"publishing models" entries
Reinventing publishing: what can we do now that we're no longer tied to the myth of stable literary objects?
Note: this post started as a Foo Camp 2013 session.
A few weeks ago, Tim O’Reilly sent around a link to Who Edited Shakespeare?, which discussed the editor for the First Folio edition of Shakespeare’s plays. It included a lot of evidence that someone had done a lot of work regularizing spelling and doing other tasks that we’d now assign to a copyeditor or a proofreader, presumably more work than the Folio’s nominal editors, Heminges and Condell, were inclined to do or capable of doing.
It’s an interesting argument that prompted some thoughts about the nature of publishing. The process of editing creates the impression, the mythology, that a carefully crafted, consistent, and stable text exists for these plays, that the plays are static literary objects. We like to think that there is a “good” Shakespeare text, if only we had it: what Shakespeare actually wrote, and what was actually performed on stage. We have a mess of good quarto editions, bad quartos, the First Folio, apocryphal works, and more. Some versions of the plays are significantly longer than others; some scholars believe that we’re missing significant parts of Macbeth (Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy, for which the First Folio is the only source). Perhaps the worst case is Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, which is known entirely through two early print editions, one roughly 50% longer than the other.
I’m skeptical about whether the search for a hypothetical authoritative version of Shakespeare’s text is meaningful. Shakespeare’s plays were, first and foremost, plays: they were performances staged before a live audience. If you’ve had any involvement with theater, you can imagine how that goes: “Act III, Scene iv dragged; let’s cut it next time. Act V, Scene i was great, but too short; let’s fill it out some.” The plays, as staged events, were infinitely flexible. In the years after Shakespeare, poor editors have certainly done a lot to mangle them, but I’m sure that Shakespeare himself, as a theater professional and partner in a theater company, was constantly messing around with the text.
James Levy explains how publishers can use the Hiptype platform to make smarter publishing decisions.
As our industry shifts from print to ebooks we’re discovering a wealth of new data to study. Retailers hold most of the cards for this data, but a startup named Hiptype is looking to change that. In the interview below, Hiptype’s president and CEO James Levy (@jamtoday) talks about how their platform works and how it can lead to making smarter publishing decisions.
Key points from the full video interview (below) include:
- What exactly is “data-driven” publishing? — It goes beyond simple sales stats and review information to understanding how the product is used; where readers spend the most time; and even though we don’t like to think about it, how far they get before they abandon a book. [Discussed at the 0:43 mark.]
- Where sharing happens — The majority of content sharing with friends takes place in either the first 10 pages or the last 10 pages of the book. [Discussed at 3:00.]
- Why the first 50 pages matter — Almost a third of readers won’t return to the book by page 50. 85% of readers who get to page 50 are likely to read the next 50 pages. Think about that the next time you release an ebook sample with only 10 or 12 pages. [Discussed at 3:15.]
- Low conversion of samples — Not only are there loads of unread samples sitting on most devices, but only 4% of all samples downloaded are ever read at all. [Discussed at 4:46.]
- Like “Google Analytics for ebooks” — That’s probably the best analogy for Hiptype and, prior to Hiptype, the benefits analytics have provided websites haven’t been available for ebooks. [Discussed at 5:50.]
- Will readers revolt against Big Brother? — Readers can opt out, and the data Hiptype gathers is all anonymized. [Discussed at 6:45.]
- New revenue streams — Subscription models, similar to what we’re seeing with gaming and apps, as well as more promoted content are likely to become very common; reader data for these models will be extremely valuable to publishers and advertisers. [Discussed at 8:20.]
- “Make something that people want” — Hiptype is a startup that went through the Y Combinator incubator program, providing seed money and mentor advice as well as access to the alumni network. [Discussed at 13:37.]
Panelists at the inaugural NYC Publishing Innovators Meetup discuss changing publishers' roles.
The NYC Publishing Innovators Meetup group held its inaugural roundtable in its quarterly speaker series in July. Panelists, led by Kat Meyer as moderator, included: Ned Lomigora, co-founder of Zeeen.com; Diane Gedymin, executive editor at Turner Publishing; Peter Balis, director of online sales, John Wiley & Sons; Linda Holliday, CEO of Semi-Linear; Jesse Potash, founder, PubSlush, and; Michelle Toth, founder, 617Books. The thesis was: “What role can publishers play in supporting a direct relationship between readers and authors?” The discussion was energetic, but everyone agreed on one thing: the times, they are a-changin’.
Key points from the full discussion include:
- Where there’s a will, there’s a way — Utilizing technology, authors with the time and will to publish and market their books can bypass traditional publishers. Technology “is the great enabler and democratizer.” [Begins at the 13:20 mark.]
- Is it good? — Quality content matters; curation is a valuable role for professionals, from freelancers to traditional publishers, but a panelist postulates that an alternate path can be found in the tools available to authors who self-publish, including community. [Begins at 24:05.]
- Should publishers worry about losing big authors to self-publishing? — If traditional publishers are going to continue to add marketing value, they need to master the new technology toolset and grow it. Publishers lag behind other industry leaders as to what they do online. [Begins at 34:19.]
- The distance between readers and writers is shrinking — Whoever owns the sale owns the relationship with readers, and effective marketing is key to establishing that relationship. [Begins at 38:05.]
- What is distribution in today’s world? — A spirited discussion begins with the declaration that you can’t distribute a book “with the push of a button.” Publishers create books in multiple formats sent to multiple vendors for sale via multiple channels, with metadata included for discovery purposes. [Begins at 47:02.]
- Transparency in e-publishing — Peter Balis talks about the complex process of publishing in various formats, information that should be shared with aspiring authors who want to self-publish and self-distribute. [Begins at 56:00 with insightful follow-up comments starting at 1:05:40.]
- Our understanding of what a publisher is is changing — Jesse Potash addresses changing roles and perceptions, and how experts can potentially replace certain roles publishers currently fill. [Begins at 1:00:25.]
- Branding — A great discussion about the role branding is playing in today’s world starts with a question from the audience. [Begins at 1:25:21.]
How POD and ebooks make traditional contract models irrelevant.
In a recent interview, attorney Dana Newman tackled issues surrounding publishing rights in the digital landscape. She said changes in the current model are needed to keep things equitable for both publishers and authors.
Eric Ries on how lean startup methods apply to publishing.
In this video interview, "The Lean Startup" author Eric Ries talks about his experiences working with traditional publishing structures and how publishers can benefit from lean startup principles.
"Every Book Is a Startup" author Todd Sattersten on agile methods and the importance of scope.
We follow up with BizBookLab's Todd Sattersten to see how his startup project, "Every Book Is a Startup," is coming along. Sattersten looks at the relationship between startup pitches and book pitches, and he explains why scope is a valuable project tool.
Justo Hidalgo on subscriptions, paywalls and the importance of added value.
In this interview, 24Symbols' Just Hidalgo examines the relationship between high-quality content, related services and consumer needs.
Bookigee's Kristen McLean says agile techniques from the software world also apply to publishing.
Bookigee founder Kristen McLean explains how lightweight development, flexible teams and other agile methods can help publishers with content development and workflows.
Tim Carmody on the lessons from Netflix and the facade of inevitability.
In this interview, Wired.com writer Tim Carmody examines the recent missteps of Netflix and he takes a broad look at how technology shapes the reading experience.