Monday, May 21, 2012

Where Is The Author Or Book Publisher IPO?

Facebook has its Initial Public Offering (IPO) on Friday, some eight years after the company was founded by a Harvard dropout.  With over 900 million monthly users worldwide and 542 million daily users, the company brought in about a billion dollars this first quarter—12 billion less than Amazon—but netted over 200 million—some 70 million dollars in profits more than Amazon.  The world’s largest online retailer’s stock value trades at an inflated price when one considers its earnings but it may be the model for the world’s largest social network, Facebook.

Facebook opened—and closed-- its first trading day at $38.  The firm is worth over 100 billion dollars.  It’s incredible to think that a company with little history of profits can be valued so highly.  Facebook is a leader today but it seems like it is something that can be duplicated.  Facebook, though a part of our culture today, is replaceable.  50% in a recent poll say FB is just a passing fad.  If bookstores, newspapers, the music industry, and books can each be threatened and challenged by technology, technology can be threatened by technology.  FB is fragile, to a degree, but for now it’s the king of its kind. 

All this talk about the riches of online companies run by 20-somethings has everyone else in a jealous fit.  Why can’t book publishing have a chance to launch IPOs for publishers or authors?  How cool would it be to have an IPO for an author’s new book, where people can buy shares in a book?  The profits from the book sale would be divided amongst the investors.  Authors crave the idea of someone investing in their work.  Why do dot-coms get all the glory? 

Authors can be so creative and write voluminously at a high level but get rewarded with pennies, while others create some software that does something seemingly basic such as post photos by users – and get rewarded for it.  Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn, Groupon, and a few dozen other companies have generated-- or will soon generate -- billions through an IPO.  It seems like these companies are rewarded for their idealistic potential, for their well-done implementation of a novel but simple idea. Yet many of these companies rely on ad money and investors to stay afloat.  None have any real solid plans to execute a diversified way of making serious money. 

Things are out of whack on Wall Street.   Always have been.  Brokers trade on speculation, rumor, forecasts—not reality, facts and figures.  Every investment is a casino bet.  Real events and concrete things may not always sway Wall Street but as a result of its gambling, there ends up being ramifications in the real world. 

People get fired when stock prices drop.  Stores close up.  The poker game stock brokers play with our money is obscene and represents capitalism in the poorest light.

Meanwhile, few authors get to win the lottery and truly reap significant financial benefits from their hard work.  It doesn’t seem fair, but few things in life are.

Writers are rewarded by a different currency.  Though many hope to cash in through their writings few go in to publishing, expecting a big pay-off.  No, they write, first and foremost because the words beckon to flow from their mind’s thoughts.  They need to be heard.  The words come to life on paper and touch the reader.  The writer is touched as well.  Stories need to be told, whether fictional or real, and writers feel at home telling them.  It’s their favored way of communicating and expressing themselves.  When they write it’s just like painting, or singing, or throwing a ball 100 miles per hour.  Life’s passions, experiences, and ideas are compressed into a book, filtered through the writer’s soul.  He or she only feels alive when they write.  They judge their life based on the quantity and quality of written output.  Every word written is a strand of DNA left behind by the writer.  It’s his only evidence of living. 

Still, what the hell  Give me a damn IPO and I’ll write the biggest bestseller there ever was!

Interview With Author Gary Krist

  1. What type of books do you write? You’d think this would be an easy question to answer, but my work has been all over the map.  I started my writing career with two collections of short stories, moved on to two thrillers, published a comic historical novel, and then turned to historical nonfiction narrative with my last two books.  From a branding perspective, then, I’ve mismanaged my career terribly.  But I’ve always considered myself in the narrative business, whether the narrative is fiction or nonfiction, short-form or long-form.  And although I’ll probably return to fiction at some point, for the foreseeable future I’m sticking with my current obsession with history.

  1. What is your latest or upcoming book about? City of Scoundrels is, at its heart, the story of 12 disastrous days in Chicago in the summer of 1919.  Over the course of those 12 days, the city went from a state of high optimism about its future to the brink of civic collapse and martial law. World War I was over, and the city had just begun implementing its great vision for the future—the so-called Plan of Chicago, architect Daniel Burnham’s utopian redevelopment scheme that was supposed to turn Chicago into “the Metropolis of the World.” But on the very same day that the City Council was voting on this blueprint for urban perfection, the whole city started coming apart in a terrifying way. A blimp crashed into the downtown financial district, a horrifying race riot broke out, a transit strike paralyzed the city, and a brutal child murder made people wonder whether even their next-door neighbors could be trusted—all over 12 short days. To those living through it, it looked as if the entire fabric of normal existence—the underpinning of basic stability that any society rests on—was suddenly unraveling before their eyes.  It was a vivid illustration of how the very same energies and ambitions that combine to build a great American city can so easily go awry and threaten to destroy it.

  1. What inspired you to write it? I’ve always been fascinated by the way that great cities come into being and grow.  It’s invariably a tumultuous, almost Darwinian process, full of epic conflicts that bring out both the best and worst of human nature.  But the main draw for me in this book was its central character—Big Bill Thompson, the mayor.  Thompson was an extremely colorful, extravagantly corrupt figure, a loud, outrageous blowhard in a cowboy hat who liked to think of himself as “The People’s David,” defending the average Chicagoan against the Goliaths of wealth and privilege.  Most historians depict him as a buffoonish demagogue—and that he certainly was—but I think there’s more to Big Bill than he’s usually given credit for.  So part of my mission was to explore his character in a somewhat more sympathetic light.

  1. What did you do before you became an author? I’ve been writing ever since college, but for the first decade and a half of my career I kept body and soul together by writing sample test materials for a major test-prep company in New York.  My title was “Logic Coordinator,” which I know sounds like something out of Orwell.  But all of that seems a long time ago.

  1. Where do you see book publishing heading? It’s really the Wild West in Publishing Land these days, and given the recent ebook pricing controversies, it’s not always clear who are the sheriffs and who are the outlaws.  Will the traditional commercial publishers still be around in ten or twenty years? I honestly don’t know.  But I remain convinced that there will always be a demand for long-form narrative—whether it’s delivered in physical books, ebooks, or direct-to-cerebral-cortex data streams—so there will always be a place for writers.


Last night's post: What is in a baby name -- or a book title?

Interview With Marcia Friedman

  1. What type of books do you write?   Self help, motivational, non-fiction author. Please see

  1. What is your latest or upcoming book about?  Latest--"Aging Is A Journey Of Changes"

  1. What inspired you to write it?  Silver Sages are often accused of resisting change.  I researched and explored that subject to discover that everyone resists change!  That led to writing and publishing this motivational book.

  1. What did you do before you became an author?  Teacher, trainer, office manager, etc.

  1. How does it feel to be a published author?  It's a draining, exhausting path to publish a book.  The resulting ego gratification of holding and feeling "my book" and hearing positive feedback is wonderful.  The marketing is an ongoing struggle.  All writers are not meant to be business entrepreneurs.  Unfortunately, the two go together in todays literary world, if a creative writer wants to be published.

  1. Any advice for struggling writers?  Write for yourself.  If you decide to publish the writings to become an author, pull up all your patience and money for that journey.  Writing is healing!  Being an author is more work, more to learn, and more time consuming that ever imagined.  If you have to write (and I do) plowing through the obstacles is worthwhile, despite the bouts of lack of confidence and marketing struggles.

  1. Where do you see book publishing heading?  More and more writers want the control over their acceptance and their work.  To continue offering a service, publishers will have to come up with a more direct path to being accepted that is less time consuming and restrictive. 

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

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