- Jonathan Kellerman
Philip Yancey writes about this many years of experience in publishing.
I had an enlightening experience with e-books in 2013. In April I finished the book The Question That Never Goes Away, based on my visits to three places of great tragedy. My traditional publisher wanted at least nine months lead time to publish it, the typical schedule for a new book, yet new tragedies such as the Boston Marathon bombings, tornadoes, and school shootings were occurring almost weekly, the very situations my book addressed. So I signed on for an Amazon-exclusive program to publish an e-book for 90 days before the hard copy book came out. Leaning on my friends for email lists, I managed to sell about 3,000 copies. On September 11 and Thanksgiving weekend I offered free downloads and 40,000 people downloaded the book! The moral of the story, as many have learned: things can quickly go viral on the Internet but it's a tough place to generate income.
“We don’t force French people to go to bookstores,” explains Vincent Montagne, head of the French Publishers Association. “They go to bookstores because they read.”
And the French government doesn't allow them to discount their books more than 5%, so Amazon.com isn't undermining local stores through deep discounts. France has around 2,500 bookshops now.
“We couldn’t have opened our bookstore without the subsidies we received,” Ms. Pérou said. “And we couldn’t survive now without fixed prices.” She and her husband own L’Usage du Monde in Paris.
Pamela Druckerman suggests this plethora of bookshops affords the French the choices we all want, but what do the booksellers offer that publishers don't produce? Is choice in reading a selling, not a publishing, option? (via The Literary Saloon)
James Stewart asked someone at Hachette about their dispute with Amazon. "This person said that Amazon has been demanding payments for a range of services, including the pre-order button, personalized recommendations and a dedicated employee at Amazon for Hachette books. This is similar to so-called co-op arrangements with traditional retailers, like paying Barnes & Noble for placing a book in the front of the store."
Stewart report describes the efforts Third Place Books has made to capitalize on Amazon's refusal to pre-order a popular book. They offered The Silkworm at 20% off with free, personal delivery the day it was released. The owner, Robert Sindelar, "along with several other store employees, delivered the books (although a surprising number of customers said not to bother — they wanted to come into the store for their copy). He also handed out what he called 'Hachette swag bags' with a T-shirt and advance copy of a coming Hachette novel. Some buyers also received a surprise visit from a local author, Maria Semple, who wrote the best-selling book Where’d You Go, Bernadette."
Sindelar calls the promotion successful. He sold 60 books that day. Normally, he doesn't believe he would have gotten any pre-orders and maybe a few sales on the day of the release. (via Shelf Awareness)
Scattering Seed Ministries sells great, vintage Christian books at auction to support the spread of the gospel to unreached people. These aren't reprinted books. These are actual first editions of doctrinally sound works.
Apple has been fighting the accusation that it conspired to fix ebook prices unfairly. I believe I remember this class action lawsuit being wage on behalf of Capital Hill politicians who hadn't felt properly, shall we say, appreciated by Apple over the years. Had a little more corporate lobbying taken place, maybe they wouldn't be having to answer for themselves.
Now Apple is settling. The company is "also appealing the antitrust ruling against it for the same issue of price-fixing."
A few days ago, we pointed out the news that Amazon was not taking pre-orders and delaying orders for books from Hachette. We're talking books you have heard of, possibly read already, or may be looking forward to, such as J.K. Rowling's next crime novel. (Read an excerpt through that link.)
Here's a quick fact list on the Hachette dispute.
Now Amazon is refusing to take pre-orders for The LEGO Movie and other DVDs from Warner Home Video because of a contract delay.
Writers David Streitfeld and Melissa Eddy suggest the biggest bookseller on the planet actually needs the money: "Amazon hasn’t really explained what it is after, but here’s one compelling theory: The company just doesn’t have enough money to finance everything it wants to do. Rather than trim its ambitions, it is putting one side of its business through the wringer to pay for another."
