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Ether for Authors: The Establishment Snipes Back

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Table of Contents

  1. Par­al­lel Tracks
  2. The Estab­lish­ment Snipes Back
  3. The Authors’ Revival Service
  4. Ether-eal Quote of the Week
  5. And Why Aren’t You Self-Publishing?
  6. Conferences
  7. Last Gas: Going the Other Way, Into HarperCollins

Par­al­lel Tracks

In the first section of this installment of the Ether, “The Establishment Snipes Back,” we see a case in which figures in the industry! the industry! seem to be switching places with the ruder, more vociferous elements of the self-publishing community of a year ago.

At the Frankfurt Buchmesse booth in Earls Court at London Book Fair.

At the Frankfurt Buchmesse booth in Earls Court at London Book Fair.

In the second, “The Authors’ Revival Service,” we see an opposing impetus — equally questionable — a kind of euphoria that can squeeze the hearts of self-publishing enthusiasts and make it hard for them to hang on to some needed perspective.

Here at Publishing Perspectives, Roger Tagholm quoted Faber publisher Stephen Page at the London Book Fair talking about recruiting. In What New Skills Do Publishers Need to Navigate in Publishing? Tagholm has Page saying:

I’m looking for people who know how to create value for our authors. I don’t want apologists for books who come with a sort of post-graduate attitude. Everybody wanted to be TS Eliot’s assistant once. We don’t need programmers, but we do need people for whom technology comes naturally and who can see ways that technology can help build a different kind of engagement between readers and writers.

Stephen Page

Stephen Page

Page, known to be one of the most forthright publishers, willing to concede challenges where others dissemble, also contributed the phrase “mirage of stability” to one of my own London on the Ether columns for The Bookseller.

Edward Nawotka

Edward Nawotka

Publishing Perspectives’ lead, Edward Nawotka, writes forcefully with Tagholm from London in Publisher Complaints Against Amazon Becoming Pervasive.

Here are senior figures in publishing “speaking off the record, as has become the norm when Amazon is involved.”

And when is Amazon not involved?

Philip Jones

Philip Jones

Nawotka is echoed by The Bookseller’s chief, Philip Jones, who writes in Carry on publishing with canny caution, “how crazily fretful the sector is when it comes to the folk from Seattle.

“No one will talk on the record about Amazon, and some won’t even talk privately.”

It adds up to a disturbing tension that pops its head around the shiny walls of trade-show booths and glows red under exit signs in writing-conference halls. Like overly zealous social-media fans muddying investigations with their attempts to identify suspects, it’s easy to slip in to ideas of intra-industry competition.

The drive to find a “new normal,” to declare the disruption over, has arrived this spring with all the grace of prickly heat. So keep calm and read on. As agent Jonny Geller gently, respectfully helps us remember, all of us, even the majors, have our bad moments:  

 

The Estab­lish­ment Snipes Back

Barry Eisler

Barry Eisler

 

One literary agent in the audience, Sorche Elizabeth Fairbank, tweeted that I was “offering up bullshit” in suggesting that a legacy publisher’s primary value is paper distribution.

This is author Barry Eisler writing in Eisler on Digital Denial at the site of fellow-author and sometimes co-pundit J.A. Konrath.

Several times in the past, I’ve appreciated Eisler’s even-toned counterbalance to the frequent “Konwrathful” (my term, not Eisler’s) commentary of his associate. In this case, however, Joe Konrath—who follows Eisler with comments of his own—is almost as reserved as Eisler, himself. Especially when compared to the tweet storm “offered up” by agents and editors who heard Eisler’s most recent keynote address.

The incident in question involves a speech Eisler gave Saturday at Pikes Peak Writers Conference. I heard his keynote at the 2011 Writer’s Digest Conference in New York, and his talk then was along the lines of what he describes here having said to the Pikes Peak audience.

What’s getting Eisler into hot water is his basic assertion that self-publishers are capable of mounting almost every element of effective publication themselves, except the print distribution power that large traditional houses have through their physical apparatus and contractual connections with the brick-and-mortar retail marketplace. The engagement on Twitter of agent Sorche Fairbanks and the associated comments of someone tweeting for Tyrus Books as well as agents Rachel Ekstrom,  Janet Reid, Pam van Hylckama, editor Sarah Knight and some others (you need to follow the conversation back to see them) indicates that there is, in fact, a bright line of contention around the idea of hardback and paperback distribution being the last redoubt of legacy publishers.

But while there’s certainly a degree of over-simplification in someone saying “paper distribution is all traditional publishers can offer today that an author can’t do for her- or himself,” it’s not hard to understand that concept.

Three points Eisler does not bring up in his own defense are worth noting here:

Pikes Peak Writers Conference(1) The highest-profile self-publishing deals of late with traditional houses have been for what?—print. Authors including Hugh Howey, Bella Andre, and Colleen Hoover have been able to retain ebook rights in major deals with large legacy publishers for print editions of their books.   The fundamental validity of Eisler’s point is proved right there: Our most powerful self-publishers go to traditional publishers for that key asset, print distribution. And, in a major change from the past, they’re able to get those deals while not handing over control of their e-rights to those publishers. What’s more, in the domination of print distribution, there is a lot being said on behalf of major publishers, I hear nobody bad-mouthing their capabilities there.

