WRITING ON THE ETHER: Three Agents, Changing

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Table of Contents

  1. Three Agents, Changing
  2. Author Solutions: Shatzkin & the Self-Pubs
  3. Curtis Brown in Amazonia: UK Authors in America
  4. Post-DoJ: Hachette’s New Contracts
  5. Conferences to Come: And Discounts to Go
  6. Books: Reading on the Ether
  7. Last Gas: Waffling about Riffling

Three Agents, Changing

In time, there’s going to be so much self-publishing that you’ll have to invent publishing.

Never mind that David Mitchell, Ian Fleming’s estate, John le Carré, Susanna Clarke, Duncan Fallowell, Nelson Mandela, Adam Thorpe, Carl Hiaasen, J.K. Rowling and a lot of other key writers were represented at the table. Agent Clare Alexander had her audience laughing, their chuckles as rueful as merry.

Because, who’s going to be able to tell what’s any good? In time, you’ll need to create something that says, ‘This is what’s good.'”

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The Bookseller’s FutureBook 2012 Conference was held at London’s Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Broad Sanctuary on Monday / Photo by Porter Anderson

I want to return today to some moments that touched mainly on the boom in self-publishing in our Changing Role of the Literary Agent panel from Monday’s FutureBook 2012 Conference, organized and presented by Nigel Roby’s The Bookseller with Philip Jones and Sam Missingham in London.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBookIf anything, the digitally enabled rise of self-publishing is emblematic of the transformation that agents, like publishers, are having to contemplate. And if there’s a single term for what agents do up ahead, “manager” seems to be part of it.

These experts’ comments were as germane to US and other nations’ authors and agents as they were to UK pros. But they were also reflective of the managerial role(s) that agents are cultivating for themselves to accommodate deep and sometimes surprisingly mature shifts in their world.

It hasn’t been the sell-a-book-over-lunch business for a long time. And what do they manage? — copyrights? productions? multi-platform presence in the market? public image? private development? a mesh of both traditionally and self-published content? All that, perhaps, and more. These are not your dissertation authors’ agents.

And what we heard Monday from them were the opinions of four strong personalities — three agents (Clare Alexander, Neil Blair, Jonny Geller) and one author (Joanna Penn, publishing as J.F. Penn) — each fluent and engaged daily in her or his understanding of what’s happening.

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Left to right, Anderson, Joanna Penn, Jonny Geller, Clare Alexander, Neil Blair /  Photo by Josh Farrington, The Bookseller

As moderator of the panel, I had prompted Alexander’s comments on self-publishing when I brought up authors who declare themselves to be dedicated self-publishers for life but are eagerly using their self-published books to try to attract a traditional contract. She knew the type:

It’s like dating. You say, “I don’t really want to go out with you,” but you do.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBookA partner with the Aitken Alexander agency, Alexander made it clear she likes to warn her industry colleagues about using self-published work as a new digital slush pile for new authors. The constant scanning for material, she says, can make them seem professionally ADD:

Everyone is so frightened that they’re missing something else going on out of the corner of their eye that they’re forgetting to stick to their plan about publishing well those books they believe in.

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I’m going to disagree with you on this. I think that what’s emerged from the Pearson acquisition of Author Solutions and the E.L. James phenomenon is two models of business. One is the curation and taste model, the top-down model, one that’s lasted for a long, long time, and the one we’ve made our living in. The other is — and I don’t use this term pejoratively — the bottom-up. Where you get anybody writing anything, and the best will trickle to the top.

And I assume what will happen is that Model A (top-down) will go to Model B (bottom-up) and try to monetize it at a later date. So in a way, it’s us (agents, in trying to scan for good “bottom-up” potential) doing the work for the publishers. It’s actually up to us, then, to invest money and time into developing Model B (that scanning for material that Alexander feels is the wrong focus).

