Archive for the ‘Books & Publishing’ Category

Clipping the “long tail” … vive la blockbuster.

November 18, 2015

Current & former students:  Remember Dewey the Cat?

Sure, you do … a blockbuster cat book that tried to ride the long tail to riches.

Anita Elberse, the HBS prof who wrote the Dewey case has a new book out called “Blockbusters”.



Here are a few snippets from a WSJ review of the book…


Clipping the “long tail” … vive la blockbuster.

December 23, 2014

Flashback for my AMS & SBA alums:

Remember Dewey the Cat?

Sure, you do … a blockbuster cat book that tried to ride the long tail to riches.

Anita Elberse, the HBS prof who wrote the Dewey case has a book out called “Blockbusters”.



Here are a few snippets from a WSJ review of the book…


Clipping the “long tail” … vive la blockbuster.

December 3, 2013

Flashback AMSers: Remember Dewey the Cat?

Sure, you do … a blockbuster cat book that tried to ride the long tail to riches.

Anita Elberse, the HBS prof who wrote the Dewey case has a new book out called “Blockbusters”.



Here are a few snippets from a WSJ review of the book…


What’s the last book you read?

June 26, 2013

What’s the last book you read?

What’s the last book you read just for fun?




A journalism prof mused in the WSJ: “I’m worried that few of my recent students are reading for fun.”


Blockbusters: Publishers still swinging for the fences …

April 3, 2013

Despite a weak economy, publishing executives are still making what many see as outrageous gambles on new manuscripts.

With double-or-nothing daring, most large media firms make outsized investments to acquire and market a small number of titles with strong hit potential, and bank on their sales to make up for middling performance in the rest of their catalogs.


Here’s what Prof. Anita Elberse – author of the “Dewey the Cat” case – had to say in the WSJ ….


For Sale: Best-seller books … Price: $8 per kilo, hardcovers extra.

April 2, 2013

In one of my classes we study how books are priced.

One team suggested that page count was a relevant criteria … that books with more pages should be priced higher than shorter books.

I summarily rejected the idea and joked at the team’s expense.

Well, the page has turned.

The team went to China and sent me me this picture.


Lo and behold, in China, they encountered book stores that sold books based on their weight.

A counterfeit version of the Steve Jobs biography (above) weighed in at 360 grams, and was priced by weight at 18 RMB ($2.85). Roughly 50 RMB ($8) per kilo.

The team tells me that all paperback books in that particular shop (located on Nanjing road, main street Shanghai) are sold at this rate; hardcovers are also priced by the kilo but at a higher rate.

OK guys, you get the last laugh.

Thanks to Ash Kaluarachchi & Greg Berguig for feeding the lead

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Payday: Cashing in on a best-selling book …

March 28, 2013

Preface: In class, we just finished doing a case called “Dewey the Cat” … Teams had to recommend a price to pay the author for the rights to the book, and develop a marketing plan for the book.

So, this real-life story is very timely.

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What’s it like, financially, to have the book go viral and be near the top of the bestseller list?

Patrick Wensink wrote a book titled ““Broken Piano for President”.


According to Wensink, writing in Salon:

Last summer, my novel, “Broken Piano for President” shot to the top of the best-seller lists for a week.

After Jack Daniel’s lawyers sent cease and desist letter (because of the book’s cover graphics), the story went viral and was featured in places like Forbes, Time magazine and NPR’s Weekend Edition.

The book was the No. 6 bestselling title in America for a while … selling more copies than “Hunger Games” and “Bossypants.”

So, how much do you think Wensink netted on the book ?


The business of business books … for the author.

October 19, 2012

Punch line: “Books aren’t designed for you, the customer. Today, non-fiction books are business cards–for speaking, consulting, and deals.”


Excerpted from Fast Company

Books are no longer simply books, they are branding devices and credibility signals — not to mention the reason their authors command large speaking or consulting fees.

“Books aren’t designed for you, the customer. Today, non-fiction books are business cards–for speaking, consulting, and deals.”

