Absurdity

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Hotels in no order

I think these are Edinburgh; Heathrow (London); Dingle (West Coast of Ireland). But as always it surely don’t matter.

Hotel OneHotel TwoHotel Three

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Filed under: Hotels

Learning all about Russian publishers

Have spent the day with a group of Russian publishers for a project I’m involved in. Is fascinating stuff for an industry that has only really come into existence from 1991. Just some stats for now:

1) Approx 90,000 titles are produced each year and that number is growing by about 5% a year.

2) A typical small publisher will produce between 30-40 titles a month (that’s right a ‘month’!). Alright, apparently some of the editing etc. can leave a little to be desired but still as a friend of mine just said ‘holy crap!’.

3) One of the principal ways retailers find out about books is by attending one of the several bookfairs each year and wandering about seeing what’s interesting.

Oh, and 2008 is the Year of the Book in Russia.

Filed under: Publishing

Zune – an experience akin to having an ‘airbag deploy in your face’

So, not an ipod killer then? This bit from Stereogum would seem to suggest that the new Microsoft Zune is only excelling at pissing people off at present.

Filed under: Music

Celebs failing but at what cost?

Liked this article in The Guardian this week about the abject failure of many of the celeb lead offerings from (mostly) the larger publishers. Unfortunately, it is these almost exclusively bad books which get the column inches and the prime retail spots. This means that those books which do have some merit and should be out there have to shout very very loud to be noticed at all. And, in 2006 ‘very very loud shouting’ almost always equates to money something in very short supply for the majority of publishers.

I mean really you do wonder at the thinking of many of those commissioning some of these books. Seriously, who on earth would ever think Ashley Cole was that interesting. But, this seems to be the trend.

Take an incident that is of passing interest such as Ashley Cole’s shambolic/shameless courting of Chelsea or the idea of Blunkett getting laid (i.e a tabloid story that we feel a little guilty about being interested in but nevertheless are) and extrapolate from that to conclude that we would be interested in a full blown book about the object of these stories.

I am not saying that there isn’t a place for telling the stories of interesting people who have done interesting things but these books are very rarely that. And, generally the least said about the quality of writing the better. But, what does also concern me is the lazy/lowest common denominator thinking of those commissioning some of these books. I mean these are often very bright and experienced people and yet they seem unable to do simple maths. Almost, based on any but the most extreme success.

Let’s look at the Cashley Cole book with some rough maths. It is reported that he received an advance of £250,000. For the purposes of the calculation shown below (from the ever excellent Anko Publishing Manager of course). We have simply included an origination cost of £4 a copy for the hardback and given him a reasonably generous flat royalty of 10% on net receipts. Oh, and based the numbers on the publishers price of £18.99 retail with a 50% discount level. As you can see in order to simply get our £250,000 back we would need to have sold at 260,000 copies. Always, I would suggest ambitious particularly as the title is likely to have marginal interest in reality outside the UK market. For instance hardly likely to make it on to the NY Time Bestseller list.

Cashley 18.99

That particular book has actually sold (according to the Guardian article) about 4,000 copies to date and most of those at nothing like the £18.99 price slapped on it by the publisher. So, if we take the price at the £8.93 it is currently being offered at on Amazon and adjust the copies sold we can see that the publisher in question might as well have just taken their money and set fire to it. I’ll leave it there for the moment.

Cashley 8.93

Filed under: Publishing

Gil Scott-Heron in 1978 in Berkeley

Week or so ago posted a concert from the amazing and inspiring Gil Scott-Heron. Anyway, this (sorry was up for a few days then took it down) is another one but as far as I know is a much rarer bit of tape than the much passed around Village Gate concert that I posted earlier. It comes from Berkeley, CA in 1978 and I defy you to not be transported, inspired, amused and of course entertained. Will leave up for a day or so. As always encourage you to use this as springboard to go and discover for yourself.

Filed under: Music

Bumblebee and fame

I like to think that I’m not the most naive of people. Travelled a bit; had a few relationships; been in business for a lot of years; had my share of silly drug-fuelled madness; lived in various countries etc. But nothing prepared me for the Swedish sport of rabbit jumping of which Sara’s sister Anna is one of the leading exponents. I included a video of this before simply as somehow sharing it might make my disbelief dissipate. Bit like the drunk who asks the person standing next to them what they can see to ensure they are not hallucinating etc.

Anyway, Anna and Bumblebee’s latest trimumphs were in the newspaper. Below pictures of Anna and Bumblebee in action.

Anna & Bumblebee

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Filed under: Swedish Life

Dexter and the dumbness of TV companies

Dexter

Television companies despite literally years and years of notice still have absolutely no idea that it is no longer 1986 in terms of their business model. To take a small example – Channel 4 in the UK expect me to wait months after it has originally aired in the US before I can watch the Sopranos. And on top of that they expect me to sit through a 50 minute programme padded out to one hour fifteen minutes once a week. Oh, and to top it off Channel 4 will then as they have with so many US imports (the West Wing being a classic example of this) then have it on a different time each time as the season progresses.

So, to summarise I can follow the Sopranos at some point in the week and at some varying time and with half an hour of crap thrown in. Are they bonkers?

So, the alternative that I and so many others now do? Go on line download a day or so after it has aired in the US advert free. As far as I’m aware there is no legal way to purchase the Sopranos without waiting a year or so for the DVDs to be released.

I do buy some stuff via iTunes so far as it available but this is only available through the US store. So, I have spoofed the store that I am registered and downloading in the US just to bloody buy anything. That’s right I have to deceive them into allowing me to give them money. Which leads me to the ridiculous ideas some of the content companies have about DRM and territorial rights – seriously guys it is 2006 are you really that fucking stupid or are these rules just something you made up to bemuse me and piss me off at the same time? No Sopranos there anyway.

