A publisher finally understands (some of) what an author wants

Authors are generally of the opinion that most publishers couldn't run an efficient, modern business to save their lives. (To be fair, most publishers don't have the highest opinions of authors either.) One of the main reasons for this is that publishers are really bad at communicating. Now, back in the time of the quill pen (the same time period in which most publishers' accounting systems seem to have been produced), this was fairly understandable. But not in the modern, connected internettish world.

I have books with quite a few publishers, big and small. Generally the smaller ones are better at communicating with their authors, but one of the big boys has just launched a service that gets them a good, solid 8/10 on getting communication with authors right. The publisher in question is Random House (I have a couple of books with Transworld, one of their subsidiaries) and they have just launched their 'Author Portal'.

For each book you get this kind of control panel:

You can look at numbers shipped or sold as recently as what happened next week - usually with a publisher you have to wait 6 months to get data that is way out of date. There are details of sub-rights editions and more. And there is that most shocking of publishing business numbers - the opportunity to compare shipped and sold (as books are generally supplied sale or return). All in all a brilliant picture of what is happening to your book.

And that's just the start. The author portal also allows you to buy any Random House book with a 50% discount, and gives access to those interesting articles the Bookseller usually blocks to people who don't subscribe to the magazine - plus various other goodies.

It's not perfect. There's plenty more that it could do. But the fact remains this is a really exciting development in publisher/author communication, and all publishers could do to take note.