The Reckoning Wins Another (Bigger) Award

This morning, I’d planned on posting my next piece in my Publishing’s Paradigm Shift series, but I’ll save it for tomorrow, since I have big news to share:

The Reckoning won 1st place for Mainstream/Literary Fiction in the 2010 Writer’s Digest International Self-Published Book Awards!

Not only will I receive $1,000 check, but my book will get featured in the March/April issue of Writer’s Digest next year AND I’ll finally get a real official review in Midwest Book Reviews. Hopefully, this will bump up sales. Naturally, I’m floating around today (and not because of my head cold).

My only question now is…do I add an addendum to my publishing history on those queries I’ve already sent out for my next book? And how best do I do it? I think I’d better ask Agency Gatekeeper or Rachelle Gardner. They’re always open to questions from their readers.

Originally posted 2010-11-18 10:47:36.

Publishing’s Paradigm Shift – Effect on Authors

With all of this movement toward e-books, what can authors expect in the near future? Some of the coming changes may include the following:

•Funding for authors’ advances may begin to be provided by external investors (as they are with films and plays)

•Best-selling authors, who already have a name brand, may turn to self-publishing for higher royalties, making more room for midlist and debut authors

•Until then, the bar is higher and authors may want to consider self-publishing

•Some authors are already serializing their books online to build readership

•Publishers can’t hold on to rights indefinitely by making books available as POD or e-books, according to recent rulings (when such a book is out of print, rights will revert to author)

Average advances today are between $1,000 and $5,000 for debut literary fiction as opposed to the $50-100,000 advances of the past. For commercial fiction: $15,000 or less. And publishing houses are beginning to shrink their lists, so it’s becoming more and more difficult to get picked up as a debut author.

One option is to take your chances with self-publishing and try to find ways to grow your own fan base. One unpublished author is serializing his new book, chapter by chapter on his website where, over the next ten weeks, it will build like a part-work. In the words of a friend, he’s “doing a Dickens.” And he’s making it available for free, betting that many readers won’t want to wait and will go ahead and download the entire book for less than the cost of a paperback. After that, it will go to Amazon, with an iPod version later. A second, already published, author, John Gorman, is serializing his new thriller to a WordPress site. On the site, his Mission Statement encourages people to contribute to the story. He won’t publish their words, but he might run with their character ideas and plot twists, so there’s a collective element to this novel.

For those who decide to self-publish, Publishers Weekly now puts out a quarterly supplement, called PW Select, that announces self-published titles for $149 and reviews for free those they feel are most deserving of a critical assessment. For more information, check www.publishersweekly.com/diy.

Personally, I went the self-publishing route for my first book and it’s seen very few sales, despite the awards, simply because it’s not out there enough. I won’t go that route again. I’d rather hone my craft and keep writing and querying until I get an agent. An agent will lead me to a publisher who can get my name out there. I’m hoping that a lot of these top authors who no longer need a big publisher will go the self-publishing route, thereby making room on publishers’ lists for more midlist and debut authors.

In my next posting on this topic, I’ll share the thoughts and experiences of some of those who have.

Originally posted 2010-11-15 11:04:47.

Publishing’s Paradigm Shift – Effect on Booksellers

Where do you buy most of your books now? Online at Amazon or other online bookstores? At big box stores like Costco? Barnes & Noble? Or are you a die-hard fan of the small, local independent bookstore where you’re on a first-name basis with the staff?

Bookstores have been a dying breed until now. So how will they be affected by the growing popularity of digitalized books? Here are some possible developments:

•Booksellers will begin adding Espresso Book Machines to stores

•Megastores may disappear and smaller, neighborhood stores could make a resurgence

•Booksellers will become more important as guides in book selection as newspapers continue to lose their book review sections

•There will be more and more niche bookstores

According to Publishers Weekly (April 16, 2010), “Lightning Source has launched an Espresso Book Machine pilot program, done in conjunction with On Demand Books, through which select publishers will be able to offer their customers the opportunity to print their titles on the Espresso machines located in bookstores…There are currently 37 EBMs in operation and 14 planned around the world. On Demand is releasing a new model of the machine which will print books faster—roughly four minutes for a 300-page book as opposed to eight minutes—and be offered at a lower price point.”

