Archive for Digital Book World
Another great DBW digital publishing conference is behind us, and once again the future looks good for books. Digital books, print books, subscribed books, enhanced books…the industry, the authors, and the consumers are on fire for them, regardless of the format they choose to work in.
The buzzwords this year were direct-to-consumer book sales, ebook subscriptions, and marketing and discovery. Whereas D2C was a large focus at last year’s Digital Book World Conference as well, the process then seemed to be to get publishers to create their own branded webstores to sell their titles; it didn’t take off, largely because getting readers to remember at least the title and author is enough, but asking them to remember the publisher in order to buy directly was a little too much. eBook subscriptions were a major discussion point this year, especially with the growth of Oyster and Scribd, but the inherent problems with the model came up a lot, namely that libraries are already offering ebook lending without the monthly fee. Finally, the ever-important book discovery was another often discussed topic, with very interesting data points presented in a number of panels.
Good e-Reader sat down with Tim O’Reilly, CEO of O’Reilly media, to ask his thoughts on some of these buzzwords. Given his experience with subscription ebooks through Safari Books, O’Reilly explained where some of the reluctance to adopt even the current models comes from.
“One reason they didn’t pick up, I think, was people couldn’t figure out if the math word work, the math on revenue. The way we do it on Safari is we take your subscription and say, ‘What books did you read?’ We’ve gone to a very extensive percent-based model, times the price. If you consumed one book and you paid us for the month, all of the revenue gets attributed to that one book. If you read a hundred books, that revenue gets spread [to the publishers] across those one hundred books. Each one will get one percent of the revenue.
“What we’ve found in general is that the revenue per book from Safari is actually comparable or higher than the revenue of an actual sale. One of the things that’s also true about pricing of books is that people buy more than they read. Isn’t that true of print too? How many books do you buy and never read, or buy them and read a little bit. If we held print to the same standards that we hold digital to, getting trust in the math is the biggest thing that holds people back from the model.”
O’Reilly also presented a keynote earlier in the conference on book discovery, and he holds that one of the largest factors in book promotion is still the sense of community that readers have around a particular title or author. He explained in the interview, referencing his keynote, that author John Green has an incredible community of fans because he’s actively engaged not only with his own readers, but with other authors, in a similar way as his YouTube channels has helped launch other YouTube channels through support and features.
“John Green is doing what we all need to be doing,” O’Reilly said.
Overall, the energy that events like this bring forward into publishing make this yet again an exciting time to be in the book business. The consensus–stated repeatedly–was that the ebook revolution has only just begun, and that the rate of change taking place is faster than it ever has been.
“There’s a lot to learn, a lot to experiment with.”
At the Digital Book World Conference and Expo, publishing industry professionals come together to analyze the state of the industry and its near and far future projections. This morning, Brad Stone, author of The Everything Store, spoke about the horizontal and vertical shifts of Amazon, beginning with the initial bookselling in 1995 and moving into other offerings beginning in 2007, including ebooks and e-readers, grocery, fashion, and more.
“It’s breathtaking how confident these moves are. Amazon believes that technology, its strategic use of data, its long-term orientation, can change the economics in all these industries. They can remove intermediaries and tilt the playing field in its favor.”
Stone continued to explain that Amazon uses its vast and successful knowledge of bookselling to translate that experience into experimenting with other retail fields. Every day, new products and services are introduced, and as Stone says, “Amazon is clearly firing on all cylinders.”
According to Stone, Bezos and anyone associated with Amazon do not believe that the pace of change is stagnating. He states that Amazon has a twenty year history of not giving up and constantly trying new things while still having what Bezos referred to as the mentality of the cheetah-and-gazelle, actively announcing that they needed to go after the industry like a cheetah stalks a “sickly gazelle.”
Good e-Reader sat down with Stone for clarification of how this concept has benefited Amazon so far as becoming the powerhouse it is today. “There was a period in Amazon’s history when they were trying to negotiate some very basic industry terms, and their biggest business at the time was books. And they thought, ‘Why are we doing industry standard terms when we should be able to get a better deal since a lot of these publishers’, the majority of their sales are on Amazon.”
In Stone’s investigation into Amazon’s background for this book, he recounts that a former Amazon business executive told him to find out what the “cheetah and the gazelle” means, leading him to discover that it was a statement from Bezos about how Amazon should approach the publishers. At one point, the negotiations were even referred to as The Gazelle Project, something that did not sit well with Amazon’s lawyers.
