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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Amazon, Elephant in the Room?

In last week’s newsletter we profiled an independent press, McFarland & Co., and its struggle with Amazon, reported by Amy Martinez in a Seattle Times headline article.  Martinez described how numerous small presses and distribution companies throughout the country have locked horns with Amazon, after the company demanded greater discounts on book sales and no room for negotiation.

Amazon’s grasp on the publishing world reaches further than their squeeze on small presses.  According to Martinez, in 2009, the mega-company branched into the world of publishing by launching its first imprint, AmazonEncore, for “publishing overlooked books and authors.”  Soon after followed a number of other imprints focused on niche books, and finally Amazon established a New York office dedicated to publishing books of general interest. 

So Amazon’s little secret is out, even though it has downplayed its presence in thepublishing world.  Jeff Belle, vice president of Amazon Publishing, called the imprints an “in-house laboratory where authors and editors and marketers can test new ideas.”  Paired with their pressure on independent presses, however, and their attempts to undercut the prices of other companies, especially in the digital book realm, it is clear that Amazon’s intentions have moved well beyond those of a simple experiment.  It seems that if there is a way to encroach on the competition, even the small players trying to give voice to unheard authors overlooked by mainstream publishing, they proceed full throttle.

Can Fuze withstand Amazon’s power grab?  Fortunately we are under their radar.  We have elected not to use a book distributor—an expensive endeavor which produces truckloads of books returned from bookstores in unsalable condition, both a financial and environmental bad move.  Still we continue to grow despite Amazon’s significant demands for a large discount from our titles: they take a whopping 55% cut from every sale! 

Our experience communicating with Amazon has been as frustrating as that of McFarland & Co. There have been numerous “glitches” over the three years we have engaged with Amazon, from repeated missing book cover images to announcements that our titles are “out of stock.” These glitches then take days or even weeks to sort out, as discussion is restricted to anonymous email communications, leaving us to wonder how many sales have been lost.  Along with other small presses, we continue to evaluate the question:  should the visibility and easy access we gain from an account with Amazon override its business practices, which display at best an indifference toward helping emerging small presses?

Read the entire Seattle Times article.

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Is Amazon Taking Over the World?

Last week in a Seattle Times article entitled, “An Amazon.com Powergrab,” Amy Martinez reported on Amazon’s questionable treatment of McFarland & Co, a small press.  Apparently the mega-company, via email, demanded from the small publisher nearly twice their usual discount.  Adding insult to injury, they gave the press only nineteen days’ warning of this change.  Since Amazon accounts for a sizable portion of McFarland’s sales, and since the small press offers all their retail partners the same discount, it was, in the words of Karl-Heinz Roseman, director of sales and marketing at McFarland, “the apocalypse.  We couldn’t exist like that.”

According to Martinez, many in the book world are concerned that “Amazon will use its pricing pressure to crush publishers. They say Amazon’s demands for deeper discounts threaten already-thin profit margins, and some warn of a coming Amazon monopoly.”

When a company corners more than 70% of the market, and engages in predatory activity, it is considered a monopoly; currently, Amazon controls between 55 and 60% of the ebook market, and the figure is climbing.  Mike Shatzkin, founder and CEO of The Idea Logical, a New York publishing consultancy warns, “There’s never been anything like the potential for domination by a single company in the U.S. book business like what we see now with Amazon.”

 The issues get even more complicated.  Readers may recall that two years ago, Amazon attempted to price ebooks significantly below what major publishers wanted to charge.  Macmillan Publishing tried to gain control over the pricing of their ebooks, which 

prompted Amazon to remove the “buy” button from Macmillan titles.  The U.S. Justice Department is now investigating Macmillan and five other companies for possible violation of anti-trust laws via price-fixing, but this doesn’t erase the fact that Amazon appeared to be attempting to control the market by undercutting its competitors.  “When you sell books at a loss, by the millions, to corner the market, you’re not interested in competing,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Richard Russo, about Amazon business practices.  “You’re interested in burying your competitors and then burying the shovel.”

