Friday, July 10, 2009

Should I opt out?

I have been considering of late whether to remove my book from the Google Books programme, which I submitted it to several years ago. I originally joined it on the recommendation of friends who claimed that it has enhanced their online presence and in turn, led to more sales, but am yet to be convinced. If anything it may with books like mine, have the opposite effect. It is difficult to know. On the other hand, there was that review from the Self Publishing Magazine that described my work "as ideal for students of philosophy and the social sciences". There is also the small matter of my friend Nadine Laman who lives in Arizona and tells me that several students at the University of Arizona, which her son attends, are raving about my book. The number of US copies being sold does seem to have increased this year. Could this then be a way for me to reach the universities and lead to more sales? Maybe I ought to stay with the programme after all, and register for the new Partner programme that is being set up. Decisions, decisions.

I contacted Google anyway to find out how to get my book removed and had the somewhat reassuring reply:

"Before processing your removal request, I wanted to first clarify that the settlement and the Partner Programme are separate. You can choose now to put your books in the Partner Programme; this would not preclude you from having the Registry represent your books in the future.

The terms of the settlement agreement will not be in effect until the Court has fully approved the settlement.To learn more about the Google Book Search settlement agreement, please go to

Because the settlement is awaiting Court approval, we're limited in our ability to discuss it with you. However, you are encouraged to contact the Settlement Administrator Class Counsel, whose contact information is on the settlement website, for further assistance. I also wanted to assure you that Google respects the rights of owners and the tremendous creative effort of authors, and that in every case, Google's presentation of the works to the public will keep authors and publishers in mind and will be well within the bounds of copyright law.

The Google Books Partner Programme is a free marketing programme intended to help authors and publishers increase their books' online presence. In the future, should a retail component be added to the Partner Programme, we will be splitting the revenue with the copyright holders, with a higher proportion going to the copyright holders. If, after reviewing this information, you'd still like to have your book removed from the Google Books Partner Programme, please let me know."

It seems then that Google Books (the search online facility) and the Partner Programme are in fact separate things - and being part of one does not necessarily mean that you have to be part of the other. Those who have submitted their work to Google Books as I did, can opt out of the of the Partnership Programme. Doing this does not stop them from joining it at a later date.

Mind you, I had to laugh at the idea of them respecting the the rights of authors and in their own words "their tremendous creative effort". If that were really the case, then why are they riding roughshod over the authors of out of print and copyright books without their permission. If they cannot be traced then tough, this does not give them license to scan their work without permission. As for the idea that the authors will benefit more than Google, how on earth can this happen when the copyright holders cannot be traced - surely this means that all the Revenue will go to Google?! They will be the ones to the ones to benefit from someone else's "tremendous creative effort" and not the one who actually put the work in. When they say that a retail operation will be run within the bounds of copyright law, this will of course mean American law, which is not the same as European law, how can it be?

I suppose the bottom line is whether this is likely to increase my sales and raise my profile, and that is all I should really be concerned with, and try and put my emotions to one side. Yes it is wrong to scan out of print books, but I joined Google Books willingly, and only question I need to ask myself is will this help to open up new avenues for my work?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The most important development in 60 years?

It may be true that the majority of books are bought in bricks and mortar stores, but a survey in the Irish Independent conducted by the Frankfurt Book Fair reveals that online book selling is believed to be the most important development in book selling for the past 60 years. A further survey by Nielson confirms that books outsell every other product bought online.

Online book selling is an industry that is thriving in Ireland, as Brona Looby, marketing manager of Easons says "this is an area that has seen phenomenal growth, particularly this year". She estimates the surge in growth at well over 100 per cent and goes on to say "It's an area that's growing faster in Ireland all the time as more and more people become aware". Easons are so excited by this surge in their online business that they are planning a major online marketing campaign for the second half of this year. They are not alone.

Other businesses such as ABE books, a pioneer of the "online marketplace" concept championed by Amazon who bought the business at the end of last year, where books are listed by hundreds of small independent sellers, with ABE processing their payments, has been their business boom in the 13 years since launch. At their inception, two million books were listed on their site, today that figure has grown to 110 million.

The biggest advantage of online buying for consumers is of course price, but also availability. Bricks and mortar stores cannot compete with an online store that lists every single book in print, and many that are not. Book stores can in theory order any book that has an ISBN, but tracking it down is not always that easy - the publisher has to have an account with one of the wholesalers that the store obtains their stock from - and not all small presses, and in particular self publishers do. Contract this with the world of Amazon and ABE where small presses and private individuals including authors themselves can sell their books direct to the public, supplying them very often within 24 hours. This is particularly beneficial for those who live in rural areas and do not have access to bricks and mortar stores without travelling a considerable distance.

