Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Frankfurt Book Fair Survey

Monday's Publishers Weekly had a really interesting article about the annual survey associated with the Frankfurt Book Fair, which will be held from October 14 to 18.

I reported on the 2007 publishers' survey here and here.

To see the questions from this year's survey, go here.

The first question sets the tone: Does the respondent regard digitization as a crisis or as an opportunity for the industry?

When asked what the biggest threats are for the media industry, over 72% of the publishers responding said Digitization: the development of new business models, new multi-media products, and new marketing strategies.

Another question asked when digital content would generate more turnover (sales) than business with traditional books? The question offered the following years as choices: 2012, 2018, 2028, 2038 or never. About half the respondents gave 2018 as the tipping point.

Publishers Weekly reports that when respondents were asked which price models for digital content offered the most long-term potential:
Charging readers a flat rate that would allow them access to all of a information provider’s online content similar to a traditional subscription model was favored by 25% of respondents, especially those from Europe. Paying for snippets of content through micropayments was favored by 23%, with that method backed the most in Great Britain and the U.S. The premium model, under which users would pay for selected online content, found support from 16% of respondents.

There were varying opinions on how e-books should be priced. Most publishers believe the price should be lower than that of the p-books although nearly 20% were unenlightened enough to believe the price should be the same for both e-books and p-books or that the e-book should be more expensive [Sweet mercy!!!]

Thirty percent (30%) of the publishers believe the e-book should be priced at 30% below the p-book price.

They're learning although my reaction is that the discount should be greater than 30%.

In 2007, 85% of the respondents were from Europe, compared to 74% this year.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Aide Steals From Steel

Publishers Lunch directed me to a news item I had previously missed.

The Associated Press (AP) reported today:
A former aide to Danielle Steel is facing time in federal prison after admitting she stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the romance novelist.
Actually there appears to be some question as to how much Kristy Watts stole from her former employer. According to tomorrow's Independent (UK):
Watts has already admitted embezzling $400,000 and it has emerged that she pleaded guilty to fraud and tax evasion in a hush-hush hearing last week. At the time, Steel was referred to only as "employer A".
However, in the civil lawsuit Steel filed, she alleges Watts cost her $2.7 million over the fifteen years the two were together.

The San Francisco Examiner said Watts pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco to one count of wire fraud and four counts of tax evasion. The Examiner goes on to say:
In a written plea agreement filed in court, Watts admitted that between 2003 and 2008, "I embezzled and stole more than $400,000" from the employer.
My first thought was, "That's the last five years of your employment (Steel fired Watts in December, 2008). What about the first ten years?"

WGAL in San Francisco says that Steel formed the TPA Company (she was once married to financier Tom Perkins) to handle her household and travel expenses. Watts was controller of TPA. WGAL also reports:
Watts, who is also known as Kristy Siegrist, said in the federal plea agreement that she embezzled from Steel in three ways: depositing checks made out by her employer for "cash" to her personal account; using the employer's credit card reward points to buy airline tickets and gift cards for Watts and her family; and arranging for a payroll processing company to pay her more than she was due . . .
The AP indicated that "Sentencing is set for Feb. 4 in federal court in San Francisco."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Requiescat in Pace, Kate Duffy

Before leaving the house this morning to head to the university, I checked Twitter. I was taken aback to find several tweets about the death of Kate Duffy.

Hoping the blogosphere was mistaken, I emailed a good friend who writes for Kensington and who was one of Kate's authors.

On the way to work, I remember thinking of Mark Twain's famous quote: "The news of my death has been greatly exaggerated." I said a quick prayer that Kate's death was one such rumor.

Kate Duffy was Editorial Director at Kensington Books. She was a force to be reckoned with in the world of romance novels. Over the years, she'd worked with the top names in romance. Names like Janet Dailey, Jude Deveraux, Lori Foster, Judith McNaught and Mary Janice Davidson.

When I got to work, I immediately checked my email to find that the rumor was true and that Kate Duffy had succumbed to illness.

I wasn't one of Kate's authors and I don't write for Kensington, but she had a huge impact on my life anyway. You see, Kensington released The Lady's Tutor in 1999. That book was the first erotic romance I ever read.

I cannot tell you the impression that book made on me. First, I hadn't read a romance in more than a dozen years when I purchased The Lady's Tutor from a hotel newstand in Oklahoma where I was stuck overnight, waiting for a meeting the following day at a local stock brokerage house. I'd tired of the genre's coy language and mincing approach to sex. The Lady's Tutor was a revelation to me. I hadn't known there were romances written in such an honest, straightforward fashion.

When I returned to Dallas, I went looking for more erotic romances. They were hard to find back then. Eventually, Ellora's Cave, an e-publisher specializing in Romantica (neologism combining "romance" and "erotica"), opened shop in 2000, but did not initially offer p-books (physical books).

Kate Duffy was a genius. She understood that the time was right for a print publisher to get into the erotic romance genre. She was the force behind Kensington's Brava line, the first imprint devoted to erotic romance in the U.S. The first release from Brava was Intrigued by Bertrice Small in February, 2001.

For more than a year, I watched for each new release from Brava because there were no other print publishers offering erotic romance. Kensington is an independent publisher, which meant that owner Walter Zacharius didn't have to report to a skeptical mega-corporate board. He just trusted Kate's instincts.