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBookJoanna Penn, the self-publishing author on our panel, jumped in here to point out that all self-publishing authors aren’t just saying “I don’t want to go out with you” at all:

It’s just that those who aren’t flocking to publishers aren’t newsworthy. “Author Doesn’t Sign With Publisher” has no ring to it. And the “tsunami of crap” doesn’t make any difference.There are millions and millions of books on Amazon that don’t suck. So for me, as a businesswoman, it’s important what ranks, what sells, and the mini-brand that all authors are building. We all grow our own email lists now (as traditional publishers do). What’s funny is that now, I’m simply a micro-publisher. There’s room for everybody in this market.

 

Geller’s firm has arranged to have more than 200 backlist titles published on Amazon for some of its key authors, engaged with Penn. I have more for you on that angle in a section below, Curtis Brown in Amazonia.

“So one advantage of a publisher is that it’s spread across several platforms?” he asked Penn, meaning that the publishing company has offices and specialists to handle functions a self-publisher finds more difficult. He elaborated:

It’s about your own soul, your work. You don’t want to be up at 3 in the morning talking about Latvian rights. Most self-published people I’ve met, actually do want to make the transition (to a trade publishing contract).

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Closing slide of a Kobo presentation at FutureBook 2012 / Photo by Josh Farrington, The Bookseller

A couple of quick points:

  • On the usual assumption that an author gets less attention in a big agency, Geller pointed out that each agent at Curtis Brown UK (which has some 80 staffers total) has three support people, giving an author more attention than a very small shop can produce.
  • Neil Blair, whose still-young agency The Blair Partnership represents no less a legend than J.K. Rowling, agreed with Geller. He responded, as it happened, to  a question from Pottermore CEO Charlie Redmayne on the floor about possible agency consolidation Blair said that with the complexities of the business now coming into play:

The industry won’t be able to sustain these hundreds of (small) agents as it has for so long.

  • On one of Penn’s most pressing questions going in was about agents trying to take commission on self-published work. The panel’s agents were clear that this is wrong, and that transparency in contractual points is mandatory.

Alexander spoke to this one:

It sounds crazy to me (for an agent to get commission on an author’s self-published work). I think it has to do with old-style agenting agreements that haven’t moved on and reflected the different ways that authors might participate in that relationship. We do have contracts with commission income, of course, but that’s based on our doing the work, not on the author doing the work.

 

When I asked the agents what we’ll call them in five years or 10 years, Geller tried to get away with “older.” (He wasn’t done, either — he tried “dynamic force of good” on us a few minutes later for the agent’s future title, to the room’s loud amusement.)

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBookWhen Blair took up the question, he stressed that the general direction already seems clear:

I think it’s hard to find a word that doesn’t have “manager” in it…I think the author is going to want help, and to be hand-held in an ever-growing complex world. And there will be opportunities for that manager to provide advice and services in lots of different areas, and to help the author help themselves.

When I asked Blair if this didn’t mean that he and his colleagues must start with a much larger range of skills at their own disposal to cover this widening range of services, he and the other two agents quickly agreed.

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Clockwise from upper left: Geller, Alexander, Blair, Penn

And for her part, Alexander cautioned against provincialism. She described it in UK terms, but in the digital globalization, agents worldwide are having to face this reality:

I see that we’re all little Englanders. I think there are a lot of little English agencies. I think we want to be in India (as her agency is, very aggressively) where there’s fabulous writing and where there’s a growing market.

I think we want to be in Canada. I think we want to be in the United States. We want to be more open to the world.

Some traditionally published authors, including JamesScottBell, have raised warnings to their colleagues of publishers being resistant to authors self-publishing novellas or singles to bolster the sales of their major contract-published book. The answer? — the panel said  transparency. Geller made his comment in a nod to Blair and Pottermore’s Redmayne.

I think where Pottermore has really had a vision — and, of course, we all keep saying that JK Rowling has special power — but they’ve said, “OK, we want to do this, heaven knows what the rights situation is, but why don’t we get them all ’round the table and sort it out? And that, surely, is the way forward, whether it’s a brand-author or a author who has one huge successful hit, or an ongoing success. No publisher will cut off their nose to spite their face if they can see a proper business plan.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBookThe agents were asked if they were concerned about mergers making the pool of major publishers smaller.

As Penn had mentioned, consolidation can contribute further to a “shrinking breadth of creativity allowed in these big conglomerates,” with less and less tolerance for niche interests.

