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Interviews

Publishing 10 Years from Now According to Smashwords’ Mark Coker

Jeff smashwordspic.jpgRivera at our sibling blog GalleyCat has been talking to industry insiders about what they think publishing will look like ten years from now. Today, he got some predictions from Mark Coker of Smashwords, who offers a decidedly eBook-centric view of the future of publishing.

Here are a few of his most compelling predictions. Click over to GalleyCat for the rest:

- 95% of all reading will be on screens
- Most authors will be indie authors
- If the big six NY book publishers (the fat head) today publish 50% of what’s sold, and the long tail of thousands of indie publishers comprise the rest, then 10 years from now the fat head will shrink to 10% and the long tail will get both taller and longer.
- 10 years from now, we will all be authors, publishers and booksellers
- For those who still call books ebooks, it’ll be spelled “ebook,” not E-Book or e-book. Who today still calls email E-Mail?

That notion of almost all reading being on screens is either especially alarming or especially exciting. What do you think about it?

Ed Nawotka on eBooks and THE ENTIRE WORLD

Amidst the ednaw23.jpgflurry of the eBook Summit, neither GalleyCat nor eBookNewser reported on a very relevant guest on MediaBistro’s Morning Media Menu. Yesterday, GalleyCat’s Jason Boog talked to Ed Nawotka, editor of Publishing Perspectives, a journal affiliated with the Frankfurt Book Fair tasked with covering the publishing business from a global vantage point.

Nawotka and Boog talked about the issue of the week–eBooks. Nawotka weighed in on how global rights might be handled, and on whether international social network sights are likely to catch on in the US, among other things. Click here to listen to the show.

Nawotka is an ideal commentator on the changing book industry. He has been a long time correspondent for Publishers Weekly, and recently launched Publishing Perspectives. If you’re looking for a broad view of the book biz, he’s well worth following.

An eBook Summit Quote Board

HereeBookSummit100x100.gif are some notable quotables from this week’s eBook Summit, the quotes that would end up on the dry-erase board on the Summit’s college dorm room door. Reading them, one can take the measure of the conference, if not of the hopes and fears of the publishing industry as it wades into the deeper waters of the digital revolution.

“We certainly are getting a lot of resumes.”
-Jane Friedman (Open Road Media).

“Define what you’re good at and what you enjoy and what you need to do.”
-Katty Kay (BBC News)

“Google can be very disruptive.”
-Brandon Badger (Google)

“Make your content more interactive.”
-Steve Haber (Sony)

“$9.99 is a predatory pricing practice by Amazon. It’s an attack on literature so Amazon can control the industry.”
-Bob Livosi (Books on Board)

“The people who buy a Kindle, after they buy a Kindle, they buy a lot more books”
-Joshua Benton (Harvard)

While in the digital era all things may be possible, they may not necessarily be profitable. (paraphrase)
-Brendan Cahill, Open Road Media

“I suppose we could sum up this entire two-day conference under the headline ‘too early to tell.’”
-Steve Wasserman (Kneerim & Williams)

Dan Costa (PC Magazine): “What can writers do to survive?”
Matt Shatz (Random House): “Write Code.”

“The kid with a blog has more distribution than I did for my first eight books.”
-Douglas Rushkoff

“It’s not all over, but it’s all over for some of us.”
-Douglas Rushkoff

Too Soon To Tell: The Writer, Agent Publisher Panel

As things eBookSummit100x100.gifgot going on the eBook Summit Writer, Agent, Publisher panel moderated by GalleyCat’s Jason Boog, Steve Wasserman of Kneerim & Williams asked, “how do you cut through the noise of sulture and get attention for a deserving work?” Brendan Cahill of Open Road claimed his new company was fighting that noise by revitalizing writers from the past.

Movable Type Literary Group, founded ten months ago by agent Jason Allen Ashlock (who threatened to tweet about the audience from on stage while they tweeted about him from the seats), sees its role as going far beyond the deal itself. Ashlock characterized the book deal as a catapult, “an open thing for what it might produce that is not a traditional book.”

The topic of last week’s Random House rights grab came up early. Wasserman said he is with the authors and went as far as comparing Random House to conquistadors laying claim to huge territories. He also weighed in on the threat to indie bookstores of ecommerce, an issue that’s hardly new–many on Twitter weighed in to disagree. Ashlock took on the issue of publishers changing the meaning of their contracts: “this isn’t a war with the publisher… but publishers are changing boilerplate without letting us know.”

Read more

Cracks in the Pavement: The Opportunities New Publishing Provides

This eBookSummit100x100.gifwas a diverse panel: Wim Van Der Stelt of Springer, an academic publisher that has gone heavily digital; Susan Danziger, CEO of DailyLit, which sends excerpts of stories and books via email; Andy Hunter and Scott Lindenbaum, founders and editors of Electric Literature, an all-digital literary magazine; and Neelan Choksi, CEO of Stanza. Despite their diverse backgrounds, all the panelists spoke to the necessity of taking advantage of, rather than being threatened by, new media.

Wim Van Der Stelt of Springer urged trade publishers to learn from the academic world: “13 years ago the academic world was on the same threshold the trade world is now.” His company publishes 6,500 books per year and has all its books online, which he says is essentially to Springer’s success. He also said “it’s very, very important to keep monetizing what you’re doing.”

