Monday, February 01, 2010

Things Aren't Bad All Over

I met a couple of editors of engineering textbooks last week. I grabbed my chance to ask them if people were running scared in textbook publishing. Were editors dropping like flies? Were they becoming agents to try to stay employed?

Au contraire. They and, to their knowledge, other textbook publishers had had very good years. Met their goals and surpassed them, in fact.

I'm guessing that while the economy is bad, folks are heading to college and staying there, hoping to ride out financial hard times.

I also learned that textbook authors don't get advances, by the way. Just in case anyone is thinking of going that route.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Nobody's Getting Rich

Pimp My Novel has an interesting (or, maybe, discouraging) post on the profits on book sales and who gets them. Note that discounting has an impact on royalties.

More recently, the same site did a post on sales and advances relating to children's books. In describing the difference between middle grade and YA fiction, he said, "MG plots tend to center on the protagonist's internal world, whereas YA plots are more complex and are more concerned with the protagonist's effect on his or her external world."

I had never heard that before. I will have to think about it.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Coming Up This Week

Oz and Ends is beginning a week of posts on publishing. J.L. Bell begins with POD Overtakes Regular Printing.

Training Report: I was just beginning to get into some kind of flow last Friday after what was for me a very long Memorial Day Weekend. In spite of another weekend off, today went pretty well. I revised two segments for the 365 Story Project and came up with two new ones. And I looked over the two essays I'm working on. Can't complain. Well, I can always complain. But I won't.

For those of you who like a little feedback with your training reports, Anastasia Suen is starting an accountability/mentoring group.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Number 40 Actually Made Me Laugh Out Loud

50 Reasons No One Wants To Publish Your First Book by way of Oz and Ends. Thank you so much.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Saluting The Small

March, I learned today, is Small Press Month. How intriguing. Sounds like a possible study month for me, though I'm coming to it a little late.

For those of you who, like myself, suddenly would like to learn a little more about small presses, you can check out Poets & Writers' Small Press Database and The Modern Word's Small Press Spotlight. You might also be interested in reading that Against All Odds, Small Presses Prosper, though two months ago Small presses are taking a big hit.

And for a kidlit connection, the small press Purple House Press does reprints of children's books.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Yes, This Is Exactly How It Happens

Clearly, I need to spend a lot more time reading my editor and agent blogs. Nearly a month ago, Nathan Bransford directed readers to a post at Galley Cat that includes a video that will tell you everything you need to know about the publishing industry. In three minutes and thirty-seven seconds.

It's worth the time.


Sunday, February 08, 2009

Remarkably Similar Situation

Nothing in Publish, and your book will probably perish was news to me, even though the Globe and Mail article was about the publishing situation up north.

Yesterday I wrote to a friend's daughter who is interested in getting into illustration. Today I'm wondering if I should be directing people like her to articles like the Globe and Mail's . I don't want to discourage anyone, but I also think people shouldn't go into writing and illustrating expecting a whole lot. Go into it because you enjoy a booky or inky lifestyle, not because you hope to see your books on the front tables at Barnes & Noble.

Though a family member did tell me tonight that he saw Three Robbers at his library yesterday. I'm happy.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

I'm Getting Into The Concept Of Work For The Sake Of Work

It's a damn good thing I've been getting into this mental state of working for the sake of working rather than for whatever other reasons people work because who knows when I'll publish anything again?

Link via Children's Writing Web Journal.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

There Was A Publishing Crisis Last Month And I Missed It

Editorial Ass reports that October was a particularly rough month in publishing. Lots and lots of books returned to publishers, meaning they had to return lots and lots of money.

The link came by way of Nathan Bransford, who discusses a publishing stimulus package we can all be part of.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

And You Thought Things Were Bad On Wall Street

If you have some extra time and are feeling masochistic, you might enjoy reading The End by Boris Kachka in New York Magazine. You won't find a lot of what Kachka has to say big news if you've been reading other publishing articles for the last four or five years. He's just pulled everything together in one spot. He has a lot of people information, though. He is, after all, writing for New York Magazine, and New York City is where a lot of the publishers are.

Some bits that caught my eye:

1. Nothing sells books anymore. Kachka says, "Traditional marketing is useless" and quotes an agent (a "powerful" one, too!) as stating, "Media doesn’t matter, reviews don’t matter, blurbs don’t matter." I have been seeing this kind of thing in articles over the past year or so. Peter Miller from Bloomsbury told Kachka that book trailers are "all the rage right now, but I would love to see an example of one video that really did generate a lot of sales." I wonder about that, myself, especially since a lot of book trailers are pretty awful.

