Category : Publishing

  • Brian

    November 20, 2015

    Can the Audiobook Save B&N?

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    This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be talking about audiobooks. As Yasmine Askari reported on the Digital Book World last week, Barnes & Noble recently announced the launch of a Nook audiobooks app for iphone and ipad, as well as a new website to support the app with more than sixty thousand audio titles available to download without the purchase of a subscription. I’ll leave the prognosticating around whether or not this will be the magic bullet that saves Barnes & Noble from the same fate as Borders to smarter industry analysts. I’m more concerned with the audiobook as a product and it’s future in publishing.

    My first attempt to get into audiobooks revolved around my year and a half stint covering the Inland Northwest territory as a B2B salesperson calling on grocery stores from the eastern side of the Washington Cascades all the way to the Billings, Montana – a vast, beautiful, and relatively empty landscape. I would sometimes drive as much as six hours in between sales calls, this in the days before rental car stereos came with audio jacks and in a land with almost no local radio signals. It was dull. So, I tried to spice up the windshield time by bringing along one of those suitcase-sized collection of audiobook CDs.

    I couldn’t tell you the title or author of that book so many years later. What I can tell you is that I almost died listening to that book, lulled to sleep while driving a desolate Montana two-lane highway by the sultry voice of whomever was narrating. Like so many people, I walked away from the whole audiobook thing because of lack of convenience and a love of reading the actual text and fleshing out the characters with the voices my imagination created for them in my head. I figured that audiobooks were fine for older folks losing their sight, or for drivers that

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  • Brian

    November 6, 2015

    That Time of Year Again

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    Publishing & Technology: That Time of Year Again

    Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTSmk_thumb

    This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be taking a
    break from talking about either publishing or technology and instead focus on shamelessly plugging my favorite charity, the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC). This week the local Portland news-weekly Willamette Week and the IPRC, along with more than 140 other local Portland and Oregon charities kicked off their annual fundraising drive called Give!Guide 2015. If you’re local to the Portland area, Oregon, or the Pacific Northwest, consider taking a moment to look through the guide.

    Willamette Week has partnered with several local businesses and organizations to provide incentives and matching donation opportunities. Additionally, the IPRC has rounded up some great incentives from local publishers, authors, and editing services and the like. Check out the IPRC at their website or on facebook for additional opportunities to time your giving to land incentives like a free proposal evaluation from Chip MacGregor, a free developmental edit or manuscript evaluation from Lorincz Literary Service, book bundles and magazine subscriptions from Tin House and other local publishers, gift certificates to restaurants, wineries, and host of other area businesses, show tickets, and more.

    Please join me this year in supporting area charities in the arts, social justice, environmental services and cleanup, and a whole host of other causes.

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  • chip-macgregor-square

    October 15, 2015

    How does an acquisitions editor acquire books?

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    Someone wrote with this question: “When someone is hired by a publishing house and allowed to acquire new books, are they trained or do they just ‘go and do’? Is this something they do individually or as part of a team?”

    An acquisitions editor has usually spent time with the company and has a feel for what he or she should be acquiring. Most are brought up through the system. They know if the company does well with historical novels, or if they like self-books, or if they struggle to sell memoir. So most ack editors know the list and the company culture — and yes, personal tastes will shape the books they bring in. If an editor likes thrillers, and is charged with building the list, you can pretty much expect his or her preferences will begin to be reflected in the books they’re doing. (Though not always — an editor at Harlequin is generally responsible for acquiring romantic novels, no matter how much she happens to like spec fiction… Again, knowing the corporate saga and culture is essential.) Editors shape houses. That’s the way it’s always been in publishing. So a publishing house that hires a bunch of new acquisitions people gets reshaped by the editors who work there.

    That said, few editors (just a handful of executive editors) have the authority to simply go acquire. The system looks like this:

    Step One is that the editor must like the presented idea. He or she works with the agent and author to sharpen the proposal and make it as strong as possible.

    In Step Two the idea is usually taken to the editorial team. In this meeting the merits of the book are discussed, several people read it, the team evaluates it, they determine if it fits the corporate identity, they explore other factors (such as “is this book too similar to one we did last season?” and

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  • Brian

    October 1, 2015

    Double Posting for a Negative Return

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    Publishing & Technology: Double Posting for a Negative Return

    Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

    This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be talking about using social media platforms to drive engagement with audience, a common misconception about posting duplicate content to LinkedIn, and the ramifications of doing so.

    Earlier this year LinkedIn opened up its long form publishing platform to all members (formerly it was only available to LinkedIn’s “influencers” – I’m still not entirely sure what the distinction meant). Almost immediately a flood of “fresh” content swamped the social media platform as a significant chunk of LinkIns 340-million strong user base rushed to repost identical copies of material they’d already posted on their company website or professional blog. Yes, several authors and prospective authors did so as well. This was a mistake for a variety of reasons.

