Cruising the Green of Second Avenue

Wild Child Publishing has issued the second volume of short stories in Cruising the Green of Second Avenue. The tales take up where Vol. I left off — bringing back Klein the Biker, Straight Charlie and Sammy the Madman while introducing new characters stumbling over life’s difficulties in the late 60s. Vol. II is an e-book published by Wild Child Publishing that you can download, save as a pdf (Adobe) file and print. Read both volumes and see that life isn't all that serious. Find it at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and other online book sellers.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Publishing Is Dead - IV

The Oops Factor, or, You Mean I Have to Proofread?

The information technology industry has long been aware of the GIGO factor of input/output: “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” It’s unfortunate that writers usually aren’t their own best editors. POD sadly allows them to escape a strong editorial hand. The result is manuscripts full of factual errors, ungrammatical parsing, spelling errors, and clichéd phrasing.

This is the Devil’s Pact. The writer trades off the benefits of distribution and royalties accruing from POD but forgoes professional guidance. Self-publishing is very much like an indicted person serving as his own lawyer: he has a fool for a client and a fool for a lawyer.

Pundits compare Congressional legislation to sausages: you don’t really want to know what goes into the result. “Vanity press” publishing is also like a sausage full of strange ingredients. A friend, unfortunately, has had her POD book shelved at the area library, and the patrons have taken to marking up the copy for its egregious errors.

At least, Xlibris and Lulu offer some editorial guidance to the neophyte. For a price.

Where Is Publishing Headed?

There was a 6-column-inch blurb in The New York Times noting that Seattle-based Amazon on Christmas Day 2009 sold more e-books for its Kindle reader than it did paper-based books. (In July 2010, Amazon sold 143 digital books for its Kindle for every 100 hard cover books.)

Interesting factoids, but more startling was the next sentence that Laredo, Texas (pop. 250,000) closed its last bookstore. (Laredo's population is only slightly smaller than that of Newark, NJ, one of the poorer urban areas.) I checked my online Yellow Pages, though, and actually came up with eight Laredo bookstores, three of which were Christian and one Spanish-language. Two recognizable names were Barnes & Noble and B. Dalton. That left two that appeared to be independent bookstores.

What's the takeaway? Actually, I came up with five.

One, a lot of people got Kindles for Christmas. (My Seattle-based friend has 4,600 books on his e-reader, most which he admits he'll never read.)

Two, Texans read less than Newarkers, where there are 84 listings for bookstores. Newark's median household income is $26,913. Laredo's median HH income is $23,832, but the area has a lower cost of living index.

Three, there's a sea change coming in the way — and whether — we read books. (Does Steve Jobs know something about e-books that led to the iPad?)

Four, Laredo's population is 97.1% Latino, but unemployment is just 6%. Are Hispanics working too hard to read?

Finally, bookstores are an endangered enterprise, even big box outlets like Borders and BN that are flirting with bankruptcy.

In other words, publishing’s dead; long live the new paradigm.”

Friday, May 27, 2011

Publishing’s Dead - III

Long-Tail Marketing, or One of Everything Available

The strongest features of POD are the broad distribution possibilities and the breakdown of proprietary fences. Any of the publishers above — Amazon, BN, SmashWords and others — may also strike a distribution deal with BrookStrand, Amazon, BN, Google Books, Borders (R.I.P.), eBay and other booksellers. Royalties may change in the process. In addition, there are online book retailers — iPad and iTunes, Kobo, Android, Diesel and Sony — who are defining the book-selling picture.

This has been termed “long tail marketing,” a business model “invented” by Amazon and named by Chris Anderson in his book, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. Instead of one essentially bricks-and-mortar outlet stocking just the high-volume products, a few online retailers can in effect stock everything.

A more formal Wikipedia reference states, “The distribution and inventory costs of businesses successfully applying this (long-tail) strategy allow them to realize significant profit out of selling small volumes of hard-to-find items to many customers instead of only selling large volumes of a reduced number of popular items. Total sales of this large number of ‘non-hit items’ is called the Long Tail.”

Multi-book author Konrath says, “Do you know what that is? That's distribution. The very thing print publishers have had a lock on for a hundred years. Except now, authors control their own distribution.” He also notes, the e-book rights his print publishers control “are missing from many of these key markets. On a daily basis I get emails from fans who want Whiskey Sour or Afraid for their device or in their country, but my publishers aren't exploiting these rights.”

Breaking News: The traditional “books-and-mortar” business scheme may change if John Malone, “who made a fortune in cable television,” succeeds in buying Barnes & Noble for $1 billion. So saith The New York Times on May 20. Malone is sick of businesses like BN attracting people to come in and read for two hours. In the near future BN may look sort of like an Apple store.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Publishing’s Dead - II

Who Are Those POD and E-book Publishers?

A typical Xlibris contract takes your work, manufactures the book as orders come in, and ships to the customer or author. It’s up to you to promote the books, whether through author signings at libraries or standing in front of a supermarket. You pay for what they manufacture. Your tab begins at $499 and can run up to the “platinum level” of $14,999, depending on the level of services you choose.

Take a look at their Web site ( for detail. In order to review their 42-page publishing brochure, you’ll first need to provide them with your name, e-mail address and telephone number. (Wait a day for the phone solicitations to arrive; the e-mails will begin immediately.) offers a similar business of manufacturing a writer’s book according to a schedule of services.

