Simon451 is a new imprint from Simon & Schuster. The imprint will release sci-fi titles in both print and digital with an ebook-first approach well suited to this target audience.
Oprah’s book club was rebooted to the relief of many publishers and authors alike. The bump that could come from being selected for the club made a number of careers.
Now it looks like there is the potential to go further with a pick from her team. She has her own TV channel, a popular monthly magazine and digital components that expand on both.
The Oprah Effect didn’t lift every pick to bestseller lists, and it’s likely that not every book in the revived club will benefit. But it is one of the few avenues left for readers to find great books…and for authors to be found.
Bind-ups, collections of previously published short fiction, novellas, and the like, is being viewed in a new way. Before, publishers released collections as an afterthought, mostly as a way to enhance sales or increase revenue using items from their existing catalogues.
Now, publishers are realizing that ebooks are offering new ways to engage with books. Waterbrook Multnomah is releasing three novellas in a single book as an experiment. HarperCollins Christian Publishing is revamping a series by releasing a series specifically under this format. A Year of Weddings will come out every three months with seasonal themes; each release will bind together three novellas.
Publishers are reaching into new arenas by recasting old ideas. They aren’t dead yet…not by a long shot.
Netflix has been on a roll. Originally considered something of a rube among Hollywood types, the individual responsible for its success has proven that new ways of thinking, and servicing viewer’s desires and needs before any other metric, is the path to success these days.
Netflix did everything “wrong,” according to film’s old guard. It released a full season of episodes all at the same time to allow for binge viewing (which subscribers wanted), it paid top dollar to lease items that others would have taken only if they could own (again to serve their subscribers regardless of the way others would have made a deal), and they bought new concepts without forcing the producers to make a pilot (taking a chance again to give viewers what they want).
Publishers could learn from all this. Release books faster (because that’s what readers want), allow authors to maintain ownership (serve readers no matter what the old deals looked like), and take chances on unproven concepts (because again, readers want unique, fresh ideas from authors who haven’t yet “proven” themselves with big publishers).
Authors, too, can learn from Netflix. Although the company is willing to take risks and try new things, the concepts they’ve bought have had a strong level of professionalism built in. Actors have been sought out who are clear viewer favorites to attract viewers to those fresh concepts. All the deals made have also been for concepts that have fully written scripts, professional people already on board, and “bibles” or dossiers that outline the fictional world’s details in full.
For authors, this means having a full and polished manuscript ready to go, professional assistance from editors or pitch consultants, and a fully developed idea about their audience, publishing trends, and the author’s potential or actual platform (which is all wrapped into a book proposal, the author’s bible).
Recently there’s been some chatter about novellas. For a long time, novellas were shunned by all but literary publishers. Too short, it seemed, translated into too little interest by readers. Of course, there was the biggest problem: novellas were not terribly economical to print. That impacts the bottom line, and that means more pushback from publishers.
The trend has been increasing judging by what I’ve been hearing from agents and publishers alike. They want longer books (fiction and nonfiction), and the 50,000 word minimum is being held to more strongly than ever before. This makes sense in a time when publishers are trying to trim every penny to enhance their waning profits.
But organizations that have been keeping tabs on self-publishing are questioning this wisdom. They note that when publishers do take on novellas, they are marketing them as novels so as not to undermine the work in readers’ eyes. Also, they’ve noted that genre works are seeing success as novellas.
This is in part due to self-publishing successes. Authors write what they write…they honor the story itself without having to worry much about lengths and economies of scale if they are self-publishing. Readers are interested in the story, not whether it’s long or short, or which publisher it might have come from.
Novellas, then, might find that they will receive a greater amount of respect from traditional publishers in the future. This will take a year or more to sink in, though. For now, consider your length when approaching traditional publishers. Aim for that 50K minimum to ensure you aren’t rejected on length alone.
It’s long been known in business that 20% of your existing customers generate 80% of your sales. The same can be said of book fans. When someone reads a novel or nonfiction title they enjoy, they will actively seek out additional works by the same author. Keep these tips in mind as you reach out to your fan base.
–Keep in contact through social media or your email lists. Let people know what you’re working on as well as opportunities to find older titles you might not be actively marketing.
–Serve your fans. Why are people reading your novels: for entertainment, for a deeper social message? Is your nonfiction a vehicle for inspiration or concrete tips? Be sure to address these components with every outreach.
–Reward return readers. Find a way to say thank you to fans who keep coming back. Offer to provide free ebooks to anyone who sends in a receipt for a particular printed title. Host a lunchtime Skype session where you chat with readers about their burning questions about your upcoming book.
Keep these ideas in mind and you’ll build loyalty to you, the brand behind your books.
Recently, news from Europe indicated that self-publishing is beginning to grow at rates similar to those seen in America’s early years of self-publishing. The reasons authors choose to go their own way is the same as here: more control, a faster path to publication, and more direct contact with their readers.
FOCUS magazine said that traditional publishers will have to get on board with this trend worldwide. Providing access to bookstores, it said, is the last area where the gatekeepers still function. If publishers want to survive, they are going to have to help all authors publish and distribute their books.
Do you think survival for traditional publishing houses will hinge on this in part or in whole? Why or why not?