Book Biz

Some supplementary info for anyone who was interested in my “Ebook Apocalypse” post…

  • Since 2002, about 500 independent bookstores have gone out of business, nearly 20% of them.
  • Independent bookstores currently account for less than 10% of book sales.
  • When Borders folded they closed nearly 650 stores.
  • There are around 700 Barnes & Noble stores, all drastically reducing the number of  books they actually stock.
  • Barnes & Noble is projecting huge losses in revenue for 2012.
  • Amazon holds 75% of the market for printed books online.
  • Roughly 90% of all ebook sales go through Amazon (60%) and Barnes & Noble (30%).
  • Ebook sales on Amazon outnumber printed book sales by roughly 50% and the ratio is growing sharper all the time.
  • According to Publishers Weekly, publishing insiders predict that within five years  ebooks will account for half of all book sales.

Clearly there’s a lot of change going on, and as I wrote earlier, I think it’s good for readers, writers, and independent booksellers (who have a better chance of holding their own in local markets with the crumbling of the big chains). The changes may be more dire for big publishing concerns, however, as more writers realize they can make more money and better handle their own careers by publishing themselves and as book prices fall, bringing less money in to pay for fancy Manhattan office space. Their edge as necessary distributors gets slimmer with each drop in physical stock made by hundreds of  Barnes & Nobles stores, every bookshop that closes, and each ebook that sells.

Writers need to seriously consider self-publishing, focusing mainly on the digital market, with hard copy books as an additional option they make available. And, at least for the foreseeable future, they’re going to reach the vast majority of the available market by dealing with Amazon and B&N, though there is much to gain by working with independent bookstores on a personal level.

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Good Memories of 2011, Day 3: New York City

In New York, with Phil. I'm the one with glasses. (Photo by Angela Rockstroh)

Looking back at the “good memories” I’ve already posted, and the ones I plan to write, it’s striking how interwoven the subjects are, and how personal. In previous years I’ve posted some personal stuff, some entertainment stuff. But this year, the topics all fit together, bright shards from the broken window that was my 2011.

Day 1 I wrote about the electroconvulsive therapy I underwent as part of my ongoing battle with chronic depression. Day 2 I wrote about the music of the lovely and amazing Brandi Carlile, because her songs helped me cope during the dark times (as well as delighting and moving me even when I was doing well). Those posts are further related via the romantic break-up I suffered just before opting for the electroshock, a romance that was born and died while I listened to Brandi’s songs.

Today, I’m writing about a trip to New York City to visit friends. In memory, and at the time, that trip was bittersweet, because the original plan was for my sweetheart to visit me for several days here in Atlanta, then I’d accompany her on her train trip back to Philly for a brief visit, after which I’d continue on to NYC.

By the time of the trip, my sweetie was my sweetie no longer, and wouldn’t give me the time of day. The tedious loneliness of hundreds of miles of Amtrak travel were magnified as I thought of how the trip might have been with her at my side. While the train stopped in Philadelphia, I thought of tweeting “I tracked my heart to Philadelphia, then lost the trail forever.” But the thought seemed pathetic, so I didn’t. Right call, I think.

Then, while talking about her with my friends one day while walking through a New York City park, I realized the street musicians we’d just passed were playing “I Just Saw A Face,” the Beatles song which, covered by Brandi Carlile, was the tune I most identified with the start of that love.

Oh, synchronicity, how you can fuck with a guy.

See how everything is intertwined? Continue reading

Jon Mertz: “Ebooks ARE a Game Changer”

Even as I was posting my post about the “ebook apocalypse”  just now, author Jon Mertz posted his own, about his experiences self-publishing versus his experiences publishing with big publishing companies. Here’s a bit:

I’ve been writing since 1994; I’ve been a traditionally published author since 2002. In the ten years I tried to play the game by New York’s rules, I’ve seen so much ridiculousness, it amazes me the publishing industry has lasted as long as it has. Midlist writers (that is to say those who are not gifted with million-dollar advances and groomed for the supposed bestseller lists) are treated like indentured servants: crummy advances that New York insists are “livable,” crappy royalty rates, contract clauses that are meant to provide steady income for the publisher not the writer, and an accounting system woefully behind-the-times and deliberately complicated so as to render auditing it both costly and intimidating for the average writer.In the year since I’ve been publishing as an indie, I’ve made more money than at any other point in my writing career. I’ve sold more books than at any other point in my writing career (over 20,000 copies of my Lawson adventures JUST on the Amazon US marketplace). And I’ve been able to engage and meet more fans than at any other point in my writing career. And I’m not even as succesful as other indie ebook authors – some of them are making thousands of dollars every single DAY.

Traditional publishing loves to claim that they do a ton of stuff for writers – hence the low pay and royalty rates.

It’s BS.

He breaks things down in good detail, and if you’re interested in these matters, you should check it out.

Ebooks ARE A Game Changer

Ebook Apocalypse!!!

The night is coming. The night that will never end.

Board the windows. Lock the doors and push our beautiful, heavy bookshelves against them. Hopefully we prepared enough, we stocked up on canned peas and sacks of potatoes and stacks of mass market paperbacks and hardbacks, some of them used and old and bound in cloth rather than shitty cheap crappy cardboard.

Outside, the wind howls like a cliched banshee scream.

They are coming, and we fear it will not matter how well we prepared, for they come on silent wings, their numbers are legion, and they don’t use doors, or windows. Like dire fairies of data they come through the walls, through the very air itself, at the speed of light.

And they want to eat. “BOOOOOOKS….” they moan. Because they want to eat our books, all our beautiful books.

The ebooks have escaped the labs. OH. MY. GOD. Continue reading

Books and Wonderful (You MUST See This)

As a devoted fan of Buster Keaton, books, and the amazing William Joyce, I have to say The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore may just be the most wonderful short film I have ever seen. It’s currently up for an Academy Award.

You need to see this, probably over and over…

Good Memories of 2011, Day 2: Brandi Carlile

A lot of folks don’t know Brandi Carlile, which is a shame. I’ve been listening to her for a few years now, featuring her music here several times. She’s a wonderful talent. This year, no other artist was there for me as much as she was, in good times and in bad.

Early in the year, her live cover of The Beatles’ “I Just Saw A Face” perfectly captured the wonder and joy I felt when I looked at the woman I loved… Continue reading

Well, Blow Me Down!!!

Here in the Byrdcave, we’re old fans of Popeye. Not only did I watch the old cartoons countless times growing up, my son and I have each given Popeye gifts to each other. He gave me Warner Brothers’ awesome remastered collections of the classic Fleischer cartoons of the 1930s (which are wonderful, and far better than the later productions which kinda sucked); I have been giving him Fantagraphics’ gorgeous hardbacks collecting the original E.C. Segar comic strips as they come out.

Wilco, in cooperation with King Features Syndicate, has brought us the first hand-drawn Popeye cartoon in over three decades:

I hope Popeye rebounds by hooking up with Betty Boop.

If you never saw them, or need a reminder, or it’s just been too long, here’s one of the Fleischer classics, from 1936, in amazing quality:

And for bonus giggles, here’s a commercial featuring Popeye and Bluto that drove right wingers crazy when it aired:

UPDATE: Of course, now that I think about it, if we watch the Fleischer first, then the Wilco, then the Minute Maid cartoon, maybe we’re actually getting the full story of Popeye’s romantic life…