My name is Marina, and I’m addicted to books. They’re everywhere. I stack them anywhere there is an open space. My closet holds more books than clothes. Books serve as stands for mirrors, lamps, and jewelry stands. A bench I expected to refurbish years ago has become a makeshift bookcase, with books of all kinds […]
The #WritersRead theme for April was banned books. I chose to read Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan. It’d been on my Kindle for a while, so this was a good opportunity to check it out. I’d imagine the reason this book appears on so many banned lists is right there in the title. Two […]
Big changes in the bookselling landscape were the subject of several of the industry’s top stories in 2019, along with publishers’ relationships with different partners.
1. Elliott Advisors Buys Barnes & Noble; Daunt Named CEO
After struggling for several years to find ways to boost the bookstore chain’s sales and to improve its bottom line, B&N’s board of directors approved the sale of the company to private equity firm Elliott Advisors in a deal worth $683 million. The transaction didn’t come without some drama, as another company—widely believed to be ReaderLink—was working to make a counteroffer. In the end, the B&N committee charged with evaluating all offers voted in favor of the Elliott cash deal, believing it had the necessary financing to get the purchase done quickly.
Following the completion of the deal on August 6, Elliott officially named James Daunt B&N CEO. Daunt already served as CEO of the U.K.’s Waterstones bookselling chain, which is also owned by Elliott. Among the changes Daunt has discussed implementing in 2020 at B&N are an overhaul of its merchandising approach and returning the responsibility of each store’s performance to local managers.
2. B&T Exits the Retail Wholesale Market
In early May, Baker & Taylor announced that it was closing its retail wholesaling business, which supplied books to bookstores and other physical retailers. The decision came following months of rumors that some deal between B&T and competitor Ingram was in the works. When no deal surfaced, B&T began phasing out its retail operations, a process that lasted into the early fall. The move was made, B&T explained, to better align itself with its parent company, Follett Corp., whose strengths include working with schools and school libraries. B&T’s library wholesaling operations were not affected. Publishers and booksellers were both concerned that B&T’s exit from the retail business would slow shipments to stores, especially to the West Coast, where B&T fulfilled orders through its Reno warehouse, which was set to close. Publishers, as well as Ingram and Bookazine, came up with plans to alleviate any potential problems, with Penguin Random House perhaps coming up with the most aggressive plan of all: in November, it announced it was taking over the operation of the Reno warehouse, which it will use to service West Coast stores.
3. Macmillan Implements E-book Windowing for Libraries
In late July, Macmillan announced that, beginning November 1, it would implement a two-month embargo on library e-books across all of the company’s imprints. Under the publisher’s new digital terms of sale, library systems are allowed to purchase a single perpetual access e-book during the first eight weeks of publication for each new Macmillan release, at half price ($30). Additional copies will then be available at full price after the eight-week window has passed. All other terms remain the same: e-book licenses will continue to be metered for two years or 52 lends, whichever comes first, on a one copy/one user model.
The decision outraged librarians across the country, who see the move as a direct attack on their ability to offer timely services to their patrons. Scores of library systems are boycotting buying Macmillan e-books in protest of the move. For his part, Macmillan CEO John Sargent says “frictionless” e-book loans by libraries reduce the value of the books and hurt overall sales. Sargent is set to appear in a session discussing the matter at the ALA Midwinter Meeting, which runs January 24–28 in Philadelphia.
4. Audible Caption Proposal Called Copyright Infringement
When word began circulating in July that Audible was developing a new program called Captions to run text alongside its audiobooks, publishers, agents, and authors all called the proposal copyright infringement. Before the program could be launched, the AAP filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Big Five trade houses, as well as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Scholastic, asking for a preliminary injunction; the lawsuit was subsequently backed by representatives for the Authors Guild and the Association of Authors Representatives. At year end, Captions had still not been implemented, and the judge overseeing the case has urged the publishers and Audible to settle the matter out of court.
5. Tariffs Imposed on Books Manufactured in China
As part of its trade war with China, on September 1 the Trump administration slapped 15% tariffs on most books manufactured in China. Excluded from the tariffs were children’s picture books, coloring books, and drawing books, as well as Bibles and religious books. Children’s books were subject to possible tariffs on December 15, but the administration suspended imposing those tariffs after reaching a “phase one” agreement with China over trade. The other book tariffs, for now, remain in effect.
