Monthly Archives: September 2011

HarperCollins Announcement re Espresso Backlist Program

New York, NY, – In a first from a major trade publisher, HarperCollins Publishers today announced “Comprehensive Backlist.” This program will allow all physical bookstores, from the largest to the smallest, to promote and sell the HarperCollins backlist through in-store “Digital-to-Print at Retail” (DPR) using the Espresso Book Machine (EBM). The program will enable bookstores to offer thousands of trade paperback books from the HarperCollins catalog through a mix of traditionally printed books and DPR, as space and cash flow restrictions will no longer be a factor. DPR editions will be sold on an agency model. It is expected that the independent bookstores that already have the Espresso Book Machine in place will join the program.

At launch, HarperCollins will work with On Demand Books, LLC, the maker of the Espresso Book Machine, to enable instant distribution of books that are not currently stocked in stores. With the push of a button, books can be printed, bound, and trimmed to a bookstore-quality, perfect-bound paperback book, with a full-color cover, in minutes.

“Even as digital book sales grow, bookstores continue to be an important place for customers to shop for physical books. The goal of this initiative is to give the local bookseller the capability to provide customers with a greater selection of HarperCollins titles in a physical environment,” said Brian Murray, President and Chief Executive Officer of HarperCollins Publishers. “For authors this is a win; titles will be more broadly available, which increases sales with full print royalties. Depending on the size of the store, 25%-80% of our backlist titles are not stocked due to physical space limitations. DPR technology means the books will be there for the consumer at small and large bookshops.”

“We are delighted to add HarperCollins to the Espresso Book Machine network,” says Dane Neller, Chief Executive Officer of On Demand Books. “By committing thousands of titles to the program, HarperCollins is showing its clear support for bookstores and authors, and reaching more readers. Digital-to-Print at Retail is a powerful new sales channel for publishers. It eliminates lost sales due to out-of-stock inventory and provides a new marketing platform in partnership with bricks and mortar booksellers.”

“The ability to have available any book that our customers could possibly ask for is key to our vision of how to thrive in this challenging environment,” said Jeffrey Mayersohn, Owner of Harvard Bookstore. “The HarperCollins partnership with On Demand Books brings us much closer to realizing that vision. This is great news for independent bookstores everywhere.”

“With HarperCollins making their titles available for the Espresso BookMachine, the original vision and full potential of the machine will begin to be realized. Thousands more titles will be directly available to my customers, and we will capture many, many sales which are currently lost,” said Chris Morrow, Owner of Northshire Bookstore. “I hope other publishers see the potential of this sales channel and get on board. This can be a key element in the development of the bookstore of the future.”

HarperCollins trade paperback books, including adult and children’s titles, will be available on Espresso Book Machines starting in November. Titles from Zondervan and HarperCollins Canada will be available early next year. Booksellers who are interested in exploring HarperCollins “Comprehensive Backlist” offer should contact their HarperCollins sales representative to determine the optimal level of core print books that stores should carry, relevant incentives, and merchandise opportunities. The program will be available to any bricks-and-mortar book retailers. Book retailers can work directly with On Demand Books, or the vendor of their choosing, to install the machine in stores. Booksellers can contact their HarperCollins sales rep for more information.


The Day of the Kiosks is Upon Us

By our count we’ve written eight or ten articles about e-book and print on demand kiosks, and the same number about the Espresso, the bantamweight book-producing machine that will one day stand at the heart of those kiosks. (See“An ATM For Books”).

Though the technology hasn’t taken off as dramatically as expected, we have never abandoned our confidence that it must inevitably prevail.

Our optimism was reinforced by HarperCollins’ announcement of plans to upload into Espressos some 5000 backlist titles. “The program will enable bookstores to offer thousands of trade paperback books from the HarperCollins catalog through a mix of traditionally printed books and DPR [Digital-to-Print-Retail], as space and cash flow restrictions will no longer be a factor,” declared HarperCollins.

Details here.



