Saturday, March 26, 2011

Choices -- What’s an Author to Do?

Many thanks to Marissa Moss and Tammi Sauer for contributing their thoughts for the last two posts. In the meantime, my newsreel (left) and my Google alerts kept churning out the news on the impact of e-books and e-readers – on the industry, on authors, on readers, on stores, and on libraries.

Since I started this blog in November, just four short months ago, so much has happened in the industry. Google opened their own e-book store. The New York Times started e-book bestseller lists for fiction and non-fiction. E-books outsold paperbacks on The Newbery Medal winner and finalists were announced, and most of them were in e-format as well as print. E-readers were the top gadget for the Christmas gift season. Borders announced they are filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. And the HarperCollins boycott continues due to their policy on selling e-books to libraries.  (If you’re new to this blog, click through some of my older posts to get caught up on all of these news items.)

In the meantime, publishing houses are struggling financially with rising prices, falling sales and limited budgets, on top of unpaid receivables due from Borders (and other failing brick-and-mortar stores) and the stress of trying to survive with an old business model in an industry where the rules are changing fast.

In the midst of this doom and gloom, however, the e-book format is growing, thriving, and bringing publishing success to many authors. So what does all of this mean to authors?

I think it means choice. It means options. Previously our choices were limited to a) find an agent and/or publisher, or b) be a slush pile miracle, or c) self publish and have virtually no distribution. But the internet changes everything. It gives us 24/7 worldwide distribution with a wide array of marketing options. It gives us free access to be able to format our books into e-books. And Amazon is now supplying a print on demand option for our readers who prefer print books.

I’ve written about Amanda Hocking’s success with her books in Kindle format. For weeks she has dominated the Amazon part of my bestseller list,  taking seven of the ten spots. This week she’s showing up on the KoboBooks list and the Sony Ebookstore list as well. St. Martin’s Press has now given Amanda a seven-figure offer for a new series. According to her blog, she’ s going to take it , but she still intends to keep self publishing too. Her reasons for both are valid and well-thought out. She has choice. She has options. She wouldn’t have gotten this far without the e-format. She won’t get where she wants to go without the traditional publisher. Read her blog post for all the details. It’s interesting to see both sides of the coin.

As I’ve said before…It’s an exciting time to be an author.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Picture Book Author Tammi Sauer Talks About her E-book Success

My bestseller list is dominated every week by Young Adult books with a significant sprinkling of middle grade books. Picture books tend to shine primarily in the "Kids" section of Barnes and Noble,  the since the color Nook works to their advantage. On my list from March 4th, Tammi Sauer's book Cowboy Camp hit the B and N number 4 spot so I contacted her to learn about her e-book experience.   

Tell us  about Cowboy Camp -- what's the story?

Avery arrives at Cowboy Camp and discovers he’s all wrong and he can’t do anything right. He’s even—gasp!—allergic to horses. But, when bad guy Black Bart shows up and tries to put a stop to Cowboy Camp, Avery proves his mettle and is hailed a real cowboy.

What is your target audience, and how do you believe the e-format works for that audience?

The target audience for Cowboy Camp is four to eight year olds. While I believe nothing can replace the experience of sharing a traditional book with a child (the coziness, the smell and feel of a book, the turn of the pages…), I think the e-format has a lot to offer. Three perks of the e-format, for instance, are that this version is cheaper, portable, and convenient.

Is your book available in print format? Which came first and why? How do your sales compare between the two formats?

Cowboy Camp is available in print format as well. The traditional print version of Cowboy Camp debuted in 2005 which was well before the e-format craze. The print format of the book continues to sell well. It’s too early to make a comparison between the two formats since the e-format only came out in fall 2010.

Tell us briefly about your path to publication.

All of my books are with traditional publishers. Cowboy Camp was my first book, and it was discovered in the slush pile. Since then I have sold eight others.  

Do you believe the e-format helps or hurts you as an author? How?

I write so that children can experience the joy and wonder found in books. The more formats that are available, the more children can be reached.