Overall, the agents were sanguine about consolidation and unafraid of it narrowing the number of potential sales outlets.

Geller had the last laugh on the question, when I pressed him about just how many publishers are really needed:

Porter, all you need is two.

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New, additional and related writings on FutureBook 2012 include:

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Philip Jones

Philip Jones‘ strong editorial: Imagine:


We are at a moment where the future is not fixed; a time when what we do and how we do it can change perceptions and business models. If we fail, it will not be because we lacked the skill, or the structure, or even the finance, but simply because we lacked the imagination, and possibly the conviction to see it through.

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Robert Lescher

And for contrast in terms of the agent’s role and bearing in the industry, see Paul Vitello’s New York Times Books obit on agent Robert Lescher, who once worked with Singer, Toklas, Frost and others:

Mr. Lescher epitomized a kind of Old World ideal of author’s agent — courtly, literary and invisible — reflecting both his nature and his wealth of contacts in the book world, where he began his career as an editor and something of a wunderkind. He was named editor in chief at Henry Holt & Company before he was 25.

 

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Ether for Authors: Booking the Future

More on the conference is in this week’s Ether for Authors at Publishing Perspectives, and in a compilation The Bookseller‘s Philip Jones has posted at TheFuturebook, Living the Digital Dream. An Epilogger account aggregation is being maintained here. Please tag any tweets with hashtag #fbook12, so we can capture them.

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Author Solutions: Shatzkin & the Self-Pubs

There is definitely inherent conflict between trying to make the most money one can from an author hiring publishing services and recruiting authors and books that will be commercially successful.

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Mike Shatzkin

In Business models are changing; trial and error will ensueMike Shatzkin looks at the issue of major publishers arranging author-services programs.

Of course, this means he gets quickly to the Simon & Schuster deal with Author Solutions.

One might say that S&S is the first of the Big Six to take such a big step in this direction, except that Pearson, Penguin’s parent company, actually bought Author Solutions a couple of months ago and HarperCollins bought Thomas Nelson last year. So, in fact, three of the Big Six are now involved with author services and it is four out of six if you remember the other recent big news, that Penguin and Random House are merging. (And that’s not counting more modest initiatives like HarperCollins’s “Authonomy” or Penguin’s “Book Country”.)

Shatzkin does not get into the widespread fury in the author corps that met the news of S&S deal with ASI. I covered that (could it only have been a week ago?) here on the Ether, in Writing on the Ether: Vanity Pressed. And many Ethernauts weighed in with some very spirited debate in the comments, too, many thanks to them all.

 

Shatzkin, in his write, does, in fact, spell out the “perception of conflict,” as we call it in news shops, in this sort of arm’s-length hiring of outside author “services” in order to charge writers:

It’s hard to dispute that publishers who are primarily in business to pay authors to publish them could be walking a fine line having a business model right alongside that charges authors for services that are unlikely to lead to them making money.

That line comes after he refers to Jane Friedman, our host for Writing on the Ether, and her incisive write at the time of the Pearson buy of ASI, Is the Author Solutions Acquisition a Good Thing for Authors? 

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Jane Friedman

It’s from a Friedman contribution to last week’s Ether comments that we learn that when she was publisher of Writer’s Digest and ASI talks were under way there, the Writer’s Digest end of the split was discussed (at least at one point) in the area of about 30 percent. Her comment came about as a result of my wondering aloud what sort of cut a deal-making publisher like S&S might expect to get from the relatively expensive offerings of ASI’s programs.

(Conference note: Friedman is on a panel, “Develop Your 360 Marketing Strategy: Piecing It All Together,” at Authors Launch, produced by Shatzkin and Michael Cader in New York on January 18. There’s now a 20-percent discount offered with the code AL395  on it, and more info in our Conferences area below.)

It’s in the comments following Shatzkin’s write that the dialog heats right up. I recommend you not only read his essay which, as usual, provides a strong, emotion-free reading of the situation from the industry-insider perspective, but also the comments, in which readers question this seasoned commentator.