Macmillan had the clout to retaliate against Amazon.  But inasmuch as Amazon’s current (mis)treatment of McFarland reflects their habit with small presses, we have to wonder—has the behemoth simply chosen smaller presses to pick on, those that don’t have the economic power to fight back?

 Tune in next week for more on the Amazon powergrab, and Fuze’s subjective experience.

 Read the entire Seattle Times article.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Fuze Team Celebrates Our Third Anniversary!

What started as two friends meeting over lunch has blossomed into a small company of eight. This week, we spoke with the rest of the Fuze team, from our book designer to our accountant, asking them to reflect on our third anniversary.

Several team members recently joined Fuze.  Sarah Blankenshipmanages our shipment department and shared the many favorite parts of her job:  “Since I am also a stay-home mom, I like that it is not a typical 9-to-5 job. I can work from home (and the post office), and the days/times are fairly flexible.  I like that it is with a publishing company, as I love books and reading, and look forward to being exposed more to the world of publishing. Another bonus is thewonderful people I work with!”

Lenore Elam, C.P.A., handles all accounting aspects for Fuze. Though a newcomer to the publishing world, she “enjoys being involved with the publishing field and watching Fuze grow.”

Erin McDowell, a Spring semester intern from Southern Oregon University, said this of his time with Fuze: “I’ve learned that I have a decent hand at editing, and it’s something that I really love to do. This has helped me realize how more effectively to decide what classes I should betaking, and it’s also given me a feeling of accomplishment that keeps me going when class work seems pointless.”  Erin also told us he’d “love to be a line editor, and hopefully I’ll be able to find a similar position with a publishing company when I graduate.”  Good luck, Erin!

Mary Lee, a long-standing intern from SOU, whose many responsibilities include managing our twitter and facebook accounts, shared what she learned this year:  “Persistance!  Once someone subscribes to your social media, it’s even more important to keep up. Fans want to know what you’re up to 24/7.”  She also aspires to a career in publishing, saying, “I love helping transform someone’s literary work into something special!”

Ray Rhamey, who’s been with Fuze for nearly a year, designs the book covers and interiors, and promotional materials such as postcards and bookmarks. A publisher and talented author in his own right, (http://www.rayrhamey.com

Ray comments on the future of the publishing industry and Fuze:  “As volatile as publishing is and the Internet as strong as it is, and considering the vast changes in the last five years with ebook publishing, it’s impossible to make sound predictions five years out. Where Fuze might be depends on the success of its business model, and that’s still, in a sense, being tested. As for the industry, I think print books will still be a strong factor and will be the dominant mode even then, though ebook publishing will be a larger proportion than it is now.”  In a more playful moment, Rhamey said, “Fuze will be huge and I will be wealthy!”

Our Director of Marketing and Public Relations, Meg Tinsley, joined the Fuze team a year and a half ago, as the editor of the Fuze weekly enewsletter, but as is often the case with a small company, she began doing a bit of this and that, including developing Fuze’s social media department. “Fuze has grown from a small enterprise to one that has a significant social media presence,” Tinsley comments.  “Bloggers are eagerly reviewing our books, and our newsletter has quadrupled its audience.”  Her vision for the future?  “When I put my practical hat on, I see Fuze growing steadily and surely, becoming more established in the publishing world, perhaps branching out into a few more genres, but sticking to what we do best–quality writing, quality stories.  Our digital sales will continue to rise, though I think our print copies of books, at least close to each book launch, will have a solid sales record.  We will have lots more authors, several more staff people, more editors, a larger marketing department, and a bunch of 20-year-old’s who tweet for us all week long!”

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Happy Anniversary Fuze! Three Years of Innovative Publishing

We at Fuze Publishing have plenty of reason to celebrate our third anniversary!  As an independent press with a cutting-edge business model, Fuze has achieved remarkable success in a world dominated until recently by traditional publishing paradigms.  We have released six books, with five more in the editing pipeline, and we have grown from two founders, to a team of five employees and two interns!  This week, Karetta Hubbard and Molly Tinsley, Fuze co-founders, discuss their unusual journey and their vision for the future.

