How a Free Print Book Made an Ebook Sale

I wonder how often this happens?

I was on vacation and the rental home where I was staying had several print books scattered about. I picked up a copy of Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston and immediately became absorbed in this classic novel.

At bedtime I realized I did not have a reading lamp next to my bed. I wanted to keep on reading and tried finding a light to plug in but all the cords were too short.

Instead I grabbed my iPad Mini and looked to see how much the book was selling for as an ebook. $1.99, the perfect price for my situation. I bought it and was reading with my backlit iPad within minutes.

How much more might I have paid? Maybe another dollar but that’s it. I was afterall being somewhat lazy considering I had the free print book right there and could easily wait until the morning to resume reading.

I have to believe my behavior is not unique, and that other people are buying ebooks as I type this because they encountered a print edition of a book they did not even pay for. Let’s face it, free print books are all over the place. I must have twenty on my bedside table right now.

I have to believe this ebook trend will be very helpful for publishers and authors looking to actually get paid for their hard work, as opposed to accepting the print pass-along freebie realities.

 

 

What do we mean by the label “literary fiction”?

Some people have been asking what we mean by “literary fiction,” as the term carries many positive as well as some negative connotations. Publerati purports on our Web Site to be “Publishers of Fine Fiction for eBooks,” and we say in our submissions area that we are looking to specialize in literary fiction at the exclusion of other forms of writing. What do we mean by “fine fiction” and “literary fiction”?

When we use the term “literary fiction” we mean the following as it pertains to novels, novellas, and story collections:

  • Works that grab you with a distinctive voice and perspective. There are many examples of these but one we like to cite is Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson. We love this classic for its distinctive voice and mood, and how the stories all hang together in a coherent collection. This American classic has dropped out of favor in modern times, which is a shame and our collective cultural loss. It is a great example of unique human expression via the written word. It stood out in its day and it stands out today.
  • Works that focus more on characters and less on plot. Ideally there is a balance and that is when modern publishers will say a “literary novel can cross over into the mainstream.” Just as some indie movies can. In general terms these are strong character-driven works of fiction. They can be funny, tragic, or both.
  • Works with psychological depth that reveal the interior moral struggles of the protagonist in engaging our interest. Works where there is subtext. Works where what the main character says they want does not always align with their actions.
  • Works that can be read many times during our lifetime and where we discover something new with each reading. Ideally, works that will endure over several lifetimes because of the universality of the themes and story.

The sort of books described above oftentimes will not earn their way from a commercial standpoint, as they were not created with the pressure to “make money.”  Yes, we all would love to make money and many great works of literary fiction have from the earliest times. Oftentimes these are first novels by writers who have spent years or decades perfecting what they want to say, without the pressure of publishing every two years to make money for themselves and the publisher while under contract. Many are cathartic works of art, whether in painting, music or literature, that share some profound emotional truths that move us deeply.

The purpose of Publerati is to utilize ebooks as a way to reopen access for literary works. Period. That is our mission. All great literary writers were unknown when they first began their careers, so let’s make it easier for writers of literary fiction today by using the new technology now at our disposal.

Many publishers and excellent imprints used to gamble much more than they do now on literary works, because as the industry consolidated into a handful of media conglomerates, the pressures to have every title earn its way as a commercially successful work became a prerequisite when deciding what to publish. If the chances of “earning out” its small advance were low, then the proposal to publish was never even presented internally. Just too much work for too little gain.

“Literary acclaim” became too difficult a case to make to the Editorial Board. Many excellent editors in the industry know this to be true and struggle with the modern reality.
We are of the opinion there will be plenty of room for ebooks and print books to coexist, so let’s use ebooks as a way to reopen access for deserving literary works while also supporting literacy charities around the world. It’s a win-win.

We envision ebook-only futures for some very talented fiction writers who otherwise would never be read. Some will also get print contracts down the road or be released in print-on-demand editions as this technology becomes widespread. That thought should give us all hope.

-Caleb

Is B&N Divestiture the Pathway to Samsung?

With the recent news of Samsung taking over development of Barnes & Noble Nook Media tablets, followed by the news this week of the coming divestiture of B&N Retail from B&N Nook Media, might this all be leading to a solution to problems for both Samsung and Barnes & Noble?

Let’s start with B&N Retail, who once free of the Nook Media relationship can surely find better ways to maximize profitability from that current floor space and drive increased store traffic. Possibly they will want to sell a more diverse selection of tablets and smartphones. Possibly high-level corporate pressure will temper the difficult negotiations likely to occur so a sensible B&N overall brand strategy is followed.

But NOOK Media will not want to overpay for that prime retail space given their current difficulties and so a significant reset of that valuable floor space seems likely, especially given it is front and center in many locations, prime real estate. How many more print books might they actually be selling in that space right now if it were available?

