Archive for the ‘the business of publishing’ category

Collaborative Publishing Thoughts from Kristy


So…lately I’ve been thinking about publishing. About the business of publishing. We’ve put out two wonderful (and very different) debut novels and we’re getting ready to sign one more. But we have a very restrictive form of publishing with Blank Slate Press and I think we’re limited in what we can do with BSP’s regional focus.

In the NYTimes a couple of weeks ago, there was a piece about artists and the studio model where assistants do all the art….where pieces can sell for a gazillion dollars even when the “artist” didn’t even touch them. This is the same model that James Patterson uses…he has an idea for a book and puts his minions to work writing the actual book. The infamous James Frey is doing a similar type of thing with his studio.

I think that is inherently disingenuous…but, if no one really cares and the books and the art is still selling, then obviously the people buying the work don’t really care. The brand name is all that matters and it connotes a certain style or art or a certain style of writing.

Also, in the visual art world, there is the artists’ cooperative. Where artists band together to rent space together and show together but whose work is very different.

And in the film world, there is (was) United Artists which was founded by four film stars. Granted, I (and nobody I know) am not a film or a literary star, but the concept is the same. And because technology is breaking down barriers to publishing, the only thing that remains in the way of getting a well-written book out there is the system of gate-keepers called agents. Some agents are already responding to changes in publishing by starting their own e-imprints. But this is beside the point because you still have to jump through all the hoops to get the agent in the first place.

In the professional world, doctors, dentists, and lawyers get together to form limited liability partnerships (basically cooperatives) where partners own the company and split profits according to ownership percentages.

So, back to publishing. On the one hand there are the thousands of people who are taking advantage of Kindle/Nook/Smashwords to self-publish. Some of these writers are putting out high quality work and are having great success – including the now famous Amanda Hocking and John Locke, who were never traditionally published before they self-published. On the other hand, established authors (J.A.Konrath stands out) have turned to self-publishing (often starting with their backlist of books that never got published) after success with a traditional publisher. Now, Amazon has started its own publishing house with imprints for literary fiction, romance, mystery…all the established rules are in flux.

What I’m interested in is the idea of an author’s cooperative like an artist’s cooperative/professional limited liability partnership. I’m interested in charting a middle course between a publishing house and self-publishing. Where a group of authors gets together to curate each other’s work. Where an author can come to the group with a manuscript, have the group vet the writing and decide whether or not the author “fits” into the sensibility of the group, and then have two or three other authors help edit the work and get it in shape for publishing and then put it out there under the moniker of the single publishing house brand. When an author joins he or she invests a certain amount of money and then when the author has a title that is ready to go, so to speak, funds will be allocated to cover the cost of the book production (proofreading, cover art, printing/mailing ARCS, etc.) and then an agreed upon split of the proceeds will return to the author and to the cooperative/publishing house to support marketing efforts to promote the brand/house. There must be a consensus between the author and the author/editors as to when the book is “done” and ready for release.

It’s an author-owned and controlled publishing house. While there are/would be still lots of kinks to be thought through, I think it is an intriguing idea. What do you think?


The Rumpus Becomes a Book Publisher


The Rumpus Becomes a Book Publisher.

From the WSJ-The ABCs of E-Reading


This is from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. The gist is that most people with an e-reader (I have a Kindle) read more or are least buying more books. That is certainly true for me. I’m still buying books that I want to own, that I want to treasure and keep on my bookshelf, in “book” form, but for books that I want to read for simple pleasure, I’m buying on my Kindle. For instance, I write historical fiction/romance/mystery and so I’ve been going through a frenzy of reading similar books. Books that I probably would never have purchased new. We have a great used bookstore in our neighborhood and I could go and stock up there, but I’m talking a lot of books. I’ve probably read 15-20 romance/mysteries in the last two months and they won’t all fit next to my bed and they’re certainly not keepsake material, so it makes sense to read them on the Kindle.

Anyway, here’s the article:

BSP and other new publishers featured in St. Louis Post-Dispatch


Book editor Jane Henderson wrote a piece in the Post-Dispatch on the new face of publishing in the St. Louis area. The region, blessed with great universities and many talented writers, is home to a new crop of publishers one of which is, ta da!, us. Here’s the link to the full article:

Here’s the excerpt about Blank Slate Press:

But some new publishers actively avoid the self-publishing model.

