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NINC: The New Publishing Landscape (part 1)

The Major Players:

Don Weisberg, President of Penguin Young Readers Group
Linda Quinton, Associate Publisher and VP of Marketing for Tor-Forge, Starscape
Mark Coker – Founder and CEO of Smashwords
Carolyn Pittis – Senior Vice President of Global Author Services, Harpercollins Publishers Worldwide
Lou Aronica – Publisher at The Story Plant, and Founder of The Fiction Studio
Liz Scheier – Editorial Director of Digital Content for Barnes and Noble.com

The session started with opening remarks from each of the panelists, who talked about the changes in publishing.

Don: Opens by saying if he’d been giving this talk a couple of years ago, he would be talking about factions within traditional publishing and how they operated. Today, he will be talking about what traditional publishing can offer versus other options. He is interested to hear what the other avenues of publishing are offering writers and thinks he will learn as much by being on the panel as those listening to the panel. He thinks options for writers are greater now than ever before but that also leads to more confusion. The goal of the panelists is to provide the necessary information for writers to make good choices for their careers and succeed.

Linda: Talks a bit about Tor’s publishing model, which is referred to as vertical publishing. The description was rather sketchy, but my take is that they consider publishing a straight-line model from concept to the readers hands and individually analyze each step along the way, including extensive readers surveys and contact.

Lou: Thinks that publishing will eventually evolve into three tiers: big publishers (large resources – ie. money and people), vertical publishers and small publishers (focused on niche markets). He thinks the advantage to going with a small publisher is that it’s home. The attention to you and your work will be more focused. He says that ebook sales now represent 21% of total sales, second only to hardback sales for special releases.

Carolyn: Opens by mentioning the book THE PARADOX OF CHOICE by Barry Schwartz. The book centers around the principal that too much choice can lead to paralysis or regret. It is more important than ever for authors to be educated on the business of publishing and the market. The digital transformation is not only about ebooks, although genre fiction sales in ebooks may be trending as high as 50%. A big concern for her is that 1/3 of new book discovery is still in bookstores, which are closing everywhere. She does not think Internet marketing has developed to support the loss of bookstore marketing space but it will.

She believes changes in scale in large versus small operations will be significant, and anticipates that the pace of changes in the market will continue. She see two basic markets in ebooks: digital premium (major bestseller fiction) and value market (discounted books or dollar books). There has not been a fill-in yet of enough mid-list priced books. She warns authors to avoid black and white statements that include words like “always” and “never” and advocates arming yourself with information to make the best decision for your career. She does NOT recommend decreasing writing production to see where everything settles. In fact, she recommends just the opposite – that you increase production to take advantage of early placement in an evolving market. When asked about marketing for digital books, she states that social media is not driving sales. (I look forward to hearing more about this in her solo session)

NOTE FROM ME: Carolyn is a number’s person and I would absolutely KILL to see her metrics. She is doing a session herself today and I will be there front and center. I think the data is vital to authors making good decisions (although a lot will be speculation) about the future of publishing.

Mark: Opens by saying he and his wife wrote a book years ago and gained representation by a NY agent, who couldn’t sell the book. The feedback consistently stated there was not a big enough commercial market for his work. With limited options (then) in self-publishing, he started thinking about the options for writers who didn’t fit the model of broad appeal. That’s when he decided to start Smashwords, to give authors the ability to distribute their work to the big retailers.

He says that professional writers are the fuel that’s fired traditional publishing for decades, but that’s because writers had no other options. As technology collided with publishing, it created new options for writers. He does not believe traditional publishing will go away, but thinks with all the change, power has shifted to the authors which is where it should be. He encourages authors to embrace the change and take advantage of all the opportunities available to the professional author.

Liz: She started her career in traditional publishing with Penguin and now works for bn. She is not allowed to state the exact amount, but says Pubit now has over 150k books for sale. She states that the advantage to working for an etailer versus a publisher is the access to buying patterns for customers. This allows trending, which allows for more focused marketing campaigns. She thinks the decision of traditional versus self-publishing for authors should boil down to the amount of time and effort you want to put into publishing versus the amount of return you want to make. (I would add that you also need to consider your ability to competently handle self-publishing). She thinks that shorter content is a terrific way for authors to push their larger works – both traditional and self-published authors.

NOTE FROM ME: Liz is very engaging and hilarious. I will be attending her solo session tomorrow and will report back.

Next blog will be on the Q&A portion of this session.

Jana

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