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David Gaughran

Author and self-publishing community leader David Gaughran, for example, takes issue with the fact that Shatzkin doesn’t mention the writers’ widespread hostility to Author Solutions and the new S&S Archway arrangement. Gaughran comments:

You don’t think it’s important that the entire writing community is up in arms about this deal? You don’t think it’s important that organizations like Writer Beware are slating Author Solutions (and Simon & Schuster and Penguin by proxy)?

You know what, Mike? Part of the reason ASI might be able to “continue selling their services very effectively” is because they have been legitimized by the Penguin purchase and the Simon & Schuster deal. Writers know this. They know more will be duped because of this and they are shocked that Penguin and Simon & Schuster are getting involved with a company with such an awful history like ASI.

 

For his part, Shatzkin agrees, I believe, with my own concept of Author Solutions-style “self”-publishing as genuine vanity publishing. And his response to Gaughran is that he does see the anger among so many writers as not important, “because yes, I think ASI will be able to continue selling their services very effectively.”

But note that he clarifies:

And I don’t think that proves they’ve created value. It proves they’ve created a salable proposition.

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There are things the author just can’t do. They can’t adjust the book’s metadata and add tags. They can’t push for or buy promotional screen placement from the retailers when somebody else’s new book makes them suddenly relevant again. Authors also don’t have the benefit of arriving at marketing best practices and rules of thumb by examining performance data across various groupings of titles: large title sets, categorized sets, comparable-selling sets, and others. They’re counting on the publishers to do that.

Gaughran:

I can adjust metadata and add tags. I can also buy promotional screen placement from Amazon, but I have zero interest in doing it because the ROI is awful – I’ll let publishers torch their money instead. And I would also argue that self-publishers’ best practices in terms of marketing is quite a bit ahead of traditional publishers.

It’s a useful exchange, respectful but spirited, the kind of thing that makes us all better as we take on board each other’s views.

 

And I’m glad to see that at one point — when some strange figures are brought in by one commenter, questioned by both Gaughran and Shatzkin, our good colleague Peter Turner arrives with the important data point we have from Bowker Market Research and Laura Dawson (last spotted knitting in London) that the number of titles actively tracked via ISBN these days is in excess of 32 million.

For more on how blind we are to how many ebooks are out there, I gave the subject a full pounding in Ether for Authors: Can We See You?

And lastly, I’m glad to see authors reading Shatzkin, tussling with him in comments, mixing it up.

In this business, the meek shall inherit nothing.

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Curtis Brown in Amazonia: UK Authors in America

As referenced in my Tuesday Ether for Authors at Publishing Perspectives, one thing that sailed into pink-tinted view at the FutureBook Conference in London Monday was news from literary agent Jonny Geller that his agency has arranged “digital self-publishing” at Amazon of more than 200 backlist titles from some favored UK authors.

 

As happens in the next item on DoJ-ouissance, as well, Michael Cader and Laura Hazard Owen perform as the Fred and Ginger of publishing reportage here, each contributing an interesting step or two to the conga line of agency-driven production led by the fleet-footed Geller.

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Some will find it odd that the agency is working exclusively with one retailer, since Curtis Brown UK Joint CEO Jonny Geller says in the release the initiative is “primarily geared toward breaking UK based authors in the US.” Geller tells us the deal builds on the agency’s “relationship with Amazon via our work on the [Ian] Fleming Estate.”

And:

The agency’s Anna Davis added to us: “We feel this Amazon arrangement works particularly well for the authors and books publishing now and we plan to do more with them. There are promotional opportunities for these authors which made this arrangement particularly attractive, and when the period of exclusivity ends we will be making them available via other retailers/channels.”

Laura Hazard Owen

And over at paidContent, Owen writes UK literary agency partners exclusively with Amazon to break authors into US, with a bit of background on the element of Amazon that Curtis Brown UK is exploiting.

Curtis Brown UK is running the new program with Amazon’s “White Glove” service (not to be confused with the company’s “white glove delivery” option for TVs and other high-priced goods).

