Posted tagged ‘independent book publishers association’

Amazon’s Kindle Lending Library–What Does it Mean For Publishers? IBPA Wants to Know What You Think

November 21, 2011

Following are two perspectives on the Kindle Lending Library. The first piece entitled “Controversy Rages: Amazon to Lend Books” was originally written by IBPA Board Chair Stephen Blake Mettee for his blog, The Write Thought and appears here with his permission. The second piece, written by IBPA President Florrie Binford Kichler, raises some questions for publishers and a request for feedback. We want to know what publishers think about the Amazon Kindle Lending Library so please leave your comments!

Controversy Rages: Amazon to Lend Books

by Stephen Blake Mettee

There’s been quite a ruckus in the book publishing world lately. Amazon.com has recently announced its long-anticipated foray into lending e-books.

Kindle owners who are also Amazon Prime members, in addition to getting free two-day shipping on their orders and “unlimited instant streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows,” can also borrow books to read without an additional payment (Amazon Prime membership costs $79 per year). There doesn’t appear to be any limit on how long a book can be borrowed but only one book can be borrowed at a time.

Amazon says its lending library offers over 5,000 titles including 100 New York Times bestsellers. This is a far cry from the millions of print titles available on Amazon or the hundreds of thousands of e-books available as Kindle editions, but it is a toe in the water and publishers, authors, and literary agents are nervous.

How’s it work?

Amazon Prime members who are also Kindle owners are now presented with a “Borrow for Free” button next to the “Buy” button on selected books. When the member chooses to borrow a title, Amazon credits the publisher’s account with the same dollar amount as if the e-book was sold rather than loaned. At this point, the Amazon Prime member gets to read the book as a part of his or her yearly fee and the publisher effectively gets a full-priced sale.

So, why the controversy?

This sounds fair to me. I’d sign The Write Thought titles up. So why the hubbub?

I think the concern from the publishers—most publishers with titles among those available for loan weren’t notified that their titles would be included in this program—is that they haven’t agreed to Amazon “lending” titles even if Amazon pays as if they sold it.

Also, apparently Amazon plans to report revenue from this program to publishers as a lump sum leaving the publishers to allocate this revenue their authors. Amazon is said to be basing this lump sum by looking at the 12-month sales history of titles included in the program. A rather nebulous reporting method at best.

I think the Authors Guild and the Association of Authors’ Representatives (literary agents), two groups that have spoken out about this, are concerned since most contracts between authors and publishers have a set royalty paid to the author based on revenue from each e-books sale, say 25% of net revenue and a different amount on revenue generated from rights sales, say 50% of net.

The question being, which is this? Revenue from the sale of a book or revenue from a subsidiary right? And, of course, how is a publisher to properly allocate each of its author’s revenue share if Amazon doesn’t supply a complete breakdown by title?

Another concern, of course, is if this is simply Amazon’s first salvo; will Amazon attempt to morph the program into something else. For instance, can Amazon purchase one copy of an e-book and “lend” or “rent” it as many times as it likes? Pay the publisher once and rent or loan it many times. Libraries do this and many years ago so did bookstores.

The world is still hazy when it comes to e-books.

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Kindle Lending Library—What Does it Mean for Publishers?

by Florrie Binford Kichler

Amazon recently announced that it was going to begin “lending” e-books to its Amazon Prime customers.

Quoting from Amazon’s news release:

“With an Amazon Prime membership, Kindle owners can now choose from thousands of books to borrow for free – including over 100 current and former New York Times Bestsellers – as frequently as a book a month, with no due dates.”

“Titles in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library come from a range of publishers under a variety of terms. For the vast majority of titles, Amazon has reached agreement with publishers to include titles for a fixed fee. In some cases, Amazon is purchasing a title each time it is borrowed by a reader under standard wholesale terms as a no-risk trial to demonstrate to publishers the incremental growth and revenue opportunity that this new service presents.”

