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Monday, December 19, 2011

A New Way To Publish

How many people are opening book publishing companies or book stores these days?  Not many, but one book store is now becoming a publisher. Why not?  Everyone seems to be crossing into other businesses these days.

Books and Books, a great independent bookstore in the Miami area, launched Books & Books Press over a year ago.  It makes sense that every business leverage its assets like that.  Maybe we’ll soon see Publishers Weekly publishing books, Random House selling the titles of other publishers on its Web site, and the editors of major publishers writing their own books instead of editing those of others.

Or perhaps publishing will just be crowd sourced.  You can create a company, get funding, and find customers through the same means:  online.  Pubslush Press uses crowd funding to let readers choose what gets published. They launched in September looking for books to publish – but only if 2000 readers agree to buy it after sampling 10 manuscript pages along with a summary.  So far, no books have been published, but the concept is intriguing.

I have a better idea, but I’m not sure how it would be implemented. What if we had a reverse stock market approach to a book?  Instead of buying a stock and hoping a finite number of shares goes up in price, a book’s price would be dictated by how many people sign up to purchase it. 

Let’s say an author agrees to earn $100,000 for his or her book.  The book gets listed at $100,000.  Each time someone commits to buy the book, the price drops. If two people sign on, they each pay $50,000.  Four people?  $25,000 each.  Four thousand people?  $25 each.  40,000 people/ $2.50 each.  You get the point. 

By a certain date, those who pledged to buy the book would be allowed to back out if the price is too high; otherwise they buy in.  Once a book settles on a price, future sales would be only at that price or perhaps would be free – or all future sales would support a charity.  The idea is that others would encourage friends and family to buy the book to get its price lowered and the author, assuming he or she picked a good amount of money to make for his/her work, would be happy both with the money made and the fact so many people read his/her work and that excess sales would fund a charity.

It’s a little like reverse Ebay, where more people who sign up can bid the price down – and everyone wins!

Interview With Jessica Haberman, Acquisitions Editor, Globe Pequot Press, FalconGuides

1.      Jessica, as the acquisitions editor for Globe Pequot Press | FalconGuides, what are you looking for in the authors you decide to publish? FalconGuides is known for its cadre of outdoor experts who are active in their local communities and can help pinpoint the very best outdoor recreation information—the best hiking trails, climbing routes, bike trails, camping sites, surf spots, and more. In addition to authors with outdoor expertise, we value authors who can effectively market their work, whose enthusiasm doesn’t end when the manuscript is turned in. And we’re looking for traits that make outdoor experts great writers: an engaging voice, attention to detail, and a desire to exceed expectations. Authors who thrive on tight deadlines are especially attractive.  

2.      What do you love about being a part of the book publishing industry? I love being part of a community that adores books and that appreciates a dog-eared, cover-ripped, spine-cracked volume as much as any pristine copy shipped from the printer. I also love the way industry professionals have found ways to turn big challenges into opportunities to try new things and succeed with different types of projects and formats.

3.      Where do you see the book world heading? While I was speaking with our app developer partner, he shared a quote from Alan Kay that I think accurately describes our role in the book world right now: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” I’m working on an app right now with authors of a field guide, and we’re finding many fascinating features of an app that actually make the content better and easier to search. Does it mean the end of the printed book? Definitely not. It’s difficult for me to imagine an outdoors industry, for instance, without printed books. Books get dirty and wet, pages get ripped. Climbers aren’t bringing their iPads and Kindles while they scale El Capitan. Kayakers aren’t taking their devices with them while paddling through the New River Gorge. Books can withstand a beating, and when they’re beyond repair, you spend $20 for a new one. Furthermore, when you’re in the backcountry, you don’t have a cell phone signal to download the latest hiking guide. That’s why we love printed books—but I expect they will decrease in number as many folks move toward electronic books and apps. Printed books will be around, but they’re going to be more expensive as the quantities decrease and cost of printing goes up.

4.      Do you intend to release enhanced e-books, and if so, what do you hope to add to them? We are examining different ways to package our content, and we are looking into enhanced e-books—specifically, e-books that contain video. We’re working on an initiative to acquire more video content, and we’re looking at lots of different ways it can enhance our written content. Although video is by no means a new format, it’s a new way for us to think about promoting our content.

5.      What advice do you have for struggling writers? It’s such a clich√© these days, but “write what you know.” This is why our books work—our authors are writing about and researching (aka hiking, camping, climbing, etc.) their favorite activities. Thorough research is important. When I get stuck or I have trouble focusing, I dig back into the research. Chances are there is something I missed, something I can dissect a little deeper, or an interesting fact that inspires me to think about something a different way. Good research means a better book. With the amount of competition for printed books, yours really needs to stand out. In my work, it doesn’t mean it needs a fancy hook; I care more that the information is accurate and well-presented. I do look at unsolicited submissions. In fact, I just signed two books from the slush pile. If you do good market research and you have a good sense of what the publisher’s key areas are, you can craft a great proposal. Think broadly (readers want more than the hikes in your backyard) and know the competition. Show us your enthusiasm.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Planned Television Arts. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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