But while I am on the subject of the iTunes store. I did have a subscription on the store to the Daily Show but dropped it because I was sick of the episodes arriving in bunches sometimes days later (and I know from talking to a couple of people that this is not an isolated case). Now, I don’t know if you have seen the Daily Show but kind of the point is that it commenting on and referring to events as they have unfolded within that day or so. So, receiving Tuesday’s episode on the following Saturday morning kind of kills it. So, what so I do now? Well I download it for free from a bit torrent site couple of hours after it airs.

Anyway, what this does do is makes us a little out of sync with some of our friends who may not see some of this stuff for another year or even then. The classic example of this Dexter. This is brilliant, innovative, funny, intelligent television. Stars, the guy out of Six Feet Under Michael C. Hall (the gay Fisher brother) as forensic police guy who is a serial killer by night. He is quite frankly brilliant in it. Read a bit about it here.

And you can download the first episode and see what I mean here (sorry the day or two has passed so link no longer works). Will leave it up for just a day or two. But, it means that people that may not have come across it or get the opportunity to see will then seek it out when it does come to Europe etc and/or will be a ready market for DVD when that comes out. Well, at least that’s how I’m justifying it to myself anyway.

Filed under: TV etc.

Publishers and what do they do – part 4326

I know been banging this drum but I think it is important in a devil’s advocate kind of way to really try and push the question of exactly the role of publishers going forward.

Is it as Rob Jones over at Snowbooks says to act as backer and risk taker? Not sure but what I do know is that the intelligent use of technology, a long hard look at the nonsense of the publishing supply chain for the majority of books and a little lateral thinking calls seriously into question the point of the publisher.

The reason for setting me on this hobby horse this morning is just looking this article in the Miami Herald about the role of the author in selling a book. The article features authors who it seems to do everything from embarking on city to city tours; to getting books reviewed; to producing videos for youtube; to paying for websites.

The common theme seems to be that the majority of publishers simply don’t have the resources to allocate to promote more than a small percentage of the number of books in their list.

As one author (a Seth Godin) says: “The unspoken truth is that except for perhaps 250 giant books every year [out of 75,000 published], the publisher is expecting the author to do 100 percent of the sales and promotion. ”

So, ok in 2006. If you have access to $500 computer and a copy of a page layout application you can create a print ready copy of your content. For $240 (sorry, about that bit of a plug) you can buy an application to manage all the information about your titles and send out all the information about your titles to all the on line retailers and bibliographic agencies (something by the way the vast majority of publishers still can’t do). You can now using POD providers physically to produce the book. And by using opportunities like Amazon Advantage you can distribute your books. Thought this link was particularly helpful in giving some tips on how best to make use of Amazon Advantage.

I had a meeting with Amazon at Frankfurt this year and they were very excitedly talking about possibilities for compressing the traditional publishing supply chain now that they have the latest digital printing technology right in the fulfillment centre. So, a lot of books don’t even need to be bloody produced until the book is actually ordered. Fantastic stuff.

So, anyway, rather lost my thread here – but if the originator of the content can produce and distribute that content and it appears from this article and quite frankly the majority of authors/publishers that I speak to that the publisher really doesn’t have the resource to properly market then again I ask – what do they do? And what is their role going forward?

And, please I ask this because I care and want them to have a role – but not confronting the issues and clinging on to a quite unworkable status quo is just not going to lead to anything but extinction. Oh, and in the meantime think seriously about moving to Wales.

Filed under: Publishing

The remarkable Gil Scott-Heron in 1976

Just a remarkable musician and unfortunately a troubled man – but fuck did he make some of the most remarkable music there has ever been – irresistable tunes, great thoughts, conscious raising, funny (occasionally) and this is a man who truly knew the meaning of absurdity and did a fantastic job of dragging it out of its seedy, discriminatory, corrupt and just plain unfair corner and holding it up to the light so we could all see it for the nonsense it was.

This concert (sorry was up for a few days so you must have missed it) is from 1976 and the Village Gate in New York as far as I am aware is not commercially available. It captures everything that was great about the man and his cohort Brian Jackson at the time. I guarantee that if you’ve not come accross too much of his stuff before then you’ll be straight on to Amazon/wherever to rectify that hole in your life. I will leave just for a couple of days so if you want to grab and then go buy (Pieces of a Man – not bad place to start giving back).

Filed under: Music

Wales – a great place to be a publisher

Spent all last week after the very excellent London Artists Bookfair (will write a little about shortly) visiting publishers in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Aberystwyth. This unfortunately meant spending the bulk of the week at the mercy of the public transport system. Being trapped inside the bus system of rural West Wales is really not a place you want to find yourself on a wet Wednesday evening in November.

But, was more than worth it as ended up at the very excellent Welsh Books Council. Was incredibly impressed with the the level of support they give to publishers in Wales. To the point where I don’t know all publishers don’t just up sticks and move to Wales.

Welsh publishers seem to eligible for all kinds of grants and assistance to ensure that they are able to publish some fantastic books. But, as well as some undoubtedly very helpful financial assistance there is a great fund of knowledge and experience certainly in the two people I met (Helgard and Kirsti) to assist with every aspect of making sure these books find the audience they deserve and of course get sold.

In addition, assistance with every aspect of the publishing process is available (editing etc available at cost price) as well as a great website to sell through. And even distribution.

Really, if you are a publisher in Wales – do you realise how lucky you are?

Filed under: Publishing

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