Archive for 'Amazon'

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012 by Bob Mayer
Backlist is Frontlist? Duh

I’ll be winding down blogging here at Genreality at the end of this month.  I’ve just got too much writing to do to be able to keep up this, my own blog and guest blogging at Digital Book World.  I’ve most certainly appreciated the opportunity.

I’m growing rather frustrated with these ‘amazing’ announcements from various publishers and gurus about their innovations they’ve implemented that they imply are on the cutting edge.  Tor announcing dropping DRM was treated liked a genius move when any indie author could have told them over a year ago to let go of it.  But the wheels of publishing move slowly.

The next was Open Road Media proudly announcing that they think backlist isn’t really backlist any more given the digital revolution.  I agree. And said so over a year ago:

While I am very big on looking to the future, there is one area where I think publishing should look to the past.  Traditional publishers are sitting on top of a gold mine that they have traditionally never exploited except when an author broke out:  backlist.

The reason for this was limited shelf space.  For many years I wondered why no traditional publisher bought my latest manuscript, not only for the manuscript, but with the thought of breaking that book out and then acquiring my extensive backlist. I always felt like I was sitting on a gold mine, but not a single publisher saw it that way—in fact they viewed it quite the opposite way. I understand the problem was shelf space, but now that’s no longer an issue. Even though shelf space was an issue, it always felt like publishers belonged in gambler’s anonymous rather than in business. They were always betting on throwing one hundred new books against the wall, hoping one won the lottery. There was little sense of nurturing an author’s career or looking to the future with a long-term commitment.  The reason for this is no one can really predict what will be the next Hunger Games.  But this is a rather haphazard way to run a business when publishers do control the rights to a considerable amount of backlist.  Remember, it isn’t backlist if someone hasn’t read it and Digital is a complete game changer in that regard.

I was very fortunate to hit the sweet spot in publishing. When my print sales had dropped so low, but my eBook sales had not taken off, I was able to exercise my rights clauses in my contracts to get my books back (I’d already gotten the rights to most of them years earlier, but there were still some key ones I needed, like my Area 51 series). I even did a blog where I offered Random House reverse royalties on Area 51 if they just let me publish them. No response. When I proposed a promotional program for Area 51 to coincide with the release of Super 8, a blockbuster about Area 51, my editor told me they could barely promote their frontlist, never mind their backlist.

Backlist is gold. 

So.  Yeah.  And since then, here’s the really cool thing.  Amazon wants to republish my Area 51 series under their 47North imprint on 11 December while releasing a new title:  Area 51 Nightstalkers.  As one editor told me:  we want to prove that we can take books NY threw away and break them out.

Actually, already kind of did that on my own, as I earn more in one week with Area 51 eBook sales than Random House could manage in 6 months.

I just wish that people would recognize that many of the “original” ideas that publishers are coming up with were already done by indie authors a while ago.  I recognize it’s hard to change a large organization or business model.  I pinned on the crossed arrows of Special Forces when it finally became a recognized branch of the Army while attending the Infantry Office Advanced Course at Ft. Benning.  Think that went over well?  Special Operations were the bastard step-children of the military for decades, and now they’re the darlings.

I submit that the author-entrepreneurs like Barbara Freethy and Bella Andre and Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath who are being ignored right now are going to be the leading voices in publishing in a few years, while the old dinosaurs slowly sink into the tar pits.

And, yeah, I, Judas: The Fifth Gospel is still in Nook First and selling quite well.  And, oh yeah, I suggested the Nook First program to Barnes and Noble last year in August and the very first book they did it with, The Jefferson Allegiance, hit #2 nationally over Labor Day weekend.  I’m now working with PubIt, Amazon, Audible, Kobo etc. (Hey, Overdrive respond!) on numerous innovative marketing programs.  What I love about these companies is their openness to authors and their enthusiasm for what they are doing.

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 by Bob Mayer
Amazon Book Reviews: Democracy in action, ignorance or bullying?

I used to make it a point to not read my reviews on Amazon.  There were several reasons for that:

  1. As any student of sampling knows, the people who post reviews are not a fair representative of the reading public.
  2. Anyone who has ever purchased anything from Amazon can post a review, but that doesn’t mean they purchased the book they’re reviewing.  That makes it the Wild West.
  3. Some reviewers spam all of an author’s books.  Excuse me, but if you didn’t like one book, why go paste in that same exact blistering review on all the books that author has had published?
  4. Some authors spam other author books as a means of promoting their own book.  These people need to grow up.
  5. Customers unhappy that a book hasn’t yet been published on Kindle often post one star reviews of the print book, as a form of protest.  All that does is hurt the author, who often has little control over when and what form the publisher releases the book.
  6. One star reviews seem to carry more weight than Five star reviews.

