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Catherine Cookson estate signs exclusive e-publishing deal with Amazon

mattydoolinI remember when I was much younger my mother told me that one of her favorite authors was Catherine Cookson. I tried reading one of her books, but I couldn’t really get into it. Perhaps I should try again. Certainly, I’ll have the opportunity to do so, as The Bookseller reports that the late Cookson’s estate has signed a deal to release 100 of her novels as e-books directly through Amazon, bypassing her print publishers.

Amusingly, the trust’s literary agent Sonia Land didn’t even bother to consult those publishers.

She told the newspaper: "I haven’t told either firm about the deal and I am sure they are going to kick up a fuss about it. But at the end of the day, what can they say? They do not own the electronic publishing rights to the works. In recent years, they have shown little interest in marketing or exploiting the Cookson brand. It is a wake-up call for the industry."

The rest of the Bookseller article (three paragraphs) is devoted to explaining how popular Cookson is in the UK, “with more than 14 million library lends during the past decade.” Certainly it’s a coup for Amazon. Nate Hoffelder at Mediabistro’s eBookNewser points out that most of the titles are available from .50 to .99 each, both in the US and internationally, including amazon.co.uk. (Some titles are still in print as e-books from the print publishers, and cost more.)

On The Bookseller’s e-book blog, FutureBook, Philip Jones editorializes at length about what this, and the earlier print-publisher-bypass by Ian Fleming’s estate, could mean for print publishers. When the estates choose to publish backlist directly, they are cutting the print publishers out of potentially lucrative income on books that are long since finished products. The costs of editing are sunk, and beyond whatever it costs to get them scanned and formatted into e-books, anything the estates make from them is essentially “found money.” And since they don’t have to set aside a share for the publishers, the estates are laughing all the way to the bank.

And these are only the first pebbles; the avalanche is yet to begin in earnest. There are 88 years’ worth of dead authors with extensive still-in-copyright backlists out there, just waiting for e-publishers to make them an offer. To name a couple, where are the e-books of Earl Derr Biggers’ Charlie Chan stories? Only six of prolific author John Creasey’s novels are available as Kindle e-books, and likewise only a handful of John Dickson Carr’s novels are available as e-books (though more can be found on Project Gutenberg Australia, where they’re already in the public domain).

For the estates of those authors who have clearly-defined copyright heirs, this could be a license to print money. And since they don’t really need publishers to do anything for these works that have already been polished through the editorial process, why should they give publishers any money? That’s not going to make publishers very happy, given that not only are they not getting income out of it but the books will also be competing for reading time with the new works from which they are getting income.

Of course, this isn’t going to help people who want to get ahold of orphan works, which can’t be put back in print or e-print because nobody knows who owns them—and given the setbacks in the Google Books settlement, and lack of any action from Congress, we probably shouldn’t hold our breath waiting there.


Amanda Hocking explains the reasoning behind her publishing deal

In light of the official announcement of her seven-figure publishing contract, Amanda Hocking wrote a longer blog post going into complete detail about why she wanted the deal. She notes with more than a little irony:

[It] is crazy that we live in a time that I have to justify taking a seven-figure a publishing deal with St. Martin’s. Ten years ago, nobody would question this. Now everybody is.

Her reasons boil down to getting her work out to readers who want to get her works from bookstores, readers have complained about the quality control in some of her works, and she writes fast enough that she’ll still have plenty of works she can self-publish even in light of this deal.

She explains that she’s not really taking the deal for the money—given her past record, she expects that if she kept working as hard as she has been, she could match that million on her own. But she doesn’t want to have to keep working as hard as she has been, and she wants the additional exposure that comes from traditional publishing—bringing up the example of James Patterson, whose books sell like hotcakes even when they’re demonstrably awful.

She also notes that she has a knowledgeable staff including lawyers, accountants, and financial advisors who will help her look over the contract, and that she was not pushed or coerced into the deal. And she has no plans to stop self-publishing. And her decision to sign a contract is one that is made not out of desperation but from a position of financial strength.