6. Citing Problems, Publishers Cut Ties with Authors
Given the charged nature of the times, publishers have been keenly aware of the reputations of their authors. In 2019, that led to a number of publishers dropping authors following various allegations or charges. Three instances of this in particular were among the most read stories on PW. After allegations of inappropriate behavior made against Tim Tingle by two booksellers, Scholastic dropped plans to publish his middle grade book Doc and the Detective; Tingle, who had his rights to the book returned, denied the allegations. Author Kosoko Jackson requested that Sourcebooks withdraw publication of his debut YA novel, A Place for Wolves, following concerns raised on social media. And in June, after a Netflix drama reopened interest in the Central Park jogger case, in which five black and Latino teenagers were falsely accused of assault and rape, Dutton and author Linda Fairstein terminated their publishing relationship; Fairstein was formerly chief of the Manhattan district attorney’s sex crimes unit and oversaw prosecution of the case.
7. Indie Booksellers Incensed over Breaking of ‘Testaments’ Embargo
Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments was expected to be one of the big books of 2019, especially for independent booksellers. So when it was discovered that Amazon had broken the September 10 embargo date, booksellers were furious. Publisher Penguin Random House acknowledged that a retailer had inadvertently released copies before the official on-sale date and said the situation had been corrected. The incident highlighted the frustration many booksellers feel about the enforcement of embargoes, which are frequently broken by one retailer or another.
8. The Netflix-Literary Connection
Streaming services have increasingly been looking to book publishers for source material, none more so than Netflix, which was on a book acquisition spree over much of 2019, developing screen adaptations of dozens of novels, series, short story collections, and graphic novels, with a particular interest in those aimed at children and teens.
9. AWP Fires Executive Director
Less than six months after being named the Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ permanent executive director, Chloe Schwenke was fired in September. She had succeeded longtime executive director David Fenza, who was dismissed in April 2018. Schwenke, a transgender woman, alleges that her firing was primarily based on discrimination.
10. Allison Hill Named ABA CEO
Allison Hill, president and CEO of Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, Calif., was named the next CEO of the American Booksellers Association. Hill succeeds Oren Teicher, who has served as ABA CEO for the past 10 years. Hill begins her new job March 1.
written by Book Cave
To sell books, you need to find more readers. Spreading the word about your ebook can be challenging, but there are a lot of ways you can promote yourself and promote your ebook on Facebook.
1. Set up landing pages to link to from your Facebook posts
When people see and click on your promotion Facebook posts, you want to take them to a page on your website that will encourage them to buy your books or signup for your newsletter. That page needs to be attractive, well-designed, and have a call to action (like links to buy the books or a signup button).
2. Create an author page
You’re limited on what you can do with Facebook if you’re just using your personal Facebook profile. We recommend setting up an official author page so you can more easily promote your ebook on Facebook. With a page, you can schedule posts, use ads to get more likes, and can easily advertise to those who’ve liked your page.
3. Ask readers to share posts with others
Many people are willing to pass on the word but don’t even think to do so. If you ask them to share, they are more likely to hit that share button, meaning that more people will see your post. This can be accomplished by saying “Please share with your friends!” at the end of the post. Naturally, you don’t want to do this with every post.
4. Keep Facebook posts short
Followers are more likely to read and respond to a short post. A post with a short question and a link to a longer blog post is a great tactic.
5. Post things that will encourage engagement
It may surprise you to know that Facebook does not show all of your posts to all of your followers. Facebook uses an algorithm to determine how many posts it shows to how many people. Basically, more engagement = more reach. If more of your followers like your posts and leave comments, then Facebook will in turn show more of your posts. Drive engagement by asking followers a question with everything you post, even if it’s just a link to an interesting article. This means that not all of your posts will be “promotional.” This is important for more than just Facebook’s algorithm: people don’t like to be continually sold to, and they may leave if they don’t feel that your page offers anything other than promotion.
6. Make posts interesting
Images are a great way to keep posts interesting. If you link to a webpage that has a share image, Facebook will automatically insert the image for you. (So with all your blog posts, make sure to have great images!) You can also post funny images or memes. If you’re just posting straight text, make sure to ask a question or use a statement that compels participation so the post will hold people’s interest.
