Reading in the Digital Age

pew-reading-researchOn Tuesday, I mentioned two topics I plan to explore in 2017: successful historical fiction and social reading. As a starting point, I thought it might be useful to see what people are saying about the future of reading so I did a little exploring and found an interesting interview between Publishers Weekly and Lee Rainie of the Pew Research Center who is responsible for research on American reading habits.

A few quotes that I found particularly interesting:

“… it strikes me that the publishing industry is innovating—the number of genres, formats, and in more ways in which they are marketing and finding pathways to readers.”

“The number of other claimants on people’s time and attention is also growing, and book publishers are not just competing against each other, they’re competing with a host of other enterprises that are making pretty compelling pitches to people for their time. With so many ways people can allocate their time now, I think the surprising thing for us is that books are holding their own.”

“.. we have this explosion of supply now in an e-book age … the story is that through this boom in the supply side of the story, the demand side has been relatively stable”

“People today have a lot more relationships—and strands of relationships—than their ancestors did. Today you can be part of a fan group that’s global for a particular author, or genre, and it doesn’t matter whether you find like-minded folks in your local community. You can share what you know with all of those other fans, wherever they are. And that’s a big change in human experience.”

“… book publishers might sort of expand their notion of what this networked reality means for them. At the first level, every product can be a community—so if you find an audience for a piece of work, an author, a genre, whatever, you’ve got a built-in fan base and a fan base that you can much more readily identify now than in the past, and once you know who they are and what they want, you can better meet their needs.”

You can read the whole interview here. And here’s a link to the PEW survey.

PS – I realize this is US data so I’ll have a look for studies from other parts of the world.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Two publishing business models

Last January Time and Regret was taken on by Lake Union Publishing – a division of Amazon. My experience with the organization has been highly professional, responsive, and very streamlined. In concert with Amazon’s incredible data base of customer information and preference algorithms, and its skilled marketing team, almost 10,000 copies of Time and Regret have been sold in three months.

I’m not saying this to brag – in fact, I’m shaking my head in wonder. But it does make me think of business models. I know, I know … not another one of Mary’s posts about the ins and outs of publishing but hear me out.

The other day, I drew this quick sketch in a notebook …

publishing-leverage-modelIn the consulting world, where I spent almost twenty years, we often talked about leverage when discussing different practice groups and their associated profitability. The theory was that consulting practices lead by a partner (and yes, I was one of those) could have differ dynamics. A practice doing large scale projects involving lots of people for many months full time might have 50 consultants for one partner (the green triangle). While another practice doing, let’s say, high-value strategy assignments that require senior people for shorter time periods might have 10 consultants for one partner (the blue triangle).

And what does this have to do with publishing?

What if Lake Union and the other publishing imprints associated with Amazon can organize their processes and work flows in such a way that they can take on more authors per team than a traditional publishing house? Even if they price lower than the traditional publisher-retailer combo does, with more authors per team (in other words, higher leverage), they can be equally, if not more, profitable than the traditional model.

Just asking the question 🙂

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION (and occasional discussions of the publishing world) follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

 

 

Writing Business – who “owns” the customer

In a previous life, I worked for IBM. More than ten years, in fact, at that icon of the technology world. One of the skills I learned was sales and one of the expressions I recall was “owning the customer”, an arrogant expression for sure, but that’s the way IBM sales management spoke about clients. If you were in sales, you had to find ways to “own the clients” in your territory so they would buy from IBM almost 100% of the time.

What’s Mary babbling on about now, you ask? Mike Shatzkin, a publishing industry guru, has recently written Four players in the book business with the power to rewrite some of the rules – and I thought you might be interested in a synopsis and a bit of commentary but first, a diagram. Diagrams help me think.

Four-Dominant-Players

According to Shatzkin, the US market is dominated by four players (those with the red stars): (1) Penguin Random House is almost the size of the four other Big Five publishers combined; (2) Barnes & Noble is the leading book store chain; (3) ReaderLink has recently purchased Anderson News thus becoming by far the dominant distributor to mass merchants like Target, Walmart and Sam’s Club; (4) Amazon is far and away the dominant online retailer. Or to use the IBM terminology: Amazon owns the online consumer; Barnes & Noble owns a significant portion of the book store customer market; ReaderLink owns the mass merchandiser relationships; Penguin Random House owns a huge whack of content readers desire.

Dominance = power. For the most part, writers have no power.

Other aspects to consider. Each step in the process of producing content and delivering it into the hands of readers costs money. Each organization has to make a profit.

But consider what’s happening in the publisher space.

 

Amazon-Publishing-ScenarioAmazon now has at least seven publishing imprints. (Full disclosure – my latest novel Time and Regret will soon be published by Lake Union, an Amazon publishing house.) Collectively, the organization knows what consumers buy and has a powerful database of reader information. The link from Amazon Publishing to Amazon Retail is represented by a dashed line to demonstrate that it is more seamless – and thus less costly – than connections between disparate organizations.

Will this new publishing dynamic deliver more compensation to writers? Will Amazon grow its physical store presence to be a serious threat to Barnes & Noble? How will Penguin Random House (PRH) use its leverage? Mike Shatzkin suggests that PRH could create a direct relationship with mass merchants and thus cut ReaderLink out of some of the action and he has previously suggested that they could “create their own ebook subscription service”. We shall see.

Other posts on the publishing industry: Follow the Money, Lifetime Value of an Author, Facilitate Connections Between Writers and Readers.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is also available from these retailers.

Mary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.