 

Five years ago, two grandmothers—one, a seasoned writer and former college professor, the other a successful businesswoman—decided, on a whim, to write a thriller.  Both recall the excitement and challenge of collaborating on Satan’s Chamber.  But when it came time to get the book published, the economy had tanked, and publishing companies all but suspended acquisitions. 

 

After aggressively marketing Satan’s Chamber according to traditional protocol, a light bulb went off for Hubbard–why not start  their own publishing company?  Tinsley agreed, and Fuze Publishing was born.

 

The two mavericks originally intended to sell their own thriller, and its sequels.  But as Hubbard remembers, “Other writers with similar frustrations came to us, asking can you publish my book?”  Soon they had crafted a business model, with a little start-up capital, and a requirement that authors participate in the growth of the company in return for substantial royalties. 

 

Over the course of the last three years, Fuze has made a successful venture out of violating conventional business sense, by supporting unknown authors, and emphasizing a mission:  to publish stories that bridge diverse cultures and enlighten at the same time that they captivate readers.

 

“Each month we measure incremental financial gains,” says Hubbard, “which means our stories are reaching wider audiences.  In the publishing world, the caliber of the titles, plus the number of titles equals more respect, and after three years we’re gaining our footing.” 

 

Tinsley believes Fuze has accomplished an important mission. “We’ve enabled writers who were on the verge of giving up, and we have published books that deserve to be out there.”
 

Fuze doesn’t have any trouble finding manuscripts.  In fact, “our authors have mostly come to us via word of mouth,” says Hubbard.  Since Fuze remains a relatively small operation, however, she says “we have little time to work with manuscripts that are not Publish Ready.”  That said, Hubbard admits, “When a powerful story crosses our path, begging to be told, it is difficult for us to resist putting the time and effort into making it a publishable work.”   

 

When asked about the most important lesson she’s learned so far, Hubbard says, “It involves working with authors to get their manuscripts in ‘prime time’ shape.  All writers tend to see their work as finished and immutable.  In many cases they have already put a lot of work into rewriting, though publication still eludes them.  To motivate them to engage in more editing, and sometimes rewriting, is a challenge: to read their work as a potential reader might and reshape the story accordingly.” 

 

Tinsley has learned a lot about the internet.  “Cyberspace was foreign territory for us, but today’s business world requires a familiarity.”  Having netted some younger team members–her daughter Meg Tinsley, to create the newsletter and connect the company to the blogsphere, and Mary Lee, Fuze’s long-term intern, to annex Twitter and Facebook, they are on the right track!

 

Both co-founders express the tension that their business endeavor has caused in their own creative pursuits.  “The reason I collaborated with Molly on Satan’s Chamber in the first place,” Hubbard says, was “to learn from the master.  Now that I have discovered the art of story-telling through the written word, I would like to be able to keep writing and improve my skills.  But the demands of the business make this impossible at this time.”  Yet as she goes on to say, “Even so, I would repeat our experience, if only because of the joy we have brought to the authors, whose books might never have seen the light of day, and to the readers who experience these stories.  Ultimately, it’s fun to be able to get out of bed and do something worthwhile.”

 

“My aha moment,” Tinsley says, “has to do with learning my limits, and realizing that I can’t let go of my own writing or I’ll go nuts.  I have to write my own stories and plays.”  Yet she also admits, “It’s really hard to strike a balance, because I want to publish or at least help every writer. I want them to keep on writing. Creativity is drying up in our culture; we are not creating, we are just consuming. I don’t want the voices of the world to go quiet even though I can’t give everyone a megaphone.”

 

Looking toward the future, both founders expressed a desire to grow Fuze, incrementally, by developing more infrastructure: editors to free up personal creative pursuits, a marketing arm, and more quality controls.  “Mostly we’d like to keep doing what we’re already doing, but do it better,” says Hubbard.

 

Tinsley admits they’d “love a big success, mostly so we can launch further successes for everyone else. I’d like more attention from the reading world, so that getting our titles noticed would be less of an uphill fight!”  Each of our books has the potential to be a blockbuster.  The Fuze team is hard at work to make this happen.

