I hear ya!

I've been very interested in the trend toward podcasting. Earlier this month, Holtzbrinck launched their podcast site as a PR tool for their imprint's books.

Now, I read in USA Today that Simon and Schuster premiered their SimonSays podcast this week with an interview by Jennifer Weiner. Time Warner's Little, Brown's podcast is featuring Michael Connelly. That's three out of the big seven publishing houses.

Are you seeing increased interest in audio rights by publishers in contracts for the books you represent?

I'm very excited about podcasting. I think it's part of a great and wonderful new way for people to "read". I'm not seeing an uptick in audio rights though. Publishers are starting with only the very very few novelists they know are brand names or very well known. Sadly, none of those writers are Miss Snark's clients.

Audio has always been a tough sell for fiction. Debut novels hardly ever get much audio interest. Once an author is known, and has an established name, (Michael Connelly and Jennifer Weiner as examples) it's easier. This is cause audio doesn't sell a lot. A novel that sells 10,000 copies in hardcover would be lucky to sell 100 audio books. The cost of audio books per unit is staggering.

For all of his self promotional hyperbole, Gerard Jones (author of Ginny Goode) is actually doing something pretty interesting cause he's doing his OWN audio book. I see that coming too...like self publishing for audio.

Podcasts, and satellite radio expand the market, and since I'm all about sell sell sell, I think it's just dandy.


Maya Reynolds said...

Miss Snark: Thank you for answering my question--and so quickly, too.

You raised a point that had occurred to me. Podcasting offers writers options to self-publish in the same way that e-publishing does. If authors can figure out how to market their podcasts, it opens whole new venues. And, it looks like the publishing industry is very aware of this.

Thanks again.

Maria said...

Audio is huge in libraries--HUGE. many people will check out ANY audio just because they have gone through the entire selection. Audio books would be more popular if they weren't so expensive. Very few people want to fork over the sometimes over 100 dollar price tag for an audio by a well-known author. When the price comes down they will be even more popular. I think audio is probably even more important for a new author than for a big name. Podcosting brings the cost down--but it isn't a well-known media yet. If it were advertised to the commuter, I think it would be a hit. It's just not known about enough.

Maya Reynolds said...

I just checked Gerard Jones website (www.everyonewhosanyone.com). I'll admit I usually avoid it. He sounds like such an angry guy.

Didn't Stephen King try the honor system back in 2000 to market his e-book, THE PLANT, and wasn't it a miserable failure? My memory is he pulled it after a couple of chapters.

K said...

I'm in charge of the audiobook review section for a magazine for truckers. Audiobooks are very popular with them because they're on the road so much.

I actually have a 40-minute, one-way commute myself, so I'm hooked on audiobooks now, too. I still like reading in print slightly better (especially better than listening to abridged books), but it's a good way to squeeze reading into my schedule and also pass the time.

It's amazing how much cheaper audiobooks are on eBay.

roach said...

I'm not familiar with podcasting, so are publishers charging for the content? Or are these freebies along the lines of the free e-books Baen does?

Stephen King's experiment didn't really fail. I think he just had different expectations than his readers had. He thought that readers should pay for each different format (you want it in HTML, TXT and Mobireader*, you'd have to pay three times) whereas readers thought once they had paid once they should have access to all the different formats without further payment. So while downloads were high it appears that people were downloading multiple formats but only paying once so the dollars to download ratio wasn't all that great.

*I'm guessing at those formats, I can't remember how the sections were released, just that there was more than one format.

Kitty said...

Escape Pod is a site that posts stories in podcast form. They paid $5 for my Mandy Patinkin story, which will "air" sometime soon.

Maria said...

I don't think that Stephen King did audio. He did an experiment where he sold (on an honor system) a book (which had been turned down numerous times by publishers and was one of the first things he ever wrote). He sold it chapter, by painful chapter--so instead of getting a book, you went out and downloaded a chapter. Then, all in good (or bad) time, another might appear. A rather drawn out affair. I'm sure he did fine with "donations" but I don't think it proved anything one way or the other.

More on audio:
Truckers come into the library all the time and check out the audio. And they will read anything. Many of them have what is known as a techshare card--they get library share cards so they can pick up audio on the other end of their trucking route(mind you they have to remember to turn the audio into the orginating library) but it works great for those truckers with a regular, repeatable route.

I wish there were something similar to Escape Pod in the myster area. I also wish that Escape Pod had different copyright rules--ie a little more protective.

I also wish more books were available on audio. It's one of the few growing areas of publishing and is bound to become more popular because it fits lifestyles of today. Podcasting is probably also going to play a part.

BTW for whoever asked about the publishers doing it--they are excerpt only from what i understand. This idea falls VERY short of being helpful. IMO. It's like pretending to support a media, but not really going out there and doing it. I'm sure it's partly because they can't figure out how to control the end result--ie if they podcast it, how do they keep someone from recording it and then giving it away, sharing it with friends, etc.

