Archive for October, 2011

Moss Rock Review – October 2011

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Spinning yarns around a high-tech campfire

By just about any measure, the book publishing industry is undergoing change so blisteringly fast and fundamental in nature, that the whole concept of storytelling in printed book form may become an anachronism within a few years. Maybe we should rename this Book Scene column to be Storytelling Scene instead to seize a longer-term view!

Although I wasn’t there, apparently the first human beings (homo sapiens) appeared on the scene about 500,000 years ago. For all but the most recent 200 years, storytelling was done orally, in-person, by elders or minstrels. Only with the great culture upheavals of the Industrial Revolution did the general population get an opportunity to learn to read and buy printed books. If 500,000 years is represented by the span of your two arms stretched out fully, the time we’ve been a book-reading species is less than the thickness of your thumb. According to evolution theory, we humans aren’t yet genetically evolved for reading books (and therefore will be prone to abandoning them for anything more similar to sharing stories around a campfire). Darwin figured that it takes a finch on the Galapagos Islands 500 generations to make a significant genetic adaptation. For humans, at 20 years per generation, that would be 10,000 years. So we need about 9,800 more years for our DNA to react to an environment of sitting on our butts staring at squiggly symbols on sheets of paper bound into a codex.

So, if we aren’t (yet) suited to books, what are we genetically coded to do? Let’s review what storytelling was like 10,000 years ago, and then consider if the next media fits better than our current fixation with books. Presumably an ancient hairy human could talk and gesture, use props to demonstrate, sing and dance, maybe act out skits. I presume the audience gave feedback through nods, grunts and other actions, encouraging the storyteller to expand, elaborate, create or repeat information.

By contrast, books don’t have the voice, gestures, songs, dancing, or props — they are totally linear and have no potential for reader interaction. They are great, and I love them, but they sure don’t score well in this Darwinian challenge. (TV would rank higher: people grouped around a flickering light to be entertained/ educated/ indoctrinated seems quite campfire-tribal.)

Are the new media more in tune with our DNA? The world wide web’s great claim to fame is its non-linear nature. Apps on an iPad have video and audio files, and even respond to finger gestures, blowing, tilting, shaking; they even know where you are located on this Earth, even if you don’t. Seems they are more “natural” in many ways.

Lately, along with our work to publish some great new printed books, I’ve been working with a very talented team building an iPad app (based on the book It’s Cool To Be Clever and scheduled for a pre-Christmas release). I’m reminded that automobiles were first labelled “horseless carriages”, presumably to make them more understandable and acceptable. After many years people simply called them “cars” and stopped needing comparisons to the old technology. Similarly, stories on the iPad initially were called “eBooks” and are sold at the “iBookstore”. On screen, the words were displayed as if on a book’s page. When you pressed an edge, the page “turned”, complete with an animation of a curling sheet of paper. Only 18 months after the iPad was introduced, the latest apps are already playing down the book metaphor. Blocks or text are no longer confined to “pages”; instead they float by in response to finger swiping. Animations and video are becoming commonplace. Each story-app comes with a mini-library of background materials, allowing the user to follow a thread into the author’s past and research the story’s topics more deeply.

Meanwhile, the Toronto Public Library is organizing a “human library” in which library patrons can “book” (pun intended) a half-hour, one-on-one conversation with a person who has expertise or compelling life experiences to share. Apparently this concept began in Copenhagen in 2000, and has been adopted/adapted in more than 30 countries. Seems a bit like coming full circle, eh?

(c) copyright 2011, Bruce Batchelor

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Moss Rock Review – August 2011

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Making a fortune from an out-of-copyright poem – APPsolutely incredible!

It is early June 2011 and the top grossing app for the Apple iPad tablet is… a poem first published in 1922? This is a joke, right?

Not a joke. For a few glorious days, the enhanced ebook of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land did edge out the Angry Birds video game for top spot overall. By the end of the summer, it was staying top in the book app category, just ahead of the Marvel Comics app. Something brilliant is going on here for publisher Faber & Faber to be bringing in so much attention — and money — for a poem so old that it is now in the public domain.

Taking full advantage of the iPad’s capabilities, The Waste Land app has not only the full text of the poem, but a new BBC-produced performance of the entire poem by Fiona Shaw, audio recordings by Alec Guiness, Ted Hughes, Victor Mortenson and Eliot himself, over three dozen expert video commentaries, and scans of the manuscript showing Ezra Pound’s extensive edits. All for $13.99. The reader switches seamlessly between video to audio to text-only; while Fiona or Alec performs, the text is always shown in sync. The app is like an interactive TV show cum encyclopedia or thesis, celebrating this iconic poem.

