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Old 06-10-2010, 01:13 PM   #1
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James McGrath Morris: Will eBooks Make Midlist Authors Extinct?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-..._b_606572.html

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The digital book age promises to deliver an endless assortment of titles with the click of a mouse but also portends to destroy the economic foundation that supports a large class of writers known as midlist authors, the triple-A minor league players of publishing.
Seems like the lost art of browsing is his chief concern:

Quote:
Consider some of the common ways books by lesser-known authors are sold everyday in a store:

Examining the history section of a store, a customer is drawn to a book by its eye-catching cover;
Picking up a book by a popular author from a table, a customer is intrigued by a novel in an adjacent stack;
Approaching the cash register, a customer decides to get one additional book after reading a sticky note that says "staff favorite," one of the many ways booksellers "hand-sell" a promising title.
As of yet, there is no digital substitute to this serendipitous manner of bringing readers and writers together.
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Old 06-10-2010, 01:45 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kjk View Post
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-..._b_606572.html



Seems like the lost art of browsing is his chief concern:
Quote:
Consider some of the common ways books by lesser-known authors are sold everyday in a store:

Examining the history section of a store, a customer is drawn to a book by its eye-catching cover;
Picking up a book by a popular author from a table, a customer is intrigued by a novel in an adjacent stack;
Approaching the cash register, a customer decides to get one additional book after reading a sticky note that says "staff favorite," one of the many ways booksellers "hand-sell" a promising title.
As of yet, there is no digital substitute to this serendipitous manner of bringing readers and writers together.
Seems to me like the Amazon store covers most of this. I often end up deep in a chain of links from the 'Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought' section, and the recommendations based on what you've previously looked at/bought/wishlisted. It is one of the main things that makes Amazon stand out from the other eBook stores, they are so good at putting other titles under your nose.
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Old 06-10-2010, 01:57 PM   #3
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I disagree. I think digital books will broaden midlist authors' readership. The idea that most people discover new authors by browsing a bookstore is outdated. Most readers discover new authors through word-of-mouth recommendations, social networking, online browsing/blogs, and book discussion groups. Yes, sometimes recommendations come from bookstore clerks, but it's only a tiny part of the overall picture.

Additionally, midlist authors often have independent publishers that can and do price e-books so that they'll sell in volume. There's never been a better time to be a midlist author
L.J.
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Old 06-10-2010, 02:32 PM   #4
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L. .J. Sellers has it right on IMO. Further, I expect more and more midlist authors are going to publish backlists they regain rights to directly as indies, and some of them are going to go directly to self-publishing. The big pubs are increasingly giving midlist authors short shrift. Ebooks are giving them choices.
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Old 06-10-2010, 05:23 PM   #5
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yeah, right...

I already commented at the Huffington thread. My response actually came out before that ran...Publishers Are Not As Dumb As People Think

http://megalithbooks.blogspot.com/20...as-people.html

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Old 06-10-2010, 06:49 PM   #6
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Do people actually select their books that way, though? By random browsing? I guess I'm weird, because I never really do that.

In my case, I am either looking for an author I already want, a subject I'm already looking for, or a publisher I trust. (I use the latter a lot for fiction. If it's a Penguin crime novel, for instance, I have a good chance of liking it, I've noticed.)

The only time a cover will strike me is at the library, and honestly, more often than not, it's been a bad choice.

I just think that's backward-looking thinking, given there are plenty of other ways to get a person to look at a mid-list author.

Now, I do think we might lose some of these kinds of authors, but I think that's more due to the large volume of books out there tends to dilute sales, not the fact that they are e-books.
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Old 06-10-2010, 08:00 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by L.J. Sellers View Post
I disagree. I think digital books will broaden midlist authors' readership. The idea that most people discover new authors by browsing a bookstore is outdated. Most readers discover new authors through word-of-mouth recommendations, social networking, online browsing/blogs, and book discussion groups. Yes, sometimes recommendations come from bookstore clerks, but it's only a tiny part of the overall picture.

