Publishing News: Novel experiments in publishing

Authors experiment with publishing paths, readers discover books just fine, and publishers might be replaced by publishing teams.

Experiments in non-traditional publishing routes

Forbes’ Shel Israel wrote this week about how he and Robert Scoble came to the decision as to how publishing their upcoming book, Age of Context. Israel and Scoble considered three of the most common publishing paths — traditional publishing, self-publishing, and crowdsourcing — and, inspired by author Rick Smolan’s chosen publishing route, opted for none other than corporate sponsorship.

“To date, we have raised approximately $100,000,” Israel writes. “This is about three-times what we heard as a best offer from a traditional publisher.”

Atari founder and author Nolan Bushnell has also decided to forego the traditional publishing route for his upcoming book, Finding the Next Steve Jobs. Commenting on traditional publishing, Bushnell told Forbes’ Connie Guglielmo:

“It’s broken. By the time you have a completed book to the time it’s published, it’s a year or two.”

Instead, Guglielmo reports, Bushnell has opted to publish with NetMinds, a “crowd-powered” publishing platform that former Yahoo Inc. executive Tim Sanders launched this week. The platform connects an author with a publishing team, consisting of copy editors, graphic designers and publicists who create and promote the book, Guglielmo writes.

Bushnell told Guglielmo he likes the idea of a team working on his book. “I think everybody does a little bit better work if they have skin in the game,” he said. You can read Guglielmo’s full report at Forbes.

Publishers need relationships, not discovery

A discoverability theme emerged from the Book^2 Camp unconference this week, inspiring a couple thoughtful pieces questioning whether it’s even an industry problem — and if it is, suggesting we’re perhaps attributing the problem to the wrong party.

Brett Sandusky notes that during a session about “what readers want,” Laura Hazard Owen asked, “What if discoverability turns out to not even be an issue?” Sandusky writes that, “the biggest issue that came to light in this discussion is this: discoverability, as we address it today, is solving some problem that we cannot actually define.”

The best we can do, he says, is argue that “people cannot find all of our books, so we want to make sure awareness is out there so a purchase can be made,” noting that this, then, is “a business problem, not a user problem.” Sandusky concludes with thoughts on the bigger picture issue:

“… the more I think about it, both in this context and that of the work I am doing on The Holocene, I am starting to see the real aim is not in eyeballs, or awareness, or algorithms, or billboards, or discovery … it’s in relationships.”

In the same vein, Guy LeCharles Gonzalez writes at that “the very idea that ‘something is really, chronically missing in online retail discovery’ is arguably contradicted by Amazon’s 2012 results, suggesting that ‘online retail discovery’ isn’t really a problem for readers. It’s a problem for publishers.”

Gonzalez argues as well that relationship building, not discovery, is the issue that needs publishers’ immediate attention. He writes:

“The publishers who have a direct relationship with their readers — not necessarily via direct sales, but via direct engagement — are the ones who will not simply survive the ‘digital shift,’ but will thrive, being less prone to the whims of Amazon, Apple, Google, or whomever the next big tech player might be. Readers won’t have any trouble discovering their books, old or new, nor will they have any obstacles to spreading the word to their friends about those books.”

You can find Sandusky’s piece on his personal blog and Gonzalez’s at

The future of publishing is “little teams”

The O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing conference went on this week in New York City. There was much discussion in sessions and keynotes about what the future might bring to the publishing landscape. In a video interview at the show, author and TOC speaker Douglas Rushkoff shared his view of the publishing ecosystem 10 to 15 years out:

“As we move into an increasingly author-driven distribution universe, we’ll have little teams — like the best blogs are sort of these teams of people, like Boing Boing, six or seven or eight people — and you invite people into your group. Instead of the book being driven by the blurbs on the back of the book, it’ll be “what team did this book come from?” (At the 1:59 mark.)

Rushkoff also addressed taking control of your digital life, raising digital kids and how our culture is dealing with presentism. You can watch the full interview in the following video:

The TOC keynotes from Wednesday and Thursday, as well as other video interviews conducted during the show can be found on the O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing YouTube playlist.

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