New Year’s Resolutions for the Book Publishing Industry
I didn’t make a New Year’s resolution this year. I’m not taking a principled stand or making a point. I just forgot.
But that means I have room to make resolutions for others. For this post, resolutions are meant to be like what going on a diet would be for you and me — healthful, beneficial but not always easy:
Publishers: In 2013, publishers should resolve to find new ways to develop more of the intellectual property they own. Whether that’s turning a gardening book into an app, partnering with a new-media production company to turn a short story collection into a YouTube series, or simply finding a better way to monetize the digital back-list, there’s a lot of unexploited opportunities out there for publishers in the ebook era — and they should take advantage.
Authors: In 2013, authors should resolve to think deeply about what they want out of their writing lives and make an informed decision about the best way to get what they want. There are authors who say they’ll never self-publish and those who say that’s all they’ll do (learn much more on this at DBW 2013 — exclusive presentation on our wide-ranging survey of what authors want on Jan. 17 at 8:40 A.M.). Depending on an author’s goal — money, self-fulfillment, advancing their career — different options are best. No one size fits all. And with full-service publishers, digital publishers and a whole range of self-publishing services, they have a lot of options.
The big disruption opportunity in book publishing
Apple takes 30% of the apps revenue. In contrast, the average book publisher takes 80 to 90% of the net book revenues. For its smaller take, Apple still manages to provide plenty of marketing at the store level, commerce functionality to the developer (so insulation from credit card/bank charges), and certainly, to a selected few a high level (TV, highlighted web) of individual marketing exposure.
Book publishers have some unique costs like the editing process and the paper and printing costs of the hard copies. That justifies a higher take but not sure it needs to be 50-60% more. As I have found they have become very good at managing their production costs. They outsource the copy edit, so it is a variable cost. And often it is to the cheapest destination somewhere in the world. In my last book, the copy edit introduced so many errors into the manuscript that I had to ask for a re-do. (The publisher grudgingly agreed with no apologies for the additional review time I had to put in) Similarly with the artwork and the print, the publisher has learned to manage that pretty tight. They print small lots to avoid inventory and writeoffs. They pump more books through their manufacturing process (which explains why it takes them 6, 12, 18 months to get a book out when the workplan shows tasks which lined end to end should only take 6 to 8 weeks). They mostly buy stock cover art. Best I can tell, my 400 page hardbacks cost my publisher less than $ 3 a copy to produce (compared to list prices on Amazon in the high 20s and low 30s)
Digital Publishing Gives Voice to Unlikely Authors
The industry surrounding both traditional and digital publishing has fully recognized that some authors and certain titles would never have seen publication if not for digital. While some argue still that this is a good thing, that traditional publishing and its gatekeepers help the quality of books by serving as a vetting portal and only letting the “good” books through, there are just as many great titles that would not have had an opportunity to be shared due to the financial risks in undertaking the project. As animated ebook readers discovered at an incredible book’s release this month, sometimes those authors’ voices are the ones that need to be heard most of all.
Chosen and Dearly Loved, an organization founded by adoptive parents Michael and Mandy Gallagher that is dedicated to raising funds and awareness for orphans with special needs around the world, helped launch a full-color interactive ebook entitled Walter’s Flying Bus that serves to help readers understand these children better, while also giving credit to the very special children who contributed their illustrations to the ebook. The Gallaghers happen to be the owners of a school uniform company and therefore work closely with educational settings around the country, so their interest in children’s education paired with their special concern for orphans led them to grow both this charitable organization and the ebook.
Shatzkin: Five Publishing Trends to Watch for in 2013
Amidst all the pre-2013 predictions and punditry on the future of digital publishing, publishing consultant and Digital Book World partner Mike Shatzkin has found five more trends that you should watch for in 2013:
1. Migration from print to digital will continue to slow. We’ve already seen the inflection point. When all is said and done, digital book growth in trade publishing will probably slow to about 30% to 50% in 2012 — still huge growth numbers but slower than the triple-digit growth years of 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008.
2. Reference and illustrated books will continue to lag behind “immersive” reading books (novels and nonfiction) in the transition to digital. While some publishers have found success bringing reference and illustrated books to the 21st century, many have not and the adoption rate for digital reading of cookbooks and other illustrated titles has lagged behind novels and nonfiction. Will it continue in 2013? Shatzkin thinks so. Others think this will (finally) be the year of the enhanced ebook.
Are you a modern or an ancient about the self-publishing tsunami?
Unsurprising statistics from theUnited States: The number of self-published books published in that country annually, both print and e-books, has grown 287 per cent since 2006. That makes close to 250,000 self-published titles a year out there. These statistics were gathered by the company that oversees ISBNs (international standard book numbers) in theU.S.
I haven’t found equivalent stats forCanada, but common sense says the trend is true for all countries. Never before in history has there been more available to read. That idea makes some people excited – for surely somewhere swirling in this frothy swelling surf is revolutionary insight that may not have ever taken shape in more hierarchical systems – and left others feeling strangely uneasy about the rising flood of words, most of them banal, far too many to ever be read or even adequately curated.
Seth Godin, Margaret Atwood reveal new publishing strategies
Prominent authors Seth Godin and Margaret Atwood recently announced new creative publishing strategies designed to build audiences before a book gets published. The strategies reflect a changing marketplace where authors need to take control of building their audiences, rather than leaving it to the publisher as they have in the past.
Godin has been using Kickstarter, a funding platform for artists, to help fund his latest project. As an established author, Godin has found that it’s fairly simple to get to the first level critical mass of readers, which he considers 10,000 readers, after which, as he says, either the book resonates or it doesn’t.
For Godin, the Kickstarter funding project he created solved the issue of getting those 10,000 readers, but as he pointed out, it worked because he already had an engaged tribe of people who were interested in his work and who would read the early copies of the book, talk about it on social networks and help sell the book for him. For aspiring artists who don’t have a tribe of people interested in the work yet, the work comes in creating that tribe before going to a place like Kickstarter.
Amazon’s Gain Is Barnes & Noble’s Loss? Stores, Nook And BN.com All See Holiday Sales Decline
Amazon may have been touting its record holiday sales season, but Barnes & Noble is now reporting the opposite: according to a report released today, the company’s retail businesses, which include the Barnes & Noble bookstores and BN.com, saw a 10.9 percent decrease in sales over the nine-week holiday period ending December 29, 2012. Nook sales and BN.com were also down.
The retail segment had revenues of $1.2 billion, and the company said the nearly 11 percent decline was attributable specifically to troubles in its brick-and-mortar stores and declining Nook sales. 8.2 percent of the decline was due to lowered store sales store closures and lower online sales. Sales at stores, excluding Nook products, declined by 3.1 percent compared to last year.
But adding in the Nook sales don’t help the bottom line: B&N also said that sales of the Nook products had dropped as well, with the company noting the “lower unit volume and average selling prices.” The Nook segment, which includes ereaders, digital content and accessories, had revenues of $311 million during the holiday period – or 12.6 percent down from a year ago. Digital content sales, which include digital books, newsstand, and apps, were up 13.1 percent, however, indicating that at least those who own Nooks are using them to buy content.