Additionally, midlist authors often have independent publishers that can and do price e-books so that they'll sell in volume. There's never been a better time to be a midlist author
L.J.
I agree with you. I know that in my case, the ability to simply browse through the online stores for interesting titles has broadened my interests from hard-core SF and Fantasy to suspense, mystery, mainstream, humor, dark fantasy, paranormal mystery and even some romance titles.

Part of this is because I don't have to juggle stacks of books in my hands or on my 'to be read' table, nor do I have to find more and more space to hold my library.

And I must admit that going dark-net for new titles has increased the likelihood that I'll pick up one of an author's works and discover I like his style which means I'll then seek out his other works on Amazon or the other store sites. AG calls my initial sample 'piracy', I call it 'advertising'.

Derek
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Old 06-10-2010, 08:11 PM   #8
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The Agency Cartel are going to kill their own midlist, if that counts.
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Old 06-10-2010, 10:32 PM   #9
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I agree with the side that believes that digital books will increase the prospects of midlist authors.

The Huffington post opinion is likely correct in that visual cues in a bookstore will play a less significant role with time, especially since more and more bookstores are closing.

But because we are constantly bombarded with visual ad messages, a lot of us avoid responding to them, or at least try to. The immune system kicks in. We become desensitized.

Meanwhile, the internet enables multiple tools for ferreting out good stuff to read. If the midlist author writes interesting books, people will find out. The lack of opportunities to visualize flashing packaging and eye catching displays won't matter.

Last edited by dugong; 06-10-2010 at 10:36 PM. Reason: Grammar
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Old 06-11-2010, 12:16 AM   #10
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It's interesting to read various opinions on this subject. Thanks for posting the link, kjk.

I found one thing in the article amusing:
Quote:
Furthermore, the recommendations generated by Amazon analysis of a customer's purchases rarely include a midlist book.
Little does he know that all he's doing is revealing to everyone that he doesn't buy midlist authors himself. I do and my recommendations are filled with them.
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Old 06-11-2010, 11:48 AM   #11
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Just about every author I know below the bestseller lists are chomping at the bit in excitement (and even some bestsellers who are putting up their old backlist).

The only people this new era will hurt are publishers, agents, and those who are unwilling to adapt to meet the changing tastes of their audience. (Well, it may hurt the "publishing industry ancillary businesses" that make money writing about the industry, consulting, or marketing). Not really a huge loss, because there are millions to replace them.

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Old 06-11-2010, 12:08 PM   #12
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I think we're in a period right now where the most adventurous of the mid-list authors are searching out business models that will jump around the contracts that the traditional publishers are offering. As more of them start to succeed and prove that they can make good money without the aid of Macmillan or Penguin and they get to retain creative control of their work, others will follow. I had a talk with one the other day who told me she is most looking forward to just being able to get book cover that actually complements the story inside rather than just the "bare chested man of the month" her Publisher comes up with.

So in that sense, yes the Publishing business model is in jeopardy. Just like with any other industry, the ones who are more likely to remain around will be the ones who manage not to begin every conversation with "But this is the way we've always done business!"
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Old 06-11-2010, 01:40 PM   #13
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I wouldn't be surprised if we see the big publishers follow Harlequin's lead (Carina Press) and launch digital-first publishing labels at some point (with only titles that do well in digital being considered for possible print publication).
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Old 06-11-2010, 01:44 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trebro View Post
Do people actually select their books that way, though? By random browsing? I guess I'm weird, because I never really do that.
I used to about 25 years ago, and it is the way I select free ebooks now. The only books I buy now are by people I am already familiar with, ie have already read something by them so there will be a reasonable chance of not wasting my money. Those I find either by searching for writer name, or if they are new by title.
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Old 06-11-2010, 01:53 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Scott Nicholson View Post
I already commented at the Huffington thread. My response actually came out before that ran...Publishers Are Not As Dumb As People Think

http://megalithbooks.blogspot.com/20...as-people.html

Scott
Interesting, and pretty sickening too. But any author with a bit of imagination should be able to ensure that their ebook sales drop below the threshold for the required length of time.
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