Ebook first publishing might work

UPDATE: The Huffington Post carried an article by John Oakes (co-founder OR Books) last week which I missed.

I’m quite surprised there isn’t more news about this deal. Publishers Lunch* (apologies for the enormous robbery of content) reported on the sale of paperback rights for Going Rouge by OR Books:

Among other start-up muckrakers, John Oakes and Colin Robinson’s OR Books has sold paperback rights to their first title, GOING ROUGE, to Michele Matrisciani at HCI Books–which is reissuing the book today. Under OR Books direct-sale model, the book had not been available in traditional stores or online vendors, limiting sales despite the wave of Palin-related publicity. HCI president Peter Vegso says in their announcement “this title, although outside our usual publishing perimeters, presented an exciting and interesting challenge.”

Next up for OR Books is Norman Finkelstein’s book on “Israel’s Growing Isolation After the Gaza Invasion,” set for January, in which he “looks at how the reckless and disproportionate military action against the Palestinians in Gaza a year ago has led some of Israel’s closest allies to question their support for the country,” while “offering the possibility of something hopeful emerging from the tragedy of what occurred in Gaza.”

Oakes says eliciting a paperback partner will “certainly be a goal for each published work of ours.”

This is the almost perfect example of how one might expect a pure ebook play to develop over time, publishing ebooks to a time sensitive market while selling the rights to someone else for a paperback edition, enabling them to keep stock costs lows and cash flow high and letting someone else worry about the odd economics of the traditional model!

Mike Shatzkin has written quite a bit on these topics so it’d be worth reading one or two or even three of his posts.

We live in the most interesting of times!
Eoin

*A service of Publishers Marketplace a site that anyone interested in publisher should pay for.

SXSW – Far From The Madding Crowd

Eoin Purcell

Twitter it up
There has been extensive coverage of the New Think For Old Publishers panel at SXSW on 14 March. By most accounts it was a complete and utter disaster for publishers. Here’s a sample of opinion more here, here and here

As per usual Kassia krozer @ Booksquare summed both sides up pretty well in my view:

Let me be clear. Absolutely clear. Not one word spoken in that session, either from the panelists or from the audience, was new or innovative. The panel, well, we’ve all heard job descriptions before. The audience? That was one very long line of people saying the same things we’ve been saying to the publishing industry for ten years. And yet the publishing people treated our comments as if they were items to be added to a list.

It got me thinking?
What do we as publishers actually want to change? Are we, like the frustrated audience members angry at things in the industry that we would see change? In an ideal world where we got to direct digital change what would we like that change to be? Would authors join us in this campaign?

What would publishers do?
I think most publishers would like a simple platform that allowed them to offer their content online and be paid up-front for it. That seems easy doesn’t it. Except our cousins in newspaper land have lost their lunch trying to monetize their content online and almost all of them have surrendered to free service with ads and most of them are failing even with that.

What’s more the book is pretty much the most simple platform there is right now and lots of people like it. So moving away from it seems a little wild for most publishers. On top of that authors don’t seem keen to hang round waiting for the digital world to start rewarding them either. Whenever a book deal presents itself, bloggers and journalists all take them.

Where does that leave us for digital distribution and selling? Well e-commerce is nice, except you get Amazon and its crazy glitches and its harsh terms. On the other hand, ebooks seem to be starting to break through but you still have to deal with Amazon for those too!

Of course you might take the perspective that if we were to drive digital change, we would drive it along a path that gave our books (content) more attention (such tools even exist). If we were to drive change we would use it to sell more books directly to our customers in order to learn about them at the customer level and so tailor our products to their taste and their pocket. If we could drive digital we would build communities about our content and aggregate content from other publishers to help support our own. But then I’m just talking crazy!

Maybe I am talking crazy but
The problem I have with the current penchant for beating publishers up is threefold:

1) Many publishers (not to mention authors) are doing some pretty amazing things. Tor is building a wonderful, engaged and exciting community of readers around SF&F, Osprey have already done so around Military History. Penguin have spent a small fortune on trying new tools for reading and writing fiction. Macmillan and Random and Harper have all embraced blogs and Facebook and twitter and the web in general seeking new audiences, fresh feedback and platforms for their authors.