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Ebook Interrupted? New York Times on Tablets of Distraction

Over a year ago, this newsletter reported on the digital book-buying boom which prompted speculation on the future of the publishing industry.  Would the print book survive?  Most thought yes, though hard copy may give way to electronic books.   What will happen, though, to our reading experience, as the options for electronic books proliferate?

 

According to a recent New York Times article (Finding Your Book Interrupted…By the Tablet You Read It On

), many consumers are choosing tablets, like the ipad, as their preferred vehicle for downloading and reading ebooks.  Simple ereaders like the basic Kindle, replicate the insular world of a book, allowing a reader to lose herself in the “pages.”  Tablets, on the other hand, offer a world of distraction–the ability to skype, email, twitter, surf the web, download apps, etc.  Journalists Julie Bosman and Matt Richtel elaborate that “while a book in print or on a black-and-white Kindle is straightforward and immersive, a tablet offers a menu of distractions that can fragment the reading experience, or stop it in its tracks.”  Tablet reader David Myer equates it with “trying to cook when there are little children around.”  Others confess that the percentage of their unfinished books has climbed to new heights. 

 

Have our hopes that digital books would inspire a well-educated population of prolificreaders crashed on the rocks?  Major publishing houses insist that the market for both print books and simple e-readers “is not going away, despite the pull of tablets.”  Erin Faulk, avid reader, spins a new twist. “I gravitate to books that make me forget I have a world of entertainment at my fingertips. If the book’s not good enough to do that, I guess my time is better spent.”

 

Fuze Publishing’s mission remains the same– to deliver books with integrity, page-turners whose writing and stories engage and inspire.   You won’t be tempted away from our “pages,” no matter how you choose to read our books!

 

Check out all the Fuze books on the our website

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

George Clooney Arrested for Sudan–“All We Ask.”

Fuze has a particular interest in the state of affairs in the two Sudans.  Co-founders Hubbard and Tinsley’s fascination with and concern for the religious and economic conflicts between northern and southern Sudan fueled the plot of their CIA thriller, Satan’s Chamber.  Described by the Island Soundera battle of good and evil in a haze of yellow dust; and by Gardner Peckham, former member, National Commission on Terrorism, consultant to the CIA–a spy novel with punch that sweats the details– Satan’s Chamber takes the real-life conflicts in Sudan around oil and power, weaves in the imagination, and offers a plausible story not only of corruption and conflict, but of  hope and redemption.

 

Last year, in July, we alerted our newsletter readers to a dramatic vote that occurred in southern Sudan.  It formalized a division that had already torn the country apart along religious and economic lines, by creating a separate and independent  Republic of South Sudan.  We were hopeful that peace might begin in a region historically plagued with conflict, although there was still the question of how to divide the benefits from the tons of oil discovered in the Republic of South Sudan.  A tenuous compromise emerged, whereby RSS would pump their oil through a pipeline maintained and controlled by the north, for a fee, allowing both countries to profit from the oil reserves.

 

Brought to world-wide attention again last week by protesters, including actor George Clooney–longtime Sudan activist–and Martin Luther King III, both of whom police arrested at the Sudanese embassy in Washington DC, the struggle in the two Sudan’s continues.  According to a recent New York Timesarticle entitled “Clooney Among Protesters Arrested at Sudan’s Embassy in Washington,” 

President of North Sudan, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, continues to use “military force to block food and humanitarian aid intended for civilians in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile,” resulting in half a million civilians deprived of food, medicine, and other necessities.  Susan E. Rice, American ambassador to the United Nations, calls the situation “one step short of full- scale famine.”

 

 

According to the recent Voice of America article, “Actor George Clooney Arrested During Sudan Protest,”

before his arrest, Clooney poignantly asked for two things.  The first, with some urgency–“for humanitarian aid to be allowed into the Sudan before it becomes the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.”  And the second, “for the government in Khartoum to stop randomly killing its own innocent men, women and children. Stop raping them and stop starving them. That is all we ask.”