But with this single-minded focus on being at the top of the food chain, where can Amazon go from here? The site that became a force with bookselling now has arms in every direction, giving them the opportunity to take out gazelles in almost every aspect of retailing.
As more and more publishers look to optimize content for mobile device consumption, one company is quietly expanding the possibilities of its web viewer for digital reading under the belief that browser-based reading is where digital publishing is actually going to find its comfort zone. As consumers’ devices are increasingly able to access wifi–especially as the numbers for ebook reading on 4G smartphones and tablets increased–Pubsoft is ready with a seamless HTML experience for both online and offline reading.
“We’re really improving on the HTML5 web viewer,” explained Pubsoft’s Dougal Cameron in an interview with Good e-Reader at Digital Book World. “Within that experience, our goal is to create a seamless integration from an author tweeting out about their book to a consumption and purchase either directly or through Amazon. The way that that looks for a particular reader is they might be following a particular author and see a link, then click the link, and immediately be delivered into a portion of the book that the author is sharing.”
As opposed to the increasingly negative “book tweets” that take readers to sales pages, this will enable authors to share links directly to a personally branded, secure format where readers can sample their books in their web browsers. Once the reader hits the paywall on the book sample, he is then directed on how to purchase the title to continue reading. Other incorporated features on the author page include the option to pull in the Goodreads API for book reviews, a message from the author, and more, giving the readers more connection to the author.
“As those readers have more direct connection to an author, they tell more people about that book. It stays on top of their mind. The way we accomplish that in our system is by making it very simple for the reader to buy direct and continue to read it through the browser, and syncs with other devices they use to read.”
The end result of this approach is not so much simply selling a book, but to establish a reader “capturing” tool in order to help authors connect to their readers in order to build ongoing writer-reader relationships. But will readers really read ebooks that are consumed strictly through an internet-connected web browser?
“I think what no one’s really thinking of right now, even through the show, is that reading through the browser sounds like something that we might say, ‘Why? Browsers are unreliable and you have to be connected to the internet, no one’s going to read through the browser.’ Everyone would have said that about email in 2006, and now, many of us only do email through the browser. Our assumption at Pubsoft is that having a link where the book is permanently located where people buy and consume the book is the way to go.”
At an awards gala at the end of the second full day of the Digital Book World Conference and Expo, actor and Reading Rainbow co-founder and publisher at RRKidz hosted the Digital Book Awards, an honor recognizing innovative titles across a series of categories and all utilizing technology to create a compelling book. The awards were sponsored by Kobo and by the conference headlining sponsor Inkling.
“The Digital Book Awards were created to recognize the best in the burgeoning market for digital reading experiences,” said David Blansfield, President, Digital Book World (F+W Media). “The winners we celebrated tonight were certainly that. The range of titles we evaluated, from large technology and media companies to self-published authors, was impressive, but they all had one thing in common – in their own way they’re all great stories well told, using the latest digital technology to go beyond print.”
The winners of the awards were as follows:
Ebook Flowable – Adult Fiction
Eversea: A Love Story, Natasha Boyd
Ebook Flowable – Adult Non-Fiction
Cooking Light Lighten Up, America!, Oxmoor House Steve Sandonato
Ebook Flowable – Children
Can You Survive the Titanic?: An Interactive Survival Adventure, Capstone Press
Ebook Flowable – Reference/Academic
Scotland’s Marine Atlas, On Behalf of the Scottish Government by APS Group Scotland
Ebook Fixed Format/Enhanced – Adult Fiction
Mistress of France, Emma Boling, Beneath the Ink
Ebook Fixed Format/Enhanced – Adult Non-Fiction
Isa Does It, Little, Brown and Company
Ebook Fixed Format/Enhanced – Children
The Man with the Violin, Annick Press Ltd.
Ebook Fixed Format/Enhanced – Reference/Academic
Cracking the GRE: Interactive Prep & Review for the GRE Exam, Random House Children’s Books and The Princeton Review
Ebook Fixed Format/Enhanced – Illustrated/Comics/Graphic Novels
The World Atlas of Wine iPad Edition, Octopus Publishing Group
App – Adult Fiction
Steampunk Holmes: Legacy of the Nautilus, Noble Beast
App – Adult Non-Fiction
The Pocket Scavenger, Penguin Group (USA) Katherine McCahill, Executive Producer; Meg Leder, Executive Editor
App – Children
COWZAT!, Colour Me Play
App – Illustrated/Comics Graphic Novels
Go Big or Go Home: Taking Risks in Life, Love and Tattooing, HarperCollins/Harper Design
App – Reference/Academic
Disney Animated, Touch Press/Disney
Digital Cover Design
A Shiver of Sharks, Little Bahalia Publishing
Transmedia (Any Format)
The Niantic Project: Ingress, Niantic Labs at Google
The Digital Book Award for Inkling Habitat
Modernist Cuisine at Home, The Cooking Lab
Sourcebooks’ CEO Dominique Raccah is a force for change in publishing, priding herself on a near-extreme disruptive status where books and readers are concerned. But as Raccah explained in an interview with Good e-Reader this morning, the most extreme failure companies can face at this point is to dismiss a new platform, technology, or opportunity as non-viable, as too often those decisions are not based on real data but are instead based on a comparison to where the publishing industry has always been.
