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Alphabet SoupI’ve been too busy with Clarion South to be able to write longer posts, so here’s a round-up of a few interesting tidbits I’ve seen around the interwebs lately.

Winnie the Pooh to the Rescue
Apparently a Pooh sequel is in development. PersonaNonData quotes a Times article: “Michael Brown, for the trustees who manage the affairs of A. A. Milne and E. H. Shepard, said that he had been hoping to give the green light to a sequel for a very long time.” This intrigues me since I was fairly sure A. A. Milne’s works entered the public domain in 2007.

Self Publishing Continues to Grow
Martyn Daniels over at Brave New World comments on the continued rise of self publishing as an option for authors finding it hard to be published. It may be cheaper and easier than ever before. But watching my members’ experiences with POD and self-publishing at QWC, it seems the only ones making money out of it so far are the service companies Daniels mentions, like Authors Solutions.

Canadian Wine Meet Canadian Content
Mark at Index//mb has a nifty marketing idea: pair Canadian books/authors with Canadian wines. Mark, Australian Coriole Wines did a brilliant promotion using exactly this idea a few years ago with Adelaide poets. Poetry and poet bios on the labels, attractive limited edition half-cases with royalties to the poets, and even “Poets in the Vineyard” events with readings and music. I hope Canadian wineries can follow the example!

Do publishers still dream of electric books?
Brian Joseph Davis, guest blogging at the Globe and Mail, has a short, sweet with Soft Skull‘s Richard Nash about the state of publishing.

There are two fixed points in the cultural economy of books; the writer and the reader. Everything in between is up for grabs. And everything in between will need to earn its piece of the action by providing valuable services to writers and readers. Publishers especially have shown little regard for readers and most will need a radical change in culture in order to create a strong enough service culture.

So folks in a 2019 publishing office will be connecting writers and readers with passion, elan, humility and respect. Or not at all.

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One of the biggest problems for small presses and self-publishers is distribution. Most small publishers in Australia cannot attract a distributor because their print runs are too small. Yet the economics of a higher print run in Australia don’t really work, the market size doesn’t warrant, for example, a print run of 1500 copies for a poetry collection or short story anthology. So small publishers do the hard slog of selling the book themselves, usually direct to market through their website, personal networks, literary events or through relationships with independent booksellers wherever they can.

This means two things: firstly, small publishers (or in this post I really mean micro publishers) must handle the physical process of distribution themselves, keeping boxes of books in their garage, handling invoicing, returns, etc. Secondly, they are usually restricted to a local market geographically (sometimes even within one state let alone one country) because they don’t have the resources to develop distributor relationships with retailers further afield and because customers start to pay prohibitive amounts for shipping.

What if these two things could be magically solved by a fulfillment service? Enter Amazon Fulfillment Web Service (Amazon FWS).

Amazon Web Services

As ReadWriteWeb reports:

FWS offers two APIs (application programming interfaces) – one inbound and one outbound. That means developers can now progromatically send physical goods to an Amazon warehouse (fulfillment center) and then have Amazon do the shipping of those goods out to customers when items are purchased through 3rd party sites. Amazon has offered other businesses access to its fulfillment infrastructure for some time through the Fulfillment by Amazon service, but today’s announcement means that the whole process will be automated. It’s a webservices world!

This could be an amazing opportunity for some publishers to expand their geographic markets and streamline their businesses. For example, a small Australian publisher could more cost-effectively offer books for sale to US and UK customers without those customers having to pay international shipping, and without the publisher having to handle the physical goods.

It’s not without its challenges. Firstly, a publisher may need to make a substantial investment to get a programmer to set up the web interface between their site and Amazon’s Fulfillment Service. And while the web APIs might be free, Amazon do charge for the physical storage of goods and shipping costs. But I would think this need not be any more expensive than a publisher would pay in percentage margin to a book distributor to perform exactly the same functions, and could well be a lot less.

Since small presses and self-publishers are usually working unpaid, they are limited in the time and energy they can devote to all the functions of publishing books. If they could alleviate even a portion of that workload through something like Amazon FWS they’d have more time and energy for marketing and promotion, lifting their overall productivity and, ultimately, book sales.