What happens if they screw you over in a contract, steal all your money, and keep your erights forever? Then they do. I like the books St. Martin’s bought. And I believe in them. But if I lose money on them, I lose money on them. That’s the risk I’m taking. And I do know this is a risk. But it’s a calculated risk, and if it works out, the payoff could be enormous. But I’m making enough money on my other books – and I will continue to make enough on my self-published books – that I can afford to take this risk.

From these blog posts, Amanda Hocking impresses me as the sort of person who puts a lot of thought and attention into her career, and is not one to jump into anything this big without putting a lot of thought into it. And since she already has a good career as a self-publishing writer, this is not a case of “jumping ship”—it’s more a case of not putting all her eggs in one basket. It will be interesting to see how her career as a published writer goes.

(Found via another self-published-to-traditional-published discovery, John Scalzi.)


50K Audible Audiobooks direct to Kindle via WiFi. – Hocking signs ~$2M deal

New York Times's Julie Bosman reports that self-published Amanda Hocking has signed a four-book deal with St. Martin's (Macmillan).

Hocking, the 26-year-old author, who sold over a million copies of her self-published e-books (Amazon, Barnes & Noble), has signed up with the Big6 traditional publisher for her next series.  Who wouldn't? assuming the terms are good.  I guess the large publishing house couldn't ignore this success story which happened without any traditional publisher marketing, backing, etc.

  They'll publish her “Watersong” series, four books in the young-adult paranormal genre, Bosman wrote.
  See the earlier article here for background on her rise.

  What a scene.  Kudos to her.

' A heated auction for the rights to publish her books began early last week, and several major publishers, including Random House, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins, dropped out as the price climbed into the seven figures.

The bidding eventually rose beyond million for world English rights, said one publishing executive familiar with the negotiations. (St. Martin’s declined to comment on how much it agreed to pay.)  Ms. Hocking was represented by the literary agent Steven Axelrod.

The first book in the series will be released in fall 2012, a spokeswoman for St. Martin’s said. '

  As Hocking reported on her blog Tuesday, in response to news stories that she was shopping her series to traditional publishers, Hocking explained her thinking (and activity) to her readers:

' “I want to be a writer,” she said. “I do not want to spend 40 hours a week handling e-mails, formatting covers, finding editors, etc. Right now, being me is a full-time corporation.” '

The Bloomberg Businessweek/AP story by Tara Bannow the other day has a good backgrounder on Hocking's story, from last year to the signing.
  She's written only one of the four books so far, so there'll be a bit of pressure, which probably won't have much effect on her.

  Bannow also writes, "Earlier this year, Terri Tatchell, co-screenwriter of the 2009 science fiction film 'District 9,' agreed to adapt the books from Hocking's Trylle Trilogy as a screenplay."  
  There's a bit on how she's adjusting to all this, and you should read it there.

In the meantime...
If you want to check out her existing e-books while they are still available and at a good price, see her Amazon author's page.

Amazon announced on March 24 that:

' ...more than 50,000 Audible Audiobooks are available for download on the latest Kindle (UK: K3) via Wi-Fi delivery.
  Of course, owners of any Kindle device can continue to purchase Audible audiobooks from Audible.com and transfer the titles to Kindle via USB. '

  To find out more about how to do this, go to Audible Audiobooks, where they offer a 30-day free trial that includes "two free audiobooks."  The page will give an idea of what's available.  Those already subscribing to Audible Audiobooks they can listen to while on the go will probably welcome this news, as it frees you from the USB cable transfer in that you can download large-file Audible book whenever you are connected to a WiFi network, whether at home or at work or in a cafe somewhere.

Kindle 3's   (UK: Kindle 3's),   DX Graphite

Check often: Temporarily-free late-listed non-classics or recently published ones
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.
UK-Only: recently published non-classics, bestsellers, or highest-rated ones
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers.


