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10 Ways Google Can Help You as a Writer

I’m not getting paid by Google to write this and I use a variety of production tools besides Google – some more helpful than the Google counterpart. But just familiarizing yourself with the array of Google products can add productivity to your work as a writer. Here are a few obvious and not so obvious ways that Google can increase your productivity and quality as an author.

1. Docs. Upload and share working document with peer review groups, co-writers, editors, publishers, and anyone else you are asking to make your writing better. Google Docs will soon become Google Drive with more space and features.

2. Calendar. The obvious use of Calendar is time management – and I also use it to sync my appointments between devices – but I also found it incredibly helpful to create a specific calendar while writing a novel to keep track of days, weeks, and months for the events in my storyline.

3. Maps. Want to add authenticity to the addresses, streets, cities, and other places in your writing – Maps even has pictures of the landmarks at street level.

4. Blogger. It’s the absolute easiest way to set up an author website with simple push-button publishing. I’ve used it for years and recommend it – though I know many authors like WordPress better because of the SEO advantages.

5. YouTube. Set up a channel to serve as home for your video blogs to promote your book. I use YouTube as the main video source for my blogs on this website.

6. Translate. Want to add some phrases in another language to your book? Translate is an unbelievably easy and valuable tool to use. Now includes 50 languages.

7. Web Search. I never felt the need to switch to Microsoft’s Bling. Maybe it’s better but I find that hard to believe. No one has helped more people find the information they are looking for faster and more accurately than Google Search. You have an entire library at your fingertips.

8. Groups. Create mailing lists and discussion groups to promote your writing or interact with like-minded creators. This feature might be falling behind and fading fast – but I predict they replace it with something rivals the leading apps in the near future. (Edit: Hangouts arrived.)

9. Specialized Search. Did you know that Google has tools to help you examine search trends – content of blogs – content of scholarly papers – and more? They do. Keep clicking.

10. Analytics. Keep track of what and how people follow your v/blog. And as a bonus way that Google can help you – if you have a growing online following, you don’t want to be without Google Ads to generate income from page views. It takes an enormous amount of page views to add up – but better to set it up early in your online writing career.

You can use iGoogle as your homepage and set up your Google apps – and other apps – just the way you want to see them as on online dashboard – plus a whole lot more.

Google has a great array of products that can help you focus on what your best at, maximizing the value you deliver. And whether your prefer other tools over one or more Google apps, their suite will at least alert you as to what is available to make your work easier and more focused.

Social Network Numbers in 2014

What are the social network numbers in 2014? Just how many people are using Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+, and more?

The social network numbers are staggering. There are 7.2 billion people on planet Earth – the top 21 social networks have a combined 5.7 billion user profiles. More than a third of the world population now has access to the internet.

Some people still argue that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the other top networks are huge time wasters. Maybe so. But the numbers tell a story. To dismiss social networking as irrelevant feels similar to the great Yogi Berra quote: “No one goes to that restaurant anymore because it’s too crowded.”

Whether you join a network because it’s the newest craze, to connect with old and new friends, to entertain, to be entertained, to market and sell, to buy – or some combination that includes other reasons, here is what is happening in the universe of social networks in 2014. [Read more…]

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This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress. This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress.

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This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress. This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress.

This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress.

This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress. This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress.

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This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress.

This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress. This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress.

This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress.

This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress. This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress.

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This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress.

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This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress.

This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress. This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress.

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This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress.

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This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress.

This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress. This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress.

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This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress.

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This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress.

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Overheard and Observed in China: Part 2: The Dalai Lama

There is something surreal about opening the morning newspaper at the breakfast table in your hotel each day and reading a polar-opposite, diametrically opposed point of view on an issue that perhaps you haven’t given much thought to–at least I hadn’t–but that you already know the answer to because it is so universally accepted in the media pool in which you swim.

One topic that jumped off the pages of the China Daily (the national English language newspaper of China) with a clang and a bang for me was the different perspective on the Dalai Lama, who is also on the front page of many Western newspapers, particularly in the wake of protests that accompany the Olympic Torch each step of its trek to Beijing for opening ceremonies. Oh, and that March 14 riot thing in Lhasa, Tibet, which included monks. Maybe. (Not “maybe” on the riot but on whether the monks were monks or soldiers dressed as monks.)

