Back in 1999, I was working in Manhattan at the job I had always wanted: Production Manager at Random House. I had started there in early 1998, and I oversaw the Value/Bargain imprint that was part of Children’s books. Unfortunately, one week after I started at Random, it was announced that Bertelsmann had purchased the company. Now, sometimes a company merger or purchase can push events in your favor, or on the flip side, they can leave you hanging by your fingernails waiting for the axe to fall. In this case, the latter seemed to be the direction that my tiny imprint was heading.
Publishing is a “next move” business. What do I do if this happens? What is my “next move”? Unlike John Elway and the current Broncos, I needed to have a plan B, because going all the way on a plan A was not going to happen. With many life changes swirling around me (I had just become single again), I decided to take a chance on an opportunity that uprooted me from my suburban Long Island digs, and put me into a situation as Production Manager for Basic/Counterpoint/Civitas books, all imprints of Perseus Books Group located in Boulder, CO. A move that still resonates in my professional life today.
I arrived in Boulder in mid-summer of 1999, and got right to work on the list of titles that needed to come out for our Pub plan. Handling 50-100 titles through the production process from manuscript to bound book puts you in a situation where you are dealing more with the construct elements of the title, rather than the subject matter that each project contains. One title that I remembered working on was by Eric Darton: Divided We Stand. The title was intriguing, and the intricate story of the construction of the Twin Towers was one I enjoyed. As a Long Islander and New Yorker, who could see the World Trade Center from the Robert Moses Causeway on bright summer days going to the beach in my youth, this was a project that brought me home. Little did I realize the impact this title would have 2 years later…
Fast forward to May, 2012. I’ve just graduated with my Masters in Publishing Science from Pace University. I am at “Ground Zero” and have just paid my respects beside the reflecting pools with my wife Susan. As we go into the 9/11 remembrance store, I see an old friend in a stack on the table by the pillar. A tear comes to my eye as I realize that something I’ve worked on in my professional past will forever have meaning in this time and place. Sometimes working in publishing touches you in ways you cannot imagine, until the moment hits you squarely in the face. I love what I do, and I recommend this career to anyone who loves books that can last forever.
This post will be a short one, but since this is the season of giving and books make great gifts, I ‘ve been thinking about all the books that have influenced me during my life especially at this time of the year. This may sound cliché, but the one book/short story in any form that I always come back to is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Having read the story multiple times, and seen the different theatrical versions, I would have to say that my favorites brought to the screen had Ebenezer Scrooge portrayed by George C. Scott and Mr. Magoo!
What Christmas/Holiday books have had an impact on you? The Gift of the Magi? The Grinch Who Stole Christmas?
Will you be giving books as gifts? E-books as gifts? Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift cards? Maybe a gift card to a local independent bookstore like The Tattered Cover here in Denver? Let’s have a conversation on what books have impacted your life at this festive time of the year.
Publisher’s Weekly recently convened a panel of digital and traditional publishers for “The Digital Kitchen: Adapting Cookbooks in the App Age.” The panel was hosted by Mark Rotella, who is the editor of PW’s Cooking the Books newsletter
With the electronic/digital revolution well underway, one area that has become a battlefield of sorts for two opposing thought processes is in the publishing pantheon of cookbooks. Recipes have been an area that is conducive to extremes in competition because a recipe is not something that can be legally copyrighted under current statutes. This gives publishers the ability to package and re-package recipes in any format they deem profitable. Having an endless treasure trove of recipes means the ability to reach a mass-market audience is assured for continued and immediate revenue growth potential.
As stated in the post, an Ipad is great to have when looking up an idea for an ingredient that one has in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, the difference in price structure makes a print book that much more important in the kitchen when the ingredients start to fly in the cooking process. There would be nothing worse than getting Gazpaicho on your Ipad. I could be mistaken but I do not think Apple has customer support that would even help out with a Kitchen-based emergency on a portable device. The print version would be a much better variant to have handy AFTER you have found the recipe quickly on the Ipad. Since many recipes are often slightly different, the chances are high that the Ipad recipe and the print version would not be exact, but if using Buttermilk as stated in the article is the main goal, you probably won’t mind the differences anyway.
Since cooking is akin to taking your Ipad or Smartphone to a sandy beach, the question remains this: Are you willing to take the chance during the chemistry process of mixing and splattering your Ipad/Smartphone with various culinary liquids (a $400-$600+ risk), or is a $25 print title a good investment for the actual construction of the creation?