7. Post about giveaways
Readers love getting books for free! Giveaways for books that are downloaded directly from a landing page (rather than bought from a retailer like Amazon) and can even include additional prizes, like a gift card. These giveaways can be a book you’re giving away yourself as a subscriber magnet (where readers have to sign up for your newsletter to receive a new book), or it can be a group giveaway that you’re doing with other authors. These kinds of posts often get a lot of shares as well and will help you gain more followers organically, without paying money. Make sure this post links to a great landing page; Book Cave provides this landing page for you when you use our subscriber magnet services.
8. Post about sales on your books
Unlike a giveaway, when a book is on sale, even if it’s on sale for $0.00, readers buy it directly from the retailer. If your book is only on sale at one retailer, like Amazon, your Facebook post can link directly to Amazon. If it’s on sale at multiple retailers, link instead to a landing page on your website that links to all the retailers where it’s available.
9. Post about upcoming releases
Those who are following you on Facebook are doing so because they like your books, so they’ll be ecstatic to learn about new releases—especially if that new release is on sale for a limited time. Make sure to provide a link where they can go to actually buy the book.
10. Post book trailers
Videos are a great way to catch people’s attention; Facebook even has an autoplay feature that starts a video if it’s showing on the page. Creating a book trailer can be time-consuming, and it should be done well. Only try this if you have the time and talent (or know someone who can do it for you).
11. Promote your ebook on Facebook using ads
Ads can be tricky to get right, but when done properly, they can have amazing effects. An add should have only a small amount of text, with most of it being an eye-catching image. The best ads promise viewers something: offering a free book (could be in return for a newsletter signup) through an ad can be very effective. Make sure the ad links to a compelling landing page on your website or on the website that is hosting your book (like your landing page for your subscriber magnet on Book Cave). When creating an ad, make sure to adjust the audience and the times it runs to reach those you know will like your books.
12. Track and adjust your Facebook ads
Like we said, getting ads right can be tricky, which is why it’s important to check them regularly, track how they’re doing, and make adjustments to the audience, the times, or even the image itself. Please note that any comments, likes, or shares on your ad are removed after you edit it, so give your ad some time before you decide that it’s not working. You may just want to duplicate the ad and make the changes to the new ad, keeping the old ad as a backup. You can easily turn ads off and on.
13. Boost posts on your page
When you boost a post, you pay a fee for it to appear higher on Facebook users’ news pages, which means they’ll be more likely to see it and respond to it. The posts you boost should be those that promote your ebook or bring users to your website in some way.
14. Invite those who have liked your posts and your ads to also like your author page
Facebook makes inviting people to like your page easy: just go to a post and click on the text that shows how many people liked the post. A popup will appear that lists all the people, and on the right of each name will be an invite button. Click on each one to invite all those people to like your page. More likes means that more people will see and share your posts. Also, you can directly advertise to everyone who likes your page, so the more likes you have, the better.
Any reality-TV contestant will tell you that being too good at something is going to make you massively unpopular. Downplaying your wins is the way to go if you want to mitigate the chances that a target will be placed on your back.
Amazon seems fully aware of this tactic with Jeff Bezos’ most recent shareholder letter, which stated: “”Third-party sellers are kicking our first-party butt. Badly.” The company just doesn’t seem to know it’s already the villain of the retail show.
Amazon’s deflection to look at third-party sales, which have grown from $0.1 billion in 1999 to $160 billion in 2018 according to the numbers Bezos released, doesn’t tell the whole story. The company makes more money when it relies on third-party sellers than it does when it makes its own sales.
In the shareholder letter, Bezos touches on some of the ways Amazon is assisting third-party sellers (“tools that help sellers manage inventory, process payments, track shipments, create reports, and sell across borders”) but its help goes far beyond that.
There’s a new Marketplace Growth program that gives sellers an account rep who advises them on all aspects of business. The company also lets sellers participate in Fulfillment by Amazon, which doubled sales for small to medium businesses on the site in 2018. Amazon also lends money to third-party sellers.
So don’t believe what Amazon says so much as what it does when it comes to figuring out who’s really winning this game.