E-Reads Enters Joint Venture with Gollancz for UK Publication of 400 SF E-Book Titles

E-Reads has signed a deal with UK publisher Gollancz to publish e-book editions in the UK and Commonwealth of almost 400 science fiction and fantasy titles as part of Gollancz’s Gateway initiative.

Orion deputy CEO and publisher Malcolm Edwards and Gollancz digital publisher Darren Nash negotiated the deal, which includes works by more than 50 authors, with E-Reads founder and president Richard Curtis and agent Danny Baror of Baror International. Titles by authors such as Greg Bear, Harlan Ellison, James Gunn, Fritz Leiber and George Zebrowski will be published in Gateway editions in 2011.

Deputy CEO and publisher Malcolm Edwards said: “Richard Curtis has been a pioneering figure in e-book publishing in the USA, and E-Reads has acquired rights in a lot of books which were on our wish list for Gateway. I’m therefore delighted that we’ve managed to persuade Richard that we’re able to offer a persuasive plan for selling them in our markets.”

Curtis said: “Though E-Reads has been distributing its e-books in the UK, we felt that our authors would be better served having a British publisher take charge of sales and marketing. And what better publisher than Gollancz, whose amazing fantasy and science fiction list is a perfect fit for our own?”

Gollancz’s Gateway project launched earlier this month, making more than 1,000 titles by authors including Philip K Dick and Arthur C Clarke available as e-books through all major e-retailers.


First-Ever Virtual Book Autographing at Mystery Con

Jonathon King didn't autograph in his bathrobe but he could have (photo by Lauren Naefe)

Remember Autography, the e-book signing technology we wrote about last spring? (See Autograph E-Books in Your Bathrobe) We’ve been waiting for the first practical demo. It finally happened last week.

E-book publisher Open Road hosted an autographing – we think that’s the word for the process developed by the company’s co-founders T.J. Waters and Robert Barrett.

We hesitate because we’re still grounded in pens on paper.  Hell, we’re still grounded in places, the brick and mortar locations where autographing sessions used to be held. The Open Road session was conducted in a place (Bouchercon Mystery Conference, in St Louis, Missouri) but it didn’t have to be. It could have been performed by author Jonathon King in Rangoon, Paducah or Sasketoon and the lucky recipient of his cyber-greeting would not have been the wiser.

Here’s what Open Road had to say about the event:


Autography’s e-signing technology works across all major eReader platforms and applications. Jonathan’s signature page will feature special graphics just for Bouchercon and can include a picture with the author that is also inserted into the ebook. The now personalized greeting can be exported to the consumer’s Facebook or Twitter space with a single button if they choose.

Attendees will have the opportunity to see our technology in action by having their ebooks signed and getting photos added to the signature page,” said Autography cofounder Tom Waters. “This exclusive opportunity is available only for Bouchercon attendees who visit Jonathon Saturday afternoon.”

Rachel Chou, Chief Marketing Officer from Open Road said: “We are always looking for innovative ways to connect authors with readers and are excited to usher in the digital age of book signings with Autography and Jonathan King.”

Edgar-award winning author Jonathon King is the author of the Max Freeman crime series set in the Everglades and on the hard streets of urban South Florida. In addition to his award winning backlist titles, Open Road published an E-riginal Midnight Guardians this past year.

About Open Road Integrated Media

Open Road Integrated Media is a digital publisher and multimedia content company. Open Road creates connections between authors and their audiences by marketing its ebooks through a new proprietary online platform, which uses premium video content and social media. Open Road has published ebooks from legendary authors including William Styron, Pat Conroy, Jack Higgins, and Virginia Hamilton, and has launched new e-stars like Mary Glickman. (

About Autography

Autography LLC is a media technology company headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida. The firm features a patent-pending method for inserting an autograph or other personalized salutation into an e-book or other digital media. The system works with all popular eReader devices. The company was cofounded by author TJ Waters and technology executive Robert Barrett in May 2011. ( 727-388-1605)


P-Catalogues Si, E-Catalogs No

Harper does it. So does Hyperion. Random, S&S and Houghton will do it soon. Hachette and Penguin are thinking about it.

