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Assange leaks

By adminOld | October 31, 2011

The decision by Canongate to publish this autumn the memoir by Julian Assange without the author’s permission raises interesting questions. The publisher appears to be attempting to recoup some of their investment – the reported advance paid on signature was £250,000. In the US Knopf have cancelled their contract with the author and will mostly likely lose the advance they paid – $250,000.

It is not clear why Assange did not want to carry on work on the book. It is suggested that he had realized that any money made would simply be swallowed up by his legal bills. He has said that he does not have the time to work on the book and needs to concentrate on his legal battle against extradition. What has transpired, however, is that the book was being ghostwritten by Andrew O’Hagan on the basis of interviews with Assange. (Canongate will also have to pay O’Hagan for his work.)

In Inside Book Publishing we highlighted a case from 2006 when Random House sued Joan Collins. The publisher was attempting to retrieve the advance paid to her of $1.3m, alleging that the manuscripts she had delivered for two books were unpublishable. Collins won the case since the original contract only said that the manuscript should be ‘complete’ – not satisfactory.

It is certainly not usual for a publisher to go ahead with publication against the author’s wishes, and it is fairly extraordinary that they have issued what is only a draft. They must be calculating that the author will not wish to be involved in another court case, and according to the Guardian, they are relying on a clause in the contract which says that if the manuscript is not acceptable, they can decide whether to publish the work. Untested also is the issue of the author’s moral rights – for example, the right to prevent false attribution, which prevents an author from being credited with something that they did not write. Would Assange have a case?

In any case sales have been poor of the memoir, and there seems little public appetite for the book.

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Book Depository

By insidebooks | July 6, 2011

The news that Amazon has acquired the online bookseller The Book Depository highlights the continuing consolidation in retailing. With the demise of Borders and the decline of the independents, attention is now turning to how Waterstone’s will fare under the new ownership of the Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut, and the direction of MD James Daunt. Will there be a radical change of direction for the high street retailer, and will there be store closures as part of a retrenchment of the operations? Daunt Books, the independent chain run by James Daunt, has 6 shops in London and carries an upmarket image, with little reliance on discounting.

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Angus Phillips new editor of Logos

By insidebooks | May 26, 2011

Logos, one of the premier publishing journals and now 21 years old, is a forum for opinion and the latest research from the international world of publishing. Published by the Dutch publisher Brill, it provides a platform for communication between publishing professionals, librarians, authors, scholars, and those in allied professions. From this Spring the new editor is Angus Phillips. The journal has also been relaunched with a new design using the Brill typeface.

The journal is international in scope and includes contributions on authorship, readership, book publishing, librarianship and bookselling. Articles about the related fields of journals and magazines are also welcome, as are contributions around digital developments such as blogging and multimedia. Submissions are invited from both professionals and academics, and research articles will be subject to peer review. Publishers are invited to send books for review. To make contact please email the Editor-in-Chief: angus.phillips@brookes.ac.uk

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‘I want to be a writer’

By insidebooks | May 24, 2011

Much has been made of the word disintermediation over the last couple of years in book publishing. Authors are selling direct to their readers, publishers are selling direct to consumers, for example, in an attempt to miss out the middlemen. The picture becomes ever more confusing with agents setting up as publishers and now in the last few days the news that Amazon are setting up their own publishing operation in New York, headed up by the former literary agent Laurence Kirshbaum. Meanwhile Random House have done a deal direct with the author Tom Sharpe to sell ebooks of his titles – on this occasion bypassing Sharpe’s agency Sheil Land Associates.

By contrast the self-published author, Amanda Hocking, who has sold hundreds of thousands of ebooks to Kindle users, has decided to sign up with a traditional publisher for her next four books. The deal, worth $2m for world English rights, sees Hocking signed up to Macmillan. The New York Times describes the books as being in the ‘young-adult paranormal genre’. Writing on her blog, she says that: ‘I’m a writer. I want to be a writer. I do not want to spend 40 hours a week handling emails, formatting covers, finding editors, etc. Right now, being me is a full time corporation.’

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Mad Men

By insidebooks | May 13, 2011

As an example of unexpected product placement, a book featured in the TV series Mad Men, as read by Donald Draper, has been brought back into print.

When The Best of Everything was first published in 1958, Rona Jaffe’s debut novel electrified readers who saw themselves reflected in its story of five young employees of a New York publishing company. A reviewer on Amazon comments on the exciting world of publishing it describes:

‘The heroine is Caroline Bender, a graduate of Radcliffe College. She does not follow her mother’s matrimonial advice advice (“Don’t let boys touch you”), nor her career advice (“Join the Radcliffe Club”). Instead, she gets a job in the trendy world of publishing along with her three colleagues, where they hazard a world of roving eyes, search for a mate and the good life (rather graphically described for 1958), follow career aspirations, and navigate office politics.’