Faced with declining sales and the disappearance of book retailers like Borders, authors have diversified their income streams, and many make substantially more money through new business generated by a book, rather than from it.

Today, authors are in the idea-making business, not the book business.

In short, this means that publishing a book is less about sales and much more about creating a brand.

The real customers of books are no longer just readers but now include speaking agents, CEOs, investors, and startups.

One author: “I’ve been successful in the speaking market, which is much more lucrative than writing.”

Conferences look to authors with interesting ideas to spice up their events.

“We love to invite writers because they are born storytellers … you get a great show.”

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A figure commonly thrown around in publishing is that close to half of all books are ghostwritten.

If that seems high to you, consider that a recent survey found that 42% of academic medical papers are ghostwritten.

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E-Readers paying the freight for paperback … hmmm

October 4, 2011

TakeAway: Book publishers have created a new pricing strategy to cover their fixed costs of printing…… increase their prices on e-books.

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Excerpted from WSJ: 
E-Book Prices Prop Up Print Siblings

As physical book sales fall, publishers are having a harder time covering their fixed costs.

One area where major publishers can cushion the blow is by keeping e-book prices higher.

The six major publishers have adopted a new pricing model, known as “agency pricing,” Publishers agreed to set the consumer prices of their digital titles. Under this model, retailers act as the agent for each sale and take 30%, returning 70% to the publisher.

For example, the digital wholesale price was often $13. If Amazon sold the book for $9.99, it lost $3.01 per sale.

But a back-of-the-envelope calculation of a new e-book priced at $12.99 under the 70%-30% agency pricing model suggests a return of $9.09 to the publisher in the form of sales. The publisher then typically has to pay the author 25% of net sales in the form of a royalty, or $2.27. This leaves a gross of $6.82. Subtract 90 cents for digital rights management, digital warehousing, production, and distribution, and that leaves $5.92.

By comparison, a hardcover book priced at $26 and sold under the traditional wholesale model will return $13 to a publisher. Subtract 15% for the author royalty, or $3.90, and that leaves a gross of $9.10 then deduct about $3.25 per copy for shipping, warehousing and production, leaving a gross per unit sold of $5.85, from which publishers must pay for returns and inventory…

Edit by ARK

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Nook Kids a Potential Niche

November 9, 2010

TakeAway: Barnes & Noble, intent on winning over a new generation of readers and growing its market, is launching a digital collection of more than 12,000 books under the name Nook Kids. 

Nook Kids represents a crucial effort by the nation’s largest bookstore chain to establish itself with children and their parents (a.k.a gatekeepers) as a digital e-book leader.

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Excerpted from the Wall Street Journal, “B&N Aims E-Books at Kids” By Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg, October 25, 2010

The works, aimed at children 3 to 8 years old, include picture books, novels and a selection of enhanced editions of classics.  At the core of those efforts is the Nook, the bookseller’s electronic reader, which competes with such devices as Amazon’s Kindle and the iPad.

One of the unusual features of the Nook Kids venture is that Barnes & Noble has struck publishing deals with more than 15 children’s book publishers to create enhanced digital editions of classic titles.

Publishers say they like that the enhanced titles are engaging but restrained. "When you’re starting with a book that has been a best seller for many years, a beloved book, you need to be subtle," said the president and publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books.

Edit by AMW

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Full Article:

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Companies turn to product-specific soap operas to engage consumers

January 15, 2010

TakeAway:  I’m not sure if product-specific soap operas or webisodes are aimed at providing work for struggling actors and actresses, creating another way for studios to get advertising revenue, or engaging consumers. 

While I do think there is some benefit offering enhanced versions of commercials online so that consumers that want more info can get it, I think it is farfetched to say that products require actors in order for consumers to engage with the brand. 

And, if that is the case, maybe the brand may need more than a webisode to solve the problem.