Kristina Blank Makansi wants to nurture up-and-coming writers for Blank Slate Press.

The press recently chose two manuscripts for its first books, novels that it hopes to publish by Christmas.

“We will pay authors stipends, promote their stories and help them get started with blogs. … Our idea is to be a writer’s advocate from the get-go.”

She and her partners, Jamey Stegmaier and husband Jason Makansi, are writers themselves.

“We are looking at it from the point of view of aspiring novelists. We talk to a lot of other writers, follow writers’ blogs, go to writers workshops. So much of the frustration of being a writer is getting someone to pay attention to your work.”

Blank Slate Press’ partners pay the authors out of their own pockets, but Makansi hopes other individuals will invest in the press.

She said, “We’re like a new tech start-up with the idea that if a book becomes a best-seller, or is picked up by a commercial press, investors might make some money.”

‘A great match’

One writer they signed, Anene Tressler-Hauschultz of Kirkwood, took the book contract to a lawyer, who assured her that having the publisher in town is helpful: “There are times you need to do a face-to-face.”

She likes that Blank Slate is new and energetic: “They are starting out as am I. It felt like a great match. … The scale was right. I wasn’t going to be one of 200 people coming on board.”

Makansi knows publishing is a difficult business. “We’re not out to build an empire. We don’t think we’ll get rich doing this.”

We don’t think we’re going to get rich or build and empire, but we’re pretty darn sure we’re going to have lots of fun, meet talented new writers, and play our small part in bringing  great stories to readers anxious for high quality, well written work.

Our Predictable Irrationality, and how it relates to the publishing industry


Ordinarily, I’m not the kind of person who truly enjoys non-fiction books. I tell myself to read the popular Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, and that Freakonomics will be both interesting and informative (not to mention that Steven Levitt is a fellow UChicagoan); but nine times out of ten, the lure of a good novel proves too strong. Fortunately for me, I was recently able to overcome this prejudice in order to read Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape our Decisions. After the first few pages, it became clear that this would be no chore to endure for education’s sake, but a delight to read. Dan Ariely writes in an engaging, enthusiastic tone, addressing everything from expansive social questions to his own life and day-to-day irrational decisions.

The pleasant, often humorous, manner of writing that Ariely employs might at first lead readers to view the book as a fun and rather trifling look at the silly choices that people make. In reality, however, Predictably Irrational imparts a message whose gravity is enormous. Both standard economic theory and the average American (living in a country dominated by free-market mentality) tend to agree that people are consistent selves, capable of making rational decisions. Dan Ariely has come to tell us that this simply isn’t so.

In reality, people are inconstant and their decisions are usually based more upon unconscious predispositions and emotional states than upon logic; in short, people are irrational, and predictably so. With a plethora of ingenious experiments, Ariely demonstrates the failure of traditional economic thinking to account for the repeatedly irrational decisions that people make, from overvaluing the things that they own to feeling healthier after taking an expensive medicine than after taking an identical, cheaper pill. The traditional rules of supply and demand that Adam Smith taught us to hold so dear are simply unable to account for the irrationality of consumers; and in order to make informed decisions on everything from buying a house to choosing a spouse, people must first recognize and understand the factors driving their decisions.

These revelations apply to practically every industry, and the publishing and marketing of books is no exception. A savvy marketer must attempt to take into account the various, at times conflicting, tendencies of the predictably irrational consumer. This means that when selling a book, he must consider both the “zero price effect” – the emotional charge associated with free goods that leads people to massively overvalue them – and also the predispositions associated with price – if something is expensive, people automatically assume that it must be good quality.

The marketer must recognize the power of relativity, and the advantage that an option A has over an option B if the two are presented alongside a less desirable version of A. In other words, if a person is undecided between two books (or houses, cars, or men), the introduction of a third book that is similar to but slightly worse than one of the originals will make this better version seem the clear choice – not just over its unfortunate partner, but over its legitimate competition as well. With these demonstrations and many more, Ariely makes his point convincingly. We are not rational, and whether we want to successfully publish and sell a book or simply choose which one to read next, we must recognize that fact. And if I have convinced you at all to think twice before grabbing the next novel with a flashy cover, then I suggest that you consider instead choosing your next book based on my recommendation, and read Predictably Irrational.