What NOOK Media needs most is available via Samsung, whose tablet and smartphone lineup gains them access to Best Buy, Staples, AT&T, Verizon, and more, amounting to several thousand more storefronts located in the places people already shop for tech.

Samsung, on the other hand, made a weak attempt to establish their own branded ebook storefront but are too late to that game, a game in which even Apple is struggling competing against Amazon. So the B&N NOOK Media group would potentially offer Samsung the second largest database of ebook buyers after Amazon. Chances are many of these customers have zero (or worse) brand affinity toward Amazon, so they are not likely to leave if given better hardware than what they have gotten from B&N in the past. And many prefer their Nook models dedicated to reading over multi-purpose “distraction-easy” tablets.

That better hardware will start soon as the strategic partnership rolls out. Assuming it is going well, which I believe will be the case, then the divestiture to follow opens the door for Samsung to outright buy Nook Media, leaving B&N Retail Founder Leonard Riggio free to resume running the retail business he loves so dearly. As well as gain from the Nook Media sale. Which from a brand standpoint is a great reason why B&N came up with the NOOK name, because it is an excellent ebook product brand name and can be carried forward under any other larger brand umbrella.

I do not own shares in any of these companies and am just an interested industry observer speculating off in the wings. I appreciate your comments.

Publerati Titles on Scribd for eBook Subscribers…

All Publerati works of fiction are now available as part of the Scribd $8.99 monthly ebook subscription program.
 
Scribd is doing for books and reading what Netflix has done for movies and television. Ideal for avid readers, Scribd offers a great selection of titles at a terrific price: essentially half the price of one trade paperback for all the ebooks per month you can read. They support Apple iOS, Android, and Kindle.
 
Please visit our home page to see our titles and know that when you buy any of them from Scribd or other ebook resellers we donate no less than 15% of our net proceeds to help the Worldreader Organization spread literacy using ebooks.
All titles also available for libraries through Overdrive.
– Caleb

‘Tis the Season of Not-So-Happy Returns

Can you feel it?  I can. Always will. Haunts me.

The sound of the returns, like an ominous storm in retrograde, unsold inventory backing in on you from retailers everywhere, reducing holiday sales results. All part of the cruel retail game.


I used to fear this time of year when I worked in the book industry and later the packaged goods’ software industry, because large retailers stand between the producers and the purchasers, so you cannot truly know what actually sold to an end-user until well into March. Many of those “sold” gifts are returned by the recipient as well, only adding to the inventory turmoil.
 
Sales commissions and bonuses need to be paid, yet you do not know what actually sold through. Annual results need to be reported, pay raises given or not, plans completed.
 
The book industry is among the worst in this regard, employing an antiquated business model that hurts everyone along the way. Retailers are pushed to load up for the holidays, early sales estimates look promising so reprints are ordered and shipped. After the holiday blitz, when the invoice comes due in February, the publisher’s sales and accounting teams suddenly catch wind of the impending invoice reductions for returns.
 
Turns out sell-through was not that great, 35% of the product is coming back from retail. The finance team reserved for a 20% returns rate. The publisher moves urgently to declare the book out-of-print to stem further returns, forcing the bookseller to mark down and dispose of remaining inventory instead of taking a credit on their invoice. Which further delays their payment and possibly propels them out of business as they decide whether to pay the tax man or the publisher.
 
The authors are out of luck. Their book’s life was cut prematurely short. A fast and furious game of roulette with no winners.
 
The software industry was smart enough to sell their goods on consignment starting in the late 1990s, a trend driven by large retailers Staples and Best Buy looking to reduce all the reverse-flow returns chaos. The cost in the stores to pull product from shelves, in the warehouses, in the accounting departments — just staggering. Packaged goods’ software publishers resisted at first but then discovered it was a major improvement. The retailer stocked more inventory without the ownership risk. They worked through their inventory instead of returning it for credit. Eventually when a new version came out, they destroyed the old one in-field as instructed. Similar to the fates of magazines and mass market paperbacks.
 
The consumer products hardware industry (e.g., cameras, phones, tablets, GPS, etc.) is the worst: you cannot reliably estimate true sell-through nor would you destroy in field, so you load up the channels for the holidays with a full line of price points and models, and then grind your teeth this time of year when the returns start showing up back in the warehouse. The unopened products need to be received, go through QA again, be re-flashed with the latest firmware updates, loaded with the latest software, and stuck back in a new box on a warehouse shelf waiting for hopeful “future marching orders.”
 
This returns nightmare is one of the main reasons I believe so strongly in digital goods and why they can and should cost the end-user less. Streamed content. Ebooks, photos, movies, and music. They don’t come back and create nightmarish churn. This is another of the revolutionary advancements that the digital world brings to our otherwise antiquated physical goods and retail business models, which continue to be in decline in part due to these inventory inefficiencies.
 
