Short comment

To anyone who has used this link on a paperback trading service or this NYT article about used books to lament about author royalties. You best give up the following services before I will take you seriously: netflix.com, Blockbuster, any local video shop, Gamefly.com, any online game rental sites, used record shopes,libraries, semi-legal p2p sites, thrift stores, second hand stores, borrowing from friends, getting galley copies/ advance copies from publishers, mix tapes. Once I know you pay for every single piece of media you consume then will I listen to your arguments about how authors should receive money from the sale of used books and how swapping sites will kill publishing.

Thank you.


Statistical analysis of Sin in children's literature

I'm so glad that the Parents Against Bad Books in School have given us a great statistical model to determine the value of a book based on boobies and violence. Instead of looking at the whole book they want parents to judge a title based on the occurences of certain sexual, violent, and other immoral actions. Based on their system a book is dangerous to the minds of our youth because of the content, regardless of the outcome of the situations on the main characters. So, according to the guidelines of PABBIS, the Bible and any book recounting the life of St. Augustine (or almost any saint, really) would be considered a bad book. But of course we wouldn't have problems with the material in religious tracts, just secular matters. Oh, go take a look for yourself.

from boing boing


So this is what I should be doing

"If you were to assume that many experts use their information to your detriment, you'd be right. Experts depend on the fact that you don't have the information they do. Or that at least you are so befuddled by the complexity of the operation that you wouldn't know what to do with the information once you had it."- from Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

...and that's why there's publishing. Well, non-fction publishing.

While reading Freakonomics over the weekend, this particular quote caught me and I thought it perfect for the publishing industry. Yes, we publish books and seek out writers to help destroy the information asymmetry on other fields. But the industy in general has kept the key information on how the whole system works. Or we make it so expensive as to scare away others interested in learning more.
For example:

Yearly Subscription to Publishers Weekly= $225.00
Yearly subscription to Books in Print= $799.00 for print book
Yearly subscription to Literary Market Place= $399
Yearly subscription to Bacon's Newspaper/ Magazine Directory= $395.00
Cost of Book Industry TRENDS 2005= $750 non-member, $100, member

Of course, you don't need all of those resources, but they are the most helpful.

So there you have it. A renewed mission to help others break through the confusion, and yet make sure they can't figure it out for themselves.


Quick linkdump of audio resources

Three years ago my father started using Audible to download audio books that he would burn on to CDs for his commute. I know he rarely had the chance to read for the past 25 or so years as he balanced work, family, etc. I was happy that he found a way to find time for literature (The last book her listened to was Freakonomics and his enjoyment convinced me to read the book not the Wired piece nor the appearance of the author on the Daily Show nor the genenral buzz for the book.)

Last year I got an MP3 player and at first listened to it all the time. Then I got bored with it. Even on random I wasn't always in the mood for music. Right when I was tiring of it, I uploaded the audio presentation from work and interspresed them with the music. I finally realized the allure of audio books now that there's no CD to change/ tape to flip over.

And there you have- the 2 tail-ends of the burgeoning audiobook audience.

So what?

Well, it's also part of my job to watch this market (not license, not yet. Just chase the advances down, track the payments and analyze the history.) So below are several links that I've been collecting that are helping me form an better understanding of how the audio market is changing.

First off, is Audioblogging 2.0 which is Harlod Gilchrist's blog on podcasting and audioblogging.

And the connection between podcasts and audiobooks is that Audible .com has started to podcast content.

There's also this story about a NY library that is loaning out audiobooks pre-loaded on I-Pods. And now with added commentary from Booksquare.com.

As someone who handle the financial side of audiobooks, I can't see the benefit of changing audio rights into a royalty rather than a subsidiary right. Sure the market is taking off, but outside of a few titles I don't see the sales of these books vastly improving. Maybe if the author was signing with a publisher that had their own audio program, they should argue for it, but most of our authors are coming out ahead of the game by taking the small advance from Blackstone Audio and Recorded Books for the licensed audio rights. The royalty on these books is so small I can't see how changing it to be a royalty rahter than a right would benefit anyone. Maybe the audio publisher as they no longer pay an advance (as it would be tied in to the inital advance for publication), but certainly not the mid-list author nor the print publisher who would have a more convoluted contract to read through and determine the rights situation.

