Advertising in e- books. Are you ready for it? Do you want it? Granted, advertising in a book is not a new idea. There are paperback imprints that in the front or back of one book will place ads for other books which they publish which may be of similar interest to the reader. There was a somewhat short-lived experiment in the early 1970s to place four-color ads for cigarettes in the middle of paperbacks as well. But…advertising in an e-book?
That is the idea currently being floated by Harper UK. As it is currently conceived, such commercial interruptions would be limited to works of non-fiction (apparently because we readers of fiction have such easily derailed attention spans). The example which was presented was that an e-book concerning bird-watching could contain an advertisement for binoculars. You can see where this could go. Imagine the irregularly scheduled commercial in the e-book version of a sex manual. Or an ad for ginsu knives in a true crime book. Given the ever-growing popularity of the iPad (not to mention the Kindle Fire) such a commercial or advertisement could manifest itself in multiple media forms. Would it be a page that you could skip by, or perhaps one of those annoying popups for a movie or commercial product? And make no mistake: such a plan may be limited to non-fiction books at the moment, but if the trial with non-fiction e-books is at all successful, works of fiction will be next.
With that in mind, here is a bit of free advice: if you are fortunate enough to have a major entity, be it a publisher or Amazon or whoever, interested in publishing your work, make it your business to determine how and if your agreement addresses this issue. The argument from the other side may be that such an addition to your work in e-form is part of the content, or form, or your work, and thus falls under the purview and authority of the publisher. If you are in a position to negotiate this point (in other words, you haven’t signed anything yet) there are a number of points to consider. Two of the bigger ones would substance and form. You might object to ads for certain products (alcohol, condoms, and firearms, to name but three examples) or products manufactured or sold by a certain companies (The GAP, Wal-Mart, Progressive Insurance, and McDonalds, to name but a few). You might also have some concerns with regard to how the commercial is presented, or the product portrayed, in Your Book. An even bigger issue, however, concerns who will get the cheddar from the sale of such ad placement. When an ad is placed in your e-book, will your cash register go Ka-ching? Or will the proceeds of such go into the publisher’s coffers to offset the costs of publishing your e-book?
Is this an issue yet? No; but I believe it will be soon. Authors, published and prospective: what do you think about advertising in an e-book? Do you like the idea, or not? Why? And readers. Would you mind an occasional advertisement? Or are you happy to have a place to go that is ad-free?
By Joe Moore
In a recent article in The New York Times, it was revealed that according to a survey last month from the Association of American Publishers, mass-market paperback sales have decreased by 14% since 2008. According to the article, there are a couple of factors responsible. Heavily discounted hardcover pricing from the chain stores and online sellers have contributed. Second, the increase in the trade paperback format as an alternative. Although a soft cover book, the trade paperback is larger, can command a higher price than the MMPB, and is usually a better quality product from a production standpoint. A third factor is the rapid rise of the e-book’s popularity, which is priced at or below MM prices and aimed directly at the MMPB reader as an attractive alternative.
The mass-market paperback was developed in the late 1930s to create an efficient, affordable, and highly portable form of printing books for the masses. One of the first to succeed in the venture was Simon & Schuster which created the Pocket Books imprint. It was so successful that the term “pocket book” became synonymous with paperback. Two of the most notable books published in pocket editions were James Hilton’s Lost Horizon and Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth. Both appeared in paperback in 1939. A number of companies followed after Pocket Book’s concept including Ace, Dell, Bantam and Avon.
Today, according to the NYT’s article, many big box stores and national chains are gradually shrinking their shelf space for MMPBs and using the space for more hardcovers and trade paperbacks. These include Hudson, Barnes & Noble, and Wal-Mart.
The slow vanishing act of the MMPB is another sign of a changing marketplace for the publishing industry. Once a devoted reading fan purchases a device on which to read electronic publications, the advantages of e-books over MMPBs are compelling. These include similar pricing, portability, convenience, and the immediate availability of the book as opposed to waiting a year for the paperback version of a hardcover.
