Archive for the ‘Paper books are not dying’ Category

Does self- publishing destroy your chances as a route to being traditionally published?

I read many forum posts where people advise that if you self publish, then you are burning your bridges for any hope of being traditionally published in the future. This may have been true a number of years ago, but not anymore.

In this digital age of eBooks and POD technology, combined with a financial crises that has resulted in many publishers reducing the number authors in their stable and new books published, It is no wonder that authors are turning to self publishing.

The cry from the traditionalist is loud and clear … “Don’t do it, or you will never get published by a print publisher.”

In practice, this no longer holds true. There are winners and losers in the self-publishing arena, just as there are in print publishing. One advantage the self-published have over a new talent picked up by a publisher is that they will have a record of accomplishment of sales and for them to be successful they will have established their own marketing base through a web site or blog and made good use of building a social network.

The problem publishers have in the current challenged economic world is to find winners that will ensure a healthy bottom line. Winning a contract from a publisher is no guarantee to a successful career, it never has been. New writers are considered a long-term investment, with many failing to earn out their advance royalties and being cut adrift without that second book ever being considered. Of course, it is not all doom and gloom, publishers still look for new talent in the time-honored fashion and there are success stories.

“Okay, you talk the talk, but where is the proof?” you say. Well all I can give you is examples. However, don’t take my word for it, join the various kindle forums and you will see for yourself. I’ll start with some of the more widely known examples.

Amanda Hocking… multi book deal for $1 million.

J A Konrath … publishing contract with Amazons new imprint.

Dianna Laurence… Foreign rights sold to China for 2 books. Both books published.

Margaret Lake. Contacted this week with regards to Chinese translation rights.

Kate Rowan … Contacted by a Turkish publisher this week for rights to her books.

Lexi Revelliion … Contract signed with Hungarian publisher for hardback, paper and eBook.

Louise Voss and Mark Edwards… Killing Cupid. Four book deal just announced with Harper Collins. The Contract signed allows them to continue to keep their books available until ready for publishing in 2012.

Steve Dunne … The Reaper. Self published and picked up by Harper Collins. (Older event)

There are many more and if you wish please leave details in a comment. In addition to these, there are many threads on Kindle boards in the US of authors turning down contracts.


I had no sooner posted this article than I found this just now on Kindle Boards from Sibel Hodge.

“I’ve had an email forwarded to me from Createspace from Bliss Publishing in Thailand, asking about the foreign rights for My Perfect Wedding. Does anyone have any advice about this? What do I need to do if they want them? “

With many publishers, there is a perception in the public eye and in trade circles, that they are fighting a rearguard action against the new technology that they see as a threat to the established order of the traditional publishing world. The cliché, ‘running around like headless chickens,’ comes to mind. Everyone seems to be talking strategies, but their PR as well as their business models needs some serious overhauling, as the word on the street seems indicates many are acting like spoilt children. The actions I am talking about are such as setting up joint eBook stores and trying to slow down the inevitable, by insisting on ridiculous pricing of eBooks in their fight with Amazon, instead of having a coherent strategy to embrace the new world order that is emerging.

One such publisher, Bloomsbury, seems to be bucking the trend, by coming out of the closet and finally showing some sense by setting out a vision for the future, to embrace the new technology and to alter its business model to harness the demand for eBooks. This relatively new media has shown tremendous growth throughout the recession and is set to explode as we come out of the world financial crisis and consumers spending power is restored. Not since the introduction of computers created such a stir in the printing world when they made typesetting obsolete has there been such a significant change that will affect the future book printing.

By comparison to the big six, Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, MacMillan Publishers, Penguin Group, Random House and Simon & Schuster, Bloomsbury is relatively small in terms of revenue, but with catalogues boasting the likes of Harry Potter, they are hardly an insignificant player.

In 2009, Bloomsbury reported 79,000 pounds/$126,000 revenue from eBook sales. Following this, they digitized over 1,900 titles and in 2010, their revenue rose to 1.5 million pounds/ $2.4 million. In the first quarter to March, the results are even more encouraging at, 1.1 million pounds/ $1.76 million … not bad for three months. If I were the chairman, I would include a small prayer area at their new headquarters to pray that J K Rowling favors them with the digital rights.