 

 

In a NYT’s article a few days earlier, “On Capitol Hill, George Clooney Testifies About Sudan,”

Clooney claims North Sudan’s military force and blockade not only create a dire humanitarian concern, but also affect American consumers, since they have shut down the Republic of South Sudan’s oil production, thereby causing China to seek oil imports elsewhere.  According to US President Obama, the conflict is a significant cause of the recent spike in gasoline prices.

 

 

For centuries, fiction has described, among other things, politics and culture.  But literature and art have the ability to shed light on new possibilities; the imagination can create new awareness, new doorways in our consciousness.   Does Satan’s Chamber offer a new vision—one of hope in a region plagued by decades of conflict?

 

You be the judge.

 

Find out more about Satan’s Chamber!

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Fuze Books Storm the Blogsphere!

 

 

In the age of booming on-line traffic and the rising popularity of digital books, publishers looking to market their books engage in an entirely different process then a mere five years ago.  There is a whole world out there–the blogsphere–filled with people who love reading books, and love telling others about them.  Sure, a mega-blog site’s vast popularity prompts advertisers to pay a blog master for air time.  But for the most part, blog reviewers toil for free and from the heart, guided by their desire to discover the latest and best in the world of books.

 

Fuze has the great good fortune to have discovered some fantastic bloggers who, for the small token of a book copy, take it upon themselves to meticulously read our books and honestly tell us what they think.  Below are some of our favorite bloggers, to whom we are endlessly grateful, with links to their sites.

 

Our list but scratches the surface of this wild, potent community. We’d love to hear from you!  What are your favorite on-line blogs?  Where do you go to read up on the newest releases?    Contact us at fuzepublishing@gmail.com to update us on any important book blog sites we have overlooked…

 

 

Blog reviewers loved the off-beat humor in Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak, by Mark Saunders–

 

Best title for an expat book ever.”  Carol Schmidt ofFalling in Love with San Miguel.

 

 

“Mark [has a] dry, witty, sense of humor…Guaranteed to make you smile.”  Wendy Hines of Wendy’s Minding Spot

 

“Humorous…much recommended.”  Midwest Book Review:Small Press Bookwatch.

 

 

All month long, Mark Saunders visits thirteen blog sites as a guest blogger.  Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak Blog Tour.

 

 

Reviews for Nobody Knows coming soon from these blog sites:

Woman Around Town

 

Book End Babes

 

 

Many of our blog reviewers sang the praises of Black Wings, by Kathleen Toomey Jabs–

 

“An outstanding novel…a first-rate mystery/thriller that will keep you nervously turning pages.”  Linda Brinson of Briar Patch Books.

 

 

“Impeccable…seamless…a page-turner with a gloss of military life that is hard to put down!”  Wendy Hines ofWendy’s Minding Spot

 

“Riveting…sharp…intelligent…Highly Recommended!”  Debra Martin of Two Ends of the Pen.

 

 

“A masterful mystery… that opens the doors on plebes in

the Academy.”  Mary Ann Smyth of Book Loons.

 

 

Reviews coming soon for Black Wings from the following  blog sites:

Book End Babes

 

Booksie’s Blog

 

Great Thoughts

 

Woman Around Town

 

 

The Mother Daughter Show, by Natalie Wexler, received loads of online praise from some of our favorite blogspots–

 

“Exuberant characters, tenderness, satirical fun, and worthy insights … should be a hit with middle-class women of a certain age.” Library Journal Xpress Reviews

“Humorous, lively. Readers will sympathize and cheer for the characters, and find much to relate with in their own lives. Recommended for women readers, but all readers will enjoy it.” Booksie’s Blog

“Thoughtful … funny … has humor and heart.” Lesa’s Book Critiques

“A very enjoyable book, even if you think its world is science fiction.” Chaotic Compendiums

“Two thumbs up!” Something She Wrote

“A true delight.” Book Loons

One of December’s “Top 5 Must-Read Selections.” Jen’s Jewels

“A must read.” Two Ends of the Pen

“Every bit as fabulous as I thought it would be.” Minding Spot

“A new entrant for one of my favorite books of 2011.” Great Thoughts

 

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2012 in Uncategorized