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Old 08-06-2015, 05:13 PM   #1
fjtorres
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Corporate Publishing under stress

One day, three reports.
None offers good news for the BPHs.

First, the latest from the AAP:

http://the-digital-reader.com/2015/0...third-of-2015/

Quote:

The Association of American Publishers draws its data from 1,200 publishers. They no longer offer much in the way of specifics most months, but this month they did share a few interesting factoids:
  • Publishers’ book sales for January thru April were down 5.6% ($3.0 billion compared to $3.2 billion)
  • Trade book sales were down 2.1% year-to-date (and down 2.9% for the month)
  • Adult Books were up 3.5%, while Kids/YA and Religious presses were down 15.1% and 9.2%, respectively
  • Downloadable audiobooks grew by 33.3% through April
  • Hardback book sales were down 4%, and
  • eBooks were down 9.3%
Then, in the "snow falling in the Matto Grosso" dept:

http://www.idealog.com/blog/the-publ...ot-yet-barked/

The tradpub cheerleader who spent a year pooh-pooh'ing the Author Earnings reports has a new take:

Quote:

What we’re also seeing and hearing is that publishers might have boxed themselves in with their return to agency pricing. When publishers first “raised prices” by instituting agency pricing for ebooks in 2010, they saw no reduction in ebook sales, which continued to grow. Michael Cader’s analysis (can’t find it in print, but he told it to me) was that publishers may have misread the real impact of price increases because they raised them in a growing market. The number of ebook readers was increasing every day, so those who were put off by the high prices were outnumbered by the new entrants who just wanted to read their books digitally on their shiny new devices.

Whatever is the reason, the anecdotal reports I’m getting suggest that the price increases aren’t being so easily swallowed in the current round of Agency pricing. Amazon may not care about ending discounting from those prices because they don’t need to or want to, but it would appear that the new deals won’t let them. They certainly don’t have the flexibility to do so that they did before Agency came to the marketplace. So the sometimes startlingly high publisher-set prices are prevailing. And, aside from the Hachette numbers that were reported, we’re hearing widespread but totally unofficial reports that big publisher ebook sales are dropping noticeably when their new higher agency prices are activated.

Hugh Howey told me this was happening in a private exchange three months ago. I didn’t believe him. I do now.
In the Pyrrhic Victories department, it seems that restoring Agency pricing to ebooks in order to boost print sales has unintended consequences. For one, Amazon likes it:

http://kriswrites.com/2015/08/05/bus...s-and-victims/

Quote:

And what’s fascinating to me is that these books, and the dozens of other traditionally published upcoming releases that I looked at are coming out of different publishing companies. Not different imprints of the Big 5, but each of the Big 5.

Once again, pricing seems…agreed upon.

Five years ago, just after ebooks took off, the largest traditional publishers set their ebook prices high so that readers would buy the paper editions. Despite the high prices, ebook sales increased. Then the whole Justice Department debacle happened, pricing became an issue for traditional publishers, and, last summer, Amazon and the big publishers started renegotiating their contracts.

After a lot of Strum und Drang, the contracts were finalized: Big publishers could set their own ebook prices, and Amazon wouldn’t automatically discount them. I’m seeing different reports as to whether Amazon is even allowed to discount ebooks, except through price matching.

Nonetheless, Amazon is leaving the ebook prices—set by the publisher—alone…and messing with the paper prices.

I mean seriously messing with the paper prices. I should not have been able to get a brand-new hardcover for more than half off the list price on the day the book released. Maybe at Christmas. Maybe nine months from now, as the publisher gets ready to release the mass market paperback.

But now? Release day? Seriously?

Quote:

But agents and traditionally published writers are also seeing something they haven’t seen in a long time. They’re seeing reduced royalties and lower sales. Plus, the sales that do occur are often at deep discount.

According to my royalty statements, 80-90% of the books I’m selling through my traditional publishers are at deep discount. I’ve heard other authors say the same thing. When they drill down into the numbers on their royalty statements, these writers find very few paper books (hardcover or mass market) selling at full retail price.
So, the BPHs have gotten their wish: lower sales volume (of higher-priced, higher margin ebooks) and higher sales volume of (lower priced, lower margin pbooks). Which is resulting in lower revenues (as reported by AAP) and much lower income for tradpub authors.

Much, much more at the sources.

(Not new, but worth keeping in mind for context:
http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2012/0...-industry.html)

The publishing world is changing right before our eyes.
Real fast.

Last edited by fjtorres; 08-06-2015 at 05:21 PM.
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Old 08-06-2015, 05:47 PM   #2
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What all these numbers don't seem to acknowledge, is what else was happening at these times.

People being flooded out of their homes
People being buried in snow
People with wells going dry, crops dying because of the drought (or restrictions)
Tornadoes, wildfire...

Somehow having time/money for books just might not be the most logical use of funds for them.
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Old 08-06-2015, 05:55 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by theducks View Post
What all these numbers don't seem to acknowledge, is what else was happening at these times.