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Digital news

By insidebooks | March 2, 2011

Two publishers have just reported their results for 2010 with further news of the growth in digital sales. Pearson, which owns Penguin, saw sales of digital products rise by 24 per cent to £1.6 bn – 29 per cent of total sales for the company. These figures include the use by students of Pearson’s educational tools as well as growing sales of ebooks and apps.

Meanwhile Bloomsbury reported that ebooks accounted for over 40 per cent of the sales in the US of Howard Jacobson’s novel, The Finkler Question, which won the 2010 Man Booker Prize. Nigel Newton, Chief Executive, said: ‘With sales of digital devices such as the Kindle, Nook and iPad growing rapidly, 2011 will clearly be the year of the e-book.  Our overall trade e-book sales are currently running at just under 10% of print sales, a proportion we expect to increase as more backlist titles are added and as the UK market gains the kind of momentum being seen in the US. We believe that digital publishing creates huge opportunities for Bloomsbury and its authors.’

You can read more about  Bloomsbury’s results here

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Close of play in the book market for 2010

By insidebooks | January 21, 2011

For 2010 Nielsen BookScan, which tracks nearly all retail book sales, has reported consumer sales in the UK market of £1.72bn and 229.3m books. This is an average selling price (not cover price) of £7.51 per copy. The figures show a decline from the previous year of 2.7 per cent (by volume) and 1.7 per cent (by value). The average selling price rose by 7p.

In the top ten titles are books by Jamie Oliver, Stieg Larsson (all three of the Millennium Trilogy), Dan Brown, Stephanie Meyer, and David Nicholls (One Day). The top ten titles sold 10.5m copies, with Jamie Oliver’s 30-Minute Meals selling a staggering 1.2m copies at an average selling price of £13.59 – worth £16m. It has been hailed as the fastest selling non-fiction book of all time.

Robert McCrum in the Observer commented: ‘If you persist in the belief that ours is a sophisticated book-buying society, look at the top sellers for 2010. The figures are just in and, for anyone hoping for evidence of some uplift in popular taste, they provide a sobering reality check.’

The top five publishing groups in 2010 were Hachette, Random House, Penguin, HarperCollins, and Pan Macmillan.

Last year’s figures are based on a 53-week year for BookScan, in order to catch up with the calendar year. Without the 53rd week there would have been a larger drop in sales: down 4.3 per cent (by volume) and 3.2 per cent (by value).

In Inside Book Publishing we write about trade or consumer publishing …

Read the rest of this entry »

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iPad news

By insidebooks | January 12, 2011

Interesting news comes from the consumer magazine industry, which has been investing in new products for tablet computers such as the iPad. Wired, published by Condé Nast, launched an iPad edition in May - the app sold 73,000 copies in the first nine days – but by November sales had fallen to 23,000. Men’s Health, published by Rodale, is selling around 2,000 copies a month. These figures come from the Audit Bureau of Circulation in the USA. You can read more in this Guardian article here.

Book publishers know the marketing potential of apps and some bestselling authors will expect such editions to be available (there are, for example, iPhone apps for cookery stars such as Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson), but will the sales justify the large investments required? It is of course too early to say, but it is interesting to watch the experiments in other media industries alongside what is being tried in books. Another anxiety for publishers is that some authors, as they have done with ebooks, will decide to bypass publishers and sell direct.

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Up in the cloud

By insidebooks | December 8, 2010

Announced in the US this week is the launch of the new ebook service from Google. This draws on the books already digitized by Google and will offer millions of free books alongside ebooks for purchase. Taking books into the cloud, and therefore not stored on any particular machine, will enable readers to access their ebooks on a whole range of devices.
This is what Google say:

‘We designed Google eBooks to be open. Many devices are compatible with Google eBooks— everything from laptops to netbooks to tablets to smartphones to e-readers. With the new Google eBooks Web Reader, you can buy, store and read Google eBooks in the cloud. That means you can access your ebooks like you would messages in Gmail or photos in Picasa — using a free, password-protected Google account with unlimited ebooks storage.’
Quick to respond, Amazon have also announced a cloud-based service for the Kindle, to be made available in the coming months. See this article here in the Los Angeles Times.

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pbook and ebook

By insidebooks | November 24, 2010

The US market is probably around two years ahead of the UK market in terms of the penetration of ebooks. The market for ebooks there is growing fast and recent estimates put sales at around 10 per cent of the market – this compares to more like 2 or 3 per cent in the UK trade market. What will be interesting this Christmas is to see whether ebook readers - say the keenly priced Kindle from Amazon – will feature as popular gifts in the UK alongside print bestsellers such as Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals. We perhaps also need a shift in terminology to accommodate the growth in reading of electronic texts, and industry insiders are already talking about the pbook (printed book) alongside the ebook.

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