While the traditional publishing biz model is gasping and dying before our eyes, newborn biz models are struggling to hatch completely…Models that are being forged by many factors such as the internet (YouTube, blogs, social media, POD), and other technology and apps proliferating media gadgets to make the “written Word” more comfortable and accessable in digital…
Publishing past is over. But publishing future is under construction.
I borrowed that cool phrase from Steve Rosenbaum (pictured at left) in an interview he did with Debbie Stier (former Associate Publisher of HarperStudio) for The Huffington Post in which they discuss “the best of times and the worst of times” in publishing:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
A great sentence that could well have been written about 2010 and the world of book publishing. For Debbie Stier, a lifelong member of Publishing’s elite, it would be easy to see the glass as half empty.
She was working as an Associate Publisher for HarperStudio, a forward thinking HarperCollins imprint that offered lower advances and more profit sharing with authors. But when Publisher Bob Miller announced he was leaving, HarperCollins pulled the plug on the HarperStudio operation. Stier was left an Editor at Large, somewhat a minister without portfolio, watching the business she loves struggle with gut-wrenching change.
Still, she’s grinning, ear to ear.
“Books aren’t going away,” said Stier. “I read on a iPhone, I read on a Kindle, I have a Sony and I have books. And I recently have made a return to books. And I have decided there are different kinds of reading, and there’s certain kinds of reading that’s ephemeral. There’s always going to be a place for printed books”
“It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.”
For a seasoned marketer like Stier, finding a title starts with the reader.
“I start with, ‘Who is the audience for this book,’ and then, ‘How am I going to reach that person,'” she said. “And I have worked with many literary authors back in the day, five years ago, and seeing if you can get that author on NPR and maybe the New York Times Book Review. And there still is that. But now it also means teaching that author how to connect with their audience online. And a lot of the literary authors, it’s very hard for them to do. But I try and find that place. I always say, ‘If you had a magazine, what would your magazine be? Make that magazine on WordPress.'”
Stier’s authors are on the cutting edge, and there’s no better example of a cross over author than Gary Vanderchuk, the peripatetic preacher of Wine gospel (see: Wine Library TV) and fast rising business coach.
“I saw him speak at the Web 2.0 conference,” she said. “I had been following him on Twitter. I’d seen Wine Library TV, I knew what a phenomenon he was. I loved him, I thought he was great. But, then when I saw him speak at the Web 2.0 conference two years ago, I said, this guy has a book.”
“It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity.”
Stier talks about authors in way that is personal, intimate and with a real sense that she gets them.
“I always knew, to be quite honest with you, that I was going to do a book with [Gary], from the second I saw him up there speaking, and I was like, that’s my guy,” she said. “The book was written here, out-loud, and I have a whole bunch of tape recording devices, and we start with an outline, and Gary just speaks it, and then we put it on paper, and we go from there.
And yet, getting books through the old system of publishing is a slow and painful process.
“It’s like a jar of peanut butter, and somebody says, ‘Okay, swim, swim through it.’ There are so many layers of why it’s difficult, you cant even believe,” she said. “So let’s say you have something that’s timely like Sarah Palin. And you can push it to the front of the publishing house, and get that done. Now you’ve got the stores to deal with. They’ve booked up their shelf space, six or eight months in advance. So that’s a layer of complication that you have to get through.”
But today publishers are embracing social media; they’re talking about Twitter, Facebook, blogs and webpages.
“I say that we’re down the rabbit hole,” said Stier, “and it feels to me, everyone gets what I’m talking about, and then I have these moments when I realize that it’s actually same 20 of us that are just bouncing ideas in the echo chamber off one another.”
“It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness.”
While books are central to Stiers world, she admits that even her habits are changing.
“I hate to even admit this, but I just recently cancelled my subscription to The Times. I had cancelled my print version a year or two ago. And then I was getting it on the Kindle and I realized: I don’t even read it on the Kindle.”
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