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Excerpted from NYTimes, “Shows Online, Brought to You by …,” By Stuart Elliott, November 24, 2009

… Actors are finding new ways to stay in the public eye in the form of Web series, also known as webisodes. Almost all such Web series are being created specifically for advertisers, borrowing a strategy from the early days of radio and television when shows like “The Kraft Music Hall,” “The Bell Telephone Hour” … that entertained Americans while selling cheese, phone service …

Webisodes — part of a trend called branded entertainment — are growing because marketers feel compelled to find new methods to reach consumers in an era when the traditional media are losing eyeballs, ears, hearts, minds and perhaps other body parts to the Internet …

Among the major brands proclaiming “brought to you by … ” online are Maybelline cosmetics, which is sponsoring Ms. Bushnell’s Web series, “The Broadroom,” available at, and ConAgra Foods, which is sponsoring a daily show, “What’s So Funny?,” on, peddling products like Healthy Choice and Marie Callender’s!

The goal is to “extend our reach,” said media director at Clorox, and attain “a higher level of engagement” than is possible through tactics like running 30-second commercials that interrupt episodes of conventional TV series …

When developing branded entertainment, “the entertainment part has to come first” … otherwise consumers will dismiss it as “pushing a product” …

Shows should have an episodic, TV feel but be digestible, in portions sized appropriately for online viewing — typically three to seven minutes each …

Some consider webisodes “the flavor du jour” … but sponsors are signed “before we shoot a frame” of a Web series …

Edit by TJS

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Full Article

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How many Palin books does it take to outsell 4 of Barack’s?

November 24, 2009

Botton line: Interesting analysis of the first week economics of Going Rogue — both to Palin and to others in the media.

Obvious answer to the headline question: one. 

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Excerpted from The Daily Beast: Palin’s Gold Mine, Nov. 22, 2009

Did you hear that Sarah Palin has a book out? 

Sarah Palin sold 300,000 copies of Going Rogue on its first day of sale.

The book is No. 1 on Amazon, ahead of both Stephen King’s new novel, Under the Dome, and Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol. Any way you carve it, Going Rogue looks to be a $12 million goldmine.  

Going Rogue is going gangbusters, and it looks like both Palin and her publisher, HarperCollins, are going to make some serious money off of it.

According to industry insiders, Palin got a $7 million advance for her book. She’s earning a royalty rate of 15 percent, which means she makes $4.35 per book sold, and therefore needs to sell all 1.6 million books that have printed to earn out her advance.

As a frame of reference, Nielsen BookScan reports that in 2008, the four books published by  Barack Obama between 2004 and fall 2008 sold a combined 912,000 copies.

On the media front, Palin was of particular value to  Oprah Winfrey this week. Oprah averages 6.8 million viewers. According to The New York Times, Palin’s appearance was Oprah’s best in two years, reeling in 8.7 million viewers.

There’s no way to argue with it: This was a triumphant week for the brand called Sarah Palin.

Given that people either think she’s a Godsend or a national joke—there’s really no in-between—it’s difficult to think that her popularity could be rising. But it certainly isn’t falling.

Whatever she’s selling, there are millions of people who are going to be buying. 

Full article:

To sell more books … lose the index … huh ?

November 16, 2009

Bottom line: Self-obsessed Beltway politicos have (another) beef with Sarah Palin’s book “Going Rogue.”

Excerpted from WSJ: Once a Rogue, Always a Rogue, Nov.  13, 2009

Political types in Washington make a show of turning up their noses at actually buying and reading books such as “Going Rogue.”

But familiar faces can regularly be spotted in store aisles anyway scanning for their names in the index.

Sarah Palin’s book won’t have an index, denying Beltway habitués the instant gratification of knowing whether they are included.

Instead, political and media types who want to know if they figure in accounts of her conflicts with the McCain campaign or with major news media personalities such as Katie Couric will actually have to buy the book and at least skim it.

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Publishing a political book without an index was pioneered a dozen years ago by John Brady, author of “Bad Boy: The Life and Politics of Lee Atwater,” a biography of the controversial master of negative campaigning who advised the first President Bush’s 1988 election bid.

Mr. Brady’s intent was to boost sales.

For scholars and other serious readers he offered a copy of the index to anyone who sent him a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

His ploy worked exactly as intended …  some people reportedly  bought the book just to see if they were mentioned  in it..

Full article: