Jan 292012

Show me the future, the data, and the money!

 This column may lack a crystal ball, access to Amazon’s algorithms, and a six-figure deal, but it has prognostications and opinions from industry insiders, outside observers, and those with a foot in each camp.

 You’ll also find advice on pitching, an interview with an RWA-WF member, and a dose of tough love from Kristen Lamb.  Hope something or many things pique your interest.

 Future, Data, Money

Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s profile of Larry Kirshbaum, vice-president and publisher of Amazon Publishing, portrays him as a New York publishing industry insider who lost the good will of his peers when he joined Amazon to head an imprint aimed at attracting bestselling authors. The profile makes it clear Kirshbaum was interested in innovation and in e-books long before Amazon turned publisher and hints at the future Amazon envisions for publishing. 

In related Kirshbaum/Amazon news, Galley Cat reports that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s new New Harvest imprint will publish all Amazon Publishing’s New York-based imprint’s adult titles in print and distribute them in North America.

Writers love stories and collect anecdotes, but hard data also tells a story, and publishing industry consultant Mike Shatzkin wants more of it. Here’s a tidbit from Shatzkin’s post: Forrester Research’s survey of publishing executives predicts the trade business will become 50% digital in 2014, rather than 2015 as previously thought.

Writer Bob Mayer isn’t too polite to discuss money and best-seller lists. “The key to success in digital publishing is not the immediate success and the bestseller list.  It’s the long tail, a broad base of titles, and consistent sales over the years.  Where bestseller lists really count is on Amazon if you get on that first page for your genre.  That’s called discoverability.”

At The Business Rusch, writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch also talks money and lists. In particular, she’s bothered by the proliferation of bestseller lists and the potential for influencing them. “At a certain point, all of this list goosing and bestseller discussion becomes moot. It’s like grade inflation in school. If no one gets lower than a C, what’s an A worth? If everyone can be a bestseller, even if it’s just in one bookstore in the sub-sub-sub-subgenre list: romance/contemporary/nosex/noswearwords/nokissing/catsanddogslivingtogether, then what does the phrase “bestselling book” mean?”

Not only does women’s fiction writer Heather Wardell talk money, she shares sales numbers earned during her first month in the Amazon Select KDP program via the Writer Beware blog.

Food for Thought

Editor Alan Rinzler suggests authors perfect the old soft sell and vary pitches to suit different audiences.

Stuck in place? Spinning your wheels? Writer Chuck Wendig offers a kick in the pants and a to-do list.

RWA-WF’s own Rosemary Battista goes off to speak to a group of would-be writers and returns with renewed enthusiasm for her WIP.

Writer’s Digest’s Chuck Sambuchino issues a new agent alert for Erin Harris of Skolnick Literary. Harris is looking for “literary novels with compelling plots and international settings; literary thrillers and mysteries (She’d love to find the next Tana French!); noirs (especially starring headstrong female protagonists); and YA and middle grade novels that transport her to magical places.” Sambuchino also calls our attention to new agent Carrie Pestritto of Prospect Agency who hopes to find literary fiction, historical fiction, and mature YA.

In a post entitled “Never a Bride,” Sarah LaPolla, a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd. weighs in on a topic that recently proved popular on the RWA-WF loop: writer Jennifer Weiner’s refusal to accept gender bias among book reviewers. LaPolla admires Weiner’s opposition to male authors getting more coverage but offers the movie Bridesmaids as an example of female writers getting praise–for writing like men. “This week has shown that when it comes to women in media, whether book or film or otherwise, struggles to be considered equal are still very present. When are people going to learn that we want to praised for our talent, but not when that talent is “being equal to a man?”

Former bookseller Robert Gray considers books his friends, and he’s not alone.  In a Fresh Eyes Now essay, Gray quotes author Pico Ilyer, “The paradox of reading is that you draw closer to some other creature’s voice within you than to the people who surround you (with their surfaces) every day.”

If you’re reluctant to face a blank page or find yourself staring at one for a couple of hours, there’s something going on beyond a MIA muse. Writer and social-media expert Kristen Lamb advises writers to use our best tools—words–to name the emotion that freezes us and confess our real problem (Fear, anyone?) in order to free ourselves for the future we want.

May we use our words this week–and may our writing find friends.

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