsibility for the quality of work you turn in.
@Statch: I too rarely buy Agency books. When I first got my kindle in 2009, I was buying tons of books (all of which were by the Big 6 publishers). Many I bought on impulse because the prices were so great. I was trying newly published authors that I never would have considered paying for until I got my ereader.
But once the Agency model went into effect, those publishers pretty much lost me as a consumer. I’ll buy the occasional Agency book – if my library doesn’t have it or I can’t find it used – but I’ve mostly been taking advantage of used copies. In the last year I think I’ve only bought 2 Agency books, when I had been buying at least 5-10 of these books per month before this model.
I’m cheap and I’m stubborn, I’m not going to let the Agency publishers take advantage of me. I don’t foresee the Agency model changing anytime soon, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed… and my wallet closed.
I can’t stand Agency Pricing so I was SO. Happy. to read this article. Yay to the other comments above.
Seeing $7.99 for print at Amazon and $7.99 for ebook (Kindle) at Amazon… and THEN going to Target and seeing the print version 25% off PISSES me off.
I have stopped buying Agency pricing for the most part and will think twice or three times before I purchase. Yes, there are some that I have bought… my FAVORITES. I bought Jackie Burton’s latest which I enjoyed. I will be buying the newest Nalini Singh and Julia Quinn – although I’m not sure if my Julia Quinn will be in print or not, I adore her and have her in a special bookcase! So I will buy those.
However, the library has been getting more of my business lately. Ascension (sp? can’t remember the author) was getting some good reviews around here, as was the latest three books from Sheryl Woods and I KNOW Woods was Agency priced. I got them from the library and I’m glad about it.
I also got the 50% discount coupon from Borders over the weekend and got my Game of Thrones book. (I’m in love with the HBO series!) $4.38 for the book which was probably cheaper than the used book store and the library was 8 requests out from getting into my hot little hands.
I hate agency pricing. It is straight marketing to give people the incentive to buy NOW. How is there ANY incentive with the same prices right on the site??? $7.99 vs $7.99? I would be super happy and content if the damn thing was $6.99 at least! Although I really do prefer the $5.99 version.
And Marie Force is one of my favorite authors lately and as she is self publishing, they are a bargain at $2.99 or whatever she is selling her latest ones.
BTW – Jane, I know you were wrestling with your WordPress theme but the box to check ‘Notify me’ of followup comments is hidden underneath the Post Comment box.
I can still check it but it’s hard. :)
I can’t disagree with the idea that authors should be responsible for what they turn in, but:
1) The publisher is the last stop on the production line. The author doesn’t have a chance to correct anything after a certain point and publishers have been known to make huge mistakes after the rest of the process has been gone through.
2) However. At the front of the line is the editor. If what she turned in was substandard, it either should’ve gone back to the author to fix or been fixed by the editor or been flat dumped.
There are stages between an author and a reader. Do I blame the author for substandard work? It’s totally irrelevant.
The publisher is in the power position here from acquisition to distribution. The editor should’ve made an executive decision since the publisher’s putting up the money to buy the product and ostensibly putting in the work to make it palatable for consumers. At some point, the publisher needs to say, “Fix it or give me my money back.”
@Kristi – I also had a few authors I was continuing to buy even with Agency pricing, and Nalini Singh was one of the last of those, but Kiss of Snow is coming out in hardback, so I can buy it in paper from Amazon for $14.74 or in ebook format for $12.99. I won’t pay $12.99 for an ebook, and I won’t buy it in hardcover so now that auto-buy relationship is being broken.
I’m very happy for her that her books are popular enough to start coming out in hardcover, but I’ve noticed before that when that’s happened with other authors, I’ve stopped buying them.