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Jim Cox Report: October 2011

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

Every once in awhile someone in the publishing industry sends me something that I think every author and every publisher should see. So here is just that -- something I think you should read and consider carefully:

Subject: OpEd: Are Books Endangered?
Date: 5/18/2011 9:17:25 A.M. Central Daylight Time

Are Books An Endangered Species?

By: Michael Levin

The publishing world gathers next week in Manhattan at BookExpo America, its annual trade show, but the one subject attendees wonít be discussing is the coming collapse of publishing and the inevitable disappearance of books.

Itís not just that books are going to Kindles and iPads. Itís that books are going away, and the publishers have no one but themselves to blame.

The traditional New York publishing business model - publish a ton of books, fail to market most of them, and hope that somebody buys something - worked well when publishers had a hammerlock on the distribution and marketing of books. Publishers essentially faced no competition and enjoyed complete control of what books people could publish and sell.

In todayís world, however, anyone from John Grisham to John Doe can put up a book online with Smashwords, Lulu, or Kindle Direct, and bypass publishers - and bookstores - all together. Authors can use Google AdWords or social networking strategies to market their books far more effectively than publishers ever could. So who needs New York?

Yes, Kindle and iPad are game-changers. When you read books on a device, a few things change. Youíre moving into an environment where you typically donít pay for content - almost everything online is free. So publishers wonít be able to charge $10 or $12 for an entire book when people only want a chapterís worth of information. So much for ebooks as a revenue stream for the publishing houses.

Publishers can also blame Amazon for the collapse of their industry. When you went into a bookstore, you typically browsed and bought a handful of books, each from a different department. Amazon killed browsing. You go on, you find the book you wanted, you pay, and you leave. So instead of buying five books, you buy just one.

But the real reason why books are going to vanish is the remarkably un-businesslike business model of the publishers. Think of General Motors - decades of inefficiency, but without the federal bailouts.

In no other industry do producers actually wait passively to see what products are suggested to them, instead of doing market research to see what people really want to buy. Yet publishers seldom generate book ideas; instead they wait for literary agents to submit proposals. Houses decide which book to publish based on little more than a gut feeling that says, ďI think we can make money selling this!Ē

Yet the books that publishers choose are almost entirely of zero interest to actual bookbuyers. After 9/11, there were a ton of books about 9/11, which nobody bought. Same thing with the Iraq War, the rise of Obama, the economic meltdown, and even, inexplicably, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Or the books are rehashed business lessons, religious truths, sports cliches, motivational babble, exercise fads, weight loss techniques, or pandering to the political left or the right. Who wants these books? Almost no one.

Most of the major publishers today are owned by international conglomerates who, at some point, will awaken to the realization that English majors in their employ are spending millions of dollars on books that no one wants to read.

As a result, few trade books earn real money for the publisher (and certainly not for the author!). Thatís because the publisher bears the entire risk of buying, editing, printing, and shipping copies of the book to bookstores all over the country on a 100% returnable basis. If your local Barnes & Noble doesnít sell a particular book, it goes right back to the publisher, at the publisherís shipping cost, for a full refund. Especially in the Internet era, you canít make money putting books on trucks and hoping someone buys them.

At BEA next week, the attendees will solemnly discuss the latest trends, discuss how to get 70-year-old authors to use Twitter, and generally party like itís 1989. But for traditional publishing, the partyís over. They just donít want to realize that itís time to turn out the lights.

About: Michael Levin is an eight-time best-selling author, a former member of the Authors Guild Council, and a prolific and highly admired business writer (www.BusinessGhost.com). He has written with Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, football broadcasting legend Pat Summerall, FBI undercover agent Joaquin Garcia, and E-Myth creator Michael Gerber. He has written for the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CBS News, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and many other top outlets.

