Director’s Post: eBooks on the Move

by Anne Converse Willkomm

While on Twitter today I came across an article on Digital Book World on the top selling ebooks of 2013.  As I scanned the list, it brought me back to one of my first Push-to-Publish conferences about 5 years ago. Self-published authors were scarcely considered human. They kept to themselves, and the traditionallypublished authors made little effort to engage. The boundary between these two camps was not nearly as defined a year later, and even less loosely defined the following year. In 2012 and again last fall, no real line existed in the sand.

According to Digital Book World’s article, numbers 7, 10, and 17 in the top 20 of the 2013 bestselling ebook list were self-published. That’s 15% of the list – pretty impressive, given there were no self-published titles on the 2012 list. According to an article written by Jeremy Greenfield on Digital Book World, self-published books took the No. 1 spot on the Amazon ebook list four times in the first quarter of 2013. As the first quarter of 2014 winds down, it will be interesting to see if this pattern holds true. It appears that it will, as Amazon reports an increase in self-published ebook titles. However, it is important to note that from self-published titles in Amazon’s eBook genre best-sellers list, the self-published titles represent only 3% of the total daily revenue.

What does this mean?

Self-published authors are forces to be reckoned with, and the E.L. James and Hugh Howeys of the world are not merely statistical exceptions. It might indicate that self-published authors are putting in the time and effort they were once accused of bypassing, i.e. to write and create the best book possible versus writing and uploading with little to no editing. It also means that self-published authors are becoming savvy. They are learning how to market themselves and their books. Self-published authors are taking advantage of price shifting and manipulation to get their books into the hands of readers and reviewers. During 48-hour ebook giveaways, self-published authors can get their books onto readers’ phones, tablets, and ereaders. Some of those readers will write reviews, which will further promote the book. Traditional publishers do not practice this. They release a book and maintain a consistently higher price than most self-published authors. But are the traditional publishers making lots of money on ebook sales? Not yet.


Event: Panel Discussion on Digital Publishing


Trends in Digital Publishing, a panel discussion with Thomas Hartman, Scott Chappell, Don Lafferty, and Calvin Reid, will be help in Rosemont College’s Lawrence Auditorium at 6:00pm on Monday, March 24. The event is free and open to the public! To register your RSVP, please click here. For any questions or concerns, contact Anne Willkomm at

Congratulations to Award Winners!

by Laura Crockett
Scribbles & Wanderlust

This weekend, Philadelphia hosted the ALA Midwinter meetings and exhibits, where the winners for the Caldecott, Newbery, and Printz awards were announced.

The Caldecott Medal is awarded annually to the artist of the “most distinguished American picture book for children.” Many times the artwork is simple, conveying the story through the whitespace; today’s winner is one of detail, emotion, and pure storytelling through the artist’s historical accuracy. Brian Floca’s Locomotive won the Caldecott, with three other Honors books: Aaron Becker’s Journey, Molly Idle’s Flora and the Flamingo, and David Wiesner’s Mr. Wuffles!.

The Newbery Medal is awarded annually to the author of the “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” So many beloved classics are Newbery winners, and Kate DiCamillo’s won yet another (her first the adorable The Tale of Despereaux) with Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures. Four other Honors included Holly Black’s Doll Bones, Kevin Henkes’s The Year of Billy Miller, Amy Timberlake’s One Came Home, and Vince Vawter’s Paperboy

The Printz Award is awarded annually to the author of the best book for teens based on its literary merit. This year’s winner is Marcus Sedgwick for Midwinterblood, an excellent blend of the strongest YA themes and subgenres today: fantasy, history, paranormal, horror, beauty, love, and preservation. Four other Honors were awarded to the stunning Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, Susann Cokal’s Kingdom of Little Wounds, Sally Gardner’s Maggot Moon, and Clare Vanderpool’s Navigating Early.

To see more information, including the other awards and honors presented today, hop on over to Publishers Weekly’s announcement. Feel free to follow the #alamw14 and #alayma hashtags on Twitter to see the reactions, links to other news sources, celebrations, and book reviews!

From the Director: The Importance of Attending Conferences

by Anne Converse Willkomm, Director of the Graduate Publishing Programs

I think back to my first literary conference. It was in Winston Salem, North Carolina – the Annual Conference for the North Carolina Writers’ Network. I went with a couple of writer friends, and honestly, went more to see them than to take advantage of all the conference had to offer.

I quickly adjusted my faulty thinking as I sat in my master class with Ron Rash. For any of you who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting this acclaimed novelist, he’s fabulous. He taught me about voice, specifically the Southern voice. The keynote speaker that year was Jill McCorkle. She read “Cuss Time” from a collection of short stories and I laughed until I felt as if I had done a hundred crunches. I met the new Executive Director, Ed Southern, and pleaded with him to keep the week-long Writer’s Retreat (it had been condensed to 3 days and moved to Charlotte). I met a host of fellow writers, a group of fabulous small presses, but more than that, I was, for 48 hours, immersed in something I am completely and utterly passionate about – writing, books, authors, and publishing.