Here are just a few of the juxtapositions:

Western View: Tibet was a free country since a treaty that ended 200 years of fighting was ratified in 821 A.D., but was forcibly seized and annexed by China as part of Mao Zedong’s 1950 invasion with the People’s Liberation Army that was ratified under coercion in 1951. China View: Yes, Tibet and China separated in 821 A.D., but Tibet became an intrinsic part of China between the 13th and 15th Centuries in response to Mongolian invasions; China was granted formal sovereignty in 1751 to protect Tibet from the Nepalese Gurkha invasions.

Western View: The Independent Tibet movement rectifies historical injustices by returning sovereignty to the Tibetan people. China View: There is no historical validity to a Greater Tibet, administratively, religiously, and especially ethnically–at least 10 other groups have been living on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau for generations, including Han, Hi, Mongolian, Tu, Monba, and Lhoba.

Western View: China wants to suppress religious expression in Tibet. China View: China has shown more than 50 years of restraint and respect on Tibetan culture, particularly in regards to religion. In fact, all of China is prospering and experiencing new freedoms, including speech and religion, to a much greater degree than Tibet, with its theocratic leanings.

Western View: The Dalai Lama is a man of peace and goodwill. China View: The Dalai Lama is a political operator–and sometimes instigator–who was part of theocratic feudal regime that enslaved and impoverished the Tibetan population; nobles and senior monks owned and controlled 90% of the land.

Western View: On March 14, awakening echoes of Tienanmen Square, the Chinese government once again crushed a peaceful demonstration of people who seek freedom. China View: The Tibetan Government in Exile, with the fundraising savvy and organizational skills of the international “Dalai clique” orchestrated a violent riot that resulted in $35 million (U.S.) in damage.

I spoke with one U.S. businessman who has lived in Hong Kong for a number of years and he commented:

Maybe I’ve lived here too long and have been brainwashed, but I’m no longer convinced that the Chinese government is all wrong on this Tibet issue and, in fact, may do more for the everyday Tibetan people than the separatist movement. For example, the government in exile has no plans on accommodating a multi-ethnic population.

So has he been brainwashed? The obvious answer is, yes, of course he has–and it’s tied to the simple notion that the official Chinese media can’t be trusted to produce anything more than propaganda. I’m glad that I don’t have to worry about that danger in America because I have objective, reliable, and trustworthy news sources like The New York Times to protect me. Okay, cheap shot. But there is a strong resentment in China that they aren’t getting a fair trial in the international court of opinion. A Western expatriate made this statement:

The official Chinese media may be clumsy, but at least they are not as hypocritical as the Western media which always claims to be impartial, yet are actually biased on many issues related to China … and in their own countries!

Well, I’m no expert on Chinese politics, but this exercise has helped me come to one iron-clad conclusion: to fight media bias on the issues near and dear to my heart, I’m going to hire the PR firm the Dalai Lama uses, not the one the Chinese government has on retainer.

Will Samsung Save the Nook?

The new Galaxy Tab 4 Nook comes with $250 in free downloads.

The new Galaxy Tab 4 Nook comes with $250 in free downloads.

Will Samsung save the Nook?

The good news from Barnes & Noble for the first quarter of Fiscal 2015 that ended August 2, 2014, was that book retailer cut losses from $87m to $28m compared to the same period a year ago. The bad news was that overall revenues had dropped 7% from $1.33b to $1.22b. Worse yet, Nook sales were off a staggering 54%.

Does that signal the end of Nook?

Barnes & Noble launched its first Nook reader in November 2009 to compete with the Kindle. A year later B&N released a color tablet called the Nook HD+. In both releases, sales and performance exceeded all expectations. Consensus was the Nook device would allow B&N to finally challenge Amazon in the digital book distribution world. A few tech journalists were impressed enough to predict the Nook HD+ could compete with the iPad. But that was way back in the day when the tablet was still in its infancy. [Read more…]

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A World Without Borders

I remember back in the late 90s and early 2000s when Borders outperformed Barnes & Nobel (B&N) on sales per square foot on a per store basis. B&N is doing fine. Borders is tottering on the edge of bankruptcy. What in the world happened over the past decade?

Borders canceled today’s auction to keep a smaller but still significant retail concern going. (It’s hard to have an auction when there are no bidders.) That means the 399 stores on the “short list” for a leaner and meaner Borders will be liquidated. Landlords and other creditors first protested plans to save the company but are now protesting the plan to close the company’s doors, so there may be some death throes – but sadly, it looks like the end is here.

Company President Mike Edwards said “We were all working hard towards a different outcome, but the headwinds we have been facing for quite some time, including the rapidly changing book industry, eReader revolution, and turbulent economy, have brought us to where we are now.”

