1. His financial ‘how-to’ books mostly failures, but he keeps on writing
Hedge fund promoter James Altucher began writing books on how to invest when he got into big financial trouble.
According to his blog, in 2001 he had two kids, a loft right next to “Ground Zero” in New York that he couldn’t sell, he was almost broke and his monthly burn was $40,000. He had almost nothing in the bank.
For 12 month
s in a row beginning in late 2001, with the market going straight down (Enron imploding, Worldcom imploding, Tyco imploding), he used software he had written with a partner to buy stocks and for a time made his monthly $40,000. On days when he lost money he would cry. He saw his bank account going to zero. He tried to figure out ways he could kill himself where nobody would know it was a suicide. He had a $4 million life insurance policy that would take care of his family if suicide wasn’t proven.
Then he was able to sell his loft. He became a living exile for a few years and worked on a recovery. He started trading successfully for hedge funds; he built a fund of hedge funds; he started and sold stockpickr.com (his software) to Jim Cramer’s thestreet.com; and he did some angel investing.
Then he wrote a book. In mid-2004 it came out. Trade Like a Hedge Fund
was edited by Pamela van Giessen at Wiley. She told him to write about all his techniques that work. So he did.
He got an advance of $5,000.
The book was controversial and became his best-selling book. It sold 14,074 copies. He made about $25,000 t
otal from it.
He and his editor Pamela at Wiley decided to work on his next book. He wanted to do something on Warren Buffett. “Do Trade Like Warren Buffet
,” she said. So he did. His advance: $7,500.
The book came out six years ago. It was a failure. In total, 6,552 copies were sold, far less than his first book.
So he did another book. He wrote Supercash
about hedge fund strategies. This time, he got an agent. His advance was $30,000. It sold 1,565 copies.
e decided to do another book. His editor at Wiley wouldn’t buy it. He was a failure now at Wiley. Penguin picked it up. The advance was somewhere between $80,000 and $100,000.
The book was set for publication in December 2008. Along came the recession. He begged Penguin to wait. Nobody was going to buy a book about stocks called The Forever Portfolio
in one of the worst bear markets in history. The stock market was going down 300 points a day. But Penguin went ahead.
So the book flopped. The publisher would barely return his calls. In total it sold 1,598 copies. All his other books had been priced from $40-70, but this was priced around $20. It still flopped. People were worried whether or not they were going to survive, not what stocks they should buy for “forever.”
Altucher, now desperate to show his books were worth buying, went around to every bookstore in New York. “I would write notes on the inside of every copy of my latest book and then put them back on the bookshelf,” he says “Things like, ‘If you buy this book you will make a billion dollars.’ Or, ‘You are the smartest person in the world for buying this book.’”
One time, at a random mega book store in the city, with his daughter Mollie looking on, he wrote, “I LOVE YOU” in the inside of the book. “Daddy!” she said, “what the heck are you doing?” But still the book flopped. Nobody loved him back.
A friend of Altucher went to his publisher to pitch a completely different book of her own. While there, she asked, “what did you do to market James Altucher’s book?” They said, “We got him a review in the Financial Times
, an excerpt published in thestreet.com, and we got him on CNBC.” She called Altucher afterward and told him this and they both laughed. Altucher had written his own review in the Financial Times
. He was at thestreet.com and got the excerpt there. And he had been doing a weekly spot on CNBC for years and talked up his own book on it.
A glutton for punishment, he still wanted to write another book, even though he’d hated the process of writing every single previous book. His agent called Penguin. They didn’t want it. Altucher then told his agent who he wanted to do the book.
His agent sent the 60-page book proposal (it was the first time Altucher ever had to write an actual proposal) to 20 editors including the one Altucher specifically wanted to work with, Hollis Heimbouch at Harper Collins. He was writing for the Wall Street Journal
then, doing other work for News Corp., and he thought it would be a perfect fit for her given the books that she had edited. Other writers had told him she was great to work with. He had done his research.