As writers and publishers we can’t attend every conference, but some of the biggies are a must, such as BEA (Book Expo America), AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs), SCBWI (Society of Book Writers and Illustrators), ALA (American Library Association) to name a few. If your budget allows, attend other conferences as well. The benefits are enormous. You never know whom you will meet and what kinds of positive impact that relationship might have on your career.

When I attended the Winter SCBWI conference in New York last February, I had the lovely pleasure of meeting and chatting with author/actress Julie Andrews and her daughter/author Emma Walton Hamilton after they spoke about their new title, The Very Fairy Princess Follows Her Heart. They were both lovely women, so willing to talk about their craft and encourage other writers to follow their hearts.

So look at the conferences in your region and sign up. Where will you be this weekend? I will be at Push to Publish sponsored by Philadelphia Stories, held on the campus of Rosemont College. I will meet new writers, re-connect with others, moderate a panel on trends in the publishing industry, and I will enjoy every minute of it!

Scholastic Unveils New Cover for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone


So why does a publisher decide to change the cover designs like Scholastic has done with the Harry Potter covers designed by Mary GrandPré?

The answer is simple – to sell more books.

That being said, the new cover designed by award wining and New York Times best-selling author, Kazu Kibuishi, in my opinion, is really quite good. His work actually resembles that of GrandPré as if he studied under her. Kibuishi said, “The Harry Potter covers by Mary GrandPré are so fantastic and iconic…When I was asked to submit samples, I initially hesitated because I didn’t want to see them reinterpreted! However, I felt that if I were to handle the project, I could bring something to it that many other designers and illustrators probably couldn’t, and that was that I was also a writer of my own series of middle grade fiction. As an author myself, I tried to answer the question, ‘If I were the author of the books – and they were like my own children – how would I want them to be seen years from now?’ When illustrating the covers, I tried to think of classic perennial paperback editions of famous novels and how those illustrations tend to feel. In a way, the project became a tribute to both Harry Potter and the literary classics.”

While I like the new design, I have to be honest and tell you that I’ve heard mixed reviews. Some have said they prefer the original covers – the why change what was working thought; others love the new design and feel that it breathes new life into the series – exactly what Scholastic is banking on.

So I leave it up to you – will a new cover mean you have to buy a whole new set of Harry Potter books?

Note: We are hosting a panel discussion on Saturday to explore the reasons behind the success of the Harry Potter Series. I’ll follow-up and let you know what attendees think of the new cover.

Anne Converse Willkomm, MFA


The Future of the Bookstore


When Borders closed in Bryn Mawr in September 2011, it was a sad day for many in this area, let alone the 30 employees (many of whom were students in either the graduate publishing or creative writing programs at Rosemont). Eighteen months later 3 bookstores remain: Children’s Book World in Haverford, Title Page (used books) in Bryn Mawr, and Barnes & Noble in Devon. This is not a plight relegated to the Main Line; this has happened all over the country. We read in the news, practically on a daily basis, that another independent bookstore has succumbed .

Yet, I am not ready to give up hope. Too many people still love the feel of a book — yes, you know what I’m talking about, the fabric covered cardboard protecting 250 to 300 pages of paper with vivid words that play with our imaginations. I do, however, believe the model must change. Children’s Book World in Haverford, by name, is a long-loved children’s bookstore, but wait…Hannah Schwartz and her staff recognized the needs of the community, and the front corner of their shop now features books for an older set. But even this may not be enough.

So I asked the program Facebook fans “Barnes and Noble to close 1/3 of stores over the next 10 years. What will this mean for some areas – no bookstores…Hmm. So how can we change the model to make them more financial viable? Thoughts?”

Here are some of the rather interesting responses (names have been withheld): “…combine the concept of libraries with bookstores. Beyond the basic idea of buying print books, it seems like the main reason people love bookstores is the atmosphere. If we keep the brick and mortar store with shelves to browse and cushy seating (and of course coffee shops), but combine it with ability to loan books (and e-books) perhaps it would work. That, or get federal funding like libraries!” Another responder said, “The solution in some areas is to convert local bookstores into non profits & make them community centers.” Well, bookstores are, I would argue, community centers, but without funding, they can’t survive as community centers. Thinking from a purely financial viewpoint, this comment was posted, “The inevitable problem of the publishing industry is that booksellers don’t get enough profit from the sale of a book. Since discounts are set, retailers – big box or indie – cannot mark-up the price of a book like in traditional retail. If new books were sold like clothes, authors & stores would have a chance. Books & music need to change their whole business structure or authors & musicians will have to always keep a day job.” Finally, the last comment, “Publisher’s rent space in the store and create their publishing boutique under the umbrella of B&N (like the harlequin display). B&N then partners with amazon to fulfill [the order]. Give [customers] a scanner while in B&N and [then] fulfill through Amazon!”

While none of the models mentioned above will work solely on their own, I assure you there is a model. As the Director of the Graduate Publishing Program and a reader, this is a question I will continue to ponder, a question my students will continue to ponder, and maybe we can create the successful model!

Anne Converse Willkomm, MFA