If B&N is doing great – or at least holding their own in the same turbulent conditions – what happened to Borders?

A few quick and far from authoritative conjectures on my part include:

1. inventory management – every retailer has to carefully management open-to-buy dollars and inventory turns (how often a particular item sells out and has to be re-ordered) but from the publisher side of the table I thought Borders got too tight on order policies and left money on the table. A lot of people who are smarter than me will disagree with this. But I’m simple-minded enough to believe that if your business is book sales, you better make sure you have books on hand. Manage, yes. But don’t squeeze the life out of your product.

2. too much emphasis on “new” – publishers and book retailers have to (and love to) create new titles, but the most successful companies don’t forget about previous successes and find new ways to promote and re-introduce perennial sellers. This is the biggest advantage Amazon has – a catalog of 8 million titles, many nearly forgotten. B&N has had a much more robust in-house publishing program built around classics – and carried both more front and backlist titles per store. Even signage has indicated Border’s over emphasis on the new. I once spent a couple hours studying the signs the chain had placed in it’s “power corridor” in the front of their stores. Of 22 signs, 18 had the word “new” on it. I know “new” is a powerful word and I’m all for new titles. I LOVE new titles. I’m simply stating that in my opinion Borders didn’t emphasize backlist enough.

3. the electronic revolution – Amazon introduced the Kindle, Apple the iPad, and Barnes & Nobel the Nook. Borders did a great job with email specials and coupons (there’s that emphasis primarily on what’s new again) – but never established itself as a destination for online sales of physical books or electronic books.

4. coffee – I think Borders coffee is fine but their cafes have never seemed to pack the punch of the “Starbucks branding” that B&N built their cafes around. Many people still don’t know that the Barnes & Nobel Cafe is not a Starbucks!

It’s easy for me to throw out ideas while good friends and a valuable publishing partner has fought for its life. Anything I’ve noted is not intended to be a casting of the “first stone.” Retail in all categories is a tough and tumultuous world. Who knows what the future holds for Barnes & Nobel.

And bottom line, I feel rather sad about a world without Borders …

Q: How Is the Publishing Industry Impacted By a Struggling Economy?

Q: How is the publishing industry impacted by a struggling economy?

A: I can only answer on the basis of today, and on November 25, 2008 (*), the answer is that the publishing industry has indeed been impacted negatively and at least in equal measure to the overall economy!

Does a bad economy hurt book publishing?

Is book publishing recession proof?

The old axiom was that publishing was recession proof – especially religious publishing. Why? In the overall scheme of the economy (and people’s pocketbooks) books are a relatively inexpensive form of entertainment, best partaken at home, which saves gas and eat-out money. In the case of religious publishing, the prevailing wisdom has been that when the economy is good “people play” but when it’s bad “people pray!”

But in this ongoing subprime-crisis-automaker-melt-down-government-bail-out-required economic downturn in America, sales are not good for retailers or publishers. The list of retail chains reporting same-store declines is as long as the list of … well, uh, retail chains. The only reliable statistics available on the health of independent retailers is the number that are closing on a weekly basis. Iconic flagship book retailer, Barnes & Noble, reports glum 3rd quarter results and 4th quarter projections:

B&N Sales Sink; Sees Gloomy Holiday

by Jim Milliot — Publishers Weekly, 11/20/2008 6:19:00 AM

The news was about as bad as it could be from Barnes & Noble. For the third quarter ended November 1, total sales fell 4.4%, to $1.1 billion, with sales through its bookstores down by the same 4.4%. Same store sales fell 7.4%. Sales at Barnes & Noble.com rose 2%, to $109 million. Moreover, the nation’s largest bookstore chain predicted that–based on the negative sales trend to date–same store sales in the fourth quarter will fall 6% to 9%. Earlier this month, B&N chairman Len Riggio warned employees in a memo that the company was bracing for a terrible holiday season.

Books-A-Million, which is strongest in the Bible Belt fared even worse.

BAM Comps Drop Nearly 10%

by Jim Milliot — Publishers Weekly, 11/21/2008 2:13:00 PM

The drumbeat of bad news from the nation’s bookstore chains continued Friday with Books-A-Million reporting that total revenue dropped 5.7% in the third quarter ended November 1, to $110.9 million. Comparable store sales tumbled 9.9%, the “weakest comparable store sales in many years,” said CEO Sandy Cochran. With the sales decline, BAM’s loss deepened to $2.2 million in the quarter compared to a loss of $555,000 in last year’s third period.