With this and other fantastic new enhanced ebooks (more examples later), I believe we are seeing the vanguard of the next era in publishing, with changes even wilder than the tumultuous upheavals of the past few years.

Henry Volans, head of Faber Digital, in an interview with The Guardian, said: “I used to be an editor here. Now the role is much more like that of a producer… you’re making something happen with a variety of skills, from software engineers and designers, and indeed a television director on one hand, to Eliot scholars, poetry academics and actors on the other… There’s this sense that book publishers will have a lot of competition from other industries [film, television] as well, so we have to learn these skills. I believe that the books business and writers and publishers could and should use technology to their best advantage because other people will if we won’t.”
(Full article at http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/jun/12/ts-eliot-waste-land-ipad-app.)

Meanwhile, Our Choice, which is Al Gore’s sequel to An Inconvenient Truth, is an interactive iPad ebook/ magazine/ presentation app so cleverly presented that it won the 2011 Apple Design Award. It costs $4.99. Push Pop Press, the design/software agency which created the multi-touch app interface for Our Choice, was just acquired by Facebook. Facebook apparently doesn’t plan to enter the ebook publishing game itself, and bought Push Pop for its designers and software engineers so Facebook might add storytelling/app capabilities for its 750 million users. Wow, that could be a lot of competition!

No doubt looking to generate new income while providing more access to its collections, the British Library just launched an iPad app which provides access to full scans of all its 19th century books for 1.99 GB pounds per month.

Produced by 1K Studio for Penguin is the “amplified edition” of Jack Kerouac’s 1957 beat generation novel, On The Road. There is the complete text, of course, plus an interactive map of the route taken, archival photographs, reproduction of the original 120-foot-long manuscript scroll, letters, video interviews with Kerouac’s contemporaries, documentary footage, even tributes by Bob Dylan, John Updike and others. The Guardian‘s reviewer James Campbell warns that all this “amplification” bogs down the reader with facts, footnotes and technical distraction. He recommends reading from a printed book so your imagination can soar.

Nonetheless, Cinram, a $2 billion Toronto-based company that is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of music and movie CDs and DVDs (who knew?), was impressed enough with the potential of On The Road that it bought 1K Studio, presumably so Cinram can get a jumpstart into the next big thing (diversifying away from what must surely be a declining business).

It seems that everybody wants to be an app producer/publisher in the iPad era.

(c) copyright 2011, Bruce Batchelor

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Moss Rock Review – June 2011

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

This column is now published in both Esquimalt Shoaling Waters and Fairfield/Gonzales Moss Rock Review

Headline: Novelist Tom Morison is living his own storylines
Subhead: Local writer advocates ‘living life broadly’

Seventeen years ago, Esquimalt writer Tom Morison received an ominous-sounding message from an insurance company. According to their actuarial tables, he had precisely 13.2 years of life expectancy remaining. More amused than shocked, Morison did what any good writer would do: he wrote a grand story inspired by that dramatic pronouncement.

Morison’s novel 13.2 followed a man (loosely based on the author) systematically pursuing a list of adventures and experiences into his senior years. 13.2 pre-dated by half a decade the Hollywood movie with a similar theme, called The Bucket List. Morison admits he was inspired in part by “the funniest movie I’ve ever seen, the classic Danny Kaye film called The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Making a list is an exercise many people should take.”

His latest novel, In Search of Her Ayah, was just released in hardcover and Kindle ebook. It is a story of shifting emotions and responses — lust and desire; betrayal and revenge; mystery and adventure; and love and trust — as told through the eyes and the paintbrush strokes of four individuals with vastly different backgrounds and perspectives. This sad and happy story is played out across the world: from the tranquil remnants of a once bustling town on the coast of Oregon, to the peaceful beauty and charm of Victoria, into the steaming heat and poverty of India, in the metaphysical world of the wonders and magic and tragedy of Tibet, trekking through the towering Himalayas, and finally in a transplanted French chateau near Portland.

“My writing is based on incidents in my own life,” Morison said. “I can tell in the first five pages whether the author has lived the situation or is making it up entirely in his mind. With rare exception, one can only create an authentic story by experiencing life broadly.”

Morison is going strong well after his official 13.2 “due date” expired, largely living life on his own terms since selling his U.S.-based investment management firm (Morison International) in 1986. Back then he decided he would travel, paint, write and climb. He recently sold his second home in a southern French village but still globe-trots whenever the urge seizes him. He is completing a series of oil paintings inspired by the Canadian provinces and territories, and is starting a series attempting to paint the senses — as does a character in In Search for Her Ayah. In the mid-1990s, Morison, who has a doctorate in economics, penned a financial primer cum novel called Pounce: Couchon’s Billions, accurately predicting the subsequent major financial downturns. This book deserves to be re-read because all the same forces are still in place.