And it is not just brick-and-mortar retailers. Amazon surely is one of the newest sources of bi-polar anxiety for product producers, as they reorder feverishly after Black Friday causing producer elation, run their Holiday Daily Deals, only to reach mid-January and realize the demand was not what their algorithms projected, resulting in sudden producer depression syndrome (SPDS). Back comes the product, which given Amazon’s impact on most businesses can amount to 40% of all the producer’s product available in the field. Ouch.
 
So for those of you living through this returns season, you have my deepest sympathies. It is a cruel game and depending on what the real sell-thru looks like after all the counting is finally complete, jobs may be lost or gained. 
 
– Caleb
 
 

You Made a Difference

Thank you to everyone who purchased a Publerati ebook during our 100% Publisher Donation Program with the Worldreader Organization over the holidays. You made a difference.
 
Not all sales results are available yet but it is clear many people bought ebooks from Publerati in part knowing we were donating our entire publisher’s share. Our sales increased during the promotion and I received many thoughtful emails from readers who were pleasantly surprised by the calibre of our fiction. Thank you for those emails as the work involved in writing and editing novels can be a bit like making maple syrup: a true labor of limited love.
It looks like we will be able to at least quintuple our annual donation to the Worldreader Organization from a year ago. So that is great news!
As a reminder, we always donate no less than 15% of our publisher’s share to Worldreader so I appreciate any help spreading the word. The goal is to increase our sales to the point where we can once again run this 100% donation program next holiday season and continue funding the hard work that goes into acquiring, editing, and marketing excellent new works of fiction.
Have a happy and healthy 2014!
Best wishes,
Caleb Mason
Founder & Publisher
p.s. please click the share button below as one way to share, by selecting your preferred social media outlet from the list.

Giving Back for the Holidays

Publerati is pleased to announce now through December 31, 2013 we will donate 100% of our publisher’s share of all Publerati ebook sales to the Worldreader Organization, who also has a matching program in place now through year-end.

A core mission of Publerati is to increase access for excellent fiction around the world using ebooks and e-reading technologies. Worldreader is achieving remarkable success through a combination of hard work and vision in providing digital readers and ebooks to teachers and children in developing nations.
Publerati wants to be more than just another publisher. Our goal is to help bring interesting, challenging fiction to readers at accessible ebook prices and in the process donate a portion of our sales to Worldreader on an ongoing basis. 
It should be a win-win: excellent novels and story collections that might be a little too risky for mainstream publishing now see the light of day as affordable ebooks, and in the process those less fortunate gain access to a huge digital library of ebooks on e-readers provided by Worldreader, fostering a lifelong love of learning.
Our list is purposefully small as we are highly selective in what we publish and have worked to create a diverse list showcasing what we feel represents the best of the art of fiction done in differing styles.
Please share this and help make a difference around the world simply by reading. You can find our titles on www.publerati.com. Thanks.
Happy Holidays!
Caleb Mason
Founder & Publisher

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

Espresso Print-on-Demand at Books-a-Million Maine Store

Sometimes living in Maine has unexpected advantages beyond lobster, seaside air, and friendly people, as I discovered yesterday when learning one of the newest beta sites for the Espresso Print-on-Demand system was being unveiled at a South Portland Books-a-Million store. Publerati is located in nearby Portland. 

Oddly enough, Maine was also a test-market back in 1995 when Time Warner was rolling out its national Road Runner program, which I got involved with when working for Konica in the photo industry, who had a photo processing plant in South Portland. TW Cable was eager to see if a high-speed photo system would have consumer appeal. And now we have Facebook.

 
I stopped in to snap some photos and visited with the nice people running the machine as well as a rep from NYC working with Espresso On-Demand and the local PR agency Burgess Advertising. There was a ribbon-cutting event, music, and food. Well done. Some kids were crawled up on the floor watching intently as the demo book passed through the machine, very cute.
 
Here is a photo of the store-within-store On-Demand space, which is very similar to what Fuji and Kodak did fifteen years ago in supermarkets, drug stores, and mass retail, set off in a corner:

Here is the machine combination, which in this case is a Xerox book assembly, gluing/binding machine that allows you to watch like an old-fashioned taffy machine, and then a Konica Minolta printer. I was told different configurations are being tested but given that I worked for Konica years ago, I know how strong their R&D and onsite service people are so would not be surprised to see them in the wider rollout over the coming years. Not many people know that the founder of Konica and the founders of HP were friends in the 1950s and several Konica patents are included in HP products.  Here is the machine combo up close:
The Konica printer is the black machine on the right that looks like a woodstove, perfect for life in Maine! Wonder how many BTUs that thing throws off in wintah? That would close the deal for many around here for sure.
 