The sales decline was felt in most segments, Cochran said, with bargain books, gifts, and the teen categories among the few areas where business was up. A decline in customer traffic plus a cost conscious consumer where blamed for the poor results. BAM is focused on “controlling costs, managing inventory and preparing for the holiday season,” Cochran said.

While Cochran said the holiday publishing schedule is a good one, she sees few signs indicating that the difficult marketplace will shift anytime soon. For the first nine months of the year, revenue was down 4.8%, to $349.2 million, and the company had a loss of $635,000 compared to earnings of $4.6 million in the same period last year. Comp sales for the nine months were off 8.0%

Perhaps the most dramatic announcement came from the supply side of the industry with the news that literary giant Houghton Mifflin was putting a hold on acquisitions – akin to a fish saying that they might spend a year away from the water.

HMH Places “Temporary” Halt on Acquisitions

By Rachel Deahl — Publishers Weekly, 11/24/2008 12:54:00 PM

It’s been clear for months that it will be a not-so-merry holiday season for publishers, but at least one house has gone so far as to halt acquisitions. PW has learned that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has asked its editors to stop buying books.

Josef Blumenfeld, v-p of communications for HMH, confirmed that the publisher has “temporarily stopped acquiring manuscripts” across its trade and reference divisions. The directive was given verbally to a handful of executives and, according to Blumenfeld, is “not a permanent change.” Blumenfeld, who hedged on when the ban might be lifted, said that the right project could still go to the editorial review board. He also maintained that the the decision is less about taking drastic measures than conducting good business.

“In this case, it’s a symbol of doing things smarter; it’s not an indicator of the end of literature,” he said. “We have turned off the spigot, but we have a very robust pipeline.” The action by the highly leveraged HMH may also be as much about the company’s need to cut costs in a tight credit market.as about the current economic slowdown.

What’s it mean for you as author or aspiring author?

If your heart is set on publishing with a traditional publishing house of note, the news isn’t great. My own company, Thomas Nelson, in anticipation of emerging economic woes, cut the number of titles being published almost in half as of March 2008. As a publisher I always find it more fun to do books than to not do books, but unquestionably, we were ahead of the curve.

If you are able to see publishing not just in terms of a paper and ink product with a particular logo or name on the spine – and are open to the array of self- and micro-publishing options available today – then this is just one more confirmation to go for it now rather than wait for your deal to sail in!

Q: Why Does It Take so Long to Publish a Book?

Why does it take so long for a traditional publisher to publish a book?

Why does it take a whole year to take a book to market?!

Q: Why does it take so long for a publisher to publish a book once they’ve bought it from your agent?

A: For traditional trade publishers, schedules are built around the selling cycle of key account retailers.

Start backwards. Pretend your book hits the shelves at Barnes & Noble on September 5. Why did it take a year to get there? (And yes, publishers would prefer to have a full year from the point when they purchase a manuscript from an agent until the time it hits the shelf.)

Month 12
To have a book on the shelf on September 5, B&N probably needs the book to start delivering to their distribution centers on August 5. It will take them a week or so to get it organized to ship to their 700-something stores; another week or so for it to arrive at all locations; and the next two weeks for local stores to get on the shelf. Remember, they have only so many inches of book shelves dedicated to your book’s category, so it’s likely that some slow-selling titles are getting removed from shelves and returned to publishers. If you have a real, bona fide marketing plan, you now do your thing this month and in the next few months. Pray that the retail buyers believed the sales person who told them what the marketing plan would be so that books are in the market when you tell people about it on radio interviews and internet blog tours.

Months 10-11
Printer ready files of your book were sent to the printer. The printer needs a week or two for the make-ready process. They will have ripped ‘blues’ of interiors and covers that were sent to publisher for approval. They were probably forwarded to you as well – or at least a pdf file was emailed to you to read over. It takes each of you a week to do your final quality checks. It can sit a week or two in a long line of projects before it hits the print line and it might even get bumped because a new novel by Stephanie Meyers or John Grisham is selling so fast that the printer gave your spot in line to another publisher. (Sad to say but true – it happens.) It takes another week or two for the book to get shipped to your publisher’s warehouse or distribution center and yes, it takes them a week or two to ship it to B&N.