Brava's success attracted a lot of attention. Before long, every New York publisher had its own erotic romance line.

On a personal level, I started writing my first erotic romance in 2004, inspired by the books I was reading.

So Kate Duffy had a real impact on my life.

Requiescat in pace, Kate . . . and thank you.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Gift To You

This news made my day. Because like Brandon Badger, Google's Product Manager, when I was a kid, I loved going through old LIFE magazines. Our public library had racks of LIFE, and I spent many hours curled up in a large chair turning the pages of one issue after another.

Starting today, Google Books has digitized 1,860 issues from LIFE Magazine's entire run from 1936 to 1972.

Go here to read the announcement by Google.

Go here to start viewing LIFE.

Have a good weekend. I'll see you again on Monday.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The New iRex Has Arrived

Yesterday, the publishing world was agog over news of the iRex DR800SG, the newest e-reading device to burst onto the scene. The DR800SG has a touch screen and corporate connections to Verizon, Best Buy and Barnes & Noble.

Hearing all the hoopla yesterday, you might have thought iRex was a newcomer to the world of e-book reading devices. That's not the case.

I first mentioned the iRex--a Dutch company which was a spinoff of Royal Philips Electronics--on my blog in January, 2006. At that time their early version of an e-reader was being called the iLiad and was scheduled to be launched in April, 2006. In July, 2006, I reported:
". . . the iRex was scheduled to be released on July 11th. I was shocked to see the advertised price of the iLiad was $811 . . . I [don't] picture them selling many of those babies."
Two years later in May, 2008, I said: ". . . the price has come down. The newest version of the iLiad is *only* $699. More importantly, however, The Bookseller had an article on Monday about the iLiad: 'Borders is to become the first seller of e-book readers in the United Kingdom with seven stores stocking the iLiad reader . . .'"

In September, 2008, I reported: that iRex had distributed a press release:
Gill & Macmillan, the leading Irish book publisher, today launched a pilot scheme that will take some weight off the shoulders of the first-year pupils of Caritas College, Ballyfermot . . . St. Brendan’s class, a group of 18 first year students at the all-girl school . . . will become the first class of students worldwide to replace their academic load with the iLiad, an electronic book device.
Ten days later, BusinessWeek reported on an experiment in France with a prototype digital device from iRex called the Read & Go:
The trial of the prototype will wrap up this month, and by 2009, France Telecom (FTE) aims to start distributing the Read & Go in conjunction with a subscription-based news service of the same name. For a monthly charge similar to a mobile service plan, customers will receive an over-the-air stream of aggregated content from a wide assortment of information sources. Alongside the articles will be ads that help defray the cost of the service.
The article indicated France Telecom was "partnering" with the newspaper industry to offer the major French newspapers, such as Le Monde and Le Figaro, through its cellular network. Ads were planned to run alongside the articles, providing revenue to offset the cost of the service. The newspapers would receive a cut from the subscription fees for Read & Go.

So iRex is not a Johnny-come-lately, and yesterday's announcement was the culmination of years of development. Barnes & Noble has agreed to offer e-books and newspapers for download on the DR800SG although The New York Times claims a deal to put the B&N brand on the e-reader fell through.Publishers Weekly reported:
The new device has a 8.1” black & white e-ink touchscreen; offers wireless 3G connectivity through the Verizon network and will cost $399. The iRex DR800SG and [sic] will be available for sale through Best Buy chain by next month.
In talking about iRex, the New York Times said:
By all accounts, e-readers are set to have a breakout year. Slightly more than one million of them were sold globally in 2008, according to the market research firm iSuppli. The firm predicts that 5.2 million will be sold this year, more than half of them in North America, driven by the popularity and promotion of the Kindle, which is available only through Amazon’s Web site.
Engadget has photos of the DR800SG here. Better yet, watch the e-reader being demonstrated on Fox News here.

Read The New York Times article here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 Announces A POD Only Release

About a year ago, Tor Books launched a new website titled The site described itself as:
. . . a site for science fiction, fantasy, and all the things that interest SF and fantasy readers, presents original short fiction, new sequential art, extensive art galleries, and commentary on science fiction and related subjects by a wide range of writers from all corners of the science fiction and fantasy field; both professionals working in the genres and fans. Its aim is to provoke, encourage, and enable interesting and rewarding conversations with and between its readers.
The Fiction Editor of is Patrick Nielsen Hayden, well-known sci-fi editor, writer and blogger.

Over the last year, has offered some interesting book reviews and even more interesting commentaries. I particularly liked Brian Slattery's comment on genres last Halloween here in a post titled "What Are Fantasy and Magical Realism Anyway?". Slattery said:
From the writer’s point of view, the genres aren’t categories; they’re tools in a toolbox. Which tools—and how many—should the writer use? It all depends on what you’re trying to build, doesn’t it?
About two weeks ago, announced the immediate availability of David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer’s anthology titled Year’s Best Fantasy 9.

There were two really interesting things about YBF 9. First: The anthology "marks something we’re particularly proud of:’s debut as a publishing entity, distinct from Tor Books and as a separate imprint under our shared corporate overlords at Macmillan."

