Dog-Eared and Dispatched: February 1, 2015
We’re changing up our format here, adding a bit of flexibility, a bit of this, a bit of that, because sometimes the news does not quite justify a long-form response. So here, in brief, is what’s happening in the world of books this week:
Amazon announced its Q4 numbers this past week, and a loss of $241 million on $88 billion in sales. Media sales (including books, movies, and music), rose only 1% – which is odd given that other indie booksellers (and Barnes & Noble) saw increases between 2% and 6% on books alone. In other Amazon-related news, the online retailer will collect sales tax on purchases in Illinois – not out of kindness (or law-abidingness), but because it plans to open a distribution center there.
Simon & Schuster are offering expanded author services in a new imprint, North Star, which will offer an “expanded suite of profile-building, ancillary services that extend beyond the boundaries of traditional publishing” (well, actually, it sounds like they will exactly match what traditional publishing should be providing in the way of marketing and publicity and author support, but I guess we won’t go there). This is part of a trend of publishers reaching out to authors increasingly dissatisfied with traditional publisher support and tempted by the ease of self-publishing. Despite the temptation to go the self-publishing route, a recent survey by Digital Book World shows that the big money is in traditional publishing, but that even there more than 30% of authors make less than $500 a year from their writing. In short, don’t quit your day job.
As the second largest bookstore chain left, publishers are watch Books-A-Million very closely indeed. This past week, the Anderson family announced another bid to buy back all outstanding shares in the chain to regain total control of the company. The Andersons had tried to do so two years ago, but withdrew the bid when it appeared that they might have been undervaluing the shares.
¶ Chipotle has announced round two of the literary packaging series, with Augusten Burroughs, Julia Alvarez, Paulo Coelho, Barbara Kingsolver, Aziz Ansari, and Walter Isaacson signing on. If you’re not feeling like a burrito, you can read the stories in Vanity Fair.
¶ Ebook subscription service Oyster scored a minor coup this week, by being the first to snag the Harry Potter series. Still waiting to see more frontlist titles, though.
Sources for this post include: Publishers Weekly, MobyLives!, Digital Book World, Vanity Fair, and Oyster Books.