Sunday, August 28, 2011

Future of Publishing 2 - Traditional Publishing: Through the Eye of the Needle

As I wrote last week,1 Gutenberg economics—the costs of putting a book on the press and printing up a bunch of copies—drives the publisher to want to make more copies, in order to keep the per-copy cost low. But the economics of running a bookstore mean it cannot afford to actually stock these all these different books at wholesale without the ability to return unsold books to the publisher. That essentially puts the risks of creating a big inventory of books right back on the publisher.

The 1979 Thor Power Tool ruling2 made holding that inventory much more expensive. As a result, the accounting departments at big publishers eventually sent discouraging words down to their acquisitions departments. The first directive was, try to publish only bestsellers. This quickly drove up the advances of, and started the bidding wars for, authors with a bestselling history.

Picking a Bestseller

Book editors might know about the current market: They can see trends from their own sales figures, from Publishers Weekly, and from what they hear over lunch. They know the kinds of books people are reading and buying right now. What is much harder to see is that kind of potential in any single new book. This doesn’t mean book editors are stupid or can’t see literary quality. Any new book that takes off and soars in the lists must satisfy a complex mix of factors.

First, it must have inherent quality, because readers are intelligent, sensitive, and averse to inept storytelling and dull writing. Second, a bestseller needs originality, because readers are naturally looking for something new and fresh and won’t brag to their friends about a book that’s just same-old, same-old. Third, a besteller must also have familiarity, because readers have basic expectations that must be met. Any book that’s too exotic or strange has a hard time surviving the lag between a reader’s initial intrigue and his or her long-term enthusiasm. It’s also hard to recommend a book to a friend if you can’t quite describe it. And fourth, the bestseller must have a huge factor of luck, because word-of-mouth is most easily generated for books that resonate with some larger event or trend in the outside world.

It’s easy to write a good book. It’s harder to be original. It’s damned hard to be original in a mature genre or field where everybody thinks everything’s already been said. And it’s impossible to predict events and trends a year into the future—which is when this manuscript in the editor’s hands will actually arrive on bookstore shelves, after contract negotiations with the author, rewrites,3 production and printing, and pre-sales marketing to and negotiation with the stores’ purchasing agents.

In all this uncertainty, the wise course is to go with a known quantity, an author with proven—and huge—sales, even if you have to steal him or her from another house. But unfortunately, although bestselling authors may have large followings, few authors have consistently good books. Every author has at least one great idea and great book in his or her heart, three to five pretty good books, and a trailing stream of potboilers and occasional stinkers. It’s a much smaller group of readers who will find something consistently satisfying in the author’s every work,4 although these readers will be the most loyal.

Think back over the great bestsellers of the past, and you’ll find they are really unpredictable. Stephen King began writing horror novels in a market where everyone knew that American horror—the stuff of Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft—was long dead. It took guts for an editor to buck that trend and publish King’s first novel. Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October, which was a new and essentially technical view of warfare, saw many rejections before it was finally picked up by the Naval Institute Press, not a mainstream fiction publisher. J. K. Rowling saw phenomenal rejection with her Harry Potter series, which turned the worlds of magic and the mundane on their heads, before acceptance at Scholastic, again not a major fiction publisher. It’s a truism that every “overnight success” is about ten years in the making.

In any event, it has been many years since a new author could hope to make a pitch directly to a book editor. Sending a manuscript to a publisher is called “going over the transom” and lands the book in the publisher’s “slush pile”—the cabinet full of unsolicited manuscripts that a book editor with a spare afternoon might look through and occasionally try to read.5 Books languish for months on that pile until someone gets busy, writes the necessary “not for us” letters, and sends the misdirected and misbegotten things back to their authors.

To get to a publisher, you have to first get an agent. Book editors use agents and their tastes and instincts as a first-line buffer against the flood of new manuscripts that would descend on them daily. The agent has become the first filter in the process of finding a publishable manuscript. The reward for this work—which often includes consultation with authors who have both potential and the willingness to reshape their work—is the agent’s right to represent the author and take a cut of his or her royalties. Still, the agent is looking for the same things the editor does: market potential of the current work, and the author’s potential for writing more than one good book. For the author, of course, pitching to an agent, who then must pitch to the publisher, only adds to the number of conflicting tastes and opinions that the work in hand must satisfy. And it piles on the middlemen.

