expr:class='"loading" + data:blog.mobileClass'>


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Is Amazon Shedding its Sheep's Clothing Too Early? - Could Be Their First Major Mistake

Amazon - a wolf in sheep's
According to publishing industry insiders (some with axes to grind, mind you) Amazon has apparently declared war on the book industry!

Is this Amazon's end game coming to fruition?

Amazon, having just come off a win in the courts Re its suit against big publishers regarding the agency model - coupled with Wall Street's ignoring of Amazon's continued losses - has made an aggressive move against book publishing in general by discounting bestsellers even further below loss-leader pricing (prohibited in antitrust legislation).

How can Amazon do this? I don't really know - unless it has something to do with Wall Street ignoring their losses by not downgrading their stock, thinking they will make them up later with monopolistic pricing with no competition. Also, a certain coziness with the current Washington administration.

But, will this kind of safe haven last for Amazon? Could be Amazon has acted too quickly in showing their hand! A hand many believe has always been their end mission --- to put all other book publishing out of business completely and dominate totally.

These intriguing details from Dennis Johnson, founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House:

BREAKING NEWS: Amazon “declares war” on book industry

Has the vicious end game scenario we discussed just yesterday — whereby a government-sanctioned Amazon.com makes its move to cement its position as the most colossal monopoly in publishing history, and to savor the rewards — begun unfolding, and rapidly at that?
That’s what a special weekend edition of Shelf Awareness surmises. According to a report by SA editor John Mutter, late Friday Amazon, apparently to take advantage of lessened weekend attention and the company’s upcoming endorsement from President Obama …
quietly began discounting many bestselling hardcover titles between 50% and 65%, levels we’ve never seen in the history of Amazon or in the bricks-and-mortar price wars of the past. The books are from a range of major publishers and include, for example, Inferno by Dan Brown, which has a list price of $29.95 but is available on Amazon for $11.65, a 61% discount; And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, listed for $28.95, offered at $12.04, a 58% discount; Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, listed at $24.95, available for $9.09, a 64% discount; and The Fault in Our Starsby John Green, listed at $17.99, available for $6.55, 64% off ….
The discounts are far below the usual 40%-50% range sometimes offered by Amazon, warehouse clubs and other discounters and are more typical for remainders than frontlist hardcovers. In some cases, the hardcovers are priced below the Kindle editions.
At the moment, the extreme discounting seems limited to bestsellers. Still, that’s a large category, and a vital one to brick-and-mortar retailers, such as to Barnes and Noble, which has re-made itself into a chain that now consists mostly of bestsellers and merchandise, and to numerous indies that need bestseller sales to survive … which could make this potentially a devastating blow to those businesses, to say nothing of the damage it could do to publishers already feeling their books are severely under-priced.
It’s a dramatic enough move to prompt one prominent bookseller — Jack McKeown, who runs Books & Books in Westhampton Beach, New York — to tell Mutter that “It’s an open declaration of war against the industry.”
Why now? In a closing more strongly-worded than is his habit, Mutter cites McKeown and others speculating that …
… Amazon has been “emboldened” by the Justice Department‘s victory against five major publishers in the e-book agency model case as well as Wall Street’s acceptance of continued losses by Amazon for now in the expectation of retail domination–and major profits–eventually. This last point was seen most recently on Thursday, when Amazon’s quarterly results included a net loss and were below Wall Street expectations but did not provoke the usual rush to sell, as is the case with most companies whose results are disappointing.
Another possible reason for Amazon’s boldness is its apparently cozy relationship with the Obama administration–whose Justice Department pursued the agency model case, which mainly benefited Amazon. This relationship will be highlighted this coming Tuesday, when the president will give another major speech on the economy and aiding the middle class at, of all places, the Amazon warehouse in Chattanooga, Tenn. This is roughly equivalent of going to a Wal-Mart and calling for more of the kinds of jobs it offers.
All notions that echo our Friday commentary (and we couldn’t agree more with that last point — except to say Amazon takes reckless dis-concern for its labor to a level unachieved by Wal-Mart). But as the Shelf Awarenessreport adds, if this is indeed a sign that Amazon is playing out its end game, it’s happening much more rapidly than even we speculated, and with a dramatic dose of Amazon’s famous, always-surprising (in that it’s so unnecessary) thuggish chutzpah.
But here’s something perhaps even more surprising such a move could represent: Cause for optimism. ...


