Kindle, A New Way To Read

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Publishers Gamble On Blockbuster Book Deals

Blockbuster book deals have been around for a long time; well-known politicians and big players in the business world regularly pull in millions of dollars for their books, and recently, comedians Tina Fey, Sarah Silverman and Kathy Griffin scored seven-figure book deals, with Fey topping the list at close to $6 million.

But given the current economic climate, some have been questioning whether such big advances make sense. Carol Schneider, the head of public relations for the Random House Publishing Group, has been around long enough to remember when a seven-figure book deal was a big deal. But, she says, no one at Random House blinked when comedian Kathy Griffin reportedly landed a $2 million deal with one of its imprints, Ballantine Books. Actually, it was quite the opposite:

"Everyone was very excited," says Schneider. "[Griffin] has great name recognition, and she hasn't done a book before, and she has a great title, which is Official Book Club Selection."

Schneider says publishers need blockbuster books — and they are willing to spend money to make money, even in this tough economy.

"We're acquiring fewer books now, but I think there is an intense focus on the next big book, books that will drive readers into the stores, books that will support the rest of your list," says Schneider. "I think finding the next big hit can make your year."

Authors who earn the really big bucks — like John Grisham or James Patterson — are considered pretty close to a sure thing. They can deliver a book and an audience on a regular basis. But celebrity books are a bigger risk, and literary novels are the most unpredictable.

Well-known literary authors can tank at the bookstore, while unknowns — like Sara Gruen — can have an unexpected hit. After Gruen's novel Water for Elephants sold millions of copies, the bidding went sky-high for her next book. Eventually, she got around $5 million in a two-book deal.

Chuck Adams, the executive editor of Water for Elephants publisher Algonquin Books, says he had to drop out of the auction because "there was so much money thrown at [Gruen]."

Adams describes book auctions as very competitive events, where the price of a book can be driven up easily in the heat of the moment.

"You really want a book, and then you get into the auction and you think, 'Ok, I've reached my top, but maybe if I just go a little bit higher,' " says Adams. "The next thing you know, it just keeps escalating. And finally you just have to slap yourself and say, 'What am I doing?' "

Like Gruen, Audrey Niffenegger was an unknown when her novel The Time Traveler's Wife was published and became a best-seller. Niffenegger will reportedly receive $5 million for her next book — a figure her literary agent, Joseph Regal, neither confirms nor denies.

Though Regal is clearly happy with Niffenegger's deal, he's critical of the way the system works these days.

"It's great if you happen to reach a big audience as Audrey Niffenegger has, but there are a lot people left out," he says. "And it's very frustrating if you sell literary fiction, as I do, and you have a novel that you really love that you think is special, and you're met with 'This is really great, but we don't think we will sell any copies.' "

Regal says that when he started in the business 16 years ago, it was phenomenal for a book to sell 3 million copies. Now a book like The Da Vinci Code can sell 13 or 14 million in the U.S. alone, and everyone in publishing is hoping they can find the next Da Vinci Code or Harry Potter or Twilight.

"Finding a novel that you think might be [by] the next brand-name novelist is pretty tough," says Bob Miller, the president and publisher of HarperStudio. "The gamble has gotten very high. ... Out of every 20 of those that you make, you hope that one of them you'll be so right about that you will make up for the 19 you weren't right about."

Publishing has been always a gamble, and Miller says the fact that no one really knows what will take off is part of the fun. But he thinks that these days, the stakes are getting too high, with the publishers taking all the risks and writers getting paid whether the book sells or not. So HarperStudio is experimenting with doing business in a different way; they publish two books a month, with no advance higher than $100,000.

"We'll pay anywhere from zero to $100,000, and to entice authors to do that, we offer them a 50-50 split on the profit of the book," says Miller.

HarperStudio is owned by Harper Collins, which has many other imprints that are still making big deals. But even so, the HarperStudio experiment has caught the attention of the industry because publishing is in transition, and the high-risk, high-advance way of doing business is one of the things that may need to change.

April 15, 2009

Sunday, November 21, 2010

NY Times to publish e-book best-seller lists!!

NEW YORK (AFP) – The New York Times announced Thursday that starting early next year it will begin publishing best-seller lists of fiction and non-fiction electronic books.

The newspaper, which has been publishing a list of best-selling print books since 1935, said the e-book lists will be compiled from weekly data from publishers, chain bookstores, independent booksellers and online retailers.

The move by the Times is a recognition of the growing popularity of digital books available through such devices as Amazon's Kindle and Apple's iPad.

"The vibrant growth of digital publishing has created a need for an impartial, reliable source for tracking and reporting the top-selling e-books across the country," said Janet Elder, editor of News Surveys for the Times.

"The Times is a trusted brand within the book publishing industry and with consumers," she said in a statement. "As with all The Times's rankings, these additional lists will benefit from corroborative sourcing and we will watch for trends in the industry."

Elder, in an interview with the Times, said "we've had our eye on e-book sales since e-books began.

"It was clear that e-books were taking a greater and greater share of total sales, and we wanted to be able to tell our readers which titles were selling and how they fit together with print sales," she said.

