ReaderWriterVille

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Tag: publishing industry

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First up, some reactions to MacMillan’s decision to window, i.e., delay access to, new ebook releases for libraries and therefore for their patrons. If you missed the news, MacMillan has decided that their “test” program of windowing Tor Books has worked so well that they’re expanding the policy to all library-purchased ebooks. John Sargent sent out a memo (caution: dreaded PDF format) which argued:

For Macmillan, 45% of the ebook reads in the US are now being borrowed for free from libraries. And that number is still growing rapidly. The average revenue we get from those library reads (after the wholesaler share) is well under two dollars and dropping, a small fraction of the revenue we share with you on a retail read.
The increase in library ebook reading is driven by a number of factors: a seamless delivery of ebooks to reading devices and apps (there is no friction in e-lending, particularly compared to physical book lending), the active marketing by various parties to turn purchasers into borrowers, and apps that support lending across libraries regardless of residence (including borrowing from libraries in different states and countries), to name a few.
It seems that given a choice between a purchase of an ebook for $12.99 or a frictionless lend for free, the American ebook reader is starting to lean heavily toward free.

Any reader who uses Overdrive knows that library borrowing is far from “frictionless” if you take into account how quickly you can actually get a new release and how books licenses expire. But I’ll let other, more knowledgeable and eloquent people, those who actually work in and with libraries, make the case. First up, our very own SuperWendy (and please click through and read the whole thing):

Libraries are funded by tax dollars.  Tax dollars paid by the constituents in the areas where we provide service.  I can assure you, we’re pretty fanatical about making sure users meet the residency requirements.  And “lack of friction?” What does he consider long wait lists and charging libraries more for the same ebook file they’re selling retail via Amazon?  Never mind our budgets have largely remained stagnant and we’re buying multiple formats of the Exact. Same. Book. that they published (print, Large Print, audio on CD, e-audio, ebook, and a partridge in a pear tree…)

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There was a mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival on Sunday. We were watching the local CBS news when it broke and the station kept going through the evening. Three people were killed, two children and a young man. The reaction that speaks for all of us came from someone running away, who asked: “This is actually crazy. How do you shoot at the garlic festival? Like who you got beef with at the garlic festival?”

Gilroy is a smallish town on US 101, about 20 miles south of San Jose. Bay Area people know it well because you drive through or past it a lot. And it is famous for garlic. You can smell the garlic all around, and if you’re taking CA 152 to get over the hills to I-5, you switch from the smell of processing to the smell of plants. But it’s still garlic. Until the bypass was built in the 1970s, the freeway ended at the town’s outskirts and you had to drive through downtown Gilroy, which on a summer weekend could take you a full hour. The garlic festival started in 1979 and features every imaginable and unimaginable way to incorporate garlic into foodstuffs. It’s an institution and we all love to make fun of it in an affectionate way. A lot of people probably don’t realize that it is a major charity fundraiser as well:

Melone approached Christopher as well as his friend Val Filice to chat about putting on the Gilroy Garlic Festival. The trio decided to make it happen and in the summer of 1979 on farm land near Bloomfield Road, the first festival was launched. Organizers projected a first-year attendance of 5,000. They were shocked when 15,000 garlic lovers showed up. Admissions volunteers were forced to reuse tickets to accommodate the unexpected masses. Soon after that first year’s overwhelming success, organizers realized that there was a need to create the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association to put on the event every year.

Nearly four decades later, the Gilroy Garlic Festival is regarded as “the preeminent food festival in America” and even has international fame, with more than 3 million people attending over the years. Each year, about 4,000 volunteers from about 125 nonprofits in Gilroy, San Martin, Morgan Hill and Hollister participate in putting it on. More than $10.6 million for worthy causes has been raised throughout the festival’s history.

“We raise the money, cover expenses, and then that pot of money goes to charity,” Reynolds said.

The shooter was a local person whose family has deep roots in the area. Which makes it even more unfathomable to me. But then all of these are unfathomable in the end, at least in terms of logic.


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WTF are you doing to Harlequin and Carina, HarperCollins?

[Updated below.]

I don’t follow romanceland news as assiduously as I used to, let alone participate in it, but I am still very interested in publishing as an industry and cultural force. So it was with both bemusement and horror that I took in the information that Joanne Grant and Angela James, the Editorial Directors of Harlequin Series and Carina respectively, had been informed that their positions were being eliminated and their last day at the company would be July 19. Neither executive appears to have received much advance notice, and of course the annual RWA conference, where both would have been working and have already planned for, is next week. This kind of corporate behavior is up there with investment firms and professional sports teams, two entities whose personnel policies no business should want to emulate.

While most of the romance chatter has been in reaction to Angela James’s removal, it’s a Very Big Deal for all of Harlequin and Carina. Some people speculated that it signals the end of Carina, but I don’t think so. In the Absolute Write forum thread for Carina, Sonya Heaney points out that HC did something similar in Australia:

The director of Harlequin Australia’s digital-first imprint left last year, and when no replacement was appointed – and then the imprint’s website disappeared – people were pretty sure it would fold. However, now Harlequin Australia has taken over the line fully, and the same editors and publishers for HQ and Mira are dealing with the digital-first authors.

HC hasn’t put out a statement yet that I’ve seen, and I haven’t been able to find any trade stories (e.g. Publisher’s Weekly) as of this writing, but Anna Zabo posted an excerpt from the email that went out to (some but not all) Harlequin and Carina authors. For obvious reasons people are concentrating on the removals of Grant and James, but I found the first two paragraphs of the excerpt equally interesting:

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Andy Miller, who runs the Booklisted podcast among other things, writes a funny piece about being shamed, or at least mildly chastised, for the number of books he’s read. The fact that this happened at a book festival adds a special valence to the experience.

Now. Making an audience at a literary festival boo you for reading books is clearly some kind of shit achievement. And in one respect, I was not entirely telling the truth. In the year in question, I had not read ‘something like’ [XXX] books; I knew it was precisely [XXX] books. Why did I equivocate? Perhaps I sensed at that moment that the crowd was turning against me and it was necessary to self-deprecate as a matter of urgency. But that ‘something like’ was nothing like enough. What I should have said was ‘I don’t know exactly how many! A lot! I don’t get out much haha! Hahaha!’ And the audience, sniffing the air, would have turned its slavering attention to Lionel Shriver or someone and lumbered off in pursuit of where she gets her ideas from.

It’s true that if you cut down your time online and fill your discretionary time with reading, you can get through a lot of books. I certainly read more now than I did when I was more active on Twitter and Dear Author. But there is a performative aspect to telling people how much you read that is very much part of the online age (after all, this started because of Miller’s tweets). We don’t just read, we tell people we read, and not just what it is and what we thought of it, but where it fits in our total reading experience. I’m not sure where to draw the line between interaction and performance, but they aren’t the same thing.


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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.


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