“The new bookstores may be book/coffee/tea shop hybrids, with a while-you-wait book printing facility, digital connections to facilitate e-book browsing and purchase, and staff who know and love the books they sell.” (Richard Day, publisher of Self-Councel press)

Check out the video below showing how the Espresso Book Machine works.

Originally posted 2010-11-04 13:59:14.

Publishing’s Paradigm Shift – Effect on Agents

I had listed the possible effects on literary agents as follows:

•Some, like Scott Waxman, will become e-book publishers, as well

•They will need to become well-versed on self-publishing options as fewer manuscripts get picked up by traditional publishers

•They will need to be able to envision e-book possibilities for their authors

•As their 15% gets less and less for more and more work, they’re looking at alternatives to make ends meet

Scott Waxman saw an opportunity for growth and started up Diversion Books, a straight eBook publisher for quality projects that can’t seem to find a home with traditional publishers. It’s a totally separate company, with different personnel, and Waxman Agency is not a shareholder. While he’s a co-founder, he’s not running it. Waxman says,

“Any author who has a project they think would fit, we’re happy to talk about it, but we’re not soliciting it.”

To make ends meet, some of the other options agents are beginning to consider are:

•Shifting their compensation from a contingency basis to billable hours (like lawyers)

•Charging for services now offered free

•Raising their commissions to 20%

Think of all that an agent now does—reads and responds to queries and manuscripts (30-50 queries a day), edits, submits books that never sell, etc. In a highly competitive environment, with shrinking advances (at the midlist level, anyway) and cautious publishers, it’s getting harder and harder to make a living. Some may begin charging for services like editing, lecture and tour arrangements, marketing, promotional activities, website management, and social networking.

Could you really blame them?

Originally posted 2010-11-01 11:29:52.

Writer’s Contest for LDS Women

For those of you who may be interested and fit the parameters:

Segullah: Writings by Latter-day Saint Women is pleased to announce its annual writing competitions in the genres of personal essay, poetry, and fiction. Segullah welcomes unpublished entries which address any subject in harmony with its mission: to publish insightful writings which explore life’s richness and complexity while reflecting faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Entrants must be female members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Entries will be judged by Segullah editors. Winners in each category will be awarded $100. Deadline is December 31, 2010. For more information, visit http://journal.segullah.org/contests/.

By the way, Segullah also puts on a terrific one-day writer’s conference each spring in the Salt Lake area. I attended last year and found the presentation on essays particularly enlightening.

Originally posted 2010-11-01 10:01:49.

Publishing’s Paradigm Shift – Effects on Publishers

Perhaps most anxious about all the brouhaha over e-books have been the publishers. Traditional publishers are worried, perhaps even afraid of all the change, while self-publishing companies (including POD, or print on demand companies) have visions of greater revenues. In any case, I see the main effects as follows:

  • The more adaptable traditional publishers will survive and even thrive after a few bumps in the road
  • There will be more specialized publishers aimed at niches
  • There will be more and more self-publishing
  • Cost of entry for future publishers will be minimal
  • Among the big publishing houses, there will be a devolution from complex, centralized management to semi-autonomous editorial units
  • 50% digital royalty rate may be inevitable
  • Despite all the change, the greatest value of traditional publishing will remain–the editorial process–ensuring their survival

In the latest self-publishing development, Barnes & Noble has now launched their own digital self-publishing platform called PubIt to compete with Amazon’s Create Space. (They’re also coming out with a color Nook to try and take down Amazon’s Kindle and compete more evenly with the iPad.)

As an example of the devolution that is beginning in traditional publishing, in early 2011 Simon & Schuster will reorganize into “small teams of editors, publicists, and marketing specialists.”

According to their new head, Jonathan Karp, each team, comprised of 2 editors, 2 publicists, and a marketing specialist, “will propose, develop, and execute their own publicity and marketing plans, from the moment of acquisition through paperback publication…”

“The chief objective is to create the publishing environment most conducive to focused concentration on our authors,” he continued. “Those who are present at the creation are more likely to bring a greater depth of understanding and experience to the publication of these books. Our authors will benefit from having a dedicated team working on their behalf early in the process.”

