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Publishing News: Week in Review

NPR for ebooks, piracy as a promotional tool, and how and when book trailers work.

Here are a few publishing highlights that caught my attention this week. (Note: Some of these stories were published here on Radar throughout the week.)

A public “bookcasting” system

gluejarglue.jpgIn a recent blog post, Eric Hellman, announced the launch of a new publishing model with his company Gluejar, Inc. The system, he said, would work a bit like a public-supported radio station, wherein some listeners contribute money and others don’t (and he’s quick to point out that the ones who don’t contribute aren’t considered pirates or thieves). He argues that though print books are laden with costly material and distribution expenses, ebooks are much more like radio programs:

EBOOKS ARE NOT BOOKS. They’re just bits, and typically not so many, compared to a radio show. The cost of making a copy is negligible. It needn’t cost anything to distribute the ebook. eBook distribution is even cheaper than radio, because you don’t have to pay for transmitter power, and you don’t have to own a frequency license. It’s the monetization machinery that costs money: the ecommerce systems and the DRM. If the producers of ebooks had some way of covering their fixed costs (with profit to make it worth their while), ebooks could work just like free radio. Three million people contributing a dime would do quite nicely. 30,000 contributing $10 would work, too.

The books would be available to everyone and paid for by those who want to support them. And, clearly, there will be no DRM:

The business will bring together people to pay for the fixed costs of producing ebooks, reward the best producers with profits, and to make these ebooks public, free to read, free to copy, to everyone, everywhere in the world, using Creative Commons Licensing.

This is an interesting, truly innovative idea. The concept will require enough author buy-in to create the quality of inventory necessary to engage readers to the point of being willing to pay. If that’s achieved, I see no reason why I wouldn’t contribute just like I do to NPR. This is definitely an out-of-the box model to keep an eye on.

Author uses BitTorrent to promote new book

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Amazon has the ebook version of Megan Lisa Jones’ new book “Captive” listed for $9.99, but Jones has decided to use BitTorrent’s vast audience to give away the book for free for two weeks. Jones commented for a post on ZeroPaid:

The message belongs to the street, not the elite. I’m very excited to be partnering with BitTorrent to reach an audience that’s both active and engaged with content creators and publishers. Hopefully we can demonstrate a new media model that benefits all.

I’m not totally convinced you can stop a promotion in a “pirate” environment after two weeks, but regardless, the exposure to BitTorrent’s more than 100 million users is tough to beat on a publicity level. In a brief email exchange, novelist Paulo Coelho supported Jones’ strategy: “That’s quite a good idea to promote it there! In fact, I use ‘piracy’ to promote my books myself.” Discussions on Coelho’s techniques can be found here and here.

Using book trailers to seduce new readers

In a recent post on Mashable, author Rye Barcott talked about the experience of making a trailer for his book “It Happened on the Way to War: A Marine’s Path to Peace.” Though literary curmudgeons may cry “sacrilege!” at video promotions for books, Barcott said a book trailer can act as a bridge to new readers:

We live in an age where fewer people are reading, and more people are watching. That reality has driven the rise of book trailers. My skeptical friends argue that these trailers simply contribute to our increasingly short attention spans. Having just gone through the process, I have a different view. My hope is that book trailers like ours help bridge the divide and draw more people to the beauty, substance, and transformative power of books.

You can view Barcott’s book trailer here.

For a more detailed look into the business behind the book trailer, I turned to Brett Cohen, vice president of Quirk Books. This is the company behind “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” and a publisher that’s produced a fair number of book trailers.

Our interview follows.

What is the target market of book trailers?

Brett Cohen: It varies depending on the book’s audience. Certainly, it appeals to an online demographic. And, the viral nature of a YouTube video is working at its best when others share it with their friends via Facebook or Twitter, or post it on their blogs. Some of our viewers watch the trailers embedded onto other sites, like the Huffington Post, Techland and io9. That type of syndication expands the audience for the trailer and the book. Our most-viewed trailers have definitely appealed to a younger, pop-culture-driven audience.

What makes for a good book trailer?

Brett Cohen: For us, a good book trailer speaks “the language” of our target audience. Our Quirk Classics book trailers mimic the production value of big-budget movies, with exceptional special effects. We’ve created other trailers for humor books that are more irreverent. For non-fiction titles, we’ve taken a more author-driven, information-based approach. Overall, we feel that it’s very important to be true to the book so that it can translate into sales.

For the rest of the interview and a look at Quirk Books’ new trailer for “Jane Austen Pride & Prejudice & Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After,” click here.

Got news?

Suggestions are always welcome, so feel free to send along your news scoops and ideas.


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  • http://www.meganlisajones.com Megan Lisa Jones

    Much thanks for writing about the Captive/Bittorrent promotion! We’ve had a wonderful and global response. The world really is getting smaller.

    Your support is appreciated!