Kate and I are at the kick-off of the O’Reilly Tools of Change Conference in NYC. People from all over the world are here for this year’s conference; the MC just told us that attendance tripled over last year’s inaugural conference in San Jose (Todd and Dylan were there).
Today there are two articles in major newspapers about the future of publishing:
New York Times: HarperCollins Will Post Free Books on the Web
Wall Street Journal: Publisher Tests Selling by the Chapter
We’ll try to update more over the next few days. Unless we’re busy playing with all of the new gadgets in digital publishing.
February 11, 2008
February 8, 2008
It is an interesting experiment for him and his publisher Harvard Business School Press to see if you can give it away and improve sales of a two and a half year old book. Love seeing this kind of experimentation.
Frans wrote a series of posts filling in for us in September 2004 introducing everyone to the book, what sucks about business books, and what he was reading:
9/13/04 -The Medici Effect
9/13/04 -As Summer Fades Away…
9/14/04 -Inside The Medici Effect
9/15/04 -The Style of Writing
9/15/04 -#1: Business Books are often too long
9/16/04 -#2: Example are too well-known
9/17/04 -Unfair Advantage and The Apprentice
9/17/04 -#3: They are often dry
9/17/04 – #4: The Main Point Keeps Getting Repeated
9/19/04 – Some New Books
January 8, 2008
Booksellers and industry insiders alike were astounded a few years ago when Elizabeth Kostova’s book The Historian went to auction and sold for $2 million to Time Warner, and the movie rights went to Sony for $1.5 million. What made Kostova’s accomplishment so remarkable was that The Historian was her first book, a 600-page, historical fiction tome. (And very good, if you’ve got the arm muscle tone.) It’s not uncommon to see a celebrity or established, mainstream author get a book published in a snap, but it is a surprise when a newcomer can sweep up the industry.
Still, seven-figure advances like Kostova’s aren’t common, for celebrity or debut authors, fiction or nonfiction. That’s why it is big news in the New York Times this week that Suzy Welch, the former HBR editor and the wife of Jack Welch, has agreed to sell the rights to her new book, “10-10-10,” to Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, for a seven-figure advance. The premise of the book is this:
“Based on an article Ms. Welch wrote for O, the Oprah Magazine, in 2006, the book offers strategies for making decisions in which people think about what the consequences of a decision will be in 10 minutes, 10 months and 10 years.”
The Historian was a run-away best seller; it’ll be exciting to see how Welch’s “10-10-10″ does.
January 3, 2008
The New York Times must be reading our minds because just yesterday Todd and I were discussing the future of travel books, and today there’s a great article about what travel guide publishers are doing to anticipate and incorporate changes in the industry.
A few approaches mentioned in the article:
- Specialized guides are available online – you can get an entire guide to pubs and inns in the UK, without the other information available in more comprehensive guides. And, you can get a version that connects to the GPS in your rental car.
- Dorling Kindersley (DK) has made all of the content in its Eyewitness Travel guides available online at traveldk.com
- Lonely Planet plans to have all of its guides online in two years, but currently offers individual chapters available for download at a few dollars each.
- Several publishers allow web site visitors to create and print out or order customized guides. Others are getting their stuff into the backs of airplane seats.
Todd and I were discussing the dilemmas of choosing the right book(s) for your travel needs. For instance, you could create a customized guide to New York City with the maps of certain neighborhoods, history on the art in the museum you’re visiting that day, and a subway map with certain stops highlighted. But, Todd pointed out, what do you do when it’s 4:00, you’re in an unfamiliar neighborhood, famished, and you want to eat at a great New York restaurant? Or, as I pointed out, what happens when you’re on the Brooklyn Bridge and you want to know how many years it took to build?
Many travel guides boil down the history and cultural information that comes in handy when you’re out and come across something new, something you didn’t plan for when putting together your guide. Or you only visit sites in the chapters you’ve printed, and miss out on something cool right around the corner. Some of the spontaneity is lost.
On the other hand, when you’re lugging around an iPod, a digital camera, a cell phone, bottled water, and a couple of kids, do you really want to carry a book? And, chances are, you’ll need a couple of books, just in case one works well for, say, transportation, and the other works well for selecting restaurants and accommodations. And then there are the books you pore over before the trip and leave at home when you go…
Several publishers are looking at these strategies as a game plan for if (or when) the print publishing industry collapses.
“‘We want to be in a position where, if the business suddenly collapses in five years, we have a plan — unlike the music industry,’ said Martin Dunford, publishing director of Rough Guides, which is part of the Penguin division of the media company Pearson, based in London.”
But that big IF isn’t looming on the horizon at this time:
“So far, the digital media revolution has been much less turbulent for guidebook publishers than for record companies, which are fighting rampant online copying. Sales of travel guides, while flat in some traditionally stalwart markets like Britain, have been growing strongly in developing countries and in the United States — despite a weak dollar, which has made overseas trips more expensive for Americans.
Travel publishers sold 14.8 million books in the United States last year, up 11 percent from two years ago, according to Nielsen BookScan. Still, guidebook companies may have missed an opportunity on the Internet…”
Check out the article. I know I’ll be visiting DK Travel and Lonely Planet’s web sites to see what I can do for a little trip I’m planning.