In 2010, Amazon disputed its arrangement with Macmillan on ebook prices and removed the publisher's books from its site. Today the largest book dealer on the Internet is refusing pre-orders on new books from Hachette and delaying shipment on existing titles. Stephen Colbert is one of the authors with un-new books on the shelf, and he isn't amused by the delay of what he says could be 30 of his books sold in a year. J.K. Rowling's new book is coming out soon, which means thousands of readers would have pre-ordered it through Amazon by now, but cannot--not for ebook or print.
Since Amazon has 65% of the ebook market, working a deal with them is important to any publisher, but they aren't the only ebook dealer. Barnes and Noble, Powell's, and others are available, and maybe conflicts like this will make any argument for DRM pointless. If I have a Kindle and want to buy an ebook, do I need Amazon to sell it to me?
"Anyone can support an author’s book release by doing different things to help the book sell and get noticed," writes Chuck Sambuchino. He has 11 fairly obvious ways to do it, but these points need to be made because people on the Internet don't have much sense--can we all agree on that?
His points include buying the book for yourself and others, reading that book in public, posting selfies of you reading that book in public, posting photos of you reading that book in "private" (the more sensational, the better), and rearranging bookstores.
I personally attest to this last point. Several times I stuffed a few Harry Potter books into the Star Wars collection in order to make room for a few of Lars' books on the Hot New Reads by J.K. Rowling display. Once I got the store manager shouting about it, which is great publicity I tell you.
One great way to support a book that Sambuchino doesn't list relates to hard-bound books only. If the book you want to promote has a dust jacket, you can swap it with a great NY Times bestseller's dust jacket for increased crossover sales. It's hard to recommend a best time to try this bit of good-hearted subterfuge, because customers and managers alike tend to rat you out. Maybe if one person starts a fire in the Survival Tech section, another person will have the time to swap dust jackets.
Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem, by Kevin De Young wins the Christian Book of the Year Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. Ron Charles of the Washington Post gives a brief rundown of the book and lists other awards given out yesterday at the ECPA banquet.
Author Robin O'Bryant writes, "I self-published my first book in shame. I was disappointed that after two years of work with my top tier literary agent in New York, editors still didn’t think I had a platform large enough to sell a book."
That book lived for about two years before hitting multiple bestseller lists, due in part to her tireless promotion. Now, Ketchup is a Vegetable and Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves, is re-released, and Mrs. O'Bryant has a two-book deal with St. Martin's Press.
I wasn't aware of this until recently, but my novel West Oversea has been made available in e-book form, for Kindle or Nook, by the publisher, Nordskog Publishing. It's not on Amazon at this time, but you can get it from Nordskog here.
The Clive Staples Award for Christian Speculative Fiction has three titles for this year's award: A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr, Truth Runner by Jerel Law, and Dragonwitch by Anne Elisabeth Stengl.
Are you familiar with any of these? Learn more through the link. (via Speculative Faith)
Are you familiar with NoiseTrade? It's a site where you can download a large variety of new music for free and leave a tip for the artists at your discretion. I recently downloaded an album from Christian rapper Propaganda. It's strong stuff, not my thing really but I'm stretching myself. I also listened to a little Indie trio named Joseph. If you're up for a great sound in worship music, listen to the sampler by As Isaac, a Chattanooga-based band.
Musicians say NoiseTrade is a great promotional platform. When you download music, you are invited to share your activity on your social networks. You also fork over an email address to get your download code, which allows the band to thank you or tell you about new music later on.
This year, NoiseTrade has launched a book service on the same model. Some of the title look like free ebooks you would get anywhere, but many of them look great. Random House is offering these titles at the moment. In Mysteries and Thrillers, you can see Ted Dekker has a promotional chapter available. Author Cliff Graham is racking up in the top download today. Are you a voracious enough reader to dip into this service? Let us know.
When I read this article about a prolific pastor-author hiring a marketing firm to put his book on the bestselling "Advice, How-to" list, I wondered how it could possibly work. I roughly understand how a company could coordinate purchasing 3,000 books, both in bulk and individual sales, but what would they do with all of those books?
Apparently, they return them. This WSJ article on authors buying their way onto bestseller lists, says some marketers believe hitting that list once is the doorway to invitations and future success. Once you're on the list for a week, you can claim to be a bestselling author.