As a publisher, I now I force myself to go over the Amazon every once in a while and check the reviews, especially to see if there are any formatting, editing or other fixable problems.  We see a definite correlation between lost sales and scathing reviews, but not great reviews and positive sales.  One aw-shit seems to outweigh one atta-boy.

Some suggestions:

  1. Only people who buy the book, and that version, have the right to review it.
  2. Reviewers should not be anonymous.  This prevents the bullying and spamming that is prevalent.  It also allows the author/publisher, to address the problem if need be, such as technical problems or downloads.  And thank readers who really enjoy something.  The future of publishing is an author-reader relationship, but we can’t relate with people who aren’t identified.
  3. Allow people to recant their reviews if technical problems have been resolved.

A final suggestions: If you really enjoyed a book, go, review it. Review the format you bought it in. Remember, a typo is different from bad formatting and bad formatting isn’t necessarily the fault of the author, or even the publisher. Technology does fail at times. If it’s a self-published eBook or from a small publisher, take the time to go to their web site and contact them.  You might be surprised at the positive results.

The future of publishing, as we note in Write It Forward, is wide open.  And readers, more than ever, are going to determine the success of failures of books.

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010 by Joe Nassise
Shaken and Shaken Again

I wrote last week about Joe Konrath’s recent deal with AmazonEncore to publish the next book in his Jaqueline “Jack” Daniels series, SHAKEN.  There were a number of others who wrote/blogged/commented on the same topic, with views that went from “eh, so what?” to “this is a blockbuster event.”  (Personally, as I said last week, I tend to fall somewhere in the middle of all that.)

Recently, Publishers Weekly printed an article that presented a rather unflattering look at the situation.  Referring to Joe as a “midlist crime novelist” who’s been “published by Hyperion in paperback for years,” they also printed some of his sales numbers from Bookscan as a way of supporting their view.

According to Nielsen BookScan, the first book in the Jack Daniels series, Whiskey Sour (2005), sold 32,000 copies, while the latest, Cherry Bomb (2009), has sold 4,000 copies. So Konrath essentially took a book no one wanted and instead of fully self-publishing it, signed with Amazon-Encore, which will bring the book out in paperback a year after the Kindle release this summer and at the very least e-mail all those who downloaded his last book.

Yesterday, Joe responded on his blog to the article, noting that Publishers Weekly seriously missed their opportunity to double check their facts and get the information correct before publishing.  For instance, he notes:

“My six Jack Daniels books have earned US royalties in excess of $200,000. They are all still in print, some in multiple printings.”

“The first three have more than earned out their advance of $110,000. The second three should should earn out their advance of $125,000, but all the the books haven’t been released yet. CHERRY BOMB, my last book in the contract, is not coming out in paperback until June. “

“As for the sales figures PW quotes from Bookscan, they certainly don’t match my figures or my bank account, and it appears the 32,000 they quoted for my first book is for paperback sales, and the 4000 they quoted for Cherry Bomb is for the hardcover release, which was botched in one of the major chains, but still managed to somehow sell enough to have a second printing. Kind of a simple-yet-important thing to overlook, PW mixing up those paperback and hardcover sales, and it certainly does make it look like my overall sales dropped dramatically.”

As I noted before, I find the entire situation fascinating.  I am surprised, and a bit dismayed, by the PW article – I would think they would report on key issues like this with a bit more attention to accuracy and factual evidence.  It was not, after all, an editorial.

What do you think about all this?  Did the PW article sound as negative to you as it did to me?  Did you feel there was a definite slant at work in the reporting?  How did the additional information that Joe revealed about the success of the books (earning out advances of that size isn’t an easy thing to do!) change your view of the situation?

This inquiring mind wants to know!

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 by Joe Nassise
Digitize me, baby!

TheHereticKindleI’ve long been a proponent of diversification when it comes to my writing career. I’ve written original novels for major US publishers. I’ve written original novels for major foreign publishers. I’ve dabbled in writing comics, written role-playing game supplements and rulebooks, and have ghost-written for a major on-going series. I’ve even put together a project strictly for the mobile phone market. The more irons I have in the fire, the more successful I will be, has always been my thought process.

