We did several events this summer and had a drawing for a Barnes and Noble Nook. Candice Greene was the winner. Renee met her at the Lloyd Center Barnes and Noble store and handed her the prize. Candice immediately handed it to her mother and said “Merry Christmas.” She’s the good daughter. Her mother was assisted by a staff person and was last seen playing with her new toy oblivious to anything else. Congratulations Candice and her mother, Arlene Martinez.
Archive for 2011|Yearly archive page
This time from Dragonfly Scrolls. Thanks, Kim!
It is a great day to discuss the sustainability of ebooks versus paper books. And an even better day to reveal how the Dead Tree Press can become more sustainable and save billions of dollars by making one change to its business model.
The most often quoted study on ereader sustainability was released by Cleantech Group. Cleantech Group is a provider of market intelligence and insight on sustainable issues. Basically, Cleantech Group sets industry standards. In August 2009 they released a life cycle analysis of Amazon’s Kindle.
The report, authored by Emma Ritch, forecasts that ereaders purchased from 2009 to 2012 could prevent 5.3 billion kg of carbon dioxide in 2012, or 9.9 billion kg during the four-year time period.
These are staggering numbers. That is equal to the average carbon dioxide emissions of one million U.S. households. One million.
But the astute reader will notice the word “could.” The reality is Ritch’s numbers hinge on the publishing industry decreasing production of paper books. This is happening as ebooks begin to outsell paper books, but paper books are not going to be replaced completely by ebooks.
Over the past week I have looked at data, studied statistics, and looked at numbers in ways that would numb the brain of the mathphobic. Don’t worry, I am not going to bore you with all that. I can distill all that data down to one change the traditional publishing industry can make to eliminate billions of pounds of CO2. One change to the Dead Tree Press business model that will save billions of dollars per year and would save the industry and the booksellers dependent on it.
It is so simple. No returns.
It started during the Great Depression. A desperate New York publisher told bookstores you can return whatever you don’t sell. It caught on until it became standard practice and continues to this day.
The practice causes publishers to overprint titles, warehouse them, and dump them if the book doesn’t sell. A 2006 Green Press Initiative report says one billion books per year go to landfills due to this practice. Not even recycled. One billion. That’s crazy. That is waste this planet cannot afford. Waste of resources, waste of dollars, waste of lives. I am not the first to notice this.
Any rational business person can see the error of this business model. Epublishers, like Puddletown Publishing Group, use a model of print on demand. Not only do we provide books digitally, we also have print on demand editions that are custom made when you purchase them. We don’t print them until we sell them.
The inconvenient truth is, ebooks aren’t killing the publishing industry and bookstores, it is the outdated business model of returns. It is not a sustainable practice and it needs to change. Booksellers should demand that publishers eliminate returns. This would revolutionize the book industry and make it sustainable for the planet and for the bottom line for decades to come. It seems so simple but it is not convenient.
It won’t happen unless consumers demand it. Ask your favorite bookstore to embrace the point of no returns. Then go hug some dirt, it’s Earth Day.
Technically, whoever wrote for Kermit said it first, “It’s not easy being green.”
Reduce, reuse, recycle: it is tattooed on my cerebral cortex. I cannot make a buying decision or throw anything into the trash before considering the three R’s. I have been living a green lifestyle since before green became the color of environmental responsibility. Before Al Gore preached the gospel of an inconvenient truth.
In the 70s and 80s you had to haul your paper, metal and plastic to designated recycling centers. No curbside pick-up. So I hauled mine, my office’s and newspapers I gathered from neighbors.
When I had a motel on the Oregon coast, I hauled recyclable materials 20 miles to the nearest recycling center.
It isn’t easy being green, but I have always felt a moral imperative to reduce my personal impact on the Earth and I have sacrificed convenience.
When I decided to help found Puddletown Publishing Group, questions about the environmental impact of ereaders and ebooks tickled the back of my brain.
Sure there were the obvious advantages of ebooks versus paper books. Less paper means fewer trees lost to the process. But what about the materials used to make ereaders? What about the manufacturing process? How are they recycled? Who is involved? What are they made of? Where do the materials come from? When does the benefit to the environment pay off?
Between now and Earth Day— April 22— the journalist in me will probe the who, what, when, where and how regarding the sustainability of ereaders and ebooks. Check back for the answers, they may surprise you.
It may not be easy being green, but I think it would be harder to be a frog.
As of today, Puddletown Publishing Group has been around for a little over two months. We’ve gone through the usual organizational challenges: form, storm, norm, reform. I’d say we’re into our second pass through the cycle.
But as we continue to find ourselves as a publishing house, we are also working like little maniacs. And it shows. On March 20th, just 10 days from today, we hold our first launch party. Four authors will be published that day, and hopefully three more that we’ve signed will join them in reading from published or soon-to-be published works.
I even bought something new to wear. After years of working in my home office, in jeans, sweatshirts, and slippers, I realized that I have to look professional. Hint: It’s red.