Agent Kristin Nelson addressed Writer's Digest Conference East in New York earlier this month.

Agent Kristin Nelson addressed Writer’s Digest Conference East in New York earlier this month.

As I wrote here in Ether for Authors two weeks ago, Howey’s agent Kristin Nelson spoke compellingly at Writer’s Digest Conference East about what a traditional publisher can do when genuinely committed to a print run. Nelson called that effect “unbelievable.” She spoke appreciatively of the “almost evangelical” commitment of such a publisher (the particular reference being to Random House in the UK, Howey’s print publisher there). And she added:

To play the devil’s advocate, I’ve yet to see a book go to international bestseller without a traditional publisher.

In a day when publishers are assailed on all sides, their print-distribution powers may be the one arena left in which they still command respect, hands down. Doesn’t it look as if trade representatives might want to be grateful for that?

(2) The standoff between Simon & Schuster and Barnes & Noble, is about print. Because S&S’s contract is up first, it has become the first knight to this battle. B&N is “disappearing” S&S titles from its shelves, apparently willing to hurt authors and readers in its struggle for whatever it’s trying to achieve in a “showrooming” agreement with the publisher. This protracted skirmish, like the high-visibility print-only deals for self-publishing authors, argues that this is, in some ways, one of Big Publishing’s last stands.

(3) The digital dynamic, as I’ve written before, is an energy of distribution. It is about distribution. It is a creature of distribution. That is precisely its nature, its mechanism, and its power. When you say “digital,” you are saying “new distribution.” There is every reason, every reason, for Eisler and anyone else to look to distribution as a delineating factor here. Every reason. A failure to understand that is a failure to grasp the very essence of digital disruption. Braying at Eisler may show more ignorance than indignation.  

 Eisler writes:

These reactions, and the attitudes behind them, aren’t just immature. They’re also fundamentally unhealthy. How can agents and editors serve writers in a dramatically changing industry if they refuse to listen to new and contrary views? If they believe — and actually advise others — that it’s a mistake even to risk exposure to contrary views?

Agent April Eberhardt at Writer's Digest Conference East in New York earlier this month.

Agent April Eberhardt at Writer’s Digest Conference East in New York earlier this month.

And when we see his message so bitterly assaulted by members of the agenting community, we have to recall agent April Eberhardt’s comments, again at Writer’s Digest this month (recounted in that same Ether).

Most agents, Eberhardt told the audience, still are “invested in the traditional” industry operations. We didn’t have to wait long to see that, did we? Look at some of the climb-downs now:

Awwww. Big exchange of cat pictures to follow.

Of course, the writers who were at Pikes Peak and experienced the agents’ attack may not be seeing this about-face. Damage was done. And the gracious and wise Eisler—if you follow him these days, you’ll notice him cordially letting many prodigals off the hook—even handles the publishing-as-lottery question well.

Eisler writes:

The odds of success in legacy publishing can be thought of as a kind of lottery — but this is true of self-publishing, as well, where the odds of success are also statistically low.

Where I see tweeters blowing right past what Eisler has written is in thinking he has said that one or the other publishing approach is the “only” lottery. No, he just wrote that they are both lotteries, if what you hope to achieve is big success. He’s saying that major success is hard to come by in both traditional and self-publishing. If you ignore this, if you say he hasn’t said what he has said, then your argument against Eisler is feckless.

Eisler goes on:

Too often, people compare the reality of self-publishing to the ideal of legacy publishing, and such a skewed comparison doesn’t yield useful results. The most useful way to look at the choice between legacy publishing and self-publishing, therefore, is as a choice between two kinds of lottery, each with different odds, different kinds of payouts, and different overall advantages and disadvantages.

This is constructive commentary, regardless of your feelings about Eisler or his bouncier bro Konrath or the food at Pike’s Peak. It’s entertaining, in fact, to see more of Eisler’s critics coming down off the ceiling (or not), after he asks them to step up and respond to his column.

I’ve included agent Jennifer Laughran’s tweet here in spite of the fact that she has established with Eisler in comments that she was not flying at him with the others, and he has accepted her explanation on this. Konrath, however, has followed up on Laughran’s comeback with some cogent things to say regarding deportment online, things we all need to read and bear in mind. (As I’ve said, Eisler and Konrath make an unusually effective team this time.)

The Internet is forever. Things you say will always be there to come back and bite you. Those with integrity defend their words. They don’t make excuses or refuse to debate the issue they bitched about.

Laura Resnick / Photo: Amazon author page

Laura Resnick / Photo: author site

Some other instructive viewpoints are appearing in comments on Eisler’s weekend post at Konrath’s site, too. Here, for example, is fantasy author Laura Resnick in a comment:

I was a keynote speaker at that same conference in 2010. I don’t think literary agents liked my speech, either–though about 100 attendees (including 2 editors) pulled me aside in the hallway by the end of the day to tell me how much my talk had resonated with them. I spoke about why I had decided to cease working with literary agents 3 years earlier, and about why that had proved to be the best business decision I’d ever made. Still is.