Lit Blogger could be the next Oprah!

Okay it's not the best carry-away point from this recent Guardian Unlimited article, but as long as we are trafficing in hyperboles, why not. I'm so glad the media has a new set of bloggers to become their new savior of (insert subject here). At work I have a nice file of press clippings for Rebecca Blood fro mthese same people and we all remember a year ago how the political bloggers were going to save the election. oh how fickle the media can be! Oh well, let them move on to lit blogs and how The Historian and Harry Potter will save us all! (Because I'm really lazy- I ask you to go type "Next" "Da" "Vinci" "Code" and "Historian" in Google to see all the hype.)

A really important point that needs to be made regardless of whether you think blogging can save publishing by creating a best-seller or if you're still trying to figure out who these people e-mailing you for review copies are. is that the traditional outlets for book reviews are drying up right quick. I remember when the Boston Phoenix actually covered books. Now they have exactly the same number of book reviews as they do video game reviews every week. Now that the Boston Herald pretty much did away with their book review department, it makes perfect sense that publicists are on the prowl for new avenues of reviews. It's not like the trades are expanding their review section and the publishers certainly aren't publishing fewer books. The good publicist will know to send galleys to lit bloggers. The great publicist (and savvy author) will put the time in to develop relationships with the right sites that will offer the mention and/or review that will reach the right readers.

(And for you good publicists out there please e-mail me at infoATguttertype.com and I will give you my secret special galley address. All books received will be reviewed by guttertype.)

Ooooh, Leaf Books

Ever since reading about leaf books a year ago, I've been intrigued by the whole concept of bibliophiles destroying an old book solely to make a special edition of another book that focuses on how important the first book (the destroyed book) was in the grand scheme of history. I place this type of book as one of the purest and least adulterated froms of book publishing out there. When the whole point of the publishing venture is to make a book out of an essay about another book and include a leaf of the book of imporatance and then charge a lot more money because it contains a tipped in page of said book, how can you not be amazed when people buy it?

So now, I hear that Oak Knoll Press (the press of true bibliophiles, and one of the few good things in Delaware) is having their Oak Knoll Fest XII in October and the focus of the fest is on the importance of Leaf Books. It's doubly meta- a symposium on the importance of a type of book created to showcase the importance of another book that you can't read because it's too rare. And now I get to add another layer to this literary onion by blogging about the symposium. Let's keep it going!


For Those Who need to Deal With Literary Agents

While pulling together a list of other online sites for my little sidebar of what to read (still under construction, but with no readers, who cares if I take my time), I found a horror story of bad literary agents from Mad Max Perkins. You'll probably need to scroll down at this point to Wednesday, June 29th. The entry is "Misadventures in (Mis)representation." My initial response (the cynical response) when reading it was, "of course these literary agents aren't on the fast track to sell an unknown author." The literary agents in question are probably focused on working with the talent that got them to be a literary agent in the first place and can't be bothered with the small fish, so to speak (and most of us are small fish in their eyes). I mean hey there's no glory in making a few hundred dollar selling some small book to a genre publisher. Not if there's a chance for a high six figure advance from Harper or Random House. Think about the motivations and origins of the literary agent. What allows one to become a literary agent? Connections and recognition. Once you have those you don't need to work so hard. I've seen submission from agents that are on the same level as the unagented submission from the guys who want to write a memoir about their alien abduction or the science of God. It's horrible when anyone has to deal with bad agents- either as an author or an editor. But what can we do besides walk away? There's no consumer reports for agents (hint: hint: to an enterprising group of young authors out there) so others end up experiencing the same pain over and over.