Such a development can only be good for writers, who, at times, have had to kowtow to unknowns in the large marketing or sales departments in order to get their books even approved, however lauded their work may be by the editors.

These were the main effects I could forecast from all I’ve read. If you foresee any others, please comment.

My next post will deal with the effects on agents.

Originally posted 2010-10-25 14:01:50.

Publishing’s Paradigm Shift – e-Books and e-Readers

Electronic readers, or eReaders, have been around for a while. I remember visiting a good friend six or seven years ago, whose husband was an avid fan. He pulled out two or three different kinds to show me. While I wasn’t that impressed at the time, he wisely predicted the day would soon come that the right platform and right device would eventually come along and tear down the wall that major publishing houses had built around themselves and all their readers.

Enter Amazon (the most popular platform of choice at present) and the Kindle. Soon after the Kindle, we got Barnes & Noble’s Nook, the Sony eReader, and then Apple’s iPad. Here are some statistics I shared at the retreat:

  • There are currently 49 different E-reading devices, including:
  1. –Kindle (Amazon)
  2. –iPad (Apple)
  3. –Nook (Barnes & Noble)
  4. –Kobo (Kobo Books)
  5. –Sony Reader (Sony)
  6. –? (Google)
  • Retailers will sell 6.6 million e-readers this year (3 million iPads have already been sold)
  • By year’s end, 20% of households will have an e-reader.

I put a question mark at #6 above, because a lot of rumors are flying around about Google coming out soon with its own device to hook up with its platform, Google Editions. A recent LA Times article by Carolyn Kellogg played up this point:

“…Google announced it would move forward with its e-bookstore Google Editions, filling it with books whose rights were not under dispute…As if Google Editions weren’t enough, Google has another big question mark looming this season: Will it launch an e-reader? It is well positioned to rival Amazon.com and Apple as a major purveyor of e-books—and if it follows their leads, it will pair content with device and launch its own e-reader. The most recent rumors say that Google will launch a tablet manufactured either by HTC or Motorola, based on either Chrome or Android. Everyone seems to agree that Verizon is the likely wireless partner.” (Carolyn Kellogg, “Fall Preview: Publishing,” LA Times, Sept. 12, 2010)

My friend’s husband was right. Now that we’re coming out with the right platforms and devices, electronic books are here to stay.

At first, regular readers weren’t so sure. The Kindle was priced kind of high when it first came out, but as others joined in the competition, prices began to drop. Here are some more statistics I shared about eReaders:

  • 10 average priced e-books will offset $139 cost of Kindle
  • 12 average priced e-books will offset $149 cost of Nook
  • 39 average priced e-books will offset $499 cost of iPad (which is a good bit more than just an e-reader)
  • $99 can buy you the 5-inch Libre at Borders

Do you have an e-reader? I do, through my iPhone (which has a Kindle app). And we’re not alone. It’s estimated that, by the end of this year, 10.3 million U.S. homes will have an e-reader, according to Forrester Research. Not only that, but book sales are increasing because e-reader owners buy more books. E-reader owners buy an average of 15 e-books per year (and two thirds of e-readers already owned are Kindles). According to a recently released Harris poll, those who have e-Readers do, in fact, read more.

Here’s how it breaks down: Forty percent of Americans read 11+ books a year. Of those, only nineteen percent read 21+ books a year. But among those with e-Readers, 56% read 11-20 books a year with 26% reading over 21 books a year. E-reader users are also more likely to buy books (good news for us authors). And 53% of those with e-Readers say they read more now than they did six months ago. (I know I do.)

So, how are e-books doing over all?

Sales of e-books are up 200% from last year, but still only represent 3-5% of total sales for publishers (I think this statistic has probably changed over the last month). Mike Shatzkin, a publishing consultant, estimates e-books could be 20% to 25% of total unit sales by the end of 2012. Carolyn Reidy, the chief executive of Simon & Schuster, said in an interview that e-books currently made up about 8% of the company’s book revenue. She predicted that it could be as high as 40% within three to five years. Others are predicting it could go even higher–50%–by 2013.