No, you haven’t been asleep at the switch as this White Glove was come-hithering agencies toward Amazon:

While Amazon hasn’t publicly promoted the service, it is aimed at literary agents representing well-known authors who control their own digital rights on backlist titles. Amazon gives the agents extra help in converting and uploading book files to the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) store; it will also convert print books to digital files for free. In some cases, Amazon also promotes the books through email blasts and page placements, in exchange for an exclusive of six to twelve months.

 

In short, this is a program fit-to-purpose for what Amazon has perceived a high-powered agency like Curtis Brown UK might want and need to refloat clients’ available backlists on the digital tide.

And, as when Amazon offers authors a level of service that recalls its customer service for shoppers, you see this same impulse guiding the White Glove, its finger so expertly on the pulse of what’s wanted.

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Sheila Bounford

As Sheila Bounford echoes Pottermore’s Charlie Redmayne in her post, Where the Value Is:

Amazon taught us the value of the customer relationship.”

And as we’ve learned from Amazon’s Jon Fine, director of author and publisher relations, a key concept for Seattle is to recognize authors who work with Amazon as a kind of customer, a cohort deserving of service. Looking back at some of Joanna Penn’s comments earlier this week, we know that service is not what many authors feel they receive from their traditional publishers. This is one reason Amazon has the kind of traction that could make an epoxy manufacturer weep.

Along with some interesting notes on DRM discussion from Monday, Bounford notes that at times we may confuse what’s being said by leading observers like Redmayne:

I was discussing this afterwards with a colleague who ventured the view that Amazon don’t actually know all that much about their customers, they know about service. This may or may not be the case but what Redmayne said was the “value” of the customer relationship.

And that value, of course, extends to a supply of strong, highly salable books otherwise left out of e-sight as languishing backlist. Suddenly, a game literary agency with a mile-deep list looks like one valuable customer relationship to Amazon, one worth putting on one’s White Gloves for.

It all makes good post-digital sense. We may actually be seeing some outlines of the post-digital world. Still erasable but getting sketched in, at least as worthy trials.

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New, additional reading:  

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Benedicte Page

Curtis Brown’s self-publishing list ‘exciting’, say authors by Benedicte Page at The Bookseller (registration required.) Author Tony Parsons:

“My experience of American publishers is probably quite typical of many authors in the UK. You tend to get a US deal after you’ve had a degree of success in your own country. They pick up a successful writer, throw a lot of money at them, then they try to get you on the big TV chat shows and if they can’t do that they put you on a plane to Milwaukee to an empty Barnes & Noble book store. Traditional US publishing is slow and stupid.”

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Post-DoJ: Hachette’s New Contracts

As of Tuesday, Amazon had begun discounting some Hachette ebooks slightly; today, the discounts are larger, and Google and Barnes & Noble is discounting as well.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBookAnd as Laura Hazard Owen at paidContent surveys pricing as of Wednesday in Hachette enters into new ebook contracts with retailers post-DoJ settlement, Amazon is showing discounts of between 15 percent and 45 percent, with Barnes and Noble and Google roughly aligned, Apple and Kobo generally running higher prices.

In his write, HBG Moves to Agency Lite with Amazon and Others, Michael Cader at Publishers Lunch (which requires a very worthwhile subscription) joins Owen in clarifying a couple of things about the publisher’s sales practices on its new DoJ-settlement-mandated status:

As part of that agreement (with Amazon), HBG now moves to selling ebooks on an “agency lite” basis with the US trade’s leading retailer. Amazon no longer lists HBG ebook prices as having been set by the publisher, but does still list the titles themselves as “sold by Hachette Book Group.” (These are the technical details that confirm HBG is no longer controlling the consumer price, as required under the DOJ settlement, but continues an agency selling relationship as the seller of record.)

 

Like Owen, Cader is interested in a line in the statement released by Hachette:

“As per our settlement with the DOJ, we are not preventing discounting of our ebooks by our ebook agents. What you’re seeing on retail sites could be our ebook agents adopting these new terms.”