The Big Six publishers did not sign onto the Lending Library program. The Author’s Guild contends that nonetheless Amazon has included many publishers’ titles (not the Big Six) without the publisher’s permission. In addition, the Guild says that those publishers who have submitted their books to the Lending Library program “signed licensing agreements with Amazon for a selection of their titles, providing for a flat annual fee per title. While these publishers generally have the right to license e-book uses for many of their authors’ titles (just as most trade publishers do), our reading of the standard terms of these contracts is that they do not have the right to do so without the prior approval of the books’ authors.”

The Guild says that such a “bulk licensing program” is outside the scope of most publishing contracts and that publishers need to get permission from their authors to participate along with a contract amendment. They urge their members to contact their publishers if their books are in the Kindle Lending Library program.

The Bigger Picture

The reality is that Amazon has leveled the playing field for smaller publishers, enabling them to reach readers online in huge numbers, and publish their content quickly, easily and efficiently.

But at what cost?

The Author’s Guild claims that Amazon has included publishers’ titles in the Kindle Lending Program without consent but no publishers to this point have confirmed that publicly. If that is indeed the case, should Amazon have asked first? Or, as the company says, is “purchasing a title each time it is borrowed by a reader” plus a flat licensing fee simply another sale under standard contract terms, requiring no special handling?

“Purchasing a title each time it is borrowed by a reader” sounds like a sale, which is a good thing.  But could Amazon decide to begin lending titles more than once to multiple readers without compensating the publisher (and the author)? And if so, what recourse would publishers have?

More questions than answers. What do you think? Is the Kindle Lending Library a way for Amazon to increase device sales at the publisher’s and author’s expense or a “no-risk trial to demonstrate to publishers the incremental growth and revenue opportunity that this new service presents.”? Are you currently participating in the Kindle Lending Library and if so, how’s your experience been so far?  Would you include your titles if asked?

Let us know by commenting on this blog. Member feedback will help determine  IBPA’s  position on this issue.

10 Things to Consider when Pricing E-Books

September 16, 2011

by Stephen Blake Mettee, IBPA Board Chair, founder of Quill Driver Books and The Write Thought, Inc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DROID by Motorola showing Kindle App

 

To reuse a couple of ‘graphs from my previous blog, “Book Pricing, Finding the Sweet Spot”:

One grand thing about e-books is, since there is no printing involved, once edited, designed, typeset, and formatted, the cost of an e-book is zero. Another is that the retail price a publisher sets can vary day to day.

But, with these two advantages, what does a publisher need to be concerned about when pricing an e-book? Vook, the innovative company that melds books with video, has issued a splendid white paper that goes a long way toward answering this question.

Here are Vook’s Golden Rules of Pricing annotated by yours truly:

1. Zero variable cost means it’s OK to significantly lower prices to maximize revenue.

Week to week—or even day to day—price changes are easy, as are limited-time specials.

2. Optimal pricing is highly content specific.

Business books may command a higher price than books on how to write.

3. Certain pricing thresholds trigger psychological “automatic” purchases.

Lower prices increase impulse buying.

4. Categorization has a large role in optimal pricing and discoverability.

A book that lists calories in popular packaged foods is likely to be found by readers more often if it is placed in the category of “Health Care and Fitness” rather than “Reference.”

5. Merchandising whole catalogs is more effective than single titles: “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

The Write Thought publishes a catalog of writing titles under the Classic Wisdom on Writing series. It is our hope that we will see a synergistic effect on revenue because of this grouping.

6. Containers are critical to driving upsell in App environment.

My understanding of the term “container” as used here is the same as “series.”

7. Lift effects through savvy launch promotions have a profound impact on sales.

For instance, it is suggested that a publisher may wish, when launching a title, to place a low price on it for a period of a few days to a couple of weeks in an effort to get sales to a level that will be noticed by a retailer’s algorithms. Books that stand out sales-wise are used to populate “you may also like” recommendations generating additional sales creating a cyclical effect.

8. In general apps cannot support as high price points as eBooks.

Apple has begun declining apps that are effectively unenhanced e-books, referring publishers to the iBookstore. This basically leaves the android app market for plain Jane e-book Apps.

9. Real‐time sales tracking is necessary to adjust pricing in a dynamic eBook world.

Just like any data, you have to watch what’s happening and adjust accordingly.

