Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Of Books

Books BooksImage via WikipediaThere have been a couple of recent moves in the Wonderful World of Publishing that may be of interest. Bloomsbury has launched its own e-book and POD imprint, 'Bloomsbury Reader', while in the US, publisher Perseus Books has launched a new company to publish e-book and POD editions for agented authors called, snappily, Argo Navis Author Services.

The main difference is that Bloomsbury is only targeting out of print books where the authors' rights have reverted, while Perseus is definitely more focused on the living.

Bloomsbury, JK Rowling's publisher, has done a deal with The Rights House (made up of mega-agency PFD and Rights House Talent) to publish a number of titles and launches Bloomsbury Reader with some 500 titles on Kindle, with other platforms to follow. The biggest name in the first tranche is Edith Sitwell, although Evelyn Waugh's brother Alan features (he was a scandalous bestseller in his time). Just in case you thought you were in for some quality bargain reads, by the way, think again - the books will be priced at $8.99. That's stiff for an e-book of an out of print work, in my humble.

The Perseus move is perhaps more relevant to today's authors. The company will be offering an e-book and POD service, publishing to multiple e-book platforms and offering marketing and distribution support while only taking a 30% cut. In the Argo Navis model, the author remains the publisher while Perseus is the distributor. Perseus has already signed with agency Janklow & Nesbit, is talking to Curtis Brown (according to the New York Times) and is in discussions with a number of other agencies.

So what does this all mean? Well, in the Bloomsbury case, we have a traditional publisher reviving a number of classic out of print works and making them available using the new efficiencies of e-books and POD. That's only a good thing, although you'd wonder why more publishers haven't gone this route already. With agents and publishers alike (Don't forget Ed Victor has already launched a 'reverted rights' e-book and POD imprint) looking to backlists and out of print titles, we're going to see an awful lot of 'old' books flooding the 'new' platforms. It's already hard enough for authors to stand out - it's about to get an awful lot harder.

It's perhaps interesting that with the future of publishing being so crammed with uncertainties, so many publishers and agents are looking to the past.

The Perseus move is much more interesting. In focusing on agented authors, the company brings a qualitative guarantee of sorts to the books being offered by its service. The percentages on offer are certainly eye-catching ('traditional' publishers are offering 20-25% of e-books, which most agents are arguing should be 50%) at 70% in the author's hand (less, presumably, the agents' 15%). But the platform is reportedly offering a 'basic' marketing service for free and will offer more advanced marketing services at a fee. In this, Perseus is going to have to do a lot to justify quite what value it offers authors over services such as Lightning Source and CreateSpace.

Meanwhile, Amazon has just announced availability of the most basic Kindle (Note NOT the 'Fire') in the UK at a whopping £89 - at today's rates that's $138!!! It's $79 in the US. How they can justify that is truly beyond me...
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