He has climbed extensively, including Europe’s Matterhorn, Kilimanjaro in Kenya, Popocatepetl in Mexico and the Grand Tetons of Wyoming. When his best buddy died in an unexplained climbing accident in Africa, Morison wrote about their shared climbs in the mystery The Gates of Mist (as yet unpublished). High treks in the Himalayas provided authenticity for scenes in In Search of Her Ayah. But age is taking its toll: his climbing has been halted. “When I got much past 70, my balance and leg strength were no longer up to it,” he said. “It wasn’t safe for me or for others climbers relying on me.”

Born in 1924 near Airdrie, Alberta, into a ranching family, Morison served as an armaments NCO for a Canadian Typhoon squadron in the RAF’s Second Tactical Air Force during WWII. “I wanted to be a pilot but was rejected for being colour-blind,” he said. “That turned out to be fortunate, because so many of the Typhoon pilots died.” Although “witnessing the awfulness, the death and destruction of Western Europe” convinced Morison of the massive faults in human nature and governments, it also made him want to “get on with life” and kindled a love affair with European culture that endures to this day.

Who does Morison read? “Emile Zola, one of the greatest writers ever and champion of noble causes. I read in the original French to get closer to the authenticity of his writing.”

A Minnesota newspaper reviewing Pounce opined that Morison’s writing was a cross between John Steinbeck and Evelyn Waugh, both of whom used their own life experience and wide range of people they met, as source material. Though he admits to slowing down a bit, Morison will continue to “live life broadly,” creating content for the books he has yet to write.

In Search of Her AYAH, Agio Publishing House, 2011, 340 pp, hardcover edition $29.00, ISBN 978-1-897435-53-3, available at Amazon.com and by special order through local bookstores. Kindle edition $2.99

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Moss Rock Review – April 2011

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Local authors are thriving in a rapidly-changing book world


Everywhere one goes in Victoria, there are interesting people with fascinating stories. “You ought to write a book!” is frequently heard. Many are seizing the moment and writing out their insights and experiences to inform and help others. Most are surprised to discover that publishing is much easier than ever before, and their prospects for “success” (personal and financial) have never been better.

The book industry is being rocked by enormous pressures to its business model that are causing some publishing houses, distributors and bookstores to fail. Entire chains, such as Borders in the USA, Waterstone’s in the UK, and Angus & Robertson and Whitcoulls downunder, are in bankruptcy. Yet delightfully, most changes are unfolding in the individual authors’ favour.

I’ll provide some examples of the upheaval. Remember the prediction of the “paperless office”? And how people have scoffed at that idea? Well, maybe your own desk in still cluttered with paper, but overall our society is consuming far less paper. In 2000, North American commercial printers used up 48 million tonnes of paper. By 2010 that amount had dropped by fully 1/3 to only 32 million tonnes, and industry predictions are for further decline over the coming years. Clearly we are shifting our paper consumption patterns, and consuming fewer newspapers, magazines and… printed books!

Sales of electronic books [eBooks] are skyrocketing. Simon & Schuster reports that eBook sales are now between 15 to 20 percent of its revenues. Random House reports digital sales at 10 percent of US revenues. Over 25% at O’Reilly Media. Hachette says 23.5% of sales are eBooks. Since most eBooks are priced much lower than their print edition counterparts, we can assume that eBooks are selling almost as many units as – if not outselling – print books.

How does this help the new author? By levelling the playing field. A 26-year-old Minnesota writer named Amanda Hocking has made this abundantly clear. She’s been writing young adult paranormal romances for years but couldn’t interest a publishing house or an agent. So she decided last spring to self-publish her series as print-on-demand titles and as eBooks through Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook. Through the magic of Facebook and other social media, word spread quickly and she sold 185,000 copies by year end, earning herself well over $100,000. Sales continued to climb in the new year until at one point her books occupied spots #1, 2, 4, 7, 11, 12 and 14 in the list of top 100 paid romance eBooks on Amazon. If she maintains this pace, she’ll earn millions from her self-published eBook sales in 2011. All without a publicist, without any advertising, without any books in bookstores. No publishing house.

But Amanda’s story gets sweeter. An agent asked to represent her. He arranged a bidding war between the largest publishing houses. St. Martin’s Press won, paying Amanda a cool $2-million advance for a new 4-book series. It will take a year before the printed edition appears in bookstores. By contrast, when Amanda is self-publishing, she can write a novel in three weeks, then publish it as an eBook within a few days. But she wants to concentrate on writing, and not on supervising an editor and online promotion. And she wants to experiment at having one romance series promoted by a big name publishing house.