At any rate, despite being aware of how threatened most mediocre-to-bad agents routinely appear to feel these days (I think smart, capable agents are doing just fine, but they’re the minority), I’m still surprised at the panicky vitriol inspired by your (I agree ) mild, uncontroversial comments in that speech.

Maybe it’s in the water. Or those high elevations.

Author David Gaughran at London Book Fair's Great Debate.

Author David Gaughran at London Book Fair’s Great Debate.

Here’s a comment from a man whose hand I was glad to shake in London. The author and frequent self-publishing leadership figure David Gaughran was at the Author Lounge when I was (more later on this Ether) and here he is, in comments, sanity falling on the situation at last:

I genuinely struggle to see what’s so controversial in what Barry said – print distribution is the USP of a traditional publisher. That doesn’t mean publishers can’t (potentially) provide great editing, covers, or marketing – just that it’s possible for authors to attain those services on the open market, whereas print distribution is much trickier. What probably annoys agents and editors is the obvious question which follows: if paper is shrinking, bookstores are closing, and book-buying is transition online, what value is there in giving 52.5% to a publisher whose USP is print distro?… They could learn a lot from self-publishers (and Amazon), if they weren’t so busy shouting at clouds.

“Shouting at clouds.”

And what we finally come down to is a fascinating switch. A year ago, we were beset by self-publishing evangelists who (a) seemed to think there was some sort of holy war to be won, and (b) were frequently their own worst enemies because of the nasty, foul-mouthed attacks they made on traditional companies and/or personnel. Now, look at how these several agents are behaving, in open data stream, lobbing epithets at Eisler and, by association, at anyone who thinks as he does. I appreciate agent Barry Goldblatt recanting the ugliness of his initial response, that takes guts:

Others are not so gracious, as some of the tweets I’ve included here in this column show you.

Here’s my question: Do authors want to be represented by agents who fire off contentious public comments of this kind when they disagree with other publishing figures’ positions on issues? Is carrying a concealed pitchfork acceptable in today’s publishing industry? Agents I’ve watched most carefully as they studied this quaking terrain don’t behave this way. Nelson and Eberhardt are two of them. Jonny Geller is another. Jason Allen Ashlock and Rachelle Gardner are two more. There are other fine agents working to develop and refine new paths to profitability and creativity for their clients, inclusive of self-publishing and of the new limitations to the roles of big publishers. They’re able to lay out their positions and join the industry’s conversations without deriding others they don’t like. And if we take it on ourselves to ask self-publishing authors to cool their rhetoric, we must do the same with trade-industry types.

Two days before Eisler gave his talk in Colorado, Rachel Deahl of Publishers Weekly was in London, as many of us were, for the trade show.

Rachel Deahl

Rachel Deahl

She wrote in London Book Fair 2013: Defining the New Role for Literary Agents about a panel that included agent Andrew Lownie, formerly with Curtis Brown and since 1998 heading up his own shop. It’s a good read, not least for Lownie’s echoes of the “radical advocacy” Ashlock describes. Lownie’s term for agents is “copyright protectors.” Deahl writes:

Lownie noted, literary agents have become more like “sports agents or celebrity managers,” in so far as they now need to look after their authors’ entire career(s).

Andrew Lownie

Andrew Lownie

And then Deahl goes to the question that Eisler has positioned about publishers and print:

Lownie put it bluntly when he said that only a publisher can “get books into the supermarket.” (In London, with the dissolution of many of the bookstores, the supermarket is one of the most important outlets for selling books.)…Lownie said that while many authors can (and have) found success self-publishing, he thinks they will continue to need to seek out a traditional deal to “move to the next level.” As examples of this, Lownie cited authors like E.L. James and Amanda Hocking, who both struck traditional print deals, after finding success self-publishing.

And that’s what Eisler is talking about as a defining element of traditional publishing capability that still lies outside the reach of much self-publishing capability: print distribution. As far as I know, Lownie wasn’t chased out of Earls Court by tweet-spitting agents.

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The Authors’ Revival Service

You know I’m a glass half full person, but I really do think the industry attitude has changed towards authors and self-publishing.

Joanna Penn tapes an interview with Choosing a Self-Publishing Service author Ben Galley at London Book Fair.

Joanna Penn tapes an interview with Choosing a Self-Publishing Service author Ben Galley at London Book Fair.

Author Joanna Penn is, actually, a glass-95-percent-full person, and her infectious ebullience is evident in London Book Fair RoundUp 2013: An Author’s Perspective.

She goes on:

The Authoright Author Lounge in the Digital Zone was packed out for every session, with security guards turning away people because the crush was a fire hazard. I did hear (unsubstantiated) rumors that 25% of attendees were actually authors and hopefully that means an even better event next year with more space allocated to the growing number of authors who want to learn more about the industry.

Choosing a Self-Publishing Service 2013I was glad to get to say hello to Penn again, our second meeting in London, during the book fair there.

I saw her at the central event for the UK-side self-publishing community, the launch by Orna Ross’ Independent Author Alliance of a guidebook for authors, Choosing a Self-Publishing Service 2013.

