38enso Inc

Feed Rss

The other night I was sketching out a four year sales plan. As I was thinking about it, I decided to create a quick graph. This is at the top of the page (1). It is obvious at first glance that the trend is up. The second part (2) is a description of what the same data. I could have gone on more but ran out of space.

The picture at the top conveys more information than the description. lesson? Use charts and graphs to make your point. Too much writing can dilute the message.

No doubt the detail is needed in words — but if the graph is effective, there is less need for text.


It was just announced that Paul McCartney has an enormous book publishing that covers all his songs and the meanings behind them. the book will come out in Fall 2021 and is titled THE LYRICS: 1956 to the Present. It is two-volumes, 960 pages and costs $100. This will be one of the biggest gift books of the year.

Type in “The Beatles” in Books on Amazon and over 10,000 hits come up. The Beatles are probably the band that has more written about them than any other. There are thousands of articles on books about and by the Beatles and those close (or not so close) to them. There are also thousands of self-published works. Rolling Stone magazine recently ran an article on the “10 Best Beatles Books.”  Bookseller Barnes and Noble has a post titled “10 Essential Books About the Beatles.”  Reader’s Digest has “9 Beatles Books You Need to Read.”  There were at least 20 new books on the Beatles published in 2020 including James Patterson’s about the murder of John Lennon.

Why so many books on the band? It goes much deeper than the music. In the case of the Beatles, art didn’t imitate life; but art created the reality. The Beatles led the changes in society during the 1960s. Their actions created much of the style and the sense of the era. The Beatles were so much of the decade, they started at the onset of the decade and were done by the end of it. Their music changed so that they later stuff is as good or better than the earlier music. But it is also different. A quick listening to the compilation album 1 and the growth and change are obvious.

The impact of each of them separately also is enormous. Each had a successful solo career and extended the legend.

In addition to the books by the band members (see photo above) The books can be put into numerous sub-categories, I want to focus on a few bigger ones.

My favorite — books about the stories behind the songs. I devoured A HARD DAY’S WRITE over a long weekend a few years ago. Love to hear the origin of these classic tunes and meaning.

Another group is the “big books” that cover a tour or the recording sessions. The book GET BACK is coming this Fall too and is a tie in to a Peter Jackson doc on the classic album (aren’t all their albums classic though?

The next group are children;’s picture books by the Beatles. Some are just the songs assigned to an illustrator and others are originals – McCartney on being a “Grandude.”


And finally the group of the canon titles. Those that are written by experts and cover the history, the impact, the power of the band. Some of these came out last year. It is amazing how new material can continue to be found. Hw the Beatles will continue to be studied for centuries from now. 


Every January, a list of books becomes public domain. Generally is a bunch of little known titles that have lost commercial value. But, occasionally a huge seller expires and is open for anyone to publish. In January 2021, a major work of American fiction, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s THE GREAT GATSBY became public domain. The book had been under copyright to Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Over the decades, they have sold millions of copies. Now they will most likely to continue to sell thousands a week, but there are numerous other editions.

A quick count on Amazon, and I found over 75 editions (most of which have a pub date of January 2021). In addition to the basic text of the original novel; there are graphic novels, YA editions, illustrated editions, deluxe hardcovers, ebooks, mass market editions, trade paperback editions and gift editions. I wouldn’t doubt the total reaches 100 by mid year.

All of the “corporate five” publishers now have editions. Simon & Schuster has 5-6 editions; Penguin Random House has 7-10 (from deluxe hardcovers to mass market editions); Hachette; Macmillan; and HarperCollins also have editions. There are editions from numerous “unknown” publishers that crop up on Amazon. Given the low cost to create, print-on-demand, and Amazon’s access to millions of readers, a PD title like THE GREAT GATSBY is easy to pt up for sale. The key is how to cut through all the noise to get consumers to buy your edition. There are also hundreds of places to download a free copy of the book.

I am not going to drive through all of the options. If interested, John Williams in the New York Times wrote an excellent article of many of the editions.

How does a publisher separate from the others? The Scribner one has the classic cover and will continue to ride 75 years of being first.  The others from the corporate publishers will sell because of the strong branding of the lines (Penguin Classics, The Modern Library, Harper Perennial etc). Some will have a new introduction by a brand name author – Vintage has a John Grisham essay. Price is also a factor. But with so many free editions available, competing on price can be a losing proposition. Winning the Amazon SEO can also create interest, but it is a crowded market. And of course, the cover.

I looked at almost every cover. A lot of similarity in using an art deco typeface; a party set in the 20s; or Gatsby’s car.

