Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Two self-serving posts in a row? Geeez!

Hey, it IS my blog, okay? I just wanted to make certain that anyone who stumbled onto this mess while looking for Don Keith Opper or Toby Keith or Don Juan or Keith Olberman or somebody really famous knew that the new book--WAR BENEATH THE WAVES--is also going to be available as an audio book.

No, I didn't know. Not until I saw it on Amazon and then went to the audio publisher's site and read the whole deal...which you can do, too, if so moved, by clicking on the link you can find HERE.

Or quit the stalling and go buy a copy by clicking HERE.

The hero of the book is a WWII veteran named Charlie Rush. He is 91, lives in South Florida, and is as lucid and interesting a fellow as you will ever meet. I admit I was a bit worried about how he would like the book, or that he would find mistakes. I had a long chat with him last weekend, after he got his copy of the book and read it cover-to-cover in one day. His first words to me on the telephone were, "Fanstastic book!" He went on to tell me he was amazed how accurately I told the story without having actually been there. You cannot imagine how thrilled I was to hear that. It was important to Charlie--and to me, by the way--that the story be told accurately and without bias. I should give credit to Captain Rush, who spent quite a bit of time on the phone with me doing interviews and referred me to a few other interviews and oral histories he gave. And to Chief Charlie Odom, who left a great oral history at the University of Tennessee. And to John Crouse, who runs the Submarine Museum in St. Mary's, Georgia, and was kind enough to copy and send me a stack of patrol logs from the Billfish.

Now, I can't wait to HEAR how the book turned out!

Don Keith

Friday, March 19, 2010

More self-serving and boastful content

Okay, I apologize. This is another one of those self-serving posts that is unabashedly aimed at promoting my stuff and making me money. So shoot me!

Two things:

First, my new book, WAR BENEATH THE WAVES from Caliber/Penguin will release on April 5. I have a number of signings and media appearances coming up, including the Rick and Bubba Show (syndicated to 50 markets around the country) on April 6 at 8 AM CDST. Dash on over to my WEBSITE for more details on places where I will be just in case you don't want to accidentally run into me somewhere. Or for more info on the book itself--and it is a wonderful story even if I DID write it--click away on this CAPTITALIZED TEXT and your browser will do the rest.

By the way, the kind folks at The Washington Post have asked me to do a short article on leadership, using this story as the basis, and that will appear on their web site in mid-April. Stay tuned and I'll have more news on that in future unabashedly self-serving posts.

Secondly, the eHam.net website--a great spot for anyone interested in the hobby of amateur radio or electronics--has lost their senses and published another article written by this writer. If you find extra time on your hands and want to take a tour of the slices of HF spectrum that are devoted to us "ham nuts," click somewhere close to HERE and take a look. It is intended for those who are developing an interest in the hobby or who are relatively new and not familiar with the character of the different frequency bands on which we cast out radio signals into the ether.

So, the sun is shining, the temperature is above 70 for the first time in months, and I'm ready to reach into the top-right-hand desk drawer, take out the 5-and-a-quarter-inch floppy diskette, insert it into the A: drive on the Packard-Bell, get an A: prompt, and type in "execute weekend.exe."

See you on the radio!

Don Keith

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

eBooks vs. paper books -- where are the profits?

An article that hits close to home appeared on the NEW YORK TIMES website recently. It talks about the effect of electronic books on the traditional printed book. And it also debunks the thought that publishers will realize a much greater profit from electronic books. Here are the highlights:

In the emerging world of e-books, many consumers assume it is only logical that publishers are saving vast amounts by not having to print or distribute paper books, leaving room to pass along those savings to their customers.

Publishers largely agree, which is why in negotiations with Apple, five of the six largest publishers of trade books have said they would price most digital editions of new fiction and nonfiction books from $12.99 to $14.99 on the forthcoming iPad tablet — significantly lower than the average $26 price for a hardcover book.But publishers also say consumers exaggerate the savings and have developed unrealistic expectations about how low the prices of e-books can go. Yes, they say, printing costs may vanish, but a raft of expenses that apply to all books, like overhead, marketing and royalties, are still in effect.