Months 8-9
You might find out that your editor is now assigning you to a copy editor. A copy editor gets into the nuts and bolts of grammar and syntax and punctuation. You get an edited chapter every day or two and you are given 24 to 36 hours to respond! Not fun. Finally, in week 7, you see a final cover; you like it better; you might love it; you might have Exhibit A when you explain 16 months later to your family and friends why your book really didn’t sell. You get a final edited manuscript and are told you have three business days to make any final changes. A week later you get a typeset copy of the book. It’s amazing how much better your material reads when it is professionally typeset. You have another three business days to mark any mistakes or changes.

Months 6-7
You don’t hear much the first three weeks but the publishing team is very busy getting sales and marketing tools prepared for sales conference. In week four you get a cover you don’t like. You protest. You might even have won the argument but you have a friend who comes up with an even worse cover and you tell the publishing team how much you like it because you had more of a say in it, ruining your credibility. The publisher finally says that catalog drop dead date is here and they’ll have to use what they’ve got but they’ll consider revising prior to publication. An improved version gets used with the sales sheet. You wonder why a publisher does a catalog if the real presentation is done with a sales sheet. He or she doesn’t know why either. In addition to key account presentations, your manuscript is sent to trade and consumer outlets by the publicist. We’ll come back to this time period later.

Month 5
No one is real happy with the state of the manuscript but someone from the marketing department needs to write catalog copy and uses what they have. Another marketing person calls to get your list of influencers who need a pre-publication manuscript. You tell them that it’s not ready to be read by reviewers but the marketing person explains that everyone in the publishing industry understands it won’t be a final edited copy.

Month 4
In the second week of this month you’ll get a long conciliatory call from your editor with a list of things you need to rewrite. You have two weeks to get everything done.

Month 3
You turn in your manuscript and hear nothing. You start calling the editor who has been assigned to you and don’t hear back. After a couple weeks of this you call your agent. Your agent calls the publisher. The publisher assures him or her that you’ll hear from your editor in just a couple more days. Six weeks later an assistant calls and sends an email and lets you know that you’ll hear from your editor in the next couple days.

Months 1-2
It takes the whole month for you to get a first draft of your contract, which is probably 13 to 15 pages long and is organized with the logic and layout of a 3,000 square foot house that started out as a single-wide trailer. You have a bunch of questions that your agent will patiently cover with you. Your agent wants to impress you with his or her knowledge of arcane publishing nuances and negotiating acumen so he or she will start insisting on contract changes. After a couple of center lane head-on chicken rushes, the parties will finally settle on the few things that actually have to do with business. Your agent will tell you the story and you’ll be impressed.

Bottom line, go back and look at months 6 and 7. This is what is driving the schedule. Reviewers need their review copies and this is when retail accounts, like B&N, Lifeway, Family Christian, Wal-Mart (and their book buying distributors A-Merch and ReaderLink), BooksaMillion, Mardells, and others expect (and demand) publishers to present new lists. There are three main selling seasons:

  • Fall books (August through December release) need to be presented by March;
  • Spring books (January through April releases) need to be presented by August;
  • Summer books (May through July) need to be presented by the middle of November.

Are there exceptions? Yes. They are called ‘drop ins’ and that works great with big, time-sensitive book concepts. Emergency land a plane in the Hudson River and save a couple hundred lives as the captain of an airline and be assured someone can and desperately wants to have your book in the market in the next two months. But there needs there to be a compelling reason to rush to press. Otherwise, you can do a lot more harm than good and seriously damage your sales.

Maybe this long-winded A to your Q will make the wait for your book to reach the market seem more bearable!

Overheard and Observed in China: Part 1: The Economy

I just returned from a way-too-short and rapid trip to China. There are so many angles and facets to explore but for a Part 1, I thought I’d focus on some interesting economic dynamics in China that are highly interrelated with some equally interesting dynamics in the U.S. economy.

As context, note that the overarching paradox of trading with China from a U.S. standpoint is (a) we like China’s cheap costs but (b) we don’t like the trade gap. The burgeoning trade gap is particularly bothersome as the U.S. dollar continues to free fall in the international currency markets, which should make buying U.S. products more attractive than ever. But the trade deficet is going to be a side light and what U.S. businesses and consumers are really going to notice in the near and foreseeable future is that costs in China are on the raise and may increase at a more rapid pace. Here’s why:

1. We’re not the only ones that dislike a huge trade gap; for China’s economy to mature, more of its output needs to be consumed internally, not just by the export market. Toward that end, in the last ninety days Beijing has rescinded a substantial tax rebate (think subsidy) for factories and business that export their goods. That will no longer be part of the formula for quoting costs to U.S. companies that outsource to China.

