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E-book numbers, Borders & other random thoughts

For those of you who haven’t discovered Shelf Awareness yet, I highly recommend it.  Their daily e-mails offer a great look into the world of publishing on all levels, from the writer to the publisher to the bookseller.  In my mind, this is a resource everyone involved in, or interested in, the industry should follow.

Today’s issue is a case in point.  One of the articles concerns USA Today’s best sellers list. Specifically, in the list to be published Thursday, digital sales of six of the top ten titles were higher than hard copy sales.  Of the top 50 titles, 19 of them had higher digital than hard copy sales.  According to USA Today, “It’s the first time the top-50 list has had more than two titles in which the e-version outsold print.”

What can we infer from this?  Well, the first is that a lot of folks found e-readers of one flavor or another under their trees this Christmas.  New e-readers means increased digital sales.  Add to that the latest report showing that 40% of iPad owners also own a kindle and that more iPad owners plan to buy a kindle in the upcoming months and you can see there is still a market for dedicated e-book readers.

The second thing we can conclude is that no matter how hard major publishers try to deny it or postpone the inevitable, e-books are here to stay.  Whether it is the convenience of being able to carry around hundreds or even thousands of e-books on a single small device or the fact that so many people are like me and running out of room at home for physical books, more and more people are adapting to this new technology.

And that brings us to the next bit of news and all those who will shout from the rooftops that this situation has been brought on in large by the advent of e-books.  In the last few days, Borders has been purging its executive level.  It started with the firings of Thomas Carney, their legal counsel, and Scott Laverty, chief information officer.  Tony Grant and Larry Norton, the vice president of real estate and the senior vice president for business development and publisher relations respectively, have also been let go.

Add to that a report from the Wall Street Journal that Borders has “stopped writing checks to key suppliers” and will be asking suppliers to allow them to push back payment dates as they work out a refinancing plan and, well, you have a recipe for disaster.  Consider also that in this same article it is noted that Borders canceled payment on a check for books shipped to it by an unnamed publishing company in October.  Folks, this doesn’t look good for Borders and really makes laughable the word that came out a week or so ago that Borders might actually try to buy Barnes & Noble.

In this article from DealB%k, it is reported that Borders has begun discussions with publishers seeking to delay payments.  This is necessary if they want to be able to restructure their loans from various financial institutions.  Without enough publishers agreeing, it is most likely the banks won’t agree to restructure or refinance.

From the same article:  “Several publishers said Borders owed them millions of dollars in payments, up to tens of millions each for the larger publishers. Publishers said they had been told by Borders executives that more than two dozen vendors were owed money.”

Also in the same article, a spokesperson for Borders said they expected the publishers to offer the “same terms” to the other booksellers.  Now, maybe I’m wrong, but isn’t that basically telling the publishers to take another hit, one they can’t afford right now?  Sorry, but if a company is on shaky financial ground, it shouldn’t be the one to dictate terms to its lenders or suppliers.  Those lenders and suppliers should be able to reasonably protect their investments.

Now, is this a case of e-books bringing down a major bookseller?  No.  E-books are but one of the myriad of causes behind what looks to be the inevitable collapse of Borders as we know it now.  Mismanagement, over-expansion, and no longer demanding that their employees be customer oriented or knowledgeable about the product also had a hand in Borders’ decline.

I love going to bookstores and browsing.  When my son was in high school, there as a Borders directly across the street.  I’d go there and sit in the coffee shop and read or write.  I’d look through the stacks and buy books or magazines.  I did this even though I was already reading e-books.

But things changed at that store as things changed in the company.  The floor plan was changed, taking away not only a lot of the music they’d been selling but also — and more importantly — the books.  Unless a book was a “best seller”, it either never made it to the store or only remained on the shelf for a few days before being pulled for something.  The staff started having high turnover until it reached a point where I asked them to order a book for me and 1) they couldn’t find it in their computer, 2) they’d never heard of the publisher and it was a major publisher and 3) they’d never heard of the distributor.  So, no book ordered and, when this repeated several more times, a customer was lost.

