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Chou believes analytics on ebooks will lead to changes in writing, that publishers and retailers will be looking at data on what words are looked up more, where people stop reading books they never finish. “We’re looking at it in video now and will absolutely be doing it in books.”'

À la carte services?

A NINC member asked the agents if they had any plan for an à la carte menu for authors who weren’t willing to give up digital rights. Dystel and Wheeler said their agencies will do that with the understanding that if the author decides to pursue the traditional publishing path, then the author will use them. “Although we are willing to do this, we are not willing to do this for every author,” Dystel added.

Gottlieb expressed less interest. “Our view is you want to be in the best literary agency in the world.

We’re not going to take you piecemeal. We’re going to bring to bear all the assets of the agency. These are the things that matter in a very complicated book market

Into the future.

Glimmers on the horizon—what will we be talking about this time next year?

“We’re in a period where it's going to be more about consolidating these skills,” Brown said. Gottlieb said his major concern is the dominance of a single player—Amazon—in the retail space. Daniel Slater countered that there are “so many more white spaces out there where companies who are innovative and service a need will spring up to keep a really healthy and competitive market.”

Barbara Freethy hoped we’d be talking about author empowerment. “I hope they realize nobody does anything without our books.”

Aronica predicted more discussion of the nuances of English language publishing throughout the world. “It isn’t ok in those different markets to simply put up the same thing across the entire world, and if we’re really going to be taking charge of our publishing efforts, that’s something we do have to do.”

Pamela Spengler-Jaffee said “people outside the genres are going to start looking to you to see how people outside the genres can grow their numbers.” Chou expects interesting developments from Google. “They’re doing more promotions, leveraging what’s going on in the app world.”

What’s the right price?

A NINC member noted that $2.99 had been touted as the sweet spot for ebook pricing at previous conferences, but some have discovered since that it could be higher. Several panelists concurred, with Talty citing $4.99 as her preferred price point and Aronica noting no decline in sales after increasing prices to the $6.99 and $7.99 price points.

“There is strong evidence that $9.99 is the upper limit,” said Norton, who also cautioned that it is harder to start at a lower price, then offer a promotional price. Dystel emphasized the advantages that indies have in this area. “You can experiment and change your prices very quickly if it’s not working for you. Obviously I think $2.99 and up is the way to go, but I think you should try many different things," she said.

In answer to Amazon-specific questions from the audience, Slater confirmed that the practice of clicking on “likes” and “tags” on the site does affect the algorithm, as do various other customer actions. While he said he could not elaborate on the complexities, he said there are sophisticated systems to analyze the customer experience, as well as checks for fraud and abuse running in the background. He also noted the author requests for daily sales reports, which currently are not available to self-publishers on Amazon.

Laura Phillips writes women’s fiction and is still in the process of digitizing her backlist. She is 2013 NINK editor.

Business Briefs

41 New Bookstores Opened Last Year

Amid all the bad news in recent years for brick and mortar bookstores, the American Booksellers Association (ABA) found a happy statistic to reveal this January: 41 independent bookstores in 24 states opened in 2012. Five were new branches of existing stores.

Galley Cat

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