Are e-books a good thing for us, as authors? Definitely. I tend to agree with literary agent Alexandra Machinist:

“At the moment, anything that gets readers to buy more books is a good deal for writers. I’m of the opinion that e-books provide a vast landscape of impulse purchasing and middle-of-the-night, next-in-series buys that don’t exist with traditional paper books.”

Can we make money by making our books available electronically? Definitely, but the amount we make depends on how big our audience, or platform, is.

The late Swedish writer Stieg Larsson was the first writer to sell more than 1 million Kindle books. But his books kind of caught fire and he developed a huge fan base quickly.

Can your e-book outsell your traditionally published book? Yes, given the right buzz.

In its first five days, Laura Lippman’s thriller, “I’d Know You Anywhere,” sold 4,739 e-books and 4,000 physical hardcovers. “This is the first book of ours of any consequence that has sold more e-books than hardcovers in the first week,” said Frank Albanese, a senior vice president at HarperCollins. “What we’re seeing now is that if a book gets a good review, it gets a faster lift on the digital side than it does on the physical side because people who have e-readers can buy and read it immediately.”

Every serious writer today should definitely become familiar with digital publishing. We can’t afford not to.

In my next posting, I’ll be talking about the effects of this shift on Publishers.

Originally posted 2010-10-22 11:36:13.

Publishing’s Paradigm Shift-An Introduction

(Over the next several days, I’m going to share a presentation here on my website that I gave at a recent writers retreat on changes the publishing industry is currently experiencing. I am no expert. Far from it. However, I have done a lot of reading and researching and have pulled together a lot of information useful to writers as we look into the future of a business very much in flux.)

In 1962, Thomas Kuhn wrote The Structure of Scientific Revolution, in which he popularized the concept of “paradigm shift.”

What is a paradigm shift? Kuhn described it as a “series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions,” wherein “one conceptual world view is replaced by another.” It’s usually driven by agents of change. Think of the advent of Agriculture (the plow), the Copernican system (telescope), Newtonian physics (discovery of the law of gravity), the Reformation and Education (printing press)Then think of all that has come into being since the advent of the Internet.

In our own generation, we have witnessed (or are witnessing) three big paradigm shifts in terms of the arts–first with movies, then with records, and now with books.

Hollywood started out with big movie studios like Warner Brothers and Metro Goldwyn Mayer, many of which have devolved into many smaller independent producers, but the really big change for the industry came with TV. At first, they worried that television would mean the end of the movies, but the studios got smart and aligned themselves with TV and cable networks so that, by the time everything went digital, they were still in control, reaping the benefits of TV and producing feature films as well as DVDs of those films. Producers and studios are still in control, but the more movie-making becomes computerized and digitized, the closer movie makers will come to dealing directly with their fans through the Web and bypassing studios altogether. Think YouTube and beyond. Video stores are already no longer necessary. The movie business is undergoing a paradigm shift.

In the recording industry, for years we had records, and artists needed to be signed with major recording labels to get published, so to speak. The cassette tape only provided another way to package those recordings, but the real change came as music became digitized and Napster and then Apple (think iPod and iTunes) made it possible for artists to bypass the big record labels once they had their audience, marketing directly to their fans. There are no more record stores. The music industry has experienced a paradigm shift.

As with film and music, books are being similarly affected. The distance between the creator (i.e., the author) and his/her audience is shrinking through digitization. Bookstores are closing across the country. The publishing industry is undergoing a paradigm shift as we speak and all aspects of the business are being affected.

As Jason Epstein put it in a March 11, 2010 article entitled, “Publishing: The Revolutionary Future,”

“The transition within the book publishing industry from physical inventory stored in a warehouse and trucked to retailers to digital files stored in cyberspace and delivered almost anywhere on earth as quickly and cheaply as e-mail is now underway and irreversible. This historic shift will radically transform worldwide book publishing, the cultures it affects and on which it depends.”

Everyone who reads will be affected, but those whose jobs are most on the line are:

  • Publishers (both traditional and non-traditional) and their employees
  • Agents
  • Booksellers (independents, chains, and online) and their employees
  • Authors (both traditionally published and self-published)

What has proved to be the agent of change for publishing? I would argue that while Amazon.com has been to publishing what TV was to the movies, the real agent of change is the e-book.

