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Even Major Authors Experimenting With Bargain E-Books

Crime writer George Pelecanos’s latest book is going on sale today for a dollar.

If Pelecanos was a self-published author like Amanda Hocking that would make plenty of sense. But this is George Pelecanos, author of (by our count) 18 books and producer for two seasons of The Wire.

So why is his latest e-book a buck?

“Our goal is to increase George’s audience,” Reagan Arthur, editorial director of Reagan Arthur Books, an imprint of Lagardere SCA’s Hachette Book Group, told the WSJ. “We’re saying, if you’re curious about his work, why wait?”

Pelecanos stands to make 17 cents for each copy of “What It Was.” Even if 100,000 people purchase this book (and according to the WSJ, his previous best-selling novel sold 29,000 copies), he won’t make money, he told the WSJ. “But the assumption is that if the majority like the book we’ve brought them into the tent. Hopefully, that will trigger sales in my library.”

This is a fast crime novel, sexy and violent, and perfect for this kind of promotion,” he said.

We hope this strategy works out for Mr. Pelecanos. We also hope it doesn’t become a required strategy, because soon a lot more authors will be struggling for money if they only get 17 cents per copy sold.

What Editors Want In 2012….Mostly The Same That They Wanted In 2011

Train-graffiti
Two passions, one picture!



UK-based Andrew Lownie Literary Agency asked 20 editors on both sides of the pond what they’d be seeking in 2012.

The answers should be illuminating to authors….

A commissioning editor at UK publisher Summersdale is seeking true crime, travel, gardening and pets books, especially from “extremely talented and committed non-fiction authors who already have a following for their work and know how to promote themselves without having unrealistic expectations.” Oh, hey, that’s easy.

More helpful is the editor at Penguin Press who says she’s “looking for authors who want to write about their passion – however unconventional – whether it’s for weathervanes, bridge or graffitti.” And if you’re obsessed with trains and can write well, you’ve got an insta-sale. No, really.

And in possibly the least helpful comment from an editor, ever, one says she is looking for “ideas or stories with a strong, interesting narrative structure.”

So, the same as in 2011, then. Or 2010.

But we’re fairly sure nobody has asked for a book from a railfan until this year.

Former University of Chicago Press Director Morris Philipson Has Died

Morris Philipson was director of the University of Chicago Press from 1967 to 2000, a long and noble career.

Last week he died of a heart attack at age 85.

Philipson was responsible during his tenure for introducing innovations that transformed academic publishing, “once almost exclusively the domain of important but arcane scholarly works,” and in the process turning University of Chicago Press into one of the most important academic presses in the country.

He published the first work of fiction in the publishing house’s history, which ended up being “A River Runs Through It,” a book that became “a perennial money-maker” for the press.

Through this and other more “consumer-friendly” works he was able to finance the expensive, academic, money-losing ventures.

According to the New York Times, Philipson famously once said: “The commercial publisher says of his book, ‘This is no good, but it’ll make a lot of money.’ The university publisher says, ‘This is good and it won’t make money.’ ”

He added, “Suppose an important book sells only 100 or 200 copies a year? Doesn’t it deserve to live? We think so.”

Agency CEO’s Book PR Stunt Makes Example Of Borders

We don’t know whether to laugh or cry or both….Aaron Shapiro, CEO of digital agency HUGE, needed to promote his new book, Users Not Customers, about companies transitioning to digital.

So he hired laid-off Borders employees—Borders being a perfect cautionary tale for what not to do, he says.

Adweek picked up on photos of ex-Borders employees selling hard copies of his books from kiosks distributed around New York. He also purchased a billboard that read in part:

So to recap: The book argues that a brick and mortar bookstore should have embraced the digital world, which is why its laid-off employees are selling a physical book from a physical location while advertising the fact that they used to work at a failed company that failed because it didn’t embrace the digital world?

Even though this strategy is making our heads explode, it appears to be working—and the Borders employees are probably not complaining.

Newly Launched BookRiot Seeks ‘Creator Of Awesomeness’

PaidContent tipped us off to a new site that targets people between the ages of 18-34 who read books. (They still exist!)

It’s not about the business of books—instead, it’s meant to help hip readers figure out what to read next and to discuss their favorite works of literature.

“We want it to be a Jezebel, TechCrunch, Valleywag type of site,” newly hired executive editor Bethanne Patrick told PaidContent.

The best part? They’re hiring.

Position one: a “Creator of Awesomeness” (aka staff writer).

We’re looking for someone to write for Book Riot full-time, posting 3-4 times per day on a variety of book-related topics. To do this job well, you not only need to be a voracious reader, but a wide-ranging one; we want someone who can write about more than just a couple of genres. A working knowledge of WordPress, Photoshop, and social media platforms (Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, etc) are also important to us. Our ideal candidate will already have an active blog that, at least part-time, is bookish.

To apply, send email to bookriot (at) bookriot (dot) com. Put the job title in the subject line. Include your LinkedIn profile or resume, and URL for your bookish blog.

