NINC: The New Publishing Landscape (part 2)

This is the Q&A part of session 1, covered in the previous blog. All the major players are the same. Please refer to the previous blog for that information.

Q: Is the mid-list dead?

Carolyn: No. She points out that when you look at the top selling lists, it is using comprised of a cluster of higher-priced books and the heavily discounted books. She thinks there’s a missed opportunity for mid list pricing to hit the bestseller lists. She thinks basic economics are pushing cheaper books onto the top 100 lists.
The implication being, that because fewer midlist priced books are being offered, they are less likely to appear on lists and features.

Lou: States that midlist is back with a vengeance. Admits that a lot of the books that NY turned down for not having a market did, indeed, have a market. States he started his second imprint because he couldn’t sell his own book that was multi-genre. He says this is the best time since the 50s to write what you want and let the market decide.

Deb Werksman, Editorial Director for Sourcebooks comments on the amount of shoddy work being self-published and the importance of having work vetted by professional editors. I think she’s preaching to the choir since this is a room of professional authors who already know that. IMHO Traditionally published authors who are now self-publishing and professional indie authors are not contributing to the quality control problem in ebook releases.

Don: States that they are looking to build authors long-term and not just to buy a book. While I am sure that is the case for his division, I don’t think the sentiment extends to all branches of the company. I wonder if Penguin management is aware that among the writing community “being Berkleyed” is a term for having your book release with little to no support and then being summarily dropped when it doesn’t sell through well. Whether they contend it’s true or not, that is the perception among authors. Once a company name has been used an an industry descriptor, it may be time to ask yourself why.

Liz: The most interesting thing is who leads book discovery. Editors are only one end of the process.

Mark: Thinks that craft and editing are far more important than marketing. Says to allocate resources for editing.

Q Why do some books take off at bn versus amazon and vice versa?

Liz – The largest demographic of mass market fiction buyers is women age 25-55 coming specifically to the bn site for buying books, unlike amazon, where people will access the site for all sorts of purchases that are unrelated to books. BN pushes books that are selling well, that are selected by editorial for promo, or that have had a sharp uptick in sales.

No one else had an answer. I think the long and short of it is that no one really knows. There’s not enough quality data to make assumptions.

Q What are your thoughts on piracy?

Carolyn: States that it’s a major problem in the education book arena due to the cost of the books. Says if you have a name or character that has international awareness (ie. Justin Bieber, Harry Potter), you should worry about this, but unless you are a huge author, you are more at risk of being undiscovered than losing significant sales from piracy. She does go on to state that education on copyright law is seriously lacking and unless that is addressed, book piracy can eventually become an issue like the music industry faced.

My Note: I wholeheartedly agree with this and have said it often before. Writers – please educate your children, your friends and your family on copyright law and why lifting it from the Internet is NO different than walking into the author’s house and removing money from their wallet.

Liz: States that BN uses a scrapper to automatically remove pirate spam ads from their website and forums.

Mark: Thinks publishers and authors are probably wasting millions of dollars and enormous time fighting piracy. He sees piracy as an issue of supply and demand. If books were more widely available internationally, he thinks the problems with piracy would decrease.

Q: Are publishers going to start putting more money and effort into marketing books or will they just continue to throw them on the wall like spaghetti and then blame the author when the book tanks?

Don: States that the marketing division is always working to market their books, both before, during and after release.

My Comment: Don is in the children’s division, not mass market. See my comment above on “being Berkleyed.”

Carolyn: Marketing boils down to how many impressions a marketing event created and how many sales it generated. Traditionally, co-op creates the most impressions due to the sheer volume of people who walk into bookstores each day. BUT impressions are useless if there is no conversion to sales. For example, even if a Facebook ad gets a million impressions, it’s wasted money if you do not get conversion to sales.

Q: At what point will publishers and indie authors have the ability to pay for co-op in the digital marketplaces (ie. at amazon and bn)?

Liz: Yes. (everyone laughs)

Q: Why do traditional publishers keep pricing ebooks the same as print copies when it causes resentment among buyers?

Lou: Agrees that pricing makes an enormous difference. He has a $3.99 book that has vastly outsold a NYTimes bestseller. He believes it’s all due to pricing.

Mark: Agrees that publishers are overpricing books.

Carolyn: Thinks much of what is happening digitally is not growing the market. It’s cannibalization. The question is what does that do for the future of books given that 1/3 of books are discovered in bookstores. The key components are the balancing of the publishers and the reader’s needs and how quickly it can happen.

Next up: The fray over an editor’s ability to acquire books. You don’t want to miss it!

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