Susan Isaacs: The Insider Interview
March 1, 2013

After 35 years of writing novels—not just novels, mind you: bestsellers—Susan Isaacs has a very clear understanding of how the book publishing industry works. Her take on the business from the perspective of a prolific author (13 novels and one book of nonfiction) offers unique insight into how and why things are changing.

Isaacs loves to tell the story of how her first book came to be published in the late 1970s. A former editor of Seventeen magazine and a freelance political speechwriter, she was home with young children and living in Long Island. "I wrote a mystery. It was the usual [situation of] reading too many mysteries and then saying, 'I think I can do this.'" A school acquaintance of her husband's was managing editor of Simon & Schuster and offered to read the book. He liked it, and told Isaacs, "You don't expect friends to write a good book!"

The Insights of "Big Brother"
March 1, 2013

When a person interacts with a computer—whether browsing the web or using an ATM—the computer typically maintains some kind of record of the actions the person took with the system. This is sometimes referred to as "data exhaust": information that is the natural byproduct of the human-machine interaction.

Sometimes the analysis of this data exhaust reveals behavioral patterns through a process known as "user analytics." These analytics can provide insights into how people behave, as individuals or in aggregate, and by implication how they think and feel. Businesses can use these insights, and consequently increase their effectiveness in the marketplace by being responsive to the pulse of the customer.

Know Your BNO: Prepare alternative solutions before negotiating a sale
February 25, 2013

When you negotiate a large-quantity book sale, price and delivery are two areas in which you may find yourself at odds with your prospect. When conflict arises, do not become argumentative, but do not let your prospect take advantage of you, either. Take the focus off price and place it on non-price issues. Focus on variables where your prospect’s interests and yours have more in common. Find and agree upon the best package of product, terms and service that most increases the value for your prospect without sacrificing your needs. Before you enter a negotiation, consider alternatives for each issue that might arise.

The Kindle Bikini Girl Trilogy: The Shocking Conclusion!
February 22, 2013

You may be familiar with the saga of the Amazon Kindle Bikini Girl, a character who has been appearing in commercials for Amazon’s popular e-reader for the last several years, most of which have included subtle or overt shots at Apple’s rival iPad.

The first ad, according to a CBS News blog post at the time, “plunged the nation into civil war,” over whether or not Bikini Girl was likable. Adfreak described her at the time as “a snooty ice queen who brags about her frugality and flaunts her wasteful consumerism,” although the commercial got millions of views on YouTube:

New National Book Awards Online Submission Process Opens April 1
February 20, 2013

This year, for the first time, The National Book Foundation will offer an all-online submission process allowing publishers to submit and pay for National Book Award entries using one simple online system. The submission period will open on April 1 and close on June 1, with the books themselves due to judges by July 15. Publishers who have received printed guidelines in the past will automatically receive a notice on how to register for online submission. Publishers not already in the Foundation's database who would like to be added should email Amy Gall at

Mantel sales rocket amid 'plastic princess' furore
February 20, 2013

Hilary Mantel has seen sales of her award-winning novels soar after making headlines worldwide by describing the Duchess of Cambridge as “painfully thin, shop window mannequin”.

Mantel, who has won the Man Booker Prize twice, said the Duchess had a "perfect plastic smile", being viewed as having “no personality of her own, entirely defined by what she wore”.

While she has not yet commented on the furore, Mantel will no doubt be pleased to hear of one positive side-effect, as sales of her book have rocketed.

Choose your own adventure: Authors turn to Kickstarter to fund their stories
February 18, 2013

Game designer Mike Selinker had a dream back in 1995—to bring his puzzle solving fantasy adventure, a book called The Maze of Games, to market.

No one he knew thought he could sell it, so Selinker put his manuscript in the proverbial drawer for eighteen years. Then he decided to try Kickstarter.

Four and half hours after his campaign launched, he met his campaign goal of $16,000, and to date has attracted 1,600 backers and raised more than $100,000.

Here's the problem with book publishers' discovery problem
February 15, 2013

Conferences are most useful when they shift your thinking in some way. Those moments are rare, but I got to enjoy two of them this week at two separate conferences — Book^2 Camp, a book publishing “un-conference,” in New York on Sunday and the much larger O’Reilly Tools of Change Conference on Wednesday and Thursday. I came away with some new thoughts on discoverability and walled gardens…

Is “Discoverability” Even A Problem?
February 12, 2013

This Sunday I attended the annual Book 2 Camp, which has become the pre-TOC venue for unconferencing since it began 3 years ago. All programming is proposed and carried out that day, so you never know what you are going to get.

This year, my favorite thing that happened was, during a session on talking about “what readers want” proposed by Jeff O’Neal and Rebecca Schinsky of BookRiot, Laura Hazard Owen said after a pretty awesome leadup, “What if discoverability turns out to not even be an issue?”

Would you pay to browse in a real bookstore?
February 11, 2013

Chapter 1: You stumble upon an interesting book at your neighborhood bookstore.

Chapter 2: You go home and order it from Amazon for half as much.

Chapter 9: Your favorite bookstore is bankrupt.

Booksellers call it “showrooming,” and it drives them crazy — and out of business. Barnes & Noble believes that 40 percent of its customers use the store as a place to discover and examine titles, but then buy the books online.

How might “real” bookstores fight back against their Amazonian nemesis?