Bookstores are necessary, in my opinion.  But I think we’re going to see a return to the specialty stores and smaller stores.  The big box stores just aren’t going to be the norm in the future.  I may be wrong, but I don’t think so.  Most of all, bookstores need to sell BOOKS and they need to be staffed by employees who read and can converse with their customers about a wide range of books.  They at least need to know their stock.

At least that’s my opinion.  Any thoughts?

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Happy New Year!

I wanted to pop in for a moment to wish everyone a Happy New Year.   To kick things off here at NRP, later today we’ll be offering the e-arc of Dave Freer’s novella Without a Trace.  In this YA offering, a boy’s search for his grandfather’s crashed plane leads to a parallel South Africa with pirates and worse.  His quest to clear his grandfather’s name turns into a desperate race against time to return to his own reality with his injured grandfather.

We’ll post here and on our homepage later this afternoon when the e-arc goes live.

Also, to help kick off the New Year, starting tomorrow, we’ll be offering some of our titles for free.  These free downloads will be announced the night before (CST time) and will be available for one day only.  Specific dates and times will be listed in each announcement.  You’ll have to follow the links in the blog for the freebies.

Don’t forget that our submission period is now open.  We’re accepting submissions for short and long fiction of all genres until 2359 EST January 31st.   If you have any questions, leave a comment or send us an email to submissions at nakedreader dot com (you know how to fix it to work.  Just trying, probably in vain, to beat the spambots)

Remember, check back this afternoon for the announcement that Dave’s e-arc has gone live and for an announcement about our first freebie offering of the month.

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If it’s Saturday…

I should be repairing the ceiling in the garage.  But, as you can see, I’m not.  Instead, I’ve been reviewing a couple of contracts — announcements soon — and reading slush — more announcements soon — and pondering the holiday season.

Like a lot of folks, I hate to shop.  It isn’t that I don’t like to give.  I do.  But I don’t like crowds.  So I do my best to avoid malls, especially this time of year.  This is when the internet can be my friend.  I say “can” because a lot of it depends on how reliable the product information and shipping times happen to be when you purchase online.   Then there’s the whole thing of making sure someone is home to accept the packages when they’re delivered, etc.  Now, if only I could find a way to have everything gift wrapped, without having to pay more for it….oh well, that, too, will happen one day.

Over at Mad Genius Club today, I posted links and cover images to some of the books and short story collections the other mad ones have for sale.   Three of them — Dave Freer, Sarah A. Hoyt and Kate Paulk — already have titles out with NRP.  A fourth, Chris McMahon — a wonderful Australian author — will have a short story in our upcoming Angels and Demons themed anthology, due out later this month.  Hopefully, in the not too distant future, we’ll have something to offer from Rowena Cory Daniells as well.

What I’d like you to consider, if you have books — or e-books — to purchase for friends or loved ones this holiday season, is buying something from one of these wonderful authors.  Dragon’s Ring by Dave Freer is probably the best fantasy I read this year, and that’s saying a lot.  Darkship Thieves is the best space opera I’ve read in a long time.  Both definitely make my top ten list in books I’ve read this year.  Rowena’s King Rolen’s Kin trilogy is in my tbr pile as are Chris’ books.  (See the MGC post for links to all their books I mentioned today.)

Give the gift of a book, or an e-book, to someone you care about.  Share an author you love.

 

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Latest Industry Numbers

The AAP (Association of American Publishers) has released the sales figures for October.  I predict there are going to be some very unhappy bean counters sitting in their offices today trying to figure out what’s going on.  Or maybe not.  Maybe they will stick their heads in the sand, their fingers in their ears and do their best to ignore the trends, hoping the holiday season will save them.  The trouble with that is it might be a short term solution, but it won’t cure what ails the industry.  The only things that will are for the publishers to start accepting the fact that e-books are here to stay and their business models need to be adapted to reflect it AND they have to quit trying to drive the market with novels they think are socially relevant and give readers novels that entertain.

