Wednesday News: B&N self-printing; Amazon v Hachette = end of civilization; Reuters disables comments; and guys tweeting as girls but making $$ like men
I’m trying to get it together to do a WWI links news post this week, but I just haven’t had the time to finish it. I am working on it, though.
Barnes & Noble jumps into print-on-demand with Nook Press Print – Poor Barnes & Noble. It seems that everything they do these days is a day late and a dollar short, so to speak. Now they’ve decided to enter the print business for self-published authors, except that the books would not actually be sold by B&N. Someone today told me that will simply ship the boxes of books to your house, and it’s up to you, the author, to distribute them. That’s superior to Amazon how, exactly?
The tools provided by Press Print integrate with the existing services Barnes & Noble offers through the Nook Press program, including editing and formatting. Pricing for those services starts at $999, and this move to offer print-on-demand publishing could help draw authors to those up-sell services as well. –Geek Wire
The War of the Words – A long, semi-derivative discussion of the Amazon evolution, with emphasis on the battle with Hachette as a potential turning point, not only for publishing, but for The World As We Know It. Andrew Wylie, who apparently implored his authors to sign the Authors United petition, puts it this way: If Amazon wins this battle, Wylie insists, “No one, unless they have inherited $50 million, will be able to afford to write a serious work of history, of poetry, of biography, a novel—anything. The stakes are Western culture.” Well, okay, then. Class action attorney Steve Berman talks about how he’d “love to sue Amazon,” although it’s a premature impulse. One of the more interesting passages in the article to me was on Amazon’s relationship to genre fiction:
Amazon’s self-published authors’ books were particularly inexpensive, and also something else: they were a particular kind of book. In publishing terms they were known as “genre” books: thrillers, mysteries, horror stories, romances. There were genre writers on both sides of the dispute, but on the publishing side were huddled the biographers, urban historians, midlist novelists—that is, all the people who were able to eke out a living because publishers still paid advances, acting as a kind of local literary bank, in anticipation of future sales. Some pro-Amazon authors boasted of the money they’d earned from self-publishing, but the authors of books that sometimes took a decade to write knew that this was not for them—that in an Amazon future they would be even more dependent on the universities and foundations than they already were. When, in turn, pro-Amazon authors lashed out at traditional publishing, they often spoke with the passion of the dispossessed. The publishing houses made a lot of money on their own genre best-sellers, but the Amazon backers were not wrong to think that some of the institutions associated with American publishing—such as The New York Times, which has reported on the Hachette-Amazon standoff in great detail—did not take self-published genre writers all that seriously, and probably never would. (But get yourself on the Man Booker Prize short list and your call to the Times will go right through.) And perhaps the pro-Amazon writers also preferred the Amazon executives—Grandinetti, who talks about defending regular customers from the big “media conglomerates” (though he went to Princeton and worked for Morgan Stanley), and Bezos, who comes across as an excitable mad inventor (though he also went to Princeton)—to the buttoned-up representatives of the “legacy publishers,” such as the soft-spoken and impeccably articulate Michael Pietsch, who had gone to Harvard. In this way, the Amazon-Hachette dispute mirrors the wider culture wars that have been playing out in America since at least the 1960s. On the one side, super-wealthy elites employing populist rhetoric and mobilizing non-elites; on the other side, slightly less wealthy elites struggling to explain why their way of life is worth preserving. –Vanity Fair
Ending reader comments is a mistake, even if you are Reuters – So Reuters is now disabling commenting on its own articles, acknowledging the way in which discussion has largely migrated to places like Twitter and Facebook. Matthew Ingram has been a vocal opponent of the dismantling of commenting communities on websites, and I think he makes some compelling points here about the myriad negative effects of, well, basically outsourcing your comment sections to social media platforms that are disassociated from the site that created the content to begin with. For example,
As I tried to point out, what Reuters is really doing is two-fold: it is effectively offloading the cost of moderation to its writers — who will now be responding on Twitter and Facebook either on their own time or during work hours or both — and it is handing over much of the value of that engagement with readers to Twitter and Facebook and other social platforms. . . .
Many people complain about comment sections, but in my experience just as many either secretly or not-so-secretly enjoy the back-and-forth of reader discussion, even if it does get out of hand sometimes. And one of the most important aspects of comments isn’t just that it gives those who comment a place to put their remarks — it’s that it allows other readers who may never comment to see those discussions taking place, and hopefully see journalists responding to those comments. –Gigaom
Meet The Network Of Guys Making Thousands Of Dollars Tweeting As “Common White Girls” – As much as I dislike Buzzfeed, this article on young guys who are tweeting as young girls is just horrifying enough to draw attention to. Because not only are these guys tweeting as young girls in order to capitalize on that enormous social media presence, but also to make mega bucks. Hundreds of thousands of dollars, bucks. According to Cameron Asa, a 21-year-old who has 1.2 M Twitter followers to his account “Tweet Like A Girl,” explains that the Alex from Target phenomenon can be credited to these accounts.
He told BuzzFeed News that he’s part of an unofficial network of Twitter users, all with massive parody accounts who are regularly responsible for making new memes go super viral. He said the network — which has no corporate sponsor backing it — was responsible for the “Alex From Target” sensation on Sunday.
“I know for a fact it was the parody accounts that started it,” Asa said. “It was just absolutely nuts. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
But randomly flexing their power to launch random cute boys into superstardom is only the tip of the iceberg for Twitter’s unofficial parody account network. The guys running these accounts are also making impressive amounts of money. –Buzzfeed News
If you’re taking a decade to write a book, I find it hard to believe you’re living just off the publisher’s advance.
