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Kindle Singles Represent Legit Revenue Stream

So how much do Kindle Single authors really make? Even if you’re not a big-name writer, the money from joining the Kindle Single program can be significant.

As a reminder, the Kindle Single program requires authors to submit a pitch and wait for it to be accepted (in contrast to Amazon’s Kindle Direct program where authors can upload almost anything and make it available for sale). Sometimes Amazon pays an advance for a Kindle Single, sometimes it pays just royalties. The program has sold more than 2 million singles, with Amazon’s take reportedly around $1 million.

PaidContent recently interviewed a dozen authors about their sales figures.

Mishka Shubaly was approached by Amazon Kindle Single editor David Blum, who asked Shubaly to write something.

“I said, ‘Dave, this is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. I don’t know anybody who owns a nerd pad, and there’s all this free stuff out there so nobody’s going to buy anything, and if they buy anything, why would they buy my stuff? And I’m sober now, I don’t have any more stories.’

He said, ‘Don’t you have ONE more story?’ and I said, ‘Well, I did get shipwrecked that one time.’”

That story sold 20,000 copies. Shubaly, a musician who was working part-time in a bar, took his first royalty check to the bar and said he quit. “He was like why, and I was like ‘Look at this check, man,’ and he said, ‘I’d quit too.’”

Oliver Broudy, former managing editor of The Paris Review, has written two Kindle Singles and even though Amazon took a loss on the second, they’ve signed him up to write a third. “They’re trying to develop an editorial brand here, and this is the price they’re willing to pay, much as they’re willing to take a loss on e-books because they want to sell Kindles. There’s definitely a literary culture within the Kindle Singles program, and that’s a very good thing.”

The actual sales for authors varies wildly–Shubaly’s royalties have topped six figures while author Will Bunch is estimated to have made more like $8,000–but that’s still not something to sneeze at. Won’t pay the mortgage all year but as an extra revenue stream (and one that will continue to see sales every now and then), yeah. Not bad.

‘Book As Badge’ Means More Opportunities For Ghostwriters

Everyone needs a book of their own these days to be considered a thought leader, and everybody wants to be a thought leader.

That’s where ghostwriting comes in.

PaidContent reports that the ghostwriting industry is booming. One consultant launched Gotham Ghostwriters in 2008 as a “one-stop shop for executives, consultants and others looking for a book to burnish their reputation.” Last year, the company took in $700,000 of revenue on 11 book projects and seven book proposals.

The company takes a 15% cut on each contract and helps its freelance authors navigate the business side of ghostwriting. It is currently seeking an intern.

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

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.