Academic Piracy – Where are we now?
Written by Matthew Jones
In 2018, e-book piracy websites received over 800 million visits; a number expected to rise by at least a third in 2019. The scale of piracy in academic publishing is staggering, yet one would be excused for assuming it a mere annoyance to publishers. Inevitability haunts any discussion of piracy in the industry and pervades even the most pragmatic. With one in four students admitting that they regularly pirate academic content, the issue cannot be ignored.
Publishers have begun to feel the financial squeeze. Academic publishers, on average, lose over 28% of their potential revenue to piracy. Despite the well-publicized inflation of textbook prices (847% in the past 30 years – Economist, 2014), NACS recently reported a 31% decrease in total spending on course materials since 2007. Most often, decline in textbook revenue is blamed on enrollment stagnation, yet, in reality, students are increasingly being squeezed towards piracy as well as the second hand book market, which accounts for 25% of the total market in book sales (McKinsey 2014).
The concept of e-book ownership is flawed within academic publishing. Publishers rely upon outdated DRM technology to safeguard a product that is completely relinquished at point-of-sale. DRM is now so laughably simple to crack that it undeniably exacerbates the issue, with cracked titles being widely distributed online.
Pirate search engines like LibGen and SciHub have thrived for years; SciHub facilitated over 1 billion illegal downloads of academic content last year alone. Even Scribd, a legitimate partner of most major publishers, retains it’s document sharing feature that – at best – turns a blind eye to textbook copyright infringement.
Yet, for such an existential threat, academic piracy has surprisingly been met with seemingly quiet resignation.
LibGen finally provoked (well-publicized) legal action from a publisher in 2015. Predictably enough, this action has proven singularly ineffective. But then, this reactive ‘whack-a-mole’ approach to anti-piracy always will be. When industry innovation extends only so far as automated cease-and-desist letters and designed QR codes as ‘certification tags’, a simple domain change will allow the pirates to continue with relative impunity. These reactive approaches fail to account for content consumers that view this as a victim-less crime, if even a crime at all.
Rather than concede to doom and gloom, we must more fully understand and eradicate the root cause of piracy. There are two fundamental and alienating issues: students feel they are neither offered affordable solutions, nor the desired accessibility and convenience they have come to expect. 7 in 10 students now forego textbook purchases; perceiving them to be overpriced (US PIRG). The model of ownership is so clearly broken, that 73% of students would far prefer an access model instead. Students crave affordability and accessibility that have simply been unavailable.
There is a chasm between the value placed upon academic content by the publishers and the students. No statistic is perhaps more damning than Science Magazine’s 2016 survey which showed that 88% of students do not equate the piracy of academic content with criminality. It requires only a cursory glance at social media to see that student’s opinions of publishers are at best ambivalent, and at worst vitriolic.
How can publishers possibly repair this disconnect? There is a pressing need to re-acquaint students with the value of this content and the work of publishers. This can’t happen by inflating prices – counter to some beliefs in the industry. Equally, albeit admirable, publishers that are now reducing textbook prices won’t succeed. Price action alone, without changing the method of delivery won’t result in sustainable change. Whilst students are forced into a flawed ownership model, accessibility won’t improve. Increasingly, the solution points towards access models, specifically ones that allow third parties to act as mediators between publishers and consumers.
Disconnects between the publishers and consumers of content have been dealt with well in other industries, namely the music industry. The infamy of Limewire and BitTorrent will be familiar to many – as will the laborious task of finding the right content and eventually uploading to an iPod. With an affordable, and far more convenient option, streaming services like Spotify managed to better serve this this market need. An NDP study showed that in 2012 as Spotify grew, illegally downloaded music files from P2P services fell by 26%. Consumers flocked to the streaming service offering instantly accessible, aggregated content at a fixed affordable price.
Notably though, there is a cautionary tale. After Netflix’s pivot to aggregated digital subscription, they experienced a meteoric rise. The streaming service penetrated the global market so successfully that piracy in the film industry fell by over 50% between 2011 and 2016. In 2018, however, with the segmentation of the entertainment industry, and the rapid growth of Amazon Prime, Hulu and now Disney, for the first time in years, piracy actually increased. This shines a light on the universal truth in the provision of content: the convenience and affordability of aggregation are key. In the pursuit of coverage, the consumer must subscribe to ever more platforms, their convenience is ultimately hindered and they are lead inevitably to increased piracy.
