David Kirkpatrick

May 13, 2010

Simon & Schuster, Fortune epic fail

I feel for that other David Kirkpatrick. He’s caught in the circular fire of a dying publishing industry. The thrashings of that particular dinosaur aren’t as public or violent as those of the music and entertainment industries, but they certainly aren’t any less dumb.

Read this entire piece for a taste of the soon-to-be-history file.

From the second link:

I carefully wrote the post, taking time to properly format the text from the excerpts (which is a real pain), linking to both the Kindle and hardcover pre-sale versions of the book in the first paragraph, and linking to Fortune twice in the second paragraph. I added a bolded statement“In the meantime, Fortune has access to two excerpts from the book, and this stuff is solid gold.”

In my world, that’s known as a big wet kiss. And at first both Fortune and Kirkpatrick were pleased. 22 minutes after the post was live, Kirkpatrick emailed to thank me. 48 minutes after the post was live, Fortune emailed to say:

Hi Michael, thank you so much for doing such a great post this morning.

But of course no good deed goes unpunished.

Just six minutes after emailing to tell me how great the post was, Fortune emailed again telling me that in fact they had only wanted me to post exerpts of the excerpts, not the whole excerpts:

Michael, I don’t know where there was a miscommunication, but I didn’t offer you to post the entire excerpt, just the first look and to pluck pieces from it. I need you to please take down the entire excerpts and just post pieces of it as we discussed. I gave you the excerpts to select from, but did not offer for you to post our content, I’m sorry if that was unclear. This is now an issue of copy write infringement and I really need your help in taking down the full excerpts and just posting pieces of it. Please contact me as soon as you can to let me know that this is happening.

Uh oh. “copy write infringement.” Sounds serious.

That was just before 6 am on May 6. I had been asleep for two hours. Fortune then called me three times between 6 am and 7:30 am. I woke up each time and thought “Who’s the jerk calling me in the middle of the night?” and went back to sleep without checking.

Another email at 6:03 am:

Michael, I really need your help on this. Again, I need the post to be fixed and you’re welcome to post a few hundred words from each of the excerpts, but I didn’t offer for you to post the entire excerpt. I gave those to you only to choose something to post. I’m sorry if that was a miscommunication, but I wouldn’t give you permission to post all of our content. Please take down the post and edit it to reflect only some quotes. Please let me know as soon as possible who I might reach to make that happen. I really need your help.

A fourth (or maybe fifth) call at 9:46 am finally got me up (after almost 6 hours of sleep, my average). This time it was Dan Roth, the managing editor of Fortune.com.

I returned the call and things got…heated. Roth said it was unreasonable for me to post the entire excerpts, despite the fact that they asked me to, and that it should have been obvious that we could only post excerpts of excerpts. He told me I needed to edit the posts. I declined on the grounds that I was pissed off I was being called so many times and that it would be a ridiculous amount of new work to pick out the right excerpts of excerpts.

He called me unethical. He then called me unprofessional. He demanded that I remove the post entirely. I declined. We hung up.

February 16, 2010

Book authorship made easy

Filed under: Arts, Business, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:28 pm

Via KurzaweilAI.net – This idea goes a bit past simply hiring a ghostwriter …

FastPencil lets thought leaders publish books without the hassle of writing them
VentureBeat, Feb. 16, 2010

Self-publishing site FastPencil has launched a new program aimed at helping aspiring thought leaders publish the books in their heads:

  • A personal book authoring team to manage the entire book writing process. You run your business, they co-write your book.
  • Full print and eBook distribution services to Amazon and elsewhere.
  • Social media promotion services.
    Read Original Article>>
  • February 4, 2010

    Is Amazon in an e-book panic?

    Filed under: Arts, Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:12 pm

    Yes is a very fair answer. Last week it got into, and lost, a scrap with Macmillan, one of the largest English  language publishers. Possibly because of Apple’s iPad announcement and demo.

    From the second link:

    It all started last week when Apple CEO Steve Jobs trotted out the iPad, dubbed by some as a Kindle killer. Major publishers voiced their support for the iPad, including Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette Group, and Macmillan.

