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Selling Direct: Why book publishers are offering subscriptions & how it will change their brand

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March 21, 2013

In my previous post I discussed how eBook subscription services such as Oyster and 24symbols are receiving a lot of attention with their promise of becoming the “Spotify for eBooks”. But publishers are getting in on the act as well, with a number of niche publishers in particular offering discounted access to their list of titles to subscriber members.

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Book Subscription Services

Are eBook subscription sites going to change the way we buy books?

The book publishing industry has been riding a rising wave of digital disruption for a number of years now, and the previously accepted revenue stream from Reader – Bookshop – Publisher – Author is now being completely restructured. New entrants to the book trade, including tech start-ups, online retailers and self-publishing services, not to mention Amazon, Google and Apple, are rapidly changing how readers consume books and where they go to discover and buy them. Publishers (and authors and retailers) who want to stay relevant in the changing marketplace need to innovate in two directions, summed up nicely by Chris McVeigh on Future Book:

Refocusing on Bookstores in 2013

Last week I questioned whether a post-bookstore world was inevitable and suggested 5 ways bookstores might be able to fight back. The future of bookselling has be en a hot topic for a number of years now but with each fresh round of store closures the prospects for our remaining bookshops seem bleaker and bleaker. So what’s the industry buzz about bookstores in 2013? Here’s a quick round up of some of the views put forward by publishing commentators in the last week.

Is the post-bookstore world inevitable? 5 ways bookshops can fight back

The Digital Bookworld Conference took place last week in New York and as usual produced some fascinating discussion and ideas about the future of digital publishing. Front and centre this year was issue of online book discoverability and sales and the challenges publishers now face in promoting their books to readers. One of the more disturbing undercurrents of the conference, however, was the implicit acceptance of what Quarto CEO Marcus Leaver referred to as “post-bookstore book world”. While speculation about the demise of the bookshop is nothing new, the bluntness with which publishers are now openly discussing and planning for life after bookstores is particularly ominous. But is a post-bookstore world inevitable? Do bookshops offer enough value to the community of readers, publisher and authors to be worth protecting? And what can bookshops do to regain their relevance?

The Author and the Reader and The Philadelphia Story

A local cinema has been showing classic movies recently and I had the great pleasure of watching The Philadelphia Story on the big screen – the original 1940 version with a very young Jimmy Stewart playing a tabloid journalist, Macaulay Connor, and Katherine Hepburn as the reclusive heiress, Tracy Lord. Both characters despise each other on contact but there follows a wonderful scene in a library that illustrates beautifully the complex relationship and dialogue that exists between author and reader and I couldn’t help thinking about how true it still felt 72 years later.

Penguin House - New Logo?

Penguin Random House – dawn of the mega-publisher?

The publishing world is abuzz with the news that two of the world’s largest publishers, Random House and Penguin, have agreed to merge, potentially creating a mega-sized publisher that looks to dwarf its competitors. Monday’s announcement confirmed several days of rumours and speculation following the Financial Times report on Thursday that Random House and Penguin’s parent companies, Bertelsmann and Pearson, had entered merger talks. The size of the deal and its implications for the industry have sparked frenzied discussion on everything from the fate of existing staff to the design of the new logo

Self-Publishing in the United States, 2006-2011: Print vs. Ebook by Bowker

Self-publishing triples in 5 years

The growth in self-publishing over the last five years is well recognised but an analysis released yesterday by Bowker, has put a startling figure on that rise, indicating that the number of self-published books produced in the USA has grown 287% since 2006. The gross figures give a sense of the scale, with 235,625 self-published print and eBook titles released in 2011, including 148,424 print books and 87,201 eBooks. But dig deeper in Bowker’s Press Release and you’ll find some even more interesting stories.

Your Ad Here In-book Advertising

Is in-book advertising inevitable?

Just a few days after I argued that books should remain advertisement free, a new survey by start-up eBook publishing service eBook Plus indicates in-book advertising for eBooks may be inevitable. The survey queried 5,000 people from the US and UK about their preferred mix of eBook pricing and in-book advertising and the results suggest that around 50% of readers are willing to accept advertising in eBooks in exchange for free content. But how will in-book advertising affect the reading experience and the relationship between author and readers?

Random House Corporate Logo

Random House opens its doors in New York

Digital Bookworld reported the news yesterday the Random House in New York was going to open its doors to the general public on Nov 2 as part of its ongoing campaign to grow the publisher’s brand outside of the trade. It follows the release of a series of videos by Random House that give insight into their business and publishing processes (see one of the videos embedded below). It’s an interesting move by Random House and shows that they are considering new ways to relate not only to the reading public, but also to authors and book industry “influencers” such as bloggers.

Happy International Bibliodiversity Day!