“I think we’re really screwed as an industry, as we have this thing where we don’t even try because we’re scared of not succeeding. If we put metrics out there and start focusing on a data centric model, then we can actually begin to learn from whatever the outcome is. If you gather the information, you can look at it. It’s very hard to get your organization to think that way.”
But metrics only tell a company what has taken place, while Raccah admonishes publishers that they must look ahead by using that data to anticipate what may work by having a solid knowledge of what did and did not lead to a desired level of success.
“The field is moving so quickly that I’m worried about our ability to actually gather data. We’re being forced to make decisions in thirty, sixty, ninety days.”
Raccah explained that Sourcebooks’ flagship digital children’s product Put Me in the Story was five years in the making, but expressed concern that the next “big thing” simply cannot take that time span as the audience, the retail space, and the consumer will have evolved too far past the product by that point.
Another key point of failure versus success, according to Raccah, is the timing of the digital age. An earlier keynote at DBW stated that the industry is at the very beginning of the digital age, a point with which Raccah vehemently agrees. To assume that ebooks are a solid format and that the industry now has a firm grasp on digital publishing is a fallacy, as the speed of change in the industry is moving at an unheard of rate.
“On the traditional publishing front, what we want to do is provide the author with interesting new ways to deliver the content. It will provide additional revenue streams to authors beyond what they are able to get just from the traditional route. In a way, we’re redefining and extending what a publisher is.”
At this morning’s Digital Book World conference event, Mike Shatzkin shared an in-depth look at the results of a survey on publishers and startups, as well as where the future for both entities may take them.
“We’ve done a lot of programming this year on startups, and publishers working with them. We decided that it made sense to conduct a survey about their interaction,” explained Shatzkin. “We got answers from 43 publishing startups, and 25 traditional publishers in eight different countries.”
The survey respondents among the startups were highly varied, with anywhere from one to over one hundred employees, some with little to no outside funding, others with up to $2 million dollars in funding. The oldest of the startups surveyed was formed in 2002, while the newest started in 2013.
Interesting highlights from the survey revealed:
- About 3/4 of the startups consider themselves to be disruptive to the publishing industry
- The biggest challenge to all respondents was the frustration with the slow pace of the publishing; handling DRM was also high on the list of their challenges.
- 60% of the publishers stated that the people within their companies tasked with working with startups were business development people, not data or content employees.
- Data was at the top of publishers’ lists of challenges, while integrating with existing systems was lowest on the list.
- The top items that publishers responded they would be investing in were marketing and discovery, and metadata management.
- 100% of publishers responded that data insight intelligence was at the top of the list of their pain points in publishing
- Publishers stated that they don’t need help from startups with content and editorial; it’s the mechanics of their ebook publishing that they need to rely on startups for.
- Startups responded that more publishers ask for help with ebook files than with metadata
The startups that publishers stated that they are glad they have forged relationships with included a wide variety of startups, including NetGalley, Book Baby, HootSuite, Oyster, Goodreads, and several others. The complete report on the survey results can be found at bit.ly/DBWStartUpSurvey.
A long-standing tradition at Digital Book World’s conferences is to start with a panel of publishing CEOs for a roundtable discussion of where the industry is and where it’s going. This year’s first morning panel included names such as F+W Media’s David Nussbaum, O’Reilly Media’s Tim O’Reilly, Sourcebooks’ Dominique Raccah, and Simon & Schuster’s Carolyn Reidy.
Reidy’s discussion involved the expansion of books into a global market, announcing that S&S sold a book in over 200 countries last year, including–to the laughter of those present–a copy of The Sun Also Rises to a consumer in Antarctica.
“There’s a potentially bigger market in English if you did some marketing to engage with the English-language books,” explained Reidy of the process wby which booksellers are realizing their readership doesn’t only buy books in the local language; she went on to explain that there are bigger considerations involved in global sales, including how to price books in other markets.