All 20 editors who got the proposal, including Heimbouch, rejected the book.
Altucher called his agent and said, “This is a mistake. This book is perfect for her. Please do this: call her and take her out to lunch. Find out why she rejected it. Explain why it would be a good book with Harper Collins.”
Altucher was convinced not only that it was a good idea but a GREAT idea. He kept saying to his agent, “call back that one editor and take her to lunch or dinner. You need to wine and dine people. You need to at least find out why they are rejecting the book. That’s what sales is. It’s information, it’s friendship, it’s relationships.”
The agent called him back one time. “We had known each other forever but had never had an issue where someone didn’t want one of my books,” Altucher said. “So now I saw what happened when someone didn’t want one of my books.”
“If you are going to tell me how to do my job,” his agent said, “this relationship is over.”
Altucher mumbled an apology and the agent hung up.
So Altucher wrote an email to Hollis Heimbouch at Harper Collins and explained why the book would be good for her. She agreed to meet him. She said, “this proposal seems like it was written by wikipedia. You need to give us a real methodology for what to do when the end of the world hits.”
Altucher went back home and wrote another book proposal. Heimbouch still didn’t like it. The ideas we
re great, she said, but she didn’t really like the writing.
Then the Wall Street Journal
, in the form of Roe D’Angelo, who runs their books department, stepped in. She thought it was a great idea for a book and the WSJ
bought it, Heimbouch at Harper agreed to edit it, and Roe found an excellent co-author, Doug Sease, “who had been at the newspaper for about 800 years and was now fishing off the coast of Florida,” says Altucher. “He’s the most relaxed guy I ever met. We got the deal with Hollis (Heimbouch) and split the advance that the WSJ
gave us. I can’t say what it is because I want to respect Doug’s privacy. He would write the intros to each chapter. I would write the ideas, etc, and he would sew it all up. The book came out (in February).” It’s The Wall Street Journal Guide to Investing for the Apocalypse
Altucher says “I’ve made no money ever from books (if you factor in time spent on them) and now I’ve written five. I made money trading. And from Stockpickr.com, from angel investing, from my first business in the 90s, and from the occasional deal. But net-net I’ve lost money and time from books.
But there’s a happy ending to his story. In May 2009, Altucher, divorced now, had just started dating someone. It was his fourth date with her, and she was going to meet him at the Penn Station book store and then they would take a train to her house and she was going to cook dinner.
While she was waiting for him, she saw his book, The Forever Portfolio,
for sale. She opened it. It was the same unsold book where three months earlier he had written “I LOVE YOU” on the inside.
“She looked around and thought maybe I had planted it there somehow and was secretly watching her,” Altucher said. “But I was late to meet her that day. She looked at the inscription again. ‘I love you.’ A little over a year later we got married. And that’s why I write books.”
(For further information, visit: James Altucher
. This article is based on the following blog post by James Altucher: Why I Write Books Even Though I’ve Lost Money on Every Book I’ve Written
posted on Feb. 6, 2011, and appears with the author’s permission.)
2. What’s the secret? Unreleased John Green novel No. 1 on Amazon
John Green's next novel, The Fault in Our Stars
, is already a runaway success - even though the book is still unfinished and almost a year from release (tentatively May 2012).
Nevertheless, the book on July 1, 2011, was the single best-selling book on Amazon.com and No. 2 on BarnesandNoble.com.
Green, 33 years old, lives in Indianapolis, Ind. He is a New York Times
best-selling author who has received numerous awards, including both the Printz Medal and a Printz Honor. He is the co-creator, with his brother, Hank, of the popular video blog Brotherhood 2.0, which has been watched more than 30 million times by Nerdfighter fans all over the globe.
Green’s unusual pre-publishing success is being attributed to his savvy use of social media to promote the still unwritten book. He has 1.1 million followers on Twitter, 560,000 subscribers on YouTube and hundreds of thousands more on Tumblr, Facebook and a forum called YourPants.org.