Last August, a book titled "Leapfrogging" hit The Wall Street Journal's list of best-selling business titles upon its debut. The following week, sales of the book, written by first-time author Soren Kaplan, plunged 99% and it fell off the list.Isn't this equivalent to creating an award to give to yourself so you can claim to be an award winner?
Something similar happened when the hardcover edition of "Networking is Dead," was published in mid-December. A week after selling enough copies to make it onto the Journal's business best-seller list, more hardcover copies of the book were returned than sold, says book-sales tracker Nielsen BookScan.
The marketing idea hamster Seth Godin recommends ignoring the NY Times lists altogether. "The curious know that there are in fact two lists for non-fiction hardcover books. The first list, the regular list, is the list of ‘real’ books of the sort the Times would like people to read. The second list is a ghetto, a place for How To, Advice, and the always coveted ‘Miscellaneous’ books to reside. This list was invented by the editors at the Times because these books were crowding out the other, better, books from the list."
He says questions about serving your readers become overwhelmed by concerns about placement on the Times list. Is your goal as an author to serve your readers or your message, or is it to serve the eccentricities of this list?
Jared Wilson, who has a new book out, lists five reasons buying placement on any bestseller list is dishonest, egocentric, and poor steward, among other things. Speaking particularly to pastors who write:
"If you’re simply trying to expand the audience of the gospel — or your gospel-teaching material — wouldn’t it be more effective to simply purchase thousands of copies of your book and give them away to lost people? Or, alternatively, not to sell your book at all and just give it away for free? (Did Keith Green make any bestseller lists? Has John Piper?)"
First, a brief commercial message. Due to a momentary technical lag in our diabolical plan to raise the prices on my two self-published e-books, Troll Valley remains for sale for the old $2.99 price at the time of this posting. I have no idea how long this will last, so if you want it at the old, low-self-esteem price, get it now.
Author Michael Z. Williamson sent me this link to a remarkable piece of writing by Jackson Crawford, who teaches Norse and Norwegian languages at UCLA. It's a retelling of the Star Wars story as an Icelandic saga, and to my ear it seems letter-perfect. Also better than the movies.
But Lúkr took Artú’s bloody cape and there found the message written by Princess Leia. He began to read it. “I am no runemaster,” he said, “But these words say, ‘Help me, Víga-Óbívan Kvæggansson; you alone would dare to avenge me.’ I don’t know how to read any more words, because they are written poorly and hastily. What is this?”
Artú pretended not to speak Norse, and asked in Irish, “What is what?”
“What is what?” responded Thrípíó, “That was a question. What was written on that message which Princess Leia gave you?”
“That’s nothing,” said Artú, “An old message. I think that Princess Leia is long dead.” Thrípíó translated his words into Norse.
“Who is Princess Leia?” asked Lúkr, “What family is she from?”
Tonight, crowdsourcing. Or a social experiment. What I mean is I want your opinion.
I was talking to someone the other day about the way my novels are languishing at Amazon (my big exposure through Christianity Today the other day resulted in a total of 20 copies sold), and I mentioned that I’m asking $2.99 for a download. My friend suggested maybe that’s too little. Perhaps people assume that a $2.99 book isn’t to be taken seriously.
Baen is charging $6.99 for The Year of the Warrior.
I take it for granted anyone who reads this blog and is in a position to buy an e-book has already gotten their own $2.99 copy. So you have nothing to lose by giving me your honest opinion. Do you think the books would sell better at $4.99? $5.99?
I figure we could run a sale once or twice a year. Hard to do a sale at $2.99, unless you just make it free.
Tell me what you think.
Criticize the selling of self-destructive behavior to the young and you’re “puritanical,” or “slut-shaming,” or being “unrealistic about the modern world.” But in fact, this effort to normalize the degraded is itself perverse in the extreme. It’s the incarnation of that imp within who urges us to do ill to what we love the best: ourselves and our children. The people who peddle this trash curse those who dare to criticize them so loudly precisely because they know they are doing wrong and can’t stop themselves. Believe me: the person who accuses you of “slut-shaming,” is herself deeply ashamed.