Raccah explained some of the basis for the news this morning that Sourcebooks had a tremendous year in 2013: “We grew a lot of physical book sales last year, which was a surprise to us, and a lot of that came from our kids’ books. We expect that to grow this year. Part of that is the implications of Put Me in the Story. It provides us a lot of great content. Some of that is going through that site, and some of it is growing through our…reference products that we are translating into digital products.”
Tim O’Reilly: “Probably the most exciting things we’re doing is taking the lead from Amazon. We’re building a digital distribution business that lets us put out ebooks in multiple formats, which contributed to our international growth. We’re selling ebooks as a bundle that lets you pick your format…it all comes from one source file, with a push-button solution. We’re expanding the idea of what a book is, and we’re very excited about the way that video and books come together in our products. We’re also looking at our primary goal, which is teaching people, or helping people learn. We have a lot of different ways that we can make information available.”
“I think we keep hearing that the rate of change is slowing down, but that’s not the experience for me,” said Raccah.
“Books are competing with an array of information, people have the expectation that with the app they’re using, the update just appears on their phones. Books are timeless works, but we are being up-to-date with the latest is a real challenge. We’re constantly building a set of tools to keep our products up-to-date,” answered O”Reilly.
“The loss of shelf space, and the discovery mechanism that keeps consumers going to books, and the explosion of digital has always been a challenge, but now it’s an easier challenge. The biggest need is to strengthen where books are. Bookstores could decide they don’t want to carry books any more, but the other outlets can decide they don’t want to carry books anymore. The biggest challenge is making sure your organization is organized to meet the challenge,” explained Reidy.
“With shrinking shelf space, we need new discovery mechanisms, but it is the authors who are showing the publishers the way to explore the possibility space,” O’Reilly. “You have to take what one author learns and transfers that to another.”
As things got underway at the annual Digital Book World conference in New York, one of the first news items to come was the results of an in-depth study on the digital reading habits of some of the youngest ebook consumers in the marketplace.
“Two-thirds of children under 13 now read on digital devices; kids love reading eBooks and parents believe in their educational value. This puts us in a great place for gathering increasingly robust and insightful information to assist both e-reader designers and digital book creators,” explained Alison Bryant, CEO and Chief Play Officer of PlayCollective.
Some of the findings of the study demonstrate that:
- Kids’ e-reading continues to grow sharply, with two-thirds of children 13 and under now reading digital books—and with 92% of those kids doing so at least once a week.
- Weekly e-reading increased among this age group, but daily e-reading has increased across all ages as well, with 50% of e-reading 2-5 year olds now enjoying digital reading daily, and 44% of older kids doing the same.
- Almost half of parents (48%) say that their children have expressly asked to purchase a print version of an ebook they own and have read; with 54% of kids asking for an ebook of a physical book they own.
- Tablets remain the preferred e-reading device for kids overall
- Parents of e-reading children are most comfortable with ebooks priced between $3.50 and $9.00, paying $7.00 on average for a children’s ebook, a figure that has risen steadily over the past year
The children’s digital book market has seen tremendous growth over the last two years, up from the early rise in digital publishing when children and teens were the demographics least likely to read on an e-reader or device.
The Digital Book World conference will run through Wednesday in New York.
Viz Media was not the first manga publisher to turn to digital publishing, but it has been one of the most aggressive. Just three years ago, in November 2010, they launched an iPad app with just five titles; now they have a digital library of over 1,600 volumes, and the app is available for iPhone/iPod Touch and Android devices, the same service syncs with their Vizmanga.com website, and they offer their books on the Kindle, Nook, Kobo platforms. Last week, they announced another expansion, to iBooks. I talked to Viz Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President Gagan Singh about the significance of that move.
Given that VIZ Media already has an iPad app, why was it important to you to get your manga into the iBookstore?
We want to make manga easily accessible to the widest possible audience. Whether people are searching for our titles in the App Store, the iBooks app or on the web, we want to ensure that they can find and purchase what they’re looking for. Since iBooks is the default eReader app on iOS and OS X, we felt that it was important to make our titles available there. It’s also a great opportunity for manga to find a new audience, since iBooks and other eBook retailers offer functionality that will suggest our titles to readers based on purchase history. So if you are a manga fan and already have your eBook library on iBooks, you now have an option of adding manga to that library.
Will Shonen Jump be available in iBooks?
Not at this time, but we are always investigating ways to expand our distribution.
What are your top sellers on iBooks so far?