Online selling is particularly suited to non fiction, as buyers can search for topics of interest and order there and then. The real battle is though fought over the best selling fiction titles, with the online retailers falling over themselves to better the prices of the chains, who compete with incentives such as three for two, and loyalty card schemes.

I must admit that I tend to shop for books myself this way, buying fiction titles in the bricks and mortar stores and non fiction online, where it is easier to search for and obtain information on such titles, and where there is much greater availability at often better prices.

Another advantage of online selling is of course the ability to reach other markets overseas that would be impossible through bricks and mortar stores alone. When I think back to the books that I have sold to people overseas, they have all come about because of the Internet - through the usual online retailers, through my own website and to those whom I have met through other means - most commonly online forums and social networking sites. In fact if it wasn't for the Internet then I wouldn't be published at all, as this is how I found my publisher, through searching for information on print on demand.

Dancing the Dream - book stuff etc

With the death of Michael Jackson just over a week ago, and the memorial service last night, in which my own musical hero Stevie Wonder gave a moving speech, books about the deceased superstar have gone through the roof. One of the four books penned by Craig Halstead and Chris Cadman and published by Authors OnLine Ltd is number two on the list of Jackson biographies on I joked to the chef at work last weekend that perhaps if I faked my own death I might sell some more books - rest assured that I am not seriously considering it as a career option.

In the meantime, Transworld are to re-publish their own Jackson biography, penned by the man himself, entitled "Dancing the Dream", originally published in 1992. The book is set for release on 27th July, and is billed as "a must have for Jackson fans and collectors". All the money from the sale of these books, not to mention his records, which dominate the top 20, will more than pay for that gold plated coffin, and wipe out most if not all of his debts. I am not sure at the logic of allowing his children to attend the funeral in such a public manner, although like everyone else, they need to grieve. My own father died when I was not much older than Paris, his eldest child.

On another unrelated matter, I see that three Muslim men were jailed yesterday for an arson attack on the home of a publisher yesterday, who was to publish a biography about the child bride of the prophet Muhammed. The trip poured petrol on the front door of Martin Rynja's home days before his company Gibson Square, were set to publish the controversial book entitled "The Jewel of Medina" written by American author Sherry Jones.

All this as British Book Shops places 600 staff under consultation following job cuts (the work force has been cut by almost a third) at their Head Office and warehouse, both in Brighton. Chief Executive John Simpson remains in his own words "moderately optimistic" about the company's future, and said there are no plans for store closures - expect to see closing signs then soon! I hope I am wrong and the staff and company can come through this. I wish them well.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

My new and improved website

For the past week I have been hard at work designing my brand new and improved website. It has now been uploaded, and I think and hope it is a vast improvement on the old one. The background remains the same, but the header and all the navigation buttons have been changed to make them much more user friendly. Several new articles have been added (some of which are articles previously published on this blog regarding distribution, how to get your book available in book stores and so on), and other ones updated to reflect changes in the information that they present with the pictures changed and re-sized.

To go to new site click here

Monday, July 06, 2009

US Enquire into Google Books deal

An article in the New York Times confirms that the US Justice Department has begun an anti trust investigation into the proposed settlement between authors and publishers against Google. Both sides agreed that this is a strong indicator that the issues raised by said authors and publishers are being taken seriously. The Federal Judge charged with reviewing the settlement said that the Justice Department was reviewing concerns that the agreement could violate the Sherman Antitrust Act. He went on to say "At this preliminary stage, the United States has reached no conclusions as to the merit of those concerns or more broadly what impact this settlement may have on competition," William F Cavanaugh, a deputy assistant attorney general, said "However, we have determined that the issues raised by the proposed settlement warrant further inquiry."

The $125m settlement would give Google the right to scan books both in and out of print and display them on line, selling these works by subscription to libraries and other institutions. The revenue from this venture would be shared amongst Google, authors and publishers (assuming they could be traced).

The settlement was agreed in principal in October and is subject to court approval, was intended to resolve a class action lawsuit originally filed in 2005 by the US Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers against Google. Several European countries have objected to the settlement including Germany and our own country.

While I realise that Google is an American company, and it was American authors and publishers who brought the case, it seems to me that the represent the interests of authors and publishers worldwide - namely, the right not to have their work copied without permission and to be adequately compensated when and if that work is copied. For once Google may have bitten off more than they can chew, especially now the European courts have raised their own objections, for it seems (and I realise this may sound like a generalisation and not all Americans are like this), Google are living up to the popular American image of being totally unaware that there is a world outside of their own country and that their actions can and do affect the rest of the world. Still, like I said, they are an American company and as such, subject to the American law, and the authors and publishers that brought this case are also American, but when a company operates worldwide through the Internet as Google does then what they do does affect other territories and they need to be careful not to violate other countries laws. It will then be interesting to see the outcome of this case and the European ones which are currently being considered.