2. The RMB (China’s currency) is up 20% against the U.S. dollar in the last 18 months. The renmimbi (“people’s currency”) is stronger across against many currencies on the international board, but with the ongoing storyline of a still declining U.S. dollar and its spending power, the bottom line result is higher costs.

3. New labor laws in China include new increases to the minimum wage and a sweeping worker reform act–no company can fire a worker once they sign a third employment contract–equals raising labor costs. On the second element, the reform act, one wonders if most Chinese laborers will now end up working for a new company every four years as many labor contracts are two year deals. Not even an almost limitless labor pool can hold back the simple reality that conditions for workers–from wages to safe working conditions to better factory-owned dormitories or private housing options–have improved and must continue to improve. Some have argued that with the reported 750 million unemployed workers this need not be the case. But what has changed is that people living a subsistance lifestyle in the great rural expanses of China are no longer willing to trade an open air work day for a factory work day that is still based on mere subsistance worker benefits.

4. Rising materials costs are happening across most industry categories, led by rocketing oil prices, but in my world, publishing, it comes as no surprise that the cost of paper keeps marching upward at a particularly steep grade. U.S. standards of “green” are much less stringent than those defined in Europe, but as that gap closes, costs will only continue to climb. Related but off topic: Bill Gates said that we tend to overestimate the impact of new technology over the next two years but underestimate its impact over the next five years (see Business at the Speed of Thought). I wonder: will there be a stampede to ebook readers in the next half decade?

5. When you add up nos. 1-4, not surprising but largely unnoticed in the business community, hundreds of Chinese factories are closing every month. Profit margins and Return on Investment (ROI) are so slim that the Chinese entrepreneurial class is looking for new and greener opportunities. Marching alongside the issue of ROI , the first true generation of entrepreneurs in China is hitting retirement age and the heirs don’t want to run factories–or in some cases can’t afford to run existing operations–so they’re selling off equipment and boarding up buildings. Some argue that this is simple Economic Darwinism and is a positive case of natural selection with inefficient operations falling by the wayside. Perhaps; but it should not come as a shock that as once or emerging third world economies develop, they no longer take on environmentally toxic projects with no questions asked.

Two questions that I predict will become more acute for U.S. (and world) companies that do manufacturing in China in the days ahead will be: are we anticipating and ready for continued rising costs? and are the vendors we are currently relying on going to be in business for the foreseeable future?
Stay tuned for Part 2 of things I observed and overheard in China …

E-Book Inventor Passes Away – As His Invention Soars

Publisher’s Weekly reported today:

E-book sales rose 167% in June, to $80.2 million, at the 15 houses that reported figures to AAP’s monthly sales report and closed the first half of the year with sales up 161%, to $473.8 million.

But the biggest news in e-book publishing is that the inventor of the e-book, Michael S. Hart, passed away this past week on September 6, 2011.

What follows is an excerpt from the obituary for Mr. Hart written by Dr. Gregory B. Newby for Project Gutenberg.

Michael Stern Hart was born in Tacoma, Washington on March 8, 1947. He died on September 6, 2011 in his home in Urbana, Illinois, at the age of 64. He is survived by his mother, Alice, and brother, Bennett. Michael was an Eagle Scout (Urbana Troop 6 and Explorer Post 12), and served in the Army in Korea during the Vietnam era.

Hart was best known for his 1971 invention of electronic books, or eBooks. He founded Project Gutenberg, which is recognized as one of the earliest and longest-lasting online literary projects. He often told this story of how he had the idea for eBooks. He had been granted access to significant computing power at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. On July 4, 1971, after being inspired by a free printed copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, he decided to type the text into a computer, and to transmit it to other users on the computer network. From this beginning, the digitization and distribution of literature was to be Hart’s life’s work, spanning over 40 years.

Hart was an ardent technologist and futurist. A lifetime tinkerer, he acquired hands-on expertise with the technologies of the day: radio, hi-fi stereo, video equipment, and of course computers. He constantly looked into the future, to anticipate technological advances. One of his favorite speculations was that someday, everyone would be able to have their own copy of the Project Gutenberg collection or whatever subset desired. This vision came true, thanks to the advent of large inexpensive computer disk drives, and to the ubiquity of portable mobile devices, such as cell phones.

Hart also predicted the enhancement of automatic translation, which would provide all of the world’s literature in over a hundred languages. While this goal has not yet been reached, by the time of his death Project Gutenberg hosted eBooks in 60 different languages, and was frequently highlighted as one of the best Internet-based resources.