With 4% sales growth in the cookbook market, the future looks bright for these publishers in every format they produce. Good news for the print-side of cookbooks was reported by Doris Cooper, VP Editorial at Clarkson Potter and Potter Style, when she related that no cookbook e-book has outsold its print counterpart. Guy Fieri should be very happy!
In a short article in the NY Times Book review online “BITS” section, David Streitfeld writes that Amazon seems to be changing the playing field in the recent past on the prices for print books by decreasing the percent of discount per copy. Let’s take a look at this aspect from a few different angles.
As we know, Amazon has a business strategy that is completely alien to any other retail strategy in the bookselling business. This company is using the sale of books, e-books, and e-readers (ala: Kindle in all its iterations) to capture market share. Amazon, or rather Bezosazon, are foregoing profits so that all other aspects of Amazon capture revenue and keep the company ledger profitable against the loss suffered in the sale of books and book products. A little different take from that of Mr Streitfeld would be that Amazon execs could care less about the individual pricing of books.
If you take a loss to gain consumer market, what difference does it make if you are charging a 4% discount, a 7% discount, or a 10% discount? It all comes down to the fact that Mr. Streitfeld, as the consumer, bought a book that clearly no one else was looking to purchase for $1.32. The original list price, as he laid out in the article was $40. Since the author had died and interest had waned, the book was in “Fire-Sale” mode. There was a problem as Mr Streitfeld lays out, and he received a second copy of the book as well as his shipping payment refund. The price of the book than went up to $11.32 after Amazon made good on the sale with Mr. Streitfeld. WIN/WIN for Amazon!
In the larger picture, Amazon has just made Mr. Streitfeld a return customer. Their Customer Service and prompt resolution of the problem will ensure many other purchases by him in the future. If you think about how many other times this set of circumstances gets played out, the future of their market-share is a pre-determined success. This is the brilliance of the Amazon model!
What do you think? Is Amazon the beast at the publishing banquet? Is business more than demographics and market-share?
In an age where technology is moving at break-neck speed to give us new and better products, I am heartened to see that BAM is continuing to maintain an edge in a very volatile business market. The single most important point is content. If the content is of a high-caliber, than the sales will be there for revenue captures.
The Book Kahuna is all about getting content into the hands of those consumers that want to purchase. Having a Kindle myself, I love the portability of the device and the amount of content you can carry. That being said, there is nothing that beats a lazy Sunday afternoon browsing through your favorite section of The Tattered Cover bookstore or Barnes and Noble. This is a point that Oren Teicher, CEO of the American Independent Booksellers Association, made to me when I interviewed him for my paper on Independent Bookstores, and he reiterated it in his presentation at the PubWest Conference in Keystone, CO last month. The Brick and Mortar experience cannot be duplicated by mouse clicks and that is why bookstores have seen a diminution of sales but continue to have viability as an outlet for purchases.
The bookstores have become staging areas for other activities within the community. Concerts, movie nights, storytelling times for children as well as meeting areas for groups and clubs have given bookstores a new life. As the electronic age continues, enterprising bookstore owners will initiate new and different ways to maintain their community focus. It will be an interesting process to watch over the next 5-10 years as the transitions evolve and continue. All I know at this point is that the ultimate winner will be the customer who wants to make a purchase.
PubWest Conference flies high in Keystone, Colorado
Document Type: Conference news
A lineup of prominent keynote speakers, educational seminars led by industry pros, and a luxury resort in the Rocky Mountains at a 10,000-foot altitude resulted in a PubWest conference in Keystone, Colo., October 25-27, that heralded the organization’s leap from a regional to a national place of significance in the small press industry.
Oren Teicher, the ABA’s CEO, presented the first keynote of the conference, “The New Frontier of Bookselling,” to a group of about 200 attendees from indie presses both from the West and further afar. Emphasizing the importance of ABA members collaborating with small presses, Teicher said, “This is so relevant today. There is a symbiotic relationship between indie booksellers and publishers that makes us allies. We naturally complement one another.” Adding that indies’ 2012 sales increase of 12% is a result of entrepreneurship and adaptation, he urged attendees to participate in ABA’s Winter Institute.
Teicher noted that three things have contributed to the recent resurgence of the indies, many of whom have signed up for the new ABA/Kobo e-reader program. “The closing of Borders was a bellwether moment despite the loss of jobs,” he said. “The democratization of technology has been another. But perhaps the tipping point has been the growth of the shop local movement in the U.S., which has contributed 3.3 times more revenue to local economies in recent years.” To drive home this point Teicher noted, “You’ll even find ‘Buy Local’ signs in the produce section at Wal-Mart now.”