10. For each retailer there are distinct best practices to maximize discoverability and revenues.

Pricing doesn’t need to be the same for each retailer. The sweet spot for an e-book in Apple’s iBookstore may be higher than the sweet spot for the same title in Amazon’s Kindle Store.

It’s a new world out there full of challenges and rewards. Sharpen your spear and forge forth.

Just a write thought.

Book Pricing: Finding the Sweet Spot

August 29, 2011

by Stephen Blake Mettee, IBPA Board Chair, founder of Quill Driver Books and The Write Thought, Inc.

At Quill Driver Books we put a lot of thought into the pricing of each title we published.
Here is an abbreviated list of things we considered:

• How big we anticipated the market for the title would be. A small, concentrated market may support a higher price because there are fewer books for those who are in this market to choose from. Large general markets may require a competitive price.
• The buyer demographics: Is this book for poor, starving writers or successful business people?
• How are competing titles priced? The last thing we wanted to do was to compete on price, but we knew the retailers were sensitive to pricing and might not stock a book they felt was overpriced.
• What the demand for the book would be. We felt we could get a couple of extra bucks for a book written by an author with a huge platform. Duh.
• What it cost us to print the book.

With all these factors—and more—to consider, we likely missed the optimum price, that is, the price that would return the largest profit to us. This price is often called the “sweet spot.”
For instance, if we priced a book so we netted $3 on each copy and sold 10,000 copies, we would make $30,000. But, if we priced it with $6 in it for us and sold 40 percent less, or 6,000 copies, we would make $36,000, a 20 percent increase in profit. Of course if the price that returned $6 each cut our sales to 3,000 copies we would make only $18,000.
Until a title sold down and we went back to press on it, we were stuck with the price we set since it was printed on the back cover.
I say, we “likely” missed the optimum price because, how could we ever know unless we published the identical book at different prices in identical parallel universes?
You can see why we gave it so much thought.

Enter E-Books
One grand thing about e-books is, since there is no printing involved, once edited, designed, typeset, and formatted, the cost of an e-book is zero. Another is that the retail price a publisher sets can vary day to day.
But, with these two advantages, what does a publisher need to be concerned about when pricing an e-book? Vook, the innovative company that melds books with video, has issued a splendid white paper that goes a long way toward answering this question. I’ll let you in on what it has to say in an upcoming blog.

Clever, Clever
Crown Publishing is rushing out a $.99 e-book on Rick Perry, the latest candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination. The book is actually one chapter from The Victory Lab a fall 2011 release by Sasha Issenberg. According to Crown, Victory will present a broad coverage of electoral strategies and the motivations behind the voting decisions people make and isn’t solely about Perry. This is doubly clever, because the $.99 book will sell on its own and act as an ad for the whole book.

Just a write thought.

http://www.vook.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/PricingWhitePaper-FINAL-II-2.pdf

Christopher Hitchens–the art of writing and dying

July 19, 2011

by Stephen Blake Mettee, Board Chair, IBPA

I don’t subscribe to Vanity Fair, but, like with the New Yorker (To which I also don’t subscribe; I quit my subscription as a minor vice on which I both spent too much time and felt guilty for not spending more—the darn thing comes weekly!), whenever I crack the cover, I find remarkable writing.

It was no different when a friend loaned (or is it “lent”) me the June issue of Vanity Fair. Christopher Hitchens, who has spent the past year “living dyingly,” has written an intimate piece that is at once poignant journal and solid writing advice.

To set the stage, Hitchens, who has written critiques for a number of magazines and is known for his controversial and confrontational debating style, opens with a few lines of T.S, Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”:

I have seen the moment of my greatness
flicker.

And I have seen the eternal Footman hold
my coat, and snicker.

And in short, I was afraid.

Hitchens’ says he doesn’t “so much object to his holding my coat in that marked manner, as if mutely reminding me that it’s time to be on my way. No, it’s the snickering that gets me down.”

The snickering of “a teasing special of the day, or a flavor of the month. It might be random sores and ulcers, on the tongue or in the mouth. Or why not a touch of peripheral neuropathy, involving numb and chilly feet?”

An atheist—he prefers the term “antitheist”—Hitchens likens the effects of his cancer to the wooden-legged piglet that belonged to a “sadistically sentimental family that could bear to eat him only a chunk at a time.”