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Are They Publishing Gatekeepers or Publishing Grim Reapers?

Are you really reading the
best book publishers could
have given you?
Many writers are pushing past the publishing gatekeepers already - AND, further, gaining accolades, credibility and success. In fact, the blocking and tackling of the so-called 'gatekeepers' has been going on in greater numbers of late.

Publishing gatekeepers have an overall poor track record of recognizing good content and/or of analyzing the market and the real world emotional demographics.

Tonight's post reads like creative nonfiction and relays a true but scintillating story by an authoritative  author that has published both traditionally and DIY. His recent self-publishing effort came as a last resort but taught him many wise insights, it seems.

So, relax, kick back, enjoy and learn from him:

Blowing Past the Publishing Gatekeepers

By Frederick J. Chiaventone - Published in The American Thinker

Toward the end of a full career as an Army officer I was asked to assist in a test-run of a new course at the US Army's Command and General Staff College. We were going to take senior officers on a new version of the 'staff ride' an established method of examining the actions of commanders on the actual sites of momentous battles. We had done this successfully at Gettysburg, Chickamauga, even Verdun but this time we were going to try it at the site of the disastrous fight at Little Bighorn. The idea was for combat commanders to learn from past mistakes. Well, this exercise was a real eye-opener for all of us. I have addressed the issue of the significance of the staff ride in other forums but in this case the subject of 'lessons learned' has relevance to an entirely different field of endeavor - writing and getting published.
After retiring from the Army it became quickly evident that I should have to find something else to occupy my time. I had done a bit of scribbling for various professional publications but the staff ride experience at Little Bighorn stuck in my mind and so decided to try my hand at reconstructing that fight in the form of historical fiction. The results exceeded my expectations when publishing great Michael Korda called me from Simon & Schuster and said, "Fred, I want to publish your book." As a result my novel A Road We Do Not Know was published by Simon & Schuster, went on to win the Ambassador William Colby Award for Literature, and remains in print.  My second work of historical fiction Moon of Bitter Cold (about the Fetterman fight) won the Western Heritage Wrangler and the William Rockhill Nelson awards for literature. It too remains in print to this day.
Not a bad second career one might think. Ah, but the world of publishing was changing. Shifting focus slightly I decided to take a similar approach with historical fiction to an under-appreciated aspect of the American Civil War - the brutal guerrilla conflict along the Kansas-Missouri border, a theater which was the training ground for such people as Frank and Jesse James, the Younger brothers, "Wild Bill" Hickok, and "Buffalo Bill." A fascinating subject so I thought. I was supported in my delusions by two old friends who read the first draft - General Dave Petraeus and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry - both of them serving in Afghanistan at the time. Karl, Dave and I go back many years to when we were all commanders together in the fledgling Rapid Deployment Force. Both Dave and Karl loved the novel saying "This is great stuff, Fred. It's just what we have had to contend with in Iraq and now here in Afghanistan...the technology has evolved but human motivations and behavior remain essentially unchanged." Well then, thought I, this is a great subject and perfect timing for this book.
Perhaps not. For the publishing industry had changed since my first two, successful books. Agents complained that they were unable to place a manuscript which editors refused to even look at. "No one's interested in the Civil War!" they snorted. After a few years, and three different agents, things were looking a little bleak. There was some small comfort when one considered that the same publishing houses we had approached had all turned away a young woman, a novice writer, telling her that the public had no interest in an aspiring young wizard. "Utter nonsense," they had declared. Fortunately for J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter, and millions of young readers they were quite wrong. Unfortunately for many aspiring writers, most of those individuals who rejected the first Harry Potter novel are still figures of power in the great publishing houses of New York.  The question then became, well, how does one get around the gatekeepers of publishing?