Alliance members Ben Galley and Mick Rooney have taken the lead on writing it with Ross editing and Writer Beware’s Victoria Strauss contributing.

The idea is to update the book at intervals of some 20 weeks or so, Ross said during the launch, to accommodate the fast changes making things so queasy these days. It’s good to see this sort of guidance culled and collated by an element of the authors’ corps, and on a particularly vexing topic, too. Many writers need the warnings the Alliance and Strauss can offer about companies now preying on would-be authors. From the book’s introduction:

There are sharks out there in the literary waters. Literary deceptions abound, from fee-charging literary agents, to dishonest editors, to deceptive vanity publishers, to fake contests. The good news is that you can protect yourself, with the right information and a healthy dose of caution. This book provides the information; you must bring the caution.

 

At the Book Fair, however, the tone was unstintingly positive.

Author C.J. Lyons warms up the crowd at the Independent Author Alliance's book launch in the Authors Lounge at London Book Fair.

Author C.J. Lyons warms up the crowd at the Independent Author Alliance’s book launch in the Authors Lounge at London Book Fair.

At the book launch — ably led by an affable emcee, author C.J. Lyons, in a bit of call-and-response, no less — euphoria began to outweigh perspective. This is okay. The arrival of the book is an important milestone for the organization.

But while the “Digital Zone” area of the fair did feel buzzy, as Penn describes, that was in part because it was all centered around a comfortable watering hole, the Digital Café.

It also was far from the power-core of the fair: the main floor with its elaborate publishers’ pavilions and wide concourses was in the EC1 complex, while the Author Lounge, Author of the Day outback, and Digital Zone installations were a long walk—it seemed about halfway to West Drayton — and not at all integrated into the digs and doings of the main industry.

Authoright programmed the Author Lounge at London Book Fair.

Authoright programmed the Author Lounge at London Book Fair.

I can vouch for those crowds.

I had to come back after hours to see the Author Lounge setup without artily dressed folks jammed in for various events.

So excited were the Alliance members presenting the new book that they had to be asked by someone in the audience for its title, they’d forgotten to tell us.

And, as I write this, the book isn’t showing up on the Alliance’s site, something I feel sure they’ll want to rectify when the excitement eases.

The energy of simply being at the big fair, in other words, began to become its own end for some folks involved in the moment. In fact, authors have always been at the London Book Fair, but as props, parts of the publishers’ exhibits, brought in to glamorize sales reps and charm distributors. Like so:

The difference in the self-publishing authors’ presence is that they’re not put forward by publishers, of course, and the Digital Zone booths and stands, like the Authoright-programmed Author Lounge, itself, are corporate efforts to capitalize on the self-publishing movement. The authors were ringed by author services. Friendly ones. But this was no church picnic.

What I’d like to see next year is a program called “Adopt a Publishing Employee.” Each self-publishing enthusiast might collect his or her industry rep from EC1 and bond deeply during the long pilgrimage together into the wilds of EC2 so that trade people have a chance to see and hear what’s being offered and said to and about self-publishers. The divide is the problem.

This week, in reference to the fair and its various energies, we’re helped by the candor of author Roz Morris in Book marketing, self-publishing – and should you seek a publisher? All the fun of the London Book Fair 2013. She’s a member of the Alliance, herself, and was with us at the book launch. She also took a turn as an author-in-residence in the busy Kobo Writing Life display at its capacious pavilion.

Kobo was launching its new Aura HD unit “for passionate book lovers,” as written up by Laura Hazard Owen at paidContent in , and it and Amazon vied amiably for the attentions of entrepreneurial authors. Relative to the discussion in our previous section, Morris encountered an interesting thing when she took print copies of her books with her to Kobo for her appearance there.

For my talk, I’d brought along print copies. When I pulled them out of my bag, the reaction was immediate and adoring, as if they were fluffy kittens. Even from the Kobo staff. People picked the books up, flicked through the pages, stroked the spine, read the back (spine and back covers are as important as front). I was amazed, actually, at how much impact a print edition makes.

Author Roz Morris at the Independent Author Alliance book launch at London Book Fair.

Author Roz Morris at the Independent Author Alliance book launch at London Book Fair.

All is not ebooks, you see, and this is something many self-publishing authors are grappling with. What’s more, rather than letting us think the authorial presence out in EC2 was all winged beings bending to bless the Book Fair with the exuberance of their creativity, Morris gets right down to what some of those authors were doing there:

The guys at the [Amazon] KDP stand reported that this year’s number one question was, “Why isn’t my book selling?” (Some writers were ruder than that. I saw a furious lady collar an Amazonian and growl: “I have five books on KDP, what are you going to do about selling them?” If Amazon starts offering marketing services, don’t wail that they’re evil. They get asked about it day in, day out. And it’s very unfair to blame them for it. They just give you the space to use.)