Green has been aggressively advertising the $9.89 proto-book, offering every pre-release buyer a signed copy.
He has read the first chapter of the book live over the Web, encouraged his followers to try their hand at designing a cover for the book and even asked them to vote on the color of Sharpie pen he should use to do the wrist-cripplingly huge numbers of signings.
3. ‘A Stolen Life,’ ‘Dance with Dragons’ are summer’s blockbusters
Leading the summer best-seller list in July were Jaycee Lee Dugard's memoir A Stolen Life and George R.R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons
Griese, Noel L. Arthur W. Page: Publisher, Public Relations Pioneer, Patriot. Anvil Publishers.
Interested in public relations or book publishing? Arthur W. Page, regarded as the father or corporate public relations, had distinguished careers in both. He joined the publishing house of Doubleday, Page & Co. in 1905. He edited the World's Work magazine and was responsible for the nonfiction side of the book publishing business. He left in 1926 to become the first public relations vice president of AT&T, then America's largest corporation. Among other career highlights, he oversaw troop information for the Normandy Invasion, and wrote the news release announcing the first military use of the atom bomb at Hiroshima, selected by journalists as the most important story of the 20th century.
"Arthur Page, an in-house public relations adviser to AT&T from the 1920's through the 1940's, embraced the concept of good corporate citizenship and pushed AT&T to be open and honest in its press dealings. The tension between proponents of Bernays-like manipulation and Page-style transparency has existed in the business ever since." - Timothy L. O'Brien, New York Times, Feb. 13, 2005.
Specifications: 6.25 x 9.5, HC w/dust jacket, 448 pp., ISBN 0970497504, 16 per box
Shopping cart price: 1 to 2 copies, $24.95 plus $3 S&H; 3-4 copies, 20% discount; 5-24 copies, 40% ; 25-99 copies, 43%; 100 or more, 45%.
. Orders for new copies of Dugard’s book from Amazon.com are taking up to two months to fill. If that wait is too long, resellers at the website will sell you a used copy of the tell-all for nearly twice the price of a new copy. A Stolen Life
" sold 175,000 copies its first day out, while also setting a company record for one-day e-book sales. Martin's latest entry in the Game of Thrones
series sold 280,000 copies on its first day on July 12… The manuscript for BackStage Pass VIP, a new Mick Jagger biography being shopped around for a publisher, exposes the Rolling Stones lead singer as a closet conservative who brought his parents flowers during dinner visits and begged his ex-wife, Bianca, to wear a bra under her see-through shirt during a surprise visit from his mother
. " Bianca refused, stormed out and Jagger was left to nervously fix a tray of tea and spread a bunch of pastries on a doily to cater to his mum," writes Debra Sharon Davis, the author. Davis, who traveled with the Rolling Stones to Europe in the 1980s, interviewed everyone from fans to culture commentators to Jagger's bandmates. Her manuscript includes many never-before-heard stories of icons, from John Lennon to Janis Joplin." Jagger was like the young private equity moguls of this era, the money guys," Davis said in a press release. "He supervised the Rolling Stones organization - the toughest CEO, except he trusted no one and was not a delegator. He questioned every purchase. He even concerned himself with the price of pencil sharpeners in the Stones' office. Whatever the price, he thought it was too high. He was obsessed with profits." And profits he made. The group garnered nearly $600 million in touring and record sales alone. Davis, currently in the market for publishers, originally shelved the ms. In the 1980s. She revisited the project at the encouragement of publishing veteran and literary agent Robert G. Diforio. A possible 2012 release would also mark the Stones' 50th anniversary. … Publishers are shortening the interval between publishing of the hardback edition of a book and the paperback version
. The interval used to be about a year. Now it’s closer to seven months.