People being flooded out of their homes
People being buried in snow
People with wells going dry, crops dying because of the drought (or restrictions)
Tornadoes, wildfire...
Except those things (and equivalents) are happening all the time, every year.
They may be new where they're happening *this* year but last year there were still people under drought (in the south east) getting flooded (the Dakotas), getting hurricaned...

(If anything, we've been lucky with hurricanes out in the Atlantic region.)

Disasters are only new when they happen to you.
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Old 08-06-2015, 07:34 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by fjtorres View Post
Except those things (and equivalents) are happening all the time, every year.
They may be new where they're happening *this* year but last year there were still people under drought (in the south east) getting flooded (the Dakotas), getting hurricaned...

(If anything, we've been lucky with hurricanes out in the Atlantic region.)

Disasters are only new when they happen to you.
+1.
I grew up in Tulsa. Tornadoes, droughts, and floods were a given.

I spent my late teens and early twenties in Japan and the Philippines. Typhoons were guaranteed.

There is nothing new under the sun.
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Old 08-06-2015, 07:36 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by fjtorres View Post
Except those things (and equivalents) are happening all the time, every year.
They may be new where they're happening *this* year but last year there were still people under drought (in the south east) getting flooded (the Dakotas), getting hurricaned...

(If anything, we've been lucky with hurricanes out in the Atlantic region.)

Disasters are only new when they happen to you.
It isn't like half of Texas BURNED 3 or 4 years ago because um we had NO moisture of any kind for 2 straight years. Half our lakes are still gone.
So yes, things happen every year.
This time last year, I know people that were making money hand over fist. I also know many people that were struggling last year just to eat.
This year it is worse in some ways than last year. Other things have improved.

So no the economy has very little to do with pleasure book buying. People will still buy what they want regardless of what is going on around them.
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Old 08-06-2015, 08:56 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by fjtorres View Post
Except those things (and equivalents) are happening all the time, every year.
They may be new where they're happening *this* year but last year there were still people under drought (in the south east) getting flooded (the Dakotas), getting hurricaned...

(If anything, we've been lucky with hurricanes out in the Atlantic region.)

Disasters are only new when they happen to you.
That's true but the effects are cumulative. Families don't recover from flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts overnight. It's been three years since Hurricane Sandy and many people still aren't back in their homes. They are trying to come up with the $100K to lift their homes. Those with limited means have walked away damaging their credit reports. Insurance premiums have doubled. After Sandy we had a couple of nor'easters and cold snowy winters, all affected our discretionary spending.

I'm not saying this is the cause of the drop in book sales but retailers often state when weather conditions are factors in sales reports.
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Old 08-06-2015, 09:15 PM   #7
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Thanks folk for helping me make my point.

It is not always a single event, but a chain.

In the mid west, the persons per square mile is lower. Yes, it is still a disaster, but the impact to others is smaller. When one hits a major population center, the impact on the economy and infrastructure is massive.
In NYC there are more people living in one of those high rises, than on my whole street (lots are 50-60 foot wide). A structure fire has way different repercussions.

The current Fire in Lake County is over 65K acres with 30 homes lost. There are 30 homes on my Block.
Scale has an effect. Recovery time has an effect (Just talk to the Sandy folk who are still waiting for their home). Stack on a second strike and OMG No Money Honey
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Old 08-06-2015, 09:52 PM   #8
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I'm not saying this is the cause of the drop in book sales but retailers often state when weather conditions are factors in sales reports.
That is when weather depresses traffic in the winter.
Sales do not normally correlate with the weather precisely because of scale. Sales are the result of the collective decisions of tens of millions of people. Until Yellowstone goes up, US disasters impact thousands and tens of thousands, not millions. Not even Katrina, which was compounded by sheer incompetence, nor Andrew or Camille, the worst huricanes ever, managed to impact even a million.

So no.
Any problems in trad publishing are self-inflicted, not acts of god.
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Old 08-06-2015, 10:16 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by theducks View Post
What all these numbers don't seem to acknowledge, is what else was happening at these times.

People being flooded out of their homes
People being buried in snow
People with wells going dry, crops dying because of the drought (or restrictions)
Tornadoes, wildfire...

Somehow having time/money for books just might not be the most logical use of funds for them.
Yeah, I don't think they can blame this problem on the weather
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Old 08-06-2015, 10:58 PM   #10
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That is when weather depresses traffic in the winter.
Sales do not normally correlate with the weather precisely because of scale. Sales are the result of the collective decisions of tens of millions of people. Until Yellowstone goes up, US disasters impact thousands and tens of thousands, not millions. Not even Katrina, which was compounded by sheer incompetence, nor Andrew or Camille, the worst huricanes ever, managed to impact even a million.
Again, it is cumulative. Multiple events in various locations. We are only talking about a few million dollars. That would only need a few thousand people who have been disruptive. Caution and fear spread and retail sales, in general, may be affected.