It is interesting that one of the losing bidders was Amazon itself. The online behemoth has since struck a deal with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt whereby Amazon will find and promote new writing talent for its Kindle store, and then subcontract to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt the publishing of the printed edition to bookstores (expected to bring in less revenues than eBook sales). Suddenly eBook rights – which had been a minor “subsidiary right” [or not mentioned at all] in writers’ contracts – have become the major focus in publishing deals. And, as Amanda Hocking has cleverly demonstrated, a writer doesn’t need a major publishing house’s help to exploit the eBook market’s potential, or to publicize.

For many Victoria writers, it is becoming clear that there is little point in following the old approach of applying to the big publishing houses, hoping to get “picked up”. Why wait for rejection letters? Instead they are using the rich local talent pool of editors, illustrators and publishing services, and controlling their own literary destinies.

Mel Anthony, who lives on his sailboat in Sidney marina, released Pranksters at Play: Tales Out of School in October with the pledge that all his royalties would go to his charity Christian-Out-Reach-Peru.com. His novel was based on his own experiences at boarding school in Ontario in the 1960s — so he targeted alumnus from that school. Within two months his plan has borne fruit: Mel’s charity received an initial royalty cheque for $2,259.29. More importantly, the book’s promotions are raising awareness for CORP and large donations are flowing in.

Local architect Alan Roy is another take-charge person. He’s already built two schools in Africa, with more planned, and will publish an account of this amazing work in June. From Clay to Classrooms tells how transforming these projects are – for the children and for Babu Alan himself. Primary Schools for Africa is the name of Alan’s charity.

  • Linda Hunter who has organized dry grad events at Parkland Secondary is selling copies of An Unforgettable After-Grad: Your guide to creating and operating a successful all-night safe, dry, grad event to parent committees around the world.
  • Caroline Whitehead’s sequel to Surviving the Shadows is Rowland: A Heart of Sunshine.
    Tom Morison just released a novel, In Search of Her Ayah which is set in Oregon, India, Tibet and Victoria.
  • Leanne Jones has written It’s Cool to be Clever, an inspirational children’s book about Edson C. Hendricks, who was bullied as a boy but went on to invent the network design for the Internet.
  • Lori Holmes-Boyle’s Second Seraph trilogy features the second coming of the Christ child – but this time it’s a girl….

Next time you meet someone around town with a fascinating story, you can ask when their eBook and printed book editions will be available.

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Moss Rock Review – January 2011

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Passing the tipping point for eBooks and audiobooks

By now, most people in Victoria will have seen someone reading a book using an Amazon Kindle eBook reading device, Sony Reader, Kobo (from Chapters-Indigo), Apple iPad or a smart phone. Early adopters include travelling retirees, who love being able to take dozens of new books along to read in a compact, 9-ounce, $200 device.

In June I reported analysts’ claims that, “During 2010, over 8% of all book sales will be in electronic formats, compared to 4% during 2009, 2% in 2008 and about 1% in 2007.” That trend would have been exponential, DOUBLING each year.

Well, like a weatherman’s long-term outlook, those predictions should be revised with more recent data. It turns out that eBook sales have more than TRIPLED so far this year (2010), and will likely be at around 14% of all book sales. Wow! Clearly what some people labelled as a “fad” isn’t going away until it eats everyone’s lunch.

A recent UK survey found that 19% of all British adults have downloaded at least one eBook from the Internet in the past 12 months. About 7% made a purchase, while the other 11% found free books. Either way, that is a lot of reading that wasn’t purchased in local bookstores. Likely residents of Victoria are acquiring eBooks at a similar pace.

When Ken Follett’s 1,008-page Fall of Giants was released in September, it sold 20,000 copies in Amazon Kindle eBook format in the first 7 days — more than in hardcover, even though the eBook was priced higher (US$19.99) than the hardcover edition (discounted to US$19.39). Ken likely makes 50% of the retail price on eBooks, so he pocketed $200,000 just for the sale of Kindle copies in a week. Not a shabby start, eh?

How will eBook sales growth impact bookstores, authors and publishers? In many ways. But first let’s look at another segment of the book publishing marketplace where the change to online sales is even more dramatic: audio books.

Most of us have listened to a book being read to us by a recorded actor. Back in the 1950s in Winnipeg, my childhood included listening to Jimmy Stewart reading Winnie the Pooh stories with a rather bizarre attempt at a British accent. Those were 45 rpm discs. Vinyl recordings gave way to cassette tapes. Then CDs took over the market. And then DVDs. Now the era of having a physical audio book is nearing its end. By late in 2010, we were at a pace for 43% of all audio book sales to be via download, compared to 57% for all physical media. At some point soon — a tipping point — it will no longer be economical for publishers to manufacture the CD or DVD versions.