2) Despite the urge for the new, it doesn’t yet pay for itself and it may never do so. Andrew Keen is right about that if nothing else. Without money, artists will not create and currently the system that rewards both the artistic and the serious (or not serious) non-fiction author is breaking (if not entirely broken) and the chances of fixing it anytime soon are slim. Unless we revert to older methods of financing art and journalism, campaign funding, endowments, patronage and subscription (all being tried in modest enough [and a few large scale] ways) we may lose something pretty valuable.

3) Radicals are not always right. Even if we might accept that in this case it seems like digital is the way forward, that doesn’t mean publishers will survive the shift. Its not unreasonable of them to be reluctant to leap when right now there is a damaged but viable system in place that delivers unspectacular but solid enough revenues and profit figures.

To wrap it up!
Which leads me to my final thought, despite my own leaning towards a digital future, it is still entirely possible that the paper book remains the preeminent (I note not only) form of publication well into the next century and beyond. It currently seems likely to remain the most profitable (not the only profitable form) form of publication too. If you are an exec at a leading paper book publisher, then it’s a big bet right now to put the house on digital. If you get it wrong you’ve cut open the golden egg laying goose to show her insides to the public and have only the guts to show for it, the public were not that impressed and have watched the show for free on youtube. If you get it right you might still loose the golden goose and the people who benefit are your authors.

So to the radicals I say, lay off the publishers, some of them don’t care, but others are actually succeeding in changing the system and many many more are trying to figure out a way to make it happen without going out of business or destroying their companies, a not inconsiderable consideration in the current environment!

Eoin
PS: None of which changes the fact that I want to be able to buy an ebook version of a novel even if it is only just released in the US and I live in Ireland!

Our Grannies’ Recipes – book sales!

Eoin Purcell

Our Grannies' Recipes
Our Grannies' Recipes

I edited a book!
I might have mentioned it before, it is called Our Grannies’ Recipes and it has been on the market for 5 weeks. Somewhat amazingly it is selling very well and is currently sitting very nicely at Number 8 on the Food & Drinks list, just before Rachel’s Diary 2009 and just after Grandma’s Best Recipes (I’m pretty sure that is only selling because of Our Grannies’ Recipes but I’ll be damned if I can prove it!)

This is an incredible performance for a book that isn’t written by a celebrity chef (I’m very, very sure I don’t count as a celebrity) and isn’t massively illustrated with lavish photography. What it does have it is great recipes submitted by real people and wonderfully simple design.

I know I am biased but I think it is a wonderful book that makes an excellent present. What is more, every single copy sold means that Age Action Ireland will get €1*. If that doesn’t seal the deal, I don’t know what will.

Age Action sticker
Age Action sticker

Buy it on Amazon, Easons or Books Unlimited.
Go on, buy a copy or two, you’ll enjoy it!
Eoin

* I’ve given my full royalty to Age Action so I get no benefit from the book except extreme pleasure from being associated with such a nice product serving a good cause!

PS Sorry for the shameless plug but every now and then I think you have to!

Our Grannies’ Recipes Launches

Eoin Purcell

Something web-to-print sir?
About eight weeks ago we had a brain wave in work. Why not publish a book of favourite traditional Irish recipes, the recipes that our grandmothers, mothers, fathers and grandfathers cooked for us when we were young (or even when we were older and just home for some spoiling).

The issue then became, how will we collect all those recipes? And with a bit of help from the rest of the team at Mercier I realised, you use the internet. Thus was born: OurGranniesRecipes.com which has gone live today with two new posts.

Rapid launch
From concept to site has taken about eight weeks. After thinking the process through i thought it best to use freely available templates and software and to customise a theme rather than design a whole new one (if only because I have not yet even close to the level of confidence I’d need to do that). As this is the first project by Mercier on its own on the web, it has been a fairly steep learning curve. It has been enormous fun and I think it will continue to be as well.

There is more to come
Mercier is not the first to use web to print (not even in Ireland) and I’m sure others are doing cooler, better things than we are. On the other hand, this is exactly the type of project that people can get involved and excited about.

It is also exactly the type of project that publishers (even the least web savvy) can get involved in. It takes a little learning and maybe a little stress but it is time hungry rather than capital hungry and the support of the web community can be rewarding and exciting.

Here’s to hoping it comes together
Eoin

PS Feel free to submit a recipe here