OMG! What if B&N Closes?

OMG! What if B&N Closes? “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” So said Mark Twain in 1897, and I’m wondering if Barnes & Noble might be saying the same thing right about now.   Over the last week, an article by Michael Levin has been making the rounds, causing fear and trembling among certain groups of authors and publishing folks.  Syndicated on news websites all over the U.S., Levin’s article predicts that Barnes & Noble may close all the rest of their stores by the end of the year. It proposes five reasons for B&N’s demise, and goes on to lament the awful tragedy this would be. (You can read a version of the article HERE.)   I just want to add my two cents to the pot:   Everybody, get a grip.   1. We’ve known for a long time that...
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Still Conflicted about Amazon

Still Conflicted about Amazon I’ve just finished reading Brad Stone’s The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. I’m still processing what I learned, and checking other sources for differing perspectives, but my initial reaction is that this is an eye-opening, clarifying, sobering yet illuminating resource for anyone interested in publishing or business in general.   I approached this book the same way I’ve always approached Amazon: (1) as an Amazon customer, and (2) as a person employed by traditional publishing. The two perspectives leave me feeling a little whiplashed at times, since they induce two opposing views of Amazon.   As a customer, I’ve always been extremely happy. I’m a Kindle reader, a Prime member, and I use Amazon almost every day.   As a...
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5 Reasons to Embrace the 21st Century

http://www.rachellegardner.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/8995757_s-150x150.jpg I’ve been thinking a lot about how things are changing so fast these days… technology is obsolete the moment it comes to market, there’s a new “must participate” social network every week, and publishing, well, after a good 100-year run, publishing is finally being forced to enter the 21st century. It all feels a little overwhelming sometimes, and I know many people are just plain tired. I never thought I’d be this young and yet feel so antiquated, but make no mistake, if you’re over, say, 30, you’re an old fogie. You grew up when there was no Facebook, texting wasn’t the primary mode of communication, and people read “books” made of paper, glue and ink. It’s sometimes tempting to be a “Luddite.”  How...
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What Does the Future Hold?

What Does the Future Hold? I was talking with a friend who works in the financial industry, and a question came up about what we would each be doing 30 years from now. My friend was anticipating a prosperous retirement at that point, having built up a significant and valuable business. While the financial life of our nation has its ups and downs, the stock market is presumably not going anywhere, and can be counted on to provide an entire lifetime of employment. Not so the publishing industry! Because the entire arena of publishing-agenting-authoring is undergoing such change, I’m not sure what to expect in five or ten years’ time, let alone more than that. I felt flummoxed. Where, indeed, will I be in 30 years? Like most people who work around books, I’m pretty sure of a few things: 1. Readers...
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Not So Fast: Ideas to Rethink

Not So Fast: Ideas to Rethink With publishing in the middle of a revolution, ideas and opinions are constantly being tossed around on the Internet — tried on, parsed, heralded, criticized, and endlessly discussed. I’ve noticed that there are a few ideas that have taken hold and started to be thought of as “truth,” but I’m not so quick to go there. Here are a few examples: The idea that maybe in the book world, “quality” matters less these days. It’s true that books at every different level of “quality” (however you want to define it) are selling. But just because Fifty Shades of Grey, a trilogy that nobody is lauding for its literary distinction, is a record-breaking bestseller, it doesn’t lead to the conclusion that readers no longer care about quality....
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Knowing What We Don’t Know

Knowing What We Don’t Know When facing massive uncertainty, as exists in today’s highly interconnected global economy, it is essential to appreciate both what one does know as well as what one does not know.  ~Vikram Mansharamani In some ways, the entire publishing industry is still operating “business as usual.” Most of us have years or decades of experience behind us. We know things. Based on our experiences from the past, we’re reasonably accurate at making predictions for the future and making decisions accordingly. And yet, things are changing. There is truly so much we don’t know. I think it’s crucial that when discussing career paths, when making decisions for the future, we acknowledge what we don’t know. I know publishers are still making traditional...
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Your E-Reader is a Spy

Your E-Reader is a Spy I hope you saw this important article in the Wall Street Journal last week: Your E-Book is Reading You. It detailed the ways that e-readers are tracking reader’s habits and as a result, bringing actual market research to publishing—something that has been severely lacking in our industry. The data is still in the beginning phases of being gathered and analyzed, and it will be some time before it becomes clear exactly how (or if) publishers will use the information. Obviously they’re going to want to create a better experience for readers and consequently, sell more books. Some quotes from the article: Barnes & Noble has determined, through analyzing Nook data, that nonfiction books tend to be read in fits and starts, while novels are generally read straight through, and...
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What’s Changed and What Hasn’t

What’s Changed and What Hasn’t I began this blog in January of 2008 when I became an agent, and it’s remarkable to look back over my past posts with an eye toward how much has changed in that brief 4 ½ years. When I started, I didn’t even have a Kindle. Now I’m on my third one, and I couldn’t imagine being in this business without one. I wrote posts back then about how there was a stigma to self-publishing and I warned writers against it— if they wanted to be taken seriously. Now self-publishing is THE great new frontier for writers. I wrote about how e-books were a minuscule percentage of any author’s total books sold. I was not even on Twitter until a year after I started the blog (January, 2009). Facebook and Twitter were still optional and sort of curiosities. What else has...
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Are Agents Running Scared?