Unfortunately, downloads of eBooks and audio books are bad news for local bookstores, since those are sales NOT happening through the store. How long the stores will survive will depend on what else in offered (gifts, food, coffee, live entertainment…) to replace declining book sales. (Ironically, used book stores may weather this transitional storm in better shape, as new-book stores become less common.)

The growth in eBooks has been good news for those independent authors who have a talent for online self-promotion. Using social media (Facebook, twitter, blogs, Lexy, etc.), it is possible for a “little guy” to break into the Kindle bestseller ranks — sometimes even without a version of the book available in printed format. In the new eBook marketplace, the big publishing houses no longer have the huge advantages of dominating the supply chain (as they did with printed books into bookstores).

A few of our authors who offer their writing in both eBook and printed editions have begun selling more eBooks than printed books, something that wasn’t happening six months ago. The good news is that their sales numbers for printed books are not decreasing, so total royalties are going up.

Not wanting to miss out on sales, publishers (our Agio Publishing House included) are scrambling to ensure all their titles are available in a wide range of electronic formats and through all major online distributors. At this point, some devices use proprietary formats (such as Kindle’s .azw and Sony’s BBeB), and most can display .epub. As the reading devices become more sophisticated, they will be able to display the trusty Acrobat .pdf format and the new HTML 5.

No one is sure how much included video and hyperlinking will become the norm, as books appear to be evolving from basic words-on-a-page-with-a-few-illustrations to full on multimedia entertainment. The borders between a “book” and a “movie” and “educational/entertaining products” are blurring.

Fortunately most authors appreciate that there will be many choices in the years to come, as the book industry moves through tipping points and re-aligns itself to new market forces. Indeed, as one of our authors, retired RCMP Superintendent Scotty Gardiner, wrote in his memoir, “There is no such thing as LUCK. Instead, focus on PREPARATION, so you recognize OPPORTUNITIES.”

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Moss Rock Review – June 2010

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Local author/entrepreneurs are nimbly surfing publishing’s waves of change

During a revolution, there are opportunities for those who are nimble and not encumbered with old processes and commitments. Today’s book industry is undergoing a transformation to a digital era, throwing large publishers and booksellers into a tizzy. Meanwhile three local retired businessmen have each started a cottage-scale publishing enterprise to showcase their creativity and leverage their previous career experience.

Before I describe these innovators, let me illustrate the scale of change in the book business. The latest tallies confirm that sales of eBooks are increasing exponentially (doubling each year), with a corresponding decline in sales of printed books. Over 8% of all book sales during 2010 will be in electronic formats, compared to 4% during 2009, 2% in 2008 and about 1% in 2007. All of those eBook sales are occurring on the Internet; the loss in business is occurring at real bookstores. Meanwhile promotions and publicity are moving from newspapers (who are featuring fewer book reviews) to the embryonic “social media” and “mobile marketing” of Facebook, Twitter and blogs. Social media tends to favour the “little guy” or underdog author who can amass a following; the larger publishers haven’t been successful yet in figuring out these new means of inter-communication.

“Although publishing is changing, books still represent the best way for an author to convey practical information to most people,” maintains Sidney’s Peter Dolezal who has just released The Smart Canadian Wealth-Builder. Dolezal, whose resume includes stints as CEO of public corporations and a successful second career in real estate, recently established Cufflands Publishing to market his three how-to books (the other two are The Naked Homeowner and The Naked Traveller). “The important part is still getting the word out so people will know about — and want to buy — the book.”

Dolezal is using radio interviews and advertising, locally on C-FAX, to promote The Smart Canadian Wealth-Builder, with notable success. For example, one store, Tanner’s in Sidney, sold 120 copies in the first three weeks.

“Part of my motivation is to increase financial literacy, especially for younger Canadians,” says Dolezal. “Investing prudently over a lifetime will allow them to retire quite wealthy. The book also brings new clients to my independent financial investment consulting business.”

UVic writing prof Paul MacRae created Spring Bay Press to publish False Alarm: Why Almost Everything We’ve Been Told About Global Warming is Misleading, Exaggerated, or Wrong. MacRae wanted to control the editorial aspects and timing of this controversial and provocative book, and of subsequent titles MacRae and other writers will create.

“Print-on-Demand for production and online sales means I can reach a worldwide audience, and quickly,” says MacRae. He is also arranging distribution in eBook formats on Apple’s iPad and Amazon’s Kindle.

A former Globe and Mail editorial writer and columnist for the Victoria Times-Colonist, MacRae has taken a journalist’s investigative approach to climate change — and found a surprising lack of objectivity and credibility around some of the “science.” MacRae will be leveraging his contacts, skills and credibility in the media to publicize False Alarm.

