Sci-Fi’s Underground Hit; Authors are snubbing publishers and insisting on keeping e-book rights. How one novelist made more than $1 million before his book hit stores

March 7, 2013, 6:45 p.m. ET

Sci-Fi’s Underground Hit

Authors are snubbing publishers and insisting on keeping e-book rights. How one novelist made more than $1 million before his book hit stores.

By ALEXANDRA ALTER

Hugh Howey’s postapocalyptic thriller “Wool” has sold more than half a million copies and generated more than 5,260 Amazon reviews. Mr. Howey has raked in more than a million dollars in royalties and sold the film rights to “Alien” producer Ridley Scott.

And Simon & Schuster hasn’t even released the book yet.

INSTALLMENT PLAN: Writing ‘Wool’ was ‘almost a compulsion for him,’ Mr. Howey’s wife says.

In a highly unusual deal, Simon & Schuster acquired print publication rights to “Wool” while allowing Mr. Howey to keep the e-book rights himself. Mr. Howey self-published “Wool” as a serial novel in 2011, and took a rare stand by refusing to sell the digital rights. Last year, he turned down multiple seven-figure offers from publishers before reaching a mid-six-figure, print-only deal with Simon & Schuster.

Simon & Schuster has put down six figures for print rights to a post-apocalyptic thriller called “Wool” that it believes could draw the same readers that made “The Hunger Games” trilogy a success. WSJ’s Alexandra Alter reports on Lunch Break. Getty Images.

“I had made seven figures on my own, so it was easy to walk away,” says Mr. Howey, 37, a college dropout who worked as a yacht captain, a roofer and a bookseller before he started self-publishing. “I thought, ‘How are you guys going to sell six times what I’m selling now?’ ”

It’s a sign of how far the balance of power has shifted toward authors in the new digital publishing landscape. Self-published titles made up 25% of the top-selling books on Amazon last year. Four independent authors have sold more than a million Kindle copies of their books, and 23 have sold more than 250,000, according to Amazon.

Publishing houses that once ignored independent authors are now furiously courting them. In the past year, more than 60 independent authors have landed contracts with traditional publishers. Several won seven-figure advances. A handful have negotiated deals that allow them to continue selling e-books on their own, including romance writers Bella Andre and Colleen Hoover, who have each sold more than a million copies of their books. Read more of this post

How much is a piece of content worth?

How much is a piece of content worth?

BY BRYAN GOLDBERG 
ON MARCH 7, 2013

The publishing industry has changed immeasurably in the last decade, and its massive transformation can be summed up in one question… “How much is a piece of content worth?”

This complex question was brought into the national dialogue very recently when noted journalist Nate Thayer wrote a scathing condemnation of an editor for The Atlantic who dared ask him to contribute for free.

Thayer’s frustration has become a rallying cry for many freelance journalists who feel that their work is undervalued. He claims he was once offered $125,000 to write six articles a year. So, when a new editor offered him zero dollars to write, he was quite upset. [Note: an earlier version of this story cited his rate at $500/article, though he has no official market rate].

In fairness, Nate Thayer is an exceptional journalist — he has risked his life to cover Cambodia, and not a lot of people can say that they have risked their lives for anything. If we live in a world where people like Nate can’t exist to cover wars, corruption, etc, then the world will be worse.

But, at the end of the day, publishing is a business. As I’ve said many times, it needs to be treated like one, and so Nate Thayer has a right to understand how digital publishing interacts with revenue. Read more of this post

Why Sogou’s Input Method Search Could Change the Chinese Internet (and More)

Why Sogou’s Input Method Search Could Change the Chinese Internet (and More)

Mar 8, 2013 at 14:00 PM by C. Custer, in Opinion

sogou-search-input-method2

Earlier this week, I wrote about Sogou’s new method of integrating search results into its Chinese-language input method. I also gave the system a test run on my own computer, and came away pretty impressed. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think this move has the potential to change the way Chinese users search, and maybe even the way they interact with their computers on a more fundamental level. Read more of this post

Currency swings are rising in Malaysia at the world’s fastest pace as concern mounts that the ruling coalition will lose its 55-year grip on power after attracting more foreign capital than any other emerging market except Mexico

Volatility Rises Most in Malaysia as Flows Imperiled: Currencies

Currency swings are rising in Malaysia at the world’s fastest pace as concern mounts that the ruling coalition will lose its 55-year grip on power after attracting more foreign capital than any other emerging market except Mexico.

