As with so many other media and publishing-related businesses, the book industry has been massively disrupted by the internet, to the point where an increasing number of authors have found success by avoiding the traditional publishing system altogether. But is the old-fashioned publisher model totally without value? The founders of Inkshares don’t think so — which is why they are trying to create a kind of hybrid platform that combines the benefits of crowdfunding with some of the services that traditional publishers have offered in the past.
Independent success stories like young-adult author Amanda Hocking — who wrote and sold her stories on Amazon’s Kindle platform and wound up becoming a multimillionaire in the process — are definitely inspiring, says Inkshares co-founder Adam Gomolin, but to some extent they are “unicorns,” in the sense that not every author is going to be able to duplicate their success.
Something or Other Publishing Goes Global
Something or Other Publishing, a small but growing Madison-based publisher, has now signed new authors on three continents — including the first-ever published science fiction writer from Trinidad.
Something or Other Publishing (SOOP) may be based in Madison, Wisconsin, but it is quickly developing a distinctly international flavor, signing English-language authors from Serbia, Trinidad, and India — and American authors with deep international ties.
In late 2013 and early 2014, SOOP held its I Heart SOOP Authors Contest, in which authors who submitted book ideas via the company’s unique submission model had the opportunity to earn a publishing contract by finishing as a top-three vote-getter. On February 14, 2014, SOOP named its three winners, two of whom were internationals.
Vivek Kumar, who hails from India, finished in first place for his book of personalized greeting cards, “Hearts on Fire.” In second place was a science fiction thriller, “The Time Manipulator’s Son,” written by Trinidad native Rohini Singh. American Wendy Karasin placed third with “Passing Through.”
Singh is on track to become the first internationally published science fiction writer from Trinidad. She is also the first of the contest winners to finalize a contract with SOOP.
Publishing for All Seasons
PW Panel: Are Publishing Seasons Relevant?
With seasonal lists that can reach up to 1,000 titles, rush and drop-in titles to accommodate an increasingly rapid news cycle, publishers are selling books beyond the constraints of the traditional seasons. Representatives from different aspects of buying and selling within the industry, a bookseller, a distributor, and publisher, gathered for another installment of PW‘s discussion series on the Future of Book Publishing to explore the relevancy of publishing seasons. The general consensus of the discussion, which took place on February 26 at the Random House offices in New York and was moderated by PW co-editorial director Jim Milliot, seemed to be that while its essential to be flexible and nimble, from both the publisher and bookseller vantage point, seasonal selling is still viable.
“We’re constantly considering ways to innovate, in the case of seasonal publishing, it works for us,” said Mary Beth Thomas, v-p of sales at HarperCollins, which operates on a three season schedule annually. “It helps keep everything in order, to look at the month, and not bump up against ourselves. It’s a nice way to balance things.”
Stephen Page: Publishers need ‘permanent conversation with consumers’
“There are a lot of people doing a lot of things we used to do,” Stephen Page told the Independent Publishers Guild conference today (27th February), but added that publishers should not “surrender the ground we know”.
In a keynote address, Page shared his thoughts on the state and future of publishing, saying that publishers needed to build fan bases for authors and readers, do things faster, and blur and re-imagine old roles in the future.
Other players, such as Amazon and self-published authors, were starting to enter the publishing space, Page said. “I would beg you to get out of any conversation, any hysterical conversation, about self-publishing is one thing and we are another,” he said. “We’re not, we’re part of the contingent called publishing.”
Page said the publishing industry had to stop looking at e-books as an outcome of print, and to look at it as a “different garden”. “What we have discovered is there are a huge number of readers for whom what is in the Kindle store is hugely attractive,” he said, and publishers could not “bolt” e-books on to what publishers did already. Publishers needed to think about e-books as separate products, with separate marketing and pricing.
Penguin Random House Remains Committed to Indian Publishing
The decision by Penguin Books India to recall and destroy all copies of Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An Alternative History in response to challenges in the country that the book was in violation of Indian penal codes that outlaw acts intended to outrage religious feelings continues to have reverberations. In the most recent action a group of academics has started a petition on change.org asking Penguin to continue to contest the case while also urging lawmakers to revise Indian laws to “protect works of serious academic and artistic merit from motivated, malicious and frivolous litigation.”
Penguin Random House spokesperson Stuart Applebaum said the company is aware of the petition drive and “stands with signatories in their strong desire to see the repressive Indian Penal Code which supported this legal action repealed.” He noted that the settlement Penguin India reached in Indian is not binding outside of the country.