4. After movies and weather, books are most searched topic by surfers
Books, it turns out, are the third most searched category online (after movies and weather).
How can publishers improve the experience for book searchers?
Liz Scheier, editorial director of digital content at Barnes & Noble, said at BookExpo America 2011 that BN.com has identified three distinct groups of customers who search for books: the mainstream buyer who wants the latest thing, buys it and leaves the Web site; the engaged readers who uses the site exploring titles they may not have surfed there to buy; and the value customers who are seeking out $0.99 bargains. The engaged readers spend the most, generate the most profit and are influenced by various online discovery programs.
5. BISG/AAP BookStats survey finds growth in publishing industry
Preliminary results from an in-depth survey of the publishing industry unveiled at BookExpo America 2011 found growth in both revenues and units sold across the contemporary book publishing landscape.
The BookStats survey is the result of a partnership between the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the Book Industry Study Group (BISG). It incorporates net sales revenue and unit data from more than 1,100 U.S. publishers, from those with over $500 million in sales to the smallest. Publishers in the survey had to have at least one ISBN published in the past three years as recorded by RR Bowker.
"From these 1,100 source pubs we see units from last three years are up, and we also see, more importantly, that dollars are up," said Kelly Gallagher , vice president of publishing services at RR Bowker. "Year over year we have positive percentage gains for our industry in these two areas Growth was seen for publishers of all sizes with medium- and small-sized publishers leading the way. Over 50 percent of the publishers surveyed were enjoying growth, Gallagher said.
Data is broken down by content categories (trade fiction and non-fiction, juvenile, religious, K-12, higher education, professional and scholarly); formats (physical and non-physical delivery platforms); and distribution channel.
Hardcover and softcover markets have seen declines, while digital formats such as e-books and apps are growing.
Adult fiction is "a stalwart category" enjoying healthy growth, as are all categories of juvenile titles, Gallagher said. Nonfiction adult, however is "struggling."
While chain bookstores are registering predictable declines, independent bookstores are holding their own, showing stable sales or just slight declines.
The full report was to be released in July 2011.
6. Glenn Beck and S&S expand partnership, add imprint
Former Fox News host Glenn Beck, now primarily a radio network mogul and publisher, is continuing his longstanding relationship with Simon & Schuster and expanding it, thanks to a new co-publishing venture with his production company Mercury Radio Arts.
Mercury Ink will launch this August as an imprint that aims "to discover, publish and promote books and authors that Beck is passionate about across a variety of genres," co-publishing with Simon & Schuster.
Beck said in the announcement, "While I have a million book ideas of my own, there are still countless subjects that I know my audience would love to read about but that I just don't have the ability or expertise to write.”
Mercury Radio Arts' Senior Vice President of Publishing Kevin Balfe will acquire and edit titles for the line, which will launch in August with Richard Paul Evans' first young adult title Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25.
Beck will continue to publish his own books through S&S's Threshold imprint, which will publish The Original Argument: The Federalists' Case for the Constitution
, and his novel The Snow Angel
Kevin Balfe, who is also Beck's co-author on previous books, will continue to oversee the partnership on behalf of Mercury Radio Arts. Liz Perl will act as a "strategic coordinator for the Glenn Beck publishing program" across Simon & Schuster's divisions. George Hiltzik of N.S. Bienstock represented Beck in the negotiations.
7. Book club members increasingly using e-readers
|Were the visions of this 19th century stigmatic and inediac authentic, or merely the explainable creations of her subconscious? Did she really have visions of the passion, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth? You decide!
While he was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI advocated the cause for sainthood of a 19th century Westphalian nun who was a stigmatic (bled from wounds in her hands, feet and side), ecstatic (visionary) and inediac (lived on water and communion wafers).
In the 100-page introduction to a new edition of a religious classic, The Dolorous Passion, Atlanta author and historian Noel Griese writes about this nun whose piety touched the pope, and relates how Mel Gibson used the account of her visions to script more than 40 scenes in his "Passion of the Christ" movie.