There are the “classic look covers.” The iconic blue one still stands out.














There are the “party book covers.”
















There are the “car book covers.”

We are living in historic times. Covid has permanently changed the way we shop, live, interact and work. Once through this, we will think of a “pre-covid” and “post-covid” world. These are disruptive times.

  • Pre-Covid (PR) – Yesterday
    • Independent bookstores thriving and farmer’s markets thriving. In the past decade, Independent bookstores grew from 1600 to 2500. A new flourish of people entering bookselling reinvigorated the business. Buy local.
    • B&N was the most powerful bookseller in America. But as all market leaders, they declined and lost market share. They were purchased by Elliott Management in summer of 2019.
    • Amazon dominates online bookselling. They are expanding and diversifying their book sales offering by opening 24 book store locations. Speculation they would open up to 400 locations.
    • Many startups entering publishing following digital money. Many failed, but some prevail. But no one had made a serious dent in Amazon’s online strength.
  • Covid: (CVD) – Today
    • Indie bookstores hurt by lock-down and sales down 31.6% from previous years. Some stores are closing and the run to open new ones has slowed. Move toward pick-up and online sales. Farmer’s markets are following the same pattern.
    • B&N decentralized buying decisions and laid off staff; remodeled and cleaned up 100’s of stores. But closed some iconic locations.
    • Amazon dipped initially and then roared back to expand market share They are hiring 100,000 people – projecting an enormous Q4.
    • Bookshop.org has gone from an idea to reality and is expecting 2020 sales of $50MM and recently opened in the U.K.
  • Post-Covid (PS) – Tomorrow
    • Indie bookstores will come back as the farmer’s markets will — both hyper-localized. But this crisis has shown the value of selling and marketing online more than ever. The strongest stores will have blended their stores with online. The shopping experience will have changed.
    • B&N will come back as Daunt looks to focus. Hyper-localized. How successful will B&N be? How many of the 600+ stores will be closed to find the right amount of stores? 100? 200? There will continue to be motion at B&N as Daunt figures it out. He will.
    • Amazon will continue to use data to hyper-localize. Amazon will start to expand their bricks and mortar locations. With all the retailers being knocked off by covid, there will be cheap retail real estate for Amazon to rent/buy. Use as mini-distribution centers. They may lose share in bookselling as they continue to focus on selling everything and there is growing online competition.
    • Some companies have prevailed and are thriving include Bookshop.org, EPIC! and Scribd. All part of the new world of selling books. All have grown in market share due to changing consumer patterns. Expect these booksellers to continue to expand.

The selling of books evolves as the country does. At one time department stores sold the most books; then independent stores; then mall based chain stores like Waldenbooks; then superstores B&N and Borders and clubs like Costco; then Amazon. Who is next?

Lots changing. This just scratches the surface as every sales channel will be different in the Post-Covid Era. I hope we get there soon, for we are in what seems to be an infinite loop. We are in the “Covid DMV Waiting Room” and just hoping to get through this as fast and safe as possible.

A new normal is being created. Why the farmer’s market and independent bookstore comparison? Because the factors in success for each are similar and connected.


Hyperlocal is selling and marketing to the smallest detail, to grab them when they are near, to communicate regularly with your consumer, and to provide a service that is part of the community. Dan Shewan has a good recap of hyperlocal marketing


Marketing as the Center

07.10.2020, No Comments, Uncategorized, by .

There is no one “correct” way to organize a publisher. Each organization is unique with different departments running the company. It could be Editorially-driven or Sales-driven. But regardless of which division is dominant, Marketing is at the center of it all.

Marketing can be defined differently by different publishers.

Marketing is the center of communications with every department. Every decision goes through it and the department then coordinates with all other stakeholders.

The American Marketing Association definition: “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”


The publishing circle – creating value throughout:

  • MARKETING  – connectors.
  • AUTHORS & ILLUSTRATORS – the creators of the value.
  • EDITORIAL – content. shaped and value is created.
  • DESIGN & PRODUCTION – creating the packages. the feel and look. value is created.
  • SALES – distribution to the market – value is created.
  • CONSUMERS – who the content is for – value is created.
  • PUBLICITY (MEDIA) – will learn from consumers and report on it – value is created.
  • MARKETING – it comes full circle.
  • FINANCE – hovers over it all. They are the ones who create the scorecard and tally the wins – value is recognized.

As long as the numbers are where they need to be — then publishers will continue to exist. Much has changed, but the basic structure has not. It is still about making public ideas and that is important.

