3 Best Takeaways for Writers from BookExpo America

Amazon will become a full-fledged publisher in six months. This doesn't come as a surprise to most industry insiders.
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I recently came across Jane Friedman's blog post about her takeaways from the Book Expo America in New York. Jane was kind enough to agree to share some of the juicy details of this event with you here, in her words.

Here's an overview of what I heard that's helpful for writers.

Amazon Will Become a Full-Fledged Publisher in 6 Months
This doesn't come as a surprise to most industry insiders. The announcement of JA Konrath's deal with Amazon Encore is just the beginning of Amazon's entry into the traditional publishing arena--whatever that is.

This Amazon prediction was made specifically by Kelly Gallagher at Bowker, who shared these trends:

  • The computer is still the biggest e-reading device (37%); then Kindle (32%); iPhone (10%); iPad (3% after 3 weeks in market!).
  • Once people start using/buying e-books, they don't go back & tend to become more exclusive to e-books. Chain purchases drop.
    • Publishers' significant weakness in a digital era: They spend 75% of their research resources on point-of-sale data, rather than consumer research.

The overwhelming sentiment these days (and I agree) is that publishers have to get smarter about serving readers, rather than studying how to get books sold into and on display at Barnes & Noble.

Amazon is in a very strong position since they have millions of names and data on people's purchases. It's a tremendous marketing advantage over traditional publishers, and Amazon becoming a publisher isn't that big of a leap.

Keep Your Contracts Flexible and Open to Renegotiation

In a panel covering royalties, rights, and copyright, publisher Richard Nash started off with a bang by proclaiming that the age of abundance makes copyright irrelevant.

Key points from panel:
  • Contracts should be limited to a specific period of time, e.g., three years or five years, at which point the parties can renegotiate terms. (That is, unless you're an author on the level of King or Turow, where the publisher is making a significant investment,1 million +)

  • Because the supply of content these days is infinite, the monopoly over content is irrelevant unless you do the hard work of persuading people your stuff is phenomenal.
  • It's not about who keeps rights, but who makes money with these rights. Rather than focus on who has power to retain the rights, there should be a focus on who has the best ability to exploit them. (E.g., maybe your publisher isn't in the best position to create multimedia apps based on your work, so you work with an organization that specializes in it. This already happens with many subsidiary rights related to film, audio, merchandising, etc.)
    • Rather than expending energy on eradicating piracy, which is impossible, publishers and authors should focus on creating un-piratable experiences. There's no point in trying to prevent piracy other than measure it to help with "unhackable" experiences.

    Publishers Still Bring Value to the Table for Authors

    While it is admittedly self-interested there was a reasonable and often persuasive argument that publishers are critical, important, and valuable in bringing new books to market.

    This viewpoint was brought home by CEO of Sourcebooks, Dominique Raccah who said that publishers have done a terrible job in articulating the work they do and the value they bring to the author and the book.

    I feel like I'm in a unique position to see both sides. On the one hand, given how much education I know every writer & author needs, it really is invaluable for them to have professionals ensuring the success of the process and final product.

    Publishers do get very wrapped up in the logistics of production, schedules, technical work flows, and ensuring budgetary goals are met. I can say--from sitting in many, many strategic publishing meetings--that nurturing the author is not high on the list of a publisher's concerns or goals.

    So (surprise, surprise): It's still a contentious issue. I hope all this energy can eventually be put into collaboration, rather than proclaiming "My way is best!" We'd all be a lot happier.

    Wow, great stuff. Thank you to Jane for sharing this valuable information with my readers. You can read more of her insights at http://janefriedman.com/.

    Arielle Ford has launched the careers of many NY Times bestselling authors including Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Neale Donald Walsch & Debbie Ford. She is a former book publicist, literary agent and the author of seven books. To learn how to get started writing a book please visit: www.HowToWriteMyBook.com

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