The Times said an independent third party, RoyaltyShare Inc., will be used to help validate e-book sales data.

In a report released this week, Forrester Research Inc. said sales of e-books are expected to hit nearly one billion dollars in the United States this year and to triple by 2015.

Amazon said last month that its customers are buying Kindle digital versions of the top 10 best-selling books more than twice as often as print copies.

"For the top 10 best-selling books on, customers are choosing Kindle books over hardcover and paperback books combined at a rate of greater than two to one," said Steve Kessel, senior vice president of Amazon Kindle.

Aging, algorithms and Nora Ephron

NEW YORK – Nora Ephron is thinking about algorithms.

She wonders what they are. It's one of those concepts, such as Twitter and heavy metal, that exist only to remind her she has lived too long. Unsure of her own definition, she takes a little nip from that electronic flask in her handbag, that digital demon rum: her iPhone.

"Algorithm," she reads, "a set of rules for solving a problem in a finite number of steps, as for finding the greatest common divisor."

Exactly. "Thank God for my portable device."

She is seated at an Upper East Side diner, around 10:30 a.m., warmed up in a dark blouse and matching slacks, enjoying scrambled eggs and crisp bacon, undisturbed by the occasional glances from two middle-age men, in business attire, in the next booth.

Ephron is 69, known for such books as "Heartburn" and "Crazy Salad," and for the movies "Sleepless in Seattle" and "Julie & Julia." She is a parent and grandparent settled in a long-term marriage with her third husband, author Nicholas Pileggi. She has been writing about silly and serious matters for 50 years, from hooded seals to nuclear power plants to the silly and serious matters of men and women.

As middle age became a certain age, the laughs have turned darker and the joke has increasingly been on herself. In 2006, she had her biggest commercial success as an author with the million-selling essay collection "I Feel Bad About My Neck." The subjects included aging, illness and death, a corrective she says, to all those books that tell you how wonderful it is to grow old.

She is back with "I Remember Nothing," essays about family, journalism and everyday and eternal bothers. There are lists of what she'll miss (bacon, Paris) and what she won't (funerals, mammograms). Much of the book is a farewell to her own memory. She's not writing about Alzheimer's, but the way people and places and events fade as if erased from tape.

This is a new kind of name-dropping. She can brag about having met the Beatles, but not about what they said. She doesn't know. Same for Cary Grant, Dorothy Parker and Eleanor Roosevelt. She marched on Washington in 1967 to protest the Vietnam War and remembers only the sex she had in her hotel room.

As a reporter for the New York Post, she interviewed the much-censored Lenny Bruce several times.

"Lenny Bruce kept being thrown out of New York and every time he was, I was sent to meet him at the airport," Ephron says. "What did he say? You don't know and neither do I."

Her amnesia appears contagious. One old friend, author-humorist Calvin Trillin, spoke of Ephron as a great wit and a colorful "Auntie Mame" figure to his daughters. But he was stumped when asked for a favorite memory.

"My mind goes blank," he says. "I can't think of the time that Nora did such and such. I suppose one will come to me as I fall asleep tonight."

"I don't exactly remember when I met her," adds author-journalist Pete Hamill, whose friendship with Ephron dates to when both worked at the Post. "Nora would probably know better than I."

That is unlikely.

"It's not that I don't need to remember things, I just don't remember them," she says.

"I do little things with the mnemonics and then I can't remember the mnemonics. The other day I couldn't remember the name of the extremely nice person who blows out my hair when I'm in LA. All I could remember is she had the same name as the mysterious guy with the big hair a few years ago. And I couldn't remember his name, either. I thought, eventually, it will get back into my head.

"And this morning, as if by a miracle, the name Fabio came into my head and I remembered it."

When the brain fails, technology fills in. It's her friend, her foe, her shadow. Her iPhone means she will never truly forget the name of a favorite character actor. But she worries that the screen is harmful to writing. In the old days, the blocked author had nothing but walls to stare at. Now, there's Facebook.

And lying about your past is a lost and impossible art.

"My grandmother didn't know when she was born. She had no idea, because she was born in Russia. The calendar was different. It was 18-something or other when she came to America," Ephron says.

"I think you certainly can make the case that the ability to reinvent yourself is a lovely thing that's probably been stolen from us completely by all this record keeping."

Born in New York in 1941, Ephron, the daughter of screenwriters Henry and Phoebe Ephron, spent much of her childhood in Beverly Hills, Calif. As she writes in her new book, regular visitors included "Casablanca" co-writer Julius J. Epstein, "Sunset Boulevard" collaborator Charles Brackett, and the team of Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich, who worked on "The Thin Man" and "It's a Wonderful Life."

Everyone was in movies, "the business."

"People who were not in the business were known as civilians," Ephron writes.

She graduated from Wellesley College in 1962, moved to New York and started out as a "mail girl" and fact checker at Newsweek. A newspaper strike at the end of the year proved her breakthrough. Victor Navasky, the future editor of The Nation, was then running a satirical magazine called the Monacle. He was working on a parody of the New York Post, "The New York Pest," and asked Ephron for a spoof of Post columnist Leonard Lyons.

