Weird But Interesting in the Publishing Biz

The Yaldah blog has been on hiatus for a while but is now back. While I’d like to blame it on the Hollywood writers’ strike, the reality is much more mundane.

I had thought that this blog would be a good way to put a human face (eg: mine) on the business of publishing, kind of a behind-the-scenes sneek peek, if you will. I still like that idea, but when not much is happening behind the scenes, what do you put on the blog?

Then it ocurred to me (I’m a little slow sometimes) that all the news and scandals and changes and interesting-but-weird happenings in the publishing biz leave me with some questions and opinions and comments of my own. What better place to give them voice than here? At least all those non-publishing people in my life will maybe stop being so frustrated with my excitement over such scintillating topics as ISBN-13 and running covert reconnaissance at BEA (yes, I did that last year. I’ll have to share the story sometime.)

So where are we now?

Much has happened this past year in the publishing industry, even for small indies like Yaldah.

  • Amazon.com has come under fire from publishers as large as Random House for possibly illegal monopolization of listing eligibility for short-run books. I’ll have more on this shortly.
  • Amazon has also released the Kindle, an ebook reader that could either be the literary version of the iPod or a catastrophic iFlop. Which one it is remains to be seen.
  • The International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) has worked to create EPUB, a “file extension of an XML format designed specifically for reflowing digital books and publications,” according to Book Business. This is welcome news to those of us considering offering ebooks but not wanting to have to either choose which format (Adobe, Microsoft, Amazon, etc.) or having to offer them all.

    I am thinking about offering ebook versions of our print books, but have waited until the industry standardized itself. That time may have now come. What do you think? Are ebooks the wave of the future?

  • Branding, viral marketing, customer management, and “going green”—all of which sound like they could be uncomfortable, if not painful—are hot topics. I am pleased to learn that I did the branding thing before I even knew that’s what it was. In an age where it seems everyone has a blog, a social networking site, a website, or some other avenue into the global digital world, branding is becoming one major way to stand out. But I have to wonder, once we all have . . . branded ourselves? . . . (that really does sound painful) will we really stand out anymore or will we have to look for yet another tool?
  • More and more publishers, from small to ginormous, are taking a hard look at the traditional large print runs, warehousing, returns, and even advances against royalties to authors. While it never made sense to us indies, it appears that big publishers are questioning the process of giving an author a competetive advance, printing a large print run, watching the book do okay but not great, then taking a hit on returns from retailers and never recouping the initial cost, much less having the author earn their full advance.

    HarperCollins is creating a new group that appears to be modeling itself after what the indie presses have been doing for years, according to the New York Times.

It’s a strange business we’re in, but it’s certainly not boring.

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