While you're at bookangst 101, make sure to check out the comments. tucked inside a very wise comment from Jessica on her experiences with literary agents is a brilliant suggestion- "Maybe we should all do some math on how many agents are out there in the marketplace, selling how many books every month? to give us some perspective." Think about what would happen if we had those stats. Authors and editors wouldn't be so blind when working with agents they weren't familiar with.


This one goes out to all those production people in the house

How do I prepare a book for print? | Ask MetaFilter

Since it wasn't labeled in the writing category like a lot of the Ask Metafilter questions, here's a very informal survey of what designers of books use to create the interiors of books.

An Author, A book tour, a complaint

So you want to know what it's like from the author's side? Here's one way of looking at it from Hillel Halkin at the Jerusalem Post. One point in the article that I'm happy someone brings up is about the co-op at the chains. Oh, we all know about co-op at the chains and have taken it as expected- this is part of the business of books. As is the realization that editors aren't solely responsible for creating a good product, but they need to figure out the financial well-being of the books they hope to acquire. Now if Arnold Hopeful is getting $25,000 as an advance and selling 20,000 copies I would congratulate him. There are thousands of authors who get advances of a lot less and end up with hardly a review or a royalty statement to show for it. And knowing the publisher Hillel Halkin chose to publish his book, he could have let Arnold look at a different way to structure the deal. Say Arnold doesn't get an advance and instead goes in with the publisher on a plan where they share costs and profits. Let's let Arnold write the book and send it to the publisher who then copy-edits it, re-copy-edits it because the author didn't like the suggested cuts, proofreads, sends the manuscript to the lawyers for a legal read, designs both the interior page layout and the jacket, prints, and finally distributes the book. At this point a marketing and publicity plan are put in place and the costs for these are split between the author and the publisher. And the book sells. As the receipts come in the money at first goes to recoup the costs of production and then for marketing, and then the 2 partners, Arnold and publisher, begin to share the profits. If the book fails in this way Arnold can't just blame the publisher as there's a partnership and the author has an even more vested interest in making the book sell. Yes, I'm afraid it means Arnold needs to turn on the charm and sell, sell, sell the book. But there are thousands of Arnolds out there trying to sell, sell, sell their book.

Now, on to Nathan Flashpan. Assuming that the manuscripts are of equal merit and the publisher foolishly falls into an auction where he pays $500,000 for the book of the same quality, we'll see one of 2 things happen. Either the book will sell in the same number as Arnold's book or it will get a little boost from the publicity and sell a few more copies. Let's say Nathan sells 50,000 copies due to the added publicity. The book is still an abysmal failure. The only way the publisher can make back their initial advances is to hope the book becomes a best-seller and even a million dollar ad campaign will not guarantee that. (As an aside, I would like to point out that I don't find it realistic that the publisher would pay twice what they paid for the book on publicity.) Nathan also has to deal with the thousands of Arnolds out there and if he doesn't and the book ends up still in the red two years later, Nathan is going to have a much harder time selling his next work. Arnold has proven his books to be a profitable venture and any good publisher will see that there's potential for growth on the previous sales. It's not good business sense to go after Nathan's next book (and if you don't want to deal with the business of books become a reviewer or a librarian). This pass on an option should be a red flag for the next potential editor. Luckily, Nathan might be able to find a young editor who is looking to make a name for herself who once again foolishly overspends for his book. Good for Nathan, bad for the industry. But the better bet is Arnold who has proven that his books can make money. Sure it's not the risky option and some publishers love to risk it, but those publishers don't stay around too long.

As a reader, I second Mr. Halkin when he writes "it might be best at this point to declare a 100-year moratorium on all book writing so that readers can be given the opportunity to catch up with what's already on the shelves." Even as a publishing industry drone whose living is tied to books being produced, I've often thought this. There's just too much out there.

And for Hillel Halkin himself? I recently picked up his latest book, A Strange Death: A Story originating in Espionage, Betrayal, and Vengeance in an Old Village in Palestine, because of the cover and it looked really interesting.