The answer, I strongly suspect, is within easy reach of most would-be authors. Technology. Over the past few years we have seen a phenomenal growth in the reach of computer and internet technology. Now, being a bit of a dinosaur myself, I was quite accustomed to using typewriters (and then computers) to write the material and then embark on a laborious and ofttimes rather expensive round of printing out manuscripts, sending out query letters, mailing out both, with return postage, of course, and then waiting endlessly for a response. Agents too were expected to adhere to these time honored and ultimately fruitless methods. And all too often the publishing houses were hopelessly cavalier in their response, if they responded at all. Thus, when a fellow author suggested another route I thought, "Why not? It's certainly worth a shot." Thus I took the manuscript of my new novel Gone To Kingdom, and turned to another route. This other route was to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the internet. With a completed and carefully edited manuscript ready to go it was a relatively simple task to upload the entire volume to the powerhouse which has become Amazon.com (link here)and wait to see what transpired.
The results were rather surprising. Within days enthusiastic notes started to come in from readers in Ireland, Great Britain, Germany, Belgium and even South Africa and Swaziland (this last stunned me) as well as all over the United States. The reach of the Kindle technology is fairly amazing and readership numbers are going up continually.  Well, there were over 100,000 people at Gettysburg alone for the commemoration, which I suspect gives one an idea of the level of interest in the subject matter.  Shortly afterwards I got a great note from Steve Pressfield (his work includes the books Tides of War, and Gates of Fire etc. as well as The Legend of Bagger Vance -- both book and screenplay). Steve said;
Congrats to you on doing it yourself -- and on the tremendous response! I can't believe any editor told you there is "no interest in the Civil War."  I have a friend who takes me to dinner once a year and bemoans my fascination with the ancient Greeks.  "Steve, put the Confederate battle flag on the spine of a book and ten million crazed Civil War buffs will eat it up." He explains to me the mindset of the Civil War aficionado.  "They do not say, 'Oh no, another book about Antietam.'  They say, 'Oh boy, another book about Antietam!'" All of which bodes very well for "Bushwhacker."  Have you pursued Hollywood with this?  Remember "The Outlaw Josey Wales?"  The scene where Clint Eastwood lines up a barge in the gunsight of his mile-range telescope sniper cannon ...
Well, Mister Carpetbagger, we got a little thing out here
called a Missourah Boat Ride.
Think about Tinseltown, Fred.  There could be something there. Congrats again....you've got following winds!
Similar notes came in from such distinguished writers as Carlo D'Este (Patton: A Genius for WarWarlord: A Life of Winston Churchill at War), W.E.B. Griffin (Brotherhood of War series), and Ralph Peters (Hell or RichmondCain at Gettysburg) who applauded the move.  Other marvelous notes started arriving from professors of American and military history such as Edward "Mac" Coffman, Paul Hutton, Jeremy Neely, Reina Pennington, Nichole Etcheson, and others. Folks who study, teach, and write about the period and loved the way the book read and the accuracy of the feel for the time, place, and people.   So the e-book experiment seemed to be working pretty well in its first few days. Civil War enthusiasts were delighted. Copies of the Kindle edition of "Gone To Kingdom" continue to sell world-wide and notes continue to come in from enthusiastic readers.
Thus, the bottom line for aspiring authors is to think outside the box of brick-and-mortar publishing houses and to consider embracing electronic publishing. Consider the above tale as a sort of "staff ride" for writers and learn from the mistakes of others. Explore the opportunities afforded by new technology. Certainly they are not for everyone but they are rapidly becoming viable alternatives to traditional approaches to writing and publishing. It can be ultimately less frustrating and possibly more rewarding.