 

Morris is also one of the Alliance’s folks who’s willing to grapple more earnestly than some with the gray areas inherent in this cheek-by-jowl proximity of self-publishers and trade people at a trade show. Her advice isn’t everything many self-publishers want to hear. Which makes her all the more valuable to party-hat wearers at the Alliance. She writes:

I still think if you’re new to the industry you should query, because you never know what opportunities you might find…An agent is probably more help to you at the moment than a publisher. Even if they don’t get you a deal, it’s a contact in the industry, should you need it. But also consider the agent’s motivation. They’re not risk-takers or talent-nurturers. They want you to make a deal, otherwise they don’t get paid…Publishers at the moment don’t seem to be worth the bother. Smart authors can do better for themselves, but this can’t continue. For a while, publishers will bluster on, trying to keep things the way they are. But in a few years’ time, they might be offering true partnerships and fair, transparent deals.

And when those “true partnerships and fair, transparent deals” come along, I hope self-publishers aren’t still out in the meadowlands of EC2 on their own, hooting it up about their independence.

  Find yourself a trade-publishing chum—an editor, a publicist, a proofreader, anybody. Get to know his or her issues; help him or her know yours. Bring EC2 closer to EC1. Because we can’t even get one publishing industry to work well. The last thing we need is industries not working.

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Ether-eal Quote of the Week

 

You could make this so much easier for yourself if you stuck to only publishing bestsellers.

David Worlock

David Worlock

From The Editor Is You by David Worlock of Oxford.

If self-publishing eBooks has taught us anything , from Amanda Hockings and John Lock onwards , it is that the publisher editorial selection process does not satisfy the participatory urges of large populations , and that user review and rating is seen as the selectivity tool , not publisher puff and blurb .

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And Why Aren’t You Self-Publishing?

 

These authors will write about the writing craft, querying, the waiting period before their books release, promo…nothing about switching to digital or any of the upheaval they must surely be experiencing/aware of in their dealings with traditional publishers.

Elizabeth S. Craig

Elizabeth S. Craig

Like many of us, author Elizabeth S. Craig is taken with the large number of authors who seem indifferent to the revving engine of self-publishing. In Why Some Traditionally Published Writers Aren’t Self-Publishing, she looks at this anti-trend.

The reason I’m bringing it up at all (since I’m not exactly the type who wants to be a lightning rod of any kind) is out of concern for these writers, moving forward. And the fact that I’m somewhat frustrated and mystified.  If these writers are simply satisfied with their current situation…I’m wondering how long that’s going to continue being true as advances decrease and bookstores close. As publishers tighten their belts and take on fewer manuscripts. As publishers merge or close their doors.

Some of the reasoning she brings to the table:

The main excuse I’ve heard for not exploring self-publishing is time.  Some writers have got contracts for several years into the future and don’t see themselves starting another series for self-publishing.

I can see the time concern as weighty. But I think she may be getting closer to a quiet truth about the paranoia of the situation here:

I’ve also observed a sense among some authors that if they’re publicly vocal about self-publishing that it will somehow hurt their traditionally published career…that it will hint at their unhappiness with traditional publishing or imply criticism of it when they don’t actually feel that way.

 

It’s an interesting read. Craig mentions non-compete clauses, which, in existing contracts, can stop authors in their self-publishing tracks. She also looks for perceptions of self-published projects as being less than commercially viable, and other elements of the usual stigma. Craig is a hybrid and has come to self-publish parts of her cozy-mystery-series output thoughtfully and cautiously. Today, she concludes:

I think many of the above reasons for not exploring self-publishing are hooey. I worry these writers are burying their heads in the sand and some of them are great writers–I would miss their stories.

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Conferences

If you have a publishing conference in the offing, let me know about it via my contact page, and I’ll be happy to consider including it in my site’s listing and in columns as I have the chance. Here’s a look at conferences coming in the near term.  Please note that a listing here is not my endorsement of a conference or other event, but an informational inclusion. Amazingly, there are still some conferences I haven’t seen in action yet.


May 2-5 Oxford, Mississippi Oxford Creative Nonfiction Writers Conference & Workshops: Susan Cushman follows her Memphis Creative Nonfiction confab with this year’s gathering at the shrine. Among faculty members: Neil White, Leigh Feldman, Lee Gutkind, Dinty W. Moore, Beth Ann Fennelly, Bob Guccione Jr. and Lee Martin. Pre-conference workshops or just the creature itself, your choice.

May 3-5 Boston The Muse & the Marketplace 2013 is a production of Eve Bridburg’s fast-rising non-profit Grub Street program. Its material tells us that organizers plan more than “110 craft and publishing sessions led by top-notch authors, editors, agents and publicists from around the country. The Manuscript Mart, the very popular and effective one-on-one manuscript reviews with agents and editors, will also span three days. We expect nearly 800 writers and publishing professionals to attend, while maintaining the conference’s wonderfully intimate, ‘grubby’ energy that we love.” (Hashtag: #Muse2013) Live-tweet coverage from this conference.

Reaching Readers confabMay 28 New York City: Reaching Readers: Book Marketing Conference 2013 is a production of our Ether-eal host here, Publishing Perspectives and the Frankfurt Academy. An early-bird rate of $365 runs to April 15. After that, regular price is $415 for the day that features expert commentary from folks including Ketchum’s Nancy Martira, Scholastic’s Morgan Baden, Wiley’s Jeanenne Ray, Edelman’s Steve Rubel, and many more.

