History of Publishing Wrap Up , part 3

Another new deal for authors is Amazon Select and the opportunity for authors with a decent backlist (and the digital rights to their work) to manage their own sales. An engaging presence and a commitment of marketing and systematic discounts can enable authors to build new readership—$0.99 ebooks are here to stay and at $2.99 your royalties go way up. So get people interested for $0.99 (or free) and make then repeat readers at $2.99 a download.

Ebooks still (so far) have interesting demographics (older and more well-off) and are not yet a textbook delivery system. And the impact of ebook digital rights management on libraries is still being sorted out, since ebooks don’t naturally wear out. One topic that didn’t come up, surprisingly, was environmental impact? Which is greener—ebooks, with their batteries and electronics, or book books, which their paper, ink and glue?

We looked too at distribution—how books get to people—from books by mail to book shops, to distributors and wholesalers like Publishers Group West and Consortium. We talked about issues of return and the role of publishers in product placement in bookstores and even in “staff picks” (is nothing sacred). And for the distribution of used and rare books, Amazon and ABE shifted book sales back to the mail for a time. (Now ebooks will change that dynamic again.) And what about Google, Apple, and Amazon are they now publishers or distributors?

There were some nice interviews this term as well, with Bill Gholson, Diana Malta, Warren Hedges, Steve Sendar, Mandy Valencia, Kelsey Clark, Abbi Nguyen, and Molly Best Tinsley.

Academic and textbook publishing turn out to be special cases, academe with its blind review, long process and high cost (especially in the sciences) and textbooks, with their captive audiences, frequent revisions and faculty inertia. Epublishing and self-publishing seem to have not made a big impact yet on textbooks. But keep an eye on the textbook cost and information laws like Oregon’s HB 4058. And a topic we didn’t discuss enough is the role of open access laws on academic publishing.

We looked at job and careers skills too, from the classic proofing symbols to jobs like ghostwriter, copyeditor, creative consultant, fact checker, proofreader, and indexer. Our guests helped to bring out the balance between acquisitions editing, developmental editing and copyediting—roles that increasingly fall together fpr small publishers and are sometimes opportunities for freelancers. We looked at two very different audiobook operations and the operation of a bookstore, which includes selection, promotion and events. We talked about used, rare and collectible books—both the kind that are routinely resold for half the cover price and the rare books that might be in a library special collections or sold by a book dealer. How do you assess a books condition? What determines a book’s price, or value?

And in our middle of the term reports, we investigated freelance writing and some of its issues and tools: pitch letters/query letters, book proposals, how much to charge, what records to keep, time Management, contracts and rights (don’t sell you digital right in perpetuity!), and other skills you want to develop (photography, video). For some of you, finding work may mean finding an agent or a publisher, who will want to know more about your platform than your plot.

We looked at copyright and what (and who) it protects and at some of what you want in a book or article contract. Be careful but flexible and don’t get starry-eyed about big advances. It’s not free money.

Finally—and throughout—we’ve tried to focus on audience. From grandparents with kindles and nooks to Ashland’s 200 plus book groups. It’s audience, audience, audience.

About Ed Battistella

Edwin Battistella’s latest book Dangerous Crooked Scoundrels was released by Oxford University Press in March of 2020.
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