The Royal Flush of Content: Aceing Big Brother—Part 2

In The Royal Flush of Information: Content is Queen, Community is King, Marketing is the Jack, and Passion is the Ten. Control of Content is the Ace.

Perhaps a decade ago, a book described how industries tend to wind up with three dominant players: Ford, Chrysler, GM; Wendy’s, Burger King, MacDonald’s. Blogger, industry maven, and co-director of PublishersLaunch, Mike Shatzkin thinks that the Web will wind up with three major aggregators of content. The candidates: Apple, Google, and Amazon, the potential
Big Brothers.

President Clinton’s Treasury Secretary Robert Reich believes that the largest banks are so big, corrupt, and irresponsible (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/6) that they should be broken up. In a hyper-connected world, information is the coin of the realm. Tech companies don’t care about writers, books, or publishing. Whatever their executives may personally believe, their job is to follow the money wherever it leads, putting profit before any other purpose.

Printed books have been around for 500 years; none of these companies or technologies will be around in 50 years. Giving Big Brothers the right to control access to culture will be a disaster. Now’s the time to end the bromance and split Apple, Google, and Amazon into companies with less power for controlling culture and less potential for becoming more corrupted by that power. Divide the Brothers before they conquer.

BTW: The Joker is the Future, which no one knows, and no one can predict or control. But as techno-visionary Alan Kay famously said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
This is where you come in. Give your readers stories to rave about. Enlarge the possibilities for using technology to tell stories in new ways. Dazzle us with your creativity. We will love you for it, and the joke will be on everyone who rejects your work.

[Formatting anomalies not in draft. Suggestions welcome.]

I write the blog to help us both understand what we need to know about writing, publishing, promotion, and agents. I hope you find it worth reading and sharing. Rants, comments, questions, corrections, and ideas for posts greatly appreciated.

The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community /February 16-20, 2012 / www.sfwriters.org / [email protected] / https://sfwriters.info/blog / @SFWC / www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoWritersConference / 415-673-0939 / 1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109

San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean / free classes / www.sfwritersu.com / [email protected] / @SFWritersU

 

The Joys of Reading: Why I Love Books

A house without books is like a room without windows.

–Educator Horace Mann

The joys of writing start with the joys of reading. Why do you love books? I love reading books that

  • Tell a story, fiction or nonfiction, so compelling I am forced to keep reading until I finish it
  • Bring people I care about to life
  • Enable me to escape to times and places I couldn’t otherwise visit
  • Provide information that is a revelation, illuminates the subject, and broadens my view of it
  • Inspire me to improve myself
  • I am eager to tell everyone I know about and urge them to read
  • Are works of art inside and out, printed on stock that seduces my fingertips
  • I discover in a local temple of the literary arts where it’s a pleasure to browse and make an offering to the owner of the store, the publisher, the agent, and the author, all of whom helped make the moment possible
  • Stay in my apartment as part of my life (A mover once guessed we have more than seven tons of books.)

Although Apple is not on the side of the angels, there is an iPad in my future. Even though I don’t own an ereader, I believe that all but the last three pleasures can be experienced on one. Ereaders also provide the opportunity to enrich the text with other media.

What can you add to this list?

How do you want your book to affect your readers? Before searching for an agent or publisher, make sure that readers who know writing and your kind of book assure it has the impact you want it to have. May reading and writing always be a labor of love for you.

What books do you love most? I’d welcome the chance to share your passions with other readers. Please send the titles and authors of your favorite fiction and nonfiction books and even more helpful–if you wish–why. Let’s create a reading list to share with each other. I’ll be happy to credit you.

Me first: The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa. An historical novel about the life of a Sicilian aristocrat during the nineteenth-century struggle for unification, gorgeously written by an Sicilian nobleman. The poetic prose make Sicily, the Sicilian sensibility, a country in the throes of political upheavel, and the wonderful cast of characters come to life, including one who says: “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.” Another favorite line: “Her sheets must smell like paradise.”

Comments, questions, and rants welcome.