The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ is an 1833 work in which German author Clemens Brentano related the visions of the 19th-century nun, Anne Catherine Emmerich, regarding the Last Supper, Passion, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
"Had Mel Gibson relied solely on the accounts in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the Acts of the Apostles, he would perhaps have had only two or three minutes of film," said Griese. "The visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich gave him many of the details that permitted him to create what is perhaps the most dramatic Passion Play yet produced."
Griese's introduction to the new edition of "The Dolorous Passion" links more than 40 scenes in the Gibson movie to the 19th-century German classic.
"People who saw the movie will recall Judas hanging himself over the carcass of a flyblown dead animal," Griese notes. "In the New Testament, only the Gospel of Matthew says Judas hanged himself, and it does not describe the locale. In Acts of the Apostles, a continuation of the Gospel of Luke, Judas is said to have met his end when his insides burst out. Gibson takes his cue for Judas hanging himself from Matthew, but his details of the locale are from Emmerich and Brentano."
Another example: one of the thieves crucified with Jesus is named Gesmas in the Gibson movie. The thieves, Griese notes, while not named in the Bible, have variously over time been identified in apocryphal material as Dismas and Cestas, Dumachus and Titus, Joca and Matha and Nismus and Zustin. Only Emmerich and Gibson identify the "bad thief" as Gesmas.
Similarly, the Roman centurion Abenadar in the movie, the 'right-hand man' for procurator Pontius Pilate, is an extrabiblical figure drawn straight from "The Dolorous Passion." Griese, a student of religious mysticism and the author of 17 books, says of Abenadar, "According to Emmerich, he was converted to Christianity as a result of his presence at the crucifixion. She says he took the Christian name Ctesiphon, and became an evangelist."
Emmerich and Gibson place Abenadar at the trial of Jesus before Pontius Pilate, the scourging and crucifixion. There is a historical record of a first-century Ctesiphon, Griese says. "This Ctesiphon accompanied the apostle James the Greater into Spain, where he helped to evangelize the Spanish at Verga. After James was martyred in Jerusalem, Ctesiphon is said to have taken his body back to Spain."
To write The Dolorous Passion, Clemens Brentano sat beside the sickbed of ailing nun Emmerich daily from 1818 forward, recording the visions she experienced up to her death in 1824.
Brentano, a friend of Germany's greatest author, Johann Goethe, and of the Brothers Grimm of fairy tale fame, was a well educated author of poetry and plays who first gained fame as a collector and editor of German folk songs. Emmerich, whose visions he recorded, was a nun whose convent was closed in 1811 by Napoleon Bonaparte's brother Jerome Bonaparte, the king of Westphalia.
Brentano worked on his notes for nine years after Emmerich died in 1824 before publishing them as The Dolorous Passion. The book soon outsold even Goethe in Germany and became an international best-seller. However, it was all but forgotten until Gibson resurrected it to script his Passion movie.
The book is available in both cloth and paperback from Anvil Publishers and from local bookstores. It is distributed by Ingram and Baker & Taylor.
Hardback version with dust jacket, just $26.95 plus $3 S&H.
Paperback version only $16.95 plus $3 S&H.
Some 21 percent of reading group members are now reading all or most of their selections on e-readers, up from 11 percent in 2009, according to a Reading Group Choices survey. Groups representing more than 200,000 members were surveyed online and via a traditional mailing in the first three months of the year.
Of reading group members reading e-books, 59 percent use Amazon Kindles, 26 percent use Barnes & Noble's Nook and 20 percent use a tablet. In 2009, only seven percent used the Nook.
Romance, always a popular e-book category, is most frequently read on e-books by book group members: 60 percent of romance fiction read for the book groups is bought as e-books.
One difficulty that may hold back e-book usage by book group members: many publishers' backlists are not available as e-books.