Now on to some reviews of new "how to" books on writing and/or publishing:

The Writing/Publishing Shelf

Carve Out Your Niche
Terry Sprouse
Planeta Books
PO Box 41223, Tucson, AZ 85717
9780979856624, $15.00, www.amazon.com

In the highly competitive and constantly evolving world of writing, publishing, and book selling, creating a specialized or particular niche for your work is often the key to being financially successful and reaching your specifically intended readership. That's why "Carve Out Your Niche: How to Live Your Passion, Write Your Book, & Help Others Change Their World" by Terry Sprouse is such a valued addition to the growing library of instructional books on writing and publishing. Basically, "Carve Out Your Niche" breaks down the process into three main stages: Inspiration; Creation; and Promotion. Accessible written and thoroughly 'reader friendly', "Carve Out Your Niche" first addresses finding something passionate within your life that will propel you to write. Then the rest of this very nicely organized 150-page compendium is packed with specifics on not only writing a book, but also the possibility and practicality of self-publishing and marketing what you've written. Of special note is the chapters devoted to tips for marketing a book on Amazon; utilizing the internet for publicity and promotion; as well as the use of seminars, newspapers, and book contests to market your title. "Carve Out Your Niche" will prove to be invaluable for anyone seeking to successfully write, publish, and market their own work.

How To Get Your Book Published Free In Minutes And Marketed Worldwide In Days
Gordon Burgett
Communications Unlimited
PO Box 845, Novato, CA 94948
www.ancillarypublishing.com
9780982663516, $19.95, www.amazon.com

Before the advent of computers and desktop publishing software, it would take from several weeks to many months in order turn a manuscript into a book and then make that book available to the reading public. Now with the advent of computers and desktop publishing software it takes only minutes to turn a manuscript into a purchasable item -- at least in a digitally published form such as Kindle, and not so very much longer for turning that manuscript into a traditional print edition through self-publishing, either directly under the authors own imprint, or indirectly through a POD (publish on demand) company. That is the particular value underscoring Gordon Burgett's new 'how to' instruction manual "How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days: A step-by-step guide for new or veteran publishers". Burgett draws upon his personal and professional experience and expertise (he has 39 books in print and has sold over 1700 freelance articles), to provide sound, superbly organized information on digitally or POD publishing a book that will enable even the most novice of authors to be in the market and successfully pitching their purchasable title in less than a week. A 168-page compendium of sound 'real world' information and instruction, "How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days" is especially recommended reading for anyone wanting to publish their own work and exposing it to the widest possible readership in the least amount of time.

The 90-Day Novel
Alan Watt
Privately Published
c/o SJ Miller Communications (publicity)
10 Turning Mill Lane, Randolph, MA 02368
9780983141204, $16.95, www.the90daynovel.com

Everyone has a story; getting it down is what matters. "The 90-Day Novel: Unlock the Story Within" is an advisory guide from Alan Watt as he encourages readers to embrace their inner novel and get their story down. Telling people to find their literary voice, creating a memorable plot and characters, and declaring war on writer's block, "The 90-Day Novel" is a strong pick for anyone who wants to pick up a pen and get started right away.

Memo from the Story Dept.
Christopher Vogler & David McKenna
Michael Wiese Productions
12400 Ventura Blvd., #1111
Studio City, CA 91604
9781932907971, $26.95, www.mwp.com

Good characters make movies memorable. "Memo From the Story Dept.: Secrets of Structure and Character" is a script writing guide from Christopher Vogler & David McKenna as they bring their expertise in film and character to bring notes on how to make characters truly memorable, stating their advice is applicable to any medium, be it film, novel, or video game. For those who want the best quality out of their work, "Memo from the Story Dept." is a choice and very much recommended read, not to be overlooked.

Now for some Q&A commentaries:

In a message dated 9/7/2011 2:09:47 P.M. Central Daylight Time, mindbuck@ymail.com writes:

Hi Jim,

Someone just forwarded me your piece on contact info and AmazonEncore. Just FYI, AmazonEncore contracts out for their publicists, so, there is no main publicist address at the Amazon headquarters in Seattle outside of the marketing team and they don't send individual pitches. From your example, it sounds as if the publicist in question made a glaring mistake! I also wanted to clarify that AmazonEncore is not a POD, it's a traditional publishing company within Amazon. The POD section of Amazon is CreateSpace.