More Bad News from the Accounting Department

Other directives came down from accounting to the desks of the acquisitions editors. All of them turned the publishing business into a needle’s eye through which an author and the book in hand had to thread.

The second directive was, shed the midlist authors, whose books are now more expensive to hold year-over-year. The outcome of this was that established authors with solid followings, although perhaps not stellar sales, now found it harder to get published. Multi-book contract deals also became harder to get, because each book’s sales were now under a magnifying glass. That makes it harder to plan for trilogies, series, and other ways an author sustains the readers’ interest. Fiction publishers like series and related books, but their tolerance in the face of disappointing sales is hair-trigger.

The third directive was, choose only new authors whose books have bestseller potential. This has driven a sameness in product—think of the number of vampire books now flooding the young adult category—as editors chase last year’s success. The pressure to guarantee a bestseller has also worked against authors with the sort of individual style and quirkiness that readers may eventually come to love.6 And at the same time that new authors are pressured to make a big name for themselves, the accountants have ordered book editors to shorten the decision time to remaindering a book, in order to avoid piling up inventory costs. If a book can’t make its sales target by the end of the taxable year, it will quickly disappear.

Consider also that publishers really don’t market books anymore. They will advertise to the booksellers, but to reach the readers themselves, authors are on their own. The watchword is “Marketing of your book will be review driven,” meaning that favorable book reviews will promote you—or not. Authors are expected to schedule their own appearances at conventions and book signings, arrange readings, and print and send their own postcards. Building a reputation this way takes time. You have to let word of mouth do its work. But if the book is going to disappear from the store shelves in three or four weeks, then go to remainder soon after that, there’s no time for word of mouth to spread. And if you don’t get a chance at a second book … well, never mind.

Consider that publishers—and the agents who ride ahead of them—now often recommend that authors write a book so that it will show obvious potential to be made into a movie.7 Authors are encouraged to pattern their characters after currently popular stars, adopt a plot structure that easily translates into a three-act movie script, and finish with a happy ending “in which the hero and the villain go mano-a-mano above Reichenbach Falls.”8 This increases the homogenization of popular culture and limits an author’s style and creativity—exactly the qualities he or she needs to set his or her work apart. Ironically, selling a movie concept is even harder than selling a book deal, because of the comparatively much greater investment in production costs. So the likelihood of a book becoming a bestseller because it reads like the movie it might one day be made into is … well, circular.

Consider that publishers and agents now urge fiction authors to create their own “franchise” as a way of selling more books. Think of Ian Fleming’s James Bond: The hero always lives to fight another day, in a new book with the same essential plot but different setting and villain. That limits a lot of potential new story lines and the possibilities for character growth and development, which serious readers expect. But, ironically, the publisher will watch the sales of that first novel with a deadly stare. If sales don’t reach expectation, there won’t be a second book. Even a two-book contract can be abrogated.

Publishing is a slow-moving business. The effects of Thor Power Tool didn’t really begin to take hold until the mid to late 1980s. It wasn’t until the early ’90s that publishers began actively cauterizing their midlists and cancelling book contracts that they finally figured out were uneconomic. Authors with 20 and 30 books to their credit and a legion of happy readers were shut out. Suddenly, the only people making agented sales were the big names—think Stephen King and J. K. Rowling—and first-time novelists with bestseller potential, most of whom were about to take a short ride over a waterfall.

1. See Gutenberg Economics in Various Art Forms.

2. See Kevin O’Donnell, Jr.’s discussion How Thor Power Hammered Publishing.

3. The lead time necessary to produce a book is one of the reasons editors, at least in fiction, won’t consider a manuscript based on sample chapters and an outline anymore. They want to see the full execution before committing to it. For authors, this means the end of writing up the bare bones of an idea, pitching it, and then obtaining at least part of the advance in order to live while writing the book. You now have to put your full effort into a finished book on spec—and then if that doesn’t sell, go write something else. Writing a first—or even a second or third—novel has become the purchase price of a ticket in a huge national lottery.

4. In this context I always think of the heartfelt refrain from Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides: “Oh, mama, do it again!”