And second: "YBF 9 is available only as a print-on-demand book, in keeping with our mission of always exploring alternative forms of publishing."

What does this mean? will only print the book when it has an order (and payment) in hand. 100% sell-through. No expensive print runs or warehousing of p-books, no costly returns and pulping of unsold books. Order received, book printed and shipped. Because's bookstore has the digital book on file, the anthology can be available indefinitely on a virtual bookshelf in their virtual bookstore.

Remember my post about the Espresso Book Machine last Friday? The new publishing model is right around the corner.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Thinking About the New Technology

After my post on Friday about Google signing a deal with the makers of the Espresso Book Machine, reader Sandra Ferguson asked the following question:
So, do you think this is the wave of the future? Should we be cheering? Or holding our collective writing breath?
I promised Sandra an answer today.

I don't know that I ever said this before on this blog, but my original major in college was History. My first career plan was to become an archeologist. Financial pressures led to my downsizing that vision to teaching history . . . at least initially. Then my life took another direction altogether. But studying the past remains an avocation.

In The Merchant of Venice, Launcelot says:
". . . truth will come to light; murder cannot be hid long; a man's son may, but at the length truth will out."
With apologies to Shakespeare, one thing my studies of the past has taught me: Technology will out.

By that I mean that efforts by companies or cultures to suppress technology have almost always failed. Technology wins in the end. Trying to stop technological progress never works.

In Lawrence Lessig's 2008 book Remix, the Stanford law professor describes John Philip Sousa's testimony before Congress in 1906:
"He had come to Washington to ask that Congress 'remedy a serious defect in, which permits manufacturers and sellers of phonograph appropriate for their own profit the best compositions of the American composer without paying a single cent therefor"--a form of 'piracy' as he called it."
Not satisfied with his tirade against phonograph manufacturers, Sousa railed again the "cultural emptiness that mechanical music would create." He dramatically declared that human vocal cords "would be eliminated by a process of evolution."

Sousa's histrionic tirade seems quaint today. But his fears were very real to him in 1906. Although he succeeded in changing U.S. copyright law, he was unable to stop technological progress.

And I guess that sums up my thinking on the state of publishing today. I believe the following:

1) U.S. copyright law is antiquated and needs to be overhauled.

2) Writers and publishers need to stop trying to stop the new technology and figure out how to make it work for them.

3) The developed world needs to move outside its own egocentric needs and recognize how the new technology can advantage those who are not as well off as we are. As I've previously stated, according to the World Bank's Poverty and Growth blog, the print-on-demand technology of the EBM "offers the opportunity to deliver development knowledge and content to students, practitioners, media, and simply interested individuals in a way they could not be reached before." The prohibitive costs of printing, shipping and warehousing books for underdeveloped nations limits the amount of printed material that can be provided to poor areas of the globe.

EBM machines strategically placed on a regional basis around the third world would make available information in their own language to peoples who have never before had access to books.

So while I acknowledge that the ground under the publishing world is shifting, instead of working on stopping the earth tremors, I'm focussed on learning how to locate the footholds and practicing how to hop nimbly from rock to rock.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The eBooks of the Future

On Thursday I asked the question "What will the e-book look like in the future?"

On Saturday, Computerworld answered.

In an article titled "What's Wrong With eBooks?" Mike Elgan makes six suggestions for publishers. I'm only going to list the four that are specific to ebooks.

1) We need to be able to buy all three versions of a book (audio, ebook and hardcover p-book) at a price about $10 more than the hardcover instead of forking out more than twice the price of the hardcover to get all three.

2) We need ebooks that can be revised or updated without the customer having to purchase an entire new edition.

3) We need a social networking website for all major books (something I predicted in my Thursday post).

4) We need release dates for ebooks that come ahead of the p-book release dates.

Of course, it is suggestion #4 that will make publishers' heads spin like Regan MacNeil's in The Exorcist.

And Elgan knows this. He ends his article with the following message to publishers:
Publishers, here's the bottom line: The future of your industry is in jeopardy . . . Instead of blocking innovation, jerking around your customers and coming up with new ways to protect your tree-pulp business, it's time for you to embrace the book business . . .
Amen, brother.

To read Elgan's terrific article, including his other two suggestions, go here.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Google Signs Deal With The EBM

There was an article in eWeek yesterday about the Espresso Book Machine (EBM) signing an agreement with Google whereby Google will provide the digitized files on two million books in the public domain to On Demand Books (the parent company of the EBM) for printing and sale.

According to eWeek:
Google Books titles offered via the Espresso Machine will have a recommended sales price of $8 per copy, though the price is subject to change by retailers. On Demand may have access to sell more works if Google's Book Search deal with authors and publishers passes muster with the New York District Court in October.
I was most interested in the economics of the deal. The article says that the Espresso Book Machine is available for sale to publishers, libraries and retailers for $75,000 and can produce a professional-quality paperback with a full-color paperback cover in about five to ten minutes.

The Associated Press claims the EBM sells for $100,000 and that On Demand Books and Google will each get about a $1 from a book sale. Google has announced it will donate its proceeds to charities and other nonprofit causes.