The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / February 16-20, 2012 / www.sfwriters.org / [email protected] / https://sfwriters.info/blog / @SFWC / 1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109 /  www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoWritersConference / 415-673-0939 / San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean / free classes / www.sfwritersu.com / [email protected] / @SFWritersU

 

 

More of the Same Only Different: BEA 2011

When one Editor-in-Chief was asked what kinds of books he wanted, he replied: “More of the same only different.” That also describes this year’s BookExpoAmerica. More technology booths, more discussion of ebooks, yet books still ruled the day. BEA was reaassuring. Publishers are responding to the changes in the industry, and as they have always done, finding ways to accommodate them. BEA is succeeding in reinventing itself to serve a rapidly changing industry. Librarians are helping to replace booksellers.

The biggest news was Amazon hiring Larry Kirschbaum, the former head of Warner Books and then an agent, to start a trade house, which calls forth a vision of the Six Sisters that dominate trade publishing becoming Three Sisters: Google, Amazon, and Apple.

The Bay Area was well represented on a panel about whether printed books will survive the growing e-valanche of ebooks and enriched versions of them. On the panel were representatives of the two most creative publishers in America: Workman and Chronicle Books, along with someone from Lonely Planet. They’re all doing well with pbooks.

Lonely Planet has had 9.2 million downloads of apps and has still seen double-digit increases in pbooks, although they invested in color to help make that happen.

Chronicle and Workman create books that can never be ebooks. Bob Miller of Workman showed a book for autistic children that included a brush for them to use. He also showed what looked like a bag of potato chips but contained things for cooking Italian food.

Another excellent panel discussed online promotion campaigns. One panelist had a list of more than a dozen elements of a campaign.

The biggest revelation of the convention for me: former Jossey-Bass Executive Editor Alan Rinzler saying that the future of publishing is self-publishing. This helps explain why publishers are starting e-imprints for authors they can’t publish otherwise and why agents are starting to publish ebooks.

Elizabeth and I rent a apartment in the Village, and spend a week or two before BEA seeing editors, family, and friends, and enjoying spring in the Big Apple. For us, BEA will remain an essential rite of spring: an annual reunion of people we only see at BEA; the chance to meet out-of-New York editors and new people, often by accident; gain new perspectives about marketing and publishing at the breakout sessions (which often have hashtags); hear about books at the editors’ buzz panel and the author breakfasts; and see what’s going on in publishing in one big room.

Next year, the convention is a week later, June 5-7. Hope to see you there.

www.larsenpomada.com / [email protected] / The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / February 16-20, 2012 / www.sfwriters.org / [email protected] https://sfwriters.info/blog / @SFWC / www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoWritersConference /  / 1029 Jones St. / San Francisco, CA 94109 / San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean / bfree classes / www.sfwritersu.com / [email protected] / @SFWritersU

Following the Money: Publishing 2010

“Publishing exists in a continual state of forecasting its own demise; at one major house, there is a running joke that the second book published on the Gutenberg press was about the death of the publishing business.”

This is from a must-read article by Ken Auletta about the iPad in April 26th issue of The New Yorker. It includes numbers that follow the money in publishing as it migrates to the Web. They also provide a perspective on the business and where it’s going:

P-commerce

* Six publishers produce 60% of books sold.

* 70% of the 100,00 books that industry produces a year don’t earn back their advances.

*On a $26 book, authors receive $3.90 in royalties, 15% of list price on a hardcover book. Publishers make a $1 profit.

* More than 50% of revenue at Random House comes from backlist books.

* Since 1999, the number of independent bookstores declined from 3,250 to 1,400.

(On the other hand, the San Francisco Bay Guardian just gave a Chain Alternative Award to the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, which has two new members this year.)

* Independents have 10% of sales, chains about 30%, big-box stores like Wal Mart, 45%, which pressures big houses, like Hollywood studios, to produce blockbusters.

* Publishers have to run two businesses at once: a traditional publishing business and an electronic business.