Again #2, I am not saying this is the reason for decreases in book sales. But to blame it mainly on ebook agency contracts?

No.
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Old 08-06-2015, 11:33 PM   #11
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Again, it is cumulative. Multiple events in various locations. We are only talking about a few million dollars. That would only need a few thousand people who have been disruptive. Caution and fear spread and retail sales, in general, may be affected.

Again #2, I am not saying this is the reason for decreases in book sales. But to blame it mainly on ebook agency contracts?

No.
Since the trough of the Great Recession, leading economic indicators for the country as a whole have been steadily upward.

http://www.advisorperspectives.com/d...omic-Index.php

In order for environmental disruptions to be shown to have a specific impact on book sales, some data will have to be conjured to support the notion that books are a luxury item that people will forgo purchasing under those stressful conditions. I don't think you will find it. If you do, please link it.

In these recent reports, publishers are shown to have reduced sales on all book formats. However, the percentage decline in e-book sales are much higher than their paper counterparts. Consumers are price sensitive and that's especially true when there is an abrupt upward change in price for the same product. They will either wait to purchase or they may shift their purchase choice to a competing product. (I know that publishers are loathe to call their books products but they are.) In my opinion, price sensitivity is the most likely explanation for the data.
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Old 08-06-2015, 11:37 PM   #12
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Again #2, I am not saying this is the reason for decreases in book sales. But to blame it mainly on ebook agency contracts?

No.
Because higher prices mean they sell more ebooks?
They have shot themselves in the foot with a .12 shotgun. That coupled with the massive increase of low priced Indie published ebooks is definitely taking a toll on them.

Quote:
What is definitely true is that the share of the reading market held by commercially-minded publishers (not just commercial “for profits”, but also university presses) will diminish as both successful self-published authors and hundreds of thousands of others who don’t succeed (and maybe don’t even care) take their content to market on their own.

It has only taken 5 years, but traditional publishers are beginning to see a leveling, a flat-lining of their sales due to the loss of authors, the rise of indie publishing, and the fact that velocity (selling a lot of books quickly) can’t be manufactured any longer.
http://kriswrites.com/2015/08/05/bus...s-and-victims/
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Old 08-07-2015, 12:07 AM   #13
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[snip]

In these recent reports, publishers are shown to have reduced sales on all book formats. However, the percentage decline in e-book sales are much higher than their paper counterparts. Consumers are price sensitive and that's especially true when there is an abrupt upward change in price for the same product. They will either wait to purchase or they may shift their purchase choice to a competing product. (I know that publishers are loathe to call their books products but they are.) In my opinion, price sensitivity is the most likely explanation for the data.
Reports have also said people are reading (and buying) less than ever before. There are probably multiple reasons. Time constraints, income loss, disasters, movies, gaming, texting, disinterest and death of the older reading generation.
Movie studios, TV networks, video game makers, and computer vendors all have fluctuating sales. Publishing is no different. A lack of a few bestsellers in one year will depress sales.
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Old 08-07-2015, 12:29 AM   #14
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Reports have also said people are reading (and buying) less than ever before. There are probably multiple reasons. Time constraints, income loss, disasters, movies, gaming, texting, disinterest and death of the older reading generation.
Movie studios, TV networks, video game makers, and computer vendors all have fluctuating sales. Publishing is no different. A lack of a few bestsellers in one year will depress sales.
Movie box office is up this year over last; bad weather certainly didn't stop people from coming out to theaters.
Video games have been trending up this year.
Even PCs are trending up.
Publishing is trending down by a lot.

Bear in mind that tradpub is reporting $200M less sales (about 15m books worth) in 4 months (that works out to over a half billion over a full year) and all the BPHs are reporting big drops in ebook sales. And that drop is coming despite the fourth Fifty Shades title launching in the reporting cycle.

Why would it be surprising that a fifty percent price hike should result in sharply reduced sales? Every other product under the face of the sun would see sales tank. Especially in the face of deep discounts on the alternative print editions.

I see no reason to suspect anything but the price hike.

Last edited by fjtorres; 08-07-2015 at 12:31 AM.
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Old 08-07-2015, 12:50 AM   #15
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Reports have also said people are reading (and buying) less than ever before. There are probably multiple reasons. Time constraints, income loss, disasters, movies, gaming, texting, disinterest and death of the older reading generation.
Movie studios, TV networks, video game makers, and computer vendors all have fluctuating sales. Publishing is no different. A lack of a few bestsellers in one year will depress sales.
The first time I can recall breathless reports of the decline of reading and that even those who read anything were reading puerile rubbish was when I was growing up...in the 1970s. The decline of reading has long been CW and the reasons given were many of the ones you listed. Even S. Jobs confidently proclaimed back in 2008 that the Kindle would fail because "no one reads any more." He was incorrect. If he were alive to repeat the statement today, he would still be incorrect.
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