2. Borders "is on death watch." I knew the chain was having trouble, but I wasn't aware things were that bad. (Hmmm. Am I evil to speculate about the kind of going- out-of-business sale it could have?) This is bad news for sales because Borders is still big, and it can still promote and sell a lot of specific titles. Plus, if it goes under, that cuts down still more on the number of bookselling outlets.

When I heard last summer that Borders was suffering and looking for a buyer, I wondered if the loss of that chain might mean a mini-resurgence in independent bookstores. After all, the big chains destroyed the indies. If the big chains (or at least one of them) disappear, won't that leave a vacuum that indies can fill?

I know. I'm not factoring in Amazon.

3. Kachka calls "co-op"--publishers paying for book placement in big bookstores--payola. (I'm just repeating what I read.) But evidently it's not frowned upon with books the way it is with music. Though, since we've already all agreed that nothing sells books, anyway, I don't know that co-op does much good. I guess I don't have to feel badly that no one has plunked down money for my books to be stacked at the front of a store because no one would buy them, anyway. (Though, to be honest, I think The Hero of Ticonderoga may have been placed in a nice cardboard case of some kind with some other books for a while. I don't know how that came about. I didn't ask any questions.)

4. If I understand the whole publishing situation that Kachka (and others before him) have described, a big, massive bestseller can carry a publishing company. For a while. That's why they're willing to pay enormous advances, advances that are too big for some of us to comprehend, for books both by established and new authors that they think have the potential to sell big. (Does anyone else think this sounds a lot like gambling?) But sometimes publishers are wrong.

Publishers losing money is bad. Very, very bad.

5. Kachka suggests that the book industry may have to change dramatically, moving away from relying on bestsellers, for instance. Book publishing may look very different in the future.

Personally, I can tolerate change. The wait to get there might drive me crazy, though.

The link to New York Magazine came from Blog of a Bookslut.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Who Blurbed?

More on blurbing from The New York Times Book Review.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Is She Talking About Us?

In her review of Leonard Marcus' book, Minders of Make-Believe: Idealists, Entrepreneurs, and the Shaping of American Children’s Literature (in the NYT Book Review) Laura Miller says, "Marcus, a charming and nimble writer, makes a valiant effort to keep things interesting, but the editorial shake-ups and new printing technologies will be of interest primarily to historians and people in the industry."

Doesn't that sound as if it's just the book for us?


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Oh, Come On!

Back twenty years ago, more or less, I used to read that around 40,000 books were published each year in the United States. So many books! According to You're an Author? Me, Too! in The New York Times Book Review the figure for 2007 was 400,000 books.

Does that number boggle anyone else's mind? Remember, according to an NEA study, 53 percent of Americans didn't read a book last year. What are we going to use all these books for? Building materials for forts?

Link by way of artsJournal.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Justine Explains It All To You

I wish I had time to read Justine Larbalestier's blog more frequently and not because I want to read about her fantastic travel life. (My big trip in March was to R.J. Julia Booksellers and that wasn't even for a special event, just a walk-around when I was in town for a school appearance.) No, what I like about her blog is that she occasionally covers writerly stuff.

For instance, in one of her recent posts she linked to an earlier one in which she explains how advances work. In talking with people I find that there's a lot of misunderstanding out there about how little money is involved in most book deals and how many years it takes to collect it. It's not unusual for me to meet folks who think they can knock off a book to generate extra, steady income.

The only thing I would add to Justine's description of how money is paid out is that many unknown writers won't be able to make a sale just on the basis of their pitch and a few chapters. They'll have to submit an entire manuscript for consideration. So while they may be receiving their advance over a four-year period as she describes in one example, they may have spent six months, a year, or who knows how long, working on the manuscript they submitted before they saw any money at all. So I think you need to keep that in mind--when you spread your advance over the time you worked on the book and not just the timeframe of the contract, it comes to even less per year.

For instance, I worked with an editor for a year on my first book before she offered me a contract. I can't even recall how long I worked with her on the second without a contract. In my mind, I have to include that work time when I'm thinking about how much money came in from those two books.

By the way, many book business people would suggest that you not do what I did--work for a long period of time without a contract. In the case of the first book in particular, I had had only two short stories published and no one else was beating a path to my door begging for my work. My reasoning was that I had nothing to lose, and it did all work out for me.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

All Things Bologna

In our extended family, we have people trying to get started on careers, to stay in their new careers, to hunt for first homes, and to stay afloat in construction- related professions. So here at Chez Gauthier we do think quite a bit about what's going on in the economy and, I'm sad to say, how it impacts us and not just all those people we read about in the press.

