Friday, November 09, 2012

It's All About Content and Rights




Publishers rightly tend to stick to what they good at when it comes to genre and content. The public may not always recognise the Publishing brand and only recognise the author, but focusing on the genre and building authoritative collections is critical to publishing today. Some mistook this focus as being what book sellers should also do, but forgot that book consumers were eclectic in their buying habits and wanted both value and ‘one stop’ shops.

Earlier this year, Wiley sold its Fromer’s travel guide to Google and had declared its intent to dispose of its remaining trade and reference division. Today they concluded that sale to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). The sale includes Wiley’s cookbooks, dictionaries and study guides. This continues the new approach within HMH to trade and consolidates material under their Betty Crocker, Better Homes and Gardens and How to Cook Everything brands. We are all aware of the cookbook celebrity brands and success of the likes of Jamie Oliver in the UK and Betty Croker in the US. Cookbooks appear to be holding their own in print and despite the significant growth in cookery applications and websites, account for some 2% of book sales in the US market. HMH now also add Webster’s New World Dictionary to it’s CliffsNotes and educational publishing, test preparation and assessment services.

Growing vertical publishing operations is not new and is publishing. As further publisher consolidation takes place, what we once saw a one industry joined together by a single format - the book is starting to diverge and consolidate into stronger vertical operations. The digital marketplace now allows these focused content repositories to be exploited in ways that were somewhat restricted by the book and the economics of the physical market. Consolidation of ‘book’ content will continue for those wanting a one stop shop and book buying value, but new markets will now evolve for the digital content and context which will be outside of the book market as we know it today. Packaging and licencing rights into new offers will become increasingly important as the content itself starts to become more fluid. We must always remember that Steve Jobs in creating iTunes sold tracks not albums, George Martin said the album was the menu and the concert the meal and that individual recipe could be proportionately more valuable than the collection.

Should publishers become the genre point of focus? Can author brands co-operate to form compelling points of consumer focus, or will they always be reliant of third parties to aggregate them? Who are the genre consolidators that the consumer recognises and how can they cash in on their ‘first point of contact’ opportunity?

Yesterday, books were not stocked by retailers whose primary goal was to sell other stuff,  but as retail itself migrates increasingly online, then adding associated digital content that enhances the proposition and authority of the sale, becomes a potentially no risk, small cost added consumer value and lock-in. Being able to licence that digital content in chunks, collections and many renditions may be the key to many publishers moving forward.

It’s all about content and rights.   

1 comment:

Ivan Stoikov - Allan Bard said...

Good info, nice blog! Will be glad to follow you and add some of my experience and warnings for new authors. Though "off the theme", I guess it is connected with the publishing process and is important enough...
It is a well-known fact that men are extremely inventive and horrible at the same time. There are many shrewd ways to steal and cheat some of the criminals use. Some of them are so skillful that could get round any law. There’s no exception it seems for any kind of business, branch and job. Including publishing, of course…
I cannot say I am the ultimate expert in all the good and bad sides of the long and hard process of books’ birth. Yet, my experience could save any new author a lot of anger, money or frustration. If you’ve written a book and are desperately trying to find a publisher, you’ll definitely come across some “ladies” and “gentlemen” who will “like” your manuscript so much that they will immediately offer you their services of “literary agents”. But when you agree to sign a contract, it will “turn out” that your nice work needs a lot of “editing”… Then, an offer will follow to edit your book in exchange of some money (not too much, compared to other similar but real services), so that it could be really “ready” for the market.
These guys will just take/steal your money and do nothing of their real job, searching and finding a publisher and then earning their percentage of the sold books (about 10 % usually). They will not just steal your money (after their “editing” your manuscript won’t be ready for the market), but your time too. As while they are lying to you that they are editing your work and after that are offering it to many publishers, you could search for and find some real offers from real literary agents and publishers…
I know I shouldn’t post anything offensive for anyone (and use no bad/foul language, though in this case I would really like to), yet I have to share my personal experience with such a lady. A few years ago, Jillanne Kimble, the so called “literary agent”, offered me to represent one of my books (Tale Of The Rock Pieces), but insisted that she had to edit it first, in exchange of some money, of course. As I’m not a native American or Englishman, I knew my work was not perfect, so I signed a contract for editing and then representing of my book with this “lady”… It was a big mistake… Then, I had to wait for nine months to finally receive an “edited” copy of my manuscript and to be really surprised to see that Mrs. Kimble had just put some commas and altered a couple (literally) of words. When I asked her (so many times) what was happening with representing of my work to publishers, she sent a response that so far no one was interested in my book. Then, when I asked her to let me know to which exactly publishers she was offering my manuscript, she just sent and answer: “They are a lot…” Well, finally I realized I was cheated in the most shameless way. I found some good sites with good, useful tips for authors, like writersbeware.org/com and talked to some friends all over the world who were more experienced than me in such matters and send an e-mail to my “literary agent” to let her know that we must put an end to our deal as she was not doing anything of her obligations…
Be aware of such persons, dear authors! If you need editing, use the services of editors, not “literary agents” who try to cheat you and just steal your money, though everything will seem legal. Or try to learn to write better, following grammatical rules, proper punctuation, etc, so that you won’t need any editing, though it seems a really hard task…