Key external relationships – interacting with key partners:

  • MARKETING  – everyone.
  • AUTHORS & ILLUSTRATORS – other authors and illustrators.
  • EDITORIAL – agents and scouts.
  • DESIGN & PRODUCTION – freelancers and printers.
  • SALES – accounts, retail, school, and library.
  • CONSUMERS – to other consumers.
  • PUBLICITY (MEDIA) – to other media.
  • MARKETING  – everyone.
  • FINANCE – bankers and insurance.

There are, of course, many more direct relationships and therefore many more lines on the grid (for instance, authors to consumers is a connection that is direct, but it is still best to run through Marketing so what the authors are doing can be backed up with Marketing to the accounts (Sales) or the readers or Media. Editorial connects with Sales direct, but Marketing is also in the loop for the sales materials are created by marketing to help deliver the message.





A few weeks ago Arundhati Roy was interviewed on 60 Minutes. She said many things, but one part stood out. She discussed a sense of loss during these covid-19 days. That we have no “present” to bridge between what has happened (past) and what will happen (future).

Makes sense. Although I agree, millions do feel as if they are on hold waiting to speak, to listen, or simply to hang up. We are traveling in an airplane but can not land. We just circle the airport over and over. We will land eventually, and some things will be different. What? Who? How? Hard to tell. Many conversations I have had with publishers, “when this is over…” Now is the time to plan. Create various outcomes and be ready. Don’t let this time now go to waste – focus on the future and preparing now (the present) to create the path you want after Covid-19 goes away.

I was introduced to the work of Arundhati Roy with her debut novel, THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS. The book was published in 1997. It was published by Random House imprint of Random House corporate. This was prior to the Bertelsmann purchase and the Penguin merger. This was a first novel and the publisher/editor Ann Godoff was excited about this book and said it was brilliant. Her enthusiasm was contagious and as the sales reps started to read, copies started getting ordered. The novel was on its way to being a bestseller. The title was supported with an intensive marketing budget, including signed &. boxed ARCs. I have one. It’s great to have a physical sales item. A keepsake.

The book received rave reviews from most places including the NY Times, LA Times, and the Guardian. But to top it off, the novel won the Booker. Major success. The book continues to sell tens of thousands of copies each year — and it is closing in on 25 years in print.

She didn’t write another novel until 20 years later.

Covid-19 is having a profound impact on the world. It is changing publishing. Many things will be different after this is over, and publishers will be increasing the use of digital sales materials. That has already started, but the pandemic hastened it. I hope publishers still create these limited runs of potentially historic books. Sometimes a physical book is much better than an ebook.










Book publishing and book selling will survive and thrive in a post-COVID19 world. It will adapt depending on reader preferences. Buying patterns emerge. Below are some general thoughts of 10 potential areas of growth.

What types of books will benefit: 

  1. Children’s learning books — this group has had the immediate upside as parents were forced to homeschool . It should continue but will drop off in summer. Callisto’s Rockridge Press has taken advantage of this better than any publisher and dominates the Bookscan Top sellers in “children’s non-fiction” titles. The numbers remain strong.
  2. Digital — now is the time to experiment with more titles. Subscription? Different types of digital. Look at Amazon alternatives. Companies like EPIC! and ckbk.com have seen huge increases. Each has a unique selling model.
  3. Journals — we are living in historic times, it is being documented. Guided journals and blank journals will help people cope with this crisis too. This is an area that is easier for self-published books. Corporate publishers are here too. BURN AFTER WRITING (Perigee – an imprint of PRH) is an example of a guided journal that has been selling in Amazon’s top 100 for weeks.
  4. Organization — clean out your clutter / put your life in order. Now is the time to do it. Get rid of that crap you have been looking at for a decade. This trend started in earnest prior with the Marie Kondo phenomenon.
  5. Entrepreneurship — with millions out of work, people will be forced to figure out what to do. After the 2008 recession, many new businesses were created including such unicorns as Uber, Venmo, Groupon, Instagram, Pinterest, and Square. 
  6. Self-help/reflection — profound changes have many looking inward. People are seeking help and answers. The lock-down and forced stay-at-home rules have created much more “alone time” for everyone. This has created much more inner reflection. Some turn to religion, others more secular. These books had been on an upward trend prior to the lock-down and should continue to sell.
  7. Less expensive gift books — recession is coming and people will be tightening their spending. A $50 gift book will have less appeal than a $30 one as millions are budget conscious as we enter a recession. What type of discounts will retailers be selling books at too is a factor.
  8. Big brands — in times of distress, people will move back to brands that make them happy.  An established brand is a push back to normalcy. Brands spend million building and in times of strife, readers will return to their old favorites. Brands (and authors as brands) will continue to thrive. Would be a good time to push back-list and create deals for name-brand authors.
  9. Self sustainability – do it and grow it yourself. Although You Tube and videos have severely dampened book sales, there still is an opportunity. With supply chains challenged, there is a move to growing your own food, repairing things yourself, and relying less on the system and more on oneself. I would include basic cookbooks as potentials in this group too.
  10. Adult activity books – from coloring books to puzzles, people are seeking amusement. There are millions of titles and some have pushed into Amazon best-sellers of late. The titles that are trending now are more “escapist” or “humorous.” Books by Jade Summer have been in Amazon’s top sellers of late.


