The Authors Guild is excited to announce a new partnership with The Hot Sheet, a one-of-a-kind publishing industry newsletter, founded by Jane Friedman and Porter Anderson. Self-described as “no drama, no hype,” The Hot Sheet is designed specifically with published authors in mind. This joint offer means that Guild members will now be able to subscribe to The Hot Sheet with an introductory low-rate of $39 ($20 off the regular price). In addition, existing subscribers to The Hot Sheet can now join the Guild for a discounted rate. You can find information on how to take advantage of this exciting offer below.
The Guild sat down with Jane and Porter to ask them about their work:
Why did you decide to start The Hot Sheet? What was your vision?
Both of us regularly attend industry events and writers’ conferences, and one of the common refrains you hear—especially from writers—is how confusing it is to “figure things out.” Often this confusion relates to sales and marketing practices in the digital age, but also to the conflicting opinions out there on hot-button issues. For example, an easy way to start an argument on social media or in a Facebook group is to state an opinion about Amazon and bookselling, or to talk about how self-publishing has changed the industry for better or worse.
Our vision for The Hot Sheet is to offer in-depth coverage of these issues in a way that avoids the fear, drama, and hype that so often accompanies discussions of industry change or technology. Like the Authors Guild, we hope to provide a 360-degree understanding of issues that affect authors, while showing the various agendas at play. We try to avoid judgment and instead help writers understand the whys and hows of what’s happening, with context and explanation that isn’t often available in most news reports or blogs. That way they can decide how to make the best decisions for the future, based on their own values and considerations, with solid professional analysis to rely on.
We’ve built in several practical elements very purposefully, too:
- No comments or community: The Hot Sheet is closer to a private Wall Street investment letter than a networking tool or club newsletter.
- Efficiency: We curate the news so that you can read us every two weeks and then get back to writing, reassured that you’re on top of the key issues.
- Lean: We don’t hit you with extraneous messages. Occasionally we might add a special extra edition (at no extra charge), but that’s rare and all business.
Can you tell us a little bit about your backgrounds and your work outside of The Hot Sheet?
Jane spent about fifteen years working in traditional book and magazine publishing; about a decade of that was spent with the Writer’s Digest brand, the leading source of information and education for writers in the United States. Over most of her career, she’s taught writers in varied roles, both as a tenured professor and in continuing education settings. Today, she works as a full-time freelance writer and consultant, and is a frequent speaker at conferences on the business of writing and publishing.
Porter has been in news for three decades, first in newspapers (The Village Voice, Dallas Times Herald, Tampa Tribune, Sarasota Herald-Tribune), then television (CNN USA, CNN International), then online (CNN.com, The Bookseller, Publishing Perspectives). In those venues, his roles have included critic, reporter, anchor, editor, and senior producer. He also has held a diplomatic posting with the United Nations to Rome; served as executive producer to Copenhagen’s INDEX: Design to Improve Life; and owns and manages his own consultancy, Porter Anderson Media. As a journalist covering publishing, his emphasis is on industry trends, both domestic and international, and he programs and speaks at conferences for publishers and writers in many countries annually.
Who are The Hot Sheet’s readers/subscribers? Is there a type?
Probably the number-one thing that defines our subscribers is that they’re working writers. It’s a mix of traditionally published and self-published authors, usually with a couple of books or more under their belt. We also have a secondary audience of literary agents and service providers in the publishing industry, who find that our newsletter helps them stay current on news and issues that authors care about. They want to be ready and informed to answer the questions that will come their way from clients.
What kinds of stories do you cover?
We cover a broad range of news and issues including:
- Industry trends: what BookScan is reporting, publishers’ stats, authors’ stats, what’s selling, and what’s declining
- Amazon-related developments, both in the U.S. and internationally
- What’s happening at traditional publishers: new imprints, earnings, acquisitions, sales, and marketing trends
- What’s happening in self-publishing and indie author communities: trends, debates, challenges, and services
- Legal issues: contracts, GDPR, tax legislation, and copyright/trademark legislation
- Conference and industry-event coverage: summaries of topics covered at BookExpo, Frankfurt Book Fair, etc.
- Innovations or best practices in book publishing, marketing, business, and authorship
- New services, tools, or platforms for authors, and significant changes to existing services
Which one of you does most of the writing?
It’s equally shared.
What are some of the main issues that authors should be aware of today?
Whatever you would like to believe about traditional publishing’s performance, it’s quite easy to find the statistics to support your story. “Print is back!” is the story favored by mainstream media and the publishers themselves, especially when looking at the strength (or “return”) of independent bookstores.
However, everyone is now starting to frankly discuss the frontlist-backlist divide in fiction sales, or how new fiction titles are not selling as strongly as in past years. Simon & Schuster finished 2017 with record profits but admitted to declining sales of “important” authors. CEO Carolyn Reidy of Simon & Schuster even commented on the record, to Publishers Marketplace, “We’re talking about these real powerhouses that have fueled the industry for a lot of years. It’s still a challenge to help an established, bestselling author maintain and grow his or her audience.”
Broadly, traditional print book sales continue to grow at about 2 to 3 percent per year, but growth is driven by nonfiction, backlist titles, and children’s/YA. Fiction sales have been flat for several years now, with frontlist fiction down 5 percent due to a lack of big titles. Part of the issue is the political landscape right now—political book sales are way, way up and people are “distracted”—but some also believe publishers are pricing debut authors too high, which discourages discoverability. This issue may become more vexed if the biggest chain bookseller in the U.S., Barnes & Noble, continues to suffer sales declines.
Watch for the debate to deepen over who holds the “storytelling imprimatur” in our so-called golden age of TV and film production. Just this summer, we’ve seen the UK’s Publishers Association commission a study in an effort to argue that the best-performing screen properties begin as books. Many superb films and series, of course, do not. And in Italy, one of the most revered publishing CEOs has worried aloud in a June conference that more and more authors, especially in the United States, may find that they’re having to “go west” toward Hollywood to plot their best bets for a livable career.
If the market for fiction becomes more competitive and risk-averse due to continued dwindling sales, it’s natural for agents and publishers to shift their preference to authors who appear better positioned to sell—or at least to authors who demonstrate they have a vision for their career and the marketing work involved in that career.
Any parting words of advice for authors today?
Many of the articles, reports, and discussions you see on authorship and publishing have an agenda or bias. That’s not wrong, but it leads to author confusion about who’s “right.” The truth is that different players in the industry bring different values and perspectives, so no one is necessarily “right.”
Bottom line (something we include in each item): The creative context in which authors work can mean that emotions lie nearer to the surface than they might in other professions and industries. This has something to do with why you see pile-ons in blog comment threads; alarm-contagion in writer forums; and a tendency for even our best writers to be battered about by the raw dynamic of gifted communicators who aren’t trained—and/or don’t have time—to perform their own appraisals of the big issues. We try to provide that incisive, critical thinking for our subscribers, cutting through the noise and the nerves with rational analysis. Hence our hashtag: #NoDramaNoHype
If you are currently a member of the Authors Guild, you can log in to your author profile and go to the member discounts page* to receive details about how to take advantage of this exclusive offer for Guild members.
Hot Sheet subscribers, please check your Hot Sheet newsletter for your promotional code to receive a deep discount on Guild membership.
If you are not yet a member and would like to learn more about joining the Guild, go here.
*members must be logged into their AG website account to access discounts