–     Anna Tripodi, summer intern

The Magic of Instant Gratification: My Kindle and Me


Yesterday I read the New York Times’ piece about Amazon’s Kindle sales v. hardcover sales. I put a link here on our blog and and “tweeted” the link. I think the numbers speak for themselves–people want to read. And ultimately, they don’t care if it’s on paper, on an audio cd, on an electronic device or sewn together in a parchment codex or rolled up in a papryi scroll. A good story will be read. I believe the medium is important, but, ultimately, it is the message that matters.

The story is the product. The author is the creator. The editor is the polisher. The publisher is the packager. And while I love book cover design and I love to hold books, I love to READ them more.

As an aspiring novelist and brand new publisher, I hope someday to make money from the creation and sales of books. And as an avid reader who places a high value on the experience of reading a well written novel that transports me somewhere new and exciting or that opens doors to new ideas and teaches me something extraordinary, I am willing to pay a fair price for a book no matter what the format. Hardcover, paperback, audio, e-book…it doesn’t matter. The creative team should be fairly compensated for the work they produced.

Before the ebook, I was content, as my hubby still is, to read reviews, make lists of books to read, browse book shelves and get recommendations from friends and book clubs. However, being an immediate gratification type of gal, I also had been known to read a review and then get in my car and actually go buy the book right then and there. It didn’t matter if it was just out and still in hardback. If I wanted to read it–no, needed to read it–I would go get it and start reading. Immediately. That day.

The Kindle was a dream come true for me. Although I love to hold books and underline passages and write in the margins and dog ear pages, I, basically, want to read. I want to get to that first line and read all the way through to the last. Although I love a well-turned phrase and get all warm and fuzzy over beautifully constructed sentences, I ultimately read for character and story. I get so engrossed I will laugh out loud and bawl my eyes out. It is a common occurance for me to start a book when I go to bed and finish it by breakfast.

So, when I get in the mood for a book, I want to dive in. But what if there is no Kindle version?  I’ve gotten used to my instant gratification and I get aggravated (okay, angry) when there is no e-version for me to dive right into, so to speak. Why would a publisher delay release of an e-book, or a paperback, for that matter?  Because the publisher or the author wants me to buy the hardcover. Book clubs routinely postpone tackling a book because it is in hardcover. They wait until the paperback is released. Now, some publishers are doing the same for e-books. If I really, really, really wanted to read the book, I could buy the hardcover–and, as I said, I’ve often done that to my hubby’s chagrin. (I’m Ms. instant gratification makes me happy, he’s Mr. delayed gratification is even sweeter.) Or I could go to the library and check it out and not spend the money. But the fundamental question is: why should I have to? Why make the customer pay more or work harder to get their hands on your product? Especially now when it is so easy to deliver it wirelessly? Poof in 15 seconds I could have the book I want and start in on my next adventure.

For instance,  a couple of days ago I read a review of a book called The Messenger of Athens: A Novel by Anne Zouroudi. It’s a modern-day murder mystery set in the Greek Isles. Since I had just finished a book and since I’m writing a murder mystery set in Greece (albeit in 440 BCE), I wanted to read it. I went to Amazon to buy it for my Kindle and it wasn’t due to be released until July 19. It’s only a couple of days aways, I thought, I can wait. So I preordered it. Once the book was released, it would automatically appear on my Kindle the next time I turned it on to synch. And sure enough, I turned on my Kindle last night, July 19, hit the synch button and there it was. I started reading immediately, a happy customer.

And, as an added bonus, no trees were killed in the making of my e-book , no delivery trucks chugged out CO2 to get my book to me, and I didn’t have to get in the car and drive to the local bookstore. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are costs involved to mining the minerals and manufacturing an e-reader. But still, laying in bed, all snuggled up and ready for an adventure, pressing a tiny little button and having my adventure appear before my eyes, was like magic.

And isn’t that what reading is all about?

– Kristina

Amazon sells more e-books than hardcovers


According to the New York Times, Amazon announced that during the last three months e-books for the Kindle outsold hardbacks. Read the full story here:

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