Either way, the price of the machines are coming down. When the University of Alberta Bookstore installed its EBM on November 1, 2007, the price was $144,000.

The AP says:
On Demand's printing machines already are in more than a dozen locations in the United States, Canada, Australia, England and Egypt, mostly at campus book stores, libraries and small retailers. The Harvard Book Store will be among the first already equipped with an instant-publishing machine to have access to Google's digital library.
Go here to read the eWeek article.

Go here to read the AP story in the New York Daily News.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Questions to be Asking

Two interesting blog posts to recommend. First is Kassia Krozser's follow-up to her post about the implosion of Quartet. On Monday here, Kassia talked about the business model for digital publishing.

And in his post for Tuesday here, agent Nathan Bransford asked "Will Authors of the Future Need Publishers?"

Nathan’s question is one I've struggled with. Here’s an excerpt from my post of March 7, 2007:

A digitized industry doesn't really rely on the publisher any more, does it? It would be very easy for a group of writers and artists to band together to produce their own works (United Artists, anyone?). In the future, there is the very real possibility that publishers will find themselves being edged out of the equation . . .

At the same time, Kassia said something that resonated with me: “[the digital business] model has been evolving for well over a decade, and will continue to evolve.”

Along with Nathan’s question of “Will Authors of the Future Need Publishers?” I think we need to ask two other questions:

1) What role will the Internet giants play in the evolving publishing landscape?

2) What will the book look like in the future?

Back on May 20, 2007, I said on my blog:

The large [publishing] houses face competition on two fronts: from the Internet giants and from the e-publishing industry. When I say Internet giants, I'm talking about Google,, Yahoo, eBay and Microsoft. Of the five, I suspect the biggest direct competition will come from either Google or My money is on Amazon.

It's no secret that Amazon is trying to become the dominant force in publishing. I've talked about its vertical integration before (go here if you want to read more about vertical integration). However, in its rush to achieve hegemony in the publishing world, I believe Amazon may have planted some very noxious weeds in its garden.

Amazon is working both sides of the street: acting as a publisher/distributor through its BookSurge unit while offering retail services on its website. The company slaps self-published books up on its website next to traditionally-published books. Unless a customer is savvy, he can find himself the proud owner of a really awful book (I'm not saying all self-published books are terrible, just the majority of them).

In his blog, Nathan pointed out that traditional publishers serve an important role, acting as the gatekeepers for the publishing industry, assuring consistency of quality as well as distribution channels. As a rule, a reader can purchase a book from a bookstore with the confidence that a professional has vetted it and deemed it worthy of publication.

Amazon's BookSurge acts as a POD press to small publishers and as a vanity press for self-pubbed writers. In its latter role, BookSurge will publish any manuscript that comes accompanied by a check. Like all vanity presses, its quality control mechanisms relate to the production values of the physical product, not the manuscript’s content.

And therein lies Amazon’s problem. The company talks about customer service, but customers need to remember caveat emptor when it comes to buying books on Amazon’s website.

And what about Google? Google’s ambition to copy every book in the world could lead to its becoming the biggest bookstore in the world.

Thus far, Google has stuck to its plan to remain the largest search engine in the world. Copying the world’s books is a strategy to strengthen Google's search engine business. The company provides links to buy the books it displays. It remains to be seen whether Google has larger ambitions in the publishing world.

And the future of the book? Today reading is primarily a solitary experience, even for those people in book clubs who join together after the fact to discuss a book they've read. I think Robert Stein is on the right track in describing the book's future. Stein is a senior fellow at the London School of Economics and director of the Institute for the Future of the Book. He believes that in the future reading will become more of a social experience.

In the very near future, people will be able to read a digital book in a social networking environment. They'll be able to comment on the material being read in real time. And the author and fans will be able to converse digitally as the readers progress through the book.

Think about a thousand teenagers reading the next Twilight in a virtual reading room with the author available to talk about the characters and plot.

Today's traditional publishers expend a huge amount of money and time producing the physical product. Their marketing efforts are geared primarily toward the creation of their seasonal catalogs and in promoting their best-selling authors and a few up-and-comers.

In a digital environment, the production and distribution of a (virtual) book is less expensive and a much simpler process. I suspect a publishing house's marketing expertise will become far more important as well as its main draw in attracting authors.

Think of it as a different form of gatekeeping. Instead of holding the keys to production of a book, publishers might be the experts in growing readership for an author.

Check out the concept of the salon here. Amazon is trying to do a digital version of a salon by offering readers places to gather to discuss books. THAT's what publishers should be focused on; not Amazon's $9.99 price point for ebooks.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Lost Symbol's First Day of Sales

Reuters reports:
Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS), the world`s largest bookseller, announced today The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown has broken all previous one day sales for adult fiction in the first 24 hours of its release at its retail stores and online at Barnes & ( The company also said that the eBook edition of The Lost Symbol is now the number one title in its eBookstore.
The Ventura County Star of Camarillo, California reported:
At Borders in Oxnard, inventory supervisor Elisha Ellsworth said that “normally we get 20 to 30 copies if it’s a big new title. For this one we got 300.” The store opened at 9 a.m. rather than 10, Ellsworth said, but “it was a smaller turnout than we expected.”
The UK's Telegraph reports:
The Kindle edition of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol . . . has become the top-selling item on The e-reader edition is outselling the hardback copy of the novel, which had previously become the sixth best selling book of 2009 on pre-publication orders alone.
The Telegraph points out that the Kindle edition costs $9.99 while the hardback version of The Lost Symbol on Amazon is selling for $16.17. The newspaper wonders out loud if "the book is heralding a new era in publishing" because of the robust e-book sales.