A lifetime intellectual, Hart was inspired by his parents, both professors at the University of Illinois, to seek truth and to question authority. One of his favorite recent quotes, credited to George Bernard Shaw, is characteristic of his approach to life: “Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people.”

Michael prided himself on being unreasonable, and only in the later years of life did he mellow sufficiently to occasionally refrain from debate. Yet, his passion for life, and all the things in it, never abated.

Frugal to a fault, Michael glided through life with many possessions and friends, but very few expenses. He used home remedies rather than seeing doctors. He fixed his own house and car. He built many computers, stereos, and other gear, often from discarded components.

Michael S. Hart left a major mark on the world. The invention of eBooks was not simply a technological innovation or precursor to the modern information environment. A more correct understanding is that eBooks are an efficient and effective way of unlimited free distribution of literature. Access to eBooks can thus provide opportunity for increased literacy. Literacy, and the ideas contained in literature, creates opportunity.

In July 2011, Michael wrote these words, which summarize his goals and his lasting legacy: “One thing about eBooks that most people haven’t thought much is that eBooks are the very first thing that we’re all able to have as much as we want other than air. Think about that for a moment and you realize we are in the right job.”

He had this advice for those seeking to make literature available to all people, especially children: “Learning is its own reward. Nothing I can say is better than that.”

Michael is remembered as a dear friend, who sacrificed personal luxury to fight for literacy, and for preservation of public domain rights and resources, towards the greater good.

The Move From Blogger to WordPress – Why? Why Not?

I used Blogger for seven years.

Is Blogger best for you?

I just moved to WordPress.

Is WordPress best for you?

I am mostly done with moving my blog from Blogger to WordPress. Look around my site and you will find there is still a lot to update. But I’m far enough along to feel reasonably comfortable in inviting you to stop by. (No housewarming gifts needed, but thank you.)

So why did I make the move from Blogger to WordPress? I must have seen a need to change. And why did I wait seven years? I must have found reasons to stay where I was.

If you are a blogger or considering setting up a blog, my experience might help you understand the best platform for to use and a little of what goes into making a change if you determine that is the best course for you.

 

EASE OF SET UP

There is nothing easier to set up and run for a blogger than Google’s Blogger platform. I write. I don’t program and design. Blogger was the perfect place for me to start. It was so easy I actually had time to learn the features and customize my website to a reasonably attractive and professional degree. (I did pay a few bucks to a designer to create my own custom header.) Building and changing the layout and adding or moving features was as simple as dragging elements around. Because the layout templet was visual, you knew immediately and exactly what you were going to see with each change.

Another thing that made Blogger easy was it was free.

WordPress requires an immediate decision. Self hosting (.org) or free hosting (.com). If you choose free hosting, you are restricted from adding plugins or widgets like AdSense that monetize your blog. If you do the self hosting you have to install WP into your hosting service before you start setting up and designing your blog.

With WP you next decide on whether to use a free template or a premium template. Either way, the dashboard view is not nearly as intuitive and visual for building your layout and adding features. I’ll quickly note, after the first four or five hours of arranging and rearranging elements, WordPress has gotten quite easy to work with.

I chose the self-hosting option to have the most control and flexibility over my blog, whether or not monetization is a big issue for me. I chose a premium template from a company that has been developing templates for years. I think that provides better insurance that my template will always be up-to-date with the newest version of WP. [Read more…]

About Mark Gilroy

Meet Mark GilroyMark Gilroy has had a long, varied, and successful career in publishing, from his first paid creative assignment as a newspaper sports writer while in college, to serving as head of gift, specialty, and backlist publishing for Thomas Nelson, the world’s largest Christian publisher. Throughout his journey in the world of books he has worked with leading authors such as Max Lucado, Sarah Young, John Maxwell, Darlene Zschech, H. Jackson Brown, Donald Miller, Billy Graham, Newt Gingrich, Beth Moore, George Foreman, and many others.

Mark has had a leadership role in numerous publishing phenomena, including God’s Little Devotional Book and Jesus Calling—two series that each sold more than 10 million copies and touched countless lives.

Mark won’t claim he has done it all in the world of publishing, but he has packed boxes, edited manuscripts, made sales calls, created marketing plans, directed design and illustration, started companies, consulted, agented the works of others, and written advertising and catalog copy. He’s authored, compiled, and ghost written books that have landed on an array of bestsellers lists and sold millions of copies. His first ghost writing project, The Wal-Mart Way, was done for Don Soderquist, Sam Walton’s longtime right-hand man.