Their Chairman reports that “This is an exciting time for Bloomsbury: e-book demand is increasing significantly; it will change the publishing business model creating one worldwide market. The recent organizational change is already bringing benefits to the Group, enabling us to better exploit that worldwide market as a global publisher in print and digital. During 2011/12, these benefits will be enhanced by the move into our new headquarters building in Bedford Square, London. We have a strong balance sheet and an excellent management team, so are well placed to exploit future opportunities as we enter our 25th anniversary year.”

Despite their progress in harnessing the advance of eBook sales, it doesn’t mean they are to stop printing books, but they are to pare their efforts into printing a core of likely commercial successes,and moving back catalogues and slow-moving sales to POD. With all the talk of publishers going to the wall It would seem they are making all the right moves to survive in this competitive market. 

Other news is that they are going to continue to seek out new talent to publish. The only news that concerned me was that they were going to use POD as a means of keeping back catalogue in print. I am not sure if this will be good for authors who could normally get their rights back when a book goes out of print. No doubt, the literary agents will be keeping an eye out on those developments. I know if I were one of their author’s, I would be combing through my contract to see if there was a loophole out if this. One thing is for sure, they must be crossing their fingers that J K Rowling, (Who’s agent cleverly negotiated out the digital rights) will favor them if she decides to go the digital route. Until now, she has fiercely refused to go digital, although the rumor mills have been gathering pace of late, with her agent allegedly to have said that, ‘Rowling did not want to cut anyone out of the digital loop.’ (The inference being that she was maybe considering it.) Whilst growth of eBooks sales will grow, with or without Harry Potter, there is no doubt that releasing the series, as eBooks would bring a welcome boost to the sales of eReaders.

When Tim Waterstone was made redundant from WH Smith in the UK, he launched  Waterstone’s, by opening the first books store in Old Brompton Road, London, using his 6,000 pounds redundancy money.

The year? … 1982. It was a time of opportunity in the UK. England was just coming out of a recession with Margaret Thatcher at the helm. The Romantic music era was in full flow with Duran Duran topping the charts, whilst America was still clinging on to the old favourites. It would be another 16 years before would come along in 1998 to sow the seeds to spoil Waterstone’s party.

In the preceding years, 1993 to be exact, it was with some irony that WH Smith, bought Watersone’s for 47 million pounds. Tim must have been laughing all the way to the bank, to think that the 6,000 pounds W H Smith’s had paid him originally had proved to be so fruitful.

Amazon. com, meanwhile had previously soldiered on through the dot-com bubble bursting and lawsuits from the book chains in America, aware of the peril Amazon posed to the future of their revenue. It was surprising then that in 1998, the same year that Amazon opened for business in the UK, that an investment vehicle together with Tim Waterstone bought out Waterstone’s from WH Smith 300 million, to become part of HMV. It was now WH Smiths turn to be laughing all the way to the bank.

Tim Waterstone left HMV in 2001 and in 2006 failed in an attempt to buy back the company he founded. With hindsight, he may be pleased he failed.

With the rise of Amazon’s fortunes in the UK and supermarkets taking a large slice of the book market, together with the economic crisis, Waterstone’s has suffered declining sales. At his stage, I doubt Amazon kindle in the UK opening for business in 2010 has made significant inroads in to Waterstone’s sales and is at the moment more like a flea on a cows back. I say this because my own book reached a rank of 800 out of 450,000 books with sales of only 5 per day on average. So, unless those above me are selling in the millions, the figures now are likely to be insignificant in the overall scheme of things. None the less, it is early days and as we have seen from the growth of eBooks in America, this situation is likely to change.