In this fast-moving business, a number of sites recently have come up offering no-frills POD. Amazon Publishing may be the biggest and neatest “no-nonsense” publisher. Its Amazon CreateSpace self-admittedly “provides one of the easiest, fastest and most economical ways to self-publish and make your content available to millions of potential customers on and other channels.” CreateSpace formats include books, DVDs, CDs, video downloads and MP3s. The company takes care of customer service and order fulfillment with no up-front author investment. And (whew!), there are no membership or title setup fees, there is a flexible royalty model, a non-exclusive agreement keeps the writer’s future publishing and distribution options open, and Amazon provides a free ISBN or UPC.

SmashWords is a contender to Amazon, inviting the writer to download a work and come up with—huzzah!—a finished book. SmashWords allows authors to sell their e-books through their site, while also supplying e-books to Borders’ Kobo, Apple’s iPad, B&N’s Nook, Sony, and Diesel. SmashWords’ variable agreement on royalties is based on the outlet and sales method. The company pays the author 85% for sales that originate at SmashWords or Stanza, and 70.5% for sales through its affiliates. “Net proceeds,” however, doesn’t mean cover price. Net is the received sale price less payment for processing fees, affiliate fees, retailer discounts, credit card charge-backs and the like.

Barnes & Noble’s publishing venture is titled Pubit (pronounced with a soft ŭ – not “pyu-bit.”) BN sets a “List Price for each e-book between $0.99 and $199.99. For e-books with a List Price at or between $2.99 and $9.99 the author receives 35%. For books listed at or below $2.98 or at or greater than $10.00, the royalties are 40%.

Hewlett-Packard’s MagCloud is another entrant, at

Long Live the E-book

What’s the value of an e-book self-pubbed over one handled by a publisher? A lot, according to J.A. Konrath on his blog, at You’re going to do all the marketing yourself, so face it: Do you prefer to share royalties with a publisher charging $4.69 for your book or sell it direct for $2.99? Jack Konrath does the math for you, using Amazon and SmashWords as examples.

He reports that his best selling Hyperion e-book, Whiskey Sour, has sold 2,631 copies since 2004. That earned him about $2,200, or $34 a month since it was released. $34 a month per title is a far cry from the $1,700 a month per e-book he’s making though self-publishing. Hyperion is the Walt Disney Co. publishing unit.

Hyperion priced Whiskey Sour at $4.69 on Amazon, while he prices his e-books at $2.99. “For each $4.69 e-book they sell, I earn $1.17,” he blogs at “For each $2.99 e-book I sell, I earn $2.04. So I'm basically losing money hand over fist because Hyperion is pricing my e-books too high, and giving me too low a royalty rate.”

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Publishing’s Dead; Long Live the New Paradigm - I

The Wild, Wild West of Book Dealing

Publishing and book retailing are going through a technological, cultural, and marketing shift of tsunami proportions. When the tidal waves subside, there will be a lot of dead fish on the beaches of big business.

Publishing Trends reports, “On-demand publishing has overtaken traditional publishing in yearly title output, signaling a surge in products like customized print-on-demand books, according to a recent Publishing Business webinar, ‘Customized Books: What Is The Opportunity?’”

The number of POD (print on demand) titles published in the U.S. increased more than 200% in 2008, up from 285,394 in 2007. In the same period, publication of traditional titles dropped 3% to 275,232. In other terms, according to industry resources Bowker and Interquest, the POD market increased from 20 billion pages in 2006 to 38 billion in 2009.

The “vanity press” has been around as long as there have been printers waiting to take an author’s money. The distinguishing factor in the rise of POD is the technological ease with which a writer can get a work into print and have it broadly distributed.

Publishers Are Their Own Worst Enemy

What makes POD attractive? Cover prices that are reduced. Royalties that accrue to the author in greater amounts. Wider distribution through “long-tail” marketing. (A single outlet, like Amazon, carries hundreds of thousands of books, while a mass retailer is limited by store size.) And publishers have virtually eliminated marketing and promotion for all except major (i.e., money-making) authors.

At the same time, publishers continue to hold sacred the Depression-era practice of accepting the return of any book that the retailer cannot sell. This strange marketing practice began as a way to ensure that retailers would continue to stock new titles. In 2005, however, the Association of American Publishers reports that of the 1.5 billion books shipped, 455 million were returned to publishers — 31 percent! — at the publishers’ expense.

Would General Electric ever consider shipping refrigerators to Wal-Mart under these consignment conditions? Or Ford Motors to its independent dealers?

Publishers are scrambling to meet the new paradigm by discounting, spiffing (Sales Performance Incentive Fund) the big box outlets, and flirting with new techniques. Textbook publishers are raising prices to outrageous heights while introducing CD workbooks on three-year revision cycles to reduce the effect of students reselling their old texts. Price cards, like Borders or Barnes & Noble “memberships,” are resulting in a barrage of e-mail solicitations and discounting. And prices continue to rise, with e-books often marketed at over 80 % of the hardcover price.
Pricing is the new battlefield. In October 2010, I searched Barnes & Noble for Special Projects in Calamity Physics by Marisha Plessl. This 2006 novel had been an immediate bestseller. Now, Amazon was discounting the trade paperback down from $15.00 to $10.50, while offering a Kindle download for $12.99. Barnes & Noble listed the trade paper at $10.80 and the e-book at $12.99.

Pause and think about it. It doesn’t take a wizard to know something’s wrong when the cost of a digital product approaches or exceeds the cost of a formatted, typeset, printed, bound and shipped version that is subject to returns.

Next: Who Are Those POD and E-book Publishers?