Next time you walk into your favorite drugstore, airport, mall store, or newsstand, check for yourself. It doesn’t take long to realize that the MMPBs are disappearing right before your eyes.
If you’re an author and are being published as original mass market, what is your agent or editor telling you about the future? Are you going to be converted over to trade format or e-book only? And for readers, are you still buying mass market paperbacks? New? Used? Or have you made the transition to some other format?
After reading Clare’s post yesterday about e-publishing’s Radiohead moment, I read an LA times article that noted a disturbing new trend in the world of Kindle books: spam.
It seems that everyone and his brother is now uploading e-books to Amazon. Many of those books are e-wrapped versions of books that are no longer under copyright–others are pirated versions of original works, with new covers. The article cited one author who discovered that one of her books had been copied and sold on Kindle
I suppose it was only a matter of time before the spammers who flood our email in-boxes with Viagra ads and solicitations to collect inheritances in Nigeria would figure out a way to inundate the Kindle world with literary dreck. Amazon will have to find a way to filter out the spammers. There are a number of ways to do it: They could create a “verified publisher or author” seal, a la Twitter. They could develop better filters. They might have to–gasp!–act like a publisher and wade through the e-slush pile before unleashing it on the world. Any way you look at it, Amazon will have to spend some time and money figuring it out–which will probably raise the price of Kindle books fdown the line. (I hear the dead-tree book contingent laughing in triumph).
As a reader, so far I haven’t yet encountered much spam on Kindle, probably because I use filters when I browse. The only time I’ve been had was when I thought I was downloading a novel, only to discover that my “book” was only a few chapters, which had been bundled and sold as a bait.
Have you encountered spam on Amazon? Have you ever paid for a Kindle book and then discovered that it wasn’t what you thought it was?
My last topic here was on The Self-Pub Adventure. Here are my conclusions so far.
USA TODAY had an interesting article on authors who have struck it big with their self-published e-books. The article featured 26-yr old Amanda Hocking of Minnesota who got tired of being rejected by traditional publishers and self-published last year. In 2010, she sold 164,000 books, with most priced between $0.99 and $2.99 per digital download. And in January, 2011 (after many readers got e-readers for Christmas), she sold 450,000 copies of her 9 paranormal titles, with three of her titles making their debut on the USA TODAY’s Bestseller list.
Her percentage of that sales price range comes in at 30-70%, respectively, but she’s making money at it. And she promotes on Facebook, Twitter, and word of mouth—and credits the popularity of the paranormal genre for much of her success.
And another paranormal e-novelist, who sold 70,000 copies since July 2010, got noticed by Random House and just signed a three-book deal.
I bring this up because of a talk I had with a neighbor this week. She got me thinking about digital download books. My neighbor had received a Nook for Christmas and was downloading books online. She was feeling pretty tech savvy, for sure. And she wanted a trip down memory lane when she used to read simple sweet romance novels, easy reads that made her happy.
Instead, she bought erotica by mistake. Now her online booksellers are sending her recommendations for the same steamy stuff she just purchased. (I’m chuckling as I write this. If you knew my neighbor, you would too.) She actually had to call the online bookstore to see if they could stop sending those recommendations to her Nook, but since it was such a new product, they couldn’t help her. But she was willing to download a book that she knew nothing about other than it was a romance and she had virtually no knowledge of the plot. She only knew it was a bargain. And she’s not alone. I’ve heard on blog posts and other places that many readers are willing to try a new author for $0.99-$2.99/book.
Now I’ve resisted buying an e-reader so far. I’m not sure the technology is there yet and I like the feel of a book in my hands. Plus I spend way too much time in front of a computer writing that I think reading off a display might make my quirky eyesight worse. But I can see why a reader might like the option of downloading a book quickly, read it immediately without paying shipping, and maybe get it for a bargain. And I also have a couple of manuscripts “under my bed” that are only playthings for my cats. Maybe it’s time to do something with them and test the new marketplace of e-books.