We will contact you if we are interested in speaking further.

You can also apply to be BookRiot’s “Riot Emcee” (aka community manager), but a big Klout score isn’t going to be the only qualification here. To do this job right, the ad says, “you should be able to answer at least a $300 Jeopardy question about literature.” So brush up on your reading and apply for either of these jobs here.

Amazon, Authors Team Up For Big Money. Where Does That Leave Everyone Else?

Book collection
Amazon is going to publish over one hundred books this fall. Over one hundred.

They’ll be a direct link from author to publisher/bookseller. Nothing in between.

As Amazon exec Russell Grandinetti told the New York Times, “The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader. Everyone who stands between those two has both risk and opportunity.”

Risk, because if a writer can reach readers without going through a publisher—a publisher which employs editors, copyeditors, production workers, and more—why is the writer going to bother with an editor?

Opportunity, because books still need editors. (Sorry, all you people who think you’re fantastic writers, you still need editors. Sorry, all you famous people who think you’re too famous for an editor, you still need editors.) Books can still benefit from a careful copyedit and these services that these professionals provide is still valuable.

Soon, however, publishers may not be the ones paying for them. So, authors: How are you going to finance a good editor? Editors, how will you be marketing your services? That’s the question for the ages.

Publishing Begins Rebound?



Book sales in 2010 were 5.6 percent higher than they were in 2008, a new survey says.

Publishers sold 2.57 billion books in all formats in 2010.

“We’re seeing a resurgence, and we’re seeing it across all markets — trade, academic, professional,” Tina Jordan, the vice president of the Association of American Publishers, told the NY Times.

Growth has been good in higher ed, kids/YA books, and ebooks–which went from making up just .6 percent of the trade market in 2008 to 6.4 percent in 2010; in other words, ebooks have grown their market share by more than a factor of ten.

However, it ain’t all roses. Sales of mass-market paperbacks fell 16 percent since 2008 and sales of adult hardcovers and paperbacks were relatively flat. The survey looked at not just trade books but K-12 textbooks, higher education, professional, and scholarly books—those four categories did grow, but they’re not the type of book you’re as likely to see on the shelf at Barnes & Noble.

So this not necessarily good news for the aspiring mass-market, printed book author. But if you’re willing to consider digital (and why shouldn’t you at this stage) the future may be bright.

NYT Journos To Hold Quora ‘Office Hours’

In what may be the best use of q&a site Quora thus far, three New York Times reporters will be holding question and answer sessions on the site to talk about their new books (which Bill Keller tongue-in-cheekily wishes his employees would stop writing).

The first will be tomorrow, when Diana B. Henriques answers questions about Wizard of Lies, her book about Bernie Madoff.

Gretchen Morgenson and Adam Bryant will follow on July 26 and August 2, respectively.

According to Times digital initiatives boss Jim Schachter, Diana is already addressing Madoff-related questions that have already been posted to the site. Sadly, this doesn’t yet appear to be true (hey, managing daily deadlines and mucking around on Quora takes time) but we’ll keep an eye out.

NYT Executive Editor Bill Keller Had Two Book Contracts, Finished Neither

If I Had Something to Say

Writing a book is not the same as writing for a daily paper. It exercises completely different “muscles” in your brain (we hear) and takes a lot longer.

That may be why Bill Keller is still paying back an advance to Simon and Schuster for a book he never completed.

He never completed two, actually, he says in Sunday’s magazine.

In 2002, the NYT published an essay by writer Joseph Epstein that cited a survey saying 81 percent of Americans “feel they have a book in them.” Don’t believe it, Epstein said. “Why should so many people think they can write a book, especially at a time when so many people who actually do write books turn out not really to have a book in them — or at least not one that many other people can be made to care about?”

That apparently includes Keller. Editors are only human, after all.

The Lit Agent Of The Future Is Also A Self-Publishing Consultant

Some agents are turning to consulting, acting as expert advisors for writers who might not have been able to get a traditional book deal (and it seems like only celebrities and people with hilarious tumblrs are getting book deals these days).

PBS Mediashift talked to three agents who are making the transition:

Ted Weinstein, an agent who reps mostly nonfiction, said that self-publishing “has added one more serious option for my clients when we are looking at all their possible opportunities.” He said that “big publishing” has never been set up to publish anything but books, but authors have always had to turn supplemental material into articles (to promote the book), create worksheets (to promote the book), etc…self-publishing allows all that stuff to be “published” along with the book.

Laurie McLean is “incorporating self-publishing into every one of my clients’ career plans for backlist titles, experimental fiction, shorter works, and more,” and helps her clients learn to do their own social media and marketing.

Laura Rennert is an agent with Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and she’s started a program where the agency will actually act as the publisher. They handle formatting, conversion, cover design, jacket copy, editing and proofreading. Unlike a self-publishing company, the agency doesn’t charge fees other than the 15 percent commission after recouping costs.

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