    Then Jobs showed off one of the iPad’s critical apps, the iBook e-reader, and flashed prices for e-books at around $15. It was a swipe at Amazon.com because publishers (Macmillan being one of them) had been trying to get Amazon.com to raise its e-book price from $10.


    On Friday, Amazon.com stunned the publishing world by pulling Macmillan books, both Kindle editions and printed books, from its shelves in an apparent strong-arm tactic to show Macmillan that Amazon.com continues to set the rules. At the very least, Amazon.com wanted to show that Macmillan, which is among the biggest publishers in the U.S., still needs Amazon.com.

    One would have hoped that Amazon.com had spent considerable time weighing this decision. Instead, it looked like a giant company suddenly deciding to play chicken with another giant company—and Amazon.com flinched. On Sunday, only two days after pulling Macmillan books, Amazon.com relented.

    Now there’s this news from the seemingly flailing e-tailer:

    Is Amazon Building a Superkindle?
    New York Times, Feb. 3, 2010

    Amazon has acquired Touchco, a New York start-up that was developing flexible, transparent, force-sensitive multitouch panels.

    The acquisition indicates what Amazon might try to do next in response to Apple’s iPad announcement: a future full-color, more-rugged multitouch Kindle.

    Read Original Article>>

    January 31, 2010

    E-book price issues already cropping up at Amazon

    The e-book space should get really interesting over the next year or so. Amazon is dumping Macmillan’s hard copy and e-books over an e-book pricing issue. Right now all e-books are $9.99 at Amazon and Macmillan wants to charge more for e-books at the outset before lowering prices.

    This move is pretty significant because here’s part of Macmillan’s roster: “Macmillan is one of the world’s largest English-language publishers. Its divisions include St. Martin’s Press, itself one of the largest publishers in the U.S.; Henry Holt & Co., one of the oldest publishers in America; Farrar, Straus & Giroux; and Tor, the leading science-fiction publisher.” That’s a lot of quality books that Amazon is willing to lose over a couple of bucks.

    Is Amazon running scared from looming competition a bit? I’d say yes.

    From the link:

    Macmillan CEO John Sargent said he was told Friday that its books would be removed from Amazon.com, as would e-books for Amazon’s Kindle e-reader. Books will be available on Amazon.com through private sellers and other third parties, Sargent said.

    Sargent met with Amazon officials Thursday to discuss the publisher’s new pricing model for e-books. He wrote in a letter to Macmillan authors and literary agents Saturday that the plan would allow Amazon to make more money selling Macmillan books and that Macmillan would make less. He characterized the dispute as a disagreement over “the long-term viability and stability of the digital book market.”


    But, he wrote, the digital book industry needs to create a business model that provides equal opportunities for retailers. Under Macmillan’s model, to be put in place in March, e-books will be priced from $12.99 to $14.99 when first released and prices will change over time.

    For its part, Amazon wants to keep a lid on prices as competitors line up to challenge its dominant position in a rapidly expanding market. The company did not immediately return messages seeking comment Saturday.

    Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Sony Corp.’s e-book readers are already on sale. But the latest and most talked about challenger is Apple Inc., which just introduced the long-awaited iPad tablet computer and a new online book store modeled on iTunes. Apple CEO Steve Jobs, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, suggested publishers may offer some e-titles to Apple before they are allowed to go on sale at Amazon.com

    January 15, 2010

    So you think you want to be a writer?

    Filed under: Arts, Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:26 pm

    I tend to hope for the best, but plan for the worst in all endeavors, and I never want to be a dark cloud over my, or anyone else’s, dreams, but the reality right now for anyone hoping to earn a living as a writer is the shot is very long and the hope for success is very small.

    Newspapers are drying up left and right, online content (an area I have substantial experience in at very high levels) simply does not offer a living wage and the world of fiction is more difficult to break into than ever before (if the prospect of being more difficult is even possible). I’m seeing ads looking for very precise skill sets seeking writing that would easily command $1 per word, or more, just a few years ago offering much less than ten cents per word. Some even dropping below a penny per word. As a freelance writer of many years this is simply staggering.

