From the Publisher’s Desk: Top Book Publishing Industry News 3/5-3/19/10

20 Mar

The conversation piece on my desk this week has been this coffee mug that Wes & Sheila picked up from another publisher—a venerable, long-time university press—at the TCCTA convention week before last. If I was still teaching, I could use it in class to illustrate the definition of disingenuous. I mean, c’mon people! If you’re not trying to sell books, make money, make a profit (if for no other reason than to keep your hard-working employees gainfully employed), then what are you doing in an exhibit hall trying to pick up textbook adoptions!?! Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not exactly the most money-grubbing book publisher alive—I’m working on it, though—but we can all at least be honest about what we’re doing and what effects we’re hoping to achieve.

One thing I would encourage people to do is go to this post earlier in the week from Sheila and vote to choose the subjects for our upcoming series of free Webinars later this spring and early summer. Over the last year we’ve attended a fair amount of Webinars—some free, some definitely not free—on different subjects and it made us think that we’re in the trenches of book publishing enough that we could do a series of these as well. Plus, if they’re free, what do you have to lose? So, if you have a chance, head on over there to let us know what subjects you’d like to see us tackle.

Anyway, riding around on my high horse about other publishers’ slogans and pushing the poll for our upcoming free Webinars aside, other book publishing industry news of note from the last couple of weeks—I was out for a week for spring break—includes:

EBooks, Free, The Value Thereof
(3/5/10 via Whatever)

A big topic in publishing is at what point to release the ebook version of a book—before the print version release? after it? at what exact point before or after?—and whether a free ebook released before the official publication date is a smart marketing strategy or not. This post from John Scalzi—he’s a Macmillan author who also had a lot of sage comments about his publisher and Amazon’s showdown a while back—points to some hard research that’s come out along with his own informal analysis. Plus, he’s just an all-around nice/interesting guy whose blog is well worth following.

Pondering Good Faith in Publishing
(3/9/10 via The New York Times)

There have been a couple of big meltdowns in the past few years with authors having published non-fiction books with significant sections being fabricated, plagiarized, or just plain poorly researched. When this happens, there’s a lot finger pointing that goes on . . . especially from the publishers themselves who want that stink of utter embarrassment—as well as the accompanying financial disaster—off of them as soon as possible.

NYU adopts digital textbooks from CafeScribe
(3/15/10 via TeleRead)

This really is the future of textbooks: digital editions. The reason it isn’t happening move quickly is that textbook publishers are determined to keep the profit margins they’ve built up the last half century through traditional publishing business models and haven’t yet quite divined how ebooks are going to be able to maintain these margins for them.

The Boulder way: A bookstore’s experiment with microdistribution
(3/16/10 via Nieman Journalism Lab)

The independent Boulder Bookstore is experimenting with consignment distribution of books at the local level. A big independent bookstore—this one is run by Arsen Kashkashian—can try something like this while big chain bookstores (Barnes & Noble, Hasting’s, Books-A-Million) cannot because all inventory/buying decisions are made at a regional or national level. However, microdistribution might be something that starts showing up more in the future as bookstores try to make very real local connections to their community as a way of differentiating themselves from the online behemoth Amazon.com.

Print May Be King, But The Future is Digital
(3/15/10 via Layers Magazine)

Yes, the future of publishing is digital, both in terms of final product format and distribution as well as with layout and design, especially in terms of setting up publications to have the ability to be output to as many different formats as possible. This post gives a  succinct technical overview of how this can be done and is a good nuts & bolts primer as opposed to the wildly abstract theorizing that seems to characterize so many articles about ebooks.

Book Review Bingo: More book review cliche fun than you can shake a riveting, unputdownable stick at
(3/16/10 via Examiner.com)

In the early ’90s I had a job at a TV listings company where we wrote 20 word taglines for different shows and events being broadcast. We also had a features department where those guys wrote longer articles about upcoming movies, mini-series, and the like. All their articles were essentially the same: some star would say, “I’ve worked on a lot of other movies, but the message of this one is very dear and personal to me and I feel that I was so lucky to work with this team of creative artists to produce my best work yet, something that I hope really speaks to people and helps them out.” Along those same lines, this post has created printable bingo cards with all of the repetitive, over-the-top verbiage that you see ad nauseum in book reviews and especially back cover blurbs on books.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls–The Book Trailer
(3/15/10 via GalleyCat

Book Trailer Attack Ad Takes on Karl Rove Memoir
(3/16/10 via GalleyCat)

The Future of Publishing
(3/18/10 via Michael Hyatt’s Blog)

Finally, on a lighter note, the links above go to different videos that are well worth watching. I’ve never been much of a Jane Austen fan—yes, she’s important in the development of the novel by being the first to really use and master the third-person limited point of view but, otherwise, meh—and I’m getting burned out on zombies in general—something I never thought I would say—but for a book trailer, this one for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is just loads of fun. Calling the second book trailer an “attack ad” on Karl Rove is really a misnomer. Instead, it’s really just comparing apples to oranges with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Finally, the future of publishing video I found by way of Michael Hyatt of Thomas Nelson starts off with a grim recitation of the state of books that, if you stick to the end, really—and I mean really—turns it all around to good effect.

Anyway, here’s hoping that some of the above information is useful and/or entertaining. As I used to tell my composition students about what I had to say about the writing process: take what you can use and let the rest go by.

Mark

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