Showing all posts tagged: publishing

Everyone has a book in them, but not every book has a reader

26 April 2024

Everyone has a book in them, or so they say. It’s a pithy turn of phrase, one that’s possibly inspired the writing of a billion plus manuscripts. Slightly less inspiring though, is the revelation that ninety-six percent of books sell less than one thousand copies.

Everyone has a book in them, but how many readers of that work might they have? I’m not saying you shouldn’t write the book you’ve always wanted to, after all, not everyone wants to see their work published. This in spite of the sometimes years of toil that might go into the writing.

For some people, I’m sure, writing a manuscript is an end in itself. But it’s interesting. I looked up the phrase everyone has a book in them to find out more about it. I hear the words frequently, and have uttered them a number of times myself, but I was curious to learn who coined the phrase.

As I discovered though, the actual quote is everyone has a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay. So usually only part of the phrase is in common use. A little like Albert Einstein’s oft quoted words, imagination is more important than knowledge.

It seems everyone has a book in them, etc., is considered one of late British/American writer Christopher Hitchens’ witticisms, but there’s a bit more to the story. Now that we’ve cleared that up, back to the question at hand. If you have a book in you, should you write it?

I say of course you should. Why keep it yourself? Self-publish if need be. But you’ll need to temper your expectations in regards to how many people might buy it.


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The ghostwriters and AI filling the world with garbage ebooks

18 April 2024

An eye-opening article by Constance Grady, writing for Vox. AI and unscrupulous ghostwriters are combining to flood the world with poor quality ebooks, sometimes called garbage ebooks, and giant online booksellers seem to be doing little about it:

Here is almost certainly what was going on: “Kara Swisher book” started trending on the Kindle storefront as buzz built up for Swisher’s book. Keyword scrapers that exist for the sole purpose of finding such search terms delivered the phrase “Kara Swisher book” to the so-called biographer, who used a combination of AI and crimes-against-humanity-level cheap ghostwriters to generate a series of books they could plausibly title and sell using her name.


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Independent publishers jeopardised by Google search changes

8 April 2024

Google seems to have it in for small, and or independent publications and blogs… Google: whatever did we do to you?

Changes last month — known as core updates, which occur regularly — to the way the search giant indexes and ranks websites on search results, have seen scads of sites excluded from the listings. Google claimed one goal of recent core updates was to remove “low quality websites” from the rankings. This may have happened, but they’ve also taken out numerous sites publishing high quality content, in the process.

But some publishers found themselves out in the cold about six months ago, following the September 2023 core update. Retro Dodo, a UK based website that tests and reviews retro gaming products, has seen a sharp decline in traffic since then, something that threatens to wipe out the publication, according to Retro Dodo founder, Brandon Saltalamacchia:

Since September 2023, Google has hidden our site from millions of retro gamers, reducing our organic traffic and revenue by 85% and causing our business to be on the edge of going under.

Retro Dodo is not alone. HouseFresh, also based in Britain, is a publication assessing and writing about in-home air purifying products, has had the same experience. But that’s not all. HouseFresh has discovered that search results for the products they write about have been supplanted by lists compiled by other publishers, apparently based on recommendations supplied by people who have purchased the products in question.

There’s nothing wrong with user recommendations — many of us rely on them when considering a purchase — but the recommendations appearing in the search results suggest these products have been individually tested and reviewed by the publisher, when in fact they have not:

Savvy SEOs at big media publishers (or third-party vendors hired by them) realized that they could create pages for ‘best of’ product recommendations without the need to invest any time or effort in actually testing and reviewing the products first. So, they peppered their pages with references to a ‘rigorous testing process,’ their ‘lab team,’ subject matter experts ‘they collaborated with,’ and complicated methodologies that seem impressive at a cursory look.

This doesn’t look to me like low quality content has been removed from search results. And it’s only going to get worse. News broke recently of a deal between Google and news aggregation social network, Reddit, which will see Google granted access to Reddit’s content. This, we are told, will assist the search engine in the “training” of its AI models.

As if there’s not enough fluff in search results, it’s now going to be polluted with AI produced copy. Reddit is great when it comes to seeking out anecdotal information, or the opinions of others in regards to particular goods or services. Or to find out why the sirens of emergency service vehicles might be blaring in the neighbourhood. But as the basis of solid information for potential search query results? I’m not so sure.

There’s also the point that the Reddit members who wrote much of the content that’s being handed over to Google, will not see any recompense for their efforts. Unless perhaps they are, or will soon be, Reddit shareholders.