So where does that leave Waterstone’s today? If today’s press is correct then HMV have unloaded all 296 stores together with 4,500 staff to Russian Billionaire, Alexander Mamut, for 53 million, taking a hit of 247 million. I doubt HMV will be laughing as they bank the cheque. Clearly Mr. Marmut can see some value in keeping the book chain alive that eludes me. But as a successful entrepeneur, I bow to his better judgement. Still I suppose the pundits could say, that at 53 million it is on the face of it a bargain at just under 2 x earnings, but when you add the 176 million of debt and if that is cleared down., it raises the stakes to a less that attractive 8 times earnings.

It has also been announced, that James Daunt, a former merchant banker and more importantly the founder of Daunt’s bookstores, has been brought in by the Russian cell phone magnet to run the business. It reminds me of Roman Abromavich when he brought Chelsea football club and hired the best in the world to manage the team. Let’s hope Mr. Marmut will be as philanthropic with his purse as Roman in squandering his money, in failing in his ambitions to win the European cup.

 As for James Daunt, he has quite a task on his hands. If he is to follow his own business model, then it will need deep pockets to tackle the back office IT that is the dinosaur of the much-loved central buying process and deep discounting model, in favour of his own preference for well-trained knowledgeable stall, a depth of product and an end to discounting. Waterstone had already started to give some degree of local purchasing power to managers, together with allowing independents shelf space. With some luck, this will continue.

As for the future … who knows, maybe you will be able to buy a cell phone with your books, or alternatively maybe some receiver will be appointed to run the company somewhere down the line and they will be able to sell the leases and net 6,000 pounds. Now that would be ironic.

Stop press. News just in.

John Malone’s, Liberty Media have bid $1.02 billion for Barnes and Noble amid the companies declining paper book sales. I am really beginning to think there is life in the paper book chains yet, that the money men can see and I can’t. There is clearly more chance of value in Barnes and Noble, as opposed to Waterstone’s, with their success in introducing Nook, which is driving the focus of the company forward. To say I am bewildered by this sudden frenzy of activity, is to say the least, an understatement.

I see so many threads about paper books dying out in favor of eBooks and leading to the demise of publishers, I thought I’d check it out.

It would seem these fears are unfounded.

EBooks are only big business in America, but there is an argument that e-readers are actually expanding the book reading market in the US. Germany, the largest book market in Europe has yet to get off the mark with eBooks, which currently account for a tiny percentage of the total books sold. The same is true of Brazil, which is in the top five of book markets in the world. E-readers there cost from $500 dollars to $1500. Until last year, the only e-reader on the market there had only 200 books in their catalogue. England, which is in the top ten book markets, is only just starting to get off the mark.

From what I can see, the biggest influence on the demise of book stores in the US and England is both the financial crisis and the supermarkets venturing into book sales, not to mention the rise of Amazon. Maybe we fail to take a worldview of the market place and it taints our view of what is actually happening in the world book market? Think about the mega sellers that are translated into 140 languages. Not all countries have taken to e-readers. But one thing is for sure, publishers will drain every ounce of profit they can from eBooks.

A recent example is the publisher of Harry Potter books. A year ago the made around 10,000 from eBooks. The following year they formatted 1,900 books as eBooks and made 1.3 million. Ebooks are just another string to their bow. This is still dwarfed when you consider Rowling has made 400 million from her paper books, after translation to approx 140 languages. Just think what her publisher must have made.

I wouldn’t even cry for the large bookselling stores. Barnes and noble have invested around 140 million in the eBook market to hedge their bets on survival.

Some chains may go to the wall in America, but the slack will be taken up by the Independent book stores and supermarkets. Lets be honest, would you give your child an eReader and trust them not to break it. Children will still be bought paper books and will take the satisfaction of the experience into their adult life. Of course we are talking about the fully developed world here. Spare a thought for those in poor countries where eReaders don’t exist.

The fact is the world market for paper books is over 60 billion and rising year on year. What was the old saying. “There’s one born every minute.” Population growth will ensure paper books continue to rise in volume year on year. And like I said, America is only one market. It is not the world.

I think the only good thing about eBooks is that it has given the likes of me the chance to self-publish.

Free guide, how to format your book for kindle.