More about the e-book and e-readers in my next posting.

Originally posted 2010-10-20 11:16:06.

One Last Bit About the Retreat

For those of you who are still not sure it’s worth your while or money to head up to the far northwest corner of Washington for a two-day writing retreat, here’s a list of all the classes and presentations packed in to those two days:

Thursday Evening:

“Joy in the Journey: The Road to Publication (Or Overcoming the Agony of Rejection)” by Janette Rallison

Friday:

“First Movies, Then Records, Now Books: Publishing’s Paradigm Shift and What It Means for Writers” by yours truly

“Finding Your Inner Matroyshka: The Six Stages of a Writer” by Liz Adair

“Cutting Off Your Baby’s Toes: Tips on Self-Editing” by Linda P. Adams

“Query Letters–Your Next Big Challenge” by Terry Deighton

“If I Can Do It, So Can You: My Experience in Self-Publishing” by Victoria Boothe

“The View From the Checkout Stand, A Bookstore Owner’s POV” by Chrisy Cope

“Ho-hum to Hilarious, How to Put Humor Into Your Writing” by Jane Still

“The Why and How of Blogging” by Monique Leutkemeyer

“Noah’s Story Arc: Building a Watertight Plot” by Christine Thackeray

“Fabulous Free Verse: Unleash Your Poetic Self” by Lara Niedermeyer

“Writing in Spite of Family and the Universe: Organize Yourself to Write” by Kersten Campbell

“See It/Hear It: Writing Believable Dialogue” by yours truly

“Careening Down the Road to Publication: What I’ve Learned on My Journey” by Ann Acton

“Screenwriting 101: Basics for Beginners” by Christine Thackeray

“How Can We Serve? Devising Literacy Programs for Presentation to Local Relief Societies” by Liz Adair

“How to Relive High School Forever: Writing for the YA Audience” by Janette Rallison

Saturday AM:

“Escaping From the Slush Pile” by Janette Rallison

Now, obviously, everyone couldn’t attend every class, so you had to pick and choose…but there was definitely something for everyone. And I haven’t even mentioned Terry’s Grammar Quickies, the terrific Get Acquainted activities by Marylou Bailey, the morning and evening yoga stretches led by Lara Nedermeyer, the singing led by Bonnie Harris (who’s due to give birth in about a week, by the way), the Critique Group led by Wendy Jones (who also took the awesome group photo below), the plotting and writing exercises, and the concluding meeting where we got to share how we felt about the whole experience.

It really was like Girls Camp…only for writers! Think about coming next year.

Originally posted 2010-10-15 10:04:47.

The Great Northwest (Writers Retreat)

I’m still re-acclimating to regular life five days after returning home from a terrific, writerly get-away up near Deception Pass in the northwest corner of our beautiful state. I wish I had taken more pictures but, truthfully, I was too uptight to take in the scenery much until the last day when I no longer had to worry about presentations. Still, here’s a view from the main lodge’s balcony:

I was the first to arrive out of 32 women–all LDS writers who belong (or may soon belong) to ANWA (American Night Writers Association). We feasted on two days worth of classes, workshops, and presentations–particularly those of visiting YA author, Janette Rallison–arranged by Liz Adair and her local Round Tuit ANWA chapter…and some terrific food arranged by Ann Acton.

A big thanks goes out to Terry Deighton for the location (Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory). It seemed more like a first-class lodging facility than a science lab. I believe everyone was in agreement–we want to come back next year! Everything–the accommodations, the food, the presentations, even the spirit of the event–was like Girl’s Camp for Writers…only with nice comfortable beds and showers! And the facility can accommodate many more. So if you’re an LDS woman who writes, mark your calendars now for the weekend after General Conference in October, 2011.

As for my presentations, I plan on sharing bits and pieces of “Publishing’s Paradigm Shift” here on my website over the next several days. I’m going to post my other presentation (“See It/Hear It: Writing Believable Dialogue”) in several parts over on my blog.

Originally posted 2010-10-14 12:57:46.