5. Early in my career, as a book editor, I read tons of slush. You quickly identify authors who in desperation have sent their books to the wrong house (e.g., novels to an academic publisher) and those who for all the paper in the world can’t get to what they mean to say. They all get polite “not for us” replies. Once in a hundred manuscripts you discover a book that is almost on target and with a little structural work could be really quite good. The editor would like to take the author in hand and offer these suggestions, but then a senior editor wisely asks, “Say they did all that rewriting, would you still publish the book?” “Well, no, it’s not really for our market, but it would be a better book.” “If they do the work, they’ll expect you to publish it. Let them go with a polite ‘not for us’ reply.” Reading slush is like looking for diamonds on the forest floor—not hopeless but heartbreaking.

6. You wouldn’t believe the number of fantasy authors who, after the initial success of the Harry Potter books—a quirky series if there ever was one—were told to write books about boy wizards with glasses. The only thing most publishers know about bestsellers is what was successful last year.

7. I’ve actually had a potential agent suggest this. The cinematization of novels is no doubt driven by the fact that most of the major book publishers are now owned by conglomerates that also own major movie studios. The dream is to co-market the book and the movie and so reduce advertising costs. This arrangement also drives the plethora of media tie-in novels—the Star Trek, Star Wars, X-Files etc. books—that, at least in science fiction, has slowly taken over bookstore shelves.

8. The rules for what will make an acceptable movie script are much stricter than for genre fiction. To see how precise the format is, down to the page counts devoted to each act, read Syd Field’s books, Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting and The Screenwriter’s Workbook.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Future of Publishing 1 - Gutenberg Economics: What Is a Book Worth?

As an author whose career has included book editing, fiction writing, publication with a New York publisher (Baen Books), and now self-publishing on the new digital platforms (Kindle, Nook, iBooks), I have a lifelong interest in the publishing business and where it’s going. I hope to share some insights over the next four weeks, but first it’s necessary to review the economic realities of traditional, paper-bound publishing. Here is what I see, from several viewpoints.

Gutenberg and the Publisher

Ever since Gutenberg and his printed Bible, publishers have had to deal with inventory. The mechanics of printing are that you spend a great deal of time preparing a template—the page form made of raised type or, in the case of offset printing, a sheet of aluminum with the page imaged in ink-adhering varnish—from which many identical copies are struck. In the case of a book, the total preparation effort includes: the author putting the words in order; the editor checking and adjusting them; the designer developing a layout and commissioning a cover; the typesetter rekeying the text;1 the proofreader checking his keying accuracy; the printer laying out the pages and making up the page forms or sheets, mounting them on the press, bringing the press up to ink, running some test pages, and initiating the print run of 10,000 or 100,000 copies.

All of this work goes into making one copy of a book. Say the costs of “make-ready,” including the author’s advance, the fraction of the editor’s, proofer’s, and printer’s salaries attributable to the book, paper and ink, and equipment utilization, amount to $50,000. Then the first copy of that book, if the press run were to stop there, would cost $50,000. If the run stopped after two books, they would each be worth $25,000; after the third, $16,666.66 … and at the 100,000th book, $0.50. After the press run has finished, other costs like binding and warehousing accrue to each copy of the book, and those costs depend on whatever economies of scale exist at that stage of production.

Since the editing, typesetting, and press setup costs are about the same for any novel-length fiction book,2 the way to save money on the process is to print more books. High press runs lower the cost of the individual books in the publisher’s warehouse. Note that these same Gutenberg economics apply to many other “make from a template” production processes. The high cost of a computer chip, for example, goes into its design and the preparation of the mask for printing the complex circuit on silicon wafers. Once the design is fixed, print as many wafers as you can sell the chips.

One of the issues with Gutenberg economics is that errors and last-minute updates become progressively more costly to fix as production moves forward: easy at the manuscript stage, more expensive once the book is in type, unimaginable after the printing press has run. Even after the press run, the printer will want to use the same type casting or aluminum sheets for a second, third, fourth printing, so changes at that point must wait for a new edition.

The economics of holding a large press run in the warehouse became more complicated in 1979 with a U.S. Supreme Court decision in Thor Power Tool Company v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue. The ruling affected how companies account for the cost of goods sold and the cost of goods still in their warehouses when paying their income tax. The economics and accounting practices are complicated,3 but the result is that publishers suddenly found it much more expensive to hold large inventories year over year.