Are Agents Running Scared? I’ve been answering questions from readers, and today I’m responding to Mark, who (along with plenty of others) asked if I’m afraid of the future in which agents will be extinct. He suggested we are all terrified of losing our jobs, and when we write about traditional publishing, and even (gasp) defend it, it shows how desperately we’re clinging to an outdated model. Hey Mark, way to put me on the defensive! Ahem. Just kidding. Along with everyone else, I’m carefully watching the new developments in publishing, and I try to think through how each change will affect readers, writers, and everyone who works in publishing and bookselling. I’m not afraid of the future of publishing. For now, despite the loud voices online constantly screaming about the...
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Today’s Publishing Landscape: What Do You See?

Today’s Publishing Landscape: What Do You See? Every once in a while I have to stop my work, look up from my computer, and take a good long look around me. What does the publishing landscape look like from one agent’s perspective? Here are a few things I see: ♦  I see a higher level of stress surrounding publishing than I’ve ever seen in 17 years in this business. ♦  I see authors pulled in too many different directions, no longer having the “luxury” of focusing on just writing the best book they can, but needing to be experts at marketing and social media too. ♦  I see many authors doing an amazing job at both writing and marketing, and I’m in awe of this. ♦  I see amazing opportunities for authors that they’ve never had before: opportunities to reach more readers through digital...
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It’s the End of the World As We Know It

It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I feel fine.) Yesterday a lot of people were talking about this article in Wired: Publishers Hustle to Make E-Books More Immersive. You should read it if you get a chance. It’s all about how publishers and authors are looking to adapt to digital technologies (currently iPad, Kindle Fire and Nook) by creating books with “audio, video and interactive components.” They’re talking “enhanced e-books” and beyond, including apps and “complete multi-media experiences.” There’s a lot of talk about how this is going to be the way to bring in the younger audiences, get them interested in books (or multi-media experiences) complete with interactive components and movie trailers. As a lifelong reader, I have a couple of thoughts about this....
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Do Authors Have a Right to be Paid?

Do Authors Have a Right to be Paid? This controversial blog post by Matthew Ingram made quite a stir last week: Godin to authors: You have no right to make money any more After a quick look, I responded via Twitter: “For obvious reasons, this article kind of makes my blood boil.” It wasn’t until the weekend that I had some time to slow down and read the whole article, and then I read the original interview on Digital Book World: Seth Godin on Libraries, Literary Agents and the Future of Book Publishing as We Know It.  (It’s not very long—you should read it.) And my blood’s no longer boiling. Here’s the important piece to help you understand what Godin is saying: Rivera: Many authors hear your message about being willing to give away their books for free, or to focus on spreading their...
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5 Reasons to Embrace the Brave New World

5 Reasons to Embrace the Brave New World I’ve been thinking a lot about how things are changing so fast these days… technology is obsolete the moment it comes to market, there’s a new “must participate” social network every week, and publishing, well, after a good 100-year run, publishing is finally being forced to enter the 21st century. It all feels a little overwhelming sometimes, and I know many people are just plain tired. We raise our glasses to the Dowager Countess who said, “I do dream of a simpler world, as long as we can keep our trains and our dentistry.” I never thought I’d be this young and yet feel so antiquated, but make no mistake, if you’re over, say, 30, you’re an old fogie. You grew up when there was no Facebook, texting wasn’t the primary mode...
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Should Publishing Be Compared to the Music Industry?

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Hmm-l8HIDe4/TaUY39gZNQI/AAAAAAAAEc8/KV3v8-5J4kE/s320/Milano_U2-Live.jpg (Maybe Not) Continuing on the theme of how publishing is evolving, you probably know that many people are comparing our current situation to the music industry’s revolutionary changes over the last dozen years. If we’re smart, the wisdom goes, we’ll carefully study how things have gone in that medium and see what we can learn from it. I’ve read many, many articles that astutely point to things that have worked and things that didn’t for the big record labels; analysis of mistakes that were made; and how that industry has adapted to changing technology which has in turn changed consumers’ buying patterns. There is much that can be learned and applied to the book business, but I’ve been concerned lately that some people seem to...
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