The Lost Symbol, published by Doubleday Books, had a first print run of five million copies.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Another New Amazon Policy?

On Friday, GalleyCat reported that Diamond Book Distributors sent an email to the publishers it works with, saying:
"Going forward, Amazon will require all titles on their site to participate in the Search Inside the Book (SITB) program,"
Avid readers are familiar with Search Inside, which allows someone interested in a book to search for specific words or to browse several pages.

According to GalleyCat, the email from the book distributor also said that Amazon wants to have the Search Inside feature operational for new titles "3-4 weeks before publication--sooner, if possible."

The UK's The Bookseller had this to say:
The move will enable to aggressively grow its repository of digital content as it seeks to combat the growing threat it feels from Google's book-scanning programme.
GalleyCat made a point of saying it had not yet been able to confirm that this was, in fact, Amazon's new policy.

I wouldn't be surprised to learn this is the case. Back in early May, I said on this blog: "Amazon has already made it plain that they are willing to use their considerable clout to demand EVEN MORE advantageous terms than they are already getting."

Go here to read the GalleyCat article.

Go here to read The Bookseller article.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Quartet's Experience Can Teach Us All

On Saturday I reported on the closing of Quartet Press. I also directed readers to Kassia Krozser's excellent post here explaining what she took from her foray into the world of digital publishing.

Kassia had some really good advice for the publishing industry. I'm going to focus on three parts of her message today:

1) Don't look to traditional publishers to lead the way into the future.

Kassia's right. The New York houses start from a position of trying to support (and protect) their print business. The big six tried to justify pricing both the ebook and trade paper versions at the same price. And in one embarrassing case, a publisher released the ebook with a price that was higher than the trade paper cost.

2) Publishers need to start listening to their customers.

New York keeps pointing to their low ebook sales as proof that digital publishing will never amount to anything. I look at this as a chicken-and-egg argument. New York's unrealistic pricing model has put a stranglehold on ebooks and kept the digital market from growing.

If you expect readers to pay $15 for an ebook simply because that's the price of the p-book (physical book), of course, you'll never see any growth in the market. Readers are not stupid. They're voting with their wallets and saying, "Give us a break. We know you have lesser costs when you release an ebook. You've eliminated the printing and binding of a physical book, plus the costs of warehousing and the physical distribution AND the costs of returns on unsold stock and pulping those bound books. Get real about your pricing."

3) Kassia's own words are powerful: "Publishers cannot expect the digital marketplace to conform to their business as usual . . . (You cannot view) ebooks and digital distribution through a physical lens."

In a blog post on Valentine's Day this year here, I said that the cognitive biases of New York endangered its future. These are the biases I identified:
  • Confirmation bias: the tendency to select information that supports the individual's preconceived notions and to avoid information that contradicts those existing beliefs

  • Conservatism bias: the tendency to be conservative, to wait and see before making a change. A refusal to acknowledge both technical and social change even to one's detriment

  • Illusion of Control: the tendency of people to believe they can control outcomes over which they have no control

  • Status Quo bias: the tendency of people to want things to stay as they are, to not change
I hate that hackneyed phrase "Think outside of the box," but this is one time I think it truly needs to be said.

3) Stop angsting about Amazon's $9.99 price point for ebooks. Rather than worry about the price in a vacuum, focus on figuring out what your real costs are.

Kassia suggests that publishers throw away their assumptions and, instead of building a financial model from the top-down, try to build one from the bottom-up.

Again, publishers need to go back to her advice to throw away traditional assumptions and start fresh. Wake up and look around you. In a green world, printing and shipping and warehousing and returning and pulping--the Dead Tree Model--wastes energy and costs you too much.

Yes, there are always going to be readers who prefer a p-book. That's the beauty of print-on-demand (POD), digital technology and contraptions like the Espresso Book Machine. A book is only printed when an order is in hand. And with digital files, that book can be sold for an indefinite period of time--not just the brief period of time books currently get to sit on store shelves.

I can think of no better way to end this post than to quote Kassia's own words:
"The ability to move fast and change with the business is key. The ability to think beyond 'that’s how we’ve always done it' is essential. The importance of focusing on talent and creativity is critical. But the most important thing of all is this: your customers are talking to you. Listen."
If you're not in the habit of reading her blog, you should be.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Quartet Press To Close Before Opening

In June, Publishers Lunch reported Kassia Kroszer, Kirk Biglione, and Kat Meyer had announced they were joining forces to launch "Quartet Press, a 'fledgling digi-publisher' accepting submissions for its romance line Quench! starting this fall. Their books will be available without DRM."

In July, PL reported "SVP and publisher at The Taunton Press Don Linn is leaving that post to join digital publishing start-up Quartet Press, overseeing finance, administration and general management."

And, in August, PL announced Angela James had left Samhain Publishing to join Quartet Press as editorial director.

