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41 posts from June 2007

Will Espresso Kill the Bookstore?

Wired_blog_logoThe Espresso print-on-demand system (POD) continues to get plenty of buzz, including this recent post from the Wired Blog Network.  I don't agree with blogger Rob Beschizza's notion that your local big box bookstore will be reduced to nothing more than "a coffee house and a vending machine" though.

While success of the Espresso (or any other mainstream POD solution) would likely have a significant effect on the brick-and-mortar world, as I said in this post last December, I think they should welcome it with open arms.  Why?  Because a system like this would take away one of the key benefits enjoyed by Amazon and every other e-tailer: a seemingly infinite list of "available titles".  The brick-and-mortars have lost plenty of market share due to only offering a fraction of the number of titles available at Amazon, BN.com, etc.  What's the last thing you want the brick-and-mortar clerk to say when you ask them about a particular book?  I've always cringed when I hear "we don't have that book in stock, but I can order it for you...we'll have it in about a week." How many sales have the brick-and-mortar stores lost because of that situation?

Let's also not forget the characteristics of the in-person book-buying experience.  Look around the next time you're in a big box bookstore.  Besides the usual browsing there are loads of people sitting around flipping through what they've found on the shelf while sipping on a cup of overpriced coffee.  This isn't going to change!  Sure, the boxes themselves might get a bit smaller (and I emphasize "might"), but it's not the possible square footage reduction and cost savings this will drive as much as it is the increased sales of titles previously not available.  Plus, think of the extra browsing time you'll have while you wait for your POD title to print...the bookstores will absolutely love this aspect of POD since more browsing time often leads to more products being purchased.

No, POD won't be the brick-and-mortar killer it's often assumed to be.  Instead of having to wait till tomorrow for the book to arrive from Amazon you'll be able to get it the same day at your local store.  The instant gratification it enables should only help your local bookstore in the long run.


Planned Serendipity

LightbulbOne of the books I'm currently reading is David Weinberger's Everything Is Miscellaneous (stay tuned for a full review later).  I was only 30 or 40 pages into it when I became concerned that it was going to be one of those books where you figure out the core premise right away and the remaining 200 pages are just reinforcing that same point.  That might still be the case, but a chapter I read tonight got me thinking about the blogosphere...

Weinberger uses the phrase "planned serendipity" when talking about how Amazon uses its various filters and services to recommend new products for returning customers.  I'd say that phrase pretty much nails it, at least for how Amazon operates.

But where's the "planned serendipity" for the blogosphere?  If I enjoy blogs on sports, for example, where's the service that helps me discover new and interesting sports blogs, ones that I've probably never seen before?  We're left to find these blogs mostly by chance.  If I'm reading one of my favorite blogs, they might link to a new one I haven't heard of and so I click over to check it out.  How inefficient!

Remember that BlogRovr service I talked about earlier this week?  Wouldn't it be cool if they would add a feature listing a handful of blogs that are highly relevant to the one you're currently reading?  Again, I'd like to see all this via my feedreader, which is another feature they need to implement.  That, and they'd need to filter out blogs that I already subscribe to.  For example, if I'm reading a publishing-related blog, don't include one that I get the RSS feed to in the list of relevant ones I should check out.

P.S. -- This last feature, filtering out redundant entries, is something Amazon hasn't quite perfected yet.  I got an e-mail from Amazon last week suggesting that I consider buying The Black Swan, despite the fact that I already read and posted a review of it on Amazon!


Al Ries Says the iPhone Will Fail

Iphone2Al Ries is one of my favorite authors and, IMHO, a marketing/branding genius.  While I'm not so sure I agree with his latest article, Why the iPhone Will Fail, he does make some interesting points.

Regardless of whether it succeeds or fails, I still think Apple is leaving money on the table, at least initially...  The early adopters of Apple products have proven that money is no object, especially when it comes down to being the first on your block with the new iDevice.


The Myths of Contract Negotiations

Books2_2I enjoy reading JA Konrath's blog and I think I've even contributed a comment or two on it over the past year or so.  When I read today's post about negotiating contracts I felt a simple comment wouldn't suffice.  He does a nice job giving newbie authors a frame of reference, but a number of his items require further clarification.  I've italicized a few excerpts from his post below and added my own thoughts below each point:

We're afraid that if we don't take the offer, we won't get published. Publishers know this. And they use this to their advantage.

Not really.  In fact, if you (as an author) start to feel you're getting treated this way by a publisher/editor I recommend you run for the nearest exit!  There are far too many other publishers (and self-publishing options) out there to let yourself get bullied around like this.

It is in their best interest to offer low advances and try to acquire as many sub rights as possible.

Also not true, at least the advances part...  Publishers realize that author advances are just like any other part of a transaction: You get what you pay for.  No publisher wants an author to walk away from the negotiating table feeling like they're not getting what they deserve on an advance.  Why?  The publisher wants, no, needs the author to be properly motivated throughout the project.  Anything short of that will compromise the results.

A healthy advance also shows that your publisher is confident in your books, and will spend a sizable amount on marketing them.

This is one of the biggest myths in author contract negotiations.  Honestly, there's zero correlation between the level of the author advance and the amount of money spent on marketing.  In fact, some publishing houses will tell you that the bigger the author advance, the less they have left to spend on marketing.  So many other factors come into play on this as well, not the least of which is author platform; we publishers are looking for authors with great platforms, mostly because we find those are a much better promotional vehicle for the book than advertising or premium placement in a store.


Greetings from Seoul, South Korea!

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Nah, I'm not really over in Seoul...but my oldest daughter is!  Despite the State Department's best efforts to delay delivery of her passport, she managed to make it to Seoul earlier this week to visit her best friend, Min.  She's only two days into the trip but all reports indicate she's having a blast.  She e-mailed a batch of pictures from their whirlwind tour of the countryside yesterday and I thought I'd share a few of them via my blog.