This doesn’t much matter if the book is a bestseller and will sell out 100,000 copies in a year, but many authors never see bestseller status. Over the years, all publishers have acquired a stable of authors in the middle of their catalog—the “midlist”—who might sell a few hundred or a thousand books a month. Other publishers serving specialty markets might have their top selling authors in this category.4 At that rate, a press run of 50,000 copies might stay in inventory for three or four years. Midlist authors and those publishing in niche markets need this time to develop a reputation by word of mouth among their readers.

Gutenberg and the Bookseller

When you walk into a bookstore—either the corner bookshop or the Barnes & Noble at the mall—what do you see? Thousands of books! Books for every interest and taste. Books for everyone. Making so many different books available represents a huge investment for any store. Of course, the latest bestseller will fly off the shelves, but many of the books there represent new authors or established authors whose older works move slowly—the midlist, again. These books may languish on the shelves for months, maybe years. How does the bookstore deal with the economic risk of buying and holding all these books?

First, the bookstore buys the book from the publisher at a deep discount. Terms vary, but the store owner—or the buyer for a national chain like Barnes & Noble—will usually only pay about 60% of the book’s cover price. That allows the store to charge the full cover price and receive 40% of it to pay for shipping from the distributor, holding the inventory, advertising, and paying store rent, salaries, and taxes. But still, if the store had to pay that much to stock all those books, running the store would be a risky business.

Second, the bookstore’s purchase of any book has an escape clause. Almost every book publisher and distributor maintains a returns policy. Again, terms vary, but after a specified minimum time on the shelves, the bookstore can return the books to the publisher and get its money back or a credit against future purchases. If the book is a hardcover or large-format trade paperback, the store returns the books themselves, usually with the publisher paying the shipping costs. If it’s a pocket book or mass-market paperback, the store clerk strips off the covers, mails them to the publisher, and pulps the book.5

Returned books go back into the publisher’s inventory and may be sold and shipped elsewhere. Stripped books are lost to the system and removed from inventory accounting. In either case, the publisher never knows what exact proportion of books in a press run are actually sold, or stay sold, until the returns come back from the booksellers.

If the publisher decides to let the book go out of print—essentially abandoning it—he tells the store manager not to ship back returns. The unsold books are now the store’s liability, called “remainders.” Those are the books on the store’s “bargain table,” where you can pick up a full-color history of transatlantic liners that once cost $90 for just $5 or $10. Some outlets also buy up remainders to move them at ultra-low prices. Remainders that hang around too long move out to the table on the sidewalk as “Last Chance - $1!” The store doesn’t want to hold them in inventory any more than the publisher and will price them to disappear.6 These books are one step away from the shredder.

The main point is that any book in the store really has only limited commercial value—to the store—until you pick it up, go to the register, and pay for it.7 Shelf space is valuable, and bookstores pay tax on their inventory, too. With more books coming out all the time, and with publishers willing to take unsold books back into inventory or see them pulped and still provide a credit against future purchases, the store has every incentive to push the fast movers and send back the slow ones. The pace of turnover on store shelves helps the bestselling author but can be hard on the midlist author of modest sales and brutal on new authors trying to make a name for themselves.

The bookseller returns policy is one of the reasons major publishers have acquired such powerful control of the book business. With large size, they can offer store credits and discounts that smaller publishers struggle to match. They also can average out the profits from fast-selling books and losses of slow-selling and largely returned books. The last thirty years have seen many small houses acquired by large ones, and large houses acquired by conglomerates with other media interests. The economics of paper publishing have also been driving independent booksellers out in favor of national chains that can negotiate volume deals with major publishers.

Gutenberg and the Author

The cost of printing—of turning the manuscript in an author’s hands into a bound book that large numbers of people can access and read—has always been a barrier to publication. Someone must make that investment, and whoever owns or controls the press chooses the content. Publishers have always been selective about which projects they will take on. The number of hopeful writers has always been far higher than the number of published authors.

The number of hopefuls has gotten much higher in the last thirty years with the advent of the personal computer. Before computerized word processing, an author used a pencil, or a single sheet in the typewriter, to draft the chapters. After reworking through several drafts, with lots of crossouts and cut-and-paste, he or she would then type a fair copy with two sheets and carbon paper between. Changes and additions at that late stage mean a lot of retyping.8 I wrote two novels this way even before I began writing seriously for publication. Today, writing is a lot easier: open the file, drag the cursor, start keying. Nothing actually forces the author to go back and deal with the individual words that pour forth.

