Some time ago, while I was still working at Mercier Press, probably back in early 2008 in fact, I read a submission. It was for a book by a young man called Kieran Mark Crowley. The pitch was great, the text was zingy and the whole thing just read exceptionally well.
I met Mark, liked, him, pitched the book at the new title meeting and before we knew what was happening, Colm & The Lazarus Key was published and on bookshelves (complete with a rocking cover by the wonderful Snowbooks folks).
Last week the shortlist for the 20th Bisto Children’s Book of the Year Awards was announced and Kieran’s wonderful book was one of the ten books chosen for that shortlist. I’m delighted because I honestly believe that Kieran has many more fine books in him and that Colm & The Lazarus Key is one of the finest Irish children’s debut novels for some time.
I like Snowbooks, so I’m biased
But the post today announcing that they are making proof copies of some of their books available for download and print via Lulu is really very very smart:
In what I shall call An Interesting Experiment, we are making available some books and samplers waaay before publication via Lulu.
What I find even more interesting is what you get if you take this alongside what the equally interesting Michael Cairns at Personanondata was saying in a recent post:
as a publisher, you should be comfortable with enabling the consumer to – in effect – make his or her own product. As an example, a publisher can make content available to consumers during what historically may have been considered the production process: Consumers can comment, add their own notes and links, perhaps add their own content and, at the point the consumer is satisfied they have a product they want, they can ‘publish’ it. That point of publishing may or may not coincide with the publishers’ date and, in fact, the publisher may not ever ‘complete’ their books in a traditional sense but allow them to live and breath and enable any future consumer to decide when they want to ‘publish’.
Snowbooks are starting this process. No there is no feedback mechanism per say (though Emma’s e-mail and phone number are pretty freely available so feedback could flow) but this is surely a step in the direction of the kind of access and openness that Michael describes.
Good luck to Snowbooks on this one, a fine experiment. Eoin
I don’t know how I missed this but The Editor’s Corner at The Book Depository has a wonderful interview with one of my favourite History writer: Ian Mortimer. Pick of the words (though I’d like to write more later on some of the great lines to do with keeping non-fiction relevant for 40 years):
How could I not grow to like a man who was trilingual, literate, who read history, was the greatest jousting champion the royal family ever produced, travelled further than any other English monarch before the twentieth century, who was politically tolerant (for the middle ages) and who was faithful and dutiful to both his wives. Who used cotton for toilet paper, who had the first known chamber stool and perhaps the first portable clock, who was a ‘sparkling’ musician, and designed his own cannon.
If their recent video hadn’t taught you some respect for Snowbooks then go and read their application for the IPA innovation of the year prize. It’s in a natty PDF download and would be worth reading for the style even if the contents were pants which, I stress, they are not.
Oh no, here we go again. If The Australian is to be believed Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone might be a long tall tale! I wonder if it matters for this one? Seems like a terribly worthy book one way or the other but let’s see what comes of it! [Thanks to PND for linking to this one]
I mentioned caution yesterday
And today I read an article that brought the point home:
Dotcom giant eBay has admitted it paid far too much when it bought internet telephony company Skype for $2.6bn (£1.28bn) in 2005.
The web auction company said it was writing down the value of Skype, which allows users to make telephone calls from their computer, by $900m. It is also paying $530m to several former Skype shareholders including founder Niklas Zennstrom, who is stepping down as chief executive.
This payout is significantly less than the $1.7bn that eBay could have handed over to former shareholders if Skype had hit various targets for revenue, profits and user numbers.
Sure you can say this is absolutely irrelevant to publishing. And mostly you would be correct. But as an industry we are moving (albeit slowly for Trade Publishing) towards a digital future and along the way mistakes are going to be made. Too much will be paid for brands and companies that seem to offer great potential (like Skype did) but ultimately fail (as Ebay found) to deliver the anticipated synergies or revenues.
And so we should be cautious in seeing any deal as the one that will win out and actually deliver results, cautious too of the hype that surrounds the expensive digital efforts of large publishers (and I think I am as much to blame as others) and perhaps pay more attention to the change itself and to the successful, low key efforts that deliver increased sales and better profits rather than just noise!
Becoming more cautious
PS In regard to big deals being made of big companies efforts see Em on Snowblog