Don’t get me wrong.  There is a place for literature and “socially relevant” fiction.  But it hasn’t been and, I think, will never be the money-maker they want it to be.  There’s nothing wrong with fiction having a message, as long as you don’t hit the reader over the head with that message over and over again until they black out.  Most people read for entertainment — the same reason they watch movies or TV.  That is something we, as publishers, have to remember.

Any way, for the figures.  October wasn’t a good month for most segments of the publishing industry.  Only four areas showed an increase in sales over those reported a year ago.  Higher education books were up 12% over Oct. 2009.  Children’s and YA hardcover books were up 13.9%.  Downloaded audiobooks were up 20.7% and e-books were up a whopping 112.4% over October 2009.

For the year-to-date figures, things don’t look much better.  K-12 (kindergarten to high school) books are up 3.8% over the Jan – Oct figures for 2009.  Higher education is up 10.6%, professional books up 8.4%, university press paperbacks up 4.1%, university press hard covers up 1.9%, downloaded audiobooks up 38.6% and e-books up 171.3%.  Adult paperbacks were down for October but show no change for the month-to-date.  Every other category has fallen.

What is really interesting, at least to me, is to see the progression of e-book sales since 2002. The following is the graph AAP included in this month’s report:

I know it’s small but, basically, the figures from 2007 to present are what are the most telling.  In 2007, as e-book readers were beginning to hit the market, e-books represented 0.58% of the total sales figures for the year.  That increased in 2008 to 1.19%.  This corresponds to the release of the first generation of the Kindle in November 2007.  in 2009, e-books sales increased to 3.37% of total sales and, in the first 10 months of this year, e-book sales represent 8.7% of sales.

Digital downloads, whether of e-books or audiobooks, are here to stay.  What is up in the air is how the major publishers adapt.  If they continue forcing DRM onto their e-books and not listening to what readers want, it won’t stem the tide.  At least not for long.  What it will do is continue cutting into their profits and the livelihoods of their authors. Here’s hoping a happy medium is found soon, for everyone’s sake.

 

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Wednesday Morning

Thanksgiving is almost here and, like so many folks, I’m facing — and dreading — that last minute run to the grocery store later today to make sure I have everything needed for the big Thanksgiving dinner.  Of course, because of family scheduling conflicts, dinner will actually be lunch on Friday.  Not that it means I can postpone the trip to the store… Oh no.  Have to brave the crowds today to do food shopping in case I have to brave the crowds Friday for Black Friday sales.

And, yes, that scream you heard was me.  I hate, absolutely HATE, shopping of any sort.  Add crowds to the equation and, well, I’m sure you get the picture.  Thank goodness most of the sales also have online equivalents.  Still, you know there will be that one item my retired mother will want me to go out to get for her and, dutiful daughter — okay, quit laughing — that I am, I’ll go, grumbling and clutching my mug of coffee like a lifeline.

Any way, if you check out the site today, you’ll see that Darwin Garrison’s latest Animanga Viewpoint is up.  You can see what he has to say about Raiders by JinJun Park here.  Go take a look and let him know what your thoughts are.

Also, don’t forget that Dave Freer’s collection of short stories, A Goth Sex-Kitten & Other Stories, is now available for sale.  You can find it  on our site or at Barnes & Noble.  As soon as it goes live on Amazon and smashwords, we’ll let you know.

Enjoy your holiday.  Be safe and have fun.  Oh, and check back on Friday.  I have a feeling you might find a few “Black Friday” sales here as well.

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Goth Sex-Kitten

and other stories.

Okay, admit it.  The title of the post caught your attention.  Think of how I felt when I saw that in the subject line of an email first thing one morning.  Now, imagine it happening pre-coffee.  Yes, I did do a double-take, especially since the sender of the e-mail was Dave Freer.