The French move toward net pricing deal for ebooks

Frederic Mitterrand

We’ve written before about how some European countries benefit from what’s generally known as a “net pricing” deal — that is, a rule that prohibits significant discounting of book prices, so that retailers share a level playing field. In France and Germany, for example, net pricing has resulted in little stores having a higher survival rate, making for a greater variety of bookstores, which in turn supports a greater variety of publishers and writers, which in turn makes for a healthier book culture.

Now, a report by Nicolas Gary on the French website Actualitte.com notes that the French government is considering similar net pricing rules on ebooks sold in the country. But Gary also reports that the French minister of culture, Frederic Mitterrand, is trying to impose the net pricing rule on booksellers from outside the country who are trying to sell ebooks in France: Amazon, Google, and Apple.

What’s next — making them collect sales tax? Bon chance, mes amis.


Self-published writer Amanda Hocking signs seven-figure four-book publishing deal

In an update on a story from a couple of days ago, the New York Times reports that self-publishing star Amanda Hocking has signed a four-book contract with St. Martin’s Press, an imprint of Macmillan.

The Times reports that bidding eventually rose beyond million, though St. Martin’s declined to reveal the exact figure. The first book in the 4-book “Watersong” series should be released in fall, 2012.

Responding to the rumors on her blog a couple of days ago, Hocking explained that she wanted to be able to spend more of her time writing, and less taking care of other chores that a traditional publisher could manage for her. Self-publishing was a full-time job, and took away from her time to write, as well as do other things she enjoyed.

There’s several factors that go into my decision making about any possible future endeavors. The biggest factors are my readers and the longevity of my career. My goal has always been to put the highest quality product I can out in a way that is the most accessible to readers. My goal has never been to be the "darling" or the "poster child" for any movement.

Certainly, a traditional publisher will be able to help her put a greater polish on her work, as well as make it available to a wider audience (albeit at higher e-book prices). And getting an advance in excess of 0,000 per book means she’ll be able to afford to take it easy for a while—when she’s not busy writing, anyway.

(Found via GalleyCat.)


B&N signs excluseive deal with children’s author Eric Carle


It looks as if Amazon isn’t the only one who can sign up exclusive rights.  From the press release:

Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS), the world’s largest bookseller, today announced an exclusive partnership with acclaimed children’s author and illustrator Eric Carle and Penguin Group (USA).  As a part of this partnership, Mr. Carle has created custom artwork featuring his beloved character the Very Hungry Caterpillar that can only be seen in Barnes & Noble stores and online at Barnes & Noble.com (www.bn.com).  Fans of all ages will recognize Mr. Carle’s distinctive artwork from his more than 70 books for children including beloved classics The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?. Customers will also get a sneak peek at art from his new title The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse due to be released by Penguin this October.

This week, Barnes & Noble will begin to feature Mr. Carle’s custom artwork in Barnes & Noble stores across the country and on Barnes & Noble.com (www.bn.com/carle) just in time to celebrate “The Very Hungry Caterpillar Day” on March 20.  Artwork will be featured in Barnes & Noble store signage and displays, as well on the BN Kids pages on Barnes & Noble.com (www.bn.com) through July.  A limited run of Barnes & Noble gift cards featuring the new artwork will also be available starting in April. And curriculum guides will also be distributed at BN Educator Nights.  While books are the main focus, this four month-long promotion will also feature other products from The World of Eric Carle.


Refurbished Apple products can be a great deal

On our sister blog Appletell, Charles Moore has a great article on why buying refurbished goods from Apple is actually a pretty good idea. I’ve long suspected this—I got my first iPod Touch as an Apple refurb—but it’s interesting to see it fully explained.

Moore explains that refurbished products actually go through a more extensive quality testing process than new units before being offered for sale, and come with the same one year warranty and AppleCare eligibility as new units. The only real difference is that it’s cheaper and sometimes an older generation of hardware. (In fact, refurbished is essentially the only way to purchase earlier generations of iPod or other hardware from Apple.)