BEA 2013 againMay 29-June 1 New York City BookExpo America (BEA): “BEA continues to evolve each year by adding new and exciting features to keep pace with the industry and in direct response to customer feedback to ensure you get the best return on investment by participating in North America’s premier publishing event.”

May 29-30 New York City IDPF Digital Book Conference at BookExpo America (BEA): “IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum) Digital Book 2013 at BEA is a two-day conference focused on all the key issues we face in advancing publishing in an increasingly digital world.  In-depth sessions will analyze key opportunities and pitfalls, highlighting compelling business strategies and actionable solutions.”

May 29 New York City: Publishers Launch BEA is May’s installment of the series of daylong conferences programmed by Mike Shatzkin of Idea Logical and Michael Cader of Publishers Lunch. Speakers on tap so far include agent Brian DeFiore, Enders Analysis’ Benedict Evans, Trident Media’s Robert Gottlieb, Aerbook’s Ron Martinez, consultant Peter McCarthy, Hachette’s Ken Michaels, and more.

BEA Bloggers ConferenceMay 29 New York City BEA Bloggers Conference at BookExpo America (BEA): “Attend BEA Bloggers Conference to learn, be inspired, and connect with book bloggers, authors, and publishing industry professionals. You will benefit from a jam-packed day of education, extreme networking, and the passion and fun that surrounds book blogging. Session topics include: blogging in today’s world, critical reviews, making money with your blog, creating community, and how publishers and bloggers work together.”

uPublishUJune 1 New York City uPublishU at BEA: “Are you ready to take the leap and transform your manuscript to a published book and/or ebook? Aspiring writers and authors will learn from industry experts tips and tactics and all about the tools and technology to help them self-publish a print book or an ebook.”

Jackson Hole Writers ConferenceJune 27-29 Jackson Hole, Wyoming: Jackson Hole Writers Conference: “Each year distinguished speakers, editors and agents join our resident faculty to deliver a weekend of active and engaging dialogue, collaboration and the opportunity for all of us to raise the stakes on our work.Manuscript critiques are an important part of our conference, providing a way for you to discuss your work one-on-one with experienced writers, editors and agents.” The program also features a pre-conference writing workshop.

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Last Gas: Going the Other Way, Into HarperCollins

Hanas has been publishing ebooks before most people in publishing knew what they were. He self-published his first ebook, Single, in 2006, a collection of two of his previously published stories – a radical experiment at the time. That release and other such experiments led him to an ebook publishing deal in 2010 with Toronto-based ECW Press for his story collection Why They Cried.

Jim Hanas

Jim Hanas

But now, Jim Hanas is at HarperCollins, joining the staff as director of audience development.

And Jeremy Greenfield at Digital Book World, has an interview with him. HarperCollins Audience Development Director Jim Hanas: Finding an Audience, Book-by-Book.  Some might see an immediate question in that headline. “Book by book.” Not reader by reader. Naysayers will tell you that’s precisely the problem with big publishing. It still knows its books, not its readers. But Hanas is a smart and creative soul. He has an answer:

The book business is very unique in that the end users are consumers but the immediate clients are not consumers. The bad news is that we’re in the same situation as Pepsi in that we’re now addressing consumers. The good news is that we’re in the media business so we know how to entertain people.

Jeremy Greenfield

Jeremy Greenfield

We have to hope he’s right.

Every piece of content — whether it’s an article in the New York Observer or a book from Ecco Press — has an audience of a certain size and is out there and audience development in my mind is the role of building systems and maintaining content strategy that make it as easy for us to reach that audience with that piece of content.

And as to being the author he is in a corporate role:

I like both sides of the game. I’m a literary writer and a literary reader and that’s what I love from an artistic perspective but you’ll find from my resume that I do enjoy digital media and how it’s changing and how it works. So, I actually enjoy the game of figuring out how to get content in front of the people who want it.

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Porter Anderson is a Fellow with the National Critics Institute, a 32-year journalist with several newspapers and three networks of CNN, as well as a producer posted to the Rome headquarters of the United Nations’ World Food Programme. This column, Ether for Authors, appears here at Publishing Perspectives on Mondays. Anderson’s Writing on the Ether is read Thursdays at JaneFriedman.com and he is a regular contributor to WriterUnboxed.com. His all-new London on the Ether for The Bookseller was inaugurated during the London Book Fair. More about him is at PorterAnderson.com.


Main image –  iStockphoto: Lexan

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11 Comments

  1. Posted April 23, 2013 at 12:05 am | Permalink

    Great column as usual, and great round up of the Pikes Peak shenannigans, Porter. The conversations on that blog entry are still going strong, and are remarkably civil, respectful and well thought out. I only disagree on one point, which is that I buy Jennifer Laughlin’s explanation (whereas I’m getting the feeling you don’t). When taken in context as a sympathatic joking response to a friend complaining about a bad talk at an unnamed conference about an unknown speaker, it doesn’t seem unreasonable. I’ve certainly done similarly myself, I’m sure. :-)

  2. Posted April 23, 2013 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Dude. I stand in awe. Honestly don’t know how you do it between the traveling and the writing and the *analysis* (thinking is paradoxically the easiest thing and the hardest thing) but I come to you first to know what’s going on in my industry. (Because, you know, I do have to work on occasion.) Great post. They all are.