    And if you hope to be discovered as a writer of fiction? Don’t look to major magazines, and certainly not to publishing houses. They aren’t even reading the unsolicited manuscripts that go into the slush pile. I can’t speak for the smaller literary journals and periodicals, but I hope they remain viable outlets for burgeoning fiction writers.

    I really don’t have any decent advice for hopeful writers except to keep up your personal writing, do keep a journal, track markets that are open to new writers and above all, don’t stop creating. Our world and culture is more rich because of the multitude of voices out there. It is a shame and a crime that commercial publishing is silencing the majority of those voices.

    Self publishing and promotion through blogs, websites and print-on-demand (POD) books is an option, but that option rarely pays the bills. For artists it’s hard to keep a head in the ether of creativity when the nose is pressed firmly against the grindstone.

    My website homepage offers this quote from Henry Miller, “A man with talent has to make his living on the side or do his creative work on the side. A difficult choice!” Right now a writer with talent is faced with a market where it’s very hard to reap the benefits and rewards of that talent.

    Our culture is more poor because of this fact.

    From the link:

    In 1991, a book editor at Random House pulled from the heaps of unsolicited manuscripts a novel about a murder that roils a Baltimore suburb. Written by a first-time author and mother-to-be named Mary Cahill, “Carpool” was published to fanfare. Ms. Cahill was interviewed on the “Today” show. “Carpool” was a best seller.

    That was the last time Random House, the largest publisher in the U.S., remembers publishing anything found in a slush pile. Today, Random House and most of its major counterparts refuse to accept unsolicited material.

    Also from the link:

    Now, slush is dead, or close to extinction. Film and television producers won’t read anything not certified by an agent because producers are afraid of being accused of stealing ideas and material. Most book publishers have stopped accepting book proposals that are not submitted by agents. Magazines say they can scarcely afford the manpower to cull through the piles looking for the Next Big Thing.

    December 12, 2009

    The publishing industry getting greedy

    Filed under: Arts, Media, Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:33 pm

    The New York Times has an interesting story today on e-books, copyright and backlist titles.

    Here’s the key point with this particular publishing issue:

    While most traditional publishers have included e-book rights in new author contracts for 15 years, many titles were originally published before e-books were explicitly included in contracts.

    And here’s where the publishing houses are getting greedy:

    Several publishers who say they retain e-book rights on old contracts are working to amend those agreements to insert digital royalty rates. A spokesman for Simon & Schuster, Adam Rothberg, said the company has amended many old contracts. “Our plan is to publish all our backlist in e-book form,” he said.

    Contracts were signed with no idea the concept of a digital book would ever exist. Those contracts are for the rights to publish those books as physical, bound copies of the text. Publishing contracts are very specific on what rights are conferred, even to the point many publishers don’t include international rights to the books they sign for U.S. rights. E-books certainly fall under the category of an entirely new class of rights, not something that can be “ameneded” after the fact and after the author of those books, and signer of the contract, is no longer around to agree to any amendment. If the heirs to the author’s copyright want to take electronic rights elsewhere, they should be free to do so.

    If publishers want to include e-books in older contracts, those rights should be separately negotiated, not amended. I hope the courts come down on the side of the artist on this issue.

    Traditional publishing is dying an increasingly quick death right now. I wonder why?

    December 10, 2009

    ‘Editor & Publisher’, RIP

    Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:10 pm

    The publishing industry loses a major institution. Are we really seeing the (shockingly rapid) demise of the entire publishing industry as it’s been known in the modern era? Maybe so.

    From the link:

    Editor & Publisher, the bible of the newspaper industry and a journalism institution that traces its origins back to 1884, is ceasing publication.

    An announcement, made by parent company The Nielsen Co., was made Thursday morning as staffers were informed that E&P, in both print and online, was shutting down.

    The expressions of surprise and outpouring of strong support for E&P that have followed across the Web — Editor & Publisher has even hit No. 4 as a Twitter trending topic — raise the notion that the publication might yet continue in some form.