Sunday, 27 September 2009

POD – The uphill battle

I recently posted this reply on a forum following a comment from an author questioning why Caffeine Nights Publishing only chooses a maximum of 5 authors a year.
The question which prompted my reply was:
"Why only 5 books? Surely POD/electronic publishing isn't all that complicated"

There are hundreds of POD publishers out there (go to Preditors and Editors for some fine examples) who will publish anything and everything and many more that will charge a lot of money for the privilege. Caffeine Nights Publishing is neither. I thought I gave the clue away when I used the word quality, maybe I should also have added discerning. Publishing five new authors a year allows time to treat each book and author selected the quality of service their endeavours requires. We are a new company and maybe I have made some errors of judgement but personally I like to support each author with a decent PR push for their work. After all it is my time and money that is supporting this venture and I have a vested interest to see a return on that investment. Last year we received numerous submissions and most of it would undoubtedly have been picked up by many of the POD publishers who will print the details of a bus ticket without caring about the impact it has on the already tarnished reputation of POD. Most submissions simply were not good enough.

Our books go through a process of editing, re-reading, re-reading and re-reading before they get anywhere near final proof. Our covers are professionally and individually designed in consultation with the author but we have final say on artwork. We have set up excellent distribution channels for eBooks as well as printed and will be rolling eBooks out in the last quarter of 09. Finally, where possible with UK based authors we will be providing a filmed author interview and/or book trailer for each title. By choosing five authors it enables us to retain control over the quality of product, reputation and brand. Sure I could set up a company to fleece authors and bang out any old crap, but I chose the hard road instead by providing a service which is not too common with POD companies and a level of support for authors to ensure that each title receives individual attention.
POD has a poor reputation but many mainstream publishers are seeing the benefits and now publish titles using the technology. Many POD publishers have brought this poor reputation by offering a service which exploits authors and delivers nothing in return except a handful of sales to friends and relatives. I want Caffeine Nights to position itself in new territory which offers a digital publishing service but is not afraid of having high standards.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

The Real Lost Symbol

By Darren E Laws

I do not share the recent excitement in the publishing world following the release of Dan Brown's, 'The Lost Symbol' and my criticism has nothing to do with the content of the book, which is probably a rollicking read. My problem and the problem for publishing is that the real lost symbol is this '£'.

I don't know what deals publishers Transworld/Bantam Press are offering retailers to sell the book but with hard back copies being sold for as little as £5 on a book that has a recommended retail price of £18.99 is it any wonder that the industry is in the state it is. Have publishers no concept of perceived value. If Asda is selling the book for £5, which is less than most paperbacks, imagine what price they are buying them at. Sure 'The Lost Symbol' will storm to the top of the bestsellers list but here's the real question. Would it not have done so anyway?

If I were Dan Brown I would be a little upset because the royalty at this sale price for a hard back must be exceptionally low. Though I dare say Mr Brown probably won't notice too much of a dent on his bank balance.

The buzz and the hype around this book would have ensured that if Bantam had the nerve to play hardball with chain stores and supermarkets the price of the book could easily have held at a respectable £12.99 which would be an honest price for a hardback publication. People would still have bought the book in huge numbers and the perceived value of the product would not have been damaged.

Look at how Nintendo control the availability of the Wii every Christmas, making it one of the top selling presents for the past three years. They create demand and then sell at a price which reflects the quality of the product. What Bantam is doing is actually making it harder for other publishers to compete without cheapening their product and brand.

Selling a new and wanted product at such a low price, while one may argue is good for the consumer, actually begins to hurt the industry as a whole and that cannot be good. If I were to offer books at half price or less it tells the public two things:

  1. The original rrp is set unreasonably and unrealistically high
  2. That all of my products should be subject to the same discount

This in turn leads people not to trust the pricing model – at £18.99 for a hard back I certainly don't. It also puts extreme pressure on independent bookstores or smaller chains which cannot negotiate such silly rates as Asda obviously have. Again this hurts the industry. So who is to blame?

I like a bargain as much as the next person and I in no way blame anyone for buying The Lost Symbol at knock down prices. I just can't see the sense in the publisher doing it.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

The eReader Invasion from the East

By Darren E Laws

If Amazon with the Kindle and the Sony with the eReader think they are going to monopolise the eReader market in Europe there are one or two surprises heading our way from Eastern Europe which may change the landscape. While I still firmly believe that mobile phones will have the edge for the eBook market, there is one or two devices in development that are adding functionality that will equal both of the main players and then some.

Ukrainian company Pocketbook have launched the 360 an eBook reading machine that is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth compatible reads ePub, RTF, DOC and HTML among other formats. The 360 has a tilt reading function which readjusts the text layout no matter which way you turn the machine. For a look at the machine follow this link

It is clear that there is going to be a lot of competition in the market and that is an excellent thing as it will drive down prices and add more functionality to devices. What is clear is that the first colour screen eReader is going to leap to the top of the pile and it isn't far away. Small tablet devices will cross over in this area and the Smit mid-560 with its Google Android operating system will begin to look appealing because of its multi-functionality. This machine is designed and built in China and looks impressive. It is small and because it runs on Android and has been manufactured in China there is a good chance that when it hits these shores the price will be competitive.

I am sure there are many more machines in development from large and small companies alike and each will bring something new and interesting to the market.