Which is why over the last week I made the decision to jump into the digital realm with both feet. Noting the success that fellow writers such as Joe Konrath and Lee Goldberg have had with selling their back list on, I followed suit and created Kindle editions of several works, including my debut novel Riverwatch, a novella, More ScreamofAngelsKindleThan Life Itself, that was previously only available in the UK market, and all three books in the Templar Chronicles series – The Heretic, A Scream of Angels, and A Tear in the Sky.

To help them stand out from the crowd, I commissioned new cover art, something eye-catching and provocative.  Along with adapting them for the Kindle, I also used Smashwords to create editions in other formats, most notably for the Sony Reader and the various Palm devices.

I must admit I hemmed and hawed over putting up the Templar books. The first, The Heretic, is the only one that has seen publication in English. (Editorial changes at my publisher prevented the next two books from seeing the light of day, despite the fact that the series hit the bestseller lists in Germany, was optioned for film production, sold to three different books clubs, and was adapted into a comic book series.) I was concerned that making them available in digital editions would prevent them from selling elsewhere, but when it came right down to it, I finally decided that I really didn’t have a lot to worry about in that regard. And more importantly, I wanted the fans of the series to finally be able to have their questions about the fate of certain characters answered for them.

TearintheSkyKindleNext week, I’ll also be serializing Riverwatch for free on my website and the first of several different iPhone apps of my works should be available on iTunes.

The point of all this is to try and reach readers that I might not have reached otherwise through more traditional means.  Do I know what is going to work and what is not?  Of course not – but that’s the point of diversifying like this in the first place, to test the waters and see where they take me.

So tell me – what new mediums/formats/platforms are you most interested in?

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010 by Joe Nassise
Random Thoughts from the Road

I spent the last several days trying to figure out what this week’s post should be about, but must admit to being distracted thanks to the fact that I’m on vacation at the wonderful world of Disney with my two youngest kids.  (Actually, that should be at the “holy shit I can’t believe it costs this much” world of Disney, but that’s a different post!)

Rather than focus on any one issue, I decided that I’d do a bit of a stream of consciousness post this week, show you some of the stuff that I’ve been thinking about industry wide over the past week and maybe get your thoughts on the same.

As I write this, Avatar is about to earn something in the neighborhood of 2 billion dollars.  Frankly, I’m amazed by this.  Not because it wasn’t an enjoyable film with great special effects (it was) but because Avatar has the most predictable overused storyline that I’ve seen in years.  If you are one of the few people on the planet who apparently haven’t seen it yet, please skip to the next paragraph.   For the rest of you, tell me this wasn’t Dances with Wolves in space?  Guy sent to study the natives and find their weaknesses, falls in love with native woman, changes sides, and then must fight his own former comrades to save his new friends.  We’ve seen this story a hundred, nay a thousand times before, people.  Stop spending so much money on what is basically a very unimaginative film!

The fight between Amazon and MacMillan over the price of ebooks goes on.  At this point Amazon has admitted that it must eventually cave to MacMillan.  They say they’ll restore MacMillan’s books to the site so customers can buy them, but right now all they’ve done is put “buy buttons” back on used copies of MacMillan’s books.  Gee, thanks Amazon!  Way to screw the author.  Then again, that’s not something new for Amazon, now is it?

I spent the last week putting together a proposal for a steampunk zombie novel, because an editor I’d like to work with asked for one from me.  I probably wouldn’t have decided to write one on my own, as I’ve never been a huge zombie fan, but once I got into the planning and developmental aspects of putting together the basic idea I had a lot of fun.  Now I hope the book sells for the simple reason that it I’m actually looking forward to writing this story.  Think the Blue Max meets Dawn of the Dead by way of The Dirty Dozen and you’ll have some idea of what I put together.

So what else happened this week?  Oh, yeah, right, the unveiling of the iPad, the supposed ebook game changer.  All I can say is…yawn.  No surprises and actually some real disappointments when it came to the feature list.  I’ll wait until the next generation before I line up to get one, as I want the benefit of all the changes the early adopters force Apple to make.

And finally, on the flight this week I had the pleasure of reading Cailtin Kittridge’s latest, Demon Bound, which was the sequel to Street Magic.  I heartily recommend it!  (But don’t expect to buy it from that link above, however, because it is published by St.Martin’s and guess what – they’re a MacMillan company!)