Reading Group Choices owner Barbara Mead commented: "The use of e-books in concert with printed books only serves to reaffirm book clubs' passion for literature. And e-readers are a great investment for avid readers who are consuming books well in excess of their reading group selections or for book club members with a dwindling amount of free shelf-space."
8. How bad is it? Books-a-Million blames e-books for sales decline
Sales for Books-A-Million's first quarter dropped 11 percent to $104 million, with store comps falling 13.2 percent from last year, when the company reported a 3.6 percent drop from 2009
. The bookseller lost $3.5 million, compared to $2 million in profits at this time last year. CEO Clyde Anderson blamed "the growing effect of e-book penetration" and "the effects of the devastating tornado outbreak" that hit the Midwest and southeast region in the early part of 2011. …Barnes & Noble laid off an unspecified number of employees at its distribution warehouse in Monroe, N.J., in late June
. In addition, the Social Security Administration is looking into possible discrepancies in employment information at the center, although a BN spokeswoman said "the reduction in workforce ... has nothing to do with the Social Security inquiry," and declined to say how many employees were being questioned in the matter. … One bright spot: representing just six percent of the total trade book market, the science fiction/fantasy segment will grow 3.4 percent in 2011, reaching $578.6 million, despite the overall market's expected 5.2 percent decline
. According to a report published by media and publishing forecast firm Simba Information, the science fiction and fantasy categories experienced double-digit increases in title output, along with stronger ratings on the consolidated bestseller list in 2010. According to the report, the science fiction/fantasy segment is gaining market share, adding half a percent in 2011 compared to 2010, as it more than triples its one percent growth rate from the past two years.
9. Publishing revolution: Amazon says 950,000 Kindle titles available
Net sales of books in the U.S. during May 2011 fell 7.9 percent to $662.1 million, as reported by 93 publishers to the Association of American Publishers
. E-books continued to grow - up 146.9 percent in the month from the same month in 2010, to $73.4 million, representing 11.1 percent of all books sold on a dollar basis. In 2010, with sales of $29.7 million, e-books accounted for only 4.1 percent of May sales. This May, the core parts of traditional publishing declined in most categories, and particularly mass market, down 39.4 percent, and adult hardcover, off 38.2 percent. … In its second quarter report, Amazon.com said it has more than 950,000 books available for Kindle owners in the U.S., 800,000 of which are priced at $9.99 or less
. The company also offers millions of free, out-of-copyright, pre-1923 books. Sales worldwide of media, which includes books, rose 27 percent to $3.7 billion.
10. E-singles another hot new market for digital material
E-singles are bite-sized e-books priced to sell.
Because they’re easy to publish quickly, e-singles could become a popular way for authors, magazines and newspapers to bypass traditional publishers.
So far, Amazon is dominating the e-singles space. Amazon launched its Kindle Singles program in January, publishing original pieces on “compelling ideas expressed at their natural length,” usually around 5,000 to 30,000 words, and priced between $0.99 and $4.99. The Singles are shorter than a full-length book but longer than what you’d find in a magazine. Books normally run 80,000 words on up.
When this article was written, there were only some 80 Kindle Singles for sale. Amazon spokeswoman Sarah Gelman said about three more are added each week.
Right now, most e-singles are nonfiction. Most cover newsy topics like scandals and celebrities; there’s also lots of humor, essays and memoir. But there are also some fiction Kindle Singles - a 15-page short story by David Baldacci and a collection of three short pieces by Jodi Picoult.
Kindle Singles have their own editor - David Blum, who provides editorial feedback on the titles. E-singles have their own section of the Kindle Store, with a separate bestseller list and categories. The titles are heavily promoted on Amazon’s site, and tend to be the first choice of authors and publishers looking to publish an e-single.
Kindle Singles aren’t required to be exclusive to Amazon, but most of them are.
Content (if to be sold rather than given away) has to be “original and unique” - not previously published - to sell it as a Kindle Single.