Many disappointed writers who believe they simply must be published take the self-publishing route with what used to be called a “vanity press.” But any author who buys his or her own books is entering the current chain store environment at a great disadvantage. Bookstores still want the right to return unsold books, and most authors are not prepared or equipped to offer this. And most authors are not prepared to negotiate with a national buyer or move inventory quickly. In fact, the only successes I’ve ever seen in self-publishing of traditional, paper-bound books involved extreme niche markets: The author was writing about local history or a subject with immediate appeal in a certain area where he or she could sell direct to local, non-chain bookstores. And local stores that can make those kinds of buying decisions are getting scarce.

From the author’s point of view, the publisher’s need to account for store returns—which can often be 50% or higher for a new writer—means a delay in sales accounting and distribution of any royalties. The author has to live longer on the advance money. If sales and returns are disappointing, there may never be “sell through” to cover the advance already paid, and so no royalties from sales.

The economics of Gutenberg publishing and bookstore operations greatly favor investment by large corporations in large press runs of books that will move quickly. That’s generally bad news for most writers. Since the accounting pressures created by the Thor Power Tool ruling, the economics of holding an inventory and dealing with returns have meant the death of a lot of writing careers.

1. The book went to a typesetter for rekeying in the old days of typewriters and hot-metal typesetting. Today, the author submits a word processing file, and the editor and designer work over it on page-layout software like Adobe Framemaker or Quark Express.

2. Books with lots of illustrations cost more—and have variable costs—to prepare because more work goes into the design of each page, and the photos and artwork must be processed into screened, color-separated images. New computerized page-layout programs are driving these costs down, too, as they output color-separated files that can go straight to burning the aluminum offset sheet.

3. For a good description of the case’s effects, see Kevin O’Donnell, Jr.’s excellent analysis How Thor Power Hammered Publishing from the SFWA Bulletin.

4. My early career as a book editor was in specialty publishing—first at the Penn State Press, a publisher of academic books, and then at Howell-North Books, which published heavily illustrated books of Californiana and railroad histories.

5. That’s why you see a notice in paperback books about a book without a cover being stolen property. The publisher has been assured that the book was destroyed.

6. Although I’ve not tested this, I suppose if you grabbed one of those books and ran down the street, no one would come out of the store to chase you. But I don’t like to encourage theft in any form.

7. That’s why Barnes & Noble puts in cushy chairs and encourages you to stop and read: Anything that binds you to a book is helping to move it toward the register. And if the pages get a bit dog-eared and you put it back on the shelf to take a fresh one for yourself—who cares? The unsold book in the store goes right back to the publisher.

8. I knew an author who would draft his book on the computer, print a copy, then erase the file. He would then retype the book into the computer to create the fair copy. As I discovered in going from pencil draft to typewriter, as you have to retype you usually find faster, more economical ways to say what you mean. Economical writing is a pleasure for the reader.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The World We Live In

It’s a truism these days to say that parents and children—in fact, members of any generation—live in different worlds. They have different concerns (getting your driver’s license vs. paying the insurance bill), different tastes in music (the melodies we remember from our youth vs. that “awful noise” the kids listen to),1 and different tolerances for stress and stimulation (riding the rollercoaster vs. sitting quietly and sipping a glass of wine).

Time in this case—plus an aging metabolism and endocrine system—brings a change in your relationship to the outside world. But there are other divides among the human population. The largest is probably differences in the depth and amount of a person’s background knowledge, whether acquired through formal education or personal study and reading.

Most people, for example, live in a Euclidean world not much different from that of the ancients. The space around them has three dimensions (up and down, side to side, forward and back). Lines are straight. Rooms are square. Dance floors are flat. Wall and floor meet at right angles. The horizon is as far as you can see. For everyday activities, this is an adequate view of the world.