E-commerce

* Marcus Dohle, the Chairman and CEO of Random, said “The digital transition will take five to seven years.”

* There are 50,000,000 iPhones in the world, which O’Reilly Media vice-president Andrew Savikas calls “a great customer base” for book apps.

* Most publishers are giving a 25% royalty on e-books.

* Amazon’s 3,000,000 Kindles generate 80% of e-book sales, which Amazon achieved, in part, by selling at a loss.

* When Amazon customer can choose between a paperback and an e-book, 40% of them choose the e-book.

* Kindles users buy 3.1 as many books as they did twelve months ago.

* An Apple adviser who used Netflix to download movies compared bookstores to video stores ten years ago.

* Three behemoths–Apple, Amazon, and Google–are competing, so one of them can’t dictate terms.

* Author Solutions works with 90,000 authors.

What these numbers suggest is that publishing is going through a transformation. Old and new media companies will in time establish a business model that works for them and makes money for writers.

What these numbers can’t capture is the article’s engaging, rough-and-tumble portrait of predators at play or the importance of

* publishers in discovering and developing new authors

* independent bookstores in launching them

* writers who keep the whole enterprise afloat by sitting in front of their computers creating the art that makes commerce possible

Former Random House editorial director Jason Epstein said: “When I went to work for Random Houe, ten editors ran it. We had a sales manager and sales reps. We had a bookkeeper and a publicist and a president. It was hugely successful. We didn’t need eighteen layers of executives. Digitization makes that possible again, and inevitable.”

Author Lee Foster says “This will be a golden age for content creators.” You will create your future as a writer with your head, your heart, and your fingertips. Three cheers for content, whatever form it takes!

Learning to Kiss Change on the Lips

We owe a lot to Thomas Edison. Were it not for him, we’d all be watching television by candlelight.

–Comedian Milton Berle

A high-tech innovation can transform two guys in a garage into billionaires. The irony is that the big companies they build can’t innovate. No matter how profitable they are or how smart and creative their employees are.

Fear, size, jealousy, competition, how companies work, and the creative destruction of existing products and services help explain why innovation is hard for technocracies. So they buy innovation instead.

Thanks to techno-auteur Steve Jobs, Apple is an exception.  It’s driven by the vision of one demanding, relentless, irreplaceable man. Google understands the need to innovate or die, but its string of innovations have less impact and alienate companies whose territories they invade. Both companies also buy new technologies.

Technology used to advance in stages. There would be an innovation in trains, planes, and automobiles, and then they would remain at that level until the next innovation came along.

Today, we’re living on the vertical slope of technology trying to thrive during a time of accelerating change. The torrent of high-tech innovations is transforming publishing just as it’s transforming other media. But the larger any business, organization, or institution is, the harder it is to adapt.

In the eighties, writers were early adopters of computers. It took far longer for publishers to computerize. They had to create systems that were capable of both running a large business and carrying out the unique, complicated tasks involved in publishing every book. Publishers also had to integrate their systems so they could function together, a huge challenge that took years to accomplish and continues as technology evolves.

Paul Otellini, the CEO of Intel observed that: “It’s a lot easier to change when you can than when you have to.” As a multimedia, multinational conglomerate of one, you can innovate by changing what you write about to whatever

* most excites you

* is most salable

* you can most effectively connect with your readers about

You can change directions faster than publishers can, and you have more ways than ever to test-market your work to make sure you’re on the right track.

You have to balance building your visibility and credibility on subjects that you enjoy writing about and promoting with the need to be ready to take advantage of the next big thing.

You also have to balance change with stability, a growing challenge on the fun, scary, bewildering, exhilarating, accelerating ride during history’s most exciting century.

If you hang on tight, you can experience the thrills and spills as they happen and perhaps make a living writing about them.

Changes and innovations threaten the status quo, but they can also be an opportunity for

* changing how you work

* finding new ways to reach readers

* generating new sources of income

The future of writers who best communicate the perils and promise of life on Spaceship Earth is assured. I hope you’ll be one of them.