‘Easy’ Publishing Is Hard

Emma Barnes Bibliocloud Digital Book World publishing solutions ebook workflowsThere’s no shortage of digital products and solutions on the market aimed at streamlining publishers’ processes and making their businesses more efficient.

But as Bibliocloud’s Emma Barnes points out, the most innovative new systems are only as good as their most rickety integration points with existing ones.

“If you’re not very careful,” Barnes cautions, “your supermarket sweep of shiny new services will turn into a major administrative overload as you try to stitch together a growing array of disparate systems”—not least because “doing so is almost always costly.”

There are a few key questions publishers should ask any vendor offering to make their lives easier and their operations leaner.

Here are six of them.

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Penguin Random House in Amazon UK Contract Talks (Re/code)
With the terms governing Amazon’s distribution of Penguin Random House titles in the UK reportedly expiring by the end of the month, the world’s largest trade publisher is said to be heading into the home stretch of negotiations for a renewed contract there. But while distribution terms for the UK may have an earlier deadline, it’s all but certain Penguin Random House has been in talks with Amazon for many months, as it’s the only Big Five publisher that has yet to announce a new contract with the e-tailer.

Amazon Expands Campus Retail Program (PW)
Amazon recently added a second physical ordering and pick-up location on Purdue University’s campus, with plans for new stores to open at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst and an expansion of an earlier University of California–Davis retail pilot program to follow.

Amazon to Take on Etsy (WSJ)
Amazon reaches out to Etsy merchants with an invitation to join its own new, rival marketplace called “Amazon Handmade.” Access to Amazon’s customer base, which dwarfs Etsy’s, could prove appealing to Etsy sellers, but it remains to be seen whether those who choose to join Handmade will be made to comply with quick shipping times guaranteed to Prime subscribers.

Pearson Sells Education Websites (Pub Lunch)
A UK-based private equity firm buys Pearson’s Family Education Network, a portfolio of children’s web properties that includes Poptropica, co-founded by Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney.

Digital Fuels Experiments in Kids’ Content (Futurebook)
Tom Bonnick, of the children’s app publisher Nosy Crow, explains how “children’s publishers have taken an industry-wide anxiety around digital and alchemised it into a celebration of print,” an ingenious process that, in his view, also cuts the other way, driving digital innovation: “Our apps rely on non-linear and multi-branching narratives, and high levels of audio, animation and interactivity to tell stories.”
Related: Sizing up New Experiments in Children’s Apps

The Anti-Marketing Marketing Playbook (Pub Perspectives)
One successful self-published author says the strong brand she’s built online isn’t the product of a carefully crafted marketing strategy. It’s just a reflection of the way she prefers to engage with readers, in a commercial setting or otherwise. That deceptively straightforward approach just so happens to square both with what professional marketers have advised and with what we know about what younger readers in particular expect from their social networks.

A Dose of Digital Cynicism for Booksellers (Salon)
Reflecting on the recent news that best-selling author Jeff Kinney plans to open an independent bookstore in suburban Massachusetts, one observer speculates that it requires becoming an unusually successful writer in order to moonlight as a brick-and-mortar retailer. “If indies are rising a bit,” he comments, “it’s because we are slowly escaping the depths of the worst economic collapse since the ’30s, and because many of the new indies fill gaps created when a Borders or Barnes & Noble disappeared.”

Authors Themselves Are Devaluing Writing… (The Bookseller)
Roxana Robinson, president of The Authors Guild, cautions that authors who contribute free editorial content to corporately owned websites like Goodreads and The Huffington Post may think they’re performing a critical marketing function, but they also risk promulgating the notion that their very stock-in-trade doesn’t need to be paid for.

…No, They Aren’t (Ink, Bits & Pixels)
Reviewing Robinson’s argument, one industry watcher points out that the publishing business itself rests on a similar form of spec work: Authors submit completed manuscripts to agents and publishers in the hope of later seeing earnings from them. While there’s a lot more to it than that, it’s true that the connections between the investments authors make in their work and the rewards they’re likely to see from it can grow especially blurry in the digital marketplace.
Related: How Authors Balance Risk and Reward


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