Tag Archives: Ebooks

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

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

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.

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.
 
 
 

Buttons, Zippers and Books

 
I very much enjoyed my time at the Publishing Business Conference and Expo, where as always I learned a great deal from some very bright and thoughtful people.

 

As someone who has now attended three decades of conferences in the book, photo, and consumer electronics industries, I have noticed one constant across them all: denial of the speed and depth of the coming changes.

 

This conference had many feel-good moments of “print is not dead” and “print will always be here” and one excellent speaker used an analogy I had not heard before: “Just look down at your shirt buttons, which have been around since the earliest times. The same will be true for the printed book.” 

 

I dutifully looked down at my shirt and did indeed notice many buttons (all buttoned thank goodness!) but then continued downwards to my pants where I encountered a zipper and metal clasp. Hmm…I thought…plus geez I hope no one is looking at that strange balding dude up front. 

 

The point of these changes is not about “going away forever” but how the companies making the buttons of their time adapt to weird things like Velcro, metal clasps, and zippers, which reduce the number of buttons they sell.

 

So I did a little button research and came upon this fascinating excerpt about the dawn of the zipper:

“In 1913, Sundback revised and introduced a new model, which had interlocking oval scoops (instead of the previously used hooks) that could be joined together tightly by a slider in one movement or swoop. This final model is recognized as the modern zipper, which took many months to find success in the industrial market. Retailers, who were prone to sticking with traditional materials and design methods, were slow to purchase the product.” (Source: Wikipedia, whatever that is!)

 

And then I started thinking about the great wooden boat builders here in my state of Maine and how they “totally missed the boat” when the rest of the world moved on into the age of metal. And indeed you can find some of the best wooden boat builders in the world still operating in Maine, but most ship builders who did not move forward are gone.

 

A direct mail guru once told me the reason people open sealed envelopes at a higher rate than wafer-sealed self-mailers is because this sacrosanct item dates back to the time of Charlemagne and is therefore deeply encoded in our DNA in signifying something important is inside. (He also had some important “ins” with a 6 x9 envelope vendor needing to dump excess inventory. Would I like to purchase 1.5 million today?) 


The only thing that comes sealed in my mail is a treasured invitation to go see the newest Volvo S60. The important messages I receive are happening in email, text messaging, or on Facebook. And my missing a wedding invitation could be the best thing to happen to that lucky couple getting married.

 

The old photo industry denials were truly tough to fathom. “People love their prints, they will never give them up!” “You cannot match the quality of a printed photo with digital!” “Yes, things are shifting but we will be fine for the next 10-15 years and then I can retire.” (As in screw the younger people.) Well 15 years later the number of prints produced has dropped to a whole new scale and stalwarts like Kodak, Sony, and Polaroid are forever changed. And the number of photos being captured and shared has never been higher.

 

And what about those old paper mapping atlas denials? “People will always want a printed atlas,” the Rand McNally man is so certain, it guarantees he must be wrong. Funny but a woman sitting next to me at the Book Conference commented that her teenage son could not figure out how to use a paper atlas recently, where you have to go from page 14 to page 37 to connect to the north but page 17 to connect to the east and so on. Plus you cannot even see where you are on the page. “Jeez, Mom, I can figure that all out in a few seconds using my phone.” (Guess who never figured out how to penetrate the GPS market…yup, Rand McNally.)

 

Older people will lament the loss of map-reading skills and a few teenagers will probably die in the woods unnecessarily. But how many more will show up on time for their college interview? Will get into North Dakota State because they actually showed up in the correct town? 

 

I think Sony had it right even though they have lost so much over the years. “Disrupt yourself before someone unexpected does it to you.” Many of the changes come with comforting but deceptive downward plateaus, where you get to catch your breath. But you are still in a stepping-down trend that becomes more and more problematic as key volume thresholds are passed. Retailers need to sell “x” amount. When it falls to the “g” amount, they need to ask you to leave the shelves. And depending on how smart they are in staying current (Staples does an excellent job with this) the stores themselves close. CompUSA, Borders, and Circuit City were not so smart apparently.

