Friday, April 08, 2005

My, how things (don't) change

I happened to stumble across a brilliant article about the state of publishing--an article that also happens to be over three years old.

What were finding out is that the publishing industry is dying (has been dying)--perhaps (as suggested in the above article) that since publishers are now all under the umbrella of stock-owned megacorps, the pressure to keep profits high is reducing the number of titles released each year.

I know: There are (75,00o/180,000/215,000) titles published annually and that is too many already.

Spare me.

Where are they? My Borders doesn't have them. My B&N doesn't have them. My library sure doesn't have them. Even if that many are produced each year, we'd never know--because all of the energy goes to a handful of authors.

Am I squeezing sour grapes here? Sort of. Every author in the world wishes he/she had more promo. But this is more of a paradigm shift, if you will. And, thusly, why the incredible rise in POD titles has begun.

Back on point: the industry has been in a state of decay for years and years. There isn't an agent or editor around who won't tell you that this is the toughest time to try and get a book published. Something's gotta give. And my guess is that POD is going to play a role.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

POD Authors Kill Amazon Feature

So many folks have told me that POD is ruining the world of publishing, that it floods the market with too many competing titles, making the search for a purchase all the more difficult. I’d like to think POD is liberating publishing, but that’s a post for another day.

There is one thing that POD ruined: Amazon’s Customers’ Advice section. This was, for those of you who don't remember, an area within the product details for each title that allowed customers to suggest other titles (in addition to or instead of) the title listed. These suggestions would be ranked based on cumulative suggestion (i.e. if three people suggested MIDDLESEX and one person recommended THE KITE RUNNER, MIDDLESEX would show first.)

This section no longer exists in books (it is still available in music and elsewhere.)

Why? A friend of mine who worked for Amazon told me it was because the [POD authors] were using it as a way to promote their books. Not a bad idea, I suppose. Wait for the new Grisham novel to come out, then get all of your friends to suggest your title as the perfect companion!

The result: bestsellers were showing “customers’ advice” titles as uniquely coming from Authorhouse, Xlibris and iUniverse. What are the odds?

Amazon limited the suggestion of titles to one recommendation per user per book and you had to be a purchasing customer (to prevent users [read: POD authors] from creating several dozen accounts then bombing the bestsellers with a tie-in to their books.) Later, you could only suggest the same title 3 or 4 times, preventing someone from suggesting the book across 15,000 Amazon selections. But even these restrictions did not work. The feature became saturated with ridiculous comparisons, and thus useless.

So, you see, self-pubbed authors found a way to get free advertising with Amazon.

For a while.

Alas, the feature is gone. And it is a shame, too: it was great tool, especially for finding decent political titles, romance novels and thrillers.

It was, I am sad to say, a great way for the midlist author to get some exposure through valid customer suggestion, to get some buzz.

Unfortunately, Amazon decided to take their ball and go home.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Another Midlist Discussion

A friend from across the pond sent me a link to a very interesting (and acute) article.

Check it out!

This is yet another story of how POD is "crossing over"--and how it is picking up all the good titles that are being overlooked by the heavy hitters. Note that there was no mention of traditional publishers lining up to grab this book (or further rights) yet. But the publisher (POD) that gave this book a chance did so, I would imagine, because not only was the writing/story quality, but the author had a fan base. And perhaps this is where POD should shine first and foremost: with the big houses.

So what if an author is selling only 2500 copies? With POD, the risk is slight--and if more traditional publishers would embrace the technology, they would increase their backlist as well as the odds of a breakout. And they should remember that loyal fans are willing to pay the extra $4 or so dollars for a POD title (or otherwise: Isn't Stephen King's DARK TOWER (7) $35.00? John Grisham's THE BROKER $28.00?)

Before you go berserk: I know, they won't land in stores, even with Random pushing them. But, again, who cares? Let's say Random sells the aforementioned 2,500 copies through Amazon, and BAM, or even through (perish the thought!) an online book store offered by the publisher. Some quick math and I come up with $50,000 in gross receipts. Assign the book to a junior copyeditor and you have almost certain profit.

Anyway . . .

The great tale here is that Patricia Ferguson's book went on to land on the Orange Prize list. Let's hope she gets pelted with calls from traditional publishers.

And let's hope she gets 500,000 Sterling.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Amazon Acquires Booksurge

This is huge! Okay, not really--but it is interesting.

Check it out.

Once again, the world of POD is becoming more poignant. What are the odds [less successful] authors will pounce on Booksurge they way they did Xlibris (assuming being tied to Random House would make them a sure thing.)

Will Booksurge titles get more notice on Amazon? Who knows. Can't wait to see, though.

More treasure soon.