Urging the audience to “look forward, and not back,” Teicher gave a few examples of what small presses can do to improve their relationships with the indies. “Try experimenting with consignment sales,” he said. “Rebates, which encourage stores to bring in more numbers, might work, as well as dating, and category promotions. Simplify your co-op terms. There’s no barrier on the size of the house to help sell more books. Our best days are still ahead of us if we learn new ways to work together.”
At the annual PubWest membership meeting, executive director Kent Watson noted an increase in both publisher (19%) and associate (14%) membership. Incoming president Dave Trendler, of Velo Press, emphasized that membership in PubWest is open to publishers from every state; the organization moved beyond its original Western borders several years ago and now has members in 34 states and four countries. PubWest income is up 15% and operating profit almost double from last year. This year’s Rittenhouse Award, which recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the book community in the West, went to an absentee Pennie Clark Ianniciello, book buyer for Costco. The Innovator’s Award, new to the annual PubWest honors, was given to Interweave Press and accepted by senior v-p John Bolton. The company, which publishes magazines, books, and videos related to crafts and mixed media, was purchased this year by F + W Media.
About 20 exhibitors were on hand in the conference center, many of them printing and paper companies whose customers include indie presses. Staffers from Ingram and Baker & Taylor were also there. Debbie Ketel, communications director the Mount Rushmore Society, an indie press, has attended PubWest many times. “This is how I learned to get started as a publisher. Every time I’m here I get new ideas and more knowledge about making a small press grow,” she said.
Otis Chandler, CEO of Goodreads .com, gave Saturday’s keynote, “Book Discovery: Fitting the Pieces Together.” The popular Web site has 22 million monthly visitors, 12 million members, and five million unique titles since Chandler founded it six years ago. Touching on the rise in self-published books, he quoted Christopher Hitchens, who said, “Everyone has a book in them, and that’s where it should stay.”
“At Goodreads we look for the serendipitous book experience that’s not found on online booksellers’ sites,” Chandler said. One way is by getting “touchpoints”–recommendations–into the minds of readers. Chandler cited a few case studies to explain how publishers can use Goodreads to build sales, one concerning the novel Slammed by Colleen Hoover (Atria). “Nothing much happened for two months,” Chandler noted, “but then the author listed the book as a giveaway, and there was a small sales spike on the site.” Goodreads “influencers” then found the book and started blogging about it. Friends on the site discovered Slammed after that, and the word of mouth made sales skyrocket. “We call this finding an audience from scratch,” said Chandler before touching on his analysis of the Goodreads page for Things I Want to Punch in the Face by Jennifer Worick (Prospect Park Books). Reviewing the Author Page he deemed it “very good, because it includes her blog and she’s rating books … and using Goodreads as a reader member. Author involvement is very important.” Worick also had two successful Giveaways on the site, which contributed to the overall strong sales.
Following two full days of seminars and roundtable discussions, the final keynote, “BISG Presents the Book Industry By the Numbers,” was from Len Vlahos, executive director of the Book Industry Study Group. “We’re in a maturing market,” he said, while analyzing data from a variety of BISG studies, “not a mature market.”
The next PubWest conference will be held in Santa Fe, N.Mex., November 7-9, 2013.
Werris, Wendy. “PubWest Conference flies high in Keystone, Colorado.” Publishers Weekly 5 Nov. 2012: 7+. Academic OneFile. Web. 19 Nov. 2012.
Gale Document Number: GALE|A307787165
If you work in the print media, you might want to sit down before reading this.
During the first six months of 2012, Google generated more money in advertising revenue than all U.S. print publications combined, as illustrated in the chart above from Statistica. Google brought in $10.9 billion in ad revenue in this time period, while U.S. newspapers and magazines brought in $10.5 billion.
There are a couple caveats to this, however. First off, the data here factors in Google’s global ad revenue, rather than just the ad revenue it generates in the U.S., so it’s not entirely a fair comparison. Second, Statistica, does not factor in revenue that comes from ads placed on newspaper websites.
Still, the data clearly shows that Google’s ad revenue is trending up from year-to-year while print revenue is declining. What’s more, as Statistica points out, it’s impressive that Google is operating at close to parity with the print industry in ad revenues consider that Google is just 14-years old, while the print industry as we know it has been operating for more than a century.