ReaderWriterVille

Blog in progress

Tag: publishing industry

ReaderWriterLinks

Here’s an interesting article which focuses on the rise of marketing to niche audiences in music, but is applicable to books and other cultural products. Since Game of Thrones just ended we all have to invoke it in our writing, so here’s mine: GoT stands out as a widely appealing product in a time of niche hits, and I’ve seen a number of articles pointing out that its Sunday audience exceeded Big Bang Theory’s finale numbers. But if you compare live audiences, then BBT beat GoT handily, 13.5 million to 18 million. Live broadcast TV is not quite dead. And where do they compare to series finales of the past? Neither would break the Top 10, which would require an audience of at least 35 million viewers.

But back to the point about niche markets:

Fandom is fragmenting. Streaming personalization and falling radio audiences are combining to rewrite the music marketing rulebook, ushering in a whole new marketing paradigm. Hits used to be cultural moments; artist brands built by traditional mass media. However, this fire-hydrant approach to marketing lacked both accountability and effective targeting. Now, hyper targeting, both in marketing campaigns and streaming recommendations, is creating a new type of hit and a new type of artist. Global fanbases are being built via the accumulation of local niches, while a few big hits for everyone are being replaced by many, smaller hits for individuals. Niche is the new mainstream.

We can see this in commercial fiction. Romance Twitter, as is frequently observed, doesn’t reflect the overall reading trends of the universe of romance readers (compare the waitlists for Mary Balogh at US libraries with the amount of discussion of her works on Romance Twitter, for example). But that doesn’t mean that Romance Twitter darlings don’t sell, and sell well. They just sell across different markets. They may not be Balogh level sales, but they’re healthy and can sustain careers while they’re popular.

The upside is that a lot more authors can break through. The downside is that the cultural space is fragmented and so is the discourse. Being a romance reader doesn’t mean you have the same books and authors in common anymore, at least not with as many people.


Read the rest of this entry »

ReaderWriterLinks

This article feels as if it was generated by the Slate Contrarian Bot circa 2005. In Bookriot, a librarian (and aspiring author) says she thinks that tagging authors in all discussions of their books, including negative ones, is a great idea!

I can understand why some authors might be hurt by negative reviews. Criticism is hard! I’m just not convinced that the “risk” outweighs the “benefit” here. Easy access to more information on authors is important to me and authors are not required to read reviews. Most books don’t fall within categories that are strictly positive or negative. If we lean toward caution and decide against tagging authors in negative reviews, we can’t tag authors at all—it’s rare that any review worth anything doesn’t mention anything that hasn’t gone well in a book. In that case, authors are losing out on additional potential readers.

Is this a huge deal? Absolutely not. If it was, I’d go on with tagging authors regardless of the kind of reviews I write. But I do think it’s worth considering who the reviews are for, at the end of the day.

This is a bad argument. As many, many Twitter responses and some site commenters are letting Bookriot and the author know. However, given that she seems to be one of the site’s most active contributors, and the content maw is never sated, I’m sure it’s not the last #slatepitch piece we’ll see with the same byline. Sigh.

UPDATE: The post is still up on Bookriot, but the original Bookriot tweet publicizing it, which so many people replied to (and probably ratioed badly) is gone. Which … is kind of missing the point?


I posted a link to Christian Lorentzen’s Harper’s essay on the demise of book reviewing a while back, and now LitHub has used it to generate more content published a roundup of responses from his fellow critics. They run the gamut from complete disagreement (mostly by critics who run or work in these listicle- and Q&A-dominated sections) to overall agreement (from a critic at the TLS, which is hardly a surprise).

This is at best not addressing his points at all, and at worst confirming them:

Are book reviews drying up? Is the world of serious criticism shrinking? It seems to me that, actually, the world of book reviews is expanding. There are readers everywhere, of all kinds. They all deserve to know what books are out there that might be of interest. We do our best to reach them all.

Read the rest of this entry »

ReaderWriterLinks

I’ve only watched one episode of Game of Thrones (don’t @ me, I read the first three books and that was more than enough). But I was fascinated by this NYT Magazine article on visiting the Westeros sets and locations in Northern Ireland, written by an Irishman. The blending of the real and the artificial, and the way in which the artificial overlays the real, is understandable but also troubling. What happens when we create Disneyfied landscapes in places with real history? And what happens when our mental images are dominated by the way they stand in for fake worlds and start to erase the real ones?

Less than half an hour after the tour bus left the pickup point, I realized we were no longer in Northern Ireland, but had entered the realm of Westeros. We were passing Stormont Castle, on the outskirts of Belfast. This was theoretically the seat of Northern Ireland’s government, but for over two years now this executive office — jointly controlled by the right-wing loyalist (and largely Protestant) Democratic Unionist Party and the left-wing republican (and largely Catholic) Sinn Fein — had languished in a state of indefinite suspension thanks to a densely complex sequence of disagreements. The tour guide made no mention of this notable landmark, and the reason he made no mention of it, I further understood, was that it had nothing to do with “Game of Thrones.”