In early 2012 he put on a new hat as a fiction author. His debut novel, Cuts Like a Knife, was released in April 2012 and was met with rave reviews from USA Today, Fresh Fiction, Publishers Weekly, and other leading national reviewers. His second novel, Every Breath You Take, second in the Kristen Conner Mystery Series, released in Fall 2012 to similar acclaim. Kristen Conner returns in Cold As Ice, which releases in Fall 2014.

Gilroy has extensive writing credits. He scripted and served as creative consultant for a two-hour training video that was honored with the Award of Excellence by the International Television Association. He has compiled and written close to fifty books and penned hundreds articles and curriculum pieces for a variety of periodicals and publishers.

Gilroy is a graduate of Olivet Nazarene University (B.A.) with a double major in Biblical Literature and Speech Communications. / Journalism. He also holds two graduate degrees, the M.B.A. from Baker University (4.0), and the M.Div. from Nazarene Theological Seminary (magna cum laude).

Mark enjoys his family - which keeps growing!

Mark enjoys his family – which keeps growing!

Gilroy and his wife Amy reside in Brentwood, Tennessee. Their six children are Lindsey, Merrick, Ashley, Caroline, Bo, and Zachary—the youngest has now headed off for college, so he and Amy are officially empty nesters.

PROFESSIONAL SERVICES

Q: Will E-books Ruin Book Publishing?

Q: Will e-books ruin book publishing?

A: Of course not.

Okay, let me qualify that. If by ruin you mean “bring an end to” and if by book publishing you mean the “careful and professional preparation and dissemination of long form intellectual property expressed in words” then I stick by my answer and say, of course not.

Will e-books ruin book publishing?

Are paper-and-ink books dying?

Now if by book publishing you mean the above definition but specifically and predominantly in a paper, ink, and binding medium, then I guess the answer is possibly. Probably not, but possibly. Maybe the readers of the world will gradually or spontaneously decide that we don’t need to kill any more trees and that electronic dissemination and acquisition is the only way to go.

But paper and ink aren’t what make a book. As has always been the case in book publishing content is king and packaging secondary.  So if paper, ink, and binding do some day go away, I would simply say, no big deal. I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon as the latest research (the PubTrack program from Bowker) indicates that 82% of Americans – who represent one third of the book publishing market – still prefer printed books exclusively.

For updated stats see my blog How Many People Are Reading on E-Reader Devices, which shows much more robust numbers for e-readers – but still indicates that paper and ink will be around a good while!

In his book Business At the Speed of Thought Bill Gates asserted that we tend to overestimate the amount of change new technology will cause in its first two years but underestimate the amount of change that will occur in the next five years. How long has Amazon had the Kindle and Sony its e-book reader in the market? If Gates was right then it will be 2012 or 2013 before we have a pretty good idea where e-books are going.

Now if by book publishing your definition is closer to “long form intellectual property expressed in words” no matter what media is used to distribute the material then I would say for that to come to an end some entirely different dynamics other than an e-book reader would have to be involved. Mike Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson and my former boss, raised the question of what the Internet is doing to our brains in relation to its impact on long form reading. He cited Nicholas Carr’s article in the Atlantic Monthly, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” Carr’s observation is that as the Internet has become his universal medium, concentrating on longer pieces for more than a couple of pages has become increasingly difficult. Carr says:

I’m not the only one. When I mention my troubles with reading to friends and acquaintances—literary types, most of them—many say they’re having similar experiences. The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing.

Since an e-book, at least in its most popular hardware expressions, is designed to essentially look, feel, and behave like a a paper, print, and binding book, you can’t blame it for any for any widespread impact on people’s ability to apprehend long form content just because it’s in a digital format.

Again, citing the most up-to-date research from Bowker’s PubTrack data, in 2007, 164 million Americans over the age of 13, about 75% of the population with discretionary spending power, purchased at least one book. Book consumption is greater with age but still relatively constant. And for those who assert that junior readers simply won’t read unless the content is wrapped up in a digital sight, sound, and interactive experience, I’d simply point to the Harry Potter phenomenon where seven- and eight-year-old kids could suddenly read 800-page books! There is an ongoing voracious appetite for books across ages and within all the niches of the human marketplace. And America won’t always account for one-third of all book consumption.

So will e-books ruin book publishing? Absolutely not. Will they change book publishing? Over time, most likely, but not in its essence.

So is book publishing, a medium brought to the masses by Johannes Gutenberg through his invention of mechanical printing almost 600 years ago, safe for at least another millennium?

Now that’s an entirely different question! Give me a sec and I’ll see if I can google an answer!