The term "The Imp of the Perverse" is a reference to story by Poe.
"When you’re more invested in the business of books than you are in loving them, well, the person you cheat is yourself," says J. Mark Bertrand ("a major crime-fiction talent!") in response to discussion on the size of his readership. He notes that too often commenters throw out names of authors they think should be selling more books, and then ask where all the good books are, blaming publishing houses along the way.
You can get all of Bertrand's Books here for your friends, family, and enemies. Audiobooks are also available.
Mike Duran remarks on The Weekly Standard article on J. Mark Bertrand and his Roland March novels. Jon Breen had written of Bertrand's limited audience because his books are published by Bethany House. Duran asks, "So how does being a religious publisher limit the reach of an author’s audience? Well, it doesn’t… unless you write sci-fi, epic fantasy, ethnic fiction, espionage, horror, literary, or crime fiction." He says Bertrand's books deserve a large readership, but perhaps this publisher doesn't know how to market them.
I'm not sure I understand what's missing. Is it simply that if it doesn't sell in a Christian bookstore to a primary audience of white women, Christian publishers don't know what else to do with it?
Maybe Amazon is engaged in a price war, but maybe it's just taking advantage of publishing dinosaurs who don't want to understand what different people are willing to pay for real books.
"If the [publishing] industry can’t find a way to truly understand the new reality that has grown up around it," writes Suw Charman-Adnerson for Forbes.com, it will never find a way to survive current and future changes. Key to this is understanding Amazon’s position in the market and what impact its behaviour actually has."
She suggests Amazon is not sending the huntsman to cut the heart out of brick-and-mortar stores, but is merely playing its part in a real market. For more common sense on the real book market, see this post on Futurebook.
The President is coming to my home town on Tuesday to speak at a new Amazon fulfillment plant about the middle class. I expect his speech will be akin to what he has been saying this week, what he calls "a better bargain for the middle class." He told a Knox College audience:
I'll lay out my ideas for how we build on the cornerstones of what it means to be middle class in America, and what it takes to work your way into the middle class in America: Job security, with good wages and durable industries. A good education. A home to call your own. Affordable health care when you get sick. A secure retirement even if you’re not rich. Reducing poverty. Reducing inequality. Growing opportunity. That’s what we need.John Mutter suggests Amazon has a close relationship with the Obama administration, which may be the reason the president is speaking there, may be the reason they are upping the ante in their price war with bookstores. Yesterday, Amazon discounted several bestsellers even more than usual, 50-60% off retail, which industry insiders consider a declaration of war against offline booksellers. This may be the result of what Mutter says was a favorable resolution to the e-book case before courts this month. Amazon won out, when Apple's efforts to change the model for releasing and pricing e-books failed.
Some people continued to worry that Amazon will price booksellers out of business, and so offline browsing and friendly recommendations will be go the way of the buggy cart. But I doubt that.
The last day of my stay-cation. My big project was running around to hardware stores, looking for replacement furnace filters. Did not find what I needed. Bought one online instead, which probably worked out cheaper. But let the record show, I endeavored to support businesses in my community.
I don't think I've mentioned that Baen has put my novel Wolf Time on sale again in e-book form. They promise to have it on Amazon soon. I'll try to keep you posted.
Love that cover. It has nothing to do with the story, but it's a great cover.
I learned by way of our own Phil Wade that Bethany House has made J. Mark Bertrand’s novel Back on Murder (which we both reviewed very favorably, here and here) free in Kindle form for a limited time. We’re Bertrand boosters around here, and this book has the coveted Brandywine Books imprimatur.
Another vacation day for me. Today I took on a project I’d been dreading on general principles, replacing one of the leather handles on my Viking chest. You can see this chest in the right background in this old photo, from a Boy Scout event back in 2010:
When I built the chest, I made the decision to use leather handles, for two reasons. One, it’s cheaper than getting period iron ones, and I cheated on all the hardware on that project. But also I’ve seen an old immigrant trunk from one of our ancestors that came over from Norway with leather handles, and I always thought that was kind of cool. Easy on the hands. (Except not really. The flexible handles tend to squeeze your fingers when the chest is heavy, which this one is).