Warmly,
Jessica Glenn (Amazon publicist)

Jessica Glenn
MindBuck Media, Author Publicity and Public Relations
p. 503.998.8770
e. mindbuck@ymail.com
MindBuckMedia.com

Dear Jessica:

I want to thank you for bringing this to my attention. It seems every month for about half a year now we've had two or three reviews of Amazon Encore titles -- and no where to send them along with our usual publisher notification letter so that the publishers (and through them the authors) would know that their books had been reviewed.

Frankly I was getting pretty discouraged about the matter.

Is there any chance that I could send email copies of the reviews as they occur to your attention and that you could forward them to the appropriate people within Amazon Encore?

If not, I completely understand. As things are now I've pretty much given up on Amazon Encore and can only hope that our reviews (which are routinely posted on the Amazon web site each month) will be seen by the authors that way.

Incidentally, we routinely email all of our reviews for CreateSpace titles and have had no difficulty at all doing that!

One final question: Does Amazon Encore charge the authors to have their books published by Amazon Encore?

Please let me know either way if you can help or not.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

Thanks to Katie's help and others who read my little piece regarding my frustration with Amazon published titles in a previous "Jim Cox Report" I now have a publicity/marketing department liaison in the person of Katie Finch -- complete with an email address so that I can now forward the reviews we generate for Amazon Encore and the other Amazon titles.

Part of the pleasure I get from sitting down once a month to compose this little column of commentary and advice is that occasionally one of my readers helps me out with my own little quandaries! Thank you all!!

Finally we have "The Midwest Book Review Postage Stamp Hall Of Fame & Appreciation" roster of well-wishers and supporters. These are the generous folk who decided to say 'thank you' and 'support the cause' that is the Midwest Book Review by donating postage stamps this past month:

Joseph Devon
Tahir Yaqoob
Aazam Yaqoob
M. Terry Green
Howard Binkow
Samuel Endicott
Amy R. Kaufman
Penny Templeton -- "Acting Lions"
Robert Strzalko -- "A Bullet for Two"
Constance Dunn -- "Practical Glamour"
Erika Schelby -- "Bestiary for Business"
Margaret A. Harrell -- "Keep This Quiet!"
Michael Sheehan -- "Dogs In The Hot Moon"
Douglas McCourt -- "Notes from the Firehouse"
Nancy C. Frantel -- "Richmond, Virginia Lost Souls"
Judith Bader Jones -- "The Language of Small Rooms"
Andrew Fitzmorris -- "Love Beyond The City"
Sid Thatte -- "SAT/PSAT Math: A Systematic Approach"
Meg -- Fuze Publishing
Meg Jeske -- TBT Publisher
Steve Feuer -- Gihon River Press
Chet Meyer -- Vellum Publishing
Thomas Weck -- Lima Bear Press
Helen Cobban -- Just World Books
Dawn Jamieson -- Shade Tree Press
Darla DeMorrow -- Blue Tudor Books
David Smitherman -- Palari Publishing
Catherine Lawton -- Cladach Publishing
Ray Rhamey -- Flogging The Quill, LLC
Bud Hennings -- McFarland & Company
Robin Christianson -- Grandfeather Press
Wendy Lewis -- Two Dolphins Publishing Group
Catherine Treadgold -- Coffeetown Press/Camel Press
Elizabeth Waldman Frazier -- Waldmania!
Maryglenn McCombs -- MM Book Publicity

If you have postage to donate, or if you have a book you'd like considered for review, then send those stamps (always appreciated, never required), or a published copy of that book (no galleys, uncorrected proofs, or Advance Reading Copies), accompanied by a cover letter and some form of publicity release to my attention at the address below.

All of the previous issues of the "Jim Cox Report" are archived on the Midwest Book Review website. If you'd like to receive the "Jim Cox Report" directly (and for free), just send me an email asking to be signed up for it.

So until next time -- goodbye, good luck, and good reading!

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI, 53575
http://www.midwestbookreview.com


James A. Cox
Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937
e-mail: mbr@execpc.com
e-mail: mwbookrevw@aol.com
http://www.midwestbookreview.com


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