    First off, the power of LinkedIn’s size as a platform naturally affords it a better ranking in search engine results for identical content (yes search engines can tell when identical content is posted on more than one site). Because the LinkedIn version of the identical post ranks higher than the original posting on the author’s site or blog, the search engine will naturally lower the rank of that other site or blog for all postings, regardless of content. Additionally, duplicate content sends a message to your already converted fans that you couldn’t be bothered to put together new content of value prior to re-engaging with them over social media. It’s considered a bad practice for a wide variety of other reasons, but we’ll save those for another post someday. Suffice it to say, that if you are going to spend time building your platform as an author try to make each effort a

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  • Brian

    September 24, 2015

    Permissionless Innovation

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    Publishing & Technology: Permissionless Innovation

    Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

    This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be talking about wattpad, the concept of permissionless innovation, and the ongoing expansion of the world of fanfiction. I have been fascinated with the world of fanfiction for a couple of years now. But it was a recent post from Jane Tappuni on the Publishing Technology blog and her application of Benedict Evans’s logic regarding the concept of permissionless innovation to her analysis of the success of Kindle and Wattpad, and specifically the following comment that got me interested in writing about this topic this week. Tappuni says:

    “Not only does the concept of ‘permissionless innovation’ explain the success of Kindle and Wattpad, it also explains why so many publishing-focused start-ups fail. While Wattpad has focused on being the network that hosts an entirely new form of content, many publishing start-ups instead want to take publishers’ content and put it on another platform. This makes them dependent on publishers who need to be convinced the start-up has the right business model, will take care of their content and will provide a financial return that’s comparable to a traditional retail sale before they hand over the right to sell their IP. Instead of innovating, they end up negotiating.”
    Having dabbled a bit in “publishing-focused start-ups” myself, I can tell you, with great sincerity, that the reluctance of publishers to license content for innovative methods of delivery is a major barrier to entry, and hence to innovation in the publishing world. A certain amount of caution regarding the undercutting of their primary come-to-market strategy is understandable. But, the degree to which traditional publishers have generally blocked the use of their IP from anyone hoping to legitimately

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  • Brian

    September 9, 2015

    The Argument for Metamedia

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    Publishing & Technology: The Argument for Metamedia

    Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

    This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be talking about the prematurely forecasted death of the codex and the emergence of “metamedia” and the “bibliographic” writer. I recently was afforded the opportunity to peruse an advance copy of Alexander Starre’s forthcoming title Metamedia: American Book Fictions and Literary Print Culture after Digitization due out this fall from the University of Iowa Press.

    In the book Starre examines a new phenomena in contemporary American literature, a rediscovering of the print book as an artistic medium in and of itself. Starre argues that this trend, as exemplified by a fusing of design and text, is a direct reaction to the proliferation of e-book readers and the ongoing conversation surrounding the digitization of reading.

    He looks at Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves and other works, Jonathan Safran Foer’s books, and a variety of offerings from McSweeney’s, attempting to establish these works as metamedia for the way in which they challenge traditional notions of the way in which books (and authors) communicate with readers. He argues that these works are expanding on our ideas of the book, or the text, as a flat communicative device.

    Unfortunately, while Metamedia provides readers with an excellent investigation of what is at play (and in some ways at stake) in these works, it does little to advance its assertion that what is happening is truly a new development in the world of publishing. Except for the fact that these works may represent initial forays into metamedia territory for “serious” literature, they are no more revolutionary (or reactionary to the digital delivery of text) than the pop-up books you may have read as a child.

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  • Brian

    September 3, 2015

    Reading the Cloud

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    Publishing & Technology: Reading the Cloud

    Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

    This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be talking about e-readers, cloud-based computing, mobile apps, and the Fabrik cloud e-book reader.

    When I recently broadened my role with MacGregor Literary, from exclusively dealing in translation and other subsidiary rights to representing new works for publication (for clarity’s sake, I am not open to unsolicited manuscripts at this time), my reading for work increased exponentially. Initially, I was content with reading manuscripts directly on my laptop. But, over time this became an issue as more and more of my time was spent in the office “working.” And less and less “relaxing” with my family. I solved the problem by borrowing a rarely used Kindle from a friend and downloading my work reading as PDFs onto the device. I could then “relax” with the family, while “working.” For some reason the change in device represented a change in my behavior to the observers (who spend half of their time exhibiting second-screen behavior of their own). I have been happy with Kindle, but my friend has been making noises about wanting it back soon for an extended trip out of state, so I find myself with a problem.

