Thisssss Week in Publishing
The big chatter this week in the Publishingosphere (well, besides #LesserBooks) is J.A. Konrath’s announcement that he is doing a direct deal with Amazon for his new novel SHAKEN, which will be priced at $2.99, and which is the latest in a series that had been published by Hyperion. I’d accordingly like to devote a few more paragraphs to this than I normally do in a This Week in Publishing Roundup.
Among the reactions around the blogosphere: Mike Shatzkin called it a “benchmark event,” and notes that this marks a “significant jolt” to publishing economics: “Sales of Konrath’s $2.99 ebook will deliver him about $2.10 a copy (Konrath says $2.04; not sure where the other six cents is going…), as much or more as he would make on a $14.95 paperback from a trade publisher, and significantly more than he’d make on a $9.99 ebook distributed under “Agency” terms and current major publisher royalty conventions.”
Author Jason Pinter wonders if Konrath’s very public experience is going to drive some authors to self-publish before they’re really ready, Sarah Weinman doesn’t think it’s a game-changer but notes that Amazon-as-publisher is a significant development, and Bloomsbury publisher Peter Ginna notes that there’s not going to be any one game-changer but any number of game-changing challenges as the industry evolves its way into the e-book era.
My own feeling is that I’m a little surprised that everyone is so surprised. I also think it’s important to remember that there isn’t going to be any one way people publish books for the foreseeable future, there will be no single fatal blow to publishers and a mad rush for the exits, nor will traditional publishers necessarily be able to count on authors needing them to reach readers (especially when they’re paying paltry e-book royalties). Instead there will be a spectrum of options, from the traditional to the unconventional, and what works for one author, even wildly well, is not necessarily going to work for another.
Whether Konrath’s model of publishing becomes far more common also depends a great deal on what the future of e-bookselling looks like. Right now, because Amazon got out in front with the Kindle and built a large early market share lead, Konrath is able to reach the majority of e-book customers simply by dealing directly with Amazon. But the more successful e-booksellers there are and the more market share they represent (iBooks, B&N, Kobo, Sony, etc. with Google on the horizon and surely more to come), the more unwieldy it becomes for an author to try to reach all the possible markets on their own, especially if these vendors aren’t willing to deal with individual authors because of issues of scale (it’s way easier to deal with one publisher with 1,000 books than 1,000 individual authors).
And in that case, guess what: authors may need e-distributors to reach the most readers possible, just like they needed distributors in the olden days of paper. And all of a sudden intermediaries (including publishers) will have a new life and purpose, and authors dealing directly won’t be as feasible.
So yes, let’s note this development as another signpost as the industry evolves, but let’s not write publishers’ obituaries either. This could be the way of the future, or it could be an aberration due to a temporary landscape where one e-bookseller has built a big lead. Either way, my hat’s off to Konrath. We need more experimentation.
Meanwhile! There was more news in publishing this week, and here it be:
Still more e-book news as the Wall Street Journal has an in-depth article on the looming challenges the digital era is posing on Barnes & Noble as it confronts the possibility of going the way of record stores (via Dick Hannah).
My wonderful colleague Ginger Clark’s wonderful client Steph Bowe wrote a great post about whether age matters in publishing and her experiences getting a book deal. DID I MENTION SHE’S 16? Hilarity: “I’m 16. I got a book deal when I was 15. There are authors that were published at 13 and 14 and I always find myself thinking, God, must I fail at everything I do?” Ha. Already a grizzled veteran!
Dystel & Goderich agent Michael Bourret notes that as consumers grow increasingly empowered to try and boycott books for not being available at their preferred price and format, it’s really authors who suffer most of all.
This week in the Forums, the importance of buying a domain for your name/pen name and how to do it, you have another think coming, book title inspirations, and I think people are nearly ready to riot about Lost.
Comment! of! the! Week! goes to Nancy, who has a great spin on a quote from Agatha Christie about being a writer:
My screen saver is a marquee that quotes Agatha Christie: “I assumed the burden of the profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you are writing, and aren’t writing particularly well,” to which I would add, “and even when it feels like no one else likes what you write either…”
And finally, with the Lost finale on Sunday it’s quite the end of an era as one of the great (if often frustrating) shows of the aughts comes to a close. And let’s be honest, perhaps no show in history made us do this quite as much:
I’ll miss you, Lost!
Have a great weekend!