Here are some books, which take on average 7-10 minutes to produce from soup to nuts, including this color example of a Peter Rabbit public domain book, which looks great when done. All the paper is archival quality, similar to how the photo machines in mass retail now provide long-life paper you cannot get off your home printer. I was unable to find out about the longevity of the inks, however, which would be important to know for all these POD books.
Okay, so possibly you wonder why this matters? My own view is it will matter more in other types of retail formats than it will in current book superstore configurations, but for now it allows a retailer to print books for self-published authors as well as out-of-print books for large publishers, such as HarperCollins. 
 
It allows any book that is provided through Espresso On-Demand in the suitable PDF format (one for the cover, one for the content), to be available to someone who might not otherwise be able to find it. And it allows any individual to have their own books produced, even simple photo scrapbooks, along the lines of how one goes to the Staples Copy Center.
 
This picture shows how the important cross-merchandising can happen in the store:
As the technology improves and the pricing comes down (this is not going to be a break-even venture for some time probably, but I am sure the investors behind everyone involved are willing to float some beta testing units while working out the kinks and building consumer demand), I envision these units in some Starbucks, airports, “A” store supermarkets, which have the highest repeat traffic of any retail format, and some drug stores already printing photos. The advantages these retailers have over bookstores is the average person is there several times a week.
 
I hope the better indie bookstores will be able to offer these as well as they do a great job of buying selected pre-printed books that appeal to the tastes of their clientele while also being able to serve the local market through the new POD capability and author events. 
In photo, more of this business actually went direct online than into retail. We now have Shutterfly and others who have self-service Web ordering systems online (e.g., your computer, tablet, or phone), so expect Amazon to be a player in this space as well. And I would also expect the total number of books consumed in print to decline similar to what happened with photos, where far, far fewer are printed now than fifteen years ago. So the on-demand retail store product mixes will be important to watch and a nightmare to plan for as retail space declines in total for books.
Publerati will offer our ebook fiction through Espresso On-Demand to supplement the delivery we are already getting through the Overdrive system to libraries and some retail. I hope we can do author signings using these machines and retail locations. But I personally believe the majority of books will be read digitally in the future and if you simply must own it and put it on a shelf, that option will exist for those special cases. Just like I choose to own the DVD for “Gone with the Wind.”
 
Bringing this back to Maine, we have seen better than many how the decline in paper consumption has put many paper manufacturers out of business here and cost so many jobs. It is sad, but we need to face the truth, which is the world will spin on its merry way without us and not care a hoot.
I know there is much more about this that I do not know so welcome comments from those with more information. I wanted to share these photos and thoughts realizing this is another instance of technology being early to the game but with the potential to play a key role in a few years. And, go figure, it happened to be going on right in my neighborhood.
 
– Caleb

Publerati Titles Now Available on Overdrive for Libraries

Publerati is pleased to announce all our fiction titles are now available on Overdrive for libraries and other retailers participating in the Overdrive kiosk ebook program.

A core mission of Publerati is to increase access for excellent fiction around the world using ebooks and e-reading technologies. Libraries and their dedicated librarians have long been instrumental in helping readers access books and develop a passion for reading. The Overdrive lending system assures this great work can continue as ebooks become widely demanded by consumers.
 
Publerati donates all our ebooks to the Worldreader Organization to help spread literacy, as well as a portion of every sale. We have carefully selected $4.99 as the ideal price for new works of fiction originated as ebooks, believing more readers will purchase at this price point and as a byproduct help fund access for those with fewer options. Libraries are critical to helping make this all possible.
 
A new title sure to be in demand at libraries this month is Thanksgiving by Ellen Cooney, which has been receiving terrific reviews. The other works of fiction in the program are: Normal Family by Don Trowden; Journey of the North Star by Douglas Penick; Dancing in the Kitchen by Susan Sterling; An American Gospel by M.T. Daffenberg, and Marriages are Made in India by Lakshmi Raj Sharma. All upcoming Publerati titles will be included in the Overdrive program. The list is small and carefully curated to represent our commitment to excellent fiction written in differing styles, reflecting the core uniqueness of the art-form versus other entertainment choices.
 
I hope next time you visit your local library you will ask about the Publerati works of fiction, all with detailed descriptions on our home page at www.publerati.com. 
 
– Caleb
 

 

Thanksgiving by Ellen Cooney Early Reviews

We would like to thank the many book bloggers who are passionate about excellent fiction for their coverage of this extraordinary novel.  Here are links to recent reviews:

 
 
 
 
This is a win-win…because when you read any Publerati work of fiction, priced at just $4.99 to encourage wider readership, we donate a portion of all sales (as well as the ebook itself) to the Worldreader Organization, who is working to spread literacy using donated ebooks and ereaders. Good works.