So what’s the way forward then for people simply seeking accurate information in response to a search engine query? There are of course alternatives, subscription search service Kagi being among them, but it seems to me many will stay with what they know.

And what’s the way forward for the small independent publishers, whose livelihoods have been impacted, by these recent changes? That’s not so clear at the moment. They might see some traffic from other search engines, and other channels, but hardly enough to keep their operations viable. One can only hope the big search players come to their senses, but that sadly seems like a big ask.


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Private equity firm KKR buys publisher Simon & Schuster

8 August 2023

The book publisher is said to have been bought for US$1.62 billion, reports The Guardian. This in the wake of the failed 2020 takeover attempt by Penguin Random House, which was blocked in late 2022, by a US court.

Late in 2020, Paramount had announced the sale of Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House for $2.2bn, a deal that would have made the new company by far the biggest in the US. But the Department of Justice, which under the Biden administration has taken a tougher stance on mergers compared to other recent presidencies, sued to block the sale in 2021.

I don’t know a whole lot about the book publishing business, but US$1.62 billion seems like quite a bargain to me.


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Publishing contracts that allow AI chatbots to learn from books

29 July 2023

A few weeks ago, I wrote about two authors, Mona Awad and Paul Tremblay, who had filed a law suit against OpenAI, the developer of ChatGPT. Awad and Tremblay were claiming books they had written were being used to help “train” the AI powered chatbot. They say this had happened without their prior knowledge or permission.

It now looks like there may be a solution to this problem, but not perhaps the one writers have been seeking. According to a tweet by the Australian Society of Authors (ASA), some book publishers in the United States are adding clauses to their publishing contracts, allowing the works of authors to be used to train generative chatbots:

We know that some terms of service in publishing have already included clauses allowing the use of authors’ work to train AI and we are now hearing that authors in the US are being asked by publishers to agree to clauses which allow their work to be used to train generative AI.

That’s sure as hell one way to “solve” the problem. But I wonder if authors agreeing to their works being used in this fashion are being offered additional remuneration? And what of writers who disagree with such a proviso? Do their works go unpublished?


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What to do when no one likes the quirky links that you curate

11 July 2023

Well this wasn’t part of the plan. Imagine you’ve set yourself up as the editor of a (possibly informal) email newsletter featuring (what you consider to be) interesting, funny, and quirky links.

Except no one you send the newsletter to (possibly whether they wish to receive it or not) seems to find anything you’ve compiled to be the least bit amusing. Welcome to the world of online (sort of) publishing. The only consolation (maybe) is no one can unsubscribe.

But stick with it I say, you never know when you might strike a chord with someone one day.


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Rare Harry Potter first edition book might sell for £5000

3 July 2023

A first edition print of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first book in the Harry Potter series, published in 1997, will be auctioned later this week and may fetch up to five thousand pounds. A British collector of books and memorabilia, who died recently, had purchased the title, which was one of a print run of five-hundred copies, from a library for thirty pence.

First edition books, as the term suggests, are the first published copies of a book, and as such are often of interest to book collectors.



Self-publishing a book is no walk in the park: Helen Moody

16 June 2023

On the subject of self-publishing, retired Australian horticulturist journalist and foreign aid researcher Helen Moody recently published her own book, South Coast Islands NSW. While Moody’s title is selling well, six-hundred copies from a print run of seven-hundred have sold, Moody was surprised at the difficultly entailed by self-publishing:

However, Moody says if she’d known how difficult it was to self-publish, she would have never started. “I’ve had to be author, administrator, finance officer, event organiser, delivery driver, marketing and promotion officer,” she said.


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An overview of the book publishing industry in Australia

16 June 2023

A fascinating overview of the book publishing industry in Australia, and probably globally, by Dave Gow, who recently went through the process of self-publishing a book:

Traditional book publishers are essentially operating like startup investors or venture capitalists. They make a string of bets on authors and hope that one or two out of ten pays off big. This way, they make enough to cover the losses on others and come out with a reasonable profit.

From what I can gather, Gow enjoyed some success by taking the self-publishing route.


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First time authors report negative publishing experiences

26 April 2023

A recent survey conducted by British book industry magazine The Bookseller, found a little over half of first time authors did not finding the publishing experience positive:

Among the majority who said they had a negative experience of debut publication, anxiety, stress, depression and “lowered” self-esteem were cited, with lack of support, guidance or clear and professional communication from their publisher among the factors that contributed.

There seemed to be little difference between independent and “big four” publishers, according to survey participants. Making for a smoother experience for first time authors seems to be something all publishers need to focus on.


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