  3. Posted April 23, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Hey, Livia,

    Thanks so much for the great comment and kind words, wonderful to have you, as always. Isn’t it great to see how poised and civil everybody is on Eisler and Konrath’s post on this? Not to knock Joe Konrath, this may be the best-mannered and most thoughtful round of conversation on his site in weeks! :) Seriously, I’m impressed with him, with his readers (as always) and, of course, with Barry Eisler on this, they’re rising to an important occasion that could have been left in the squalor of some really bad behavior earlier.

    As for Jennifer Laughran, I actually am closer to your feelings than you might think. I felt it was important to include her apparently tangential participation for a couple of reasons. (1) She did chime in, albeit in a different way, and to the degree that Barry Eisler initially thought she was part of the untoward reaction, too. As I point out, they’ve come to terms on this and understand what she is saying happened. (2) Perhaps more importantly, Joe Konrath picks up on her comment in the thread to make some of his best points yet about visibility and permanence online, and I felt it was well worth highlighting those, thoughts, as well. (I didn’t feel I needed to go into the actual challenge he makes to Laughran’s assertion in that comment since, as we’re saying, she appears not to have been a party to the attack — that would have been playing off a kind of secondary disagreement, and we have enough primary disagreement in this column to last us for weeks!)

    So I’m not disinclined to believe Jennifer any more than I think Eisler is. She is simply in place as a presence on this extraordinary scene and as sensitive as so many are (understandably) around it, my journalistic impulse — never move anything at the scene to make your news photo “better,” lol — kicked in and made me want to keep her right where she was, despite her esplanation, but inclusive of her understanding with Eisler.

    Hope that makes sense, and thanks again so much for reading, as ever, and for your insights. I’m really hoping that this painful moment is a turning point for many agents — and their clients — in understanding how all of us in the industry want to represent ourselves, treat each other, and perform in public. Important stuff.

    Cheers!
    -p.
    @Porter_Anderson

  4. Posted April 23, 2013 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Jamie, thanks for the kind words and, as always, for reading!

    You’re too kind really, and I have to tell you, somewhere between WDCE, Digital Minds, London Book Fair, the Alliance launch, paidContent Live and about four other events (in some country, I’m not sure which one), I had to ask myself when I was doing the thinking, too! — maybe IF I was doing any thinking, LOL.

    It does get harried during this time of year and why our fine conference organizers won’t spread out their dates to make my life easier, I can’t figure out. :)

    But you’re most kind, and your faithful readership is always appreciated, even when I’m keeling over at the end of this or that event.

    Thanks again and…more to come. :)
    -p.
    @Porter_Anderson

  5. Posted April 23, 2013 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    Porter, thanks for yet another great post. Your three points that I didn’t bring up WRT the relative value of distribution were particularly good food for thought. Here’s something I said in the comments on Joe’s blog but I wanted to mention it here too because it’s relevant to exactly this point.

    I’ve been focusing my comments on paper distribution, but I realize they actually they apply more broadly, to distribution generally. That is, whether we’re talking about paper or digital, the one thing writers can’t hire out for themselves at a fixed cost is distribution. Assigning a price to paper distribution is difficult, but the market has assigned a price to digital distribution — 30% of the list price of a book.

    Most authors seem to think 30% is a fair price (or, even if they don’t, they have no other choice — again, illustrating my point that distribution is essential and not something authors can realistically outsource).

    Now let me ask this: authors who are currently paying 30% to Amazon and other online retailers for distribution, would you pay 30% for any other publishing service? Editorial? Copyediting? Cover design? How about any combination of other services, or even for a combination of *all* other services?

    I think we’re going to have a hard time finding many authors who would say, “Sure, I’d pay someone 30% of list price to do everything but distribution.”

    If I’m right, it suggests that in digital publishing, the most important/valuable/difficult to replace service is distribution. I can’t see any reason that things would be different in paper publishing. And because we know that New York is typically paying authors only 17.5% digital royalties, while paying online retailers 30% for digital distribution, New York is effectively saying that “All publishing services except distribution” are worth 52.5% of the retail price of a book.

    Hmm, I think I’m going to call that APSED. Because the world needs another acronym. :)

    For authors who feel that APSED (what, did you think I was kidding?) is worth 52.5%, the traditional route will generally makes sense. For authors who would rather pay fixed fees for APSED, self-publishing will generally be more appealing.

    Thanks again for adding so much good thinking to this discussion. It’s really refreshing that something that started with so much heat has come to shed a fair amount of light.

  6. Alec Brody
    Posted April 24, 2013 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Could you an least find a picture of Laura Resnick the author and not a real estate agent of the same name? It casts some doubt on your research skills. What else did you get wrong in your cut and paste?

