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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

BEA Day 1

So here are some of the things seen at Day #1 of Book Expo America, the biggest trade show for e book publishing industry in the United States...

The Rebellion/Solaris booth gave first look at a finished book copy of Dead of Veridon by Tim Akers, which goes on sale next week. Sometimes a book cover looks different on an actual book than in the steps along the way. This one looks nicer than I might have expected.

The Macmillan Audio catalog has a special "Just Announced" insert page for Mistborn: The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson. Because they hadn't planned to offer a retail consumer product, but I persuaded them to give it a think and they decided that they in fact should. Me happy. Next, trying to persuade them to provide physical consumer product for the original Mistborn trilogy. If you would like to see that, let me know.

Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner doing a joint book signing at the MWA booth. Hard to believe, but this is Charlaine's first ever trip to BEA, and tomorrow she is featured at one of the major breakfast events. This is one of those things as an agent that you dream of having clients important enough to be doing.

Roaming about the digital section, with an amazing assortment of eReaders that you haven't heard of, many of which are different than the two years ago eReaders you've never heard of, one of which has an office just a mile or so away from JABberwocky in Astoria/LIC that we've never heard of. Kobo, which is unveiling a new device, is the most prominent in attendance. No Nook or Kindle at BEA, neither is counting on mom and pop outreach or libraries for selling devices. Amazon has a stand for their publishing operations.

The show floor is mixed up from years past. Recorded Books is in the digital section and Tantor is only in the Rigths Center so audio row isn't this year. Major publishers have booths in strange locations. Due to renovations there is a blocked off section in the middle of the show floor which breaks up the expanse.

Who says you don't get free books any more? I picked up around 20 without even trying that hard. My parents and siblings will be getting some care packages!!

On the way over to Javits, seeing the mass market of Brandon Sanderson's Way of Kings in the bestseller facing at Hudson News, which tells me Tor has put some money into getting good display for us on this book.

So just a few quick idle notes...

This past weekend was the Nebua Awards weekend event in DC. IT was a good and well run event, but I find it sad that only around 200 people show up for the awarding of one if the top prizes in SF. No representation that I saw for Orbit or Harper Voyager, as an example. Still I think it was a good networking opportunity for Myke Cole. I got to catch up with David Louis Edelman over good west African cuisine. I wad happy to see an Analog story by Eric James Stone win in one of the short fiction categories because Analog is very important to me, Stan Schmidt is important to me, and Eric James Stone is an author I like. Met a few agent- hunting young writers, so fingers crossed for when their partials arrive.

I could say more about both BEA and Nebulas, but will settle on this for right now.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

evolution in action

So I think it's safe to say that the main beneficiary of the ongoing disappearing act at Borders has been Amazon or other internet outlets for buying books (and probably not as one of those!).

Nielsen Bookscan gives breakdowns on sales in retail/brick and mortar channels as against sales in discount & other which includes primarily Amazon and (Target and K-Mart are also in that line but for the typical new release sf/f hardcover these outlets aren't a factor.)

So we can look at the breakdown on launch week for those two lines and see where books are being sold. This also separates out e-book sales. Whatever people are doing there, wherever they're buying e-books, we are able from this to look solely at market share for new books in print format.

January 2010, launch week for Simon Green's Good, Bad & The Uncanny
Retail market share 54%

March 2010, launch week for Elizabeth Moon's Oath of Fealty:
Retail market share 44%

April 2010, launch week for Charlaine Harris' Dead & Gone paperback
Retail market share 43%

May 2010, launch week for Charlaine Harris' Dead in the Familly
Retail market share 39%
[and this is a book that would have been competing with mass merchandisers like Target and K-Mart as well]

January 2011, launch week for Simon Green's Hard Day's Knight
Retail market share 54%

these are all books that came out before the Borders implosion, a January 2011 release like Simon's would have been the last one for

March 2011, launch week for Elizabeth Moon's Kings of the North
Retail market share 32%

April 2011, launch week for Jack Campbell's Dreadnaught
Retail market share 32%

April 2011, launch week for Charlaine Harris Dead in the Family paperback
Retail market share 40%

OK, if you want to you can poke holes left and right in the argument I'm making. The only direct year-over-year 450-Borders-operating-normally vs. 200-Borders-in-bankruptcy comparison I'm making is with Elizabeth Moon, and one comparison is a point, not even a line and hardly a definitive trend. It's an anecdote. I don't know exactly how many of the copies that sold a year ago sold at the 250 Borders that disappeared over the year following.

But I've been in the business for 25 years, and I consider the year-over-year drop in retail market share for Elizabeth Moon to be jaw-dropping. It's not like people couldn't buy cheaper hardcovers on Amazon a year ago. It's not like the economy's in dramatically different shape now than a year ago, it's pretty shitty in both instances. And somehow or other, brick-and-mortar booksellers are losing huge market share to internet, and I'd suspect that it's the biggest such drop in percentage terms since Amazon arrived in business fifteen years ago, almost has to be since if you lose 10% of your market share every year for fifteen years you don't have any business left to lose. And the one big difference between brick-and-mortar and Amazon now vs. last year is those 250 Borders that went up and vanished, and it just seems to me to be abundantly clear that most of those shoppers haven't decided to drive an extra mile to find a B&N.

Let's just say I'll keep an eye on this!

And if you're looking at this and wondering if/how Borders can come up with a plan to reorganize, I don't think you'd feel encouraged.