Monthly Archives: July 2014

Summer Tidbits from Publerati…

Here are a few items of interest to avid book readers:

1)  Ellen Cooney, author of the Publerati novel Thanksgiving, has a wonderful new novel coming on August 5th titled The Mountaintop School for Dogs, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  Ask for it when you are browsing your neighborhood bookstore.  And please read Thanksgiving if you haven’t already, available in all ebook formats and as an on-demand paperback  from the Espresso Book Machine (locations worldwide).

2) Jane Smiley has a new novel called Some Luck, which I plan to read soon, although I am deep into our slush pile and behind on my own reading and editing at the moment following a bout with Lyme Disease.

3)  The Publerati novel Normal Family by Don Trowden was brilliantly excerpted in a recent Ohio newspaper review. It is always great when a reviewer takes the time to share some of the better language found in a novel. One we especially like is when the drunk grandfather, who has just been pulled from the river after submerging the rest of the family on a perilous fishing outing going nowhere, refuses Coast Guard help and marches off in his soaked woolens. He is 6’8″ and a Falstaffian character who was once a famous author and explorer. The young protagonist sees this as: “Grandpa swerved up the lawn like Frankenstein in search of unsuspecting villagers.” This novel contains many similar examples of original and amusing language.

— Caleb

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.