Tag Archives: book publishing

Amazon Raising Prices (NY Times)

Book buyers: looks like the party’s winding down. Amazon’s once-generous discounts are slowly going away, as this article in the New York Times reports.

I’ve been expecting this for years. Now that Amazon has kicked so many competitors to the ground through ruthless discounting, the laws of the market decree rising prices. This is what happens when a company gains a market share bordering on monopoly—while establishing a tech and logistics infrastructure that would be very difficult for a new competitor to match, so the likelihood of being undercut on a mass scale as they did to others is slim. Amazon has also, for many years been utterly ruthless in its dealings with other segments of the market (particularly small independent publishers, where years ago it started extracting a 55 percent discount in an industry where the normal bookstore discount had been 40 percent).

Amazon’s history is full of stuff that looks a lot like bullying. I always expected predatory pricing—coming in willing to take a short-term loss through lower prices, in order to drive competitors out of business, and then raising the prices when consumers no longer have alternatives—was part of the strategy. What made it work for them, as the Times article points out, is that…

In its 16 years as a public company, Amazon has received unique permission from Wall Street to concentrate on expanding its infrastructure, increasing revenue at the expense of profit. Stockholders have pushed Amazon shares up to a record level, even though the company makes only pocket change. Profits were always promised tomorrow.

Small publishers wonder if tomorrow is finally here, and they are the ones who will pay for it.

 

 

Publishers accepted the higher discount because:

  • They had no choice
  • Amazon does provide some services that used to require a wholesaler (and wholesalers traditionally buy at 55 percent off)
  • AND the higher discount did translate into a reader benefit: reduced prices

Now that the third reason is being eroded, it will be interesting to see if publishers rebel. However, now it’s probably too late. Amazon is the only mass retail channel that routinely deals with tiny publishers. Barnes & Noble, the last remaining competing megachannel, prefers to buy from wholesalers (yes, I know, there are exceptions). If you say goodbye to Amazon, you’d better have some non-bookstore channels in place.

I Got My Nuke Intro Done In Just One Week!

Where have I been all week? Researching and writing a new introduction for a book I originally wrote in 1979 (and which in turn was based on a book published by my co-authors in 1969.

Following the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear reactors in Japan, the Japanese publisher decided to bring my ancient book on why nuclear power makes no sense back into print. And the publisher contracted last Friday (one week ago) for a new introduction. My deadline wasn’t until the end of the month, but next week, I’m at a book-industry trade show.

So I shoved a lot of other stuff aside and got it done. It’s a piece of writing I can be proud of, that shows why nuclear makes even less sense today than it did back then (because alternative technologies have improved so much). It makes a strong case against nuclear not only on health and safety grounds, not only about the inability to safely store highly toxic waste for many millennia, but also on economic grounds (a case we hear far too little about).

The publisher gave me a maximum word length of 3500 words; I turned in 3499, not counting the 26 footnotes, many of which came from pro-nuclear sources.

I love coming in early with clean copy that meets the specifications, and I love that I was able to negotiate a much better arrangement than what was originally proposed. And I love letting the supporters of this inane technology demonstrate for me why it should be abandoned.

I’ll try to post an entry or two in the next couple of days before I go away again, and then be back on track the week of May 30.

A Year of Moving Forward, Part 1: Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green

I have only half an hour left of being 53. It seems a good time to reflect on the whirlwind year I’ve had. Professionally, a lot has gone right for me this year.

First, of course, this has been my initial year as a Guerrilla Marketing author, and the publishing world is definitely nicer to authors who have hitched their wagon to a star. The folks at Wiley have been far more collaborative and helpful than many authors experience with their big NYC publishers, and certainly more so than Simon & Schuster was with me all those years ago. I’ve been promoting the book constantly all year long, and the publisher and even Amazon have also worked on that goal. And as a result of all that effort, Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green has been on the Environmental category bestseller list for at least 11 of the last 12 months—we’re not sure about March—and was #1 in the category for part of April and May. Even cooler—within three weeks of publication, a Google search for the exact phrase “Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green” brought up 1,070,000 hits—far more than I’ve ever seen for anything else I’ve been involved with. Some of those pages have come down since, but as of today, it’s still quite respectable at 551,000. And a search for my name peaked last month at 119,000, nearly double the previous high point of 62 or 64,000.