 

The hardest part is managing the profitability slides from print to digital with all those fixed overheads (e.g., human beings with kids to feed), but this control is not actually in the manufacturer’s hands. New competition comes along and baits you into eroding what you have. You follow you lose. You don’t you lose. But change was going to erode and alter everything anyway so why not figure it out yourself while you still can? Continuous innovation. Kodak did not. Palm did not. The list is very long.

 

And I imagine many button manufacturers who continued to supply the risk-averse retailers who confidently dictated what products they should make (do NOT go there) failed to survive as clasps and zippers and Velcro reduced their volumes. I will zip it now. Or button it?

 

— Caleb

 

 

 

 

Book Editing Meets Beethoven

Many music-lovers believe that Beethoven’s music and those composers who followed during the great Romantic Era  would not have existed without destiny’s timely intervention, in the form of the iron sounding board added to the wooden piano forte frame.

The famous piano-maker Broadwoods made their last harpischord in 1793 and in 1808 introduced bracing bars of metal to support the wooden frame. Other engineering improvements followed and the art of the piano and musical composition was forever changed.

This interplay of new technology and artistic development is a fascinating one and I believe we are living in a similar time for books. These watershed time periods present many challenges and opportunities for the authors and composers and I would like to share some of what I have learned so far while editing manuscripts for my company Publerati.

This challenge is especially difficult for publishers originating content headed for print and ebook formats simultaneously. The author and publisher maintain control over their work in print because the reader cannot adjust font sizes, for example. The print text is not flowable. I witnessed a similar challenge when working for a map publisher, who had many exciting new user-experiences heading out the door digitally, while still needing to update and publish static paper atlases. For those managing this giant layered map data soup, aspirin and vodka were always on hand.

Because I can enlarge the type on ebooks, I am much more aware of punctuation. Punctuation, like a good waiter, should work efficiently in the background. (Hey: how’s everything tasting Mister!)  Full colons shout and wave at you in 24-point size in a novel.  Em-dashes, given their larger size, work better if a connecting mechanism is truly needed but sometimes all this “punctuation intrusion” into the uninterrupted dream of reading is an indication further rewriting is needed.

Another example is the difficulty ebook conversion processes have with certain combinations of punctuation.  “Everything was going well until my bi-polar wife Audrey screamed at the neighbor’s son ‘Get out of here or I’ll gut you like a pig’!”  That ending ‘!” trifecta is likely to set off machine-driven havoc on e-readers. So I would rework the sentence, probably getting rid of the exclamation mark as the first easiest solution. And the author might want to bump off Audrey.

So what to do? I think any editor working on a manuscript heading for simultanous print and ebook production needs to be sure to pay attention to what happens on the ebook, which means looking long and hard at the use of punctuation. This in turn, could lead to better writing via rewrites, which is a desirable outcome for the work in all formats.

Related to the above is to be sure to proof the book on ereaders in EPUB and mobi formats before simply releasing to the public unchecked. Assume those reading on ebooks will enlarge the fonts. Acknowledge you are giving up some control so write and edit to that new user experience where possible while taking care of print readers as well. I have found that when I go from “final” manuscript to first ebook proof I notice further edits that I cannot believe we all missed. I attribute this to the challenge of “state-specific memory,” the reason you can recall your wife’s phone number on your work phone but not on the phone in the next office.

Being able to change the context of the editing experience after staring at the same pages for so long and over so much time, (oftentimes sitting at the same desk staring at the same screen or printout), simply by injecting an ereader proof as a pre-publication tool, is a great development for book editing.  Quite possibly similar to how a modern composer can play his work on a computer and revise before hearing for the first time at a live performance, which is what the 19th-century composers had to do, so they made their changes oftentimes in horror after that first embarrassing performance. Edward MacDowell once said he much preferred writing piano sonatas to symphonies because he could hear them right away fully under his control, literally at his fingertips.

I think the ebook proof is a better next proofing stage than the bound galley, which does bring the work closer to a print book but does not allow for the full editing power available on an ereader. For instance, once the proof is on the ereader, you can select any word to make sure it is spelled correctly or jump to the Internet by highlighting an historical character’s name spelling, and in the process discover other fact-checking errors you and the author missed by being able to dive deeper.

Back to Beethoven. Instrument evolution for books will surely cause the artform to evolve as well. Some will gladly continue playing their piano fortes and harpischords for a welcoming audience. Others will head out onto the bleeding edge and quite possibly replace many forms of books with something completely new. Maybe Facebook and Google have already done so. The information we once got from books is quickly being replaced by the Internet, which is making life so difficult for education and non-fiction publishing.