This has already happened in a non-political way in New Zealand, with the landscape being associated with the Lord of the Rings movies rather than its own history.

Somewhat relatedly, I was listening to a radio report on the Notre Dame fire as it was happening, and there was an interview with someone who had immediately set about creating online video libraries of photos of the cathedral and its interiors. Which is great, but virtual visits aren’t substitutes for actual visits. I understand not everyone can visit historical and artistic monuments (I’ve never visited the Parthenon, and I doubt I’ll ever see Petra), but we do a disservice to them and to ourselves when we elide the difference between looking at a two-dimensional or even three-dimensional virtual representations with the actual tactile and optical experience of seeing the real thing. For my whole life I’ve told people that however many photographs you’ve seen of the Taj Mahal, it will not prepare you for its beauty. Marble in person is just different than marble in a photograph or video, and you can’t fully appreciate the Taj’s perfect proportions until you see it in situ. It’s OK not to have seen it (none of us will see everything we want to). It’s not OK to act as if Google Earth is a satisfying substitute.

Read the rest of this entry »

Midweek links

Remember when every blog had a regular links post feature? Now no one does them because everyone gets their links from Twitter and Facebook. But since I’m not hanging out there, I decided to revive the links, at least occasionally. 

The Columbia Journalism Review writes that book coverage is increasing in major US publications. Which is great! Until you read the article and realize that “coverage” is an amorphous category ranging well beyond reviews and analysis. For the New York Times this means:

“In the past, when a book came into the Book Review, the question we would ask is, ‘Does this book deserve to be reviewed? Should we review this?’” Paul says. “Now the question is, ‘Does this book merit coverage? And if so, what does that look like?’”

For New York magazine the new direction sounds even grimmer:

[The] strategy, which cuts across Vulture, the Cut, Daily Intelligencer, Grub Street, and The Strategist, incorporates far less “up and down” reviews, opting instead for highly specific recommendations, debate-inciting rankings, and reviews that take into account a reviewer’s personal point of view and say something more about the culture.

This sounds closer to book industry hype than it does to talking about what is between the covers and in the text. 

This New Yorker article gets at what I mean in an article about the English-language debut of Dutch-origin dwarsliggers, or Tiny Books. These are very small books, about palm-sized, with small print on onion-skin paper. The first English release is of John Green’s YA oeuvre and is presumably perfect for holiday gift-giving. Overall Waldman is kind of positive, but she gets at the non-reading aspect of the format’s appeal:

Read the rest of this entry »

Harlequin reminds us we don’t own our purchased ebooks

Last week I saw a discussion about a change Harlequin Books is making at its website with respect to how ebooks will be delivered to buyers. Until now they have used Adobe DRM and if you wanted to download your books you had to do it through Adobe Digital Editions. This was a pain, given how awful ADE is, but it meant the files were resident on your computer and could be transferred to any compatible ereader, i.e., one that read epub files and played nice with ADE. I’ve used it for my Sony, Nook, and Kobo ereaders over the years. I’ve also stripped the DRM and put the files on a Kindle. This was handy because Harlequin.com would occasionally have sales and it was worth buying from the site. Also, I found when checking my account that I bought my first Harlequin ebook back in June 2007, before Kindles or Nooks existed (I read it on my Palm phone, as I recall).

Anyway, at this point I have 620 books on the Harlequin site. I’m pretty sure I’ve downloaded most of them, since I long ago stopped trusting ebook retailers to stay in business. But Harlequin isn’t shutting down. Instead, they’re changing their DRM system from ADE to Overdrive. This seems like not a big deal, except that Overdrive system requires you to read the books in its app. In other words, you can’t put it on an ereader unless you can figure out a way to get it off the app (which may be straightforward, but I haven’t seen discussion of it). You can still buy the books at Kobo, Amazon, and other major retailers, of course, and maybe they will have sales and promotions there that are comparable to the ones Harlequin has had at their site in the past.

The biggest inconvenience for me is that I have to decide whether I want to download/re-download hundreds of books, or spend almost as much time checking to see if I have them already. The changeover date is November 12, so I have a week to decide. It’s not that big a deal; I have most of the books, I know, and it’s probably only the oldest ones that are likely to have gotten lost in a computer/ereader/platform transfer. Still, it’s a hassle I don’t really have time for now.

In addition, for me at least it’s a reminder of two things:

  • Ebooks are licensed, not bought in the same way as print books. As long as the DRM is applied, you are subject to the terms of the license. If ADE goes away, you can’t read ADE-DRM’d books anymore. In the future, if you don’t have an Overdrive app, or you don’t want to put it on your phone or tablet, you have to read Harlequins on a computer with a data connection. This is what I don’t like about Hoopla, by the way; I don’t like their app interface at all and it’s frequently glitchy.
  • Today’s Harlequin is not the Harlequin I bought from in 2007, or the Harlequin whose books I reviewed at Dear Author for years. It’s owned by HarperCollins and it’s a shadow of its former self. Some of my favorite authors still publish there, but a lot don’t. It’s less reader-focused and reader-friendly. It’s a Big 5 imprint and it feels like one.

Read the rest of this entry »