We’ve learned a lot in the last two months. Renee and I make a good team, we have complimentary skills, and we are only two women. We’ve learned that we need to let other folks carry part of the burden. I originally envisioned that I would know all parts of the business. But I don’t have time. Between reading, editing, and handling social marketing, I now realize that I can’t go without sleep. So we’ve got someone on board doing our e-book formatting and other stray tasks that need doing. We have graphic artists on the job. Someone is reading books for us and making acquisition decisions. And we’ll probably soon need someone to help with marketing.
As I said, we’re only two people.
But, in less than two weeks, we’re having a party. All of our authors will read, I’ll give a little speech, and there will be chocolate. If you want to know why, come to the party. (I will explain later since I know not everyone can come.) But here’s the details if you can:
Well, lots. Now, remember from last post, I’m not talking about self-publishing. I’m not dissing it, I just think that the writing community has to build credibility for e-books by making sure that only quality e-books get published. If you can do that yourself, great. If not, maybe you should look for some help. But first, why would you want to e-publish your book?
Let me give you numerous reasons why you may want to rethink traditional publishing:
- Traditional publishing has controlled the gate for too long. Very few new authors get published, and if they do, very few earn out their advances.
- Even if you get an advance, chances are it will be miniscule. And it can be years before you see the first royalty check. If your book doesn’t get remaindered first.
- It takes a long time to find an agent, more time to make the rounds. If you’re lucky enough to get a contract, you’ve got a long wait until your book gets published.
- Then you may get 5 or 6 percent as your royalty.
- Unless you’re a best-seller, your book will only stay in stores about three months.
- Unless you are the next J.K. Rowling, you’ll still have to do most, if not all, of your own marketing.
- Publishers used to be in the business of selling books to readers. Now they are in the business of selling books to bookstores. And even the mighty Powell’s, with numerous floors covering a full city block, admits that they’re making their money on tchotchkes rather than books.
- With fewer bookstores, and more space going to cards, journals, games, toys, and other non-book items in the ones that remain, your chances of getting on the shelves, or staying there for any length of time, are getting slimmer and slimmer.
Now, a new model of e-publishing:
- E-books are the wave of the future. Even kids are getting in on the ride, and parents and teachers support this. Kids love gadgets. If it takes a gadget to get them to read, why not?
- Indie e-books are inexpensive. Since our overhead is low, we pass that on to the reader. While the Big Six have set roughly $9.99 as their low price, so as not to compete too much with their much more expensive trade paper version, indie e-book publishers can set their prices much lower and still make money. When we launch in March, our books in our initial catalog will all cost $4.99 or less. That’s one grande latte. People are more likely to buy a book for $5 than one at $10. And more likely to take a chance on a new author.
- Indie publishing royalties are higher. If you grant e-book rights to the Big Six, you’ll get 17.5 percent and your agent gets a cut. If you grant them to us, or folks like us, you’ll get a lot more. And here at Puddletown, our royalties go up with sales.
- You’ll never get remaindered. If your book doesn’t sell a kazillion copies the first month, nobody’s going to ship it back to be recycled. It will stay for sale as long as you want.
- E-books have an indefinite shelf life. Once it’s out there, it stays out there.
- Authors start making money sooner. It takes us less than two months to get a book to market. Compare that to the year or more it takes traditional dead-tree publishing.
- If you don’t want to give up the dream, you don’t have to. Puddletown, at least, buys e-rights and POD rights only. We’ll even give up POD rights if an author wants.
- We don’t lock you into an exclusive contract. Our contract is for one book, for two years. If you want to try your luck elsewhere, we’ll part friends.
- We know the importance of social networking to book sales, and we’ll not only help you set up your own campaign, we’ll do one for you off our platform. We have no front-, mid-, or back-list. Every book gets the same treatment. We realize that if you aren’t making sales, we’re not making money.
- E-book publishing is author-centric. We are in the business of making sure we all make money. Since our overhead is small and our time-frame is fast, we don’t have to wonder what’s going to be hot two years from now. Vampires hot right now? We can have that book out in a few weeks. Alien swamp monsters the next big thing? We have an app for that.
- The Big Six can only see the BIG books, the ones with generic appeal. Editors are regularly overruled by marketing departments. If you’re quirky, or a bit odd, your book will probably never get sold traditionally.
- I write lesbian mysteries with a blind protagonist. My books will be marketed to the LGBT community and the blind community. The cool thing? For only a very small investment, we’ll be able to produce books that can easily be converted for use on Braille readers and computers. And we’ll also produce a recording. How many new authors get an audiobook right out of the box?
- I could go on and on. But the real hurdle we have to jump is the idea that an e-book is somehow not a real book and that being e-published is just not the same. Let me disabuse you of this right now.
- Yes, there are vanity presses posing as e-publishers. They want your money up front. Avoid these like the gimmick they are. Puddletown, and others like us, use the same system traditional publishers use. Even my book was sent anonymously to a reader who has never met me and never heard of me. She had to approve before I went any further. (She doesn’t like one of my books…I’m going to have to do some serious rewriting if I want that one published, even by my own company.)
- Once we accept a book, we do substantive edits, copy edits, send it back for rewrites, and edit some more. Our reputation is on the line as well as our authors’. We won’t publish dreck. And, did you notice, we still didn’t ask for any money?