Another local author/entrepreneur is Carl Mawby, who retired almost 20 years ago to the Saanich Peninsula after winning $billions in international contracts for Canadian industry, and has been active here since in community, charitable and social associations. Collaborating with some of the world’s leading authorities, he has put together a readable security and safety manual for the over 55s. With his son Charles, currently senior vice-president of a U.S. high-tech company, Mawby has launched his own publishing company to produce the new book.

Mawby says, “We are never too old to learn,” and is relishing the opportunity to work with his son and use the exciting new capabilities provided by direct publishing and the Internet in his book promotion.

Times of change can provide windows of opportunity, as these three local author-entrepreneurs are demonstrating.

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Moss Rock Review – February 2010

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Competition and consumer pressure bring good news for authors and our planet

Apple’s iPad breaks Amazon’s control over eBook sales — authors to get higher royalties, publishers will set pricing

In the week before Apple’s Steve Jobs introduced the long-awaited IPad tablet, Amazon knew its near-monopoly (90%) of eBook sales was in danger. Up to that point, with strong sales of its Kindle reading device, Amazon had bullied publishers, dictating sales terms. Amazon theoretically “bought” the eBook from the publisher at a “wholesale” price, and could sell for whatever price it wanted (maximum $9.99). Publishers who wanted a retail price of $29.99 or more for a new bestseller were angry. Authors were receiving far less money from the sale of an eBook, compared to a printed book.

In a pre-emptive move, Amazon announced it would double the publishers’ margin from 35% to 70%. But it remained fixated by that $9.99 eBook price point, which was key to Amazon’s plans for rapid sales growth of Kindles and eBooks in general.

Announcing the iPad, Job noted that publishers (“content providers”) would receive 70% and could set the price, though he hoped they would stay below $14.99. Publishers and Apple would operate under the “agency model” of selling, whereby the publisher owned and controlled the pricing of the product until it was bought by a consumer, at which point the vendor (Apple) was entitled to a 30% commission.

Emboldened by the new competition, US publisher Macmillan threatened to withhold all its new books from the Kindle until months after the release of the hardcover edition. Amazon retaliated by removing the “buy buttons” at its website on all Macmillan printed and eBooks. A day later, Amazon capitulated and announced it would adopt the agency model too, so Macmillan (and presumably other publishers) could set the retail price.

With authors’ agents circling, Macmillan announced it would boost its authors’ royalties to 25% of its revenue, which becomes roughly 17.5% of the retail price. Presto! Within a week, authors’ royalty percentages on eBooks had nearly doubled.

Grassroots Facebook campaign forces change at US bookstore chain

As the huge Borders bookstore chain tries to avoid bankruptcy, it has been closing nearly 200 Waldenbooks and Borders Express stores. Employees were appalled by orders to dispose of hundreds of thousands of books and other products. Instructions were to rip off the covers of the books to render them unusable.

“Why can’t these be donated to libraries and other charities?” they asked, but were refused permission to do so by the Borders Group head office.

So they formed a Facebook campaign (see www.DonateNotDumpster.org) to protest, and began inviting their friends to email to Borders executives. Thousands joined the protest, many writing on the Facebook page’s wall threatening to never shop at Borders stores again. Employees at other locations posted photos of dumpsters full of new stationery and coverless books. Organizers learned the overprinting of books, and subsequent destruction of unsold copies, was endemic to the book industry, and demanded Borders address this underlying problem as well. The book industry’s own analysis pegs overprinting at more than one billion books annually. This grassroots Facebook campaign was exposing an environmental scandal.

After articles in The Washington Post and other media, Borders scrambled to put a good face on an embarrassing situation. It would now recycle paper waste instead of sending it to landfills. It would donate unsold stationery and other products to Gifts in Kind International, including books that were not “returnable” for credit. [Returnable often means sending back only the cover, to get a credit.] Borders claimed that the “returnable” books problem was the publishers’ fault, but it would initiate a dialogue within the book industry about changing practices that cause so much waste of money and natural resources.

The Facebook campaign has now broadened its focus. It wants consumers to email to the heads of the major publishers and large bookstore chains, demanding an end to overprinting and the waste of unsold books. The initial responses from publishers have been to blame the retailers for being reluctant to adopt a “firm sales model.”

Yet one can hope the publishers will feel emboldened by their recent decisiveness around eBook sales models, and step up to fixing their one-billion-book public relations nightmare. In this era of grassroots Facebook campaigns, bad business practices are becoming harder to hide.