Recalling that when HarperCollins implemented more quickly post-settlement than many anticipated, in September — and “there was consternation in some quarters because a Barnes and Noble spokesperson said they didn’t have a new agreement with Harper, yet BN was appying discounts to some Harper ebooks” — Cader seeks and gets clarification from Hachette:

Spokesperson Sophie Cottrell clarified to us in a follow-up that they have “many more than one new agreement with our ebook agents in place,” so new contracts have been executed beyond just Amazon, but may still not include all major retailers yet.

 

So how are other major retailers offering you discounts that seem to ride near those of Amazon’s if they don’t, like Amazon, have their specific contract with Hachette in place yet? Cader:

What readers will observe is that most other ebook retailers are now offering at least selective discounts on HBG ebooks–which they have been allowed to do under the MFN relief granted more or less immediately by the DOJ settlement and provisions under pre-existing contracts (or relief granted while new agreements are being negotiated).

And at the highest level, of what does this remind us?

 

Well, it reminds me that the array of regulatory moves gathered under the DoJ actions against five of the Big Six (and there are still Six, pending regulatory green lights) are, in anti-trust philosophy, meant to protect the consumer. In the Hachette work of the moment, that means that consumers of retailers other than the dreaded scourge of Seattle may be able to enjoy discounts commensurate with Amazon’s discounts — if those other retailers want to be competitive and offer those discounts — even before actual, specific contracts are signed with those other retailers.

I can do it more succinctly: If any bookseller can match or at least respond to Amazon’s discounts, Department of Justice theory says the public benefits because such discounted prices are more widely available, not only at Amazon.

In the theory that lowest available prices are good for the consumer, this is considered  customer-friendly. And anti-trust actions are meant to be customer-friendly, nay, customer-protective.

 

So for those of us watching the comparative shudders and bobs and weaves of prices from one company’s sales pages to another, this might be a fairly choppy moment. Simon & Schuster is the last settling Big Sixette not yet into a new contract with any retailer to our knowledge, therefore more rocking of the boat should be felt soon.

But for anybody who’s simply so DoJaded by the whole, long, they-don’t-even-get-to-court-with-the-other-two-publishers-until-June saga, here is a moment at which, should you lift your eyes a bit, and thanks to Owen’s and Cader’s usual good work, you can spy an arc unseen in the day-to-day chugging of the legal engines.

That arc describes a smooth line of intent obfuscated, not always deliberately, by so many voices on the matter.

 

And that line of intent — in its purest curve, meaning with some simplification here — starts with a system that made it impossible for retailers to control pricing of ebooks if they wanted to offer a deal to customers; it ends in retailers now able to offer that deal to customers on those ebooks. No publisher is able, at the marketplace end of that arc, to fix consumer prices.

And in time for Christmas shopping.

Truth, justice, and the you-know-what-kind-of way.

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Conferences to Come: And Discounts to Go

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBookThe best prices available on registration for Digital Book World (#DBW13) (January 15-17) — and the associated Children’s Publishing Goes Digital (January 15) are scheduled to end Friday.

There are savings of up to $200 available through that day, then. You’re welcome to use my affiliate code PORTER.

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agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBookNewly announced, there’s a 20-percent discount on registration for the January 18 Authors Launch — from the Publishers Launch team of Mike Shatzkin and Michael Cader — with the code AL395. This is the daylong series of specialized presentations from a roster including Peter McCarthy, Dan Blank, MJ Rose, Randy Susan Meyers, Jason Ashlock, Meryl Moss, Ether host Jane Friedman, David Wilk and more.

Areas of coverage during the day include SEO strategy for authors; hiring marketing and publicity help; audience engagement; and media training issues.

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agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBookAuthor (R)evolution Day (#TOCAuthors) (February 12) from O’Reilly Tools of Change and Publishers Weekly has special early pricing ending December 20. Among featured presenters: Cory Doctorow, Eve Bridburg, Laura Dawson, Allen Lau, Jesse Potash, Dana Newman, Kristen McLean, Peter Armstrong, Tim Sanders, Michael Tamblyn, Rob Eagar, Kate Pullinger, Kat Meyer, and Joe Wikert.

Use my affiliate code AFFILIATEPA for an immediate discount of $300 on your registration.

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agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBookO’Reilly Media’s Tools of Change (#TOCcon) Conference  (February 12-14) has a December 20 cutoff date for early pricing, and includes a major brace of workshops for industry professionals during Author (R)evolution Day (your pass must include Tuesday), plus two more days of multi-tracked offerings.

Use my affiliate code AFFILIATEPA for an immediate discount of $300 on any registration package.

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For an updated list of planned confabs, please see the Publishing Conferences page at PorterAnderson.com.

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Books: Reading on the Ether

As each week, the books you see here have been referenced recently in Writing on the Ether, Ether for Authors, or in tweets.

I’m bringing them together in one spot each week, to help you recall and locate them, not as an endorsement. And, needless to say, we lead our list weekly with our Writing on the Ether Sponsors, in gratitude for their support.


Writing on the Ether Sponsors:


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Last Gas: Waffling about Riffling

I do have to admit that the phrase “Pinterest for Books” makes me vomit in my mouth, but I also have a borderline-compulsive obsession with online book discovery and how these things function, so, when I was contacted by the Riffle staff to sign up and Pinterest Riffle people some works of World Literature, I did so immediately.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook

Chad W. Post

Chad W. Post’s post, Riffle, Oh, Riffle, gets at the sheer nonsense that underlies so many attempts to give us yet one more social medium (still a singular word, damn it).

He’s prompted here by Judith Rosen at Publishers Weekly  and her post Could Riffle Be the Pinterest of Book Discovery?

Post thinks Rosen’s piece ran “a couple of weeks ago.” It’s dated June 20. Attention, friends and/or family of Chad Post: His Christmas present is a calendar, please.

Battling la nausée, Post gets himself set up with a couple of lists on the cutsily named Riffle. (Have I mentioned my feelings about corporate-cutesy names for online properties? I have? Good, so we’ll just move on.)

Post:

The “lists” are the core of the Riffling Experience™. These are groupings of books that Rifflers put together to share with other people looking for a Riffling Good Read. So far I’ve made two: Books from the Iberian Peninsula and Some of My Favorite Open Letter Books.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBookWhat he discovered, of course, is that when you, um, Riffle, you and your fellow, um, Rifflers are ranked for some sort of “influence.”

This “influence” thing is interesting to me. First off, it’s basically just a “like” aggregation score. Eight people have “liked” my lists, WHICH IS UTTER BULLSHIT, since I think ALL 21 people who looked at my lists should’ve liked them… Under the current system, I could post 10,000 meaningless lists over the next 3 hours, and if one person was “influenced” by each one, I would be kicking some numerical ass.

To condense what Post gets to on this, the drive in some of these startups about  — are you choking yet? — discoverability, never fails to get down to some element of gamification, keeping score, haha, and now we’re back to the nausea.

 

I love Post’s list of the “AWFUL” (capitalizations his) questions you’re asked to answer as a budding, um, Riffler:

  • What books remind you of the place(s) you grew up?
  • Name some books by your favorite author! (Exclamation point unnecessary, and please state in the form of a question, Riffle.)
  • What books have changed the course of your life?
  • Which books would you hope your soulmate has read? (A:Freedom. And the Bible. Natch.)
  • If you could only save a few books from a fire, which would they be?

 

Honestly, do we need to hear one more announcement about a “new initiative to bring readers and writers together?” Maybe a little distance between them isn’t such a bad thing if this kind of nonsense is what you’re supposed to spend your time doing.

 

We all love books. We all want them read. But we’re also trying to live a life here. And the last thing we need on the face of this planet is another list of anything, let alone one attached to such silly terminology as “riffling.”

As I’ve said before. If you wan’t someone to read something, hand it to them. That’s all. Just say, “Here.” And chuck it at them. Then leave them alone.

You give them a book. And you’re done.

And we’re done. Have a good week.

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Master the Principles of Social Media Without Feeling Like a Marketer

Jane's newest online course focuses on how to take a holistic and strategic approach to social media that’s based on long-term reader growth and sound principles of online marketing. You won’t find gimmicks or short-term approaches here. Rather, my philosophy is that (1) your work—your writing—is always central, and (2) you have to enjoy what you’re doing on social media for it to be sustainable and eventually become a meaningful part of your author platform.