Three-month implied volatility for the ringgit, a measure of expected exchange-rate moves used to price options, jumped 2.2 percentage points to 7.4 percent in 2013, more than any of the 47 currencies tracked by Bloomberg. The ringgit has lost 1.6 percent this year and reached a five-month low in February as Credit Suisse Group AG and ING Groep NV cut their forecasts.

Polls show support for Prime Minister Najib Razak, who embarked on a $444 billion development plan to build railways and power plants, is the lowest since 2011 ahead of elections due before the end of June. Investors may pull from the local bond market as much as $10 billion, or 24 percent of their total holdings, as opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim pledged to review highway-toll contracts and the granting of tax permits to large companies, according to Credit Suisse. Read more of this post

Even in Canada, wealth influences treatment: study

Even in Canada, wealth influences treatment: study

Thu, Mar 7 2013

By Genevra Pittman

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Poorer people have a harder time getting a doctor’s appointment in Canada, a new study suggests – even though the country’s universal health insurance pays doctors the same amount regardless of the type of patient they see.

Researchers who called primary care practices pretending to be a bank employee or on welfare were 80 percent more likely to be offered an appointment when taking on the wealthier persona.

“We expected that we would find the result that we did, which was that there would be preferential treatment,” said Dr. Stephen Hwang, who worked on the study at St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto.

“As a physician who provides care for people who are marginalized or disadvantaged, they not infrequently tell me that they feel like they’ve been treated poorly by healthcare providers in the past simply because they’re poor,” he told Reuters Health. Read more of this post

Hong Kong Prison Homes Spur Virus Risk Decade After SARS; “Life is hard. I hope that more can be done to level the playing field in this city.”

Hong Kong Prison Homes Spur Virus Risk Decade After SARS

Chan Sung-ming says the coughs and sneezes echoing through the plywood walls of his windowless, 60- square foot Hong Kong apartment get him thinking: is there a bug going around and could it be deadly?

A decade after SARS began a lethal odyssey via Hong Kong, which has the world’s most-densely populated urban areas, Chan says his apartment — one of eight in a space about the size of a squash court — makes him feel more prone to airborne germs.

Even as the city spends HK$1.6 billion ($206 million) a year on a disease-tracking center to prepare for future contagions, a tripling in the price of homes in the past decade have forced its 7.2 million residents closer together. That’s stoking the potential for a rapid rise of bugs like the severe acute respiratory virus that exploded there in early 2003.

“In Hong Kong, we live vertically, not horizontally,” said Sian Griffiths, director of the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s school of public health. “It’s as if we’ve turned a village street on its end. People are so close together here, the risk of transmission is greater.”

Chan’s apartment is smaller than some of the city’s prison cells. The 36-year-old electrician says the cramped living arrangements mean he hears his neighbors’ every cough and bowel movement, and sometimes shares their pathogens too. Read more of this post

PBOC’s Rise to Top a Story of Deft Politics Amid Turmoil; “It’s hard to believe that just three decades ago the PBOC was only a minor institution in the labyrinthine Chinese bureaucracy.”

PBOC’s Rise to Top a Story of Deft Politics Amid Turmoil

As of November 2012, the People’s Bank of China had total assets of $4.8 trillion, more than the European Central Bank or the Federal Reserve. The PBOC now supplies more than half the world’s total liquidity and manages foreign reserves worth almost $3.3 trillion.

Increasingly, the PBOC has become an international lender of last resort, particularly as European politicians try to persuade the Chinese to buy their bonds. No wonder that Zhou Xiaochuan, the bank’s governor, has been dubbed “the world’s central banker,” a man whose statements can move global markets.

It’s hard to believe that just three decades ago the PBOC was only a minor institution in the labyrinthine Chinese bureaucracy. Its ascension is a story of turbulent economic transition, skillful leadership and, above all, deft political strategy. And its most significant challenges may still lie ahead. Read more of this post

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