Bernita said...

What puzzles me about things like this is the terminal mind-set.
Even if podcasts are "pirated", doesn't it lead to recognition of various writers and their books? Indirect publicity? Wouldn't some listeners then go out and buy hard copies of those books, or subsequent ones? One does not limit oneself exclusively to one form of purchase.
For example, I often buy a second-hand copy of a writer I haven't previously read, and then if I like them, go buy new.

Ira Rosofsky said...

At Itunes (and other download sites) you can download free podcasts culled from a variety of radio shows. You can also download books. Some are about the same price as the print edition, Frekonomics for $18.95; other are more expensive, latest Harry Potter for $49.95; and still others are quite reasonable, Dylan Thomas reading Dylan Thomas (which is the way to go with Dylan Thomas) for $13.95. The site says there are books for as litte as 3 bucks.

Maya Reynolds said...

Bernita: The perfect example of what you're talking about was what happened to William Bright last month.

Bright digitally shrunk the maps of the New York and San Francisco subway systems and made them available online so that commuters could download them for free onto their iPods.

Both BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and MTA (Metro Transit Authority) demanded that he remove their maps from the Internet. They're claiming copyright infringement.

Now, how the devil is this poor little guy hurting BART and MTA? He was doing a service for commuters that--at present--neither transit authority offered. It was one of the silliest things I'd ever heard.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Maya.
A perfect illustration.
Protecting these secret maps is more important than possibly increasing ridership, didn't you know?
The concept is getting more unclear all the time.

Dave Kuzminski said...

Making two points here:

Some of my ebooks have gone on to be produced as audio books. I must admit that the royalties on the audio books have been more than I expected for an unknown author such as myself.

I have to side with BART and the other subway operators. If we do not honor their copyrights, then the whole system fails. From what I read of the situation, he reduced the actual work by others to fit on the iPods and that's an abuse of copyright. Had he gone to the effort of drawing original maps and then posting those, his results would have been entirely legal. So, it's important to keep in mind that they're rightfully objecting to his copying of their work without permission.

Maria said...

Well, on the transit thing, who stands to lose money (or anything else) because the maps were reproduced? Yes, it was infringement, but hardly worth fighting over.

On the audio stuff--I'm not against some ability to transport books/audio, but there should be limits so that the author (and supporting staff of agent and publishers) are protected. It's nice when the audio is on CD--that limits it because there is one copy, just like book form. Sure, a person could make copies and illegally hand it out (which they can't readily do with paper books), but most readers aren't trying to actively go around giving away copies of something they read/listened to. Audio on CD is much like a book--you can lend it to friends or give it away, but it's still limited by computer equipment, writable CDs and the laziness factor at the least (who wants to sit and burn CDs for six of your best friends? Let them buy their own copy!!!)

Podcasting is a bit different--especially when readers/listeners don't pay in the first place. Escapepod is a free service. That's great if you are publishing with them for exposure. It's not so great if you're trying to make any money at all for your craft. It's all a matter of understanding what you're giving up and why you might bother. Right now audio is a growing market segment. Libraries play a great part in that--they pay for their copy and they also give an author exposure. Authors also make more per audio then per paper copy.

It would be nice if Podcasting did some sort of pay scheme--or offered a monthly fee service so that readers could get 2 books a month or whatever, like audible.com. There's a place for all of it, but like anything else it has to be managed. I wouldn't want my book up on a podcast site for free for an unlimited number of downloads forever unless it was purely for exposure--and you can only do so many exposures before you have to find a way to put frijoles and tortillas on the table...

Unknown said...

okay, I've tried to bury my marketing self - but wouldn't pod casts be a perfect place for book trailers - like movie trailers? I can see a show filled with trailers for all kinds of books... a poem from a literary publisher, a "first 300 words" from a new author, a selection of flash fiction...

If it was done by an independent, they could promote all kinds of works for relatively little production cost. Fresh Air for books, but more... slick. Coming from an independent source it would have much more credibility than something coming from publishers.

Maya Reynolds said...

Breathe: That's exactly what the book publishers are doing with their new podcast sites: playing author interviews, excerpts, etc. to promote new books. Right now it's only PR stuff, but it's not going to take them long to expand into other areas.

Bill Thompson said...

I'm not an author (yet) but I do interview them, and I have a daily podcast that gets more than a thousand hits a day. I think Breathe's suggestion about "trailers" or short previews is a terrific idea. I'm open to suggestion.

Unknown said...

Having it come from an independent source (not the publisher) I think is critical to it having any credibility - Otherwise you could just read press releases all day. As a former PR flack, I promise you, it would be brutal.

I'll check out your podcast, BIll.