Now, there are a couple of thinks Dave’s known for.  The first is his wonderful writing.  He’s a wonderful writer of fantasy and sf.  A lot of his work reminds me of Terry Pratchett.

He also has a wicked sense of humor when he wants.

So, yes, I was a little leery when I opened the email.  I was also very surprised and did a fan girl squee to see that the subject line referred to one of his short stories.

That short story is now the lead in a collection of six stories by Dave that we’ll be bringing out later today.  The collection will be available in our store tomorrow, when the store comes back online.  It will be available over the next few days at Amazon, B&N and Smashwords.

But, for now, I thought I’d give you a taste of what he has in store for you. . . .

The Goth Sex-Kitten

Standing inside its pentacle of finely powdered bone-dust, the alembic quivered and shook on its stand.”Concentrate, famulus, for Zorathsyrtus sake!” cursed the master. “Keep that flame steady or I’ll turn you into a privy in a camp full of puke-drunk Joringian mercenaries.”

Tom concentrated. That was enough of a dire — and possibly real — threat to focus his mind remarkably, turning it away from thoughts inspired by his secretive perusal of one of the volumes on the master’s locked shelf. The one with the well-thumbed color illustrations. Tom retained little of his origins, except for a certain fastidiousness, some vanity and a tail, but he knew what he had been, and he knew what he had no fancy to be.

It was all very well for Master Hargarthius. The master magician was as wrinkled as a dragon’s hide after a long hibernation, and was even older than the cheese that lurked at the back of the third pantry cupboard. Marcencius, who had been the master’s previous famulus from before Tom was born, said it had been there a century or so, and he was not to go too close to it, or the cheese would have the flesh off Tom’s hands at the very least… If he was lucky, which, as Marcenius pointed out, he wasn’t. It was a cheese that ate mice. . . .

Rob

The churn of the ocean boiled foam for the gale to pick and fling landward. The spume gobbets swirled up the cliff, as great seas ate into the narrow cove across the grinding cobbles.

The storm had left a grey dawn, hazed with rain-squalls and tatters of racing cloud. It was hard to see clearly from the cliff-top, but they could still make out the straight black lines of masts and spars above the angry water that pounded the reef. The two men standing there, braced against the wind, stared at the wreck. “There’s never a man that got off her alive, Bart,” said the shorter of the two, giving an involuntary shiver.

The other, a broad, tall and solid pylon of a man, nodded. “Aye, William-lad. You’d be right about that. It’d take a seal to swim out of there. But the bodies’ll come in the tide. We’d best get down there before anyone else does.”

It was grim work picking through the sodden clothing of the bodies washed ashore, but the rewards could be great, for poor men. And it was fitting that they’d get something for the labour of hauling the corpses to the churchyard. . . .

There are four other stories included as well.  Check them out tomorrow when the collection goes on sale!

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Back to Work — Sort Of

This past week has been the week from Hell in a lot of ways.  As my last post noted, a dear cousin passed away.  Add to that my son having his first wreck — and totaling his truck — and, well, you get an idea of what my life’s been like.  Add in the 350 mile drive each way to attend my cousin’s funeral (which was held on the anniversary of my dad’s death — not that her family realized it when they planned the service).  So today I’m trying to play catch up, at least some, even as my brain and body are begging to go back to bed.

First off, for some business matters.  The website store will be back up either tomorrow or Tuesday.  Probably Tuesday.  I’ll announce it as soon as it’s live again.

Also, Dave Freer’s collection of short stories — The Goth Sex Kitten and Other Stories — will be available for purchase when the store goes live.  It will take a couple of days for it to show up on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  We are now publishing directly through BN, just as we are Amazon.  Of course, you can still find us on Smashwords and through their affiliates as well.  Naturally, all our books and short stories are available through our site as well.