I’d like to hear from anyone who has an e-reader. How do you like reading off it? Has owning one changed your book buying habits? Do you still buy print books? And is there a price point that might tempt you to try a new author?
And if you’re an author who has sold your e-books online through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, Barnes & Noble’s Pubit, Lulu, Smashwords, and other locations—how has that worked for you?
by John Gilstrap
When I was a kid—actually all the way through high school—I churned out short stories by the dozens, sometimes on command to meet the requirements of English class, but mostly because I loved writing. For me, a short story assignment was as close to a guaranteed A as one could reasonably hope for. I read voraciously in those years, and thanks in large measure to The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery and their ilk, I grew up steeped in short-form fiction.
I used to read Writers Market in the 1970s and mentally catalog all of the outlets for my stories, preparing myself for the day when I felt that my writing would evolve past high-school good and become professional-writer good. If I recall properly, Playboy was paying $1500 for short stories back then. Who knew that Playboy even had words? All of the big-format magazines carried short stories, too. I was in training to leave my mark on the world.
Unfortunately, when I got to college, my story production sagged precipitously, thanks to my libido and my love of a good party. My attentions were wildly diffused in directions that had nothing to do with academics, and when my grades started to nose dive, something had to go. After careful deliberation, I decided to stay with the dating and the academics and the booze (not necessarily in that order), and stopped my recreational writing.
Meanwhile, the market for short stories evaporated. That was just as well, because by the time I started writing again, my interests had shifted exclusively to long-form fiction. I never looked back—not until my editor at Kensington suggested that I write a short story for my website that would help promote my book, No Mercy, and its main character, Jonathan Grave. That story became “Discipline” and it introduces readers to Jonathan’s bizarre childhood. That was the first short story I’d written in something like thirty years, and I loved the experience.
Just a couple of months after I posted that story to my website, my blog mates came up with the idea of the anthology that became Fresh Kills: Tales from the Killzone (actually, I think it was James Scott Bell’s suggestion, but I can’t swear to it). My initial reaction was twofold: On one hand, I thought it was a great idea, but on the other, I confess that I bristled at the notion of joining the world of “self-published” authors. I worried that it would be read by some as a form of desperation. Let’s face it: self-publishing is not exactly held in the highest regard among my fellow authors, and the last thing I needed was for a good idea to inadvertently harm my career. Call me shallow, but the publishing business is scary these days.
I consulted with both my agent and my editor, and, to my relief, they were both very supportive of the idea. I think it was the uniqueness of the concept as much as anything else. I’m not aware of a similar project out there that combines the talents of established authors in a self-published book, and I think I can speak for the other Killzoners that we won’t complain if we get some positive buzz about this. So, with their approval in my pocket, I signed on.
And what a hoot it turned out to be! Initially, I thought I would do another story of Jonathan Grave in his youth, but that struck me as a conflict of interest—especially since “Discipline” is offered on my website free of charge–a pattern I want to continue. I went mining for ideas, tried a couple of them out, but remained largely uninspired. With our deadline approaching, I found myself with bupkis.
Finally, the muse found me where she often does: in the shower, when my mind was in neutral. I thought it would be really cool to do a story of delayed revenge, a high-tension thriller presented on a tiny canvas. The “feel” of the story hit me before the plot points did. I wanted the reader to feel frightened, and claustrophobic as the victim learns his fate. I wanted the victim in this case to be the protagonist, and I wanted his sense of loss to be enormous.
And because it’s a short story, I wanted it to have a huge twist in the end.
I was on travel on the occasion of this particular inspiration, and because I didn’t know exactly where I wanted it to go, I resorted to pen and paper—ever the best way for me to work through plot points. Twenty-odd handwritten pages later, the story was done. I call it “In The After” because, well . . . Actually, I can’t tell you without giving too much away.
I can tell you this, though: I’m already looking forward to Volume Two.