Danziger explained the genesis of DialyLit: With a job and family, she had no time to read, so she thought she’d break books up, delivered to inbox, short installments that can be read in less than five minutes. She also said that DailyLit switched last week to an all-free model: their content is free, but is sponsored by various companies. The company is looking into new business models, including “pay-what-you-want” a-la RadioHead.

Electric Literature is a new literary journal that is all digital, but not online. The journal is distributed to eReaders and can be ordered in print POD. By saving money on print production, they are able to pay writers $1000 per story, an almost unthinkable amount for a small literary journal.

Neelan Choksi, CEO of Stanza, offered a video preview of Stanza 2.0, which is about to be available in the Apple App store. The app has 2.8 million users worldwide. Choksi noted that “coming from open source software world, we’re used to working with communities,” so Stanza, which was acquired by Amazon, has been able to have things like translations of its app into other language done for free.

If these panelists are any indicator, there are indeed very viable ways of making money from digital.

Panel Three: Katty Kay: Journalist and Author Commentary

BBC World speaker_kattykay_100x100.jpgNews America correspondent Katty Kay spoke at the eBook Summit on being a journalist and an author. Her book, Womenomics, co-written with Claire Shipman, came out in 2009, so she hit the book market at exactly the moment when an author had to figure out social media, blogging, and self-branding. She spoke at length about her work straddling traditional media and new media. She said, “I think mostly now people are writing books alongside other jobs,” and noted that the only way she could have written her book was with the stability of her BBC job.

Her book was contracted in 2008, in the midst of a period of great change in publishing. According to Kay, her ties to TV enabled her book deal: “part of the reason they gave us a good contract was we had access to traditional media.”

She also spoke about balancing the need to support a family and to promote a book using social media. “I Can’t do my full time job, and be blogging, Facebooking and Twittering,” she said. She advises authors to “define what you’re good at and what you enjoy and what you need to do,” though she noted you don’t need to be perfect at all of it.

The subject of making a living came up throughout the interview and during the Q&A. One audience member essentially summarized the panel, saying, “Don’t quit your day job” if you want to be an author.

A Bit More On The Open Road Panel

Here are a few facts from the Open Road panel.

Open eBookSummit100x100.gifRoad named Rachel Cho its new Chief Marketing Officer. She stood up for a bow.

Moderator Carmen Scheidel asked, “are you hiring?” Friendman said at first, “We certainly are getting a lot of resumes. I wish we had more funding.” But then she added, “We will be hiring,” but cautions that she doesn’t want to grow too quickly. “We really have a very broad reach,” she went on. “We’ve definitely determined that there is a need for additional staff and we will be staffing up.”

The first Open Road titles, according to Friedman, should debut in March. She hopes to publish between 750-1000 eBooks next year, but insists that Open Road will maintain a small list. They will do 20 e-Riginals (they’re line of original eBooks) the first year, hoping for 40 the second. Right now, Open Road is thinking the suggested retail price for their books will be $14, but Friedman said the “We have to see what the audience will bear.”

During the Q&A, one audience member asked whether the notion of an author having to come to the publisher with a platform has changed. Friedman said that indeed it has: “We have the platform now…our marketing platform,” she said, indicating that Open Road will be able to take unknown authors with good books and “make” them.

Friedman kept saying that, by mining authors’ deep backlists, Open Road is “going back to the future,” which is odd. It’s more like bringing the past into the future, isn’t it?

First Panel: The Art of Disruption with Jane Friedman and Jeffrey Sharp of Open Road Media

It’s halfway eBookSummit100x100.gifthrough the first panel, which features Jane Friedman and Jeffrey Sharp of Open Road Media. Friedman and Sharp have been explaining what Open Road Media is and will do. They’re focusing on marketing and their excitement about their ideas for digging deep into an author’s brand and backlist, mining unusual content to enhance their products, such as university archives where authors’ papers are housed in order to add value to their eBooks.

But of course, everyone wants to know how Open Road responds to last week’s letter from Random House CEO Markus Dohle in which he claimed eBook rights for most of the company’s backlist. Oddly, Friedman didn’t want to say much about the issue. She said, “The only area where there might be an issue is in the author branded backlist,” but then basically closed the discussion down by adding, “I hate to waste the energy on this.”

More in a minute.

Brandon Sanderson on Digital Fantasy Publishing

sanderson23.jpgEarlier this year, we asked one of fantasy’s biggest stars the million dollar question: how will video-capable eBooks and Apple’s fabled iPod Tablet affect fantasy publishing?

In this vintage GalleyCat interview, fantasy novelist Brandon Sanderson talked about writing “The Gathering Storm,” the next book in a beloved “Wheel of Time” series by the late Robert Jordan. In addition, Sanderson discussed Simon & Schuster’s new “vooks” and pondered what new reading devices will mean for the next generation of writers. Click here to listen.

Here’s more from the interview, as Sanderson talked about the ending of the fantasy series: “I’m one of four people who have read this ending out of the millions of people who are waiting for it…It was a reverent experience, a surreal experience. I don’t think it really hit home for me what I was doing until I sat down and read that…It was a daunting experience saying, ‘This is where the 11th book ended, and this is where I’ve got to end up.’ There was a big gap.”

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