Thinking, that is, about committing to electronic catalogues.

Though the shift from printed catalogues (spelled with a ue) to e-catalogs (sans ue because it’s more streamlined) seems all but accomplished, there are still strong pockets of resistance. You may be surprised to hear that the most stubborn are the sales representatives themselves. Many are so dissatisfied with them that they are actually printing them out at their own expense and presenting them to their buyers in paper.

What do the sales reps know that publishers don’t seem to understand? Easy. All you need is a stopwatch. Try this experiment:  Go online and examine a publisher’s electronic catalog. Time how long it takes you to browse it.  Then pick up a paper version of the same catalogue. In all likelihood it will take five times as long to read the electronic version as the print. Why?  Because bookstore buyers can flip through a catalogue in a minute or less and know at a glance which titles they will order. With the electronic version they have to scroll down every page indiscriminately.

True, the big advantage of e-catalogues is economy. “Digital catalogues are certainly cheaper, offering savings on production and shipping,” writes Rachel Deahl in Publishers Weekly (Print  Catalogues Give Way to Digital) “and many argue that they are environmentally friendlier than print. The digital catalogues are also, as many in the industry have noted, easier to keep up-to-date.” But these benefits may not balance the advantage of a 60-second flipthrough.

For an in-depth review of an e-catalog read A Mainstream Publisher’s Catalog Goes E (And Drops the UE,Too)

Richard Curtis


Will You Die If You Don’t Write a Book a Year?

Those of us who came of age professionally in the era of genre paperbacks think nothing of writers who can produce three or four books a year.  I know of many capable of turning out more than that, and I myself wrote some in twenty days when I was indentured to the muse at the outset of my career.  It was no big deal: 2500 words a day for twenty days and I had a book for which I was paid $1500.

I hear you asking “How good could the books have been?”  They were good books, and they paid for a lot of good things. (See The Two Worlds of Literature: What Serious Writers Can Learn from Genre Comrades in Arms)

These observations were prompted by an article by Dwight Garner in the New York Times‘s “Riff” feature talking about authors who write infrequently. Perhaps not as infrequently as the comets in Garner’s simile, but infrequently enough to measure the distance between published works in decades.

Academic writers are not the only subspecies of the literary profession who worry about perishing if they don’t publish.  The book industry has inculcated a rhythm in the minds of successful authors that calls for at least one book a year else they fall out of the public’s consciousness and plunge into the slough of obscurity.  Yet there is something to be said for the writer who toils for years and years, tears up and revises and reconceives and rejiggers and will not release his manuscript until he is damned good and ready.  And because publication of such epic and epochal works is an event, nobody carps on the fact that the last book was published five or ten years ago or longer.

The interesting thing about Garner’s article is his contention that the trend in publication periodicity seems to be longer and, unlike those writers of the previous generation who went into paroxysms of terror if they didn’t have a book out at least annually, the new generation seems to be quite okay with a casual if not glacial pace.

Read Dear Important Novelists: Be Less Like Moses and More Like Howard Cosell

Richard Curtis


Why We Devoutly Hope There’ll Always Be an England

The following item appeared in the Guardian. We have refrained from changing the archaic spelling of “favourite” to the streamlined American version out of respect for a culture that has had the English language for some 500 years longer than we have, and seems to employ it far more effectively.


The Guardian is launching its six-week autumn books season by setting 15,000 titles free in the wild this weekend.

From fiction to design, and children’s books to science, the Guardian has gathered thousands of books from publishers and authors and is distributing them around the country for free. Books will be left in public places where readers are liable to chance upon them, from stations and coffee shops to galleries and museums.