So when I read the first line in Wrapping Up Bologna, about the Bologna Children's Book Fair, I thought, Doesn't this sound as if it could be a good thing for people like me? The article starts out, "The state of the U.S. economy hung over this year’s Bologna Fair, as American publishers found the market tough for buying, but great for selling." In a related article, also in Publisher's Weekly, an American publisher said, "For selling books, I say ‘Thank you, George Bush’ every day. But I would not want to be a European rights director selling to the U.S. right now."

What's going on, as I understand it, is that American rights for European books are pricie for us to buy now, but American rights are cheap for Europeans to buy. Our stuff is selling, but we're not buying as much as we used to.

I know that in the greater scheme of things, the world of literature suffers. Yes, I do want to be exposed to books from all over the world. But in terms of Gail, an American writer who needs to sell books, doesn't this mean that 1. Foreign rights to my most recent books have a better chance of selling? (It has been a few years since anyone has snapped up rights to my books, and I do have a new one coming out this year.) 2. Fewer foreign books coming into the U.S. market means less competition for buyers and readers here in this country? (Though, come on, we're still talking mind-boggling numbers of American books being published. I don't seriously expect to see any jumps in my sales because fewer European books are being translated into English and sold here. I'm just looking for a silver lining. For somebody. Anybody, but particularly for me.)

Well, I only took one baby economics class when I was in college, and I don't remember it having anything to do specifically with publishing.

Other Bologna news:

Horror may be the new fantasy.

There's supposed to be a lot of interest in books about humor with boy characters, which, you know, just happens to be my stock-in-trade.

Evidently in France publishers are being overwhelmed with electronic submissions.

And get this--Eddie Gamarra, who is with a management/production company was quoted as saying, "Some authors report that editors pressure them to tone down the prominence of adult characters in children’s lit. Hollywood needs castable roles for bankable actors. There are very few bankable child stars. This issue was another big point of conversation as book folks ask me to explain what the heck Hollywood is looking for and why."

This is so creepy. Editors of children's books are supposed to pressure their authors to tone down adult characters because they are writing...stay with me here...children's books. What is going to happen to children's literature if books are written not for kid readers but for Hollywood producers who are looking for adult characters in order to cast adult actors? Come on, just write a screenplay in the first place.

Though, this might explain why we got an inquiry from a production company about Saving the Planet & Stuff just on the basis of the Kirkus Review's review. That book did have a couple of great adult characters. Though, perhaps, not great enough, since no sale was made.

Well, I've never been all that interested in the Bologna Children's Book Fair. But after reading these two articles, I'll be paying more attention in the future.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I'm Going To Keep Hammering On This Issue

Roger Sutton tips us off to a juicy bit of news with his post For Reals? HarperCollins Children’s Books has announced that it will be publishing a new series of books for 8-to-12-year-old girls and will offer companies that make products mentioned in the books the opportunity to become sponsors. The chief executive of a marketing group will write the books, I guess because HarperCollins doesn't get enough manuscript submissions from authors.

Now, personally, I've always felt that parents have a responsibility to stay on top of what their kids are reading. Here's one more reason. Product placement in books for any age group is not a concept that I think the average reader is aware of. Parents really need to educate themselves about this so they can educate their kids.

What's more, if it becomes a common practice, English teachers are going to need to address it as part of literature discussion. And not just to protect their students from being manipulated. There's a craft issue involved with product placement.

Years ago, "brand" writing was often seen in adult fiction. At that time, it wasn't product placement. No one was trying to make any money off it. No one was trying to sell anything to readers. It was just a quick and dirty way for writers to describe characters--they were described in terms of what they owned.

The problem with this--and the problem with product placement, too--is that unless readers have seen the products named, they have no idea what they look like and thus the description is meaningless. Jane Smiley explained what I'm talking about back when Cathy's Book was published. Describing characters in terms of the brand names of the items they own and use tells us nothing about how those characters look. It might tell us a bit about their attitudes or social class, but only, as I said, in a quick and dirty way.

So here's the issue I keep coming back to with these product placement books: We're not just talking about taking advantage of young people, which is certainly not to be taken lightly. We're also talking about writing quality, something publishing companies shouldn't be taking lightly.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

More Business Talk

If you are a writer who publishes with a traditional book publishing company, your books probably get into bookstores by way of sales representatives. ShelfTalker has a post explaining a great deal about what sales reps do. Wizards Wireless described getting ready to meet a sales representative.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Consumer Reports

You know how for years book pundits have been saying that too many books are published, though no one ever suggests that anything should be done about it? Well, evidently books aren't the only things of which we have too many.

In other news, bookstore sales were up a bit last year. Let us all light a candle for Harry Potter. Seriously.


Friday, February 08, 2008

Handselling Books And A Question About Big Advances

Alison Morris has an interesting handselling report at her PW blog, Shelftalker: A Children's Bookseller's Blog. Note that many of the titles her booksellers report handselling are not necessarily Big Name books. And, yet, the books are selling nonetheless.

Also pay attention to the quote from a speech by Karl Pohrt. He talks about selling the top selling 500 titles. While independent bookstores sell only 9 to 10 percent of the top 150 books, they exceed their market share for titles in the 150 to 500 range. He also says, "It should also be noted that the 150 to 500 range of titles is where publishers are making money, because they haven’t made huge investments that they have to recuperate in contracts with best-selling authors and large ad campaigns."

I've heard something similar before, but only recently. I find it extremely interesting, because years ago many in the publishing industry justified huge advances to bestselling authors by claiming those authors made big money for publishers, making it possible for them to use their profits to take risks on new writers/literary writers/you name it. That's not the case anymore?

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Friday, January 11, 2008

More Copyright Talk, This Time Related To Kidlit

Slate is carrying an article called J.K. Rowling's Dark Mark by Tim Wu in which the author discusses Rowling's copyright suit against a Potter fan website that plans to publish a print version of its content.

Interesting point: the difference between an adaptation of a work and a discussion of a work. One is covered by copyright and one isn't.

Live and learn. Or, I should say, read and learn.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A Discussion Of Plagiarism And Cauliflower Puree

Plagiarism has been a subject of particular interest to me ever since Mr. Gale, my eleventh grade history teacher, gave the class a talk on plagiarism that scared the bejesus out of me. If you've read My Life Among the Aliens and Club Earth, you know that I also have turned my eye to the subject of feeding kids once or twice.

So perhaps you'll understand why the plagiarism complaint and now lawsuit relating to Jessica Seinfeld's book draws me like a magnet.

Slate has reprinted an article from last October called Not That There's Anything Wrong With That discussing copyright infringement and plagiarism, particularly as it pertains to cookbooks and this case. The author, Steven A. Shaw, agrees with me that neither book was very original. (I would think any mom with kids more than a year old would realize that.) He also makes the case that Seinfeld didn't plagiarize anything. But, of course, now I guess that's up to a court to decide.

Perhaps I'm being an alarmist here or ignorant of the law or ignorant about publishing or all of the above. Nonetheless, I wonder if this case could end up having a chilling effect on writing and publishing because it's not all that unusual for more than one writer to write about a subject even in the same calendar year. It takes so long to write a book and go through the publishing process that many writers (and their publishers) may not even know they have some competition for the same turf. This whole thing is causing me to suffer flashbacks to that eleventh grade plagiarism talk.

Fortunately, this case has a high enough profile that we can probably look forward to hearing all about what happens with it.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Just How Many Books Do You Have To Sell To Get Some Respect Around Here?

For the next week or more we're going to be subjected to yearly round-ups and best of/worst of the year lists on absolutely everything. On Sunday The Hartford Courant got things started here in the Land of Steady Habits and Regular Income with an AP story called Publishing Hits, Misses of 2007. Among the misses, it claimed, was The Higher Power of Lucky because it "only" sold 49,000 copies.

I found that statement incredibly thought provoking. How many copies does a children's book have to sell in order to be considered successful? What does a publisher want to see for sales figures? Does Lucky's publisher consider it a "miss?" How many copies do Newbery winners usually sell?

The children's book the article considered a hit was The Dangerous Book for Boys. It didn't include a specific sales figure for that title but did offer the information that it has sold more than If I Did It, which is supposed to have sold more than 100,000 copies.

In this particular article, "hits" were books that had sold more than If I Did It , while "misses" were books that had sold less. There's a lovely standard for success for you.


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Nobody's Breaking New Ground Here

As I get older...and older and older...I am often struck by how little collective memory the reading public has.

For instance, have you been hearing the murmurs about whether or not Jessica Seinfeld committed vegetable plagiarism, snitching from Missy Chase Lapine's book on the same subject? The rumor was simmering for a few weeks before Seinfeld's husband came to her defense on Letterman, thus insuring both authors more sales. Bless him.