The latest chunk to be devoured was his voice. Literally. The cancer, in attacking his vocal cords, struck him dumb “like a silly cat that had abruptly lost its meow.”

Hitchens says he owes a “vast debt” (I’m quoting a “vast” bit from the article because I so enjoy Hitchens’ exacting word choices. A level to which all of we-who-write should so aspire.) to an early critic who advised he should write “more like the way that you talk.”

I remember a 1960s high school English class where we were taught to take the “I” out of our essays. I guess we were being taught to emulate the mind-numbing high school text books they issued us.

IMHO, in everything you write, write like you are in the room with the reader discussing a subject you are passionate about. Let the “you” come through. Your opinions, your views, your biases (okay, keep your biases out of straight journalistic reporting), your vocabulary.

Make the reader feel you. Put the “I” into your writing.

Hitchens advises: “If something is worth hearing or listening to, it’s very probably worth reading. So, this above all: Find your own voice.”

Get a copy of the June Vanity Fair and read Hitchen’s article. It’s both a lesson in writing and a lesson in dying.

Just a write thought.

Will Books Go the Way of Music CDs?

June 16, 2011

by Stephen Blake Mettee, The Write Thought and IBPA board treasurer


According to a recent USA Today article, retailers such as Best Buy, Target, Barnes & Noble, and Wal-Mart are cutting back on their CD selections. A Best Buy spokesperson is quoted as saying, “As people buy less, we stock less.” Sounds like a self-fulfilling cycle to this observer, but, sadly, one that isn’t likely to be reversed.


There’s more bad news….


In 2010, CD sales fell 19% and are down 8.8% this year.


Pretty dire, huh?


But wait.


Downloaded albums sales are up a healthy 16.8% and downloaded tracks are up 9.6%.


Overall music sales are up 1.6%.


Yep, you read right, music sales are up.


Music isn’t going away. Albums aren’t going away. And according to Dave Bakula of Neilson, a company which tracks weekly sales statistics, “CDs are going to be around for a long time.”


So, to summarize what’s happening:
Downloads are growing, brick and mortar store sales are slipping, online sales of CDs are strong. Music is a growing industry.


(By the way CDs are enjoying the “long-tail” effect: Amazon.com offers 4,000,000 CDs. Great for lesser-known songsters.)


Should we look for the same things to happen in books?


Yes.


The future is bright. Keep on writing and publishing.


Just a write thought.

IBPA Publishing University Stuff Members (and others) May Not Know (but Need To)

May 12, 2011

by Florrie Binford Kichler, IBPA president

What You Know: IBPA Publishing University is just around the corner
What You May Not Know: IBPA offers Publishing University scholarships every year through our affiliates and also as an at-large benefit of membership. This year 20 winners will attend IBPA Publishing University free of charge. Next year, one of them could be you!
What You Know: Authors and readers need publishers. Publishers are relevant.
What You May Not Know: Maybe not according to the proposition to be argued during the Great Debate. JUST ANNOUNCED: The North American debut of the Great Debate opens IBPA Publishing University with a bang! Fresh from a successful London Book Fair, the Great Debate features 4 of publishing’s finest debating the proposition, “Authors and readers are all that matter. Publishers in the future will be irrelevant.” Agree or disagree, what we all can agree on is that it’s one of the hot topics in publishing today. Audience participation is required! And one of the audience could be you!
What You Know: Attending Publishing University will save you more money in avoiding expensive mistakes than it costs—and it costs less than most other events around.
What You May Not Know: IBPA members get Early Bird Priority Pricing until May 15. Save $100!
What You Know: There’s plenty of written information about Publishing University 2011
What You May Not Know: But there’s only one (well, ok, two—a shorter and a short one) video.
If you have 4 minutes and want to hit the high points of Publishing University, check it out here

If you have 1 minute and want to hear a bit of my own Publishing University story, check this one:

If you haven’t met me and think that I’m young and attractive—please don’t watch the videos as I’d like you to maintain your illusions.
If you have met me or were taught to respect your elders or are curious as to what’s really happening at IBPA Publishing University, then please watch and consider making the best investment you can make in your publishing career. Come to IBPA Publishing University on May 22-23 at the Javits Center just prior to BEA!
Hope to see you there.

