publishing changes

Fifty Shades of Grey: The Book That Shocked Us All

Like it or not, “Fifty Shades of Grey” has turned out to be the biggest surprise of the year 2012. I know feelings run deeply with this book. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who just said, “Meh.” They’ve either loved FSoG or hated it. Or, as it’s been suggested in more than one place, they didn’t actually finish it. In my own small circle, most of the people I know didn’t get through the first half. They only bought it because they’d heard so much about it. And the reactions were mixed depending on who you spoke to. Some thought it was too erotic. Others didn’t think it was erotic enough. Most didn’t think it was well-written at all.  

I’ve posted more about that book than I planned to post, and I’m not getting into that anymore. (I liked it.) In this post I’m linking to another article that talks about how FSoG actually did take publishing by surprise…and how publishing is still evolving as a result of books like FSoG.

EL James’ erotic trilogy was easily the year’s biggest hit, selling more than 35 million copies in the U.S. alone and topping best-seller lists for months. Rival publishers hurried to sign up similar books, and debates started over who should star in the planned film version. Through James’ books and how she wrote them, the general public was educated in the worlds of romance/erotica, start-up publishing and “fan fiction.”


I would be remiss not to mention that I know very little about fanfic…or “fandom.” I remember hearing about it on the old Miss Snark blog about five or six years ago and didn’t bother to really check it out in depth. Evidently, I underestimated fanfic. There’s obviously a huge readership and it’s not just with romance. I’ve heard in more than a few places there are fanfic LGBT books being written about “Queer as Folk,” and they have a lot of followers. But then again, most of the people who bought FSoG had no idea they were actually buying a book that was fanfic based on “Twilight.” It would have been nice if the publisher had mentioned this on the cover somewhere, or in the blurb. But that didn’t happen, and I’m still meeting people who are shocked to find out about this.

This is also a little frustrating for me: I would have loved to have seen James’ book hit it big with a smaller e-publisher instead of one of the big six. While smaller e-publishers have been pioneering the way for erotic romance books like FSoG the big six have had their thumbs up their proverbial butts, still taking their summer Fridays off and still shutting down for the month of August. I always figured it would be a matter of time before the big six started to benefit from the hard work of others, and in this case it was the small e-presses that have been paving the way for e-books. In fact, I don’t think I would be wrong in saying that FSoG would NOT have been published if James had queried an agent and gone through the old publishing channels. More than a few blogging agents have mentioned their disdain for the book, including a very good friend of mine. It would have wound up in the slush pile.

In a year when print was labeled as endangered and established publishers referred to as “legacy” companies, defined and beholden to the past, the allure remained for buying and reading bound books.

That’s a little hooded if you ask me. Although I was one of those who loved FSoG, I’m not sure I agree with this statement as a generalization. Yes, people did run out and buy FSoG in print. But does that mean e-books are going to vanish and print books will be resurrected and reborn again because of FSoG? I doubt that. A lot of the “buzz” and “hype” created by FSoG will die down and we’ll have to wait for the next new trend. We’re also still at the crossroads of one generation fighting the other with regard to print books and e-books. The article I’m linking to alone is proof because the person who wrote it doesn’t even get the terminology correct in most cases when she mentions e-books.  

And if publishers suffer from their reputation – often earned – of being slow to adapt to technology, they benefit from a reputation – often earned – for being nice to their writers.

“There certainly is the comfort factor, and part of that comfort factor is the culture of old publishing, which is very collegial and warm and friendly,” says Richard Curtis, a literary agent who represents several writers publishing with Amazon. “Authors contemplating Amazon are concerned about a loss of that warmth.”

This is where the article gets interesting. The person who wrote it gradually shifts from talking about FSoG and gets into more details about Amazon, Legacy Publishers, and, frankly, a lot of nonsense. She’s making legacy publishers sound like such dear sweet souls, when in fact I have read and linked to articles in the past about authors who’ve left legacy publishing just based on how unfairly they’ve been treated by their publishers with regard to e-book sales. So much for that sense of warmth. This is why a lot of established authors have gone to Amazon. And who could forget the DOJ issues this year with legacy publishing?

In April, the U.S. Department of Justice sued Apple and five publishers for alleged price fixing of electronic books, a lawsuit originating from Apple’s 2010 launch of the iPad and iBookstore, which publishers hoped would weaken Amazon’s ability to discount works so deeply that no other seller could compete.

It’s been an interesting year, to say the least, just with regard to this entire DOJ mess. Being that most of these publishers have reached a settlement with the DOJ, I’m not sure the word alleged is needed (I always thought of settlement as an admission of guilt), but I’ll use it anyway. These big publishers allegedly colluded to keep e-book prices at 9.99, hoping to set a standard for e-book prices within the industry, slow down the rise of e-book sales, hold Amazon back, make consumers pay more for books that cost practically nothing to publish in digital format, and to keep print books flowing for as long as they can. At least that’s been my take…allegedly. You have to remember that a lot of what’s been happening in publishing has terrified a lot of the gatekeepers and they don’t know where to turn. I’m sure that’s one reason why FSoG found and agent and a big publisher. If you can’t beat them, join them.

