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24 posts from June 2008

Bestseller Wisdom

Books It's hard to beat insight from someone who's been there in the trenches, dealing with the same issues you face.  That's why this short article in The Chicago Tribune caught my eye today.  And as reporter Ann Meyer rightfully states, "creating a bestseller involves more than crafting good content."

She also notes that "attracting an agent or publisher's attention can be trying."  But here's the kicker...  The #1 reason why authors often get frustrated trying to connect with a publisher?  I believe it's because they (the author) don't bother researching publishers to learn about their focus, series, etc.  I've been pitched all sorts of ideas by authors for books that not only wouldn't fit my program, but wouldn't make sense anywhere else at Wiley either.  It's clear these authors were just taking a shotgun approach and sending their idea to as many publishers as they can.  I can't think of a better reason to quickly lose interest in a project.

Meyer nails it when she says "Entrepreneurs can increase their odds by researching which publishers are most likely to be interested in their book idea."  Absolutely, and the same goes for agents.  I'll bet agents get quite a few inquiries about projects that are way outside their areas of expertise; the author could have figured this out by simply visiting the agent's website in advance.

Finally, here are a couple of interesting stats that show the ratio of author proposals to actual publications:
"Agate receives about 800 proposals a year, yet publishes just 20 books annually, Seibold said. Sourcebooks receives more than 1,000 proposals each year, with more than half coming from agent-represented authors, and publishes several hundred."

If you're an author with a proposal in hand, what are you doing to stand out from all this noise generated by the rest of the crowd?

In Search of The Quillr App

Quillr What does the future of content look like?  The folks behind a new platform called Quillr think they have the answer.  Their first product is a title called Here Ends the Beginning and it's a mix of words and video, resulting in an entertainment experience that's a book-movie hybrid.  They refer to Quillr as "a multimedia storytelling experience. Part screenplay, part graphic novel, part audio book and part movie, it is the newest chapter in publishing."

I'm not a fan of novels so it was important for me to look beyond the words, images and the story itself while I focused on what the platform has to offer.  I think it shows promise, particularly if they consider two enhancements: community and advertising.  Sure, most books are best written by one and only one author, but a tool like Quillr would make for an interesting community content development platform.  Secondly, with the images and video capabilities, think of the sponsorship and other non-traditional revenue streams Quillr could support.

Like most other new technology developments, we'll probably look back at Here Ends the Beginning in a couple of years and chuckle at how simplistic it was.  It's an interesting start in a richer content direction though, so I'm anxious to see how Quillr evolves over the next couple of years.  Thanks again to reader Alastair Sweeny for pointing me to this ReadWriteWeb post about Quillr.

Inc.'s Failed "Pay-Whatever" Experiment


They only offered it to 5,000 prospective customers, but Inc. magazine reported their recent attempt to mimic Radiohead's pay-whatever model produced dismal results.  In fact, "the mailing produced a third fewer new subscribers than the magazine's standard direct-mail piece," according to Patrick Hainault, Inc.'s director of consumer marketing.

Hainault noted that Inc. did a poor job of hyping the offer in the mailing.  He made another statement that's perhaps the most important point: "Unlimited choice is not, in the end, a good inducement.  Consumers want a buying decision to be made simpler, not more complex."  He went on to say that, "when you give people multiple choices, they freeze."

I hope other content providers will continue to experiment with this model.  While I think Hainault's points are valid I still think someone will eventually find a way to make this a viable option.

Lee Gomes Is Right: Blackberry Reading Rocks!

8700g I couldn't have said it better myself.  The WSJ's Lee Gomes recently wrote an excellent article on the virtues of reading books on your Blackberry.  Hey, I was once a skeptic too...then I downloaded the Mobipocket reader and bought a copy of The Last Lecture.  I've been limited to reading it in checkout lines and long meetings, so I'm still not quite halfway through it.

If you've got a Blackberry give it a shot and try it for yourself.  I'm not suggesting you do all your reading on a Blackberry, but it's a much more enjoyable and effective experience than you probably think.

Thanks to reader Alastair Sweeny for passing this article along to me.  I guess I need to pay more attention to the WSJ's website now that I'm no longer a paying subscriber...

eBook Piracy: Pogue vs. Engst

Pirate flag It all started with this blog post from David Pogue regarding his concerns about e-content copyright protection.  David very effectively communicated his stance against e-content distribution, primarily because of piracy issues.  I can't say I really agreed with him, but I admire the way he framed his argument and supported it with a couple of examples from his own books.

Then I read Adam Engst's point of view in this article.  Now that's an argument I can really get behind.  I think Adam nailed it and I found myself nodding in agreement as I read what he had to say.  Adam also brings a lot of credibility to the table as the Publisher of TidBITS and their ebooks arm, Take Control Ebooks.  I'm grateful that Adam was willing to share so much in that article, particularly when it comes to his experience at Take Control.  Here are a few points in Adam's article that really made an impression on me:

First, Take Control takes a few extra steps to discourage unauthorized copying of their DRM-free ebooks.  For example, they display the price prominently on the first page of every ebook.  That sounds subtle, but I can see where that would serve as a deterrent and help remind readers that there's a stated value associated with the product.  They also offer a lot of free updates and discount offers readers can share with their friends; nice touches.

He also noted that, "by publishing DRM-free ebooks, acknowledging that it's OK to lend one of our ebooks to a friend or colleague, and providing free and discounted updates, I believe we come down squarely on the side of the reader."  What a novel concept...treating your customers like they're something other than convicted criminals.  Another winning idea.

Next up, Adam believes that "voluntary payments don't constitute a viable business model."  I'm not quite ready to throw in the towel on this one.  I figure it's just that nobody has found the right formula here.  Give it time, add a new element or two and we might have something...but don't give up already!

Finally, he makes this statement: "Core to that idea [enhanced iPod/iPhone] was the suggestion that the iTunes Store sell ebooks; I'd bet that Apple would become the largest ebook retailer in the world nearly instantly."  That's probably the one scary thought that leaves the Kindle team sleepless in Seattle...