Moore goes into detail about the MacBook and PowerBook computers he bought this way, but TeleReaders might be more interested in the deals Apple is currently offering on the refurbished iPod Touch—a 32GB 3rd-generation model for 9 or a 64GB model for 9—the price of the 8GB and 32GB versions, respectively, of the current generation. Of course, the current generation also gets the cameras and nifty retina display (though the earlier display is still perfectly serviceable for e-reading); I’m hoping those will show up in the refurb market sooner or later.

And the refurbished iPads start at 9 for the 16GB wifi version. though given that it seems likely the next generation of iPad will come out in a couple of months it might be best to hold off on those—the price should drop even further when a new model comes out.


Author Terrill Lee Lankford nixes book deal over ebook royalty rate

415RRQ230JL BO2 204 203 200 PIsitb sticker arrow click TopRight 35 76 AA300 SH20 OU01The author of Blonde Lightning, Earthquake Weather, Angry Moon, and others, told his prospective publisher to take a walk after he was offered a 25% ebook royalty rate. In a blog post entitled Maybe the Mayans were right … but they were talking about the publishing industry he discusses the negotiations he had for a new book and killed the deal, saying to the publisher:

“I’m just amazed at this. No amount of “platforming” can justify this rate. If this is the way publishers are going to try to hold onto the business, then I think they are doomed. If that’s the rate they expect me to sign up for if I do a deal over there, I’m going to have to pass and save us the time working on the pages. If there is the chance of doing a book deal where I retain the e-book rights, I would be interested, but I think that’s what they are really looking for anymore anyway. So guess this is it.

He then goes on to say:

I’ve spent the last week checking around with some of the agents, editors and writers I know and have found that this is, indeed, the standard rate that publishers are expecting on e-book sales. When I asked my agent how they can justify this, he told me that they would give me a large enough advance that it wouldn’t matter for a long time. And yes, the advance we were discussing was very good money for someone who hasn’t had a book published in five years and has had what could only be considered “minor” success in the writing field, if that. I was probably a fool to walk away from even the possibility of such a deal. But I had two good reasons for doing so.

My two children.

While this deal may have given my family a quick infusion of cash, the fact is that by the time I finished the book in question the cash would be gone. And by the time that book “earned out” at a rate of 3-1 in the publisher’s favor in e-book sales, the publisher would have seen a small fortune without noticeable expense. And we would be saddled with a deal that would probably haunt my family long after I was dead and gone. …

Another way to look at it would be this: Let’s say the publisher picks up one of your old books and turns it into an e-book: text transfers, new editorial, a new cover, placement with the vendors, etc. Right now you yourself can do this for far less than ,000, so we’ll assume the publisher’s cost will be that or less. By the time your book has earned you ,000 in royalties, the publisher would have collected ,000 for themselves. And what would their contributions have been? A “platform”? Publicity? We’ve all seen how well publishers promote “mid-list” books. What would make us think that things will change in this new e-world?

There’s a lot more worth reading in the post.

Thanks to eBookNewser for the heads up.


Digital Book World: Skill sets that publishers don’t have – how do we get them or deal with it

Lorraine Shanley, moderator, Market partners International; Peter Kay, WW Norton; Joe Mangan, Perseus; Charlie Redmayne, HarperCollins; Doug Whiteman, Penguin Group

Shanley: Publishing Trends just did a survey on publishing skill sets for digital media and the qualities they came up with were “adaptable decision maker”

Kay: Norton had all the digital competencies but were in the wrong order. Is a cultural battle and usually can do it with current staff. The older editors are generally the most adaptable. The designers seem to have a hard time adapting.