It’s going to be interesting to see what’s next, and I have a feeling 2013 will be filled with more changes. In June 2013 Macmillan is slated to go to trial because they refused to settle with the DOJ. I also have a feeling that the e-book/print book argument will actually slow down for a while. It stands to reason. I think the people who have switched to e-books like me will never go back to reading print books again. I think younger people being introduced to books, will all go digital. I find people are still reading my books in .lit, which is an old fashioned way of reading e-books on microsoft. But there are still a lot of people around who would never think of reading anything other than a print book, and they aren’t going away anytime soon. So this means there’s going to be a balance, because I can’t imagine any publisher going completely digital in the next five years at least and risking losing all those who read print books. As long as there is a demand, I think the supply will keep coming.

Or I could be completely wrong here. I absolutely hate the fact that video stores have all but disappeared. I miss them and I still haven’t embraced On Demand, streaming, or Netflix. But I didn’t have a choice, and now I’m renting movies On Demand. There are no video stores near me anymore. They simply couldn’t survive. It’s not easy to cover the cost of a physical store and all that it includes. Be interesting to see if that’s what eventually happens with books.

How Do You Stay Relevant In a Constantly Changing Environment?

I’m linking to an article where staying relevant in business in a constantly changing world is the theme.

The way things are changing in publishing, I know exactly what this article is talking about. I don’t think anyone in any profession can avoid these changes. I even know people with Antique shops who’ve had to learn how to sell online because that’s where a lot of the buyers and designers are going now. Those who didn’t bother to learn have become obsolete.

To prepare, Mr. Hallock, 29, spends an hour or two a day at his business, TopFloorStudio in Asheville, N.C., tracking venture capitalists and start-up news, trying to divine the next frontier. He created TopFloorUniversity, where experts teach his employees and clients the latest in app development. When he could not find a good curriculum for information architecture, he and a colleague developed one themselves. As a pretext to learn from the luminaries in his field, Mr. Hallock even produces his own podcast.
 
This is interesting because if you can at least predict basic changes and figure out where things are headed it gives you the upper hand. I remember making a conscious choice to switch to e-publishing when everyone else in publishing was laughing at it. No regrets. I’m already looking at what everyone’s laughing at right now as the next possible trend. No spoilers, though.
 
You can read more of the article here.   

New York Times: E-Books and Best-Seller List

I copied and pasted the article below from this link. It’s just one more of the daily changes happening within the publishing industry in the past few years. And I can’t help but remember that almost two years ago a good friend of mine who works in publishing told me e-books wouldn’t last and there was no reason to take them seriously. Evidently, the NYT seems to think there’s something to e-books now.

In an acknowledgment of the growing sales and influence of digital publishing, The New York Times said on Wednesday that it would publish e-book best-seller lists in fiction and nonfiction beginning early next year.
The lists will be compiled from weekly data from publishers, chain bookstores, independent booksellers and online retailers, among other sources.
Since 1935 The Times has published best-seller lists, widely considered the industry standard. Best-seller lists are also published by Publishers Weekly, a trade publication, and newspapers including The Los Angeles Times and USA Today.
Janet Elder, the editor of news surveys and election analysis for The Times, said the newspaper had spent two years creating a system that tracks and verifies e-book sales.
“We’ve had our eye on e-book sales since e-books began,” Ms. Elder said. “It was clear that e-books were taking a greater and greater share of total sales, and we wanted to be able to tell our readers which titles were selling and how they fit together with print sales.”
E-book sales have risen steeply in 2010, spurred by the growing popularity of the Amazon
Kindle and by the release of the Apple iPad in April. According to the Association of American Publishers, which receives sales data from publishers, e-book sales in the first nine months of 2010 were $304.6 million, up from $105.6 million from the same period in 2009, a nearly 190 percent increase.
Several major publishers said that e-books had climbed to about 10 percent of their total trade sales. Some publishing experts have predicted that they will rise to 25 percent in the next two to three years.
RoyaltyShare, a San Diego-based company that tracks data and aggregates sales information for publishers, will work with The Times, provide data and offer an additional source of independent corroboration.
The Times will also redesign the section of its Sunday Book Review that features the best-seller lists. The Times already publishes 14 lists, including those for fiction, nonfiction and advice books in hardcover and paperback, as well as children’s books and graphic books.
“To give the fullest and most accurate possible snapshot of what books are being read at a given moment you have to include as many different formats as possible, and e-books have really grown, there’s no question about it,” said Sam Tanenhaus, editor of the Book Review. The new listings, he added, give readers “the fullest picture we can give them about how a book is doing week to week.”