On Wednesday, PL reported that Quartet Press has decided to discontinue operations.

Kassia Kroszer, who blogs on Booksquare, talks about the decision to close the e-publisher before opening on a post here

I strongly recommend reading Kassia's post. It has a lot to say about the state of publishing. I'll have more to say about this on Monday. I'm taking Sunday off.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Judge Rules on the Seinfeld Plagiarism Suit

Yesterday U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain threw out the lawsuit Missy Chase Lapine brought against Jessica Seinfeld. Ms. Lapine alleged that Jerry Seinfeld's wife had plagiarized her cookbook.

Lapine's book--The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids’ Favorite Meals--was released April 4, 2007 by Running Press. Seinfeld's book--Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food was released almost exactly six months later on October 5, 2007 by HarperCollins.

Both cookbooks became best-sellers, with sales probably helped by all the media fuss created by the lawsuit.

The Associated Press had this to say:
She (Judge Swain) called Lapine's book "a dry, rather text-heavy work" done predominantly in black, gray and shades of brownish-orange. She said Seinfeld's book was "bright and cheerful, full of different colors and various patterns." Consumers who looked at each book were unlikely to be confused, the judge said, tossing out trademark infringement claims.
Judge Swain refused to address Lapine's charge of libel (sic) against Jerry Seinfeld. She referred Lapine to the New York State Court to pursue that claim.

Seinfeld appeared on the David Letterman show about a year ago and spoke of the lawsuit. He said that his wife was being accused of a "Watergate-style break-in at HarperCollins" (Lapine's publisher).

Seinfeld went on to say, ". . . we're sorry that she is--you know--angry and hysterical and because she's a three-name woman, which is what concerns me. She has three names and--you know--if you read history, many of the three-named people do become assassins . . . Mark David Chapman."

You can listen to the segment on Letterman here.

Of course, the judge might have refused to hear the libel charge because she has a conflict of interest, also being a "three-name woman."

This morning's Publishers Lunch reported:
Lapine's lawyer Howard Miller tells the AP they will indeed refile those charges: "The claims against Jerry Seinfeld for defamation are still fully alive. Miller says that "claims against HarperCollins that the publisher misappropriated information from Lapine's book when it rejected her proposal in February and May 2006" will also continue.
To read the background on this case, go to my post of 10/21/07 here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tolkien Estate Settles L-O-T-R Trilogy Lawsuit

Almost a year ago, on September 27, 2008, I did a post in which I talked about "Hollywood accounting," the practice of using creative bookkeeping to turn a blockbuster film into a loss on paper.

That post was prompted by a ruling in the lawsuit brought by the family of J.R.R. Tolkien and HarperCollins against New Line Cinema for failure to pay royalties on the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge barred the family from suing for punitive damages in that lawsuit while clearing the way for the heirs to continue their $150 million fraud suit against the studio.

On Tuesday, New Line Cinema settled that lawsuit with the Tolkien Estate and HarperCollins. According to the Los Angeles Times:
The suit sought to block production of "The Hobbit" films until those claims were resolved. The three films, which were released in 2001, 2002 and 2003, amassed close to $3 billion in worldwide ticket sales. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
Both sides expressed pleasure over the settlement. A follow-up story in the L.A. Times yesterday had this to say:
The lawsuit . . . was settled in the nick of time. Not only were the plaintiffs scheduled to go to trial Oct. 19, but the two "Hobbit" movies are slated to go into production next year with director Guillermo del Toro and producer Peter Jackson.
Go here to read my post from last year, explaining the background to this lawsuit and what writers need to know about "Hollywood accounting."

Go here and here to read the two articles in the Los Angeles Times about the settlement.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Disney To Acquire Marvel Entertainment

Last Monday, the Walt Disney Company announced it will buy Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion dollars. This will give Disney all those famous Marvel Comics' superheroes.

Disney went to some lengths to assure everyone that they did not plan to make drastic changes in the leadership of Marvel Entertainment. They stressed their faith in the Marvel creative team.

Among the details reported by Comic Book Resources:
  • Existing licensing and distribution deals should remain where they are.
  • Disney said the deal was attractive not just because they’re buying great characters, stories and brand, but about working with people who know these characters best and how best to work with them in other media.
  • With respect to Paramount’s distribution deal with Marvel and the Iron Man franchise, Disney has every intention to respect the deal that’s in place, but noted that it’s in their best interest, overtime, to become the sole distributor of Marvel films.
  • Disney said this deal is expected to benefit Marvel’s retail efforts, being able to leverage Disney’s shelf space and relationships with major chains and distributors.

Go here to read more details from Comic Book Resources.

Color Me Green (With Envy)

Okay, before we do anything else today, we must pay homage to Neil Gaiman's home library housed in his basement.

Go here to drool.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Urban Fantasy, Anyone?

I've mentioned before that my pleasure reading these days is mostly confined to urban fantasy.

I recently finished Thicker Than Water, the fourth in Mike Carey's Felix Castor novels.

Carey's books are darkly witty and entertaining; so much so that I forgive him his major flaw: uneven pacing. I'm curious as to whether the fact that Carey began his writing career as a graphic novel writer rather than as a prose novelist has anything to do with the pacing issue.