Gonzo – Hunter S. Thompson

04.27.2020, Comments Off on Gonzo – Hunter S. Thompson, Books, by .

I met Hunter S. Thompson in 1997. It was in New York CIty at a book party for the publication of a compilation of his writings, titled THE PROUD HIGHWAY. I was working for Random House, and the book was published by its Villard imprint. The party was at The Players NYC in Gramercy Park. The place bills itself as “as a certain type of private social club.” I just remember it being the right place to host this party. Or was the party at The Lotus Club? There are reports of a party in NYC for Thompson and the publication of the Modern Library HC edition of FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS. I think I attended both…

Invite to the party

I don’t recall a lot from the party (it was over two decades ago). There was a lot of drinking so it seems. The party was set for 8pm-midnight. I showed up early and stayed late. I even stayed an hour later. Thompson didn’t show until later (11PM?) and was true to form. I just got in a few words, but that was fine. I believe William J. Kennedy attended too. I remember the two of them stumbling/dancing down the staircase.

I attended many book parties back in the day. This was memorable for many reasons. Part of it is the physical invite and the physical ARC. Sure, we do everything via e-invites and digital galleys today. And that is efficient. But it also makes the events more of a “throwaway.” I remember this because I have these items. I neglected to get anything signed or a photo (back then we didn’t have cell phones).

I left at 1AM. The party lasted all night. I should have stayed, Mick Jagger and Johnny Depp showed up. The lesson? Stay until the end, you never know who might show. Memory is selective…














What are some emerging trends at Amazon that are not children’s titles? Books with F*CK in the title. Type “fuck” into the Amazon search bar for books and over 50,000 hits come up and over 2,000 hits for titles from the last 30 days. This does not mean the word is in every title, but something in the metadata has tagged it as such.

Currently there are six in the top 85.

#27 – WHERE’S THE FUCKING TOILET PAPER? – John T – a self-published adult coloring book. Plays off the question of why TP was the item that Americans felt the need to hoard once the coronavirus forced us all to stay home. $4.99 paperback.

#37 – CALM THE F*CK DOWN – Sasha O’Hara – this self-published title has been in the top 100 for over a month. This book originally came out in 2016 and has over 4,000 reviews. She has nine other books – check out her site, sashaohara.com.

#63 – YOU ARE FUCKING AWESOME – Charla Bond – another self-published title. This one doesn’t put a “* in place of the U” and just spells it out. This is also a coloring book and has been in print since 2016 too. It is a “motivating swear word coloring book” – I love it!

#70 – ZEN AS F*CK – Monica Sweeny – this is part of the guided journal series ZEN AS F*CK from Castle Point Books (Macmillan). Great subtitle, “Practicing the Mindful Art of Not Giving a Sh*t.” $14.99 but being sold at $9.99 on Amazon. I bet journals are trending. Many of us are keeping “corona-accounts.”

#80 – THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A F*CK – Mark Manson – one of the “classics” of the using the F-bomb in the title. This #1 NYT bestseller is a self-help title that has sold millions of copies. It isn’t a journal or coloring book. Maybe the publisher, HarperCollins, should create one?  Still in hardcover with paperback due in 2021.

#85 – FUCKING ADORABLE – CUTE CRITTERS WITH FOUL MOUTHS – Heather Land – another self-published title. This one is unique in that it combines the F-word with animals. This title is also from 2016 (when I guess this trend started) and is $4.99.

What was not in the top 85, but in the top 500, is the book that started it all back in 2001. GO THE F**K TO SLEEP, written by Adam Mansbach and illustrated by Ricardo Cortés – a classic and to add to its greatness, Samuel L. Jackson’s reading of the story

In the late 1990’s, Jessie Sheidlower wrote the definitive book on the usage of the word fuck in language. The book is titled THE F-WORD and published originally by Random House Reference. It has been updated twice and the most recent version is published by Oxford University Press (yes, respectable) has a forward by Lewis Black (brilliant). I recommend this one.