  7. Posted April 24, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Hey, Barry,

    Many thanks for your comment here (and for the long exchange in comments at Joe Konrath’s site with your original piece). Heat and light, you’re right — it’s pretty great to see how much good thinking from so many people has come into play, not only on the issues of distribution and APSED (great! another acronym!) but also on questions of — gosh, what an antiquated word — “deportment” in our online as well as offline lives.

    I’m with Livia Blackburne, a reader, who dropped a note to say she was impressed with how “civil, respectful, and well thought-out” the commentary has been, and she’s right. It seems that out of the unpleasant fray of the event over the weekend, a lot more cordial dialogue has developed, and that’s really critical if we’re to make any progress in healing so many of the industry’s rifts.

    And your point here about the cost of APSED is compelling. To turn it around, when you add the combination of 30% as an established cost of (digital) distribution to your “All Publishing Services Except Distribution” at 52.5%, an author is looking at 82.5% to get the book out.

    Wonder why it’s so hard to earn out an advance. If there is an advance. :)

    Granted, there are ways to handle numbers and other ways to handle numbers. Why do I think there’s probably somebody around the next corner ready to challenge that 52.5%? — regardless, and even as a model for academic consideration of the topic, this is compelling. Clearly, no, most authors aren’t going to feel that a 52.5% bite *before* they even get to distribution is right.

    And, to get back to our friends in the thin air at Pike’s Peak, this is the kind of reality that’s evidently hitting home pretty severely these days. Not easy to handle or accept. And it illustrates why rights control and negotiation becomes so supremely important if someone is to work with a publisher at this point — which, if our agenting colleagues can see their way past the emotions and on to the work at hand, means a potentially incisive and honorable role for them in the process.

    I agree with you on the essential nature of distribution in this scenario, both digital and paper. I’ve even seen versions of this play out in past decades at, for example, a small newspaper I ran once as managing editor. We could get the thing printed in the next town easily. But distribution? Where small papers fell down was that lack of trucks the big players could deploy. We couldn’t get the paper out effectively, never did fully solve our issues. And that was before digital was more than a wisp of smoke on the wind — unseen heat, no light yet.

    In retrospect, then, this central importance of distribution is probably less new than we think of it as being. Because digital is that creature of distribution, however — and has its most dramatic effects on us in the modes and speed and reach of new distribution — it seems to us that this is the monster truck rolling over us. For all intents and purposes, it is, and, as you’ve made so clear, it finally is distribution that really does require something beyond the author’s own (or easily hired) capabilities.

    I recently learned (from an exhibition at the Pierpont Morgan Library) that Mark Twain hired door-to-door salesmen to move his books. Now THAT was distribution. Short of driving around with the things in the trucks of our cars these days? Yes, we need distribution.

    How traditional publishers are going to handle our industry-wide maturing understanding of what may be the costs of APSED? Remains to be seen. But, certainly, as the self-publishing marketplace and support mechanisms become more sophisticated, I think it’s safe to assume that our colleagues in traditional houses are going to have to confront and adjust their approach, the numbers, however crunched, just won’t support current cost structures for much longer, in most cases.

    Thanks again for leading us all on such a healthy round of debate and reflection in the last few days, I think it’s been helpful even when difficult. As mentioned in my post, I appreciate the serious, even-toned approach you and Joe Konrath have brought to the table. It’s helped everybody calm down and do some thinking.

    -p.
    @Porter_Anderson

  8. Posted April 24, 2013 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Hello, Alec, and thanks for your note, if not its tone. If the originally posted image of Laura Resnick was incorrect — my information is that it was right — then, of course, you and she have my apologies. To be certain, the picture has been replaced with one from her own site. Nobody tries to make mistakes, Alec. And being alerted to them when they happen — and they do happen — is always useful. So thanks again, and all the best.
    -p.
    @Porter_Anderson

  9. Posted April 24, 2013 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    I largely agree with Barry–though I do feel that the potentially sizeable costs to self-publishers of obtaining professional design, editing, etc. should be emphasized more. However, I really wish we could stop using “legacy publisher” to describe traditional publishers. It’s a term that embodies an assumption about the state of traditional publishing that hasn’t yet been proven–plus, it was coined as an epithet, and has a negative connotation that I don’t think adds to serious discussion.

  10. Posted April 25, 2013 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Hi, Victoria,

    Great to have you here, thanks for reading and commenting! And before I forget, congratulations on the release of the Independent Author Alliance’s new Choosing a Self-Publishing Service, which I’m sure is going to be a really useful reference for a lot of people. ( http://ow.ly/kpTn2 )

    And yes, I think a lot of folks feel that “legacy” is the wrong term and ill-applied (sometimes, no doubt, because it’s shorter and quicker than “traditional,” not as a deliberate slight). You’ll find that our colleague Philip Jones at The Bookseller makes the same point, which I’ve just highlighted in today’s follow-on to the Pikes Peak affair at Writing on the Ether ( http://ow.ly/kpTiZ ).

    Good point, and thanks again for coming by, great to have you!
    -p.
    @Porter_Anderson

  11. Posted April 25, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Great article! We are linking to this great post on our site.
    Keep up the great writing.

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