As you might expect, the bestselling shonen [boys] titles like Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece have all done very well on iBooks. We have also seen strong sales from shojo [girls] titles like Black Bird and Demon Love Spell.
Do you think that readers who use the e-book platforms (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and now iBooks) are a different demographic than users of your iPad app? Do you see any differences between those platforms, in terms of which books tend to do well, how many books a typical user buys, or any other metrics?
Shojo titles do slightly better on dedicated e-Readers, whereas shonen titles do better on general-purpose tablets. Other than that we do not see any statistically significant difference.
How will readers find your books? I’m not seeing a special Viz Media section in the store.
We worked with Apple to create a new manga section that features many of our titles. You can find it by clicking the “MANGA” graphic from the Comics & Graphic Novels page. We are also continuing to improve the VIZ.com site as the best place for readers to find out about print and digital availability by providing links to iBooks, Nook, Kindle, and our own Viz Manga platform for all available titles.
Do you have any special marketing plans?
We will be working with all our retail partners to improve discovery and introduce new readers to manga in the coming months. We also have some great seasonal promotions lined up for our current fans, so we encourage everyone to stay tuned throughout the holidays for more announcements.
Will readers be able to read their manga right to left in iBooks?
Absolutely! Viz has worked closely with all our retail partners to ensure that the reading experience was fully optimized for manga before launching on any new platforms.
Apple doesn’t allow some comics with mature content to be purchased within an app. Has that affected VIZ Media? Does the iBookstore have similar restrictions?
Every platform does have its own set of rules and challenges. One thing that’s nice about iBooks is that content ratings are handled at the individual title level, instead of for the app as a whole. Because of that, VIZ is able to offer M-rated titles via iBooks that aren’t available on our apps, since the apps are rated 12+.
Where do you see the trends going right now?
It continues to be an exciting time for digital publishing in general. While some recent studies have shown stagnation in the growth of eBook sales, the variety of new devices and options for readers continues to expand. That continues to allow us to make our content available to the widest possible audience.
Do you think VIZ Media will de-emphasize the app in the future and focus on iBooks, as Kodansha has? Would you consider a streaming “all you can eat” service like Marvel Unlimited?
At this point we are committed to maintaining our own apps. As mentioned earlier, our goal remains to get more people to read manga. To that end we are always exploring new distribution options and business models that make it easier for our fans to get our content. Right now the focus remains strongly on a traditional eBook retail model, but we’re open to options that will make it easier for our fans to get our content, as long as the business model continues to make sense.
The publishing industry, both in its digital and paper forms, is still finding ways to address and overcome the current hot topic of book discovery. Fortunately, NextMarket Insights just released some information that might tip off those in the book business as to how consumers are currently learning about new books.
NextMarket conducted a survey of over 1200 households towards the end of 2012, and the results explained how many consumers find new books. Overwhelmingly, Kindle and Nook users rely on the Amazon and Barnes and Noble online storefronts respectively to aid them in browsing for titles; that trend was tied at 64% of users for both Kindle and B&N tablet readers. It is important to note that the majority of Amazon users said they rely on ratings and reviews of books on Amazon’s website, which speaks to the current firestorm of anger from authors and publishers over the so-called corruption in Amazon reviews, given that reviews apparently do matter a great deal to consumers.
Also explained in this report was an age breakdown for how customers find new books through social media. Interestingly, when the first e-reader boom emerged and it seemed everyone was boarding mass transit with a Kindle or Nook tucked in the outer pocket of the briefcase, there was one demographic that lagged behind the crowd, firmly grasping its printed books: kids. Whether it was small children whom parents weren’t ready to trust with an expensive device or teenagers who saw reading on their technology as a school-related activity and therefore opted to limit their devices to games and social interactions, children of various ages were some of the last to adopt e-reading.
According to NextMarket’s data, that’s changing. It showed that the younger demographic of consumers in the 18-29-year-old range–arguably some of those same teenagers and college students who may have been reluctant digital readers at the beginning of the e-reader device surge–are three times more likely than any other age range of adults to use an online source such as social media or retailers’ online storefronts to browse and discover new books to read.
First, let me say that it’s hard to give an unbiased comment on DBW. That’s because I have been going to it since it started, and on top of that I’ve also been going to Tools of Change and NAPCO’s digital shows as well. This means that what may be new and exciting for someone attending for the first time might be old and boring for me. I hope I can be fair in my comments.