    Recently, I finally broke my iPhone4. And, while perusing the available upgrades at my mobile provider, I was enticed with a bundled deal that would allow me to also pick up an Android-based tablet for very little extra money. So, I dove into the internet and began looking up Android-based e-reader apps in the hopes that I might find something that mirrored the features of the Kindle that I enjoyed while being compatible with the tablet that I haven’t necessarily committed to purchasing yet.

    While

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  • Brian

    August 26, 2015

    You’re Getting Sleepy, Very Sleepy

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    Publishing & Technology: You are Getting Sleepy, Very Sleepy

    Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

    This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be talking about the practice of incorporating psychological techniques into children’s books to help children with a variety of emotional, behavioral, and other problems. Yesterday, the Smithsonian published a piece on its website called Six Children’s Books That Use Psychological Techniques to Help Kids. In the article, Smithsonian writer Emily Matcher takes a quick look at The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep and five other books that use suggestions, cues, hypnosis and other techniques to facilitate a variety of reactions in children. Whether it’s going to sleep in the case of the Amazon best-selling self-published title that begins the article, working through PTSD with A Terrible Thing Happened, getting help with anger management with Calm Down Time or Angry Octopus, or dealing with stress by reading Ladybird’s Remarkable Relaxation, all of these titles employ a kind of embedded technology to produce a desired effect. The other thing that all these titles have in common is that they are selling well. The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep is currently Amazon’s number one best seller. I find this infuriating for two reasons: First of all, where was this book when my children were young enough that they needed help falling asleep (as opposed to help getting out of bed at a reasonable hour). And secondly, given that haptic interaction is one of the key qualities missing from the experience of reading digitally delivered text, one wonders if electronic publishing could learn something from the success of these titles regarding the idea of embedding technology in the reading experience to deliver an enhanced result for consumers of

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  • Brian

    August 20, 2015

    Freeping the Hugos

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    Publishing & Technology: Freeping the Hugos

    Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

    This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be discussing the upcoming Hugo Awards, freeping, and literary awards in general. This weekend in the seventy-third annual World Science Fiction Convention comes to Spokane, Washington, bringing with it the annual Hugo Awards ceremony, with all the pomp and circumstance one might expect from an awards ceremony. But this year, the awards are somewhat embroiled in a bit of controversy. It seems that a fringe group of conservative sci-fi writers and fans was able to freep (stack the poll results with a swarm of votes) the nomination process for the Hugos and secure nominations for a group of like-minded writers. For an in-depth article on the controversy, click here.

    The first question that comes to mind is, “why?” Why would anyone, much less a whole group of people, devote their time and energy to so seemingly pointless an exercise? Are the conservative minority so offended by the ongoing swell of social consciousness invading their beloved genre? Or have they been angry since say 1956, when Heinlein’s thinly-veiled social commentary Double Star won the Hugo for Best Novel? Or are they just angry because authors who don’t look like them (white men) are getting good work published in the genre that is selling and winning awards?

    Regardless of the point of the freeping of the Hugos, I’m led to question the value of the awards in general. Are they truly “prestigious”? Do readers “looking for a good science-fiction or fantasy book…look for the distinctive rocket ship logo of the Hugo Award,” as recent NPR coverage claims? I’ve heard that booksellers may be swayed by a titles status as award-winning, and I’ve witnessed firsthand

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  • Brian

    August 13, 2015

    Tiny Bubbles, in the Blood

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    Publishing & Technology: Tiny Bubbles, in the Blood

    Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

    This week in Publishing & Technology I’m not writing about technology. I’ve just come off my first appearance as an agent at the venerable Willamette Writer’s Conference and, though I had an excellent time hanging out with writers and other industry professionals, I’m afraid that I’m just too mentally exhausted to do any meaningful research into what is happening in publishing at the moment. It’s as if I was deep, deep in the ocean, under the relentless pressure of a six eight-minute pitches an hour, every hour, from nine in the morning to five in the evening for three days straight, and after all that, I came up for air too fast and developed a case of what feels like the bends.

    I know, if I were still working for a living (and I mean with a shovel), I’d probably scoff at the idea of being exhausted after three days at a writing conference. But, I’m not lying when I say that it can be completely tiring hanging out with several hundred introverts all doing their best to be extroverted enough to sell their work to agents, editors, and the like. And to have so many of them pay to sit in front of me and try valiantly to explain their plots and characters and platforms was both disheartening and absolutely beautiful at the same time. The least I can do to honor their courage is to offer up one little insight that I have for authors as I walk away from this experience for the first time.

    My one insight: Anyone that tells that there is one perfect way to pitch your novel to agents and acquiring

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