The thing is, this is not exactly cutting edge material here, folks. I was reading books and magazine articles on ninja nutrition back in the day when I was sneaking wheat germ and grated carrots into unsuspecting children's muffins and cookies at the end of the last century. It's not as if either one of these women holds a copyright on the concept. Can you call it plagiarism when the idea has been out there for years, anyway?

Back in the '90s, two books came out at the same time on Amelia Earhart. That wasn't brand spanking new material, either. Unfortunately, it happens.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Run! Save Yourself!

'It's Carnage...' Inside the Genteel World of Books ought to turn off a great many folks from even trying to write. I know I was quite shaken after reading it.

Thanks to Justine Larbalestier for the link. She described the article as "my favourite on publishing in ages." Clearly, she is hearty soul.


Sunday, September 30, 2007

Does This Count?

I am always surprised when I hear figures tossed around for the numbers of books published each year. I can remember twenty years ago when I was surprised to hear the number 40,000 used, so you can imagine what I thought when the figure went up to 150,000. Recently I've heard even bigger claims.

Now, I understand that the number of books being published each year has gone up for two reasons. One, traditional publishers don't keep books in print as long as they used to, but once they've let all those books go out-of-print, they have to replace them with more books in order to have a list to sell. Thus they're publishing more but stocking them for a shorter period of time. (The tax laws changed in the seventies, and publishers now have to pay tax on the stock in their warehouses. They can't pay tax year after year on books that aren't selling a certain number of copies.) Two, technological advances make self-publishing much easier, and it has also become more acceptable so more writers are going that route.

Over the last couple of years, my very local paper has carried a number of stories about people who self-publish books, publishing just a couple of hundred copies that they sell in town and to friends and family. Today I met a woman who said she'd written a children's book and that the illustrator had had it published. I wasn't sure what that meant, but I didn't know how to ask politely. What came out in the conversation, though, was that the illustrator had had the book published so they could take copies to a tiny local bookstore that does a lot of events with self-published writers. My impression was that the illustrator had had books published for one signing.

So, my question is, when we see articles about the huge glut of books being published every year, are books like the ones I described above included in the figures? I'm not saying that they should or shouldn't be included, but, if they are, what does that mean? If anything at all?


Thursday, June 21, 2007

So That's What They're Talking About

If you read Blog of a Bookslut you may have seen some posts about some publishers folding and auctions and sales at McSweeney's. Salon explains it all for you.


Monday, June 11, 2007

"The World Has Gone Mad"

I've been reading about the Potter Problems related to sales of the new Harry Potter for a while now. Small independent booksellers will take a beating on sales because they can't afford to discount it as deeply as places like Wal-Mart and Amazon. Some aren't even placing particularly large orders because they don't expect to sell many books when customers can get it so cheaply elsewhere.

It kind of casts a pall over the last book excitement


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Some People Might Find This Discouraging

I rarely buy The New York Sunday Times. I don't have any objection to the NYTimes but, for me, it's a week long job to read the Sunday version. And that's even with dumping parts of it directly into recycling because I don't live in New York and just don't care about some sections.

For the first time in years I bought the Times on Sunday. Here it is Thursday, and I still haven't found the book review, the reason I bought the whole thing in the first place.

I have read an interesting article in the Business Section, though. The Greatest Mystery: Making a Best Seller is all about how unbusiness-like the publishing business is. By unbusiness-like I mean unlike other businesses. Agent Eric Simonoff is quoted as saying that when he talks with people in other businesses "they're stunned because it's so unpredictable, because the profit margins are so small, the cycles are so incredibly long, and because of the almost total lack of market research."

According to the article, 70 percent of mass market titles don't turn a profit. That seems like a lot, but how else should I interpret "with an estimated 70 percent of titles in the red?"

For a number of years now I've heard things about how much publishers favor debut authors. A second or third book is a hard sell if your debut wasn't big. Well, this article explains why. Publishers don't make huge amounts of money on big selling books by star writers because those books cost the publishers a lot of money. Those authors get big advances and those advances have to be covered by book sales before the book starts making money for the publisher. Where publishers really make money is on "surprise best sellers" by unknowns who accept smaller advances. They don't have to sell a million copies just to cover the big advance.

I had a much easier time understanding this article than I did the Economics section in An Incomplete Education.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Real World

Mitali Perkins has an interview up at her blog with Karen Day whose first book Tall Tales was published this past week.

Be sure to read what Karen went through to get her book published. I think it will be an eye-opener for many, but I also suspect her experience is far more common than not.