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Moss Rock Review – December 2009

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Hooray! The prospect of more royalties for authors — from use on the web

Certainly writing a book and publishing it has many intangible rewards: pride, satisfaction, perhaps a catharsis, to name a few. Yet most of us are still delighted when the tangible (“Show me the money!”) rewards roll in.

Musicians, composers and music producers have long enjoyed a huge advantage over creative folks who are writers and illustrators. This advantage is the existence of strong rights agencies who vigorously levy and enforce performance and usage fees — even a restaurant owner who plays the radio must pay an annual fee — and then divvy up the money to the content creators. Some of the money can be attributed to a specific song, while other money is apportioned out to all musicians.

According to a recent NY Times article, “GEMA, the main collecting society for German music copyright owners, raises more than E850 million, or $1.3 billion, a year.” The cool thing is the scale of this: perhaps $100 BILLION are being collected worldwide by the music rights agencies. Great for musicians.

By comparison, the rights agencies for written content have been comparatively anemic — my ballpark figure would be 10% as effective in terms of dollars raised and disbursed. In the USA, Agio Publishing House’s authors are included in Copyright.com (the US Copyright Clearance Centre). In Canada, our authors register with AccessCopyright.ca. Through reciprocal agreements, AccessCopyright receives money from (and collects money on behalf of) copyright licensing bodies in the UK, Australia and dozens of other countries. AccessCopyright gathers fees mainly from large corporations, government agencies and academic institutions, for specific copying (using an article as a chapter of a college “course pack”, for example) and for miscellaneous copying (such as people photocopying pages at their offices).

What’s needed is more robust enforcement, especially across the Internet, and new ways to reach out to other users. I have good news, offering authors reason to be optimistic:

  • Germany (according to the same NY Times article, Publisher Lays Out Plan to Save Newspapers by Eric PFanner, Dec 6, 2009) will be enacting new legislation to set up a rights monitoring and collection agency for newspaper content used on the web; this sets a good precedent for other (non-newspaper) written content;
  • Google has amassed full-page scans of millions of books and as part of the pending Google Books settlement, a new rights agency will be established for book content, so that for the first time ever, nearly all authors will be represented by one agency; and
  • micropayments (fractions of a cent in some cases) are now feasible because computer processing has become so inexpensive — we could envision, for example, someone happily paying a dollar to browse through 100 book pages while doing research (finding recipes or writing an essay), and Google also paying a portion of its ad revenues generated from searches of book pages to the new agency. Micropayments would enable easy legal usage by consumers, and make the alternatives (piracy or not using the material) less attractive.

We can be happy that authors’ rights to payment for viewing of their writing on the Web is now clearly “on the radar.” The tangible rewards for publishing may soon increase.

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Moss Rock Review – October 2009

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Authors are controlling book marketing now

The roles and responsibilities for marketing a new book have changed remarkably over the past decade. No longer can an aspiring author realistically hope to be courted by a publishing house, then be able to sit back and write a second book while that first manuscript is turned into a hardcover book, and promoted and publicized widely by the publisher. Nowadays, authors — whether it is Margaret Atwood or local independently-published writers — are taking matters into their own hands.

Margaret Atwood is blogging and twittering feverishly, and has organized her own international tour, a multimedia performance piece complete with a choir signing hymns she’s written. In some ways, one is reminded of the great literary events of the Great Depression, when famous authors such as Grey Owl (real name Archie Belaney) performed to sold-out theatres across North America and Europe. Decades earlier, Mark Twain (real name Samuel Clemens) commanded huge audiences for his readings and humorous speeches. These fellows were the rock stars of their eras!

Closer to home and on a smaller scale, our neighbour Ken Roueche has gone door-to-door publicizing his A History of Fairfield [ISBN 1412060354] and handed out Fairfield street maps to tourists as another promotion. Ken’s efforts have paid off in enough sales to turn a profit on the venture. Fellow Fairfieldite Sid Tafler gives lectures to spread the word about his memoir, Us and Them: A Memoir of Tribes and Tribulations [0-9781017-0-7].

Another Victoria author who isn’t shy about marketing is motivational trainer Michael J. Losier, whose The Law of Attraction [ISBN 978-0-973224-00-9] has enjoyed massive sales. Michael presents to audiences around the world, often training 800 people at once, and then selling as many copies of his book. He conducted 110 seminars during 2006! This marketing tsunami attracted appearances on The Oprah Show and sales of over 300,000 copies in four years.

Does all this mean that YOU have to become a relentless showman if you want to get that manuscript into print? Certainly not. Yet you will have to be involved in marketing to some extent if you want to have your book in circulation. I recommend a reality check — a marketing plan that suits your aspirations, personality and budget.