More about the author:

Tammi Sauer has sold nine picture books to a number of major publishing houses:  Bloomsbury, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Simon & Schuster, and Sterling. One of her latest books, Chicken Dance, received the 2010 Oklahoma Book Award and the 2009 NAPPA Gold Medal Award. It was named a 2009 ABC Best Books for Children and a 2010 Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best book. This book was also recently released in French which makes her feel extra fancy.

Learn more about Tammi at her website.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Featured Author: Marissa Moss

Marissa Moss is the author and illustrator of over 40 books for children. I was mainly familiar with her popular Amelia’s Notebook series of books.  Last week, Marissa showed up on my bestseller list with The Pharaoh’s Secret, taking the number 4 spot in the Juvenile Fiction section of the store. I’m happy to report that this week, The Pharaoh’s Secret has climbed to NUMBER ONE!

I contacted Marissa to find out more about her e-book and the e-publishing experience.

First I asked what The Pharaoh’s Secret is about. Here is Marissa’s synopsis:

Filled with intrigue, surprises, and the author’s original illustrations, this novel skillfully weaves history with a personal story full of heartache and family tensions that will entice and enthrall readers. When Talibah and her younger brother, Adom, accompany their father to Egypt, they become involved in a mystery surrounding an ancient, lost pharaoh—a rare queen ruler. Someone has tried to make it appear as if she never existed! The queen needs Talibah to help her and her high priest, Senenmut, reclaim their rightful place in history. Exotic locales, mysterious strangers, and a sinister archaeologist round out an adventure that is full of riddles, old tales and, most surprisingly of all, a link to Talibah’s and Adom’s mother, who died mysteriously.

What is your target audience, and how do you believe the e-format works for that audience and serves their needs?

My readers are between 9 and 99, though mostly on the younger end of the scale. As kids read more using pdas, tablets, iphones, etc., the e-format is a great way to get them reading quality fiction.
Is your book available in print format?

THE PHARAOH'S SECRET came out in print first.

Tell us briefly about your path to publication: Traditional or independent? Recently or further in the past?
I've been writing and illustrating children's books for over twenty years and have worked with a variety of traditional publishers.

Do you believe the e-format helps or hurts you as an author? How?

Anything that gets kids reading more is a good thing, not just for me as an author, but for society in general and the reader in particular.

Congratulations to Marissa for hitting the bestseller list! Learn more about her and her books at

Saturday, March 5, 2011

How’s Your Local Library Doing These Days?

A librarian friend e-mailed me this week to say, “The whole digital world seems to be changing daily, so it is great to have your site to go to for all the up-to-date info.”

This made me wonder if librarians feel the same way bank tellers felt when ATMs were invented. Nervous. Insecure. Wondering what the future holds. Library customers are turning to them with technical questions about borrowing e-books, and librarians are needing to learn the ropes regardless of their interest or aptitude for technology. They are stocking less print books and more e-books, plus they are dealing with shrinking budgets as cities, counties and states all strive to cut their budgets.

Which leads us to this week’s news: HarperCollins has announced  that any of their new titles in e-book format that are bought by libraries will only be allowed to circulate 26 times before the license deal expires. Then the library will need to re-purchase the book.

The thinking of HarperCollins is if the library had bought a print book, by the time it was lent out 26 times it would be worn out and would need to be replaced with a new copy. They want to maintain their sales by keeping the same “gotta buy a new one” mentality, even though an e-book never wears out. Even though it costs next to nothing for HarperCollins to produce the e-book. If they’ve already produced it in print, all they are doing is formatting it for the e-platform. No additional editing costs, no paper costs, no shipping costs, no warehousing costs.

On one hand we have libraries with tight budgets, being required to buy “replacement” e-books when their original purchase is still perfectly usable. On the other hand we have HarperCollins (and their authors) trying to make a profit in this fast-changing world of publishing. 

The bestseller list has been updated as usual, and at last I can say I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore is actually number four in two stores -- Barnes and Noble Teens and Sony Ebookstore!