- We also pay for your cover and all the other aspects of design, including POD formatting if you want some print copies for your mother and the other Luddites in your life. The only cost you have to pay is for your copyright. $37. Because you want to own your own book, don’t you? And you don’t pay that to us. It goes to the government.
- BTW, did you notice this? Some publishers are trying to buy all your rights, including your copyright, for exclusive rights to your sequels. That means they own your book AND your characters.
- All we ask of our authors is that they participate in their own self-marketing, which we help them set up. They don’t have to, but that’s their loss. We don’t know their social networks and connections. If they choose not to use them, then they don’t make as many sales.
- Oh, and once we earn back our expenses, the royalties we pay start going up.
So do you want to spend years querying the Big Six, searching for an agent who may or may not do much to sell your book (and then takes 15 percent if it does sell), all for a measly 5 to 7 percent for a paperback or 17.5 percent for an e-book? Or do you want to publish within a short period of time and earn a whole lot more?
I consider Puddletown to be a hybrid publisher. We offer the same benefits as a traditional publisher: editing, design, marketing. We just do it faster and for the e-book and POD market.
Your choice. And the choice of the future.
P.S. We love bookstores and will be partnering with them to make sure they don’t fail. We are under no illusion that everyone will want to read books electronically. Which is why all our books have the POD option.
The dream of every writer has been to get published, and when we think publishing, we think traditional publishing with hardcover and trade paper, finally ending up in pocketbook at Safeway. But are you sure this is what you want?
Last year, Barnes&Noble and Amazon both saw the sale of e-books and e-readers overtake and surpass the sale of paper books. The mighty Powell’s, the largest indie bookstore in the country and possibly the world, just laid off 10 percent of its workforce and froze salaries and canceled 401k contributions for their remaining staff. They blame e-books. Borders has fallen, or at least is struggling to get up.
I am fortunate to live near Powell’s, and it is my favorite place on earth. I’ve been going there since it opened. Which may give you some idea how old I am.
I was one who was never going to switch to e-books. I love the feel, smell, sound, sight of a book more than anything else. About the only thing I don’t like is that weird thing they do when dropped in the bathtub.
But as I approach 60, my body no longer likes books. In order for me to read, I have to take off my glasses, close one eye, squinch up the other, and hold the book about three inches from my face. I can only do this for about five minutes before it becomes tiring. I’ve tried all sorts of solutions, most involving my eye doctor, and finally had to admit that I couldn’t read anymore.
So I bought a NOOKcolor. I can now read anything available, and most of it is available. After several years of only reading on my computer (bumped up to 200 percent), I’ve read roughly four to five books a week since I got my NOOK. The NOOK is my first piece of adaptive technology and I suspect a hearing aid is not far behind.
But why should authors consider e-books? Well, there are several reasons, and I’ll put them in the next post. But first a disclaimer. I am not talking about self-publishing here. Not that I have anything against self-publishing, but most of the self-published books I’ve seen have serious flaws in writing, editing, structure, and just about everything else. Self-publishing, as it stands now, gives e-books a bad name.
Yes, some people, like Amy Rose Davis, produce beautifully written, well-edited, engaging self-published e-books. But the vast majority are, IMHO, garbage. If people want to self-publish, go for it. But for Pete’s sake, hire an editor. A real one. Not your best friend. Do it for yourself and for your craft. Because, folks, I have to tell you: e-books are where it’s at.
More at 11.
Susan does a great job relaying the birth of the Puddletown Publishing Group notion. I feel compelled to talk a little about what kept me from doing it years ago.
My best friend works at a bookstore and ebooks threaten the security of her job. I felt I would be going to the darkside to build a business in an industry that could devastate booksellers, and my friend’s livelihood. (Okay, full disclosure, I am a Leo. Predisposed to extreme loyalty and the belief that we have control over everything in the world.)
I realized, at the birth of our great notion, that ebooks and print books are not mutually exclusive. Combine ebooks with print on demand, and booksellers can order copies and sell them as well.
These 27 days have been a wild ride. My publishing experience is old and ebook technology is a huge learning curve for me. My old Just Out crew is probably laughing out loud because they dragged me kicking and screaming into the desktop publishing age.
Ebooks are the same thing — digital format that can be printed on demand or published for digital readers. This is a good fit for me. It utilizes old school publishing with new school technology and meets the sustainable criteria that steers my decisions. Fewer trees are killed in the process since books are not warehoused, they are printed as needed.
Though ebooks have been around for over a decade, the technology to read them had not gone mainstream until just this year. Add to the Kindle the release of Apple’s iPad and the NOOKcolor, and ebook sales are rumbling to tsunami status. Sales of ebooks are outpacing hardcover sales at Amazon and paperback sales at Barnes and Noble.
I remain committed to partnering ebooks with brick and mortar bookstores. I think print on demand (POD) is the answer.
That New Year’s after party where 2011 was still a brand new baby full of possibilities, the question evolved from “why do ebooks?” to “why aren’t you doing ebooks?” and I didn’t have a good answer.