A person with a little more education might live—at least some of the time, when thinking about the science—in an Einsteinian world. He or she has learned that the space around us is supposed to be shaped by gravity. Such a person knows that not only is the surface of the Earth curved, but all space and objects near the Earth are curved. The pencil between your fingers—even though it looks straight—curves very slightly downward along its length. Despite what your Level Devil tells you, the dance floor falls away in all directions from the spot where you’re standing. If it didn’t, you would be walking uphill with every step you took from that spot. The horizon is eight miles away if you’re standing in a wheat field on the Great Plains or sailing the ocean; it’s considerably farther if you climb a tower or a mast.2

For most people, humans and animals are different orders of being. They interact differently, understand differently—there is a great divide between the two. And they feel instinctively that the animals they encounter are of different specific types, as they were for Plato. All horses, for the ancient Greek, were imperfect copies of an ideal being, Horse, which was the model for an entire class of animals. And horses were very different in nature, strength, disposition, and other characteristics from cows, or goats, or lions. Each animal had its specific nature. Each represented something unique.

A person with a little more education understands about evolution and shared inheritance. The line between species becomes blurred. Horses are appreciably different from cows but not so different from donkeys and zebras. The dividing line seems to be the ability to breed: horse and donkey mate and the offspring is a mule. Most species crosses are indeed mules in the sense that the offspring are viable but not fertile.3 From this understanding, the world view of an educated person sees more sameness than difference. Rather than a static picture of different animal types existing forever, such a person sees a temporal flow of characteristics, one animal into another, as genetic mutations thrive or fail in the changing environments into which they are born.

For an educated person, it’s not really surprising that humans and horses, or humans and dogs, communicate so well. The difference in intelligence between human and dog is greater than between one human and another, but much less than between humans and fish, say, or lizards. The differences in intellect and awareness between land-based mammals are those of scale, not ultimate nature.

Of course, there are mammals of perhaps human-scale intelligence with which we don’t communicate so well. Humans have always had a special feeling for dolphins: They just seem more active and responsive, more intelligent, than tuna or swordfish or sharks. We have related less well with whales, perhaps because they are so huge and apparently self-involved. For years we hunted whales for oil—some humans still hunt them—where we never actively sought dolphins for their meat.

We know, or believe we know, that dolphins and whales have a complex form of communication based on sound, just as humans communicate largely through sound.4 But try as we might, we can’t crack their code of whistles and clicks. While the larynxes of gorillas and chimps can’t make the sounds we consider spoken language either, we can teach them sign language and share symbolic thoughts with them. The sound-making capability of dolphins and whales is far more complex—perhaps more complex even than the squeaks and hoots that make up human language—but we still can’t crack their code.

I submit that this may be due to the different worlds we live in. A dolphin, swimming free in the ocean, having no hands with which to manipulate objects, whose range of vision is limited by the murk of floating plankton and the feeble depth to which sunlight penetrates, inhabits a very different world from any land-based animal. A dolphin has a different orientation in space, relies on different senses, faces different concerns and dangers, has a closer horizon—or perhaps, with sonar, a farther one—than humans.

Dolphins don’t just hear and respond to a different music. They have a completely different shape to their world.

Given the different worlds that humans themselves may live in, and the world views that separate humans from our animal neighbors, then how much more different will be the first aliens we encounter? They are certainly not going to be Vulcans—humanoids with pointy ears but still having two arms and hands with five fingers. They may not even be as close to us as dolphins or spiders. And the environment that shapes their minds is sure to be very different from Earth’s.

Our first-contact aliens will likely be so different from us—not only physically but mentally—that we might not even recognize them as being alive. It’s going to be a very strange universe out there, and we’ll all have to be careful where we step.

1. But some things last. When I was a child, the music of my parents’ generation, Guy Lombardo and Tommy Dorsey, seemed quaint and corny. I liked Simon & Garfunkel and the Beatles, which they hated. But we both loved classical music. And many youngsters today still like the Beatles. Quality endures.

2. I’ve always thought that sailors could readily grasp the fact that the Earth is a sphere because they could experience the curvature directly. As a ship sails away from the shore, the city skyline remains perfectly visible but the wharf disappears below the horizon. And as another ship approaches at sea, its topmasts and sails are readily seen but the hull is still hidden until it comes much closer. An agile mind will put these facts together and realize that the Earth’s surface cannot really be flat.

3. In fact, interbreeding—and the viability and fertility of the resulting embryo—have become the modern criteria that define speciation.

4. Dogs, on the other hand, seem to communicate most readily by scent. They may have an array of barks that may communicate basic emotions like alarm, anxiety, joy, and so on to one another. But when they want to recognize an individual and navigate the world around them, they follow their noses.