Publishers can learn key lessons here. Whilst single-publisher subscription services like Cengage Unlimited are laudable and monetize market segments lost to piracy and second hand sales, they aren’t sustainable. As other publishers emulate, consumers will be forced towards subscription saturation, where once again piracy becomes the affordable and convenient choice. Publishers must think longer-term, shedding any sense of hubris. With the added issues of academic freedom, no single publisher can possibly win a subscription arms race.
A third-party aggregated subscription service is far from novel in academic publishing, yet it has also never truly been tested. Despite this being the logical, proactive solution to piracy, it is too often met with unfounded fears and reluctance to change. To successfully provide the convenience and affordability required, this service has to have buy-in from the leading publishers, for all of their content. Data already exists to show that cannibalisation of other sales revenue is a totally unfounded fear. Any marginal impact on other sales channels is recouped (and more besides) from previously untapped market segments.
Academic publishing now finds itself at a juncture. Subscription has arrived, the ownership model is irreparably broken – publishers must now embrace aggregated subscription platforms for a sustainable long-term return to growth.
If I wanted to borrow A Better Man by Louise Penny—the country’s current No. 1 fiction bestseller—from my local library in my preferred format, e-book, I’d be looking at about a 10-week waitlist. And soon, if the book’s publisher, a division of Macmillan, has its way, that already-lengthy wait time could get significantly longer.
In July, Macmillan announced that come November, the company will only allow libraries to purchase a single copy of its new titles for the first eight weeks of their release—and that’s one copy whether it’s the New York Public Library or a small-town operation that’s barely moved on from its card catalog. This has sparked an appropriately quiet revolt. Librarians and their allies quickly denounced the decision when it came down, and now the American Library Association is escalating the protest by enlisting the public to stand with libraries by signing an online petition with a populist call against such restrictive practices. (The association announced the petition Wednesday at Digital Book World, an industry conference in Nashville, Tennessee.) What’s unclear is whether the association can get the public to understand a byzantine-seeming dispute over electronic files and the right to download them.
In a July memo addressed to Macmillan authors, illustrators, and agents, the company’s CEO John Sargent cited the “growing fears that library lending was cannibalizing sales” as a reason for embargoing libraries from purchasing more than one copy of new books during their first eight weeks on sale. “It seems that given a choice between a purchase of an ebook for $12.99 or a frictionless lend for free, the American ebook reader is starting to lean heavily toward free,” he claimed.
Many individual library systems and companies that work with libraries swiftly responded with objections. “Public libraries are engaged in one of the most valuable series of community services for all ages, for all audiences,” said Steve Potash, the CEO and founder of OverDrive, a company that supplies libraries with e-books. “The public library is just something that is underappreciated. It certainly is so by Macmillan.”
“If you think about equitable access to information for everybody, there shouldn’t be discrimination or anything like that,” said Alan Inouye, the senior director for public policy and government relations at the ALA. “So consumers can get this book on Day 1 without limitation, but libraries have to wait for eight weeks? That’s just very wrong.”
The ALA decided that statements weren’t enough. “We need to have more than just libraries and librarians saying this message,” Inouye said. “It would be much more effective if nonlibrarians would say it too.” Hence the petition, which Inouye said marked a first-of-its-kind move for the organization.
The controversy over Macmillan’s new policy gets at one of the central issues facing book publishing today. “There’s a tension in e-book pricing generally between consumer expectations that a digital file will be less expensive than a physical copy and the reality that very little of the cost of making a book is tied up in the physical format,” said Devin McGinley, a senior industry analyst covering book publishing for Ibisworld Inc., a market research firm. “Publishers are rightly concerned that if the price of books erodes too much, they will no longer be able to cover their creative costs and subsidize more speculative bets on emerging authors.”