All of which raises the question: Just how much does it actually cost to produce a printed book versus a digital one? Publishers differ on how they account for various costs, but a composite, and necessarily simplified, picture might look like this, according to interviews with executives at several major houses:

On a typical hardcover, the publisher sets a suggested retail price. Let’s say it is $26. The bookseller will generally pay the publisher $13. Out of that gross revenue, the publisher pays about $3.25 to print, store and ship the book, including unsold copies returned to the publisher by booksellers.For cover design, typesetting and copy-editing, the publisher pays about 80 cents. Marketing costs average around $1 but may go higher or lower depending on the title. Most of these costs will deline on a per-unit basis as a book sells more copies. Let’s not forget the author, who is generally paid a 15 percent royalty on the hardcover price, which on a $26 book works out to $3.90. For big best-selling authors — and even occasionally first-time writers whose publishers have taken a risk — the author’s advance may be so large that the author effectively gets a higher slice of the gross revenue. Publishers generally assume they will write off a portion of many authors’ advances because they are not earned back in sales.

Without accounting for such write-offs, the publisher is left with $4.05, out of which it must pay overhead for editors, cover art designers, office space and electricity before taking a profit.Now let’s look at an e-book. Under the agreements with Apple, the publishers will set the consumer price and the retailer will act as an agent, earning a 30 percent commission on each sale. So on a $12.99 e-book, the publisher takes in $9.09. Out of that gross revenue, the publisher pays about 50 cents to convert the text to a digital file, typeset it in digital form and copy-edit it. Marketing is about 78 cents.

The author’s royalty — a subject of fierce debate between literary agents and publishing executives — is calculated among some of the large trade publishers as 25 percent of the gross revenue, while others are calculating it off the consumer price. So on a $12.99 e-book, the royalty could be anywhere from $2.27 to $3.25.

All that leaves the publisher with something ranging from $4.56 to $5.54, before paying overhead costs or writing off unearned advances.

At a glance, it appears the e-book is more profitable. But publishers point out that e-books still represent a small sliver of total sales, from 3 to 5 percent. If e-book sales start to replace some hardcover sales, the publishers say, they will still have many of the fixed costs associated with print editions, like warehouse space, but they will be spread among fewer print copies.

Moreover, in the current print model, publishers can recoup many of their costs, and start to make higher profits, on paperback editions. If publishers start a new e-book’s life at a price similar to that of a paperback book, and reduce the price later, it may be more difficult to cover costs and support new authors.

Another reason publishers want to avoid lower e-book prices is that print booksellers like Barnes & Noble, Borders and independents across the country would be unable to compete. As more consumers buy electronic readers and become comfortable with reading digitally, if the e-books are priced much lower than the print editions, no one but the aficionados and collectors will want to buy paper books.“If you want bookstores to stay alive, then you want to slow down this movement to e-books,” said Mike Shatzkin, chief executive of the Idea Logical Company, a consultant to publishers. “The simplest way to slow down e-books is not to make them too cheap.”

In many ways, the $12.99-$14.99 price bracket for e-books is an experiment. With it, the publishers seem to have beaten back, for the moment, the $9.99 price that Amazon has offered for Kindle versions of most new releases and best sellers, but it remains to be seen whether consumers will tolerate that.

Music prices, for example, have come under significant pressure in the digital age: from 2000 to 2009, the price of audio discs, tapes and other media, which includes digitized music, fell a little more than 3 percent, according to the federal Consumer Price Index. Prices of so-called recreational books, meanwhile, have increased just over 6 percent during that same period.

Certainly, publishers argue that it would be difficult to sustain a vibrant business on much lower prices. Margins would be squeezed, and it would become more difficult to nurture new authors. “Most of the time these people are probably not going to make huge sums of money the first time they publish,” said Carolyn Reidy, chief executive of Simon & Schuster.

In fact, the industry is based on the understanding that as much as 70 percent of the books published will make little or no money at all for the publisher once costs are paid. “You’re less apt to take a chance on an important first novel if you don’t have the profit margin on the volume of the big books,” said Lindy Hess, director of the Columbia Publishing Course, a program that trains young aspirants for jobs in the publishing industry. “The truth about this business is that, with rare exceptions, nobody makes a great deal of money.”

Hey, I certainly won't argue with that conclusion!

Don Keith N4KC