The giveaway is part of the Guardian and Observer Book Swap, for which readers and writers are also being asked to give their own favourite reads away. After inserting a bookplate sticker (which will come free with the papers on Saturday and Sunday, or can be downloaded online) into the front of their book, and writing a message for the finder, readers can then leave the book somewhere it will be picked up by a new owner and upload the details of where they left it at or on Twitter (#guardianbookswap). The bookplate sticker asks the finder to upload a picture of the book where they found it, and to read it and review it on

Guardian launches national Book Swap with 15,000-volume giveaway


John Norman – Mariners of Gor – Contest Winners


Simon & Schuster’s War on Trees

Latest batch of S&S royalty statements weighs in at 15 pounds (less half a pound for agent Richard Curtis’s nose) (Photo by Andy Ross)

Twice every year authors and agents gird their loins in anticipation of the arrival of Simon & Schuster’s royalty statements. This is no fanciful metaphor: some literally gird their loins, for the weight of the package has been known to induce hernias in even the stoutest of mail room clerks.

The welter of detail elaborated in tiny print is numbing. The bloated statements are badly organized and repetitious and, in this age of environmental concern, appallingly wasteful. The practice has been going on for approximately two decades, but after our office manager suggested we lease a dedicated storage facility for them at $400 a month I decided the time had come to speak out.

Having opened the latest parcel the approximate bulk and weight of a giant schnauzer, I am inviting my agent and author colleagues to join me in an appeal to Simon & Schuster to review its accounting procedures, study the clear and economical statements issued by many other publishers, and reform its profligate ways. I would be happy to provide examples that render in one or two pages what Simon & Schuster does in a dozen or more.

Here are the components of a typical statement for one book:

  • Payee Summary – A cumulative synopsis of royalty and rights revenues less advances and other deductions, and the net amount (if any) payable for this royalty period. This summary covers all editions. 
  • Title Summary – Prior balance, current activity, and cumulative balance for all editions of the title. This is a detailed reiteration of the Payee Summary.
  • Royalty Earnings per edition. This is a detailed breakdown of prior, current and cumulative earnings and returns for each edition of the book. One collection of statements covers the hardcover, another the trade paperback, another the mass market edition. If the first edition of the hardcover was priced, say, at $25.99, the second $26.99, the third $29.99, each printing’s activity is detailed and totaled. 
  • Royalty Deductions – Prior and current deductions are detailed. 
  • Title Balance – thumbnail summary of prior, current and cumulative statement balance with net royalty if any due to the author.

For each format of the same book there is a new set of statements. For a typical novel published in hardcover, paperback and electronic formats the royalty statement totaled 14 pages. For one author of a popular series the royalty package totaled more than 500 pages – a ream of paper – and weighed in at five pounds. And that’s just for one author. And by the way, we have to make a copy of this package to send to every client, so double those numbers.

Let me make it clear that I have no objection to receiving checks that may accompany the statements. But I would feel a great deal better depositing them if I knew that an acre of trees had not died just so that I could report to clients that their books had earned $0.00 for the twelfth year in a row.

For years I was a strident campaigner for clarity in royalty statements, and I’m happy to say that as a result of pressure from author and agent organizations publishers at last began providing such vital statistics as returns and reserves against returns.  So it is ironic that I am complaining about excessive data. But the fact is that too much of it can obscure rather than illuminate a book’s performance.

TMI, Simon & Schuster! Time to go green.

Richard Curtis


The Two Worlds of Literature: What Serious Writers Can Learn from Genre Comrades in Arms

When I went into the publishing business after graduating from college, I discovered a literary culture so lastly different from the ones I had studied that I could scarcely find any common ground between them. This world was populated by romance, science fiction and fantasy, and male action-adventure writers, by pulpsters, pornographers, and countless others who earn their living producing genre books.

Since then, I have become a citizen of that world, both as a writer and as a literary agent representing other writers of category fiction. I have come to know and respect, to admire and even love this world and its denizens and have had the privilege of attending the birth of some works that have come to be regarded as masterpieces of their genres. But I have also become increasingly concerned about how little is known about this world by the writers and critics who dominate the world of serious literature. And I’ve concluded that we are all a little poorer for these gaps in awareness, appreciation, and communication.

To read more, click here.

Richard Curtis