By the way, Carey is an award-winning graphic novelist. He wrote Lucifer and Hellblazer and is the current writer on Marvel's X-Men and Ultimate Fantastic Four.

In Thicker Than Water, Castor's past catches up with him when a bully from his childhood is found murdered in the front seat of a car with Castor's name in blood on the windshield.

Here's some sample dialogue. In Chapter 11, Castor is ambushed by a zombie on an elevated train station. The zombie picks him up and throws him down toward the tracks in the path of an oncoming train. However, the zombie's timing is off, and Castor hits the roof of the first car, bouncing off into the high grasses, which break his fall. Chapter 12 begins with Castor in the hospital visiting with Nicky Heath, a friendly computer hacker who is also a zombie.

"You any good at syllogisms?" I countered.

"Socrates is my bitch."

"Then work it out. Everyone in a hospital eats hospital food. Everyone in a hospital is sick. Conclusion?"

"Right. I heard it was even worse than the shit they give you in prison."

"Makes sense. In prison, most people are strong enough to fight back."
Okay, I'll admit my humor can be adolescent on occasion, but I loved that "Socrates is my bitch" line.

I had to order Thicker Than Water from the UK, but it was well worth it. If you love urban fantasy, try to scare up one of the four Felix Castor novels. Thicker Than Water is my favorite. I just ordered The Naming of the Beasts, the fifth novel which came out last week in the UK, from a bookshop in Southport, England. Paid $19 for a new paperback to be shipped to Texas.

And some people believe I can't commit!

Monday, September 07, 2009

More On A Literary Scam

In yesterday's post, I reported that the Florida Attorney General is going after Writer's Literary Agency and its numerous offshoots, which include:


I read the actual lawsuit filed by the Attorney General, and it should be handed out to all newbie writers as a part of a manual on how to avoid being scammed.

Here are the relevant pages:

"Each of DEFENDANTS’ websites advertised “NO UP FRONT FEES OR COSTS”. According to the websites, aspiring authors, the prospective customers, would, at no cost, submit manuscripts for review by the representatives of the numerous business entities, all of which were created by DEFENDANT ROBERT M. FLETCHER.

"The websites misled the consumer to believe he, or she, would receive a legitimate evaluation of whether the submitted manuscript was qualified for publication. Following the submission of a manuscript by a consumer to one of the corporate Defendants, or one of the other unregistered companies under which DEFENDANT FLETCHER conducted business, an email response was immediately sent out to the consumer by a representative of one of FLETCHER’S many businesses, advising the consumer (in glowing terms)that the manuscript was, indeed, appropriate for publication and (that the DEFENDANTS were thrilled) to enter into a contract with the consumer to assist in the consumer’s efforts to achieve publication of the consumer’s manuscript.

"This proposed contract included a proposal for a critique review by a “trusted” affiliated agency for between $50 and $90 to assure the best reception by publishers. No disclosure was made to the consumer that the “trusted” affiliated agency was, in fact, another business owned, and run by, DEFENDANT FLETCHER.

"Once this critique was completed, the suggestion for a new author edit (to fully polish the work) soon followed for between $99 and $169 (which would allegedly consist of a cursory review of the first 30 pages, or 3 chapters). Again, no mention to the consumer that this edit was by another FLETCHER affiliate.

"Upon the new author edit being completed, the “Look for Now” database at another additional cost was suggested to “boost” the chances of a sale. If the manuscript was for children, an offer for illustrations by another “trusted” affiliated agency for a “reduced” price was made. Again, an undisclosed FLETCHER business.

"These added expenses were soon followed by a suggestion for website building for another $129. Again, no mention that this “trusted” affiliate handling the website building was another FLETCHER connection.

"Finally, the advice followed that (despite the brilliant manuscript) the initial attempts to seek publication had been unsuccessful and recommending the “aggressive agent” program for another additional payment.

"Eventually, the aspiring authors would realize they had been the victims of a scam, or tire of the constant requests for more money, with no results, and either end the contract, or stop communicating with the DEFENDANTS to whom the money had been sent.

"Usually each prospective author was good for about $600.00 and DEFENDANT ROBERT FLETCHER, was turning over about 500 consumers every six months, or receiving approximately $600,000 per year for no legitimate efforts to provide the consumers the help they paid for, leaving only frustration and disappointment for aspiring authors once they realized their money was paid, not to a legitimate literary agency, but a scam."
Newbie writers need to remember:


Sunday, September 06, 2009

Florida AG Goes After Writer's Literary Agency

While scanning the publishing news tonight, I came across an item that warmed the cockles of my heart: a press release from the Attorney General of Florida. Here are portions of it:
"Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced that his office filed a lawsuit against a Boca Raton company that allegedly preyed on aspiring authors. According to the Attorney General’s lawsuit, Writer’s Literary Agency and owner Robert Fletcher used more than 20 websites and related companies to collect funds from potential authors, but misled victims about fees, costs, and promised results.

".. . . Potential writers paid anywhere from $89 for an initial critique to over $600 for various services including editing and marketing of a manuscript to publishers . . .

"Investigators determined Fletcher expanded into the field of publishing within the past year. Fletcher admitted to having no background as a literary agent and to using at least 10 aliases in his businesses.