An excellent rebuttal to Gessen’s opinion piece in Vanity Fair: http://walkitout.livejournal.com/1178728.html
Best quote: “It is not a morality play. It is a negotiation. It is a business.”. (Followed from Nate Hoffelders blog “The Digital Reader”)
I’m not surprised with Reuter’s decision to halt reader commenting. Will probably see more of this. Our local newspaper switched to using Facebook accounts in an effort to slow the uncivil discourse. The comments section was loaded with abusive personal attacks. The newspaper didn’t have staff devoted to moderating and the journalists themselves didn’t want try. The comments were an embarrassment to the paper. The result of the move to Facebook has meant individuals are now filtering their own words. It’s not perfect but the abuse has decreased. Not a bad tradeoff.
All the wingeing from “serious authors” irks the @#$! out of me. I get it constantly from my MFA lit fic crowd (to the point that I’m avoiding a lot them now). They feel ENTITLED to large, unearned advances because their books are SPECIAL. The idea that money matters, that they have to SELL copies to earn money is beneath them. They’re just waking up to realize that those oversized advances came not from the nethersphere, but from profits publishers make on genre fiction. And now that the genre authors are leaving and taking those profits with them, the inevitable result is that suddenly “serious authors” are being treated like genre authors always have been and are suffering the indignity of the P&L. Quelle horreur.
“Serious literature” and non-fiction isn’t going away. This isn’t the end of Western Civilization. It’s a production shift (which is going to be painful for some markets). Lit fic and histories and biographies may well become the focus of mainstream publishing, or they may find that small press is better suited to producing and distributing them, or they too may shift to selfpub (I’m already starting to see amazing historical scholarship being seflpubbed; studies of primary sources and the like).
Whenever anyone goes “This new way of doing X will destroy Western Culture”, I hear “Radios that can record tapes will kill the music industry! “.
When will they learn? Never, I’m guessing.
I buy from Amazon because Amazon has what I want when I want at the price I want. Period.
If the TradPubs want it, they have to change their model, STAT. I am a genre reader and – while it sounds kinda bad – I don’t give a shit about a non-fic book that I likely will never pick up.
The TradPubs and a lot of TradAuthors are trying to push emotional buttons instead of looking at this as a business. Well,most consumers are looking at their wallets and making cold financial decisions – and that will never stop.
The TradPubs and TradAuthors are NOT going to make me put the well-being of their broken business model ahead of my personal and family finances. Reading (for pleasure) is a hobby.
Geekwire missed half of the story on B&N’s new services. It’s intended to attract investors, not authors.
People who have a burning desire to write an expose, a travelogue, a philosophy tome, a literary “next great American novel,” or whatever will do it. The passion won’t be extinguished if genuine. And they’ll do it as it’s always been done: you get a patron (these days that would be Kickstarter, GoFundMe, a loaded significant other or relative, or a publisher with an advance enough to keep you in rent and food and internet. Or you get a fricken day job. Every poet I ever met, most novelists I’ve known, had day jobs. Be they teachers, construction workers, office workers, etc. They worked and they wrote. It’s not mutually exclusive. And if what they wanted to do was live in Thailand for a year and write about it, they went and saved or worked in Thailand for a year and wrote about it. Or Provence. Or Tuscany.
I have no idea why it seems as if anything will be destroyed. What people have a passionate desire to say in words, they will, no matter the publishing system or lack thereof.
And I find it insulting that B&N would have a POD service, but not offer distribution of it via their B&N website. (This is such a no-brainer it makes me think the B&N movers and shakers are neither moving nor shaking.)
I did see a couple of positive remarks on this on FB from indies who want hardcover copies to give as gifts for the holidays or to pass on to family and friends (their work in a real hardcover). I can see the allure of this for some.
Me, I take it as another EFF YOU to indies that they will go to the expense to set up this biz section, then NOT offer their own damn PODs on their site. Really, B&N? REALLY?
One step behind Amazon, as usual. In this case, TWO steps behind.
“This is such a no-brainer it makes me think the B&N movers and shakers are neither moving nor shaking”
And that’s why I think that this isn’t intended to attract authors. B&N has a different motive for launching this service:
@Nate: OMG. “To make it more attractive to Wallstreet.” *picks self up off floor after laughing ass off*
I love the idea that someone thinks I should, in essence, pay writers by the hour. So, if it takes 10 years for an artiste to write a book then that automatically means I (the consumer) should pay more for the end product? Right. (And, yes, that’s sarcasm.)
As followup to yesterday’s breakup post, maybe I need to add privileged Hachette authors to my conscious uncoupling list.
@Mirtika: What would attract me to a B&N POD service would be the promise of the express POD printing machines in bricks and mortar B&N stores. That could be an interesting move.
@Ros: People have been suggesting the book machines for over 5 years at this point. It’s sad going into a brick and mortar B&N store and finding that they’ve gotten rid of most of the books and restocked their shelves with toys. They’ll order a book for me to come pick up in 5-7 days. Uh, why don’t I just order that book from Amazon and save myself the 15 mile drive? It’s dumb business.
I think B&N hammered the nail into their own coffin when they got rid of those big comfortable chairs and the long meeting tables. That was the point when they basically told the world that they were tired of having repeat customers and that they’ve basically become a place to buy expensive coffee while you wait for the rest of the mall to open.
@Isobel Carr: Yes to everything you said, Isobel.