I happen to believe the novel will survive as a sustainable art form, similar to the sonata. Personally, I am interested in fiction and the challenges of writing and editing fiction, which is why I started a company that only publishes this genre. But I also figure I am being near-sighted and fiction will change in unforeseen ways in the future. Especially when read by our relatives, the Borgs. (Not Bjorn. His grandson Cy.)

— Caleb Mason

 
 

The Barnes & Noble House of Cards is in Motion

I recently made myself a promise to remain silent unless I had something positive to say. Anyone who knows me knows this is not a personal strength but I want you to understand I am working on it.  I walked around the recent Book Expo (Print Book?) Show feeling like Rip Van Winkle passing through an industry that continues to operate in the same ways as 125 years ago, and just smiled and winked at the many ghosts passing down the aisles.

But this news today from Barnes & Noble brings me back to my chief concern for the future of print book publishing, and especially the authors to be impacted, which is their announced ongoing poor retail store performance.

As reported by Reuters: “The picture was also bleak in its retail business, consisting of its 675 bookstores and accounting for two-thirds of sales. Sales at stores open at least 15 months fell 8.8 percent last quarter. Barnes & Noble expects retail sales to be down by a high single digit percentage in its new fiscal year.”

You see it is all a house of cards and I lived through this during the decline of print photography and see so many parallels I would feel remiss for not sharing them even if they fall upon denying ears. The parallels are these:

1) The core print retail business erodes much faster than the internal denial plans for, with too-rosy financial assumptions (the people driving the bus understandably want to stay employed) proving to have been far too optimistic when viewed in hindsight. That escalating erosion plays hand in hand with:

2) You cannot continue to invest in new competitive digital areas like the Nook without a funding base, so both the new and the old are failing in tandem.  I witnessed this working for Konica in the 1990s and also watched it happen at Poloroid, Kodak, and others. What these giants had in common were huge investments with mega-retailers to push through huge volumes, via expensive multi-year contracts. And also huge investments in R&D digital image capture, edit, and share product ideas (e.g., cameras/phones, photo software, and send/storage).

3) This major retail erosion is truly bad news for the publishing Big Six in my view, who have built publishing models scaled on these superstore retail volumes. Increased royalty advances, larger print runs…all made possible by widespread retail presence through B&N and Borders (gone). The current consolidation is similar to what happened in the photo industry, when Konica merged with Minolta (and eventually wisely got out of consumer photo altogether). Sony also exited as did others. The new growth came from new players. The industry survivors rapidly downsized themselves to new smaller niche market segments (e.g., Nikon). And one of the world’s longest-standing, most-prized brands — Kodak — was brought to their knees. Impossible people thought.

So if you are a major publisher, with all those newly combined overheads and impending staff reductions, how do you make it work as your core retail business dries up? I do not pretend to have answers but based on what I saw in other industries forever altered by the digital revolution, would suggest that they need to take their best and brightest and put them to work with the West Coast best and brightest in launching new brands using new business models. Or buy new brands while they still have cash. The good news is the food will still be served, but it will be on a new plate, as Douglas Adams famously said over a decade ago.

And if I were B&N? I would be working hard and fast on a new store-within-store branded retail concept to go into supermarkets and mass merchants while the brand still has value. A combination of bestsellers and print-on-demand from a new wave of cheaper faster machines. This is what Fuji did in the photo business to stay afloat. Today, their self-service photo stations are everywhere from Walmart to Walgreens to Kroger. Kodak once had that space locked up but Fuji out-innovated them.

The good news in all this? The sooner we get through the painful transition, the faster the new jobs can be created. But sadly they will not be the same people, many of whom look like they are over sixty based on what I saw at Book Expo. The twenty-somethings will continue driving major new changes in the decades to come. I doubt there are many former Kodak people working at Facebook or Apple in the new world of consumer photo we all enjoy so much today. What happens to all the good “old” people is truly the saddest part of these disruptive changes and I sincerely hope they can manage a soft landing.

I promise…my next post will be extra bubbly to make up for this Debbie-Downer one.

— Caleb Mason