Books Build Bridges

Last January, I put out a call on Instagram for book bloggers with an invitation to be a guest on my blog. Two women from Iran – identical twins! – responded. They have an English book club and were thinking of creating a blog. I didn’t hesitate for a moment (click this link to read about it).

A few weeks ago Shima and Shiva sent me a note attaching letters from members of their book club who had read Time and Regret. An out-of-the-blue email that made my day. Not only had they read my story, but they had taken the time to write to me. Here are some of their words.

Kimia said: “Your novel taught me to be curious about historical secrets that is behind something as well as historical events.”

Arshia said: “Reading your book was a very sweet and exciting experience! Remember that when I started reading the first part of your book, it drew my attention to read it as quickly as possible.”

Melika said: “I read your story ‘time and regret’. It’s fantastic and enjoyable. When I was reading that, I thought what happens next. I was trying to know and I guessed.”

Fatemeh said: “I like to read stories of different countries … but in Iran people don’t pay attention to it. I think if it [Time and Regret] wrote in Iran, people would welcome it.”

Did Time and Regret transport them to a different world? Does reading in English invite different thoughts? Reminds me of Azar Nafisi’s memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran.

New friends from a part of the world I’ve only read about. Books building bridges.

DON’T MISS OTHER POSTS ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION.  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Evolving world of publishing

I’ve followed Mike Shatzkin for years. Mike offers strategic consulting to the global book publishing business and posts every 4-6 weeks on happenings in that world. His latest post, which considers the end of the general trade publishing, got me thinking.

Mike’s premise is that “General trade publishing will be soon be recognized as an artifact of a trade that no longer exists. It doesn’t make sense any more for the organizing principle for title acquisition and marketing to be “if it works in bookstores, and we are confident we can convince them it will, we can do it”.”

Mike Shatzkin’s article compares the publishing world of the 1990s with today’s environment. I love making diagrams to reflect what’s going on and have attempted to highlight the differences Mike Shatzkin described in the following diagram.

  • It’s no surprise that Amazon is the elephant in the room. We’re all aware of its reach and influence. It operates as a home for writers who self-publish or are hybrid authors and as a publisher with at least 7 imprints. Through its electronic delivery and marketing machine, Amazon bypasses – and reduces the influence of – distributors, wholesalers, bookstore chains and small bookstores. In two earlier posts, I’ve also looked at how Amazon manipulates its best seller lists to feature its own authors. See here and here.
  • Self-publishing is an increasingly viable alternative for authors. In addition, for authors published by the ‘Big 5’, self-publishing offers an alternative source of revenue for books declined by their publishers, a more lucrative option in the face of declining advances, and/or a way to promote their backlists once they regain rights to those books. An increasing share of books are self-published.
  • Self-published authors along with Amazon reach readers directly. They bypass wholesalers and distributors, are infrequently sold through bookstores, and are less likely to be on library shelves.
  • Today, bookstores are roughly 25% of book sales. This means that it’s increasingly difficult for publishers to make the same margins they did in the past publishing a new book.
  • Audience-specific and topic-specific markets – particularly for non-fiction but also for fiction – are the way of the future. Publishers need data and marketing mechanisms to reach them.
  • General trade publishers who created profitable businesses based on selling 80% or more of their titles through bookstores must find, and are finding new mechanisms to reach readers. Unfortunately, Amazon has such a head start that this is a severe uphill climb.
  • E-books have upended the old world. With e-books more than 18 million titles are available at the click of the mouse. As a result older titles are taking a big share of revenue away from new titles.
  • Print on demand changes the need for large print runs. Print-on-demand also means that older titles that might have gone out of print under the 1990s model can in concept remain in print forever.
  • Today, a news event can trigger immediate marketing and sales from the backlist. The emphasis here is on backlist. Such sales undercut the sales of new releases.

Let me add a few of my own thoughts:

  • Bookclubs – remember the book of the month club? – are much less significant than in the past.
  • Between the 1990s and now, several book chains and many small bookstores have disappeared.
  • With the proliferation of cheap books, either through services like BookBub or self-published authors or tools like Amazon Prime, libraries do not have the prominence with readers that they did in the past.
  • Big Box stores sell books at discounted prices. They are one distribution channel Amazon uses to sell print copies of their authors.
  • Through its own pricing strategies, Amazon is training readers to expect cheap books.

According to Mike Shatzkin, all of this means that the notion of ‘general trade publishing’ is almost an anachronism.

DON’T MISS OTHER POSTS ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION.  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

An Amazon Discovery – part 2

Last week, I wrote about Amazon’s best sellers list for women’s historical fiction. Let’s take a look at other fiction categories.

MYSTERY, THRILLER & SUSPENSE FICTION – 8 out of 15

ROMANCE – 8 out of 15 are Amazon Imprints

CONTEMPORARY WOMEN’S FICTION – 6 out of 15 are Amazon Imprints

 

WOMEN’S LITERARY – 5 out of 15 (interesting to note that this is lower)

ALL BEST SELLERS IN LIT & FICTION – an incredible 10 out of 11 are Amazon Imprints!

Of course, these are point-in-time lists. If you checked the top sellers today they would be different from the ones I tabulated. According to Amazon, these lists are updated hourly.

When the Big Tech companies including Amazon met with the US House Judiciary Committee, Jeff Bezos was questioned on the companies’ use of data collected from third party vendors to sell its own products in competition with them. Does this extend to books?

We might also ask what other sales techniques Amazon is using to entice readers to their imprints. One technique is pricing – new releases for Lake Union novels is usually $4.99 (for the Kindle version), with gradually adjustments to $2.99 and lower. In contrast, traditional publishers offer Kindle versions in the $12.99 to $14.99 range when first released. Other techniques include: ‘Customers who bought this item also bought’,  and ‘Sponsored products related to this item’, which often list novels published by Amazon. And another technique is low author advances. I benefitted from these techniques when Lake Union published Time and Regret.

By the way, if you’re curious to know the names of Amazon’s imprints, here they are.

A reader from last week pointed out that programs like Amazon’s Prime First Reads is only available to books from Amazon imprints. This program gives Kindle copies away for free to Prime Members for an early read before publication date, while others can buy them at a much reduced rate. Perhaps another way to manipulate the top sellers lists? Hmmmmm.

In last week’s post on this topic, a reader provided a link to a letter that the Authors Guild, the AAP and the ABA sent to the House of Representative’s Antitrust committee. You may wish to check it out

DON’T MISS OTHER POSTS ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION.  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. 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.