A big challenge for authors is deciding what types of marketing will work for them strategically, and figuring out what will be effective in cutting through the noise without consuming huge amounts of time. Over the course of 12 weeks, our goal will be to answer this question for you, eliminate as much guesswork as possible, and retain your authentic voice regardless of your strategy.

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Porter Anderson (Find him on Twitter / Find him at Google+) is a Fellow with the National Critics Institute. As a journalist, he has worked with three networks of CNN, The Village Voice, Dallas Times Herald, D Magazine, and other outlets. He contributes to Digital Book World’s Expert Publishing Blog and to Writer Unboxed, and has been posted by the United Nations to Rome (P-5, laissez-passer) for the World Food Programme. He is based in Tampa. His companion to this column, Issues on the Ether Issues on the Ether, appears on Tuesdays at PublishingPerspectives.com, and is followed by a live chat on Twitter each Wednesday, hashtagged #EtherIssue. His Porter Anderson Meets series of interviews for London's The Bookseller features a live Twitter interview each Monday hashtagged #PorterMeets, followed by a write-up in the magazine on the stands each Friday. More at PorterAndersonMedia.com.

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24 Comments

  1. Great roundup, Porter. Please tell me in the future we are
    going to be able to know what is good writing—we are going to be able to tell
    the difference between interesting compelling work, and that which is not. I
    appreciate Joanna Penn’s comment that there are self-pubbed books on Amazon
    that are worthy.

    • @twitter-113151901:disqus

      Absolutely, Dave, Joanna pointed out that both self-published and traditionally published books can be bad, as well. What’s “good” will always live in the eye (and/or mind) of the beholder, but I do think that digitalization is eventually going to give us stronger and stronger tools to target and stratify the readership, meaning that those who see a certain kind of writing as good can find it more easily. With all deference to the dangers of an echo chamber, this is the real trick to discoverability — not being out there for everybody to find, but being out there for the people who are looking for your stuff to find.

      So specificity, identification of good matches between actual readers and actual books (led, we might add, but the development of Amazon’s algorithmic analysis), will be what’s really wanted and most successful. Market-making, in other words. You make it, you can sell to it.

      Platform for your life! :)

      -p.

        • @twitter-113151901:disqus

          Exactly, Dave, and glad you find Otis Chandler’s Goodreads useful, as do many writers. There are inherent issues for any service of its kind to navigate, of course — scalability amid growth; the integrity of reviews; the need for community members to work together in rational, collegial ways rather than in emotion-laden outbursts. But these are the issues facing any social-networking medium, and Goodreads is probably handling its encounters with these factors as well as anyone.

          -p.

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  4. Porter – fascinating and enlightening as always. Have you written anything on Amazon’s disparate royalty rates for ebooks sold internationally? As I learned the hard way recently, the 70% offer on kindle books only applies to those sold in the US and a handful of other countries. I’ve also noticed Amazon will up-mark my books to some international browsers. Just interested to know if you’ve addressed this dynamic anywhere.

    • @lmmckay:disqus

      Hi, Lisa, thanks for the input.

      Indeed, I’ve run across these distinctions in Amazon’s territorial rates, too, but need to get a more comprehensive look at them so I can get a better handle on how authors are finding them to cope with.

      I’m glad you asked, because I think I’ll put a note into Ether for Authors (the new Tuesday weekly Ether at PublishingPerspectives.com) and see if some of our international readers there have a lot of experience with this. Great note, thanks for it, and thanks for reading and commenting, great to have you!

      -p.

      • Great. I’d really love to have you address this and de-mystify it a bit. It seems from my (admittedly limited) perspective a bit of a sneaky way to take advantage of authors. The only explanation I’ve received for the lower royalty rates is something to do with tax rates in the delivery country. Same thing for the upmarking (which, was recently $2 on a 2.99 book, which is a huge upmark). What I’d really love to know as well, is whether Amazon is both upmarking and then paying only 35% royalty on the list price for the ebooks.

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