December 11, 2007
November 27, 2007
It’s always interesting to go back and see what the publishing community predicted would do well in a given season. Last May, Publishers Weekly had a great piece about trends in business book publishing. Todd blogged about it in June. From the article:
Business book publishing is no different than what it purports to cover: it is all about either anticipating or (ideally) creating trends. As technology, market forces and consumer preferences change locally and globally, business must react and innovate to stay competitive. The management of people, of course, is key to keeping up, and that’s where business management titles come in. Our preview of some selected fall titles demonstrates that there is no handy consensus as to what the near future requires in terms of managing a business.
While you might argue fairly that business book publishing is about more than trends, we certainly do keep our eyes peeled for books that address the issues facing businesses today.
The article featured eight publishers who talked about trends they noticed in publishing, and the books that promised to be big this fall. Just browsing the list, I see that at least McGraw-Hill, Crown, Kaplan, and Portfolio (with Seth Godin’s book) were right on. I have a feeling AMACOM’s book, One Foot Out the Door, could be a sleeper success this winter.
Have you read any of these titles? What do you think?
October 29, 2007
With 66 bookstores in airports all over North America, you may know Hudson Booksellers from your travels. They have now decided that it is time to help busy travelers select the books they sell, announcing their picks of the best books of 2007. It’s a pretty long list, with selections in the fields of fiction, non-fiction, children’s, and–aha!–business! The business titles selected are:
You’ll notice two of the books, Wikinomics and The Black Swan, were also on the FT/Goldman Sachs Award shortlist, and The No Asshole Rule won The Quill Award in the business category. I think it’s a great idea to put this list out, and the categories here should cater well to different kinds of travelers. They even offer two additional categories to extend the list for more voracious readers. One is called “Books We Love”, and the other is “Newsworthy/Noteworthy”. If you’d like to see the titles in the other categories, you can find it on their website. You should also begin seeing the list posted in their stores beginning December 1st.
October 22, 2007
The Best-Seller List is one of the most fascinating and confusing aspects of the book publishing industry. Almost every time we work with a business book author, a conversation comes up about what being on the list means, and how a book can “hit” it. Having a best-seller can really make an author’s success and drive future sales of the book, and future sales of future books…while at the same time many truly wonderful books will never hit the list.
Sunday’s New York Times had a great article about the its Best-Seller List: “Books for the Ages, if Not for the Best-Seller List” by Clark Hoyt. One question we’re often asked is, How many books do I have to sell to make the list? It’s a tough question to answer because the list is such a complicated beast. Booksellers report their sales in different ways, long-standing best-sellers might be taken off the list to give new books a chance to shine, and even books with very high sales numbers might not make the list because of timing–especially when several big books hit the shelves at the same time. Hoyt explains some of these discrepancies:
There are usually differences between the Times list and others, often, apparently, because of timing or because different lists put books in different categories. USA Today, for example, combines all books — fiction, nonfiction, paperback and hardcover — into a single list. No book is ever banished as an “evergreen,” meaning “Night” can be found at No. 129 this week, nine spots below “The Official SAT Study Guide.” But “for what The New York Times is doing,” Sorensen said, “it’s very accurate.”
Why banish a book just because it has been around a long time? The Times wants a list “that’s lively and churns and affords new authors the opportunity to be recorded,” Hofmann said.
I encourage you to check out the article if you’re at all interested in how certain books end up on that list in Sunday’s book section of the newspaper. While the article doesn’t go deep into the science of the bestseller list, it does show it has been set up to generate an interesting list that is a reflection of real sales and consumers’ current interests.
October 18, 2007
This month’s issue of Wired had an activity that we, and business book authors and industry folks, got a kick out of. It was concocting a best selling book using Wired‘s “Patent-Pending Big Idea Book Generator.”
With this patent-pending Big Idea Book GeneratorTM, we provide the title, subtitle, and premise. All you need to do is pick a random object to serve as a cryptic representation of your Big Idea on the cover (we chose a peanut) and, well, write it. Hey, that’s what ghostwriters are for!
Ever wonder how people come up with titles like “Freakonomics,” “The Long Tail,” or “The World is Flat” ? They probably didn’t use this calculator, but there is something to say about the science of the best seller title.
Your title needs to both summarize your Big Idea and introduce a new term. It sounds tough, but we’ve made it easy.
You can put together your main title and subtitle, and then choose a premise for the book. Using their suggestions, here’s an absurd combination I came up with:
Title: Innovation and the Meme: A Transformative Measurement of Dynamic Change in Everything. Premise: How Hidden Wisdom Transforms the Power of Unconscious Thought.
Great! Now all I have to do is write the book. [smiles]
What did you come up with?
September 28, 2007
In conjunction with their Business Book of The Year Award, The Financial Times is asking the question: “What is the best book of all time?” They solicited suggestions from a wide variety of business executives, including GE’s Jeff Immelt and Ebay’s Meg Whitman. The editorial staff then created a short list using the same criterea as their yearly awards. The finalists are:
- Barbarians at the Gate, by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar (1990)
- The Effective Executive, by Peter Drucker (1966)
- Good to Great, by Jim Collins (2001)
- The Innovator’s Dilemma, by Clay Christensen (1997)
- The Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith (1776)
You can cast your vote and leave comments if you think they missed the mark with their selections.