IBPA Publishing University: A Contrarian View

April 17, 2011

by Florrie Binford Kichler

2011 marks the year of the leaner, meaner, Pub U—in a new location in the heart of BEA with the white hot spotlight focused relentlessly on what independent publishers need to know—and DO–right now to position their companies for success in a digital future. Visit www.ibpapublishinguniversity.com for details of the more than 20 general and break-out sessions, Ask the Experts personal consulting opportunities unique to this event, Table Top networking and much more. Whether you’re a new one-book publisher, a self-publisher, an author-publisher, a traditional publisher or anything in between, you will not want to miss the opportunity to hone your publishing skills with the latest in leading-edge tools, tips and techniques from IBPA Publishing University

You’ve heard all that before from me.

You’ve heard me extol the virtues of the most unique and amazing learning experience in all of publishing.

You’ve heard me say that a publisher missing IBPA Publishing University is akin to a diehard football fan missing the Super Bowl.

But IBPA Publishing University 2011 isn’t for everyone. In fact I would be remiss both personally and professionally if I didn’t point out some reasons why you might want to stay home on May 22 and 23rd catching up on your Twitter feeds, posting on your Facebook friends’ walls and wondering why nobody’s answering your emails (they’re all at Pub U)

Top Five Reasons Why You May Not Want to Attend IBPA Publishing University 2011

5. You’d rather contemplate and speculate about the state of publishing in 2050 than in the here and now.

Of course we all need to keep our eye on the industry view from 30,000 feet and you’ll get a taste of that from our visionary and dynamic keynote speakers at Pub U. But if you prefer dreaming about what might be in a dim future rather than what is in a dynamic present, you don’t belong at Publishing University. The U is created by publishers for publishers. New publishers learn the practical ground rules for successful publishing so they can hit the ground running right away, and the more experienced publisher comes back for a refresher course on what’s new—and what’s now.

But if you don’t want to find new, improved methods of doing business that you can take straight back to your office and implement right away, don’t come to IBPA Publishing University 2011.

4. You’re not interested in discovering, creative and low-cost ways to sell more books.

If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. More than 10 break-out sessions on sales and marketing both “e” and print will catapult newer publishers from status quo into “status grow.”

But unless you’re looking for new techniques to get more books out the door and more cash coming in, don’t come to IBPA Publishing University 2011.

3. Assembling an arsenal of practical, hands-on tools that you can put to work to improve your publishing program immediately doesn’t energize you.

Tips for reaching the library market, an ebook production primer, and the latest in social media tools for publishers are just a small sampling of what you’ll take home from IBPA Publishing University 2011. No generalities and platitudes allowed—what you’ll find in each session are knowledgeable instructors who have been where you are, know what you need to know, and are ready to supply the solutions required.

But if you’d rather face a 90 degree angle learning curve on your own, don’t come to IBPA Publishing University 2011.

2. The opportunity for a private one-on-one session with a publishing industry expert to find solutions to your particular challenges doesn’t appeal to you.

At IBPA Publishing University, you will find the best of the best industry experts. And brand new this year is the chance to meet them up close and personal in your own dedicated consulting session. And did I mention that your private meeting by appointment with the adviser of your choice is now free when you attend IBPA Publishing University?

But if you’d prefer to spend hundreds of dollars to hire your own consultant, don’t come to IBPA Publishing University 2011.

And the number one reason why you should not come to New York on May 22-23 and attend IBPA Publishing University?

You’d rather follow “book publishing” on Twitter than meet book publishing’s real people and develop a lifelong network of friends, colleagues and mentors.

You walk into IBPA Publishing University certain that your problems are unique and convinced that nobody has ever faced the challenges you currently face in trying to get your book (s) out into the world. You walk out with tools to take your publishing project to the next level and a group of advisers who have experienced and overcome similar problems to yours and are willing and eager to lend you a hand.

Isn’t that better than trying to learn publishing 140 characters at a time?

See you at IBPA Publishing University prior to BEA on May 22-23.

Reprinted with permission from the April IBPA Independent


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