Mangan: as an independent publishers need some different things than Harper. Can’t “skunk works” digital, it needs to be woven into the fabric of the company. All staff really needs to speak “p” and “e”. As an independent can’t afford a separate digital organization, it needs to be woven in. Don’t have a separate digital team. We evolve our existing processes to take advantage of digital. Cultural change is an interesting one. See a high degree of enthusiasms and volunteerism to being part of digital. Since they are a mature industry this tends to breed complexity and need to break out of this culturally. Not asking staff to understand the economics of digital, but to be aware of it and know to ask the right questions. Trying to broaden their people’s understanding of the whole value chain. Spend a lot of time looking at your data because a lot of answers are there if you apply the proper analytics. There is often a sea of data that often is not taken advantage of.

Redmayne: have a web background. Publishing moving from a single product business with a single way to market to a multiple product business with multiple ways to the market. So need new skill sets, but shouldn’t throw out old skill sets because still need them. New ones are in marketing and editorial. Marketing: in digital world have to excellence in search marketing and social media marketing. For editorial need editors who are able to think about all the other products that can come out of the book and do product development. Get these skills through training can do this with marketing. Harder to do this with the editorial side. Need to bring new digital people in the imprints themselves. Adaptability is not a youth thing. Found an enthusiasm and willingness to learn among their older editors. Rupert Murdoch has a real enthusiasm about looking forward and about how our world is changing. Publishers need to experiment, but were bad in experimenting in the past because didn’t use the appropriate analytics to understand what was going on. If they experiment be sure to fully understand the metrics of the experiment.

Whiteman: I think most about attitude. Adaptability and flexibility. Need a new way of thinking and doing. We don’t know what the product will look like 3 or 5 yrears from now and may need different skill sets later on. A certain amount of fear in the industry makes people look at digital as an opportunity. Most enthusiasm come from people over 50 and right out of college and get most resistance from people 30 – 45. Get involved in a mentoring program and the junior people can actually mentor the older people and increase their skills.


The Jackal gets Dylan a book deal

Bob Dylan fans wondering what’s taking him so damn long to complete the follow-up to Chronicles: Volume One received something of an answer this week. It appears that, according to this story in Crain’s New York, Dylan’s literary agent, Andrew Wylie (a.k.a. The Jackal), has been holding up the show. Apparently Wylie had decided that volume one of Chronicles was not actually Dylan’s memoir and was trying to shop his “memoir” around to other publishers.

No doubt many will be confused by this–no one more so than Dylan’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, who holds the rights to the sequels–since it was pretty clear from the get-go that a memoir is exactly what the first book was. Let’s read a moment from the flap copy:

Elegiac observations are punctuated by jabs of memories, penetrating and tough. With the book’s side trips to New Orleans, Woodstock, Minnesota and points west, Chronicles: Volume One is an intimate and intensely personal recollection of extraordinary times.

By turns revealing, poetical, passionate and witty, Chronicles: Volume One is a mesmerizing window on Bob Dylan’s thoughts and influence…a poignant reflection on life, and the people and places that helped shape the man and the art.

Now, I’m not a lexicographer, but if I were looking for a definition for the word memoir, I think that “an intimate and intensely personal recollection” might be a good place to start. And even thought fans might have complained that Dylan didn’t dish on Joan Baez’s bad morning breath or tell us what he really thinks about the Wallflowers (come on, if you’re a Dylan fan, did you really expect him to?), there’s no question as to how the first book was marketed.

But according to an editor quoted in the the Crains story familiar with the deal, Wylie was asserting that Chronicles was merely ”nonfiction stories’ from his life and not a memoir.” This of course gave him justification to go shop Dylan’s “memoir” around to other publishers.

The story does have a happy ending I suppose. Fearing law suits, no other publishers were eager to take on the “memoir” from Wylie. Now Dylan has signed a new six-book deal with Simon & Schuster which includes (!?!) the two sequels to Chronicles: Volume One as well as “a collection of riffs” from his “Theme Time Radio Hour” on Sirius XM.

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