Because of the new book, I’ve also done quite a bit of speaking this year, including my first international appearance (at an international PR conference in Davos, Switzerland, home of the World Social Forum and World Economic Forum. This was a different event, but in the same venue, and it felt pretty trippy to be speaking from the same building that the likes of Bill Clinton and Warren Buffett speak from. And when you write a book called Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green, you have automatic “chops” in both the green community and the marketing world—which is great, since the book really looks at the intersection of profitability and sustainability. I’ve spoken and exhibited at quite a few green events this year (ranging from the mellow, outdoor SolarFest in Vermont to the huge Green America/Global Exchange Green Festival in the Washington, DC Convention Center) and made numerous great contacts.

And I discovered, particularly when doing media interviews, that I really do know quite a bit about going green, on a much deeper level than just “made from recycled materials” stuff. I was very pleased with the quality of some of the more than 100 interviews I did this year, finding that a number of the journalists went a lot deeper than others I’ve experienced in the past—and I was able to take them deeper still. I’m not saying this to brag, but because I didn’t actually realize how much I do know about many substantive issues around sustainability until I started answering so many great questions about it.

Part 2 will discuss the most exciting part of my year: a way to get the message in front of a much wider audience. Stay tuned.

The Power of Patience, Persistence, and Positivity

Back in March, I got the kind of call that every writer dreams about. An editor at a major publisher telling me she loved the proposal, and could we talk? The last time I got a call like that from a major publisher was back in 1991.

Of course we could talk! We talked and talked and talked. The first contract they sent me arrived in June, and was unacceptable. I flagged over a dozen areas that I wanted changed. And we kept talking, although there were periods of several weeks when they seemed to disappear and didn’t return my calls. But then, just when I would start to think they’d changed their minds, they’d be back in my inbox and on my voicemail, ready to move forward. And usually, right about when they showed up again was when my co-author’s literary agent would go incommunicado for another few weeks.

In mid-September, another draft of the contract arrived. It didn’t give me anywhere near everything that I’d asked for, but it was a huge improvement. I was almost ready to sign, but two “deal-breaker” clauses had to be changed. One of them was the original due date of October 1, 2008, to submit the manuscript, and the other had to do with my existing intellectual property. And the co-author also had one clause to change.

Just this week, the third draft arrived. And this time, it’s something that we can all sign. Yippee!

It’s been a long process, but I’m not sorry.

As you can imagine, the temptation was strong to go flying off the handle, accuse people, or otherwise engage in behavior that might have felt good at the moment but would have done nothing except to dig myself into a deep hole. I resisted the temptation. I stayed positive and confident, even while pressing my demands in a friendly but firm way.

No matter how many times I called and got voicemail, I never left a negative message. No matter how many weeks went by with no communication, I always approached each new call without recrimination. I listened politely to the editor complain about the agent, and on other calls, the agent complain about the editor. But when I needed to complain I vented to someone who had no involvement in the deal.

And now, finally, we have a deal that all four parties–I, my co-author, his agent, and the editor at the publishing house–are all happy with.

This has been a long, drawn-out exercise in the principles I discuss in my award-winning sixth book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First: of being truly people-centered, of getting what you want by being nice, and of thinking long-term.

In fact, those principles got me the contract in the first place. There’s a well-known author who originally came to me as a customer; he ordered my award-winning sixth book, Principled Profit through my website. We began a relationship, I sent him an essay (unpaid) for one of his books, he did an appearance on my radio show…and he asked me, out of the blue, after over a year of corresponding, if I’d like the contact information for his editor at this publishing house.

In other words, this stuff works.

And I started work on the new book yesterday. I think it’s gong to be the best and most important book I’ve done, and I’m fully expecting that it’ll be a best-seller.

It’s an exciting journey. I’ll be sure to keep you posted.



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