As usual with these shows, the organizers confuse quantity with quality. So many presentations are jammed into the morning sessions that there is no time to go into the details of any of the subjects of the talks. I heard many attendees complaining that there should be fewer, and longer, morning presentations so that they could actually learn something from the presenters. The workshops, however, were very well done and seemed to be very well received by all attendees.
A couple of things stood out this year. Digital Book World is trying to present more and more data to the audience—more surveys, more studies, etc. This increase in data gathering and presentation is a welcome change and is genuinely useful to the industry and was the best part of the conference. Unfortunately, the data is often presented by the data-gatherers, who won’t comment or speculate on what the numbers mean. The people I talked to, however, thought that the data presentations, while sightly flawed, were the best part of the event. It is also fascinating to see the rise of interest in children’s books, both in presentations and data gathering. This is something new under the sun and it will be fun to follow it in the future. The inclusion of a library workshop was also a good thing, and there should be more of it in the future. Libraries are an emerging battleground in the ebook market and it is time to place more focus on them. Self-publishing is also starting to make a breakthrough into the sessions and more detailed analysis and commentary on this phenomenon would be useful to the audience.
Finally, from the historical perspective, it is fascinating to me to see the shift in attitude of the major publishers as they appear in these events. When this whole event-race started there was a noticeable arrogance in the attitude of the publishers who were presenters. They said “the right things” in their presentations, but it was clear to the audience that they were really unhappy with the whole subject and sort of wished they weren’t there and that ebooks would go away. This was especially apparent in the attitude of the higher level presenters. Publishers are not too happy, still, but it is clear that they are now beginning to embrace ebooks and are beginning to see them as an opportunity instead of a millstone. There is still a ways to go but it is quite a change in 3, or so, years. Finally, the show is clearly oriented around publishers and not too interested in authors, be they traditionally or self published. The discussion around self-publishing was primarily targeted on what this means to publishers. This may be inevitable, however, as these shows are expensive to attend and only people in the publishing industry, funded by their employers, can afford them. For an author there is very little value here. I wonder if there is any market for an author-oriented show at an affordable price. Economics may say no.
A workshop on libraries and ebooks was held with Skip Dye, VP, Library and Academic Sales, Random House; George Coe, President, Library & Education, Baker-Taylor; Barbara Genco, Manager, Special Projects, Library Journal; Stephanie Anderson, Head of Readers Advisory, Darien Library; and Heather McCormack, Collection Development Manager, 3M Cloud Library.
Genco showed some interesting statistics from a survey that was just completed. 89% of libraries offer ebooks and the 2012 expenditures on ebooks could hit $90 million. 71% of readers who borrow ebooks use the library for ebook discovery and 40% use the libraries ebook catalog for discovery. In an important statistic, 92% of ebook readers buy print books. Looking at the statistics presented at the workshop, it is clear that library patrons find the restrictions put on ebooks by most of the major publishers to be totally unacceptable. For example, 62% of patrons find it totally unacceptable that they can borrow an ebook only by going onsite to the library.
Random House said that it is clear to them that libraries are an important method of discovering books and are of a big help in first novels, especially. They feel that discovery in a library does lead to a purchase by the consumer. George Coe said that libraries process 3 billion transactions a year and that demand is 10 times what is offered in urban areas. He praised Random House for its library friendly policies and this was seconded by librarian Stephanie Anderson who said that most of the bestsellers currently available in ebook form come from Random House.
This was a workshop with Carolyn Pittis, SVP, Publishing of HarperCollins, Nina von Molkte, SVP, Director of Digital Publishing Development, Random House and Jennifer Weltz, VP, Jean Naggar Literary Agency.
One major point made by the agent was that some authors are learning how to use and manipulate social media and those who do are treated better by publishers when it comes to contract time. However, the publishers reps said that there still needs to be a lot more education for authors in the fundamental knowledge of web stuff. They mentioned that there was supposed to be an extra day at DBW aimed at authors and teaching them some web and social media fundamentals, but this was cancelled because of a lack of interest. They felt that this was a shame.
The publishers both said that they are collecting more and more data to help drive marketing, but the agent said that she has still yet to see this trickle down to authors. As always, the dichotomy between what publishers say they are doing for authors and what the authors (through their agents) actually think is being done is still there. One of the most interesting points made by Weltz, the agent, was that there is a very high opportunity in publishers’ backlists. A lot of these backlist titles are still in print, she says, even though selling only a few copies here and there. Converting these to digital and marketing them strongly could be a good sales opportunity – if they are still selling then they must be good. Getting publishers to listen to this, however, is like beating their heads against a wall.