She succeeded so well that the newspaper's publisher, Dorothy Schiff, reasoned that anyone who could make fun of the Post could also write for it. Ephron was asked to try out as a reporter. Within a week, she had a permanent job.

"She had this one thing — talent," Hamill says. "She had the gift that later blossomed, the wonderful, ironic laughter and humor and the precision of the writing."

By the 1970s, she was reporting for Esquire and New York magazine and had met and mated with Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporter who teamed with Bob Woodward on coverage of the Watergate scandal. They married in 1976, and had two children. Ephron was pregnant with the second when she learned Bernstein was having an affair, a betrayal that had its rewards, once she stopped crying.

She wrote a novel, "Heartburn," later a film starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. The book was so close to her life that Bernstein threatened to sue. The memory of the book's birth is easily summoned.

"Yes, totally, completely, absolutely, sitting at the legendary and long-gone Smith Corona electric typewriter that I once had," she says. "I was working on a screenplay and wrote the first 10 pages of a novel, and I knew the title, knew there were going to be recipes in it. This I remember, exactly where I was, working and knowing, `Oh, I see, enough time has passed that I'm ready to do this.'"

She doesn't know if she'll write another novel and doesn't worry. She just likes the writing process, whether essays or screenplays or the occasional entry on the Huffington Post. Her iPhone has not kept her from writing every day and from working on a film about singer Peggy Lee, with Reese Witherspoon expected in the starring role.

In "The O Word," an essay from her new book, she anticipates growing too old to make jokes about her age. She will be "really old," beyond sex in a hotel room, or even a frozen custard at Shake Shack. It would be nice if she believed in a higher being, she agrees, but the phrase "everything happens for a reason" is a sermon that only annoys her.

She thinks of each day as perhaps the last that she'll be able to live as she pleases. Ephron writes of summers in the Hamptons on Long Island when her children were little, of fireworks on the Fourth of July and picnics on the beach. She loved the sound of geese in mid-July — "one of the things that made the summers out there so magical." Now, the geese remind her that summer will end, and so will everything else.

"I especially began to hate their sound, which was not beating wings — how could I have ever thought it was? — but a lot of uneuphonious honks," she writes. "Now we don't go to Long Island in the summer and I don't hear the geese. Sometimes, instead, we go to Los Angeles, where there are hummingbirds, and I love to watch them because they're so busy getting the most out of life."

By HILLEL ITALIE, AP National Writer Hillel Italie, Ap National Writer

Hayden Panttiere & Nikki Reed set to star in high school thriller

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – Hayden Panettiere, of TV's "Heroes," and Nikki Reed, from the "Twilight" franchise, are attached to star in a high school-set thriller written by "American Psycho" novelist Bret Easton Ellis.

"Downers Grove," based on a novel by Michael Hornberg, is set in a high school in the titular Chicago suburb where every year, one senior dies a bizarre death before the end of the school year. Panettiere's character fears that she's the next victim. The cast will also include Rebecca De Mornay ("The Hand that Rocks the Cradle").

Nelson McCormick ("Prom Night") is set to direct the feature, which will film in Louisiana in the spring.

Sales For Cathie Black's Book Jumps After Chancellor Appointment

Cathie Black's book Basic Black, released in 2007, has sold relatively well - it was a national bestseller, actually. Sales were boosted by support from Oprah, who featured the then-chairwoman of Hearst Magazines on her daytime show and in O: The Oprah Magazine (a Hearst publication). Now, after Mayor Michael Bloomberg's announcement last week that Black would be taking over for Joel Klein as the chancellor of the Department of Education, Basic Black is having a second act.

Keith Kelly reports in the New York Post that sales of Black's book have jumped 400 percent since the announcement. "There's no question her appointment has had an impact at retail," Stuart Appelbaum, the Random House spokesman who confirmed the spike, told Kelly. He said in total, the book has sold 130,000 copies.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Writer's Digest 2011 Conference

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Writer's Digest Conference:The Business of Being Published

Presented by the #1 Resource for Writers since 1920

New York, New York
January 21-23, 2011

Click Link For More Info

E-book Sales Rise in September

As sales in the traditional trade segments plunged in September, e-book sales jumped 158.1%, according to the monthly sales estimates released by the Association of American Publishers. Sales for the 14 publishers that reported e-book sales hit $39.9 million in the month, and were up 188.4% in the first nine months of the year to $304.6 million. In contrast, sales in the three adult trade segments, adult hardcover, trade paperback and mass market paperback, all fell by more than double digits with the adult hardcover segment experiencing the biggest decline with sales down 40.4% at the 17 publisher who reported sales to the AAP of $180.3 million. The only other segment to post a significant sales gain in September was downloadable audio with sales from the nine reporting companies up 73.7%, to $7.7 million. Sales of audio CDs fell 42.6%, to $11.6 million, in the month at the 22 reporting companies.

From PW Nov 10, 2010