Still, the library side pushed back at Macmillan’s singling out of libraries and assertion that e-book lending was driving consumer reluctance to pay up. Macmillan claimed to have tried out the eight-week embargo with one of its imprints, Tor, but declined to share the results publicly. “They really did not have any reasonable data to support a narrative that if an author’s new book is withheld from public library lending when it first comes out, that might impact the author’s or the book’s sales during those first few months,” Potash said. “That isn’t borne out. The data that OverDrive has is that for every title that actually gets borrowed or downloaded, the library is engaging with dozens and dozens of readers who are discovering the book, sampling the book, or just looking for a recommendation on what to read next.” Potash said that studies consistently show library patrons to be more frequent book buyers overall—which is another reason Macmillan’s letter stung. “They are taking their readers, their customers, their fans, and intentionally trying to frustrate them,” he said.
As the ALA’s initial statement read, “When a library serving many thousands has only a single copy of a new title in ebook format, it’s the library—not the publisher—that feels the heat. It’s the local library that’s perceived as being unresponsive to community needs.” McGinley, the industry analyst, added, “Libraries are worried that if other publishers follow suit, delays and wait times for patrons will make it more difficult to expand and sustain their e-book programs.”
If disputes between publishers and libraries and bookstores and authors about e-books sound familiar to you, you’re not alone. “E-book prices have been in flux in recent years because publishers are still finding their digital footing and deciphering how e-books will work within their business model,” McGinley said. “Publishers are in a unique position among print media industries, where they have at least some control over the extent of the digital competition they face. In the past, higher e-book prices have sometimes been a way to apply the brake.” Librarians, naturally, are tired of all the braking.
Library people admit their cause may seem obscure. The licensing model for libraries and e-books itself is complex and difficult to explain to outsiders. “It’s too much detail and also takes you out of your mind,” said the ALA’s Inouye. “It’s like, ‘First of all, it sounds crazy, and then it sounds egregious. Sixty dollars to have one copy for two years? You must be wrong. That can’t be right. The consumer pays like $14 for an e-book.’ ” Currently, every publisher has its own agreement with libraries, each of which is different and subject to change: Publishers set the price, and libraries sometimes pay two to three times the retail price of e-books to acquire them. This price includes permission for libraries to lend the books out over the coming years—usually to one person at a time, despite the digital nature of the files—and acknowledges that the e-book will never get lost or wear out like a print book. Some publishers have policies that include metered access, meaning that after the book is either borrowed a certain number of times or a certain length of time passes, libraries must repurchase the title. Potash’s company, OverDrive, serves as a middle man between publishers and libraries and handles all the red tape. Amazon, the owner of the most popular e-book format, Kindle, is also in the mix, and though it doesn’t profit on individual e-books, it does benefit from consumer data it collects in the process, Potash said.
Rather than addressing the pricing issue in general, the ALA decided to limit the scope of the petition to protesting Macmillan’s eight-week embargo plan. That way, “you don’t have to get into all the details about all the other business models and how they vary among publishers,” Inouye said.
With the petition, an extraordinary step in this world, you could argue that Macmillan’s plan is already backfiring, having angered one of its major constituencies. And if the change bears out, there’s the possibility of bigger trouble for the publisher ahead: “Macmillan has a minor e-book market share compared with the other Big Five publishers, so if it is the only publisher to pursue this strategy, it may hurt the publisher’s sales to libraries while causing relatively little inconvenience to library patrons,” McGinley said. Patrons might find, when loading up their e-readers and apps, that there are more than enough non-Macmillan books out there to go around.
- Set up book signings at coffee shops and have a drawing for a free coffee gift card.
- Set up book signings at department stores and make your display festive.
- Contact books clubs, offer them a free book for every 10 books they buy, and offer the head of the book club a free gift card (something to match the holiday season). Make sure you provide them a list of 10 prompts that they can discuss.
- Social Media – count down to Christmas by posting a paragraph or two that will hook the audience into buying the book – surely they are going to want the whole story! Remember you are a writer – who better to tease the audience regarding your book.
- Facebook has over 3 billion ACTIVE members – tap into this. If you don’t know how, go to fiverr.com or upwork.com and hire someone for as inexpensive as $5.00.
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Writers Write is a resource for writers. Use these writing prompts for August 2019 to get you writing.
If you want to know how to make the best use your prompts, we suggest you read: All About Writing Prompts & Writing Practice
We hope our 31 prompts for August 2019 inspire you to start a writing routine.
By Mia Botha
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