Okay, a couple of items of interest.  The review process for Amazon has come under fire again, specifically because people can rate books — and ebooks — without reading them and that their ratings can be based on anything.  The issue has been around for a long time but has been gaining notoriety after the agency model pricing of e-books came into being.  What is happening now is that a number of folks are giving 1-star reviews to e-books when they cost as much, or more, than the hard cover books.  This happens almost exclusively to e-books published by those houses under the agency model.  The hard cover prices can still be discounted by Amazon and are.  However, the publisher sets the price for the e-book.  This often means there is little or no difference between the cost of the digital copy and the cost of the hard copy.

What some people see as the crux of the matter is that Amazon allows customers to post reviews whether they’ve read the book or not.  As with other on-line retailers, all you have to do to post a review on Amazon is have an account with them.

I understand the concern over these negative reviews.  But to require Amazon to police the reviews so that only someone who has read a book can post would mean they would have to buy the book from Amazon.  That would prevent someone who borrowed it from the library, or who purchased it elsewhere, or who received it as a gift from ever posting a review.  That’s not the way to do it.

In my opinion, what Amazon needs to do is simply add another section to their reviews.  Rate the book for content and quality and then rate the book for pricing.  Most folks who give negative reviews for books due to their cost, say so in the body of the review.  That leads me to believe they would be honest and simply mark the cost/value portion of the review if they were offered that option.

But let’s face it, these reviews are anything but reliable.  If you follow any of the e-book boards, you will have seen instance after instance where authors (or their friends or family) have created multiple accounts to post glowing reviews for their loved one’s book.  This isn’t something unique to just Amazon.  So, if you are relying on the reviews by customers, you need to take them with a grain of salt.  Or at least you need to look at what else that reviewer has rated.  Often, you will find that they have never reviewed anything else.

In the meantime, remember that the review you give can and will impact an author’s sales.  So, until there is a way to show up front that you are marking the book down because of price, limit your review to what you liked or didn’t like about the contents of the book, not just the price.  Oh, and let the publishers know if you think the price is out of line.

Going hand-in-hand with the above is this article from the NY Times.  With the availability to look at, touch and play with e-book readers in such places as Walmart and Target this holiday season, there is the potential for the e-book market to really soar.  Will this be the tipping point?  I don’t know.  But it will be one giant step toward it, in my opinion.  With the explosive growth of e-books sales over the last couple of years, the lower prices for e-book readers, the wide availability of PC/Mac versions of the kindle/nook/sony/kobo, etc., programs so you can read on your computer, laptop or cellphone, e-books are no longer only for the technically inclined.  It is going to be interesting to see how the figures pan out over the next few months.

Finally, for the writers out there.  I recommend you take a look at this entry from Lucienne Diver’s blog.  Not only is she an agent with the Knight Agency, but she’s a wonderful author in her own right.  (Vamped and ReVamped)  Earlier this month, she had a post that really hit home with the writer side of me:

I suppose that the long and short of what I took away from this is that publication has never been easy…not the path to it or the continuation of the journey.  It’s never been painless.  No artist of any stripe has ever been universally loved or acclaimed.  In order to reach out and grab readers by the throat, authors have to be able to throw open the doors and windows to the soul.  Unfortunately, in letting their creativity out, those open doors allow for stiff, bracing and sometimes stormy winds to sweep through as well.  To me it’s a comfort that the literary greats went through the same vicissitudes we do today.  They survived.  Their names have gone down in history and, perhaps more importantly to them as writers, their works have remained in print.  We read them today, often thinking that they must have been aware of their own genius and been gratified by their success, while the truth is that authors do not sit back content with the accomplishment of their last release, but are constantly struggling with the new and wondering whether they’ll be able to live up to or exceed expectations.  I’m not sure whether there’s an actual saying that you’re only as good as your latest novel, but I do know that that’s how all writers feel.

So, for those of you battling toward attainment of your dreams, whether they be of initial or continued publication, take comfort in the shared pain and find compatriots with whom to celebrate your triumphs.  Appreciate them when they come and pull out the memories of them to get you through the hard times.

And, with that in mind, I leave you to the rest of the weekend.

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