Today, September 21, is the second International Bibliodiversity Day, or EldiaB, a wonderful new initiative aimed at celebrating the diversity of literary cultures around the world. One of its key messages is the critical importance of independent publishing and bookselling in protecting and fostering local literary ‘habitats’ that generate a rich diversity of ideas.

2012 Booker Shortlist and 3 Small Publishers on the Big Stage

The 2012 Booker shortlist is out and the big winner this year seems to be Small Independent Publishing. This year there are three novels from publishers that have never before had a Booker shortlisted title to boast about. Amazingly, this is the first time that this has happened since the third annual Booker Prize way back in 1971.

Oracle Cards and Author Platforms – Hay House Writers’ Workshop 2012

I was invited to attend the Hay House Writer’s Workshop this week in Sydney and the phrase of the day was definitely author platform. In fact, if you assumed that a writing workshop run by the world’s leading Mind Body Spirit publisher would be filled with creativity exercises and meditations to help you write from the soul, you might have been disappointed.

2009 Aurealis Award Nominations

The short lists are in for the 2009 Aurealis Awards, recognising Australia’s best Science Fiction and Fantasy writing. It’s been another strong year for Australian SF & Fantasy and the number of new authors in this year’s list is good news for the future. The Winners will be announced on the 23rd January.

Australian SF & Fantasy Highlights: November 2009

NZ born author Juliet Marillier has achieved a huge international audience with her elegant historical fantasy novels. Like some of her previous series, Heart’s Blood takes inspiration from a traditional fairy tale. In this case it’s Beauty and the Beast – and no, you can forget that saccharine sweet Disney version, this is a story with a lot more guts to it.

ANGRY ROBOT – Harper Collins unveils their new SF & Fantasy Imprint

Launched earlier this year by Harper Collins in the UK and Australia, Angry Robot is a new publishing imprint where “[the] mission, quite simply, is to publish the best in brand new genre fiction – SF, F and WTF?!” Essentially, Angry Robot is all about the new wave of SF and Fantasy, whether it be subversive new takes on traditional tropes, crossover fiction, or something entirely, even bizarrely original. What makes me excited about the whole venture is that Harper Collins already has a dedicated SF & Fantasy Imprint in their stable: Voyager is perhaps the biggest specialist SF and Fantasy publisher in the world, home to many of the genres’ most successful authors. For Harper to launch a new dedicated SF & F imprint suggests they are looking to do something new.

Australian Fantasy Highlights: July and August 2009

Fantasy writing is flourishing in Australia these days. Led by established authors such as Garth Nix, Kate Forsythe and Isobel Carmody, the quality of Aussie fantasy just keeps getting better and better. With so much good local fantasy available, I wanted to take some time to highlight some of the best recent releases.

Young Adult Book of the Month: August 2009

40 years in the future, a plague has destroyed human’s ability to conceive females. In the Australian desert the roving bands of outstationers have cut ties with the Colony government, living out a merciless, womanless future in the outback.

Sydney Writers’ Festival 2009 Bestsellers and wrap-up

According to festival bookseller Gleebooks, the top 10 bestselling books at the festival were:

1. The Brain That Changes Itself – Norman Doidge
2. A Case of Exploding Mangoes – Mohammed Hanif
3. The Thing Around Your Neck – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
4. Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
5. Between the Monster and the Saint: Reflections on the Human Condition – Richard Holloway
6. The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 20th Century – George Friedman
7. The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas
8. Stuff White People Like – Christian Lander
9. Warchild – Emmanuel Jal
10. The Suspicions of Mr Whicher – Kate Summerscale

Richard Flanagan – 2009 Sydney Writers’ Festival Closing Address

Chimanda Ngozi Adichie opened the 2009 SWF by urging us to foster, wherever possible, a multiplicity of stories and a voices to guard against the silencing effects of poverty and political domination. As SWF Chair, Sandra Yates, observed, Richard Flanagan’s closing speech was the perfect compliment to Adichie’s caution against the ‘single story’.

Where Adichie spoke broadly about the cultural and political importance of a diverse and representative library of international voices, Flanagan asserted the vital role Australian literature has played in forging our own cultural identity and voice. But, at precisely the time when Australia is one of the most productive and exciting centres of publishing in the world, we risk dismantling the very platform that allowed our writers and publishers to finally escape the colonial shadow of Britain and stand alone on the international stage.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and the ‘Single Story’ – SWF Opening Address

The Sydney Writer’s Festival was officially launched last night by Nigerian star-on-the-rise, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Adichie burst onto the international literary scene with her first novel Purple Hibiscus before winning the Orange Prize for her second book, Half of a Yellow Sun. Her latest work, That Thing Around Your Neck, is a collection of short… Read More ›

About Richard

Richard Bilkey has been selling, marketing and distributing books for over ten years, managing independent bookshops, a major online retailer and, most recently, one of Australia's largest Independent Book Distributors, Brumby Books.

Contact Richard directly at richard@fictionetal.com.au