Interviewed by Michael Healy, Book Rights Registry

Retailing scene: Borders situation.  Have to be careful talking about them because  a lot of people’s jobs are on the line.  The challenge is to persuade suppliers to extend them credit.  From my point of view it is  difficult to imagine because have seen nothing in a business plan that will convince us.  Have already lost tens of millions of dollars, but will only deal with them on a cash basis.  Don’t think have an enfeebled independent book-selling community.  Last year ABA grew for the first time in a decade.  More young people coming into the business.  Many brilliant small booksellers.  Point of bookshop is to go in to buy a book you didn’t know you wanted.  The independent booksellers he has met are very enthusiastic.  As to dominance from any other bookseller: 50% of net revenues made from outlets that are not invested in us – Walmart, Costco.  That was big moment.  They think about of books in a different way than B&N thinks about books.  Have a very wide array of customers with whom to deal –  TJ Max and Anthropolgie for example.  Many new opportunities so is not dismayed by the future.

Bookish.com: a website devoted to the marketing of books by Hachette, S&S and Penguin. Have a team of 15 people and hope to beta launch towards the end of July.  Idea came form S&S who felt that all the work they put into their website was getting lost on using it for just S&S.  Our authors are our brands and not the name of the company.  Our website will primarily be business to business.  Kept Bookish at three on recommendation of anti-trust lawyers.  Reactions so far have been very positive, especially from authors and agents.  Was not set up to be competitive with Amazon.  Is there so that people can find books.  Developing a recommendation engine.  Editorial integrity will be up to the Bookish team, not to the partners.

Business to consumer model: don’t agree that this is the greatest challenge because don’t have a dystopian view of independent booksellers.  Real opportunities, though, to interact with and learn from consumers.  First thing that will make an online author feel successful is when he is published in print.

Confusion of roles: the value of publishers.  Done a very poor job os communicating what we do.  Have to be more “on the front foot” on explaining their role.  Simply put, our role is to broadcast our books in as many places that we can and in as many formats that we can.  One of our roles is that we subsidize the ability of writers to write.

that selling books digitally has turned data dark again – ebook sales data is not available because ebooks are not reported in the same way as pbooks.  As a generality this business will look very similar in 3 to 5 years. Nook Color is changing things in children’s books – represented a third of their online sales in the last year.  Anti-piracy is huge and it is absolutely essential that the industry collaborates in this.  Obama’s anti-piracy czar is paying close attention to this.

Reads manuscripts now with the iPad – have at lease 30 manuscripts on it, but is nothing better than the heft and smell of a book, but I’m sixty.  Whatever turns you on.

Questions: pricing on ebooks – agency model running for a year.  Have been experimenting with pricing and bundles.  Still a lot to learn.  Learned can sell ebooks in vast quantities at over $9.99.  Sold many more books at that price than below it.  Don’t like free because is counter-intuitive to publishing, but not against low prices.  At top end of busines see very little change at all when drop 2, 3 or 4 dollars.

ebook library lending: really big question and don’t know the answer.  Putting a lot of thought into the matter and talking with the ALA and partners.  If let that genie out of the bottle and get it wrong can bring a lot of trouble – but believe that library lending should be done, just don’t know how.

With ebooks have infinite inventory.  When have a huge success can get a much greater range of distribution with ebooks. Not worried by cannibalization.  Biggest single worries about ebooks is than can’t see what people are reading and all those subliminal messages are lost.

Absolutely believe authors are the brands and it is not important for the readers to know the Hachette, or other imprints’, name.  Hachette brand is important to booksellers, not to the public.  To make Hachette a brand to the consumer would take millions of dollars and 50 years.

 

4 COMMENTS

  1. “Millions of dollars and 50 years”? Jim Baen would beg to differ on the latter (and probably the former, at least in terms of advertising; don’t know how much he’s paid authors!).

  2. “First thing that will make an online author feel successful is when he is published in print.” There are quite a few indie authors that would disagree with that statement.

    “that selling books digitally has turned data dark again – ebook sales data is not available because ebooks are not reported in the same way as pbooks.”

    Baloney. Amazon makes all of their data available to authors and publishers, without months of waiting. Transparency, rather than the keep-the-author-in-the-dark print model.

    “Anti-piracy is huge and it is absolutely essential that the industry collaborates in this.”

    Baloney again. Have they not learned yet from the music industry? Not to mention the number of authors who have found that pirated copies of their books generally lead to higher sales. Also, pirates are not lost customers, they would have never bought the book in the first place. The bigger issue here, that he didn’t mention, are geographic rights restrictions. Those are the people who would have been legitimate customers, had the book been available legally. This is the biggest complain I’ve seen in the Kindle forums. Removing barriers to purchase is the best thing for preventing lost sales through piracy. Most people aren’t technical enough or don’t want to take the time to find a pirated copy. They’d rather One-Click.

    Completely tone-deaf on pricing. Aren’t they lurking in the forums? They lost me completely as a customer with the advent of the agency model, and I’m a 100 books a year reader.

    He completely misses the point of free books. They are to introduce readers to a new author or series and usually pay off in spades. There’s little or no risk in trying something new if it’s free or $.99.

    Although I know about most publishers because I worked in serials and acquisitions in a major research library for 10 years, I didn’t notice them in my personal reading until the advent of the agency model. Now it’s one of my selection criteria. When Random House implemented the agency model this year, the prices of half of my wishlist went up. That’s around 350 books I won’t ever be buying.

    If I truly want to read one of their books, and I feel they’re ripping me off by charging $17.99 for a backlist title that’s almost 20 years old, I won’t replace my physical copy with the ebook. If I don’t have it in a physical copy, I’ll get it used for pennies. No money for the author or the publisher.