The very handle you behold in that photograph broke on me a little while back, and I dreaded the process of replacing it. But I took it on today, replacing it with a sturdy piece of belt blank I acquired a while back for tooling and never got around to using. It came out well.
Also I mowed the lawn, which was as exciting as you imagine.
But the big deal was that I got my official score for the Miller Analogies Test in the mail. After having to take it twice and beating myself up at getting a score of 475 out of a possible 600, I learn now that 475 puts me in the 99th percentile, which even I can’t find a way to disparage. Why anyone would design a test with a 200 to 600 scoring range, where the top 100 points are almost never used, I can’t imagine. No doubt they have their reasons, just as I insist on putting leather handles on chests.
Joel Friedlander draws lessons from the J.K. Rowling as Robert Galbraith episode. Galbraith's book was highly praised, but sold 1,500 copies before the Rowling news. Friedlander explains: "My opinion is that it was the complete absence of any platform for Robert Galbraith, the lack of any fans, anyone who cared about him, the lack of anyone willing to host him on a blog tour or help him set up readings at bookstores, or a tribe that would greet his long-awaited first book with enthusiasm that held back sales of what’s obviously a well-written book."
Author Joanna Penn says, "Marketing is sharing what you love with people who will appreciate hearing about it." She has a new book on marketing books and in this article describes five points authors and would-be authors need to forget.
Saturday I was up early to join Ragnar and his wife, who took me along to Canby, Minnesota, in the western part of the state, for the annual “Hat Day” celebration. I inquired discreetly at one point what Hat Day was actually in honor of, and learned that they just wanted to have a celebration, and were looking for a theme. They finally settled on those giveaway caps all the farmers wear (which, I have to say as a hat purist, are not strictly hats but caps).
The weather threatened and grumbled as we drove out and set up in the park, but the skies cleared and it turned out to be one of the nicest days of the year so far. The local Sons of Norway lodge, which sponsored us, was very gracious, and the people were all nice. I sold a sufficient number of books to feel that the day had been well spent. No fighting, since we were just a skeleton crew. Thanks to the citizens of Canby, and to Ragnar and his better half.
Speaking of selling books, I haven’t mentioned for a while that I have this e-book for sale, Hailstone Mountain. High adventure, low price. Read it now, before it becomes a cultural phenomenon, and you’ll be able to condescend to your friends!
There's still time to get several Hemingway classics and some selections for Kindle at $1.99.
It's snowing again. Coming down pretty heavy. The weather man says five to eight inches this time.
I was going to call it an insult, but no. The last one was an insult. This is the one there's no alternative to laughing over. Even if it puts down a foot, I declare here and now I won't shovel it. It'll be gone in a couple days anyhow.
I'm beginning to think we need to draw lots to figure out who offended the Almighty.
Only I'm afraid it's me.
Anyway, our friend Grim at Grim's Hall has posted a review of Hailstone Mountain, with a call for discussion on a theological point which I, frankly, had never actually connected to the scene in the book he's talking about. But now that he mentions it, I guess he's right.
The final figures on our free offer of Hailstone Mountain yesterday show upwards of 1,000 downloads, which strikes me as pretty good. We’ve gotten a fair number of sales in the backwash today as well.
So in a mood of thanksgiving, I offer the video below, the best version I could find of a Christian song that (in my opinion) has never gotten the attention it deserves, Rest Within His Sanctuary.
You can also download the MP3 from Amazon here, which I did. This professional version, also, is not quite up to the original I remember from the radio some years back. I’m pretty sure it was recorded by the Lillenaas Singers (Haldor Lillenaas, by the way, was born in Bergen, Norway. Just thought you’d like to know that).
If you sometimes wonder what makes me smile, well, the answer is that few things do. But this song does. I endorse it even though I strongly suspect its purpose is to promote the schismatic Calvinist doctrine of Eternal Security.
Broad-minded, that’s what I am.