"The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief against Robert Fletcher and his associates, as well as his many businesses, prohibiting further business activities in the field of literary agencies or publishers. The Attorney General is also seeking full restitution on behalf of all victimized consumers, civil penalties of $10,000 for each violation of the Florida Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and reimbursement for fees and costs related to the investigation."
In the summer of 2007, I did a two-part post on this blog titled "Spotting a Literary Scam." At the end of Part I, I invited readers to review the Writer's Literary Agency and decide whether or not it was a scam.

You can read those posts here:

Part I

Part II

Way to go, Florida!!!!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Appeals Court Reviewing "Catcher" Decision

Back on July 8, here, I reported that a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction barring the unauthorized sequel to Catcher in the Rye, titled 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye, from being published in the U.S.

Swedish author Fredrik Colting used the pseudonym J.D. California in promoting his unauthorized "sequel." He appealed the July injunction, and yesterday the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York held a hearing on the matter.

Regular readers of this blog will already be familiar with U.S. Copyright law's Fair Use test. The test has four factors which determine whether the use of another artist's work qualifies as fair use. The four factors are:
(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
Please note #2 of the four factors above, which refers to the "nature" of the original copyrighted work. If the artist creating a derivative work "transforms" the original work into something new and different, he has a better chance of winning a fair use case.

During the J.K. Rowling infringement case, I cited an article by attorney Jonathan Band titled "Educational Fair Use Today," which argued that, even when a work is derivative, "repurposing" it or "or placing it in a new context may be sufficient to render a use transformative."

The lawyer for Colting was quoted in an Associated Press article saying his client's new work was "highly transformative with enormous amounts of commentary and criticism."

According to the AP story, the Catcher in the Rye case will also address another point:
The three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals expressed doubts about whether a lower-court judge heard enough evidence before blocking the U.S. publication this summer of "60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye."
Salinger's attorney's argument focuses on #4 of the four factors. She believes Colting's work would impact her client's ability to publish his own sequel to Catcher.

Go here to read the Associated Press article, which includes one of the judges' comments on the quality of the new book.

Stay tuned . . .

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

USA Today Fall Book Picks

USA Today's five book critics each made a list of the five books they are dying to read this fall.

Here are the 25 titles from authors who include well-known names like King, Kingsolver and Stoker:

Deirdre Donahue picked:
1. Women, Work & the Art of Savoir Faire: Business Sense & Sensibility
By Mireille Guiliano; release date Oct. 13.

2. The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks
By Max Brooks; release date Oct. 6.

3.When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women From 1960 to the Present
By Gail Collins; release date Oct. 14.

4. Cockroach
By Rawi Hage; release date Oct. 12.

5. The Possibility of Everything
By Hope Edelman; release date Sept. 15.

Jocelyn McClurg picked:
1. How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood
By William J. Mann; release date Oct. 21.

2. Prospect Park West
By Amy Sohn; already in stores.

3. Stardust
By Joseph Kanon; release date Sept. 29.

4. Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife
By Francine Prose; release date Sept. 29.

5. The Lacuna
By Barbara Kingsolver; release date Nov. 3.

Carol Memmott picked:
1. Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and ObsessionBy Julie Powell; release date Dec. 1.

2. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
By Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters; release date Sept. 15.

3. Under the Dome
By Stephen King; release date Nov. 11.

4. Eating Animals
By Jonathan Safran Foer; release date Nov. 2.

5. Dracula the Undead: The Sequel to the Original Classic
By Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt; release date Oct. 13.

Bob Minzesheimer picked:
1. Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman
By Jon Krakauer; release date Sept. 15.

2. Spooner
By Pete Dexter; release date Sept. 24.

3. Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel
By Jeannette Walls; release date Oct. 6.

4. The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America
By Timothy Egan; release date Oct. 19.

5. Lit
By Mary Karr; release date Nov. 3.

Craig Wilson picked:
1. The Time of My Life
By Patrick Swayze and Lisa Niemi; release date Sept. 29.

2. Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage
By Christopher Andersen; release date Sept. 22.

3. The Queen Mother
By William Shawcross; release date Oct. 20.

4. Pop: The Genius of Andy Warhol
By Tony Scherman and David Dalton; release date Oct. 27.

5. Making Mischief: A Maurice Sendak Appreciation
By Gregory Maguire; release date Sept. 15.

If a title interested you and you want to read the blurb on the book or find the publisher and price, go here to read the entire article.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Grant Thornton Predicts the Future of Retail

For the past month, I've been totally consumed with the task of closing the old fiscal year out at my university department.

Today starts the new fiscal year, and I'm glad to be back. I've missed blogging.

Let's start off slow.

Last Wednesday, Grant Thornton (as in the audit, tax and advisory service guys) was quoted in the Chicago Sun-Times saying that "as many as 10,000 retail stores will close nationwide this year, led by clothing stores, electronics and food-and-beverage stores, and department stores, in that order . . ."

Of course, I was mostly interested in what they had to say about bookstores. Here it is:
Though bookstores represented only a fraction of the total, their closings are forecast to jump 500 percent from last year, to 400 stores.
Help the economy. Buy a book.