Start with a frank examination of your motives. Why have you written and for whom? If your impetus is to entertain and educate, you can start with niche promotions and local publicity, then expand as you gain confidence, all with minimal cost investment and good chances of building a steady stream of sales.

For example, Sidney author Caroline Whitehead is giving talks at seniors centres and service club gatherings, describing her childhood at a Catholic orphanage in the County of Kent during the 1920s and 1930s. The Peninsula News recently ran a feature article on Caroline’s fascinating book, Surviving the Shadows [ISBN 978-1-897435-33-5].

As this book reveals, Caroline discovered she wasn’t really an orphan, and spent decades tracking down her parents. “Most would prefer to put it at the back of one’s mind, rather than acknowledge the stigma of being raised in an orphanage and being denied a birthright,” says the author. “But, for the sake of social history, these stories must be told.”

Having her book available on Amazon.com and indexed at Google means alumni from Caroline’s orphanage can learn of this exposé’s existence, and people around the world can access her story. As eBook reading devices become commonplace, even more people will be able to learn about that often-cruel era.

The good news for Fairfield writers is that you can have your book published (by helping underwrite the costs), and you only have to do whatever promoting is logical and feels comfortable for you.

 

Bio: Bruce Batchelor is an author and book publisher, at Agio Publishing House, 151 Howe Street in Fairfield. Agio Publishing (www.agiopublishing.com) works with authors in a collaborative model, with author and publisher sharing responsibilities and costs on new books. His how-to guide, Book Marketing DeMystified [ISBN 978-1-897435-00-7] is available at Sorensen’s Books.

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Moss Rock Review column – June 2009

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

This is the first regular bimonthly (6x per year) column I wrote for Sue Woods’ Moss Rock Review, back in June of 2009. Sue named the column Book Scene.

These are great times for book lovers — there are so many wonderful new books to read [over 560,000 new titles in 2008!], and a growing number of ways to buy and read those stories [in print, on a Kindle, iPod, cell phone or your computer screen].

Unfortunately book publishers are not faring so well these days. Sales of printed books are falling, while costs rise. Sales of electronic books are not enough to offset declining printed book sales. This is bad news for prospective authors, for sure! Fairfield is teeming with boomers anxious to “be published” and the likelihood of any unproven writer landing a contract with a publisher is diminishing rapidly.

Fortunately the do-it-yourself route has become simpler and less expensive, with print-on-demand production and semi-retired industry professionals offering top-notch help in editing, designing, publishing and marketing. What’s the cost to underwrite publishing of your opus? Less than the price of a second-hand car. It all boils down to what importance one places on creating a proper legacy for book lovers.

Like car makers, book publishers would be in better shape financially if they changed their broken business model. Car companies have been making the wrong products; Canadian publishers have been creating wonderful products but selling them using a bizarre sales practice which I calculate is costing them a whopping $330 million per year. That was not a typo. Yes, $330,000,000 is available in a form of do-it-yourself industry bailout, simply by changing a wasteful practice of over-hyping, then overprinting, and selling books to bookstores on consignment. Few consumers realize it, but all those new books on the shelves of your favourite bookstores will be returned to the publishers after 90 days if they don’t sell. It is a disgraceful waste of money, everyone’s time and enormous quantities of natural resources. To learn more, go to www.bookindustrybailout.ca.

Book review by Beverly Paterson
Journey to the Inner Circle, and Beyond: One Man’s Search for his True Self by Blaise Eagleheart. ISBN 978-1-897435-32-8. Available at Russell Books, or online through Amazon and Indigo

Journey to the Inner Circle is a compelling, mid-1980s ‘stream of consciousness’ journal drawing the reader into a warrior’s quest for his own truth. It is a true story, filled with remarkable experiences both real and illusionary — from walking on coals, to shape-shifting into the form of a cougar, and much more. There are deeply insightful dialogues with a colourful array of inner teachers.

Journey to the Inner Circle is a powerfully positive book, offering both a challenge and an opportunity. It awakens in the reader the possibility that he already has within him the guidance needed to consciously create the life he chooses to live.

Born and raised in the Victoria area, Blaise Eagleheart played and coached rugby at club, Island and Provincial levels, using unorthodox training methods, before immersing himself in the martial art of Chien Lung, Eastern healing arts and other energy-based disciplines. He then opened a dojo with his Teacher, where he taught biomechanics of movement and martial art classes for children and adults. Blaise now runs Natural Movement Centre (www.naturalmovementcentre.com) in Victoria, teaching about holistic integration of the physical, emotional and mental bodies to awaken the creative consciousness for optimal health and physical performance.

Blaise can be reached at Blaise@naturalmovementcentre.com for seminars, motivational speaking and instructional materials. His second and third books are now in production for fall release.

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